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A Report From North Texas Commission’s Annual Diversity Summit

The day-long conference brought the conversation for greater diversity, equity, and inclusion in the region to the forefront.

More than 450 business, civic, healthcare, and education leaders attended the North Texas Commission’s second annual Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Summit, held Feb. 7 at the Irving Convention Center. Speakers and panelists shared best practices to educate and inform attendees on how to be more inclusive and equitable while doing business.

Fidelity Investment’s Chief Diversity Officer Amy Philbrook shared her “Simple Starts” for creating a more inclusive workplace, including being intentional in talent reviews and making sure the final list of candidates—not just the initial list—includes women and people of color on it.

“The whole idea behind ‘Simple Starts’ is that there are easy things that we can do that add up to big change,” Philbrook says. “The more you tell yourself that something is hard, the harder and longer it takes to complete. We need to flip that conversation on its head. … It’s not about adding a bunch of new practices and work to someone’s plate. It’s about looking at the routines and things you’re doing every day, and just saying, ‘How do I make a tiny pivot to do it for a better outcome for diversity and inclusion?'”

AT&T’s Chief Diversity Officer Corey Anthony gave a keynote on the role everyone plays in making diversity, equity, and inclusion a priority at a company. AT&T was recently named the No.1 company on DiversityInc’s list of top-50 companies for diversity.

“We cannot be naive,” says Anthony. “All of our 250,000-plus employees are human. The current political climate will affect your employees. Because we are human, you are not going to be able to check that at the door. It happens at AT&T, and it is happening at your organizations, too… what is critically important is not to allow that toxicity and negativity to affect our culture. It’s going to affect our employees, but it’s not going to infect our culture.”

Rounding out the morning session of panels included an honest and frank story by Jacqueline Evans of AT&T about transitioning in the workplace; Myrna Estrada and Greg Gale of Liberty Mutual discussed the need to include men into the diversity conversation as allies; and Citi Managing Director Yasaman (Yassi) Hadjibashi shared her experience emigrating to the United States from Iran.

The afternoon included breakout sessions on everything from empowering employee resource groups to inclusive mentoring.

“As we work harder to make diversity a priority, and also considering that our country will be majority people of color within the next three decades, we don’t have a choice but to be more intentional about making sure that our organizations, institutions, and corporations adapt and change, too,” said Byron Sanders, CEO of Dallas-based educational nonprofit Big Thought.

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