Lessons Learned from our Differences: A Recap of Maryville Talks’ Access, Opportunity and Inclusion Discussion

Aug 14, 2013

Last Friday, the staff of Diversity Awareness Partnership attended Maryville University’s last Maryville Talks:  Women and Leadership discussion of 2013, entitled “Access, Opportunity & Inclusion:  A Focus on Diversity and Differences”. We were able to hear our very own Reena, and other civic leaders throughout St. Louis, discuss the importance of diversity on a personal level, as well as within an institution. As the only non-profit present on the panel, we appreciated the opportunity to provide an additional perspective to the discussion. Other presenters included: Veronica Armouti (Senala), Raven Akram (Sandberg Phoenix & von Gontard), Lorraine Cavataio (Sandberg Phoenix & von Gontard), and Apollo Carey (Sandberg Phoenix & von Gontard). The discussion was moderated by Bhavik Patel (Sandberg Phoenix & von Gontard). Discussion topics included disability applicants within the workforce, overcoming adversity, being asked “What are you?” and how to respond, determining self-identity, and more.

Leaving the event, we were left with a great amount of information and potential conversation starters. Enjoy a sample of some of the lessons learned from our panelists.

According to Lorraine Cavataio:

We should “redefine our definition of all.” Too many times have we heard the sentiment that “we can’t have it all”, especially when discussing ambition (and if a parent, balancing parenthood with professional careers). This statement was surprising and empowering at the same time, especially if we take into consideration that Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and author of Lean In, also states within her book that “we can’t have it all.” As spoken by Lorraine, like many things, the concept of “all” is based on everyone’s individual definition. What may be “all” for you, may not be “all” for me.

According to Apollo Carey:

“All institutions [and organizations] are responsible to train leaders; leadership and diversity goes hand in hand.” As a city, we cannot grow and flourish without a diversity of leaders who create change through their efforts. We have to encourage diversity within our leaders of St. Louis to have a greater amount of viewpoints, and ultimately, the greatest amount of impact.

We must overcome the concept of toleration. At DAP, we are not fans of the word tolerate, as it is inherently negative. Quoting Apollo:  “Don’t just understand and tolerate differences, appreciate differences.” There is so much more needed than tolerating differences. Tolerating is the bare minimum. As a community, we must learn to acknowledge and appreciate our differences – even beyond race. We all have different beliefs, cultural upbringings, religions, perceptions, etc. We should recognize that no matter what, we are different in some shape and fashion. Therefore, toleration is, ultimately, not good enough.

Use some of these conversation starters at work, home, or school. Agree or Challenge. There is so much to be learned from these discussions, and it is our job as advocates for diversity to build upon the lessons.

We would like to thank Jeri Schultz (Maryville University) for inviting us to attend.

Written by: Antionette Carroll, M.A., Marketing and Events Manager