Catalyst & Microsoft’s Diversity Happy Hour: An Evening of Human Connections & Honest Conversations

On Thursday April 11th, Catalyst and Microsoft hosted a Drinks and Diversity Happy Hour in Boston to discuss how businesses can foster diversity in their organizations and build more culturally rich workplaces.

Catalyst & Microsoft

The cornerstone of the evening was a panel discussion that featured an impressive line-up of professionals from a range of industries. The panelists discussed their personal experiences and perspectives on diversity in the workplace. They also shared actionable strategies for how the audience can foster more collaborative and inclusive cultures at their offices.

The discussion was moderated by Anna Plotnikova, Account Executive, at Microsoft Search Advertising and included the following panelists:

  • Leslie Forde, Head of Product Management & Strategy, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Simmone Taitt, Founder of HeartSpace NY
  • Jason Gary, Digital Marketing Manager, North America, Converse
  • Abir Shehod, CISSP, CSSLP, Product Security Manager – Vulnerability Management, Schneider Electric

Key takeaways from the discussion included:

  • Fostering Empathy: The panelists echoed the importance of empathy. The conversation highlighted the value in acknowledging and accepting that not everyone has the same experience and background. Our panelists recommended getting to know your co-workers and asking questions to better understand teammates who may have different backgrounds than you. This will help you understand how and why situations and scenarios may impact them differently, allowing you to become a better ally, demonstrate more empathy, and lend support in times of need.
  • Catalyst and Micrsoft, Drinks and DiversityThe Role of Communication: The panelists emphasized that honest communication is the most important tool when it comes to better understanding others and their backgrounds. The panel recommended adhering to a 80/20 rule when it comes to conversations about diversity. Listen 80% of the time and talk 20% of the time. However, regardless of if you are listening or talking, it’s important to always have a willingness to learn.
  • The Importance of Education: A key theme of the panel discussion was the importance of education. As a society, we can and should start teaching compassion and diversity at a younger age. And, education around diversity and importance of diversity should never stop. No matter your age, experience-level, or background, we should continue to educate ourselves and those around us.
  • Rethinking Recruiting & Hiring: The panelists talked about how diverse companies with diverse leadership, including female leadership, tend to perform better. Given this, it is imperative that businesses strategically focus on building diverse teams vs. simply hiring staff who look like them. It is important to seek out and hire diverse candidates and applicants to introduce different perspectives into organizations and businesses.

Final Thoughts

Our panelists and audience members alike agreed that it can be challenging to discuss diversity, but it is a critical and necessary conversation. Having honest conversations, getting to better know our colleagues, and educating ourselves on the value of diversity in the workplace will help us to become better allies and build stronger, more successful, businesses. We all come from different backgrounds, but with a little empathy and true human connection, we can make the workplace more inclusive and collaborative, and ultimately, more effective.

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