Dr. Shirley Davis

Dr. Shirley Davis Speaks at Nonprofit Connect’s Inclusion 2019

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A 4 minute read

Rhia Dixon’s review of Dr. Davis’ keynote at Nonprofit Connect’s Inclusion 2019 Conference. Thank you for the support, Rhia!

I spent my morning in an amazing diversity & inclusion workshop hosted by Nonprofit Connect at the Kauffman Foundation Conference Center in Kansas City, Missouri. We broke down the difference between diversity and inclusion, why you need both, and how to achieve both in an organization.

Our speaker for Inclusion 2019: Redefining Organizational Culture, Dr. Shirley Davis, is a sassy, dynamic woman with a booming voice that belies her petite frame. Dr. Davis came with all the diversity-related truths today! It was remarkably refreshing to hear someone speaking with such candor about how organizations can start to build inclusion into their culture. Dr. Davis has been in the HR industry for 30 years and has helped redefine organizational cultures for entities of various sizes in a wide range of industries.

She certainly has a way with people and immediately builds a safe, open space for the audience that really encourages communication and authenticity. The very first thing she did was shake up our comfortable tables by insisting we get a little more diverse so that we could have several perspectives during our conversations — tables with no men had men added, homogeneous looking tables had to get more “color”, tables lacking age-variety were supplied with representatives from different generations. I appreciated this because it was interesting to see how people clump together with those who make them the most comfortable. It was also nice to see that people were willing to get up and move to other tables to promote a better mix of voices.

Some organizations feel they are at the top of the diversity game because they have (insert demographic flavor of the day) on their workforce. However, without inclusion, we’re just checking boxes that will have to be unchecked when we lose that diverse talent. Yes, it is very possible (and with a high degree of frequency) to have diversity without inclusion. The goal of this workshop was to help us shift our thinking so that we can become more inclusive and encourage that inclusivity from the top down. While some of this is the same information we’ve heard before…there was still a lot to learn!

As our workforce shifts from being majority baby-boomers to majority millennials, the generational desires are shifting as well. We are living in a side-hustle economy! Everybody’s got a gig. Everyone has options to do something they love and make money while doing it. We’re looking at a workforce (and volunteer-force) that wants time to spend with those they hold most dear, time to experience life, and time to not be working! Millennials aren’t against company-loyalty, they want to be loyal to companies who are loyal in return. One-sided relationships never last long, and there are too many options available to stay where you aren’t happy. 

We’re also living in a time where people want to be their FULL selves at work…they want to feel safe enough to be who they are authentically, and not being able to do so is a deal-breaker. An inclusive organization will ENCOURAGE this authenticity by embracing each person’s individuality in every aspect. As a result, these people will spread the word and attract more diverse people to join the inclusive organization. (This is definitely true for me — if you’ve met me and we’ve talked for longer than 3 minutes, you know how much I love my company!)

This particular point was evident in the initial distribution of people in the room. There were a few tables where everyone looked alike (all women, all men, all minority, all non-minority, all younger people, all older people). Part of this was because these people knew each other, and part of it was because people gravitate toward what they know.

We are missing out on our invisible similarities with others based upon the unconscious biases of our perceived visible differences. Instead of noting all the ways we are different and dismissing people sans engagement, we should be striving to connect with the ways we are alike and the things we may have in common. The key to this is communication! We have to be willing to engage with others, step out of our comfy circles and strike up conversations that will help us learn more about each other. If we make these efforts to really get to know people, we just might find we’re kindred spirits!

Hooray, we have women and people of color becoming C-Level Executives! We’re being diverse and inclusive… While these are major moves, most of us still have work to do when it comes to cultivating diverse talent in a way that generates retention. People will return to where they feel they are welcomed and successful.

Successful employees/members have mentors to coach them along the way. They receive unsolicited constructive feedback. They receive recognition and rewards for their productive efforts. They have opportunities to learn and develop professionally. Their opinions are valued and encouraged. This should happen for EVERY person, not just someone’s favorite. This is how we build inclusion into the culture of the organization, and this is how we embrace diversity.

There is a lot more to diversity and inclusion than these few points. I highly suggest following Dr. Shirley Davis on Twitter and finding her when she comes to your city!

For over forty years, Nonprofit Connect has linked the nonprofit community in Kansas City to education, resources and networking so that organizations can more effectively achieve their missions. Follow @npconnect on Twitter to get the lastest updates on upcoming events!