The Color of Corporate: Making Workplaces More Inclusive

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Image by Tumisu from Pixabay 
By Glenn Townes

When it comes to discussing the proverbial glass ceiling in Corporate America, thousands of people would likely describe it as being made of cement—especially if  you are a woman or person of color--- and working hard to climb that ladder to the upper and senior echelons of the corporate hierarchy.

“We live in a society of diverse identities, backgrounds and experiences,” says, Michele Meyer- Shipp. “Everyone at every level in the corporate world must be mindful of inclusions in all of their interactions.” The mantra has served Meyer-Shipp well.
She is Chief Diversity Officer for Big Four professional services firm, KPMG LLP, based in New York. In the role, she oversees and implements various diversity and inclusion initiatives at the financial services industry giant.

A New Jersey native, Meyer-Shipp and the married mother of three sons, including one with a disability,  says there are undoubtedly added challenges in the corporate world for African Americans and others, she remains steadfast in the notion that any business, company or corporation must have a multi-chromatic workforce in order to be successful. A passionate and vocal supporter of social causes, she credits her parents with instilling a steely core, and willful determination to succeed and thrive. “They alerted me to the fact that because of my gender and my race, I would encounter roadblocks along my journey,” she said. “They told me to be prepared to push beyond that and excel.”

In an interview with Women Working magazine, Meyer Shipp said her parents words of wisdom imbued her to excel academically as well as socially. She went to college, law school and has worked at senior leadership level positions at various organizations for the past 20 years. She began her career as an attorney with a focus on employment discrimination and labor issues. She has worked for the state of New Jersey and Bank of America and Merrill Lynch.

After years of being at the forefront of working to make the staid and mostly colorless offices of corporate America multi-hued,  Meyer- Shipp says raising awareness about workplace diversity and inclusion is unending. The biggest part of that battle is educating people about conquering bias and engaging in comprehensive dialogue and leadership. In simple terms, words matter.  As a diversity officer, she is used to choosing her words carefully. Speaker authenticity and being a receptive listener are admirable traits in most discussions. “It's a good idea to share some personal details regarding an issue in an effort to establish a connection with the listener,” she said.  “Our words have the power of subliminally sending negative messages that fuel divisiveness among people from different backgrounds,” she says.

For example, the words, “minority,” “tolerate,” and “handicap” are often used in unintentionally harmful ways. “These words are no longer appropriate in our modern day dialogue about diversity and inclusion,” she said. “Replacing  the word minority with phrases like people of color and learning to 'appreciate' others and not tolerate them, will help advance diversity and inclusion in our communities and workplaces.”

Lastly, Meyer- Shipp dismissed any notion that efforts by organizations to promote and foster corporate ingenuity has waned in recent years---especially at a time when divisiveness, conflict and separateness are at an all-time high across the country---due in large part to the continued specious rhetoric emanating from Washington. “The importance of diversity and inclusion in our workplaces is more critical today than ever before,” she said.  “Organizations must embrace diversity in our workforce and drive inclusive cultures where employees can bring their full selves to work and support each other as peers and allies.”

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