Meet Angela Dixon, The Chamber’s New VP, Talent and Inclusion

From the desk of Dorothee Racette, Time Management and Productivity Coach for Take Back My Day. 
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Interview with Angela S. Dixon, VP Talent & Inclusion – April 18, 2018

I recently had the pleasure to sit down with Angela Dixon, the new VP Talent & Inclusion at the Capital Region Chamber, to find out more about her newly created position and priorities for her first year. Angela is excited to work with the Women’s Business Council and looks forward to being a resource to Chamber members across the spectrum of workforce development and talent acquisition, including in diversity and inclusion initiatives. She previously worked for 11 years at the State Comptroller’s Office in the capacity of Deputy Comptroller of Human Resources and Administration and holds an MBA from the University of Albany.

Q: Can you give us some background about the newly created position of VP Talent & Inclusion?

Angela Dixon: The Capital Region Chamber’s mission is to be a unifying force for change, creating greater influence and opportunities for members and Capital Region communities. As such, the Chamber has both a focus and an interest in assisting its members with talent acquisition and workforce development strategies. Data shows that communities that are more diverse and inclusive have not only a competitive advantage but also are more prosperous, leading to more vibrant communities.  On matters of diversity and inclusion, we want to learn and grow with our members.

This focus shows up in a number of different ways including in the Capital Region Chamber’s 2017-2020 strategic plan.  The Chamber and its members recognize that key to success of the region’s businesses and continued growth is to have a diverse and inclusive workforce and community.

In October 2017, a member survey was conducted to assess what members were thinking and doing as it relates to diversity and inclusion. (See below for further details on the survey outcome). The Chamber also wanted to gauge what role it could take on to support this regional issue.  Based on survey findings, a number of actions were necessary to demonstrate the Chamber’s commitment beyond the survey.  One of those actions was to recruit a staff person dedicated to driving the effort.  This resulted in the Chamber creating the position of Vice President for Talent and Inclusion, signaling the importance of the role to the Chamber, its leadership and board.

In addition to the member survey, research was conducted to assess the business case for diversity.  Cities and regions that embrace diversity tend to do better economically. Companies in the top quartile for diversity are 35% more likely to financially outperform those in the bottom quartile.

Here are a few demographic developments that have a major impact on the call for greater diversity:

According to the latest U.S. census data:  13% of the US population is foreign born.  By 2055, the United States will not have a single racial or ethnic majority.  The 2015 Capital Region Statistical Report states that there was an 18-21% increase in Asian, Native American and Hispanic Origin populations from 2010-2014.

  • The millennial generation is the largest in the workforce
  • The LGBT community has emerged as a critical component to economic success, according to “Diversity and Inclusion for the 21st Century Economy: An Imperative for Chambers of Commerce.”
  • The Silver Tsunami is upon us – The Social Security Administrationestimates that 10,000 Americans are turning 65 every day.
  • The rate of unemployment of individuals with disabilities in our area alone is nearly 70% — these are members of our community who are often overlooked as a viable part of our workforce
  • Veterans who are returning to the workforce following years of military service provide employers access to some of the best trained and developed members of our workforce.

These data points represent opportunities as we attract a more diverse and inclusive workforce.

Q:  In your mind, what are the benefits of diversity and inclusion?

Angela Dixon: Diversity and Inclusion is not just a goal or an add-on, it is integral to how we do business. It is about creating a welcoming and growing community, where everyone’s capabilities are recognized and used to the fullest extent. When new community residents who are excited about being here and want to put roots down in the community, we all win. It means that young professionals who want to return to the area or stay in the Capital Region can grow their careers and families. That helps to expand regional opportunities and is expressed in a shared pride in our community.

Q: What will be your highest priorities for the coming year?

Angela Dixon:

  • To be a resource to Chamber members across the spectrum of workforce development and talent acquisition strategies, including diversity and inclusion – identify and share best practices
  • Enhance awareness – provide continued cultural diversity training and implicit bias training for Chamber Staff, Board, Councils; important that we’re all speaking the same language
  • Continue work with various Capital Region communities – we are all in this together; continued outreach
  • Work internally with my colleagues on Chamber programming and activities to achieve greater diversity and inclusion across all programs

Q: What can the members of the Women’s Business Council do to help spread the word?

Angela Dixon:  I am really glad you asked that question. Diversity is not something that can simply be introduced. It is a deliberate effort on everyone’s part to step outside of their comfort zone and reach out to people that are currently not engaged.

Here are a few suggestions I have:

  • Continue your efforts to bring in thought leaders around diversity and inclusion; broaden the conversation and the audience
  • Make a personal commitment to do 1-3 things differently that advance diversity and inclusiveness
  • Understand the business implications and advantages to a more diverse and inclusive community
  • Share best practices – don’t reinvent the wheel; other Chambers and Chamber members have developed a road map for D&I; we have an opportunity to incorporate approaches and strategies that meet our specific needs

Appendix: Summarized outcomes of the diversity survey the Chamber conducted in 2017

  • 249 respondents:
    • 59% have a formal policy or commitment statement about D&I
    • 50% of companies that responded include D&I in their strategic plan
    • 39% have an individual who manages or directs D&I
  • Challenges in advancing D&I:
    • lack of diversity in talent pool (59%);
    • lack of time and resources (52%);
    • lack of training and internal expertise (20%);
    • lack of internal management support (7%).
    • Other issues included: staff retention, low turnover creating minimal opportunities for filling senior positions with diverse candidates; unconscious or implicit bias

 

 

Harassment and discrimination in the workplace – what to do?

We sometimes hear the claim that women have achieved full equality in U.S. society and that hence, the problem of gender disparity has been resolved.

The sheer numbers of participants in the 2017 Women’s March on Washington, “likely the largest single-day demonstration in recorded U.S. history” tell a different story. Despite vigorous claims that the gender pay gap is a “myth”, female representation in political and commercial leadership positions has clearly not reached a point of equality.

The heightened awareness of persisting discrimination may have contributed to the astonishing rash of men who lost their prominent positions in entertainment, media and politics in 2017 because of alleged or documented sexual transgressions. Instead of whispering about “open secrets” – such as egregious sexual harassment or grossly unfair treatment of female job applicants – women began to share their stories in public. No matter which industry was being discussed, the stories were depressingly similar, revealing a pattern of stalled careers.

The public discussion documents a change in attitudes. “Young professionals are pretty much fearless, and their fearlessness is driving a lot of long-overdue change,” wrote Rose Miller, President of Pinnacle Human Resources, LLC, in her “Work Matters” column in the Albany Times Union on December 6, 2017. According to Miller, a new generation of well-educated female workers is less inclined to “keep quiet and endure” harassment. As a result, HR departments are seeing larger numbers of complaints and must sort out the resulting procedures.

Here are a few questions women in the workplace are asking:

  1. What is the best approach for an employee in case of unwanted sexual approaches by a coworker or superior?

The first step is to stop suffering in silence and speak up.

“In many sexual harassment cases, […], the responsible parties may not realize that their conduct is offensive. If you are a victim of harassment, your first step toward resolving the problem should be to let the offending party know that you find their conduct offensive.” – (Sexual Harassment: Actions You Can Take)

If that does not stop the offensive behavior, it’s time to investigate your employer’s existing procedures. These can be found in the employee handbook, online, or requested from the HR department. Carefully follow the procedures outlined for reporting harassment claims.

If you haven’t already, start a detailed record of harassment episodes, along with dates, times, the involved people, and what exactly was said.

  1. What are some of the remedies you can take if you think you’ve been unfairly overlooked for a promotion or other leadership opportunity?

As the Lean In Women in the Workplace report pointed out in 2017, gender bias remains a forceful factor in in the workplace: “Entry-level women are 18% less likely to be promoted than their male peers.”

Steps to take if you have leadership ambitions:

– Seek a mentor in the company

– Be clear about your aspirations and take responsibility

– Step up your networking

Classy Career Girl has put together a few useful steps to consider: Get Promoted in 6 Simple Steps

  1. How can you respond, particularly in non-traditional work environments for women, when there is “guy talk/locker room talk” or you can’t help but overhear disparaging language about women in general?

An excellent article on the topic appeared in the Harvard Business Review in February 2017: How to Respond to an Offensive Comment at Work.  It points out the pros and cons of speaking up and particularly highlights the role of managers: “Recognize that if you are in a position of power, you have a responsibility to address offensive comments.”

 

“A woman baked cookies. She didn’t run marathons.”

No piece of modern health advice for both men and women is complete without the admonition to stay physically active. Experts now recommend 30 to 60 minutes of daily physical activity for optimal health. Images of women in exercise gear are everywhere, and entire clothing lines and stores are dedicated to women’s exercise fashion.

A look at women’s history shows that this is a fairly recent development.

When Roberta “Bobbi” Gibb requested a spot to run in the 1966 Boston Marathon, her application was denied with a terse letter. “Women aren’t allowed, and furthermore are not physiologically able,” the director of the race informed her.

Gibb ended up running the race as an unregistered entrant and finished the marathon in a time of 3:21:40. A historic picture shows her running in a swimsuit and shorts. She wore boys running shoes because no commercial women’s running gear was available.

Gibb 1966 Boston Marathon Getty Images
Getty Images: Roberta Gibb in the 1966 Boston Marathon

“People don’t really understand it now,” Gibb said in an interview in 2016. “It was so unbelievable that a woman could run the Boston marathon. A woman baked cookies. She didn’t run marathons.”

Following the introduction of Title IX in 1972, a larger portion of athletic budgets on college campuses was spent on female sports. The policy change would eventually lead to a 600% increase in the number of women playing college sports.

With spring just around the corner, many more runners are hitting the streets for their spring training. As women of all ages put on sports gear tailored for our bodies, special exercise bras, and properly fitting shoes, we have a lot to be thankful for. Not just for our health and strength, but also for those who took down barriers and dared to be different.

The Healthy Workplace

Are women concerned about factors affecting their health in the workplace? If the turnout to the Women’s Business Council event featuring author Leigh Stringer is any indication, the answer is a resounding YES!

In case you missed Leigh’s dynamic talk or couldn’t get into the sold-out event, WBCVoice followed up with her to ask more questions. Leigh also reminded us that she shares current advice at www.leighstringer.com.

          

WBCVoice: During your talk you shared with us that women are far more likely to experience stress. What are some of the factors contributing to stress in the workplace?

LS: There are so many factors that impact stress at work… the list is long!  Stress might be triggered by having a bad commute, having a disagreement with a colleague or boss, dealing with a personnel issue, crazy deadlines, a fear of being fired, addressing a life-threatening situation (if you are a firefighter, in the military, etc.), taking on too much responsibility or working long hours.  Interestingly, one of the biggest stressors is when we don’t have “control” over the outcomes of our work.  When we are not able to control how, when or where our work gets done, it not only makes our work more stressful, but also, it increases heart disease and reduces productivity.  Often, sadly, women are more likely than men to be in jobs with less “control,” which is one of many reasons we are twice as likely to suffer more from anxiety and depression.  Here is a little more information on the research related to “control” at work.

WBCVoice: For those of us working in small teams or in a self-employed capacity, what are some of the easiest steps you would recommend for better work-life balance and improved health? 

LS: Here are a few of my favorite tips:

  1. Nurture “biophilia.” We have a strong desire to be in and among nature. It’s only natural – for most of human history we spent all of our time outdoors.  This preference, often referred to biophilia, was introduced and popularized by E.O. Wilson, who suggests that there is an instinctive bond between human beings and other living systems. To take advantage of the nature-lover in all of us:
  • Add natural elements into the workplace by putting small plants or a water feature on your desk or nearby.  These elements are soothing psychologically and reduce stress.
  • Move your desk or any workspaces occupied by people next to a window if possible.  More natural light will decrease eye strain, improve well-being and if you sit close enough to a window, it can help reset your circadian rhythm and sleep cycle.
  • Use features in the workplace that mimic nature, such as pictures of trees and water, building elements that mimic shells or leaves, furniture with organic rather than geometric shapes, and wood with a visible wood grain.  These features, referred to as “natural analogues” can have the same biophilic impact as the real thing.
  1. Make getting healthy a team sport. Social influence, also known as peer pressure, has a positive impact on exercise behavior and our attitudes towards exercise. There are many ways to tap into this at work. For example:
  • Create competitions between teams or different office locations to encourage more walking, biking or participating in team sports over the course of a work week.
  • Consider creating a community garden (if you have the real estate available). Studies show that people are more likely to eat more healthy foods if they have a hand in growing their food as a community, even more so than if they grow it on their own!
  1. Create healthy “nudges” to take the stairs.  Taking the stairs is good for cholesterol levels, for burning calories, and for increasing collaboration at work. Unfortunately, in many buildings, the elevator is front and center and stairways are often hidden, dark, locked or generally scary places to hang out.  To encourage more stair use, try the following:
  • Paint the stairwell a lighter color so that it appears brighter and less foreboding.
  • Add artwork to give it a personal touch and add visual interest.
  • Pipe in pleasant music.  Some buildings are actually taking music out of elevators and putting them in the stairs to make the stair experience more desirable.
  • Want a really simple trick to nudge stair use?  Studies show that just by putting up signs that explain the health benefits of taking the stairs (such as a sign in the elevator lobby that shows how many calories you can burn), stair usage increases by 54 percent!
  1. Stay home when you are sick.  When people come into the workplace sick, they are very likely spreading their diseases to colleagues, which reduces organizational productivity.  As tempting as it is for you to “power through” and minimize sick days, the overall health risk is not worth it.  Researchers from the University of Arizona in Tucson placed a tracer virus on commonly touched objects such as a doorknob or tabletop in workplaces.  At multiple time intervals, the researchers sampled a range of surfaces including light switches, countertops, sink tap handles, and push buttons. They found that between 40 and 60 percent of the surfaces were contaminated within two to four hours.  This may be a reason to adopt a “work from home” policy, if you are looking for one. Beyond that, everyone should frequently wash their hands.

WBCVoice: You briefly mentioned your new organization, GW4W. Can you share what the objectives of the organization are, and how members of the Women’s Business Council in the New York Capital Region can contribute?

LS: The mission of Global Women for Wellbeing:

  • Funding quality research focused on women’s health and wellbeing issues
  • Sharing success stories/lessons learned from women around the globe
  • Providing cross-disciplinary mentoring by seasoned leadership
  • Inspiring each other and the next generation of women to step into leadership roles in their businesses and their communities

How you can get involved:

  • Join GW4W and become a member today!
  • Share the GW4W  website with your friends, family and colleagues
  • Stay connected, be informed and inspired by following and liking GW4W on Facebook
  • Become a corporate sponsor. If you are a business owner or you think your company has a focus on women’s issues and would be interested in becoming a corporate sponsor, please let us know

NOTE: Global Women for Wellbeing is a non-profit organization incorporated in the State of NY and a selected member of the Center for Social Innovation in NYC.  Your membership fee and/or donation is tax deductible.

What does mindfulness mean?

Picture it. (mindfulness / Flickr)

Have you ever driven a familiar route on “autopilot” – so lost in thought that you remembered nothing about the trip afterward? Have you ever eaten a meal without actually tasting a single bite because you were so occupied with something else? Those experiences are quite common, and they can make us feel that something is missing from our lives.

After the rain

Mindfulness is a “hot topic” at the moment, but what exactly does it mean? The pictures shown online and in magazines seem to suggest that mindful people sit in the grass with their hands in the lotus position a lot, which removes the concept from our immediate reality. However, Jon Kabat-Zinn, who launched the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program in 1979, has a different outlook. “It’s not really about sitting in the full lotus, like pretending you’re a statue in a British museum,” he notes in this Greater Good video. “It’s about living your life as if it really mattered, moment by moment by moment by moment.”

In that sense, being mindful refers to achieving greater awareness, of our surroundings, our bodies, and our emotions. The practice involves noticing—really noticing—what is happening in a given moment so we can experience the sights, sounds, and smells that ordinarily slip by. Fully focusing on small delights – a puppy, a delicious lunch, a beautiful evening sky – or your breath has a number of physical and social benefits. Mindfulness improves concentration, reduces stress, and helps us relate better to other people.

Here are a few ways to incorporate small moments of mindfulness into your busy day (without sitting in the grass in skimpy clothing):

  • Mindful walking: For a short while, focus on your own movement and the things immediately around you. Notice the texture of the ground, the sounds you may hear, and small things that may escape your attention on other days.
  • Mindful eating: Turn off distractions such as your phone or the TV so you can enjoy the taste of your food. Notice how it tastes and what you like about it.
  • Stillness: Find a place where you can let your mind quiet down, even if it is only for a minute or two.

What do you notice? The difference means living a fuller life.

C-level questions for women

A recent CNNMoney analysis showed that 24 of S&P 500 companies have female CEOs. Progress has been slow for women to advance to the highest levels of companies. So slow, in fact, that a study by McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.org estimated that “it could take about 25 years to reach gender parity in senior vice president roles, and more than 100 years to do so in C-suite jobs.”

What if we don’t want to wait another 100 years? An upcoming event organized by the Women’s Business Council will explore how we might make the process a little faster:

On Tuesday, April 12, join a discussion moderated by Rosemary Armao, with

  • Denise Gonick, President and CEO at MVP Health Care,
  • Audrey Zibelman, Chair, NYS Public Service Commission, and
  • Dr. Nancy Zimpher, Chancellor, State University of New York

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Click here to register.

Your best New Year’s resolution

According to statistics, one third to one half of Americans make New Year’s resolutions every year. We vow to eat healthier, exercise more, and save more money, but some important considerations may be overlooked in the process. Today’s Women in Business Wednesday blog post takes a look at making personal policies.

A recent article published in the Wall Street Journal explained the concept of personal policy further:

“In one experiment, 30 women, ages 22 to 53, undertook a 10-day wellness challenge involving goals like exercising more and eating more healthily. The women were divided into three groups: One was asked to use the “I don’t” strategy, another the “I can’t” strategy, and a third (the control group) was simply told to say no to temptation.

While only 10% of the “I can’t” group stuck with their goal, 80% of the “I don’t” group were still using the strategy successfully 10 days later. Lead researcher Vanessa Patrick, professor of marketing at the University of Houston, suggests that when a refusal and a policy involve someone’s personal identity—”I’m someone who doesn’t skip the gym”—it can improve self-control and encourage you to stick to a goal.”

New YearYour best New Year’s resolution could be to create your own policies that state “I don’t‘ instead of “I can’t” or “I really shouldn’t“, but that’s not always easy.

Because many of us grow up to be people pleasers, we’ll do almost anything to be agreeable and keep others happy. Underneath it all, we believe that saying “no” will cost us, says Albany Med Cardiologist Dr. Suzie Mookherjee.

To help WBC members start the year on the right foot, she will discuss the topic at her upcoming luncheon presentation, Speaking the Truth: The Power of Authenticity (click here for more info). We look forward to seeing you at the event.

Here’s to you and a happy, healthy new year!