Beyond the Cookie Cutter: WCI 2018 Brings a Diversity and Inclusion Panel to ‘Walk the Talk’

Dara Barney

Orlando, FL (WorkersCompensation.com) – “Diversity and Inclusion – Objective Examples of Meaningful Inclusion” panel member Chikita Mann, branch supervisor at Genex Services, told audience members a little story on Tuesday about how one of her teenagers enjoys a song with a catchy line, “…Walk the Talk.” Yes, you read that right…

A case manager had called her from a waiting room where an entire family was waiting, but had expected one person or so. “What do I do?” she asked Mann.

Mann asked about the family’s nationality, and upon the response, let the employee know that this culture usually handles medical issues as a family unit, as opposed to common perceptions.

“…In America, we take more of an individualist approach. We do what we want, when we want it… and ‘you’ just don’t matter,” she said. “I had to be aware of that information to help her, and I needed to address it. Basically, from a supervising managing level, I can’t expect those to manage culturally diverse work situations, when we might not even know how to do it ourselves.”

A defense attorney from a law firm in Missouri took the mic, and agreed with the “Walk the Talk” mentality.

“I’ve been an attorney for 35 years… and I will tell you if the CEO isn’t on board, it doesn’t happen,” he said. It’s about leadership, and those surrounding that leadership stepping up to take the extra plunge in doing things like recruiting in areas outside of your local comfort zone, etc.

Mann said it was time to buckle down, and have the hard conversations.

“We are all human beings, we all want to be respected,” she said. “..Ignoring (cultural) things and thinking it will work out… companies are losing millions of dollars by doing that.”

The “no talent pool excuse” isn’t a real excuse, Jay Gates said, account executive for Holmes Murphy.

“It does start at the top… A lot of times it isn’t just having a seat at the table. It’s about having a diverse panel/team to work to bring those diverse backgrounds to the table.”

Caryn Siebert, VP of Carrier Practice at Gallagher-Bassett, said if 60 percent of women are in claims, where are they when you get higher up in these organizations?

On the other hand, Mann said she has been a nurse since 1993, and acknowledges it is female-dominated. Unfortunately when a male entered the industry, the first question was usually, “Did you fail medical school?”

The media hasn’t helped with that either, which seems to perpetuate those stereotypes.

“We are beginning to see more and more men in nursing that are efficient, and successful. …I’ll admit it is a breath of fresh air to say males are interested in nursing not because of failing medical school, but because they realize how fulfilling this career can be.”

No one says they want to be a claims manager or work comp defense attorney when they grow up, Gates halfway joked. “But we are all here. All 4,000 of us (WCI attendees).”

When asked about their own diversity programs in the workplace, less than five attendees raised their hands. Now, we have to attribute some of that to stage fright, but that demonstrative low number in itself is pretty scary.

One attendee spoke up to talk about the tech company she belonged to, saying the approach to a workforce has provided them with innovative benefits that are beyond calculating.

It all starts somewhere, Gates said.