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The 43rd annual national conference for the American Association for Access, Equity, and Diversity (AAAED) was held June 7-9, 2017 in Scottsdale, Arizona. This conference brings together diversity professionals from across the country, including EO directors, EEO specialists, affirmative action officers, human resource professionals, labor relations advisors, and other equity and inclusion professionals. This year’s conference theme, “We are known by the tracks that we leave,” aimed to recognize the importance of developing and leaving a more diverse and inclusive legacy than we found. DCI Consulting staff members were well represented in a number of presentations, and DCI’s Rosemary Cox received The AAAED President’s Award for her work as the AAAED Conference Chair.

Notable session summaries can be found below.

Sr. CAAP session: Case Study Review and Analysis: An Interactive Discussion on Federal Contractor Cases in the News 

The AAAED pre-conference Sr. CAAP (Certified Affirmative Action Professional) session called “Case Study Review and Analysis: An Interactive Discussion on Federal Contractor Cases in the News” was led by Keli Wilson, DCI Consulting Group. The objective of the class was to come prepared to discuss pre-specified OFCCP cases in the news in order to critically review the outcome and what lessons could be learned for navigating an OFCCP audit and negotiating terms for a conciliation agreement.

AAAED Outstanding Plenary Sessions

The conference played host to two interesting plenary sessions:

Plenary #1:“What to Expect/Recent Changes Under the New Administration”

The November 2016 election ushered in a sea change in federal government programs and policies. This panel of national experts discussed the potential implications for civil rights, equal opportunity, and diversity laws and the administration of related programs.  With the proposed budget and talk of a merger of EEOC/OFCCP the panel spent a good deal of time weighing the pros and cons of these decisions.

Panelists: David Cohen, President, DCI Consulting; Michelle Duncan, Partner, Jackson Lewis PC; David Lopez, Partner, Outten and Golden, formerly EEOC General Counsel; Dr. Christopher Metzler, CEO, HFW¥ and former Associate Dean, School of Continuing Studies, Georgetown University; and Shirley J. Wilcher, AAAED Executive Director (Moderator).

Plenary #2: “The New Face of America: A Conversation about the Politics of Civil Rights”

A panel of local and regional experts provide their perspectives on the implications of recent and proposed changes affecting civil rights in government, business, communities and education.  This panel explored the challenges we now face and potential ways to move forward.  The passion for civil rights and the deep concern for the rollback of policies was truly apparent with each panelist.

Panelists: Dr. Ann Hart, President of the Maricopa NAACP; The Honorable Reginald Bolding, AZ State House of Representatives and Chair AZ State Legislative Education Committee; Carlos Galindo-Elvira, Regional Director, Anti-Defamation League; Mary Jo O’Neill, Regional Attorney, EEOC; Dr. James Wermers, Faculty Fellow, ASU Center on Race and Democracy; Kevin Salcido, Vice President of HR and Chief HR Officer, Office of Human Resources, ASU.

AAAED New Professionals Academy (NPA)

For the second year, AAAED offered a two-day workshop for new professionals.  The NPA is designed to introduce new Equal Employment Opportunity, Affirmative Action and Diversity Professionals to the substantive and operational fundamentals of the job including Diversity and Inclusion, Effective

Supervision and Career Planning.   DCI’s Rosemary Cox taught a section on “Beyond Compliance, Effective Recruitment & Retention Business Best Practices to Recruit and Retain Excellent Employees.”  The recruitment section was designed to be interactive, challenging the participants to think creatively about recruiting and explore solutions to the challenges surrounding educating the organization first (building a business imperative) rather than “warm body hiring.”

What you Always Wanted to Know About Pay Equity Analyses but Were Afraid to Ask 

Mike Aamodt presented the session, “Everything you always wanted to know about salary equity analyses but were afraid to ask.”  In the session he talked about how to properly interpret the gender wage gap, types of salary equity analyses, and the basic steps in conducting salary equity analyses.

Using Metrics to Identify Diversity Opportunities

The AAAED conference session called “Using Metrics to Identify Diversity Opportunities” was co-presented by Keli Wilson and Amanda Shapiro, DCI Consulting Group. The goal of the session was to demonstrate how to capitalize on the affirmative action plan development (e.g., utilization concepts) for diversity plans. In addition, time was spent on identifying and discussing the pros and cons of different benchmarking data sources to use in diversity metrics. Presenters went through an interactive exercise that allowed attendees to participate and interpret a sample diversity dashboard that incorporated comparisons of the talent acquisition stages to a data benchmark. Information was shared about what action items for diversity may come from each talent acquisition stages. Finally, the presenters introduced an informative yet underused metric related to the amount of time it takes for critical employment outcomes to happen for different groups of interest. The attendees were provided with a holistic understanding of where they can be adopting metrics in their diversity and inclusion programs to further identify gaps and measure progress.

Diversity Learning in a New Era: Strategies to Include, Unite and Move Forward in the Aftermath of the 2016 Presidential Election

Alison Akant, with DiversityEdu, led a session focused on teaching rather than training when it comes to diversity. Help attendees learn to interact in diverse situation or gain skills needed to be a part of an inclusive environment rather than directed training which often implies obedience. Some additional recommendations are listed below.

  • Examine gaps between mission and employee experience. One method to learn about this is to utilize a survey. Another suggestion was to do an exercise where employees read the mission and note (1) what the benefits are and (2) their responsibilities in carrying out the mission.
  • Inform, don’t direct. This will reduce resistance and provide choice.
  • Base learning in fact, in research.
  • Narrative strategies can be helpful – story-telling is a powerful aide.
  • Put the diversity training in the right context – it’s not training for them, but rather useful information for everyone.
  • Teach about privilege, as well as unconscious bias.
  • Be active part in staying up-to-date on current issues (internally and externally) to inform training needs.

How to Navigate the Intersection of Affirmative Action and Diversity

Michelle Duncan, an attorney with Jackson Lewis P.C., led a session focused on the intersection of affirmative action and diversity. Her talk provided historical, legal context for affirmative action and diversity. She also focused on the business case, citing the rise of publications like Diversity Inc.’s “Top 50” list, which experienced a rise in applications, with 75 in 2001 to 1,215 in 2013. Listed below are a few recommendations highlighted in her presentation.

  • When utilizing a diverse slate in your selection process, the messaging is very important.
  • If a diversity program wants to utilize preferences, veteran and disability preferences are less risky. If exploring this option, using an “add to” strategy was preferred.
  • “Stay” interviews could be a great strategy to learn what is retaining your diverse talent, as well as pick up on early indicators.
  • Recommended to include pay in the discussions surrounding your D&I program.

Going Beyond Diversity to Inclusion Through Engagement

Lana Petru, with Liderology Consulting Group, led an interactive session focused on how organizations can enhance their D&I program through the engagement of employees in a variety of ways. The benefits of engaged employees were highlighted, including the high likelihood that an engaged employee (as opposed to unengaged) would be strong on customer service and recommendation of their employer. Petru focused on the “engagement framework” which encourages a diverse team, focus on organizational results, and a culture/environment where all can thrive. Recommendations listed below.

  • Utilize Employee Resource Groups (ERG). Ensure that there are senior official engagement/involvement to demonstrate importance. Can utilize ERGs to achieve diversity and inclusion in recruitment, talent development, and business solutions, among others. Success can be measured through retention, engagement, talent development and other contributions to business.
  • For global organizations, consider having a global diversity council where each country is represented.
  • Integrate supplier diversity into corporate goals. Company can sponsor scholarships or educational opportunities for diverse suppliers, or can also offer formal training and mentoring.
  • For the attraction, and retention, of veterans, have things in place for their spouses, too. One recommendation is to have an ERG devoted to this.
  • Use of mentoring program and ensure that mentors receive cultural competence training (among other training needs, not all employees make a good mentor).
  • Determine readiness for engagement through D&I strategies such as a change management survey, engagement survey, and/or focus groups.
  • Monitor results of programs and celebrate wins!

AAAED Keynote Speakers

“Civil Rights Update: A View from the Agencies”

The luncheon speakers for Friday of the conference were both tremendous.  Catherine E. Lhamon, Chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, was appointed by President Obama to a six-year term on the Commission on December 15, 2016 and the Commission unanimously confirmed the President’s designation of Lhamon to chair the Commission on December 28, 2016. Before coming to the Commission, Lhamon served as the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education until January 2017.

Ms. Lhamon gave a powerful speech with examples of continued concerns with violence and harassment in our public school systems.  Her poignant examples of children harassing (bullying) children over race that has increased since the election was particularly disturbing.  The fact that the public never hears of these cases seemed particularly concerning to the audience.

Elizabeth (Isa) Cadle, District Director of the Phoenix District Office of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and as a member of the Senior Executive Service, effective Oct. 30, 2016. Ms. Cadle served as the Deputy District Director in Phoenix since 2011 and as acting district director since November 2015.

Ms. Cadle provided ongoing cases of discrimination but also provided insight on what employers can do to ensure these do not happen in their organizations.  She discussed the state of the EEOC and only touched on the merger.

OFCCP Acting Director, Tom Dowd, Guest Speaker

It was a special honor to have Tom Dowd, Acting Director of OFCCP, speak at the AAAED conference. He emphasized a focus on two major areas: (1) that OFCCP not compromise the quality of OFCCP audits which has led to fewer and may lead to even less annual compliance reviews; and (2) providing compliance support while balancing audit work. Also, as it relates to the EEOC and OFCCP proposed merger, he mentioned that it is for Congress to decide at this point.

By Amanda Shapiro, Senior Consultant; Keli Wilson, Principal Consultant; Mike Aamodt, Principal Consultant; and Rosemary Cox, Senior Consultant at DCI Consulting Group 

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