Texas Tech University

School of Accounting Hosts Third Annual Diversity Symposium

Chelsea Grunden, Casey Montalvo, Kaitlin York

Diversity Symposium


The Rawls College and the School of Accounting hosted the third annual Diversity Symposium Sept. 6 to 8. The symposium gave students and faculty different perspectives on the importance of inclusiveness and diversity in the workplace and in academia.

The first day started with guest speaker Pamela Downs, chief inclusion officer and national managing partner for the Women's Initiative Program (WIN) at Deloitte Tax, LLP. Downs spoke on how important it is for workplaces to hire people who think differently and have different experiences. She reiterated the significance of seeing diversity as not just how a person looks, but also based on the different ways people think.

After Downs finished, a diverse student panel, consisting of ten graduate and undergraduate students, held a Q&A session. The panel was mediated by Jody Randall, LGBTQIA administrator at the Center for Campus Life, and Matthew Koehl, student in the College of Human Development and Family Studies. They encouraged people in attendance to ask the student panel tough questions to gain more insight on their perspectives about diversity and inclusion. The student panel discussed how diversity and inclusion can create a better world and a thriving environment in which to learn.

"The biggest problem today is constructive communication versus destructive communication," panelist Alexander Gumm, senior finance and marketing dual major, said. "You have to understand that it has to be constructive communication about these topics because once you pass that destructive communication stage, you're really causing problems and you're not helping anybody. If you go out there and have that constructive communication, you can really begin to look at the problems from all viewpoints."

Cameron Crumbley, a sophomore accounting major, opened up about his personal struggles of being transgender and pointed out that inclusion is important because members of the LGBTQIA community need to feel accepted and have a safe place.

"The student panel helps encourage healthy, open dialogue among groups that may not agree with one another while still providing some education to those who are lacking," Sydney Thomas, a graduate student in personal financial planning, said. "I thought it was necessary because there are a lot of things that go unspoken that needed to be discussed."

Day two of the symposium consisted of a presentation and Q&A session with speaker Donald Wenzel, executive vice president of Wells Fargo, followed by a reception. Wenzel's presentation focused on how diversity and inclusiveness, specifically in regard to the LGBT community, can positively contribute to a business's success in what he called a "diversity dividend."

He began by presenting the current landscape of inclusiveness in companies across the U.S. and abroad and shared related statistics about the LGBT community. He claimed that embracing diversity aligns well with the wants of a company and its stakeholders. He showed that companies that had inclusive policies tended to be more successful than companies that did not, contributing to shareholders' returns.

In regard to employees, he said that they are more productive and perform better when they feel accepted which, again, contributes directly to a company's success. He pointed out that there are more protections for LGBT members in industries that require a high-skilled workforce because those companies want to recruit the best and need to be inclusive to do so. Additionally, he discussed how customers like to do business with companies that reflect their own diversity, creating brand loyalty.

He then talked about how to be an accepting company there is a need for a principled and purposeful company culture and how more and more companies are incorporating this stance. He discussed how a company's code of conduct should be non-discriminatory and have anti-harassment clauses and encouraged the audience to read Google's Code of Conduct. Many business leaders are speaking out against harassment and discrimination more and more frequently because social media makes it easier for a company to be transparent.

After he finished, students from the audience had the opportunity to ask more about his personal experience with being a member of the LGBT community and for advice about supporting LGBT people they know. He then encouraged people to talk at the reception and look past the things that often divide people and embrace them instead.

The final day of the Diversity Symposium kicked off with a meet and greet coffee reception at 10 a.m. in the McCoy Atrium, where attendees had the opportunity to network and get ready for the day's events over breakfast. At 11 a.m., Dr. Liz Karam, assistant professor of management, moderated a Faculty and Staff Diversity Panel Discussion.

The five professionals on the panel were Dr. Bryan Hotchkins, assistant professor of educational psychology and leadership; Dr. Luis Grave de Peralta, associate professor in physics; Dr. Shaun Pichler, associate professor of management at California State University, Fullerton; Jody Randall, LGBTQIA administrator at the Center for Campus Life; and Dr. Elizabeth Sharp, interim vice president for the Division of Institutional Diversity, Equity & Community Engagement.

The panelists discussed several diversity issues, including recent headlines of the White House administration's policies and the protests in Charlottesville, Va. Karam opened up the panel reading parts of President Lawrence Schovanec's emails to students with subject lines "Support for DACA Students" and "Diversity and Inclusion at Texas Tech University."

All panel participants spoke of their unique backgrounds and contributed to the discussion. Grave de Peralta said he has always felt support at Texas Tech and has only good feelings about diversity on campus. Sharp recommended students and professors read works from differing perspectives in order to facilitate better informed classroom discussions. She also recognized how class discussions in her classes on gender studies have improved within the last ten years as people have become more aware of social issues. Hotchkins touched on the importance of having debates and discussions from differing political views as long as they are facilitated in a respectful manner.

Members from the crowd discussed wanting to keep the campus safe and providing students with an open classroom experience so they feel comfortable discussing sensitive issues they feel are important. Sharp reminded students and faculty of the "Campus Climate Reporting Form," which is a way to anonymously report any unsafe comments made in their classroom discussions. Students can find the form on Tech's diversity webpage or here

A Diversity Research Colloquium followed the panel at 1:15 p.m. Pichler presented his research on the role of gender and discrimination in the workplace and how women hold many management positions but very few C-Suite jobs in comparison. Sharp presented her research on feminist studies, including her paper "Betty Crocker versus Betty Friedan: The Meanings of Wifehood within a Postfeminist Era."

You can view more pictures from the Diversity Symposium by visiting the Rawls College Flickr account.