By Alexis Beck, Angela White, Jade Henschel, & Madison Heun
“Valuing differences in all individuals and understanding all individuals makes our society stronger. We can accomplish so much more together,” says Linda Peacock-Landrum, director of Career Planning and Placement at the University of Wisconsin Green Bay (UWGB). Human beings can create a diverse, inclusive, and equitable environment in school, work, and home life.
Dana Vigna, a Business Line Development Coach with Associated Bank, shared her story at the diversity, equity, and inclusion virtual session, hosted by UWGB on March 2nd, 2021. Dana Vigna gave a presentation explaining the differences of diversity within the work field and what she experienced. “She wasn’t always graciously welcomed with open arms because she was openly part of the LGBTQ community.” From her experience, “she was treated and seen differently through the eyes of her peers.” However, through those challenges, Dana emphasized the cruciality of overcoming the things that made her different. She says proudly, “As I worked the different facets, I began to understand that diversity and inclusion is good for everyone. It’s good for businesses, it’s good for the people being included, but it’s also good for you. Regardless of your background, identity markers, or history, diversity is truly good for you.”
The perception of language and background can influence how we view the world at large. She says, “On the surface, you see what is in front of you, like the tip of an iceberg. Below the surface is what contributes to everyone’s unique perspectives, backgrounds, and more, like the bottom of an iceberg (see image below).”
Dana explains her iceberg model, saying, “Sometimes you can see race or perceive neurodiversity, but most of the time you can’t. You can’t determine someone’s immigrant status, education, orientation, socioeconomic status, mental health condition, sobriety, political beliefs, gender identity, religion, or even a person’s age, just by looking at them. All of this is something you may think you’re perceiving, but most of the time, it doesn’t match up to someone’s own internal sense of being.”
Dana talked about owning our decision-making and shared her philosophy focusing on making tough calls. She says, “You need to ask yourself three things, and if you answer yes to all, then you made a good decision. First ask yourself, “is it good for the organization?” Then, “is it good for the other party?” and last, “is it good for you?” That strategy allows you to ponder if it is a good decision and uses the three-legged stool as a visual to represent that good decision-making takes balance. If you only make good decisions for one or two, then it is off-balance, and someone may not be happy. Obviously, not all decisions you make will ensure everyone’s happiness all the time, but it was a great framework to consider.
Kiley Rickert, Director of Content Management at American Express in Greater Milwaukee, attended the virtual event. She says, “I really liked how Dana emphasized curiosity, understanding the differences between diversity and inclusion and equity. We can increase the sense of belonging within our fields by accepting differences, challenges, and change. Dana shared how increasing diversity shows an increase in engagement levels and productivity goes up when people feel a sense of belonging.”
When we start broadening out ideas of what diversity, inclusion, and equity provide our society alone, we see that it is good for the community, businesses, education, and everyone overall. It allows us to broaden the way we think, not only for ourselves but for future generations too and gives us peace of mind knowing everyone has a place in the world without dehumanization.