Final diversity and equity training focuses on an action plan

4/28/21 – RICK KAZMER – United Way of the Laurel Highlands

Participants in the final diversity, equity and inclusion training session Tuesday culminated the discussion in part by trying to define equity.

It was the last of four sessions hosted by the United Way of the Laurel Highlands, funded by a Lee Initiatives grant.

The sessions, taught by Dr. Melissa Marks of the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg, were online via Zoom.

She asked the participants how they would know if equity exists.

“Does it mean everyone gets the same amount? Probably not,” she said. “Does it mean some get a little more? Probably.”

The final session helped participants put together action plans to build more diverse and equitable organizations. Organizational buy-in, measurable objectives and accountability were key parts Marks said should be a part of the plan.

Equity problems exist outside workplaces as well, Marks said. She cited environmental issues, including the Flint, Michigan, water crisis and Hurricane Katrina. Those disasters hit low-income people hard.

Participants were also asked to define diversity, which proved to be a challenging exercise. Part of an organization’s strategy may be identifying what groups are being underserved, and taking steps to help create equity for them.

“Who we are focusing on becomes the crux,” Marks said.

The first three sessions, part of eight hours of training, focused  on implicit biases, racism, sexism and other “-isms” and dealing with the unintended consequences of our actions.  

Toward the end of the session Tuesday night, Marks provided a simple way to get started on the complicated topic.

“Start with respect and kindness,” she said. “It will go really far.”