From our EVP and CEO, Joyce Dubensky:
I had the opportunity yesterday morning to open one of the largest conferences dealing with workplaces and how they respond to the diversity of their employees and customers. The Multicultural Forum on Workplace Diversity draws 100s of people (over 700) from all across the country. People who are leaders in the D&I (diversity and inclusion) movement. People who know that a good business is good for its employees as well as its customers and the bottom line.
There had to be 400 or more people who were in the ballroom when I got up to speak. Frankly, I was excited. Because this was an opportunity to talk about a dimension of the D&I movement that doesn’t get the attention it needs – – religious diversity (including those who are believers and non-believers) in the workplace. It was powerful to talk about the more hidden ways that people get marginalized – for example, when company cafeterias don’t routinely offer halal, kosher and vegetarian meals so that anyone in the company – no matter their belief – can use it.
After I spoke, we had a great panel. As we talked (and laughed), we covered better practices and the challenges of addressing religion. Walter Hurdle from Merck was terrific and talked about Merck’s Interfaith Global Constituency Group, and its Interfaith ERG, and how they include everyone. Frank McCloskey, a member of Tanenbaum’s Advisory Council, spoke about his experiences at Georgia Power, where he once had to talk with a manager whose faith did not permit celebrating birthdays even though this was part of the team-building responsibilities of his job. Mark Fowler, Tanenbaum’s very own Director of Programs, was the third panelist. I asked all of them to talk about their own companies and Mark talked about Tanenbaum. I’ll reveal nothing more, except to say, he made the point that small organizations and not just global companies can have progressive practices of inclusion around religion (like bringing a kosher cake for all birthday celebrations – because one of our staff keeps kosher!)