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COLUMN: Using diversity to unite instead of divide

By: Rachel Stovall
March 1, 2018 Updated: March 1, 2018 at 4:05 am
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As some of you may have noticed, I often take a national trend or conversation and show how it is unfolding in our state, or our city. I hope as always, to get you to consider something about the subject that you have not thought of already. Today, I'd like to take a look at diversity.

I was invited to participate in a diversity panel at T. Rowe Price. I wasn't sure what being on this kind of panel would entail. Diversity is such a politically loaded word.

I trusted the organization that asked me to attend. GalaxyFest is a local organization dedicated to creating awareness of books, comics and related popular art forms that celebrate the contributions of science-fiction and fantasy to American culture. This happens primarily through a pop culture festival of authors, artists, and costume players that convenes for three days every February in Colorado Springs.

The festival is awesome. Where else in Colorado Springs can you see the Wonder Woman car or meet stars from Star Trek? You can have a day (or several) of seeing thousands of people of all ages who look as though they just stepped off a set of a fantasy film.

GalaxyFest always does free community events outside of the festival, so they teamed up with T. Rowe Price to present the panel. Charles Johnson, the manager of Workplace Investor Services told me that, "Embracing diversity and collaboration is a core value of T. Rowe Price." He continues, "At each office, we have chapter leaders that work with their membership to help organize activities to serve the members and broader associated base." Apparently, the program is expanding due to positive feedback.

I arrived on the day of the panel and walked through the building to a room set up for around 120 guests. I began meeting the other panelists over breakfast. Each panelist was drastically different.

Garrett Wang (pronounced wong) our moderator is a famous actor known for his role in Star Trek: Voyager. As it turned out he was raised in the South. He is a sought after speaker at events like Comi-Con around the world.

Nekoda Bragg is the Regional Vice President for ACN, Inc. A national trainer who speaks to thousands at a time, he's also a business coach who is successful despite learning and speech disabilities.

Marion Ramsey is a Broadway singer/actress best known for her role as Officer Laverne Hooks in the first three films of the Police Academy series. She has experienced weight discrimination which is ironic since she is very small and did the famed role in a specialized fat suit.

Rodney Gullatte, Jr. owner of Firma IT Solutions and Services, serves on the Board of Directors for the Better Business Bureau of Southern Colorado. As an Air Force veteran, he'd lived in multiple regions of the country.

James Proby is a Colorado Springs native, who runs a social enterprise called the Men's Xchange. He comes from a family of civil rights activists who served with Martin Luther King during the sixties. Then there was me. I wanted the floor to open and swallow me. Instead, I worked to contribute.

We took dissimilar experiences and answered questions about culture and how we could improve the workplace. The questions were startlingly honest. Answers focused on self-esteem, overcoming obstacles, and working to understand each other.

Our audience claimed all political perspectives. Not a single heated moment. People left smiling.

Chantal Edwards, a local T. Rowe Price manager quoting CEO Bill Stromberg who says, "We recognize that it's our responsibility to leverage the different perspectives, skills, and abilities of all of our associates. Firms, communities, and all institutions that embrace difference get stronger from it. . "

Notice her statement. Do you see it yet?

Like her, I have not mentioned race. True diversity is about differences in thinking, world-view, problem solving perspectives and abilities. Those differences when embraced -create innovation and increased success. The business world knows.

Stop letting identity or ethnicity divide us. If we begin to view diversity properly it will unite us. T.Rowe Price has shown us how some of that can work.

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Rachel Stovall is a longtime community advocate and organizer. Also a fundraising, media and marketing consultant, Stovall is most known for singing with her dance band Phat Daddy and the Phat Horn Doctors.

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