Blaine author strives to make workplaces more inclusive

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Blaine resident Barbara Adams aims to help businesses become more inclusive in her book “Women, Minorities, and Other Extraordinary People.”

“A very diverse and inclusive workforce will outperform a more homogeneous one,” she said. “If you have a group of people with different kinds of ideas, then you’re going to be more innovative. You’re going to be more creative than with everybody thinking alike.”

The 256-page book won the Bronze Medal at Axiom Business Book Awards in 2019 and was a top 10 finalist out of 10,000 books at the international getAbstract Book Awards in Frankfurt, Germany.

“The idea [for the book] struck me in 2015. Research began in 2016 and the actual book writing took about six months from late 2017 to early 2018,” Adams said. Greenleaf Book Press published the book on September 18, 2018.

After seeing many work environments lack accommodation for diverse cultures, Adams was inspired to make a change. In 2016, she founded her company Gender, Age, and Race Diversity Consultancy.

Data from research institutes such as McKinsey Global Institute showed Adams that inclusive workplace practices can benefit those who are historically underrepresented, and benefit every aspect of a company by giving it a competitive, creative edge.

After working as a director in the national diversity and inclusion office at healthcare company Kaiser Permanente for nine years and leaving in 2015, Adams said she had first-hand experience seeing the benefits of working for a company geared toward inclusion and diversity.

“I have learned a lot about what’s required to succeed in this space,” Adams said. “I have a real commitment to helping women into helping people who are underrepresented in many industries, to advance further.”

Adams said throughout her career, she’s seen businesses succeed with hiring a diverse group of employees, but then struggling to retain them.

“Diversity alone is not enough,” Adams said. “The environment has to be inclusive. People have to know and feel like there’s a sense of belonging, [otherwise] they won’t want to be there.”

There will continue to be a high turnover rate if employees don’t feel comfortable, Adams said.

“Too often it becomes just lip service,” Adams said.

To improve employee retention, Adams suggests employers communicate clearly to employees that the company will deal with any inclusion or bias concerns. She also notes, as the social climate is constantly changing and new social issues arise, employers should address these events.

“Most companies stay away and separate the social world from the industrial world,” Adams said, advising against it. “But then there are the ones that are willing to send a positive message to their minority employees that they matter. They matter enough for [employers] to be brave enough to hold these kinds of conversations.”

Adams said the reason why some companies do not hold these conversations is largely due to a lack of experience dealing with social issues, which she said is why training is essential.

But not much progress can be made if people don’t address their implicit biases, even when putting in efforts to make employees feel comfortable, Adams said. These biases can be deeply subconscious, she said.

“There’s something called the implicit association test (IAT). It’s online and anybody can take it,” Adams said. “I think that’s been one of the biggest eye opener because our implicit biases tend to run counter to what we believe to be true about ourselves.”

While Adams mentions that she possibly sees herself writing another book in the future, she does not have plans to start on another.

“I learned that no level of expertise makes a knowledge base complete,” Adams said. “Only a commitment to and desire for lifelong learning.”

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