Cultural competency lecture encourages inclusiveness and diversity


SVSU hosted one of the final programs in its Cultural Competency Dialogues series on Thursday, Nov. 9.

These professional development lectures, planned by the Office of Diversity Programs, covered a variety of topics including teambuilding, racial microaggressions, bias and workplace inclusiveness. Thursday’s lecture and luncheon was on women supporting women in the workplace, education, and the outside world.

The speaker was attorney Barbara Littles. Some of the key points included celebrating differences, building meaningful connections, supporting other women instead of tearing them down and looking out for everyone’s unique needs. “My awakening to this was progressive, especially in the male-dominated law field,” Littles said. “I saw how important it was for us to support each other.”

While attendees were being served lunch, they were encouraged to get to know each other and find common ground. At the beginning of the lecture, Littles also had listeners partake in a teambuilding exercise about what sisterhood means to them.

Faculty and staff attended the event as well as students.

“Old boys’ networks have existed forever, but we’re still working on the old girls’ networks,” said Rejeana Heinrich of the Stevens Center for Family Business. “And you don’t have to be old to be a part of it.”

Students who attended appreciated the directness and candor of Littles’ lecture.

“I thought it was an important talk for women to hear,” said first-year English major Arianna Jones. “It was raw and real.”

The event was organized by Mamie Thorns, special assistant to the president for diversity programs. She said she felt there was a need for this program because she works with a lot of women and is familiar with their specific concerns and issues.

“A couple men have said ‘can you share with us what you discuss here?’ because they want to support it too,” Thorns said. “I cannot thank the president enough for giving us the space to do this.”

Littles concluded the lecture with some homework for the women who attended: find a way to support women today, figure out how they needed support from other women and determine where they can actively support other women in the next week. She stressed the importance of having close networks of other women while being honest and upfront with them.

“Be courageous enough to have conversations,” Littles said. “Don’t make other women your proving ground and step on them to show what you can do. The beauty of having a network of women is you can say ‘I think you’re being a little catty,’ instead of just going off or excluding. We can engage in conversation, even if it might hurt their feelings a little bit. If they trust you, you can be honest.”