Source: @GvilleChamber on Twitter

Source: @GvilleChamber on Twitter

“Sorry to have missed you. I am attending the DEI Summit today and may not be able to respond to emails in a timely manner.”

“The DEI Summit is all day today and we are hosting several folks at the office today for the event. Would you have lunch open tomorrow?”

It says a lot about your employer and your community when you receive dozens of “out of office” or “can we reschedule” emails from co-workers, colleagues and connections during the Greenville Chamber’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Summit.

We paused to be fully present, totally open, and engage in hard conversations. I’m not sure I’ve ever been more joyful about people being unavailable.

According to the Greenville Chamber’s website, “The speakers challenge attendees to move beyond comfort zones and encourage them to take real action to see change begin to take place in their workplaces and beyond. The workshops provide attendees the tools and tactics they need to be DEI advocates and make the first step towards positive change.”

My one big takeaway came during an afternoon session with Ricardo Gonzalez, CEO of Bilingual America, where he presented the two worst questions we can ask people when we meet them.

“What do you do?” and “Where are you from?” Both can immediately make a playing field uneven (“I’m the Chief Financial Officer of…” and “oh, I clean houses…”) or they can evoke unintended stereotypes about socioeconomics or beliefs based on where we were raised.

So, on this day of the citywide “out of office email” I pledge to ask more meaningful and less polarizing questions. And I eagerly await the next time my community puts routine tasks aside and stops to put inclusion, equity and diversity into action.

Beth Brotherton
Beth Brotherton is the Director of Communications for the City of Greenville.