Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Communications – Part 2

On September 23rd, PRSA Detroit and IABC Detroit hosted their second panel discussion on diversity, equity and inclusion that featured three Detroit-area PR professionals. This event included over 200 registrants from around the U.S. and the globe and was a continuation of a conversation that that began in August.

The discussion was moderated by Mark S. Lee, President and CEO of The LEE Group.

Panelists included:

  • Sharyl Smith, McClaren Health Care’s Southeast Michigan Region, Regional VP, Marketing & Business Development
  • Daniel Miner, DTE Energy, Director, Corporate and Executive Communications
  • Chad Lyons, General Motors, Manager Global Product Development Communications

The discussion began with Mark discussing with panelists why this conversation is important:

  • Sharyl: The societal pressures and our history of inequity has come to a head in 2020. At the same time, the pressures of COVID are keeping us separate. We are finding a lot of allies who want to be better, do better and know more.
  • Chad: This is a topic that is extremely important. We need to sit back and think what we can be doing better. Every single one of us, regardless of our identity, have a responsibility.

Question: How do we start to focus on shifting an organization’s culture?

  • Chad: DEI work can’t just be performative. We need real actions.
  • Daniel: We have found that just using the word “diversity” isn’t enough. Rather, we focus on “inclusion” because everyone has felt either included or excluded at some point.

Question: How do you make employees feel comfortable speaking out in a safe environment when they see something wrong, when there are fears of repercussion for doing so?

  • Sharyl: You want people to be able to have these uncomfortable discussions with their leaders, while understanding that this is what we are talking about right now. We have to work with our employees and let them know that their voice and speaking out on these issues is necessary.
  • Daniel: Where the rubber meets the road is at the frontline workgroup level. We have spent a lot of time equipping frontline supervisors on how to have conversations about feelings and race.

Final thoughts:

  • Sharyl: We all are looking for a way to have these conversations. Do NOT wait until you have it all figured out. Just start.
  • Daniel: Don’t capitalize it. Focus on storytelling and equipping people to have these conversations.
  • Chad: Change is within everyone’s reach, and it starts with you, and it can start today. Behavior is contagious.
  • Mark: The last several months have been a challenge. We have to go beyond the conversations and take it to steps and actions. This is a chance for all of us to step up and have these uncomfortable conversations. Diversity is the invitation; inclusion means I’m getting you to the table; equity means I’m actually participating.

Our chapter is so grateful to the panelists, participants and moderator for taking part in this important discussion and sharing their insights, thoughts and ideas.

Watch full event here: https://vimeo.com/454129251.

By: The Diversity Committee

For 75 years, PRSA Detroit has helped PR pros become smarter, better prepared and more connected. Join Today!