“Bias is woven into our society,” said Mimi Iklé Khalsa, CMC’s owner. “My sister and I are committed to this journey of uncovering and addressing systemic racism in our company. To create change, we have to understand our own biases. To overcome our own biases requires the understanding that one person’s suffering is all people’s suffering.”

This core company value is what made the I.D.E.A.s (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Access) Council’s kick-off event on June 15 so engaging. There was an intentional air of creating brave spaces for authentic discussion about historic and present day structural and systemic inequity.

This kick-off event was championed by the IDEAs Council and led by Yvette Brown, senior director, Customer Engagement and Innovation, and CMC Board Member Michellene Davis, Esq., a nationally recognized thought leader and an award winning equity innovation strategist.

“I’d just like to say congratulations to each of you on the beginning steps of an equity journey,” Davis said. “Please know that an equity journey has many phases and that each is equally as important as the other. Rather than be solely focused on an end result, we are a part of a community that fully understands that issuing a statement or checking a box is not how we become equitable change makers.”

There are critical nuances that are foundational to any discussion on addressing racism and during the kick-off conversation clear definitions were provided:

Bias: Personal preference for or against an individual or group, which can interfere with your judgment, knowingly or unknowingly.

Structural racism: A system in which public policies, institutional practices, cultural representations, and other norms work to reinforce and maintain racial inequities.

Racial equity: When people have the chance to reach their full potential and are not more likely to encounter life’s burdens or benefits just because of the color of their skin.

The forum for the dialogue lent itself to the feel of an intimate conversation between friends that incorporated factual historical elements that have created and proliferated structural and systemic inequity and personal anecdotes of the weathering of racism in the workplace. Moreover, the conversation evolved to ensure that audience participants could walk away equipped with the ability to tell the difference between two ideas that are often considered synonymous but are really quite different: equality and equity.

“In examining these two terms, it’s imperative that they not be confused for being the same. Rather, I like to say, equality is like making certain that everyone has the same pair of shoes.” Davis went on to note that, unlike expecting a one-size shoe to fit, “equity is making certain that everyone has a pair of shoes that fit. You wouldn’t give a person that has a size 10 foot a size 6 shoe just because you gave it to the person who has a size 6 [foot] .”

An equitable approach requires that we establish policies, practices, processes and protocols that fully evidence an understanding of the historical barriers, and their present day vestiges, that have deliberately, or inadvertently harmed certain demographics and benefited others.

Davis described how her policy and healthcare administrator background led her to become an “evangelist” for health equity. She detailed how systemic racist policies like redlining and bias in zoning, still contribute to poor health outcomes of persons of color today.

If you missed the kick-off event, you are warmly welcomed to join in the discussion by viewing it at this link. The survey for the kick-off event is still open to enable you to provide valuable feedback so that we can create programs and events that are relevant, inclusive and accessible to all employees. It should take you less than 3 minutes to complete but will provide invaluable assistance to the I.D.E.A.s Council.

The kick-off event is just the first of many opportunities to engage in meaningful dialogue supporting diversity and inclusion, and to be a part of the continued evolution of CMC and the communities we serve, Brown noted. Several other events will be held throughout the next year to help employees become better equipped to make CMC an environment where Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Access (I.D.E.A) and belonging thrive.

If you have a suggestion for a possible topic or questions that you might like answered , please contact the I.D.E.A.s Council at ideascouncil@cmcenergy.com or contact a member of the Council individually. Members are Desiree Collazo-Soto and Hailey Lavoie (Co-Chairs), Agbesi Akpedonu, Patricia Forero, Kate Robinson, Richard Rocket or Joyletta White. Yvette Brown and Tina Bennett are serving as executive sponsors of the Council.

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