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THE EXPERT SPEAKS—Mellody Hobson, president of Ariel Investments, shared her advice on diversity and inclusion.

Diversity and inclusion create different meanings and challenges to people, organizations and workplace sites. In the spirit of meeting the needs and being equipped to address the requirements and demands of a changing demography, it requires bringing new ideas, perspectives and viewpoints to the table, leading to creativity and innovation.

Dr. Lonie S. Haynes, vice president of diversity and inclusion at Highmark Health, says his organization is committed to providing a differential healthcare experience to their customers, members and patients. “This differentiated healthcare experience includes understanding the unique needs and perspectives of the communities where we serve and operate; and to that end we are intentional and deliberate in our efforts to recruit, hire and develop a broad and diverse workforce to meet those needs. We have a way to go on this journey, but we are on the journey.”

In what Haynes called the first of many, Highmark Health recently hosted their Women’s Summit Series, The Power of Diversity in Pittsburgh. The event consisted of a panel discussion called Women in the Workplace—Equity and Opportunity, and a fireside chat with Ariel Investments President Mellody Hobson. The fireside chat was moderated by Karen Hanlon and Patricia Howard. Hanlon is executive vice president, chief operating officer, chief financial officer and treasurer for Highmark Health. Howard is senior vice president of Health Plan operations for Highmark.

SPEAKING FROM EXPERIENCE— Panelist Marsha Ellis Jones, executive vice president and chief diversity officer for the PNC Financial Services Group Inc., advices mastering one’s craft as a way to positioning. (Photos by Diane I. Daniels)

The panel discussion was moderated by Yvonne Cook, president, Highmark Foundation, vice president of Highmark Inc., and Melanie Harrington, president and CEO of Vibrant Pittsburgh. Panelists included Cindy Donohoe, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Highmark Health, Amanda Green Hawkins, associate counsel for the United Steelworkers Association and member of the Allegheny County Council, Marsha Ellis Jones, executive vice president and chief diversity officer for the PNC Financial Services Group Inc., and Titina Ott, senior vice president of customer operations for HM Health Solutions.

It was said that in today’s society, diversity and inclusion no longer just relates to color and/or gender; it’s all-encompassing of the range of human differences of race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, social class, physical ability or attributes, a religious or ethical values system, national origin, and political beliefs.

The roundtable focused on issues surrounding diversity for women and engaged in conversation around how businesses and leaders can elevate women across all sectors and industries within the Pittsburgh region. “As one of the least diverse metropolitan cities in the United States we are faced with a significant challenge,” said Cook. Citing facts from research from the Allegheny Conference, Cook said that “more specifically our region is set to face a talent shortage of at least 80,000 workers in the next 20 years.”

DR. LONIE S. HAYNES, vice president of diversity and inclusion at Highmark Health, is committed to providing a differential healthcare experience.

Key discussion points included that on a professional level being aware of the etiquette of the industry and office is significant. Women working with and helping each other in the workplace and within their perspective professions is something Ott defines as key. “It is about using talents that you have to help pull others up,” she said. “What leadership is really about is helping others define the potential within themselves.”

Donohoe said it is necessary for women in positions to promote other women. Surround yourself with people who support you and having professional and personal mentors. And Jones mentioned being prepared and mastering one’s craft is also important.

From the workforce and corporation perspective, Hawkins identifies inclusion as an ultimate goal of what companies should be striving toward. “What is the use of having a variety of faces in places when you don’t hear or include what they have to say?” Having a cross-section of society, people from all different backgrounds, religions, languages and/or income levels provides the opportunity to be aware of differences and create conducive workplace environments.

Hobson, relating to the audience through stories from her years of varied experiences, described diversity as making sure that everyone is in the room and inclusion as listening to what matters. When it comes to diversity, she said it’s the “Just Do It” attitude and important to put real meaning behind what the goals are. “There has to be numbers, goals and a target to meet. Incentives are necessary. If diversity is truly important to you then without having a diverse team around you, it demonstrates that it’s not that important to you. You have to be about what you sing and say.”

Because of this area’s higher educational institutions, Hobson said she was stunned to learn that Pittsburgh and throughout Western Pennsylvania is one of the least diverse metropolitan areas in the country. It’s interesting, she said, because those schools do have diverse students attending. “People go where there is opportunity. So, the real question is, is there real opportunity here? What kind of opportunities exist inside corporate America here where people do have a sense that they believe that they can actually lead or be someone of consequence in some way? It is up to the corporations to demonstrate and show that there is a place and opportunity for people of color.”

 

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