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UNC and NCCU host symposium on promoting anti-racism in business

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UNC and North Carolina Central co-hosted a virtual symposium to discuss racism in business and how to address it.

Business students from UNC-Chapel Hill and North Carolina Central University hosted a virtual anti-racism symposium Friday to address inequities within corporate systems and the role the community can play in being conduits for change.

The symposium, entitled "Sustaining the Momentum of Anti-Racism in Business," hosted guests from organizations who all shared their experiences and ideas on how to deal with racism in different workplace scenarios. 

“The mission behind the event is to create a healthy dialogue and a call to action to address systemic inequities in the workplace, specifically racism and promoting anti-racism in the workplace," Sherrod Crum, a Kenan Scholar and UNC business student, said. 

The event began with a welcome from Crum and Keisha Williams, director of marketing and communication at North Carolina Central University School of Business.

The first session of the symposium was a fireside chat between Anthony Nelson, dean of North Carolina Central University School of Business, and Doug Shackelford, dean of UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School.

Both deans discussed their commitment to providing equitable learning environments that promote each student, faculty, staff and partner's contributions and perspectives.

The chat was followed by a "Kahoot!" trivia game. The focus of the game was to allow participants to test their knowledge of people of color business development, employment and workplace experience. 

Lowe's CEO Marvin Ellison spoke next as the keynote speaker. 

Ellison gave a brief overview of Lowe's anti-racism statement and reviewed specific actions the company has taken in the past to combat racism and inequality. 

Ellison shared his experience as a person of color and how his hard work and integrity helped him get where he is now. He also talked about his insights on his hands-on leadership approach and how it impacts his relationships with employees and his success at Lowe's. Ellison concluded by talking about the responsibility that corporations should make to be committed to equitable practice. 

After a small break, the symposium continued with a panel discussion. In the session, attendees were able to hear how professionals navigate racism and other forms of discrimination and aggression in the workplace and what it means for them to be an ally.

The panelists discussed different ways companies can follow through on their pledges to promote a diverse workforce and foster an inclusive company culture that creates opportunities for minority employees.

Panelists ended by offering advice on how people can use their privileges to speak up effectively and take action to be allies to those with less access and opportunity.

Jasmine Marshall, one of the people posing questions to the panelists, will be working for McKinsey, a consulting firm, after graduating in the class of 2021. Marshall is going to be the only Black woman in her starting class. 

“I think that’s important for me — just holding these companies accountable and making sure that they’re following through with these different things,” she said.

The event concluded with a workshop by Ada Gregory, associate director at the Duke University Kenan Institute for Ethics and Student Ombudsperson. 

During the workshop, Gregory invited the public to form part of conversations that included hypothetical scenarios where learning about “micro-interventions” was the main focus — teaching the audience how to get involved in a safe way when need it.  

The session provided hands-on opportunities for the public to practice how to respond to harmful remarks and behaviors in effective ways, as well as how to implement proactive interventions that prevent incidents from reoccurring and that amplify the voices and contributions of those who are too often undermined in the workplace.

Crum said conversations like those held at the symposium are steps toward positive change.

“(We’re) really developing the actions and deliverables towards creating change within business, utilizing the resources that allow both NC Central and UNC to do so."

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