Nearly 100 Attend ‘Diversify IT’ seminar

Series continues September 17 and December 10 with other seminars

Paul James of Duke's Office of Institutional Equity speaks to employees from the University and Health System about the benefits of diversity during the first Diversify IT seminar June 18.
Paul James of Duke's Office of Institutional Equity speaks to employees from the University and Health System about the benefits of diversity during the first Diversify IT seminar June 18.

The first seminar in a series at Duke about the value of diversity in the IT workspace drew nearly 100 participants from across the University and Health System.Paul James of Duke’s Office for Institutional Equity (OIE) facilitated the June 18 seminar, which covered topics such as how diversity can improve teamwork and problem solving. He shared definitions of diversity terms to give participants a common language to facilitate the discussion and used interactive video and case study scenarios to teach about unconscious bias. Participants learned that first impressions and assumptions are often wrong and might bias decision making in hiring and work. “Gender diversity matters in the workspace because it fosters and leads to a deeper understanding of the talents that women and men possess,” James said. “This is especially true in the area of career navigation, strategic planning, diversity of thought, team building and problem solving. Homogeneous work environments of any type in the workspace serve no real purpose in the 21st century.”Attendance at the seminar, which was hosted by Duke’s Office of Information Technology (OIT), was diverse: 53 percent of attendees were female, 47 percent were male.Participants noted that the lighthearted presentation style kept individuals laughing and talking, while tackling weighty issues such as hiring bias, pay equality and race relations. Bryn Smith, an OIT systems analyst and organizer of the event, particularly found engaging the case study scenario, where audience members worked through a hypothetical situation of workplace inequity. “I thought it was fantastic,” she said. “I was really surprised at how fun the training was. I just hope people can walk away with a new perspective.” The series, “The Real Tools of Innovation: Gender Diversity, Intercultural Awareness, and IT,” continues on September 17 and December 10. The series was announced this spring by OIT.