On April 7, Michigan State University’s ANDIE Accountability, Non-Discrimination and Inclusion Lab launched its virtual conference on Leadership Accountability in Diversity, Equity and inclusion. The event hosted a variety of speakers and panels, all focused on discussion to advance DEI in the workplace.
The headliners for the two-day conference were keynote speakers, astrophysicist and cosmologist Hakeem Oluseyi and Office of Federal Contracts Compliance Director Jenny Yang. Both speakers discussed how DEI has helped their lives and careers, and the importance of strategy today.
Oluyesi noted in his presentation that he would not be an astrophysicist without the awareness of DEI in his early years.
He described two professors from the University of Southern Mississippi who came to his racially segregated school to provide disadvantaged communities with STEM-related opportunities, and how the experience solidified his career.
“They say to me, ‘Yo man! You should become a physicist!’” Oluyesi said. “I had no idea what a career as a physicist was. was already engaged.
Yang used his presentation to highlight progress made by the OFCC and the federal government, including new agency initiatives and executive orders from President Biden.
She also highlighted current issues with diversity training in many workplaces and the importance of an appropriate approach to this training for DCI.
“We want to help employers understand that it takes a broader, holistic strategy to increase workplace equity, and diversity training can be an important part,” Yang said. “But that requires understanding from the start what your goals are, understanding your culture and what your needs are.”
ANDIE Lab Director Angela Hall spoke on Friday, offering insight into the lab’s background and goals.
While the lab initially served as a place to conduct DEI-related research, it now also serves as an informative resource for the community regarding these issues. Hall introduced the audience to some of their current initiatives, such as analyzing hair discrimination and understanding police perspectives on accountability.
“What we decided was that the ANDIE Lab is not the only place we could research accountability, non-discrimination and inclusion jobs,” Hall said. “But we would also do things like being a repository of information for people to say, ‘Hey, we want to know what’s going on (at the cutting edge) on DEI’.”
In addition to individual speakers, the conference hosted five panels discussing topics such as DEI and STEM, women in DEI and alliance.
The message that resonated from all the panels was that while progress is being made in many areas of DEI in workplaces across the United States, much more needs to be done.
MSU Executive Associate Athletic Director Ashton Henderson was one of the panelists who echoed that message. In the “Emerging Issues in DEI” panel, he said the sustainability of DEI practices is an overlooked issue in the space.
“There’s a misnomer that diversity inclusion is just the programming of events, of opportunities — things that make people smile,” Henderson said. “However, there is a tactician and work to be done, and a strategy to work towards that, so that we can create and cultivate a model that is fully integrated into your system.”
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