Last week, Campus Philly hosted its Annual Meeting, an event held once a year that brings together higher education professionals, corporate leaders, and individuals from fellow Philadelphia nonprofit organizations. Typically, Campus Philly shares its annual research on the college student audience with these stakeholders. This year, Campus Philly President Deborah Diamond decided to take an unexpected approach to the Annual Meeting by hosting a panel discussion on inclusion on campus, in the workplace and in our communities. The discussion, “Building the Most Inclusive Region in the Country,” featured three Greater Philadelphia leaders from diverse backgrounds and experiences.
That unexpected approach resulted in more attendees than ever before, engaging in difficult but necessary conversation on how to create a campus and work environment where everyone feels welcome. As Diamond said in her opening remarks: “The diversity we have on campus will only be an asset if it’s leveraged to build an inclusive region. And that doesn’t happen automatically, but only with intention, conversation and changes in practice and action.”
Diamond presented a couple of important statistics for our region, showing that Greater Philadelphia’s campuses were comparable in diversity to the national picture, even though the regions our colleges and universities draw on for students are probably the most diverse in the country. In addition, the diversity that exists on campus is not being translated into Philadelphia’s workforce with people of color – only 32 percent of the 25-34 year-old, college-educated workforce in the city.
Deloitte sponsored the event, with Director Lou Pichini providing opening remarks and sharing valuable inclusive practices that his company has established, and additional sponsors JLL, Knoll, and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia provided support to make the Annual Meeting a success.
The voices that drove the influential conversation, held at International House and moderated by Philadelphia magazine Business Editor Fabiola Cineas, were:
- Amber Hikes, Executive Director at the Office of LGBT Affairs for the City of Philadelphia
- Jameel Rush, President of Philly SHRM and Human Resources Director at Yoh
- Nyeema Watson, Associate Chancellor for Civic Engagement at Rutgers-Camden
“There’s the reality that organizations are being held accountable at a level that they have never seen before,” said Jameel Rush, bringing awareness to the importance of holding these sometimes-uncomfortable conversations.
Attendees left with tangible takeaways on inclusion to implement in their own workplace, including the following suggestions:
- Implement an inclusion and/or unconscious bias training at work or on campus
- Celebrate cultural and commemorative holidays of various cultures throughout the year
- Welcome allies into employee resource groups and support cross-ethnic conversations among campus diversity groups
Everyone around the table advocated for companies and campuses taking the difficult step of asking the people in their communities if they feel they have a voice and a shared sense of purpose and power. As Amber Hikes said: “Diversity is who you are; inclusion is what you do.”
Following the panel discussion, the 300+ attendees continued the conversation at a cocktail reception.
Join the vibrant discussion on Twitter using #CampusPhilly and share your thoughts and experiences on creating a more inclusive workplace in Philadelphia so that we can all commit to building the most inclusive region in the country.
Photo credit: Chris Kendig Photography