Bureau Launches Diversity Council

Can You Relate?

I am a college graduate and was recently hired by a nationally known company.

I find that my co-workers are polite but distant. I am trying my best to become a member of the team, but I feel as though my ideas are being minimalized or just shot down.

I walk in the lunchroom, and some of my co-workers are telling jokes that make me feel uncomfortable. I am not asked to join others when they go out for lunch or afterwork activities.

I work after hours just trying to keep up, but it seems as though my workload may be more than the workload of my co-workers.

Other than a brief good morning, no one asks me about my family or even just how I am doing; how I am really doing. If someone, anyone, would ask with genuine concern, I would say “I am not doing well, I feel as if I am working in a silo with no lifeline.” I am a Latina working in an environment where there are not a lot of co-workers who look like me.

Is something wrong with me, is it because I am of Hispanic descent, or because I am female? I truly don’t understand, and I think this may not be the right fit for me. I need to find a work environment where I am valued, understood and am a true member of a team.

This could be the story of anyone who is considered a member of the 11 federally protected classes. It could even be your story, or the story of someone you know or work with.

To combat issues found in the above story, the Tennessee Department of Human Resources has created the Enterprise Diversity and Inclusion Council, an initiative of Governor Lee, under the leadership of Commissioner Juan Williams.

We are proud to announce that our agency has formed our own Diversity Council.

The Bureau Diversity and Equity Council has met virtually twice this year and will be convening again on July 30. Being a part of a statewide initiative to promote an appreciation of diversity is important and has the support of our Administrator, Abbie Hudgens, and executive team.

Our first discussions have helped us create a community that encourages an open discussion with opportunities to identify implicit bias within ourselves as well as within systems. We are especially hopeful to help promote openness, appreciation, respect, and acceptance within an increasingly diverse workforce.

The Diversity and Equity Council is chaired by La Shawn Pender, and its other members are Jay Blaisdell, Danny Brandon, Claudia Byers, Sarah Byrne, Darlene Carver-McDonald, Patti Engelhardt, Kyle Jones, Samuel Keen, Allison Lowry, Ron McNutt, Rhoberta Orsland, Catrina Pearson, Santiago Rodriguez, Jane Salem, Kourtney Sanders, Madeline Shelly, Derrick Shorter, Elizabeth VanDelinder, and Marilyn Vaughn.

So far, the council considered ideas for further exploration and personal introspection, as well as gained an appreciation for the sincere intentions of each of the members and their commitment to diversity.

Diversity councils can help solve problems and identify potential stress points in organizations, and that is what the Bureau’s council wants to do. The Diversity Council aspires to foster a workplace that appreciates and includes each person.

If you have ideas to help the Diversity and Equity Council achieve its goal to promote diversity and equity, please let one of our members hear from you, or contact LaShawn.Pender@tn.gov.

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