Diversity in the workplace is inevitable. At last Wednesday’s UF PRSSA meeting, Lori VanNess explained the role of diversity in the workplace and Jarrod Cruz related these roles to his position on campus.
VanNess, the AT&T associate director of retail sales operations said her company defines diversity as “something you can see.” You can see when someone looks different, she said. She went on to explain the importance of making employees feel included through the company’s 11 employee resource groups.
Cruz, the director of intercultural engagement within UF multicultural and diversity affairs, describes diversity as broad and complex differences between people. He said he believes these differences are brought on by the multiple identities that people can have. He said we maintain these identities through factors like family, values and religion.
When asked about the different cultural subgroups at UF, Cruz explained the groups all come together under certain organizations. For example, the Institute of Black Culture tends to bring together the other black organizations on campus through communication. He stressed that the diverse organizations must communicate with one another in order for them to be productive. This is similar to in the workplace. VanNess explained AT&T employees come together during employee resource groups to discuss projects that include the other departments. This brings everyone together in an efficient manner.
According to VanNess, as a part of AT&T’s goal to create a more diverse workplace, the company has been focusing on recruiting women and people of color from a regional level. “We just want to make sure that everybody is being represented,” she said. She said she sees how many of these people have been promoted. In the past, white males have seen more promotions, but the company is trying to create more balance and provide opportunity for advancement to all employees.
Cruz’s take home piece of advice for students looking to be more diverse to employers is to immerse themselves in different cultures. He advised students to develop their multicultural understanding and competence through expanding their social circles. Cruz said in order to do this, students must step out of their comfort zone. For example, they could attend a meeting full of people who look different from themselves. He said this will help develop students’ cultural understanding. Cruz stressed that now is the time for them to take advantage of the diverse environment UF has to offer.
VanNess advised students to get involved with different communities. She said this will help students get to know obstacles they could be faced with in bringing together people from diverse cultures and backgrounds. She said this will help you learn to adapt how you act no matter what community you work in.
Both speakers brought great advice and insight to the panel. They encouraged students to get educated in diversity now, while they still have the opportunity take advantage of the diverse UF campus.
By: Annie Uzar, UF Public Relations Student Society of America Member