PBN summit: ‘Every conversation is crucial’ in diversity efforts

KEVIN MATTA, center of the stage, head of diversity and inclusion for Thielsch Engineering Inc., leads the discussion among panelists at Providence Business News' 2021 Diversity & Inclusion Summit and Award program at Crowne Plaza Providence-Warwick on Thursday. The other panel members are, from left, Dorca M. Paulino, diversity director for the R.I. Judiciary; Peter Rodriquez, executive director/plant manager for Amgen Rhode Island in West Greenwich; Neil D. Steinberg, CEO and president of the Rhode Island Foundation; and Lawrence E. Wilson, managing director at The Wilson Organization. PBN PHOTO/MIKE SKORSKI
KEVIN MATTA, center of the stage, head of diversity and inclusion for Thielsch Engineering Inc., leads the discussion among panelists at Providence Business News' 2021 Diversity & Inclusion Summit and Award program at Crowne Plaza Providence-Warwick on Thursday. The other panel members are, from left, Dorca M. Paulino, diversity director for the R.I. Judiciary; Peter Rodriquez, executive director/plant manager for Amgen Rhode Island in West Greenwich; Neil D. Steinberg, CEO and president of the Rhode Island Foundation; and Lawrence E. Wilson, managing director at The Wilson Organization. PBN PHOTO/MIKE SKORSKI

WARWICK – Top-down leadership, organizational involvement, empathy and persistent efforts are essential to increasing diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace, according to business and diversity leaders who participated in a panel discussion at Providence Business News’ Diversity and Inclusion Summit and Awards program on Thursday. 

“We need the CEO, and we also need people on the ground,” said Dorca Paulino, diversity director for the R.I. Judiciary. Paulino also noted the importance of involving people with the influence to drive policy in these efforts. 

“As much work as we do at the ground level, if there’s no change in policy, nothing is going to change,” she said. 

Lawrence E. Wilson, managing director at Providence-based The Wilson Organization, which offers consulting services on anti-bias strategies, said diversity is a powerful force that business leaders need to prioritize. 

- Advertisement -

Diversity “goes beyond a sign of the times,” Wilson said. “It goes beyond being the right thing to do … There are personal advantages. They enrich us as human beings, they define the commonality we have among ourselves and the strength in that community.” 

Improved diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace also give companies a better global understanding, and it increases innovation, Wilson said. 

Rather than financial considerations, the two major factors stunting diversity efforts are entitlement and privilege, he added. 

“There’s always enough money in the budget, if they want to spend it,” Wilson said. 

Panelists also spoke on the importance of building connections with employees and having individual conversations about equity and inclusion with others in their organization, as well as at a widespread level. 

“Be mindful that every conversation is crucial,” said Peter Rodriguez, executive director/plant manager for Amgen Rhode Island in West Greenwich. “That could be the difference between someone checking out and someone feeling inspired.” 

Neil D. Steinberg, CEO and president of the Rhode Island Foundation, said that businesses need to consider their long-term plans when enacting efforts to increase diversity in the workplace. 

“It’s a long-term commitment,” Steinberg said. “You have to realize that you can’t judge what somebody does, what a group does, based on a six-month, 12-month period … If we’re going to do this, we have to stay the course.” 

The panel discussion was moderated by Kevin Matta, head of diversity and inclusion for Thielsch Engineering Inc. in Cranston. 

At the end of the ceremony, which took place at Crowne Plaza Providence-Warwick in Warwick, Ralph Tavares Jr., director of diversity and outreach for the Roger Williams University School of Law and the board president of Diversity and Inclusion Professionals Inc., was awarded the event’s Diversity Champion recognition. 

In his acceptance speech, Tavares said he recognizes “that in this moment of our country’s history, where many more people are becoming cognizant of issues of system racism, that the work we are doing here has never been more important.” 

While some are stepping forward to make positive changes in their organizations, he added, “our challenges persist in business, in education, in law enforcement, in the legal world and beyond.” 

In addition to Tavares, the following businesses were presented with awards at the ceremony. 

  • Accounting: Marcum LLP
  • Architecture/Construction Design: Gilbane Building Co.
  • Financial Services: Bank of America Corp.
  • Health Care: Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island
  • Higher Education: Wheaton College
  • K-12 Education: Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy
  • Legal: Pannone Lopes Devereaux & O’Gara LLC
  • Manufacturing: Amgen Inc.
  • Other Professional Services: AAA Northeast
  • Retail: Ocean State Job Lot
  • Social Services: United Way of Rhode Island
  • Editor’s Choice – Community Impact Award: Skills for Rhode Island’s Future

 Each honoree will be profiled in a special section in PBN’s Dec. 10 print edition.

 The Rhode Island Foundation was a presenting sponsor for PBN’s 2021 Diversity & Inclusion Summit and Awards program. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island was the partner sponsor.

No posts to display