Our Challenge Today

I am very excited and honored to a participant in this year’s Aurora Chamber Leadership Academy. I have learned so much already and met many unique and inspiring individuals, I can’t wait to see what else is to come.

During our recent class on Diversity with Dr. Adrienne Coleman from IMSA, we did several exercises that challenged our own conscious and unconscious biases. I was appalled to realize that as much personal work and growth I had experienced over the years, that I still had unconscious biases to overcome that were buried in my psyche.

What has always been important to me, even as a child, was to defend the underdog. I felt everyone should have a fair shot and be treated equally. As a child I didn’t truly understand what that meant in the outside world. I grew up being privileged as a white, catholic, middle class, only-child in a rural area where everyone looked the same. I didn’t really know what diversity was until I went to college. I went to a large University to expand my horizons, meet new and different people, and have new experiences.

My career goals led me to be in positions within Human Resources that fit my need to defend the underdog and equality in the workplace, so I specialized in Employee Relations. I was the Equal Employment Opportunity Officer for one of my prior employers. In addition, I became a trainer for managers and employees on subjects such as Sexual Harassment, Hiring and Terminations, and the ADA.

However, working with Dr. Coleman reminded me that we all use stereotypes to figure out the world, it is how we organize our thoughts from childhood on. Red means stop or something is wrong, green means go or everything is okay, etc. This also applies to how we judge people. Whether it’s someone with green eyes and red hair has to be Irish, or that person has an accent so they must speak Spanish.

Unfortunately, we apply these stereotypes or biases unconsciously so that it affects our way of treating people. This is very important to be aware of when you are making hiring decisions in your business or making connections and building relationships. This particular class with Dr. Coleman made me realize that beating your own biases is not a to-do item to check off your list, we have to constantly be aware of the warning signs of bias as we encounter more challenging situations and meet new people. Even how we do business is constantly changing; if we don’t change too, we will become obsolete. Diversity is no longer a fight for equality, it is how business is done. It must be mindful and thoughtful. As a result, your business and flow of creative ideas will naturally increase. Capitalize on the special talents given to each of your employees because of who they are and what they bring to the job to the highest extent possible. This is our challenge today.

Kerry Rieder-McLaughlin works as a Human Resources Consultant, along with her husband Kenneth S. McLaughlin, Jr., attorney-at-law, at the Law Offices of McLaughlin & Associates, P.C. in Aurora. She earned a BS at University of Wisconsin-Madison in Public Relations and an MSIR from Loyola University-Chicago. She has over 15 years of experience in Human Resources within a variety of industries.

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