The Communicator’s Role in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: Circle of Fellows #60

Back in March 2019, episode 43 of Circle of Fellows addressed the communicator’s role in supporting their company’s diversity and inclusion (D&I) efforts. The topic has undergone a dramatic transformation since then and, notably, since the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Suddenly, companies that had merely checked the D&I box are revisiting their commitments and introducing more meaningful policies and practices, in addition to taking direct action.

IABC revisited the topic in the August episode of Circle of Fellows. Five IABC Fellows — Priya Bates, Neil Griffiths, Todd Hattori, Rajeev Kumar and Brenda Siler — joined moderator Shel Holtz for an updated conversation about the communicator’s role in evaluating and promoting D&I, including best practices in language and visual representation.

Conversation highlights include: 

“We must understand that this issue of diversity and inclusion is not the responsibility of the communicator alone. It is the top management, it is the policymakers, it is the HR department within the company that also bear a lot of responsibility in making a diversity and inclusion plan and executing it. The communicator is there to support this objective of reinforcing the efforts of the company.” —Rajeev Kumar

“Society tends to focus on what is the most recent incident that has raised concern or issue. It’s a challenge for the communicators to maintain perspective so that the intent of communications is very clear, and there is careful consideration for intersectionality.” —Todd Hattori

“What we need to remember is that the effort to look at diversity and inclusion in the workplace has been going on for years … I think there was another key moment two years ago with the Time’s Up movement. It’s been a buildup.” —Brenda Siler

“You can bring in, promote, develop oodles of different backgrounds and diverse individuals, but if the environment is not set up to enable them and help them thrive, then those diverse and wonderful individuals won’t stay. Culture is 100% connected to this topic.” —Neil Griffiths

“The data has said consistently when you have more diversity in your organization and in your leadership ranks, it is correlated with successful businesses and successful results.” —Priya Bates

Watch the full episode here:

About the panel

Priya Bates is a senior communication executive who provides strategic internal communication counsel in order to ensure leaders, managers and employees understand the strategy, believe in the vision, act in accordance with the values and contribute to business results. She is president of Inner Strength Communications in Toronto and previously served as senior director of internal communications at Loblaw Companies Limited.

Neil Griffiths, ABC, Chart.PR, IABC Fellow, is senior manager, global communication & global inclusion lead at ERM, the world’s largest sustainability consultancy. Neil has worked in communication management for over 15 years in public, private and nonprofit organizations. Neil is a serial volunteer and has held a number of leadership positions on global committees within IABC, including the inaugural Global Communications Certification Council. Neil was chair of the 2018 IABC World Conference held in Montreal in June 2018. He has been recognized with awards for his leadership within the profession, being made IABC Fellow in June 2019. Together with co-author Deborah Hinton, Neil has published two studies on the current and future state of the communication profession and has spoken on the topic at several conferences. Neil holds the Freedom of London and is a member of the Company of Public Relations Practitioners.

After over 20 years of leading in-house communication functions within a variety of organizations and industries, Todd “Tosh” Hattori, ABC, IABC Fellow, was drawn to the consulting world by PeopleFirm’s core business philosophy: your people = your success. He leads PeopleFirm’s organization design community of practice, engaging and collaborating with cross-functional teams to address business challenges by designing solutions with their people in mind. Outside of his client work, he serves on the volunteer board of directors for the Technology Access Foundation, a national model/leader in providing Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education to students of color; and improving teacher diversity and retention of teachers of color in Washington. He currently serves as the IABC Ethics Committee vice chair.

In a career spanning roles as a colonel in the Army, a Ph.D. in organizational communication (Fulbright Fellow) and professor in a business school, a communication consultant, teacher and trainer, Rajeev Kumar is an author and recognized speaker with a significant profile regionally, across many cultures and languages. Rajeev has a strong commitment to the profession and IABC, demonstrated through local, regional and international leadership roles. Rajeev’s work and references reinforce his commitment to the IABC values, and he is a brand ambassador for the association in all aspects of his professional life.

Brenda C. Siler is a journalist and public relations strategist. She is currently director for partner relations for 2020 Census at Quantasy + Associates. Siler is an award-winning organizational communications leader who has headed national, regional and local communications programs. A few of those organizations include AARP, the Council on Competitiveness, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, the American Red Cross, United Way and UNCF-the United Negro College Fund. At UNCF, Siler managed the rebranding for the scholarship fund, retaining its iconic tagline “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” Siler was the “first person of color” to serve as chairperson for the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC). She led a 25-member international executive board and a six-member executive committee. Siler has written articles and chapters in industry training manuals for PR News, Ragan Report and IABC. In June 2017, Siler was inducted as an IABC Fellow. Siler also is a contributing writer for the Washington Informer, the oldest Black and female-owned newspaper in Washington, D.C. The topics she has covered include STEM, HBCUs and the arts. Siler, a native Washingtonian, is an alumna of Spelman College and currently resides in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Shel Holtz

Shel Holtz, IABC Fellow, ABC, is director of internal communications at Webcor, a commercial general contractor headquartered in San Francisco. Before joining Webcor, Shel spent 21 years as principal of Holtz Communication + Technology. In addition to integrating technology into communications strategies, his expertise includes strategic communications planning, change management, organizational culture, business initiatives and communications research.

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