Highlighting Diversity in the Workplace

Photo of Women in Business group

Tasked with creating a forum on diversity in business, Caroline Ray and Alaina Parker, employer relations coordinators at the Haworth College of Business career center, developed the Women in Leadership Spotlight, a roundtable luncheon aimed to jump-start the dialogue of diversity successes and challenges in a business environment.

At the event, mentors from Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Fifth Third Bank, C.H. Robinson and Walmart, premier partners of the career center that sponsor career education programs and events, divided into four rotational groups, where conversation was organic and honest about the topic of women in leadership roles.

“We developed focus questions about achievement, the perceptions of women in the workplace, common obstacles and work-life balance, but we really wanted the students and mentors to branch out from those specific questions,” says Parker. “It was critical to the success of the event that participants were able to talk about topics that are important and relevant to them without being prompted.”

While the inaugural event had only female attendees, Parker says they are looking for ways to ensure both men and women will be in attendance in the future. “Men have an important voice on the topic of diversity in the workplace. We are encouraging male students and professionals to attend future Women in Leadership Spotlights because they will bring valuable thoughts and perspectives to the open discussion—perspectives that were missing at the first run of this event. “

Eugenia Cunningham, business student and participant in the first spotlight, also stresses the significance of having the event be attended by faculty, industry professionals and students.

“It is important to have a diverse group of people present when discussing increasing the awareness of the challenges others face in the workplace and making sure that work environments are welcoming and equal for all,” says Cunningham.

The career center also aims to expand their spotlight series in the near future to be inclusive of a larger, more culturally diverse audience that focuses on other diversity-related issues in the world of work.

“Talking candidly about these topics can create an awareness and platform that can be used to strategically overcome inequalities and hurdles in our professions,” says Ray. “The communities we live in are becoming more diverse, and it is important that our work environments reflect the populations of our surrounding neighborhoods—that they also have a foundational culture that respects, embraces and integrates diversity and inclusion initiatives.”

The subject of women in leadership and business roles was so successful that the development of a student organization focused on women in business and industry is being considered to further the discussion between students, faculty, staff and partners of the college.
“Employer representatives and student participants shared that the event was insightful, authentic and very significant to their development as women in pursuit of success and growth in both their personal and professional lives,” says Ray. “We are working to keep the conversation going.”

For information about future spotlights and diversity awareness activities, please contact the career center at (269)387-2711.

Editor: Cindy Wagner
Haworth College of Business
2100 Schneider Hall
Western Michigan University
Kalamzoo MI 49008-5457 USA
(269) 387-5050 | (269) 387-5797 Fax