5 Birmingham business leaders get real about inclusivity ROI on March 21

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Birmingham, Alabama, Momentum Leadership Breakfast 2019
Clara Green, Dawn Bulgarella and Lee S. Price (top row); J.W. Carpenter and Kris Dunn (bottom row). Photos submitted

It’s one of Birmingham’s premiere business and networking events of the year. The Momentum Leadership Breakfast on inclusivity and diversity takes place Thursday, March 21, 2019, at The Club. Check out Bham Now’s exclusive Q&A with the distinguished panel, and get those tickets before they sell out!

Birmingham, Alabama, Momentum Leadership Breakfast 2019, The Club
March 21 will be a fine morning to network at The Club. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now

Meet the Distinguished Panel

The 2019 Momentum Leadership Breakfast features the following prominent Birmingham leaders from the corporate, higher education, military and nonprofit sectors.

  • Clara Green (panelist) is executive vice president and head of diversity and inclusion at Regions.
  • Dawn Bulgarella, MSHA, CPA, (panelist) is senior associate dean for administration and finance at UAB Health System.
  • Major General, US Army (retired) Lee S. Price (panelist) serves on the Board of Directors for Southern Research Institute and the Lakeshore Foundation.
  • J.W. Carpenter (panelist) is executive director of the Birmingham Education Foundation.
  • Kris Dunn (moderator) is chief human resources officer at Kinetix and founder of the blogs HR Capitalist and Fistful of Talent

You can get their full bios here. Before we dive into the Q&A, get your tickets for the March 21 Momentum Leadership Breakfast, 7:30-9:30AM at The Club. General admission is $55.

Bonus: After the panel, enjoy a productive networking hour 9:30-10:30AM powered by Mixtroz. This Birmingham tech startup is making international waves with its breakthrough app, and you’ll get to try it firsthand.

Q&A: How to Achieve Outstanding Performance Through Inclusivity and Diverse Talent

Birmingham, Alabama, workplace inclusivity. Photo via Pixabay
Is your workplace inclusive, like really? Let’s take a closer look.

 1. What are some hidden barriers to inclusivity in the workplace, even when we hire a diverse workforce and promote diverse leaders? 

Clara Green says …

Birmingham, Alabama, Momentum Leadership Breakfast, Clara Green
Clara Green
  • Hiring diverse talent does not mean a leader knows how to lead, coach and support diverse talent. We too often assume that they know what “leading inclusively” means, or that it is something that will just happen naturally.

“In reality, most leaders do not know what ‘leading inclusively’ means, so we have to invest the time and find the right resources to support their training.”

Clara Green
  • Take time to educate. Many don’t understand the business impact that comes with having a diverse and inclusive culture.
  • You have to find the resistors and set expectations around their support or be willing to make tough calls on leadership changes.

Dawn Bulgarella says …

Birmingham, Alabama, Momentum Leadership Breakfast, Dawn Bulgarella
Dawn Bulgarella

Unconscious bias can be a hidden barrier to inclusivity in the workplace.  This can be a sensitive topic to discuss, but we started at the top at UAB Health System.

“We helped our leadership teams become more familiar with personal, cultural and social biases that exist and can influence our personal interactions and decision-making.  Then we focused in on a variety of practices and communication tactics to make improvements.”

Dawn Bulgarella

We’ve rolled out written and video training opportunities to be discussed with faculty and staff across the organization, and it has been well-received.


J.W. Carpenter says …

Birmingham, Alabama, Momentum Leadership Breakfast, J.W. Carpenter
J.W. Carpenter

First, I think it’s helpful to think beyond the workplace to include our social spaces and our city.

“A diverse workforce is not just quantity, although that is necessary too. It’s about the quality of the experience of every employee so they can do their best work. That can’t happen if they are not comfortable.”

J.W. Carpenter

Leaders, especially leaders with enormous privilege, have to talk and think about inclusivity, listen to their employees and make it a priority. I would say one of the major barriers is that many leaders are not doing some or all of those things. This limits our progress in diversity and inclusiveness in Birmingham.


Kris Dunn says …

Birmingham, Alabama, Momentum Leadership Breakfast, Kris Dunn
Kris Dunn

For me, the biggest barrier to inclusivity in the workplace is the skills of the core manager of people. 

“Great managers of people at all levels have the ability to drive conversations in a way that allows direct reports to participate and even drive the conversation—all while remaining confident they can allow that and still get the needs of the business met.”

Kris Dunn

Average managers of people have not developed this skill. As a result, they tell people what to do, which limits the diversity of voices active in any business conversation.


Lee Price says …

Birmingham, Alabama, Momentum Leadership Breakfast, N. Lee S. Price
Lee Price

Even for companies that have stated they want to become more inclusive, it can be difficult.

The military, for instance, had to recruit women after the draft was eliminated. The leadership was predominantly (over 98 percent) male and had little experience with women in the workplace.

More importantly, once a woman was assigned to their unit and given a task, they feared coaching them. So the lone woman was left to complete the task on her own. If this led to the woman failing at a task, there was no forgiveness. Instead, the leadership interpreted that one woman’s failure meant that all women could not do the task.

“I learned to ask for guidance when I was assigned a task. Ask complex questions rather than those that can be answered with a ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ This will provide you with needed guidance and help initiate a stronger working relationship with your boss. After the task is completed, ask how it could have been better. Building interpersonal relationships takes time and intentional effort.”

Lee Price


2. How does inclusivity benefit Birmingham businesses?

An inclusive business team equals an inclusive perspective on clients and customers.

Clara Green says …

Birmingham, Alabama, Momentum Leadership Breakfast, Clara Green
Clara Green
  • Inclusivity ensures every voice on your team is heard, and that collectively you are working to meet business goals and problem solve.
  • Having an inclusive mindset also means you have built culture of belonging. That means that, individually, people understand the value they bring to the team and the role they play in elevating the performance of their team.

Dawn Bulgarella says …

Birmingham, Alabama, Momentum Leadership Breakfast, Dawn Bulgarella
Dawn Bulgarella

We recognize that the quality and medical reputation of UAB Medicine are significant drivers in our patients’ decision-making process when choosing a doctor. In addition—and a point that is critical to our continued strategy of diversity and inclusion in the workforce—studies indicate that when given a choice, patients are more likely to choose a doctor of their own race and ethnic background. These similarities can have positive impacts on patient experiences and improved communication. 

Diversity in the physician workforce has positive impacts on the recruitment of the best and brightest medical students and residents as well. 

“Potential students and residents are looking for an environment with a diverse student body and workforce in order to expose them to a wider range of ideas and experiences. They recognize the positive impact this could have on their future as physicians.”

Dawn Bulgarella

J.W. Carpenter says …

Birmingham, Alabama, Momentum Leadership Breakfast, J.W. Carpenter
J.W. Carpenter

There are many studies that show that diverse teams do better than those that lack diversity, but you do not need a study to know that talent is key and if you want to the best talent, you have to make all the available talent feel included.

“Diverse talent means diverse perspectives, seeing things that perhaps others with dissimilar backgrounds do not see or understand. That makes the whole team stronger.”

J.W. Carpenter

As our world becomes even more connected and the U.S. becomes even more diverse in every way, the priority heightens, and not just on the internal side, but the client side as well. More and more clients want to see diverse teams, and if businesses fail that test, they could lose or fail to gain that business.

Kris Dunn says …

Birmingham, Alabama, Momentum Leadership Breakfast, Kris Dunn
Kris Dunn

A diverse workforce ensures that your business always matches your customer/client base to the extent possible, which leads to better outcomes with customers and clients in hundreds of ways—too many to list in this space.


Lee Price says …

Birmingham, Alabama, Momentum Leadership Breakfast, N. Lee S. Price
Lee Price

Seeing tasks from multiple viewpoints reduces a company’s risk, particularly in today’s environment when even the small, online business can groom international clients.

We have all seen the news where companies have released products that were quickly deemed inappropriate because they offended someone.

“A diverse workforce can help educate others about cultural sensitivities before a misstep occurs. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure; repairing and remediating your brand is an expensive option. A business that understands different cultures and diverse groups, broadens their base of potential clients.”

Lee Price

3. Describe a time when inclusivity in the workplace made the end result better in a way you didn’t expect.

J.W. Carpenter says …

Birmingham, Alabama, Momentum Leadership Breakfast, J.W. Carpenter
J.W. Carpenter

It is hard to pinpoint one moment because in my work at the Birmingham Education Foundation, our ability to create an inclusive environment impacts me every day.

I am a six-foot-tall white male from a high-income background who did not attend the Birmingham City Schools. Most of the students we serve do not share my background. That does not mean I cannot be of service, but it does mean there are many things about their experience that I do not understand.

“Our team has multiple identities, experiences and talents that help better me as a leader and help our work continually improve. When I am at my best (which is far from always), I am listening not just to my team, but to our students, educators and our many diverse partners in an effort to see things from every angle and deliver a quality product for our students.”

J.W. Carpenter

Kris Dunn says …

Birmingham, Alabama, Momentum Leadership Breakfast, Kris Dunn
Kris Dunn

It’s easy for all of us to think our way is the best way, and that we’re the most important link in the world.  Recently, I had an experience that typifies the call for inclusivity. 

While working with a client, I introduced them to a high-performing, early-career female team member. After a few months, we entered a “next phase” of the project. That’s when the client (politely!) expressed their desire for the younger, female associate to take the lead on a set of consulting interviews (over me). They thought the interview subjects, who matched the demographics of my associate, would be more comfortable with her.

“As a result, I got a week back in my year, my associate got a great development opportunity and the client was satisfied.  Win/win/win.”

Kris Dunn


4. What’s your no. 1 piece of advice to companies looking to make a culture change toward a more inclusive environment?

It’s going to take time, but with hard work and these tips, your workplace can get there.

Clara Green says …

Birmingham, Alabama, Momentum Leadership Breakfast, Clara Green
Clara Green
  • Meet with as many leaders and associates as possible to understand what it will take to get their buy-in and support.
  • Over communicate the benefits of building an inclusive culture: (1) greater productivity, (2) higher employee engagement and (3) improved retention.
  • Build your strategy, starting with small consistent steps.
  • Find the right tools to chart your progress.
  • Support your efforts through training, including small and large groups, e-learning and hands-on facilitation.

“If you don’t have resources to build and launch internally, invest in the right external support. It will be worth it.”

Clara Green

J.W. Carpenter says …

Birmingham, Alabama, Momentum Leadership Breakfast, J.W. Carpenter
J.W. Carpenter

Start from a place of strength. Where in your company are you doing this well, even in a small way? Talk to those people who are involved and get their advice.

If that is not a possibility, who in your network is doing this well, perhaps at another company. Ask for their advice.

“The more you are reading and listening to others, especially across lines of difference, the faster you will get better. Do not get discouraged. There will be setbacks, failures and many, many uncomfortable moments. That is how you know you are getting to the heart of the issue and making progress. If it feels too easy, you are not doing anything.”

J.W. Carpenter

Kris Dunn says …

Birmingham, Alabama, Momentum Leadership Breakfast, Kris Dunn
Kris Dunn

Start with the recruiting process. In order to make a culture change to a more inclusive environment, you’re going to have to break through the “like me” bias that all humans have. 

“In subtle and not so subtle ways, you’re going to have to force people to get out of their comfort zone and start considering candidates who provide the inclusivity you seek.”

Kris Dunn

See the Rooney Rule for an extreme example of this, and we are encountering more companies who are instituting their own version of the Rooney Rule inside their companies.


Tickets are Going, Going …

Wow, what a panel! I’ve already learned so much, and I can’t wait to learn more from these Birmingham business leaders at the Momentum Leadership Breakfast panel discussion. It happens Thursday, March 21, 2019, 7:30-9:30AM, at The Club. General admission is $55.

This Momentum event will sell out, so get tickets today.

It’s a huge networking event, too—750 Birmingham movers and shakers will be there. Plus, the Mixtroz app will make it easy to make connections most relevant to you.

While the March 21 event will be bigger, you can get a feel for Momentum networking events by reading my firsthand account, “6 things I learned at Momentum’s confidence workshop.” Worth it. I promise.

Find The Club at 1 Robert S. Smith Dr., Birmingham, AL 35209.

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