International Women’s Day: 5 Women In Business Share Insights On ‘Inspiring Inclusion’

Hady Mendez
Source: File

Mar. 8 2024, Published 8:10 a.m. ET

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It’s International Women’s Day, and this year’s official theme is “Inspire Inclusion,” highlighting the importance of inspiring others to understand and value women’s inclusion in order to “forge a better world.”

The first International Women’s Day was commemorated in 1911 as a celebration for those who are committed to advocating for women’s equality, according to the official International Women’s Day website.

This year’s theme asks how we can help inspire inclusion on an individual, group or organizational basis, so we’ve pulled together insights from six women in business on diversity and inclusion and its importance in the workplace.

The Importance of Community Building

Jay-Ann Lopez
Source: File

Jay-Anne Lopez, CEO and founder of Black Girl Gamers (BBG), created the community-powered business to provide a safe space for Black women and non-binary individuals. BBG advocates for diversity and inclusion in gaming and amplifies Black women’s voices and works with brands to promote equality for Black women through talent brokerage, career development, consulting, events and content creation.

“One of my favorite things is watching, going, and reading through people’s introductions [on Discord],” Lopez said. “Just seeing who’s who, where they come from, how they identify their experience, and seeing that this group has pulled so many different walks of life together.”

Expanding Education And Exposure

Kelley Cornish, president and CEO of The T.D. Jakes Foundation, has spent more than three decades leading diversity and inclusion effort. While the terminology around inclusion has evolved over the years, Cornish says the mission has remained the same.

“It’s [about] education, exposure and experience. The people who have had the opportunity to reach for that dream, know they can reach for it. They’ve seen it… If you can see it, you can be it. I try my best, even with my kids, I try to expose them to things I wasn’t even exposed to because I know the things I was exposed to, that’s what I anchored onto. “

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Knowing Representation Matters

Source: File

Akira Armstrong, Founder and CEO of Pretty BIG Movement, created the first international full-figured dance company based in New York City to encourage body positivity and inclusion.

“The reason I made it exclusive to just plus size was because there was no space for us,” Armstrong said. “There was no platform for us. Nobody was giving us the opportunity to dance at award shows or go into the Grammys or none of that was even an inkling in anybody’s mind, in my opinion. I took it upon myself to create my own lane— plain and simple.”

Approaching DEI As A Journey

Hady Mendez, DEI practitioner and public speaker, has served as a thought leader for equality best practices and most recently led the Office of Equality at Slack a Salesforce Company in efforts to create inclusive environments for underrepresented groups. She says approaches to DEI do not have to be linear.

“Companies have a checklist of goals that they’re trying to achieve,” she said. “However, DEI work is never done. I believe equality and inclusion is a journey, and there are always going to be more opportunities to include more people. There are still many underrepresented groups that are not getting the jobs that they deserve, or the promotions that they’re entitled to.”

Vetting A Company As A Candidate

Debbie Douglas, talent acquisition lead at Paramount and author of “Now What? 12 Strategies to Landing the Career You’ll Love, Not Tolerate,” is known as a champion of diversity who has spent her career shaping the future of professionals. When it comes to inspiring inclusion, Douglas says people who are looking for jobs should vet the companies they’re applying to in order to avoid the “Monday blues.”

“A candidate should be vetting a company just as much as the employer is vetting the candidate because we have to make sure it’s a good fit for us,” Douglas said. “If I can mitigate those issues for people in advance and set them up to find the position that is going to unleash their passion and their purpose [that is ideal].”

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By: Gillian Smith

Gillian Smith is a professional communicator by day and night, leveraging more than a decade in the news industry to share stories that have a positive impact on society. Gillian believes everyone has a story worth telling, and she has made it her professional mission to tell those stories in a responsible way. Gillian received a BA in journalism from Ithaca College and a Master's in Journalism Innovation from Syracuse University. She is currently the director of external communication and media relations at Suffolk University.

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