Courageous Conversations – Putting Diversity & Inclusion Into Action

In partnership with the New Jersey YMCA State Alliance, PRSA NJ’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee continued its popular Courageous Conversations webinar series this Fall.

Each online session enables PR professionals to explore long-standing issues of race, gender and inequality in discussion with national and international experts. To date, hundreds of participants have learned how to recognize and address the unconscious biases and practices that communication professionals of all backgrounds bring to their workplaces and communities.

Here are highlights of the two programs held in October and November 2020. Each is linked to a full-length YouTube video of the discussion between the expert speakers and their online audience.


Link to Video

PRSA NJ President-Elect Jemia Kinsey Singleton (Kinsey Communications) welcomed the virtual audience of PR professionals to a session on ways to take action in support of diversity in both their personal and professional lives.

Moderator Stephanie K. Reed (Rutgers University) led a lively exchange with panelists Nponano Maikori (Local Wisdom), Joel Pacheco (Group M) and Stephanie Scott (LifeSci Communications).

Stephanie K. Reed, PhD, Moderator

Dr. Reed began by conducting an Instant Poll of the online audience that revealed 92% had one or more diverse work colleagues and 72% of their companies called for greater diversity in their mission statement, …..but barely half of the companies had a truly inclusive work culture.

A number of hot-button issues emerged in the discussion that followed.

What are the key characteristics of a successful team?

  • Work teams and project leaders accurately reflect the diversity of customers, clients and co-workers.

  • Outdated job descriptions are revised to attract a wider range of qualified talent when hiring.

  • Recruiters are held accountable for bringing in diverse talent, beyond traditional sources.

  • Managers recognize that diverse perspectives within the organization can contribute to future profitability. Compensation and advancement are tied to active pursuit of diversity goals.

  • Mentors and trainees both learn valuable skills and insights from each other, even if they are not the same color or gender.

Nponano Maikori

How are stronger teams developed?

  • Ensure buy-in from top managers from the start.

  • Create a clear strategic plan with greater diversity as an important goal.

  • Include detailed strategies for succession plans, training, and mentorship.

  • Actively communicate strategic goals to managers and staff alike.

  • Encourage managers to proactively lower barriers for promising staff, while encouraging staff to ask more questions and learn from mistakes.

Joel Pacheco

How can you measure the effectiveness of your diversity efforts?

  • Survey internal teams to see if employees are heard and appreciated. Take surveys and other data seriously, and act upon them.

  • Notify CEO and top managers of ongoing challenges.

  • Create a supportive team environment open to input from members of different backgrounds and experience.

  • Monitor implementation of the organization’s diversity goals.

Stephanie Scott

What are long-term action steps that can be taken?


·         Actively celebrate diversity within the organization and beyond.

  • Encourage staff and managers to “be themselves” rather than act inauthentic on the job.

  • Provide diversity training to first-time managers.

  • Let employees have a role in developing solutions that organizations face.

  • Promote and support managers who invest significant time serving as mentors.

  • Build relations with outside professional associations that support workforce diversity and networking.

  • Alert employees to relevant training resources. Tie training to the organization’s goals and strategies.


Link to Video

LaNella Hooper-Williams

LaNella Hooper-Williams, President of Hooper-Williams Communications and a PRSA NJ Board Director, welcomed an online audience to the 4th Courageous Conversations event on November 12, 2020.

Darrin Anderson PhD

She was joined by the session’s moderator Darrin Anderson PhD, Executive Director of the New Jersey YMCA State Alliance which has generously sponsored all five of the series’ diversity and inclusion webinars.

Lynda Gonzalez-Chavez


Cole Brown

Autumn Latimore

Panelists included Cole Brown (GreyBoy), Lynda Gonzalez-Chavez (Y-USA), and Autumn Latimore (Pfizer).

Together, the speakers and audience members explored the everyday stereotypes, slights and insults that have long plagued American communities and workplaces.

The discussion highlighted the many ways implicit bias and microaggressions affect people of every age, sex and race:

  • Many people still treat ethnic groups and people of color as if they are somehow “foreign”, despite long years of being American  Their heritage, traditions, appearance, education and origins are frequently called into question — regardless of the actual facts.

  • At work, young and older staff make baseless assumptions about each other’s skills, cultural traits, and biases.

  • A great challenge is for co-workers and neighbors to discuss what “they don’t know” about others, and to ask honest questions they have been afraid to ask.

  • There’s a serious need for people to communicate more effectively — by focusing on the delivery of their messages.

  • Recognizing one’s own biases and increasing your knowledge of others are two critical steps toward clearer understanding. Even small positive gestures can make a significant impression on people at work and in your community,

  • Businesses and organizations need to invest more time and resources into capacity building, diversity training and opportunities for leadership. Managers can encourage better dialogue from the “top down” in combination with employees doing more to educate themselves about their co-workers from the “bottom up.”

  • Asking questions about race and ancestry are often sensitive topics to raise at first, so early outreach and conversations tend to focus on common interests and concerns.

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