Diversity and Inclusion: A Discussion With HR Leader DeRetta Rhodes
DeRetta Rhodes, senior vice president and head of human resources for the Atlanta Braves, talked with a Workday Rising audience yesterday about lessons she has learned about career growth as a woman of color, including the importance of perseverance, vulnerability, and authenticity.
“The things you have to do to break barriers, you have to do every single day,” said Rhodes. “It is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. And when you’re thinking you are not making progress, you’ll be surprised.”
She added that we should appreciate all of our experiences in our careers, both good and bad, because they all lead to growth.
“The tapestry of our experiences, and what we have gone through, is what helps move us along,” she said. “Because the only way we continue to make progress in valuing diversity and inclusion is one person at a time and one situation at a time, and how you, yourself, are able to constantly reflect back on what could have held you back, what tried to hold you back, and who has pushed you forward.”
Rhodes was then joined onstage by Carin Taylor, chief diversity officer at Workday, for a deeper discussion on career success as women of color. Rhodes said her career started to take off when she got more comfortable being vulnerable, and not afraid to show her authentic self.
They also discussed how it’s increasingly important for companies to have diversity across their workforce, which should represent the diversity of the populations they’re building products for. Rhodes shared a conversation she had with a talent recruiter who was having trouble hiring because the company’s workforce did not appear diverse to candidates.
“The whole concept of diversity and inclusion is not going to go away, it’s only going to get larger,” she said. “Those that win around the conversation of diversity and inclusion are the ones who are able to get ahead with the talent initiatives that will move their organizations forward.”
Inspiration Keynote: Moving Together Into a Changing World of Work
Michelle Gielan, author and executive producer of “The Happiness Advantage,” told the audience in the closing Inspiration Keynote that no matter how overwhelming the daily barrage of bad news might seem, there’s a source for information that’s more important: You.
“There are two sources of information that are way more influential than where you got your news—what you say to yourself, and what you say to other people,” said Gielan, also the author of “Broadcasting Happiness: The Science of Igniting and Sustaining Positive Change.”
She explained that “broadcasting happiness” doesn’t just make you and the people around you feel better, but that study after study shows that doctors, salespeople, or even children perform better if they’re in a positive frame of mind. For instance, doctors make the correct diagnosis 19 percent more often when a patient visit starts on an upbeat note. When it comes to the endless news cycle, she says, the problem with negative news isn’t that it makes us unhappy (though it does), but that it makes us feel powerless.
Because there are real problems in the world and in all of our lives, being happy all the time isn’t the goal. “If you’re happy all the time, that’s a diagnosable disorder,” she said to her chuckling audience. In fact, she said that building resilience is in many ways the mirror image of finding happiness, and allows us to solve our problems rather than spiral into complacency.
To that end, she told audience members three things they can start doing right away to build both happiness and resilience.
- The power lead. Turning the old journalism adage of “if it bleeds it leads” on its head—while taking advantage of the power of first impressions—she said that starting any encounter with something positive and meaningful often prompts the people you’re talking with to do the same. “The inflection point of almost any conversation is right at the very beginning,” she said.
- Fact check. Start off by writing down how you feel. Then, list the facts. For example, if the feeling is, “I’m overwhelmed at work,” Gielan said to list out the facts: “I have a deadline in one week, my favorite coworker is too busy to help me, my boss told me this proposal is very important.” And then list out the “fueling facts.” For example, even if your deadline is in one week, you may have never had to ask for a deadline extension, or there might be two new team members who would love to help out and flex their talent. She said that by being true to your emotions but also checking the facts, even if you don’t find an immediate solution, you’ll probably find some perspective and calm.
- Notes of gratitude. Spend two minutes writing an email praising or thanking someone. She suggests people start by writing up a list of seven people, and then send an email to each one of them throughout the week. “Do it first thing when you come into the office,” she said. Gielan explained that this isn’t only intended to make the recipient feel good, but will also help you realize how much positive support you have in your life. Speaking of emails, she told attendees that if they email email@example.com, her autoresponder will send helpful resources.
“You are a broadcaster,” she told the audience. “You are an agent of change. You have that opportunity every single day. Together, we can overcome any challenge that comes our way.”
Christine Cefalo, chief marketing officer at Workday, closed the keynote with one last announcement. “There’s one more thing I need to share,” she said. “I’m so happy to say that next year’s Workday Rising will be in my hometown, San Francisco!”