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When One Group Moves Forward, Why You Must Look Back

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Every step we take forward in regards to diversity and inclusion, I’m reminded to look back.

What am I looking for? The groups we left behind. Specifically, women of color.

When our company was named a Catalyst Award winner, I was honored that our work to advance women was recognized by the preeminent women’s workplace inclusion organization.

As a black woman, though, I wasn't feeling that same sense of celebration as my peers. This was an accomplishment for women, but not necessarily for women of color. For me, being black is always first because that's where I'm most marginalized.

Good Work. Now Let’s Do More.

We have plenty of examples of steps ahead. Last year Blake Moret, our chairman and CEO, joined the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion, the largest CEO-driven business commitment to advance diversity and inclusion within the workplace. This year, the Executive Leadership Council (ELC), a membership organization for the development of black leaders, welcomed Ernest Nicolas, Jr., our vice president, Global Supply Chain, into its membership.

These are two organizations devoted to the development of black professionals. Attending ELC-sponsored events like the Mid-Level Managers’ Symposium (MLMS) helped me broaden my professional skills and networks, and reminded me that as much work as we have done and will continue to do, more groups deserve more attention.

Our company has 13 employee resource groups (ERGs). These are company-supported groups of employees drawn together by common characteristics including ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, generation, military or disability status, etc.

While organized under the broad ERG heading, what brings together these groups – demographics, issues and priorities – is different. And while we have been recognized for our work advancing women in the workplace, and are increasing black leadership development, we have more people who require our time and attention.

When we take a step forward, I’m reminded to look back and what we’re doing to learn from these groups, and to incorporate that learning into our recruitment and retention practices.

What It Means To Be Part of Something

The experience at the Catalyst ceremony reminded me that as we take a step forward advancing women, we can’t forget women of color. As we take a step forward for people of color, we can’t forget our Latino and Asian American communities. And the list goes on. 

We need to know what matters to these communities, to recognize differences and to understand what it feels like to be in a majority and a minority.

There’s no broad brush of inclusion. We should celebrate when we do accomplish great things.

And we should acknowledge when there’s room to do more. Every step forward is a chance to look back and realize who is not with us yet. We can’t rest and we can’t rely on past awards to predict future success. We create our path every day, and for anyone not in a majority, it must be in a unique way.

Candace Barnes
Candace Barnes
Manager, Global Diversity Programs, Global Talent Organization & Culture of Inclusion, Rockwell Automation
Candace Barnes

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