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Experts stress importance of diversity training amid President Trump’s orders to cancel it at federal level

Posted at 5:00 AM, Sep 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-29 19:55:05-04

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CINCINNATI — President Donald Trump ordered federal agencies to stop racial sensitivity training, calling it “divisive,” but two local experts argue this type of training is more important now than ever before.

Earlier this month, Trump wrote a letter to federal agencies saying that type of training is “anti-American propaganda” that breeds resentment in the workplace.

Jeanetta Darno, UC Health’s first chief diversity officer, said these types of conversations are vital in today’s climate, and companies that skip this kind of training run the risk of losing diverse clientele and employees.

Darno, who has led diversity and inclusion efforts for more than 25 years, said training is paramount because it helps people realize that someone else’s experience may be different from their own.

“There’s that shared experience that’s missed if you’re not inclusive and understand someone’s cultural background and experiences or even language barrier,” Darno said.

Darno’s focus, especially during the pandemic, is to address inequalities in health care in order to build trust and save lives. She said bridging that gap helps both the patient and the physician.

“And health care providers and organizations that do that and understand that our demographics are shifting, that experiences are different, will be the ones who will be able to provide the best outcome for our patients,” Darno said.

For Janet Reid, founder and CEO of BRBS World, a boutique consulting consortium, the journey to a more inclusive workplace has taken her around the world. Reid has worked in more than 50 countries and has led corporate diversity training on almost every continent.

Reid said she has seen the desire for this sort of shift in company culture grow over the last few months.

“I would say that many start with what’s typically called diversity training,” Reid said. “There is a place for education and dialogue of employees, but it really should start with an overarching strategy that links directly to the overarching business strategy.”

Reid said if diversity training is not done properly, it can fall short of addressing the larger issues.

“You can have a very diverse team sitting around the table, all ages, all kinds of differences in people and similarities, but it doesn’t mean it’s inclusive. Inclusion means you have to do something to ensure that all of the diverse people that are at the table are able to fully contribute and that you really are leveraging all of the differences and similarities,” Reid said.

Another obstacle is some participants can feel left out or targeted. Reid said she overcomes that by reminding her audience that all backgrounds — whether religious, ethnic, socioeconomic or otherwise — are diverse.

“I would say lean ... into the discomfort sometimes of doing some things that you have not done in the past because the end benefit is very great and rich,” Darno said.

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