[screen displays the CAI Neurodiverse Solutions logo followed by text that says Breaking Barriers with DEI - a CAI LinkedIn Live event. www.cai.io] [screen displays webcam videos of the 3 presenters] 00:00:08:05 - 00:00:36:15 Anthony Pacilio Welcome, everyone to today's LinkedIn live event, Breaking barriers with diversity, equity and inclusion. My name is Anthony Pacilio, Vice President of Neurodiverse Solutions at CAI. A little bit about myself. Typically, I go through my role and responsibilities, but today, you know, I am expressing that I am neurodivergent myself. I try to overcome daily extreme social anxiety disorder and depression. 00:00:36:15 - 00:01:22:12 Anthony That kind of bleeds into what I do here at CAI and some of my responsibilities are to help organizations build neurodiversity programs and lead our global expansion efforts, CAI Neurodiverse Solutions. My expertise lies in managing neurodiversity, recruiting efforts, developing Canada pipelines, ensuring best practices for onboarding, support, training, and organizational success. Before I begin, I'd like to take a moment to let you know that we're recording this session for future viewing so we can replay back. Today's session is going to focus on all things diversity, equity, and inclusion. Building an organizational culture where differences are embraced is never an easy feat. 00:01:22:20 - 00:01:54:11 Anthony However, many companies today are making a concerted effort to integrate diversity, equity, and inclusion in their business practices. Today, we're going to chat with 2 DEI experts, Becky Kekula, director of the Disability Equality Index at Disability:IN and our own Melissa Michael from CAI, Executive Director of HCM Operations Support. You are going to learn about their journeys as we discuss topics like defining the business value of neurodiversity in the workplace, best practices for integrating DEI values into your company, 00:01:54:11 - 00:02:28:02 Anthony how to overcome obstacles and barriers in the space, the importance of embracing workplace inclusion, and more. Without further ado, let's kick off the discussion by introducing today's speakers. First up, we have Becky Kekula. In Becky's role, she is responsible for managing all things related to the Disability Equality Index. Previously, Becky worked in the Equity and Inclusion Department at the Screen Actors Guild, American Federation of Television - Radio Artists, the world's largest entertainment unit - implementing a national diversity plan. 00:02:28:02 - 00:02:51:29 Anthony As a marketing graduate of Providence College, a Friar, I was trying to get to the Friar part before the Providence College, Becky gained an early passion for influencing change behind the scenes in the entertainment industry, leading to jobs at Creative Artists Agency and CBS television's studios. Becky currently serves as Employment Chair of the Little People of America. Welcome to my friend, Becky. 00:02:52:13 - 00:02:54:14 Becky Curran Kekula Thanks for having me. I'm excited to be here. 00:02:54:23 - 00:03:21:06 Anthony We are excited to have you. Our next speaker is someone I know very well, my friend Melissa Michael. With more than 15 years of experience, Melissa oversees compliance, benefit policies, payroll, HCM Technology and diversity, equity, inclusion programs. She is intentional in identifying areas within human resources that better serve a growing and diverse workforce with more inclusive benefits and accessible technology. 00:03:21:18 - 00:03:32:09 Anthony A graduate from Saint Joseph's University, a Hawk. I had to make it even. Melissa as dedicated to her personal and professional learning and development to DEI. Welcome Melissa. 00:03:32:19 - 00:03:33:16 Melissa Michael Thank you, Anthony. 00:03:34:09 - 00:03:53:21 Anthony All right. Thanks for both of you being here with us. Let's get started with a discussion. First, I'm going to go to Becky. For those who may not be aware, can you share with us what the Disability Equality Index is, and what goes into determining the score of a company? 00:03:54:22 - 00:04:25:07 Becky Absolutely. The Disability Equality Index is the leading corporate benchmarking tool for disability inclusion. The DEI can help initiate companies into the disability inclusive landscape, incorporate practices that facilitate inclusive workplaces, and set goals driven by inclusive values. So the DEI first came out in 2014 as a pilot, and then now we're going into our 2023 DEI, which is the ninth year. 00:04:25:24 - 00:04:46:17 Becky We've almost been around for a decade and the DEI just in general is super important to me as a person with a physical disability that is dwarfism. I struggled to get into the workplace when I first was looking for jobs out of college, even with the college degree. The DEI really helps companies build out a roadmap to be more inclusive. 00:04:46:17 - 00:05:11:20 Becky Hopefully, more people like me don't have to face all of those challenges to get their first job. The score range for the DEI is 0 to 100, with 100 being the highest score. There are 6 categories within the DEI. Five of the 6 categories are assigned a weight and 5 weighted categories total 100 points. Some of the 5 weighted categories have subcategories. 00:05:12:03 - 00:05:38:12 Becky A category total is a sum of its subcategories. To receive full credit for a subcategory, you must answer yes to the number of weighted questions set specified for that subcategory. You must also provide the required information in the affirmative for all weighted subcategories within those question sets in order to have them count. Partial credit is not granted and we are very transparent. 00:05:38:12 - 00:06:09:03 Becky The DEI questions. I know we're talking about DEI a lot. When I talk about DEI, it's about the Disability Equality Index, but there's also diversity, equity, and inclusion. It all kind of blends together but if you are engaging with the DEI, it means that you are doing well in all spaces related to the DEI. In each of the categories there is room for improvement even if you receive the maximum amount of points. 00:06:09:11 - 00:06:32:09 Becky We did this to allow a welcoming environment to get companies to come to the table to get started on this journey. Really, you can look at the questions. The methodology is right there. There are no secrets. There are other tools out there that may show that you may lose points if you don't have certain benefits in place outside of how you fill out the tool, 00:06:32:18 - 00:06:56:25 Becky but we work very closely with companies so they know the score they'll receive. It's a self-assessment. Companies are answering to the best of their knowledge and we want to just make sure we can support them to feel as confident as possible when they're checking that yes and filling out the supplemental information. That's another reason why our tool stands out from others. We're not just saying check the box, say yes or no. 00:06:57:01 - 00:07:14:17 Becky We're saying if you say yes, give us additional information. We have a diversity and inclusion statement that includes the word disability. If you do, is it on your website? Share a link. Share the paragraph where we can find it just so we know that companies are being honest with themselves and doing the work. 00:07:15:16 - 00:07:25:14 Anthony Question, a follow up question to that. As we talk about the Disability Equality Index, how many how many companies are in it? Do you know? Approximately? 00:07:25:22 - 00:07:44:14 Becky Absolutely. This past year for the 2022 Index, the Index always measures the previous calendar year. It was based on what companies were doing in 2021. We had 415 companies, which is a 30% increase from last year when we had 319 companies. 00:07:45:03 - 00:07:50:27 Anthony These are large and midsize? How do you frame [unintelligible]. 00:07:51:25 - 00:08:19:07 Becky They are nongovernment entities with 500 employees or more. A company can have 500 employees or 50,000, but we feel that 500 is a good baseline where there would be enough staff to implement what we're asking for in the tool. But anyone who works at a company that is smaller in size can certainly download the questions and still apply as they see fit. 00:08:20:00 - 00:08:45:11 Anthony Oh, that's awesome. Okay. I appreciate that. And Melissa, kind of following up. So this year, CAI was honored to receive the top score in the Disability Equality Index of 100 for the second year in a row. You have a direct hand in making this happen. Can you share with us how and what goes into achieving this milestone for us? 00:08:45:21 - 00:08:48:13 Anthony And any advice you have for other organizations? 00:08:48:28 - 00:09:15:05 Melissa Absolutely. If you are an organization that's considering this, I have to just strongly say do it. As we were building our DEI program, we first took kind of a pre-assessment. We saw the questions that were going to be on the Disability Equality Index. We registered and it gave us a great path. What I want to say is when we first were looking at that pre assessment, we were a little worried, 00:09:15:10 - 00:09:44:05 Melissa but what this does is it helps you to build those policies in practice to really strengthen not only your DEI overall, but also directly for any of your employees that might have any type of disability. So when we look at that pre-assessment and I want to say we do that annually about six months ahead of time, that's usually when the questions are released, because as Becky stated, it's always changing because practices are changing. 00:09:44:05 - 00:10:10:29 Melissa There's new developments and this way companies are consistently, it's not just like, I got it, we're good. You have to show that continuous improvement. From there, we created a project plan across the various categories that Becky mentioned. The biggest thing that I have to tell companies is it is a collaborative effort across your organization. You can't just hand this to a member of your HR Department and say, all right, go. 00:10:11:06 - 00:10:40:22 Melissa You know, we have IT involved. We have our benefits departments involved. We do have one HR lead and I'm going to give her a shout out. Kelly Butts, that has led this the past few years and she is a great driver of change and getting things accomplished by incorporating kind of across the company. Today, I can honestly say that our employees are continuing to expand their roles to incorporate DEI into their everyday practices. 00:10:40:23 - 00:11:10:15 Melissa We have individuals working on our internet and they actually are going to get certified in accessibility. Leverage disability in as a partner. I can speak to, we had conversations directly with Becky. I know Kelly did. If you have questions, they can answer them. They give you the resources and that way you can always keep yourself up to date as well as what can we continue to do to improve workplace accessibility. 00:11:11:09 - 00:11:18:16 Anthony Okay. That is incredible information and I'm going to switch gears a little bit to Becky. 00:11:18:23 - 00:11:29:12 Becky Before you switch gears, I will say that anyone who wants to sign up, registration is open for next year as Melissa was mentioning. I highly recommend. We're here to help on the journey. 00:11:30:17 - 00:11:59:19 Anthony Absolutely. Good shout out to Disability:IN on that one. Becky, we're going to hang with you for a little bit here. Let's say a company doesn't have a diversity, equity, and inclusion values in their organizational culture. Then it becomes a priority for the company but they're stuck on where do they start? How do you recommend an organization get started? 00:11:59:19 - 00:12:00:25 Anthony Beginning the process? 00:12:02:04 - 00:12:25:26 Becky First off, I would say that if you're going to start your diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, you need to start with every demographic, every underrepresented group, and not just pick a few to start with because it may seem overwhelming. I've heard of organizations who say, Oh, we'll work on disability later. We're going to work on ethnicity and gender. 00:12:25:26 - 00:13:01:01 Becky It just made me really frustrated because a lot of the techniques for inclusion are similar and it's just altering them a little bit. Even within the disability community, as we've often talked about, people who come from different backgrounds and have different types of disabilities. There are small tweaks to the techniques but overall, it's general. These underrepresented groups want to come to the table and have a voice and be included with everyone else and not looked at as othered or different then. 00:13:01:12 - 00:13:21:19 Becky You need to make sure that if you're going to implement a plan, you can't leave any demographic behind. And most companies who have the support to implement a plan, have senior leadership who is asking for the plan to be built out. And as Melissa said, you can't just give it to one person and say, make this happen. 00:13:21:27 - 00:13:48:07 Becky It has to be something that people across departments want to be a part of and that's why building out employee resource groups are huge because it's across functional groups of people who are passionate as either allies or people who identify themselves as part of one of these underrepresented groups. And they can really help drive this work forward and bring their perspective on the best approaches. 00:13:48:24 - 00:14:22:16 Becky I would say that if a company wants to get started, you need to get together a group of people who are willing to drive this forward. And if possible, if there are the resources, have it be someone's sole job to focus on these efforts and then allow them to have the support from other people like those who may build an employee resource group or express interest in these areas. But don't have it feel like it's just a side job 00:14:22:16 - 00:14:34:22 Becky because if you have someone who needs to do their day job and then do this on top and they're all these responsibilities are put on them, they may start to have resentment instead of passion. 00:14:35:25 - 00:15:03:11 Anthony Question to that. Have you seen the efforts come from both places, meaning top down and grassroots? Is there one that's better than the other? I mean, obviously, to have executive sponsorship in sports, this is great. But, there's a lot of folks out there, parents, caregivers, that need this and maybe they don't have it, 00:15:03:11 - 00:15:06:17 Anthony and that's how they start. I don't know which one is better or are they equal? 00:15:07:20 - 00:15:31:19 Becky I think the top down is just bound to get more support and resources because it's part of the expectations that this needs to happen, and we're not going to go backwards, and people are looking at us. We've started to get the attention of investors. Investors are starting to ask companies, are you doing this work? If you're not, you need to figure it out. 00:15:32:11 - 00:15:52:15 Becky There's a little bit of that pressure that happens. I know we've talked about what if someone comes into a company, they're not at the highest of levels, their voices and heard quite yet. It's important to figure out a way to network. Find someone who maybe you identify with, who you may want to be a mentor within the organization. 00:15:52:25 - 00:16:15:29 Becky I know there are layers within organizations and I report directly to our CEO. It's one of those things where I don't really like the whole title thing. I just want you to be able to go to a person who you can relate to and have a conversation and get work done. I know that organizations have to have structure and there's really no way around it 00:16:16:08 - 00:16:34:14 Becky but I have no fear going into the highest level person's office to be like, what do you think of this idea? I think it's those people who come from the lower level. I will admit when I first started my career, I never voiced what I was super passionate about because I knew I needed to prove myself as a hard worker first. 00:16:34:26 - 00:16:56:19 Becky I think it's giving it enough time to have credibility and make sure you can still manage your day job before you start focusing on some of these passion projects, but don't be afraid to speak up if you see that there's a need. A lot of entrepreneurs start businesses because they see there's a need, something that they didn't have, and needed, and they create it. 00:16:57:05 - 00:17:06:28 Becky It's important to get to those people if you're willing to kind of take the lead and run with it, if you get the right support. 00:17:07:26 - 00:17:29:19 Anthony That's a fantastic piece to our discussion. You know, robust answer for those out there that are listening in and watching in. Melissa with about 15 years in the space under your belt, how do you recommend the company begin integrating DEI values? 00:17:30:19 - 00:17:52:27 Melissa I want to echo what Becky had stated, that it's really important to you to have buy in at the highest level because that is going to drive change. What we did here at CAI is we established a DEI board and that encompassed a number of executives again, across the organization, including our president, who sits on that board. 00:17:53:08 - 00:18:22:06 Melissa What this group did is we developed a purpose, and a mission, and kind of what we wanted to accomplish. And then by having those level of executives, we then can tap into them for their executive sponsorship, both for ERGs, various events that we hold. The other thing we did is you have to take a look at your current state and pick goals that are directly related too. kind of near it with your organizational goals. 00:18:23:10 - 00:18:45:24 Melissa The one thing that's super important to keep in mind is you need to walk before you run. You know, you can have these crazy goals, but you have to start somewhere. For example, we started with four employee resource groups. You know, don't try to have like ten off the bat. Be very intentional. Definitely leverage your networks, and client contacts, 00:18:46:11 - 00:19:15:15 Melissa and other friends that you have. Find out what they're doing in the DEI space. Some of the best ideas that we've come across with some of the most passionate presentation that we're giving, were referrals from other organizations, or other DEI groups that we were able to meet with. And then, you know, those ERGs, Employee Resource Groups. One example I can certainly give is our Disabled Employee Resource group. 00:19:15:22 - 00:19:36:07 Melissa We call them Tech Ability. They kind of took it as part of their goals in the first year to really educate all of our employees to terminology. What do things mean? How can you work with somebody that lets you know that they're neurodivergent, for example? And so, they let the whole company know how to go about that 00:19:36:13 - 00:19:52:15 Melissa but also, what constitutes disability? We saw a direct impact when we did a Count Me In campaign where employees could disclose a number of items, and we did have people that were comfortable enough disclosing their disability. 00:19:54:15 - 00:20:23:06 Anthony I mean, those are amazing ways to get it started. I think you've kind of given everybody food for thought and breaking in to do this. And then, what's the value add for companies trying to achieve inclusion and equality within their organizations? I think that's a question for Becky, what's the business value of diversity, equity, and inclusion? 00:20:24:23 - 00:21:04:01 Becky Well, Disability:IN did partner with Accenture several years back and we did look at data specifically from the Disability Equality Index that proved that those companies who are invested in this space are doing better financially. Companies who are focused on DEI efforts are doing well. I think we focused specifically on data from the DEI. But at the same time, I think a lot of companies are already working on the other areas of diversity if they're focused on the disability efforts as well. 00:21:04:21 - 00:21:33:20 Becky Then, I think that paints a pretty big picture of those who are invested and committed to all areas of diversity are performing better. There's a lot of proof behind even the contribution that people with disabilities can bring to the workplace as problem solvers and looking at the world a little differently. For me for example, I need a step stool in every environment, even when one may say that they can't provide one for me. 00:21:33:20 - 00:21:57:19 Becky It motivates me to advocate more for the need because it's not a safety issue. It would be unsafe if I didn't have access to the sink or the bed or whatever I need. Sometimes people are just looking at the world in a certain way and it can only be done this way 00:21:57:28 - 00:22:12:20 Becky but even as you all have worked with the neurodiverse community, it's the different perspective that can add so much value to the workplace, and the performance, and the delivery to customers who identify as such. 00:22:14:03 - 00:22:49:27 Anthony Listen, we we can talk about return on investment, you know, utilizing neurodivergent individuals. We can talk about that all day. I think probably the best piece is providing that confidence, providing that new found responsibility, providing that independence. Right? DEI programs, those are catalysts for bringing in that untapped talent. You know, obviously, I appreciate the opportunity to go to work every day. 00:22:49:27 - 00:23:16:16 Anthony I think we need to kind of generate that same feel across the country. I know we're getting to the to the time here. We're almost out of time. And obviously, it's been an incredible discussion thus far. Becky, I'm going to start with you on this questions and it's both for you and Melissa. We talked about the business value of diversity, equity, and inclusion. 00:23:17:02 - 00:23:28:10 Anthony just a minute ago. But is there another benefit for companies integrating DEI into the values and the culture? 00:23:28:17 - 00:23:53:12 Becky I think you can attract a lot more talent and talent that will do really well if you are communicating that that's what you're looking for, but you're also true to living up to those values. It takes a lot to just take that next step and add it to your communication and your commitment and the Disability Equality Index. 00:23:53:12 - 00:24:32:12 Becky A lot of it is about how you're communicating about disability inclusion across your enterprise. So take a look at your websites and make sure they're welcoming and accessible for people to access, and find ways to attract the talent by communicating that you're open to hiring diverse talent. Look at how your talent acquisition teams are trained. Make sure that there is not any, "Oh, we're only going to hire someone who looks like us," because that's not going to help you become forward thinking. 00:24:32:19 - 00:24:59:20 Becky But also on the other side, don't just hire someone because of them identifying as having a disability or identifying with any of the other underrepresented groups. Just give them a chance to interview and prove themselves. But still, at the end of the day, you need to choose the right person for the job. But make sure you really write down why it is that one person stands out more than the other 00:24:59:27 - 00:25:03:06 Becky so it doesn't seem that bias is playing a role. 00:25:04:07 - 00:25:06:26 Anthony That's great content. Same question to you Melissa. 00:25:07:24 - 00:25:34:06 Melissa I would simply put it, you know, as an employer, you don't know what you're missing. You could potentially be missing an entire market of candidates and future employees. For example, through CAI's Neurodiverse Solutions, we do recognize that neurodivergent individuals possess a really wide range of skill sets that can help to solve complex business challenges. And the one last thing I'm going to mention here is just a story 00:25:34:06 - 00:26:01:24 Melissa and I think Anthony, you were part of the team that shared it. It was from a parent of one of our neurodivergent employees and just how their child changed because they actually felt as though the job they were doing added value, and that they were going to be able to afford to live on their own, and they were really surpassing any type of expectations that that parent had thought that they would be able to do on their own. 00:26:01:24 - 00:26:16:26 Melissa You know, it doesn't just change the aspect of an employee making a paycheck. It can literally improve people's entire lives. Definitely think about that as a company and just the type of impact you can have. 00:26:18:00 - 00:26:44:07 Anthony Thank you. I appreciate that. I know the audience appreciates that as well. Unfortunately, our time today is just about over. It's been an absolute pleasure chatting with you both today. I'd also like to thank our audience for your attention and participation coming to this event. Later, we're going to be sending everyone that attended a recording of this event to share with your colleagues or peers. [screen displays text that says, Learn more at www.cai.io] 00:26:44:07 - 00:27:14:08 Anthony In the meantime, if you're interested in learning more about CAI's Neurodiverse Solutions or know someone that is, of course, please visit our website at CAI.io and fill out a contact form. Or, you can even contact one of our team members via LinkedIn. Thank you all and have a great rest of your day. [screen displays the CAI Neurodiverse Solutions logo followed by text that says Breaking Barriers with DEI -a CAI LinkedIn Live event. www.cai.io]


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