By Claudia Schabel | President, Schabel Solutions

On May 30, we all witnessed two events that drove polar opposite emotions in our city and nation. On the negative side, videos and images of peaceful protests ending in violence once again highlighted the desperation tied to long-standing open wounds present in American society.

On the positive side, the successful launch and docking of the SpaceX Dragon capsule with the International Space Station highlighted humanity’s unlimited potential. The painful history and current manifestations of systemic racism in the United States, made even more excruciating by the current health and economic crises, are certainly gut-wrenching to contemplate and intimidating to address. However, the SpaceX project has shown what we can do when we dream big and focus our collective minds and resources toward achieving a common goal.

Are the two issues similar in scope? Certainly not. But the achievement of a more healthy, wealthy, equitable and just union for all demands that we all do as SpaceX and NASA have recently done – dream big, work hard together, stay the course and overcome the current and future barriers to come.

As business leaders, what are your dreams? What are you doing to maximize your community’s potential? You have a decision to make. Are you in a hurry to get life, and your business, back to “normal” – back to the status quo? Or do you seek to achieve a better normal for everyone in your workplace and community?

Healthy, vibrant and diverse workplaces help create healthy, vibrant and diverse communities. Your decision is important. You should not miss the opportunity to create a silver lining at the end of this confluence of crises.

Diversity can help create silver linings. As I learned while working for a large ag company, diverse crops are more resilient against viruses and germs – helping ensure high productivity. Similarly, diverse workforces are better at leveraging their human capital to be more adaptable, innovative and productive than less diverse competitors.

As you look ahead and strive to achieve dreams and maximize the potential of your workforce and community, here are a few related high-level diversity, equity and inclusion action steps we are sharing with our clients that you might find useful, as well:

  • Hold space for sincere and serious conversations about the future of our communities with your leaders. Host a meeting that allows people to share their input, concerns and listen to one another. Connect with one another. This is how innovation sparks.
  • Take ownership and be intentional about driving these conversations. It is not always easy to be vulnerable at work or with people you barely know, but it is a must if you want to build or restore trust.
  • Trade silence for empathy even if it comes at the cost of not knowing what to say. Share your thoughts and feelings in a respectful way while staying curious to learn from others. Acknowledge people’s pain.
  • Educate yourself about the issues. There is a long list of books on race, gender, socioeconomics and many other issues focused on the challenges we face today in Iowa and beyond. It is your job to look for information. I am always happy to make reading recommendations.
  • Assess your organization. Where does your organization fit in the diversity spectrum? Are you positioned to thrive in the fast-changing world we live in?
  • Create a strategy with a clear diversity statement and robust long-term goals. Where do your organization and community need to be in order to thrive long-term?
  • Determine the right tactics to achieve your goals and begin implementing them. Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint. This work is definitely not a quick CBT or a one-time event.
  • Watch our recent webinar for additional information on the important work of diversity and inclusion during the COVID-19 era.

As events unfold, continue to look for the silver linings that you can achieve for your workplace and community. Drive action for a better tomorrow. Reimagine what it could be. You have a decision to make.

Claudia Schabel, president of Schabel Solutions, serves as the advocacy chair for NAWBO Iowa. Schabel lived in Brazil and Japan before relocating to Des Moines, where she has lived for two decades. She has 15 years of experience as a diversity, equity and inclusion strategist with Fortune 100 and 500 companies. In her work, Schabel advocates for equitable women representation and pay equity.

Schabel serves as a commissioner on the city of Des Moines Civil and Human Rights Commission, the director of diversity on Iowa’s Society for Human Resource Management State Council, the advocacy chair of the Iowa Chapter National Women Business Owners, a board member of Brazilian Cultural Center and a trainer/facilitator for the Iowa Network Against Human Trafficking and Slavery. She also volunteers at Blank Children’s Hospital in Des Moines.