Breaking Down Barriers with Diversity and Inclusion Training
I bet you I’m the only one who…
“Was raised by a single mother.”
“Fell asleep on national television.”
“Travelled to Washington D.C. on a bus just for the Women’s March.”
These quotes do not come from a company happy hour or conversation across our internal communication platforms. This was just a warm-up and quick exercise from our four-part diversity training at Highwire PR — a new initiative we are setting off on to break down barriers and better gain self-awareness of personal perspectives.
“As Highwire grows, we want to continue our focus on our people to better understand the team members and clients we work with,” said Andrew Robinson, head of human resources at Highwire. “The program’s objective is for us all to learn to leverage unique characteristics, perspectives and life experiences that define us as individuals to ensure an environment where all team members feel valued, engaged and supported to reach their full potential.”
Robinson added, “This diversity and inclusion initiative will not just be a series of training sessions, but will also include a roadmap to incorporate into our overall way of life at Highwire led by our inclusion team.”
Not only can training help our organization as a whole, it is now a component of building a stronger community and environment for those at the agency.
Going for our goals
For our diversity training across all of our Highwire offices, we called in Lia Shigemura from Enact Leadership, a women-owned leadership development firm in Berkeley. Shigemura encouraged us to stay engaged and “practice digital detox,” meaning no electronics were allowed — thus forcing us to stay in the here and now. We also made sure we stretched out of our comfort zones in order to gain new perspectives and learn from different experiences.
And that’s the purpose of the “I bet I’m the only one who…” opening exercise. While it was a fun way to break the ice and share some laughs, it was the perfect segue into a discussion of our overall diversity and inclusion goals, and how they connect back to the principles and success of Highwire. At our agency, new perspectives fuel creativity, help us grow and evolve and make us better suited to help our wide range of clients (and our own team too!).
From SAE’s to interns — a positive experience overall
Although it can be difficult to break away from our busy schedules, the feedback from our first training session was overwhelmingly positive. Colleagues across all levels — including our principals — sat together to discuss what makes us unique and how we can better ensure that all voices and perspectives are valued at our agency.
“While Highwire is a close team, this training is sparking conversations that let us see our colleagues’ perspective,” said Ben Liwanag, an account associate at the agency.
Other team members found it beneficial to sit down with colleagues and learn from their different experiences.
“It was a nice change of pace for this training to look outward and focus on the people we work with, rather than to be solely focused on our own work and clients,” said Natalie Pacini, a senior account executive for Highwire. “I think investing in this type of development will have big payoffs down the road for how teams interact and how successful we are as a whole.”
On the road to a more inclusive agency
At Highwire, we have people who have come to the agency from all walks of life. We want to foster fulfilling careers, while still catering to those with differences, whether that be work experience, skill sets, religion, race or passions.
We want to be proactive about our diversity and inclusion strategy, which is why we still have three training sessions to go. From there, we will make sure we are actively pursuing our goals and our guiding principles that help everyone at the agency feel welcome.
After all, at Highwire, we are our people.