Why and How to Embrace a Culture of Diversity | President Feldstein
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Why and How to Embrace a Culture of Diversity

July 1, 2022
By PCOM President and CEO, Jay S. Feldstein, DO '81

PCOM President and CEO, Jay S. Feldstein, DO '81The workforce of today is not what it was 40 years ago. More and more workers are expressing what they want, and indeed expect, from their employers. In turn, companies and organizations across all industries are listening—and adapting—and those who aren't are at risk of being left behind.

High on the list of qualities prospective employees are looking for from their employers is a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). At PCOM, we have embraced that commitment and developed a number of programs, initiatives and other strategies to increase the diversity of our campus community and foster a culture of inclusion. Here are four examples from my own experience, ways you can make DEI a core component of your company's growth strategy.

1. Get feedback.

At the most basic level, employees want to be heard. They want to know their employer is listening to their concerns and responsive to feedback. More importantly, they want to know the company's values align with their own. Providing opportunities for dialogue through idea exchanges and listening sessions can be an effective way to learn what issues are important to your employees.

My college has developed Diversity Councils at all three campus locations for faculty, staff and students to advise senior leaders on important issues of diversity, as well as to provide insight to help foster a more inclusive campus community. We also have LGBTQIA Councils at two campuses that work to encourage open and inclusive campus climates for LGBTQIA individuals. These groups have the opportunity to effect real change and make students' campus experience more reflective of their realities.

2. Hire experts.

As with any shift in strategy, effective leadership makes all the difference. So while you may have the desire to change your company culture yourself, hiring experts can make the road to progress less bumpy. And your employees are more likely to embrace a change when they trust the competent leadership at the top.

My college employs a Chief Diversity and Community Relations Officer who has been critical to the success of our diversity and inclusion efforts, defining the type of leadership and vision necessary to advance progress at the college and embed a culture of inclusion. Thanks to her work and the work of her team, my college is consistently recognized as a national leader in diversity and inclusion among colleges and universities.

3. Recognize progress.

This work is hard, and change doesn't happen overnight. Creating opportunities to recognize the people putting in the time and effort can foster continued trust and collaboration.

This past November, my college's annual Employee Recognition Awards included an inaugural celebration of an Employee DEI Award. This award is given to one faculty member and one staff member on each campus who has gone above and beyond to advance diversity, equity and inclusion on campus. Very importantly, nominees for this award are submitted by their colleagues, which promotes camaraderie and encouragement among employees.

3. Identify and acknowledge your challenges.

Identifying areas for improvement is a crucial step when making any large-scale changes, whether in business or life. Acknowledging where your company has come up short creates accountability as you move forward. Your employees will be more likely to trust your intentions are genuine if you take the time for introspection.

In June 2020, I formed the President's Council on Equity, Inclusion and Justice. I thought this was a necessary step to advance the college's commitment to justice, equity, diversity and inclusion. The Council comprises workgroups representing students, faculty and staff from all three campus locations, who work together to gather information, engage in discussion and develop recommendations and timelines to help us meet the goals of our 2025 Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Plan.

Final thoughts

Shifting a company culture and employee mindset around issues of diversity takes time. As my college approaches its 125th anniversary, we are reflecting on our history and looking toward the future. With our continued efforts to develop a more diverse culture that reflects the world around us, we are defining what type of institution we want to be over the next 125 years. What kind of company do you want to be?

This article was originally published with the Philadelphia Business Journal on June 1, 2022.