Finding your community: Addressing equity in the workplace

DeVon Wilson ’90 discusses how to put an organization’s diversity, equity, and inclusion values into practice.

Who benefits and who doesn’t?

DeVon Wilson’90 says he asked four essential questions to help determine how he would help bring equity to the forefront during his first 90 days on the job.

  1. What is the mission or purpose of the work?
  2. Who benefits?
  3. What are solutions to the equity gaps?
  4. How do you listen to their speaking? In other words, how do you discuss the issues in ways that catch their interest?

Wilson is the founding director of the Center for Academic Excellence and assistant dean in the College of Letters & Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and has been facilitating equity work for the past three decades. Wilson was the keynote speaker to open the College’s 2021 Career Accelerator.

He says the workplace has often been at the forefront of social moments, citing recent movements like “Me Too,” which called out claims of sexual misconduct in the workplace, making the push for equity and inclusion in work environments ever more important.

He said equity work can start anywhere, not just the day you sign your contract. He encouraged Beloiters to ask themselves clarifying questions such as “what allows you to do your best work?” When the answers are clear, they should use them to frame the kind of opportunities they are seeking and identify where they can improve upon the equity work done at an organization.

But the answers to these questions cannot be found in isolation. A strong core community and spaces such as the Career and Community Engagement Center can prepare students to have these conversations before they enter the workforce.

“It’s a space where if they completely engage, students will come out with a starting point,” says Wilson. “We have to encourage them to not walk through this process by themselves, but to find their community.”

February 17, 2021
  • DeVon Wilson’90 has spent his career working with students from marginalized backgrounds. During his keynote, Wilson encouraged students to think about ways that they can include equity and inclusion in their workplaces, from the beginning of their careers.
    University of Wisconsin-Madison, College of Letters & Science

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