Diversity Series: Race and gender in the workplace

By Nandi Sommers '21, staff writer

Michael Flood at the 2019 Juneteenth Ancestral Celebration Dinner in Syracuse. (photo provided)

By Nandi Sommers ’21, staff writer

In honor of Women’s history month in March, St. John Fisher College held a two-part diversity zoom series to discuss the intersectionality of race and gender and explore actions that people in our community can take to support women of color.  

“Friday’s panel was about the intersectionality of race and gender in the workplace,” Kourtney Blackburn is a librarian at St. John Fisher said.

“My key takeaways included the ways we can support women of color in the workplace when they are subjected to acts of racism, and how we can speak out against racist actions or comments in the moment they occur.”

During these discussions, faculty, staff, and some students discussed what these situations could look like. Some examples of the scenarios included:  

  •  white coworker says to a newly hired woman of color, “Your name is really hard to pronounce. Do you go by something else?” 
  • In an informal conversation with colleagues, someone interrupts and talks over a woman who speaks English as a second language. 
  • A coworker criticizes her manager, an Asian Woman, for being “ruthless” and “abrasive.”

“Our group activity showed us that when people have different interpretations, both sides may be partially accurate, but the combination of interpretations is what establishes a thorough understanding,” Attendee Michael Flood said.

“One scenario had a microaggression towards a Latina. I stated that this was related to ethnicity. Others believed that it was more of a gender issue. According to our activity’s resource, it was a combination,” Flood said.

“I am very grateful to the organizers of the Friday Diversity Series,” Blackburn said. “In a time when we can feel so disconnected, I have engaged in honest, necessary conversations with members of our community I might not otherwise have. I’ve learned a lot, and I’ve learned the most from the student attendees and panelists. My hope is that the series continues and that more Fisher students, staff, and faculty attend.” 

Flood agreed. “I have been raising concerns about diversity discussions being binary as if our nation is only White and Black. Our panelists did not take it as criticism. Instead, they responded with the highest degree of maturity and professionalism. I ask Fisher leadership to always be conscious of their effort to combine inclusion with diversity, and to never allow the media alone to dictate our agenda.”

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