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BCW Panel Discusses Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Practice

First row: Melissa G. Andrieux, Jon A. Dorf, Tamisha Chestnut and Dr.Colleen Melnyk; Second row: Freddimir Garcia, Richard K. Haggerty, Michelle A. Nicholas and Joseph D. Roberto

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) was the topic of a timely and informative BCW webinar held on Tuesday featuring eight executives from various sectors who discussed how they are practicing and implementing DEI in their workplaces.

Panelists included Melissa Andrieux, Diversity Officer at Dorf & Nelson; Tamisha Chestnut, Diversity Officer at The Ursuline School; Jon Dorf, Managing Partner at Dorf & Nelson; Freddimir Garcia, Diversity Officer at the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors; Richard Haggerty, CEO for the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors; Colleen Melnyk, President of the Ursuline School; and Michelle Nicholas, Diversity Officer at PCSB Bank; and Joseph Roberto, CEO of PCSB Bank. The program was moderated by Ivette Molina,  the BCW’s Director of Business Management and Operations.

The panelists discussed how their organizations have implemented DEI and continue to practice it in their policies and operations.

Andrieux, an attorney, began her path to diversity with a desire to do more meaningful work. “The thinking is that diversity, equity, and inclusion doesn’t just happen. It’s something that you have to work for, that you have to actually go about and do,” said Andrieux, whose first effort was to create a diversity council at Dorf & Nelson to develop policies and initiatives.

Organizational leaders must commit to inclusion for the effort to succeed, said Melnyk. “And then they’re going to have to take a number of action steps to incorporate DEI practices into all their daily operations,” she said, adding that an essential first step is a diversity audit.

Having a DEI plan is essential to success.

“You really need to create that roadmap, so you know where you are going and it’s got to be measurable goals. A lot of people are saying we want a DEI officer, we want a DEI committee, but first you have to figure out why. What do you want to achieve?” said Haggerty.

Staff must be included in discussions about change.

“Ensure when you’re thinking about implementing anything that you’re having an inclusive conversation with your staff, and then be consistent,” said Nicholas.

Listening is an important first step in a DEI initiative.

“You go through a process of interviewing your staff, finding out what’s important to them. What they like about the job. What they like about the company, but also what they may not like,” said Roberto.

Diverse hiring starts with ensuring that there is a diverse pool of candidates.

“When hiring, we look to cast a very wide net that includes a diversity of law schools, a diversity of contacts, a diversity of centers of influence. It’s not just advertising on Indeed,” said Dorf.

The Ursuline School has experienced cultural evolution under its DEI initiatives. “We were intentional…this year about focusing on cultural appreciation, and what comes with cultural appreciation? Cultural understanding,” said Chestnut.

Garcia, who has worked in his role for a year, also said that his workplace has evolved. “In real estate, fair housing dominates the conversation, and how realtors do their work, and what you should and shouldn’t do in your work,” said Garcia. “I think we’re starting to migrate in terms of having conversations about the interactions with each other.”

The webinar was sponsored by Accreditation Guru, Balancing Life’s Issues, Con Edison, Cuddy & Feder, Empire City Casino, Heineken, KeyBank and Westchester Magazine.

The webinar is posted on the BCW’s Facebook page.

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