Naval Information Warfare Systems Command (NAVWAR) hosted a virtual town hall Aug. 26 focused on the importance of diversity and how societal events, and the conversations that surround them, may impact the process of creating a more inclusive work environment.
Employees across NAVWAR enterprise joined guest facilitators from a diversity and inclusion consulting firm, as they led a discussion addressing current events and provided tools, available resources and exercises to support participants as they navigate today’s social climate inside and outside the work environment.
NAVWAR Commander Rear Adm. Doug Small provided the opening remarks for the event by acknowledging how eye-opening and humbling it is to truly listen to others’ experiences.
“Until we are able to open up and listen to the realities of other people, we will never be able to learn and grow to our full potential,” said Small. “In this era of great power competition, we have to get the very best out of every single one of our people. This training signifies my promise to keep this conversation going so each individual is treated with dignity and respect and in turn, we can work together to provide the best support to the fleet.”
Hosted by NAVWAR’s Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) office, the event kicked off with discussion about recent civil unrest, subsequent conversations and how different movements and slogans, such as Black Lives Matter, can mean different things to different people.
The facilitators also covered how to structure important conversations that foster inclusion in the workplace, providing a list of “do’s” and “don’ts” that can help lead to constructive, open and honest communication.
“These conversations need to be approached with respect,” said Dr. Taylor Jones, one of the facilitators for the town hall event. “Respect for its nuance, respect for multiple perspectives and narratives, respect for the people in the room. You will be discussing topics that can polarize in a nanosecond. If you take nothing away from today’s session, please take the knowledge that the goal is not to be right during difficult conversations, but to be effective.”
The facilitators went on to challenge the group to routinely check their biases by playing the game of “who’s missing.” This is simply taking note wherever you go – a building, a neighborhood, a meeting - who is not represented. It’s an exercise to practice paying more attention to the social world around you.
“There isn’t always a right answer or a reason, but this exercise does get you thinking about representation and how social structure functions with who is there, why or why not, and how that may impact outcomes,” said Christopher Hall, another facilitator for the town hall.
Jones and Hall also took time to answer several questions submitted from the attendees about how to decline involvement in conversations if they’re uncomfortable, why “All Lives Matter” can be perceived negatively by some and why people may see racism as systemic in America.
“Inclusion in the workplace is very important,” said Ed Castellon, director of NAVWAR EEO. “We had been planning to bring inclusion training sessions to our workforce, but once national events regarding race relations started to transpire, we decided to have a town hall to include a larger audience. We wanted to open this up to everyone. Talking about race relations can be challenging, so we also wanted to provide the workforce a framework for having these conversations.”
Earlier this summer, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday announced the formation of Task Force One, stood up as a means for the Navy to analyze and evaluate issues in both our society and the military that detract from Navy readiness, such as racism, sexism and other structural and interpersonal biases.
In keeping with the CNO’s intent of Task Force One, NAVWAR will continue to foster these types of discussions. Today’s town hall was immediately followed by a session entitled “Leadership, Inclusion and Performance,” and will invite additional guest speakers and panelists to participate in future virtual events at both NAVWAR headquarters and its Echelon III information warfare centers.
NAVWAR identifies, develops, delivers and sustains information warfighting capabilities and services that enable naval, joint, coalition and other national missions operating in warfighting domains from seabed to space and through cyberspace. NAVWAR consists of more than 11,000 civilian, active duty and reserve professionals located around the world.
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