Diversity is important in the workplace

 A guest panel discusses cultural organizations and the benefits of diversity in corporate environments at the Asian American Cultural Center Monday, Apr. 2 from 5:30-6:30 pm. (Natalija Marosz/The Daily Campus)

A guest panel discusses cultural organizations and the benefits of diversity in corporate environments at the Asian American Cultural Center Monday, Apr. 2 from 5:30-6:30 pm. (Natalija Marosz/The Daily Campus)

The Asian American Cultural Center in collaboration with the Center for Career Development held a panel for students talking about minorities in the workplace this Monday.

The panel was held in the Asian American Cultural Center Monday from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. for students in the Pan Asian Council. The students are representatives of student organizations affiliated with the Asian American Cultural Center. The purpose of the council is to promote social, cultural and interpersonal activities that allow students to explore and define their cultural identity, according to their website (https://asacc.uconn.edu/programs/pan-asian-council/).

The students were introduced to the seven speakers by Lisa McGuire, assistant director at the Center for Career Development. The panelists came from Synchrony Financial, Pratt and Whitney and The Hartford.

The panelists spoke on the diversity in their workplace. Diversity is a way to connect with others and to celebrate different cultures and backgrounds, Michael Walberg from Synchrony Financial said.

“We want our company to represent most of America,” Walberg said. “Different viewpoints can bring people to the conversation,”

Pratt and Whitney employees spoke about employee resource groups (ERGs) and how it is creating mentoring programs to “build a pipeline” between employees and college students Kevin Zeng, design engineer at Pratt and Whitney said. The company established an Asian American Leadership Forum that Zeng is a part of.

McGuire had also asked the panelists about the importance of branding oneself. Mark Turek, 2004 University of Connecticut graduate, said a resume is “basically” a sales document.

Turek also mentioned that smaller companies may not have ERGs because they don’t have the resources.

Maanya Raju from The Hartford said that diversity and inclusion was important in lending perspective. Maura Malik, another panelist from The Hartford, also added that it was important to make sure the company also works with one’s interests.

“You deserve to know how the company….(will) work for you,” Raju said about how students should also approach their interview.

There are opportunities within companies to make it work for you as far as diversity is concerned. There are resources that are available, Jasmine Teal, another design engineer at Pratt and Whitney, said.

The Hartford sent employees to go help at the site of the Pulse Nightclub shooting, Turek said. “There was a need in the community and people went to help,”

Students had the opportunity following the discussion to connect and network with the panelists as well.

Malik said she felt it was important to speak about her experiences as a person of Asian ethnicity in the workplace and define cultural sectors when asked about why she came to the center as a panelist. This was her first time speaking to an audience of students.

Fourth-semester communications major Winfield Zhou said that he had never known about ERGs.

“Big corporations....have something similar to the cultural center,” Zhou said. He elaborated that he thought larger organizations would only focus on one race, which he found was not the case after the panel.

Chandler Gabagat, a fourth-semester accounting and economics major, added that he learned about the benefits of being part of an ERG. He was surprised that there was additional activities run through the company outside of work hours.

“You think people would want to go home,” Gabagat said. “Instead, they want to do more and participate in cultural events,”

Pan Asian Council co-coordinator Shreya Khadka, a sixth-semester marketing major, said she hopes the members will apply what they learned to real life.

“The panel was pivotal in understanding the importance of diversity in the workplace and the significance of building and maintaining diverse communities outside of college,” Khadka said. “It was important to hear that employers had resources and platforms for change in the workplace,”

The panel was funded by a grant from Target to promote diversity on campus, said Beth Settje, associate director at the Center for Career Development and liaison to the Asian American Cultural Center. Settje said she hopes that next year’s program offerings will have more structure. The main focus of these programs is to show “positivity,” Settje said.

“Diversity and inclusion is important (for) students,” said Settje.

The program was created “organically” as a series of workshops exploring cultural diversity in the workplace, Settje said.

Ultimately, the main point of the panelists is that diversity initiatives not only help employees, but the company as a whole.

“You need diversity to stay competitive,” Malik said.


Kimberly Nguyen is the associate managing editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at kimberly.nguyen@uconn.edu.