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Business Strategies that Support Women in Management

Written by Micaela Smith, Blue Sky Graduate Assistant and MBA Candidate

Women are gaining ground in traditionally male-dominated fields. For example, in 2018 the United States saw more women than men entering into medical school (1). Yet despite some success, women are still fighting hard to earn their place, most notably in management positions.

In 2018, women in the United States were “three times more likely than men to think that their gender played a role in their missing out on a raise, promotion, or other chance to get ahead” (2). In fact, 97% of the United States senior leadership teams’ members do not fully represent the US’ labor force in either ethnicity or gender (3).

Women experience barriers to not only getting top management positions, but also with negative perceptions of their performance after they get there. A 2010 study from the Journal of Applied Psychology identified that double standards increased the higher a woman rose in an organization. Female CEOs were perceived as good leaders only when they were seen as the reason for an organization’s success, while perception of men’s leadership remained constant regardless of whether their actions were attributed to organizational success (4). At the same time, women are increasingly seen as exemplifying positive leadership traits, including flexibility, diversified skill sets, collaboration, and enhanced propensity for innovation (5, 6).

 So how can we use business to advance women in management positions?

1. Create formal opportunities to support women in your organization.

Utilize Business Network and Affinity Groups.

The power of women supporting women cannot be understated. In a West Point study, first-year women supporting other women caused significant differences in advancement rates to the next year. A woman within a group of first-years with one other woman in the group had an advancement rate of 55%, while a woman in a group with 6-9 other women had an advancement rate of 83% (8).

Connecting women with other women allows for a transfer of knowledge and an opportunity for advice on challenges experienced by women in a male-dominated work environment. Creating a more formal environment for women to bond, socialize, and ask for help can drive women toward success in their jobs and move up in the organization.

Create Mentorship Programs.

All four Treasure Valley leaders at Boise State’s October Women of the Workplace event recommended mentorship as a major asset to success in the workplace. Panelists included Marissa Crab, VP of Corporate Procurement at the Albertsons Companies; Dallis Fontenot, VP of Corporate Development at Engineered Structures, Inc; Jesse McKinnley, CEO of Red Aspen and Trina Finley Ponce, HP Diversity and Inclusion Program Manager.

Each credited the expertise and support of someone in their life for helping them attain success. Also, building mentor relationships with people with different areas of expertise were seen as invaluable.

2.  Assess your inclusion levels during meetings.

Look around at your typical meeting attendees; if everyone is basically the same age, gender, or race, make sure to extend the meeting invitations to others. Varied perspectives make more innovative solutions, and will ensure that different opinions are in the room.

“Ask yourself, is there anyone who is missing from this table?” said Finley Ponce.

But having women in the room does not mean that their opinions are being given equal value. “I can’t tell you the number of times where I’ve been in a meeting and I’ve been asked to take notes or clean out the refrigerator,” said McKinnley.

According to an article from the Harvard Business Review, women are statistically much more likely to be interrupted or have their ideas seen as unimportant. Ensuring everyone’s voice is heard is everyone’s issue. Without all opinions, performance suffers (9).

The research recommends pulling aside people who are chronic interrupters to set the expectation to change their habits, setting ground rules like “no interrupting” and taking turns talking by going around the table. This not only benefits women, but also more introverted team members.

Above all, trust that your woman employees will rise to the occasion and have valuable input. Then let her and the rest of the team know she’s appreciated, and reward her success. Or as McKinnley stated, “Take us seriously, because at the end of the day we want to do a kick-butt job. So let us do it.”


1. Chandler, M. A. (2018). Women are now a majority of entering medical students nationwide. The Washington Post. Retrieved from
2. Thomas, R. et. al. (2018). Women in the workplace 2018. McKinsey & Company. Retrieved from
3. Hunt, V., Prince, S., Dixon-Fyle, S. & Yee, L. (2018). Delivering through diversity. McKinsey & Company. Retrieved from
4. Rosette, A. S., & Tost, L. P. (2010). Agentic women and communal leadership: How role prescriptions confer advantage to top women leaders. Journal of Applied Psychology, 95(2), 221–235.
5. Skibola, N. (2010). The immeasurable value of retaining women in the workplace. Retrieved from
6. Rosette, A. S., & Tost, L. P. (2010). Agentic women and communal leadership: How role prescriptions confer advantage to top women leaders. Journal of Applied Psychology, 95(2), 221–235.
7. Hunt, V., Prince, S., Dixon-Fyle, S. & Yee, L. (2018). Delivering through diversity. McKinsey & Company.Retrieved from .
8. Huntington-Klein, N. & Rose, E. (2018). Gender peer effects in a predominantly male environment. AEA Papers and Proceedings 108, 392-395. Retrieved from
9. Cullinan, R. (2016). Run meetings that are fair to introverts, women, and remote workers. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from

Acknowledging Systemic Inequality: A Presentation by Tim Wise

Written by Sheriffo Jarju, Blue Sky Graduate Assistant and MBA Candidate

As part of the ongoing BUILD Initiative, Boise State University invited Tim Wise to come to campus and give a presentation entitled, Challenging the Culture of Cruelty: Understanding and Defeating Race and Class Inequality in America.

Wise is a renowned writer and educator with 25 years in the field fighting against racism, institutional inequality, and privilege in the country to benefit marginalized people. Speaking on January 8, 2019, Wise acknowledged in his opening remarks the growth and the positive developments over the past twenty-five to thirty years since he started his activism and advocacy journey towards systematic inequality, racism, and privilege against people of color, the LGBT+ community and women in America.

Wise said that challenging systemic inequality begins with admitting it exists. He offered three takeaways that people can use to grow individual capacity to defeat racial and class inequality- understanding people’s perspective, understanding one’s own subjectivity, and owning personal bias towards minority groups.

First of all, is it important to understand people’s perspective before engaging in any conversation or debate. Wise said that holding open and understanding conversations were a key component of understanding and exploring inequality. “In a conversation with someone who sees things in a different perspective than you see it, you cannot start that conversation with arrogance,” he said. “Always start with the perspective or the view of the other party involved in the conversation, and exercise patience. Ask why he or she thinks negatively or positively toward the topic of discussion. This will help both the speaker and listener to understand one another without undergoing heated debates.”

Additionally, majority groups should work to understand their own subjectivity. Wise asked attendees to picture themselves as parents and how they would feel if one of their kids were subjected to racial injustice. Understanding our blind spots will help us understand people with different viewpoints and how our actions affect others, he said. Wise said we need to work collectively to make this world a better place for all regardless of color, race, gender, religious belief, or country of origin, and it all starts with open discussion. For white people, this means preparing our children about the realities of racial discrimination just as people of color have shared with their children. He also tasked those at the event to be honest about the situation and speak up against privilege and institutional inequality. He asked all to be ready and show solidarity and empathy to anyone who is down due to inequality.

Wise also stated that one must own a personal bias on any issue to be discussed. Owning personal bias opens the conversation without being acrimonious or too harsh to another person’s perspective. There has been a burden on people of color to speak out about how it feels to be black or brown in a society or in an environment. This burden on people of color causes many of them to feel uncomfortable. In his discussion, Wise asked, “Why not ask white folks to start talking about what it takes to be white, especially in this country?” Opening to one’s biases or racism toward people of color gives that minority group the courage to speak up about their own feelings.

In general, keeping an open conversation is a powerful tool to start combating institutional inequality. “People might have different perspectives or thoughts toward an issue, but this should not limit or hinder debate among the people we disagree with,” Wise said. “This helps the parties involved know how the other party came to their conclusion.”

Project Dream for Tomorrow

Written by Fabiola Mendez-Lopez, Undergraduate Student in Social Work and President, Organización de Estudiantes Latino-Americanos

Project Dream for Tomorrow, or otherwise known as DFT, is a two-day event designed by Boise State students from Organización de Estudiantes Latino-Americanos (OELA) to inform high school juniors and seniors about the great opportunities that Boise State has to offer. Although the event does happen at Boise State University, we work on promoting higher education to participating students, whether that be a technical school, community college or a 4-year institution.

How it Works
Students from the Treasure and Magic Valley are recruited and selected to take part in a two-day event. The students learn about campus life, admissions, financial aid, housing, and other campus resources via presentations, guest speakers, and by interacting with OELA members. Student participants have the opportunity to build connections and friendships with OELA student members as well as to bond and network with current Boise State students.

On the first day of Project DFT, we focus on welcoming student participants to Boise State University and offer a presentation conducted by the Admissions Office in order to provide information regarding the application process. We do this with the intention to provide a space for students to ask any questions they may have about coming to Boise State University.

The second day we focus on financial aid and scholarships. We also have college students presenting information on budgeting, nutrition, and involvement on campus. To promote higher education, we invite various departments on campus, as well as other colleges and universities and technical schools to come and network with Project DFT participants and answer any questions they may have.

Benefits of Project Dream for Tomorrow
The benefits for the high school students are that it opens the doors to the possibility of higher education. We have had students who have participated as high school students and have continued to be a part of Project DFT as a college student. Since 2015, Project DFT has had a total of 35 students enrolled to Boise State University.

The benefits for Boise State students are just as remarkable. Boise State students have a chance to expand their leadership skills by serving as mentors and chaperons during and after the project. Team leaders are trained to handle various situations by attending workshops about risk management, involvement on campus, and group management to mention a few. These trainings are conducted to prepare Team Leaders for possible situations during the event while interacting with high school students.

Project Dream for Tomorrow Fall 2018 Session
This year, Project Dream for Tomorrow happened on October 20 and October 21, 2018 and we had one of the largest number of applicants, 145 students, with 75 students attending the event. Funds raised this year meant the committee could pay admittance into the Boise State Recreation Center (REC) to play dodgeball and students said REC night was excellent and they would have liked more time with this activity. While 40% of attendees said Boise State was in their top 3-5 college choices before attending the event, only 5% said they would not be attending Boise State after the event. One attendee noted, “It was an amazing experience!”

While this project is for high school students, quotes like the one above is what keeps OELA members’ motivation running. Project Dream for Tomorrow is an event that focus on promoting higher education among high school students in the Magic and Treasure Valley. This event allows its participants to make meaningful connections with current Boise State students who share their experiences as college students including their struggles and accomplishments. Project DFT serves a platform for students wanting to continue to higher education by expanding their knowledge and answering any questions regarding going to college.

The committee’s goal is to help high school students, expecting nothing in return. I attended the project as a high school student in 2014. Before the project I did not see myself attending college as I am the oldest child at home. I gained knowledge and motivation to apply and attend Boise State. I am now a fourth-year student in the Social Work program at Boise State and will be graduating May 2020. Just like current OELA members who attended the project as students, we are proof that this project works. Project Dream for Tomorrow can change a high schoolers life; in fact it changed mine so much I continue to participate every year it happens.

If you’d like to learn more about Project Dream for Tomorrow, or get your department or organization involved, contact

The Multiplier Effect of Inclusion: Presentation by Dr. Tony Byers at Boise State’s Diversity and Inclusion Summit

By Micaela Smith, Blue Sky Graduate Assistant and Class of 2020 MBA Student
Dr. Tony Byers
Dr. Tony Byers, former Global Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Starbucks, delivered his keynote speech on “The Multiplier Effect of Inclusion” to 300 attendees at Boise State’s Fourth Annual Diversity and Inclusion Summit on October 23rd.

Attendees spanned the business, nonprofit, higher education and government sectors, and heard Byers challenge traditional quota-filling strategies of diversity. He stressed the importance of the inclusion aspect in any organization.

“Diversity doesn’t work without inclusion,”said Byers. “An organization can be diverse but not inclusive. What we really have to drive is behavior change–a mind change–in order for this to work.”

Typically, companies want to go after a diverse market segment right away in their diversity and inclusion business strategy, but that usually fails, Byers explained. “You don’t start at ‘we’re going after the marketplace,’ you start with building a foundation. But every leader just wants to start [at the marketplace], because they want the benefits of engaging with the diverse community. When you take that kind of approach, that is actually not building a relationship, that’s actually predatory. You’re going after a group just because you want their money.”

Dr. Byers proposed his alternative approach, “The Multiplier Effect of Inclusion”: businesses can achieve great market success by multiplying together diversity, inclusive behaviors, and innovation in a product or service.

With a diverse set of thinkers, Byers said, the market gap is much easier to identify. Diverse organizations “outperform their peers by an average of 26% in the S&P markets” and are 70% more likely to capture new markets. They also “gain more than two times the utilization of their talent inside of their organization.”

“It’s not the ‘having diversity’ that gets you those benefits, it’s a different behavior… Inclusion is [the] practice of behaviors,” Byers said.

Attendance was at a record high, doubling the turnout from the last year’s Summit. The event was hosted by Boise State’s Blue Sky Institute, Wells Fargo, Boise Cascade, Boise Valley Economic Partnership, and University of Idaho-Boise. Sponsors included Wells Fargo, Boise Cascade, Micron, Happy Family, HP, Saint Alphonsus, Idaho Power, St. Luke’s and the City of Boise, as well as Boise State’s Office of the Provost, College of Health Science, School of Public Service, College of Engineering and College of Business and Economics.

The Summit’s opening speakers focused on ongoing commitment to diversity and inclusion within the Treasure Valley. Attendees heard from Angela Taylor, co-founder and director of The Dignitas Agency and Dr. Tony Roark, interim provost of Boise State University.

The Blue Sky Institute also presented Wells Fargo with an award for their outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion in Idaho and their longstanding partnership in the Responsible Business Initiative.

The summit closed out with Boise State’s Director of Student Diversity and Inclusion, Francisco Salinas, who encouraged attendees to take a few minutes before leaving to connect with someone with a different perspective and schedule a time to get coffee together. This straightforward call to action ensures that Summit attendees take responsibility for furthering diversity and inclusion efforts in our communities.

“You’re the key to this whole thing,” Byers said. “Diversity is a noun. It describes who you are. Inclusion is is a verb. It describes what you do.”

BUILD Campus Forum

By Kodi Romero, Blue Sky Graduate Assistant and Masters of Health Science Candidate

Earlier this month, Boise State invested in efforts to foster a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive university by holding three full-day forums focused on diversity and inclusion for staff, faculty and the academic leadership council. The forums are the first events held by “Boise State Uniting for Inclusion and Leadership in Diversity”, better known as the BUILD Campus Forum Initiative. The initiative is funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and challenges participants to re-evaluate their own thinking and perspectives on diversity and inclusion and propel forward movement toward Boise State’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.

The three-day forums were facilitated by Dr. Sharon J. Washington who has nearly three decades of professional experience in non-profit and higher education leadership and is a national expert in supporting educational institutions to build community capacity to address issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Awareness, understanding and intentionality were common themes of the forums, with Boise State leadership, faculty and staff participants immersed in a learning experience centered around how privilege is unconsciously folded into learning environments, university policies and practices. Participants were given quotes and testimonials from diverse Boise State students providing them with a deep look into experiences of feeling the lack of a sense of belonging and of experiencing inequity. This impactful opportunity led to discussions about eurocentric values in the academic system, the concept and explanation of ‘whiteness culture’, why it is difficult to talk about race, Boise’s culture of ‘nice’, and what Boise State can do to help combat some of the biases students face every day.

Francisco Salinas, Director of Student Diversity and Inclusion, said the forum allowed participants to practice engaging in difficult conversations that people normally shy away from because topics are sensitive and generally characterized by conflict and risk. With the training provided by the BUILD Forum Initiative, Salinas is hopeful that participants will take their learnings and practice them in new scenarios, creating new space to talk about important experience of inclusion to influence the campus culture and ultimately seek to have an effect on the community at large.

Dylan Mikesell, Assistant Professor in the Department of Geosciences explained that he was “unaware of the extent to what students were dealing with on campus”. He explains that the forum helped him build more self-awareness and understanding the difference between intention and perception. He is now more cognizant that people may perceive things differently than what was intended due to differences in backgrounds.

Katherine Wright, Assistant Professor in the Department of Literacy, Language, and Culture appreciated the dialog allowing faculty and staff to question “how they, as faculty can not only change the culture and sense of belonging on campus but also in the broader Treasure Valley community.”

Lori Watsen, Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work, said she would like to see others who are not already involved in the conversation become involved. Watsen says there is “always more we can be doing to support inclusion and create a sense of belonging to our students.”

Colleges and universities are arguably one of the most important institutions in which to work toward inclusion, as they serve as a training ground for future professionals, managers, and leaders in most industries. These forums served as a kick-off to the BUILD initiative, which will continue to facilitate difficult conversations surrounding diversity and inclusion, provide professional development to Boise State faculty and staff and seek to support an evolution in the culture of Boise State and the Boise community over the next two years.

To learn more about the BUILD Campus Forum Initiative please visit


Diversity and Inclusion in Action: Spotlight on Age Diversity within Board of Directors

Written by Connor Sheldon, Blue Sky Graduate Assistant and Class of 2018 Career Track MBA Student 

Research indicates that more diverse boards perform better (1). Inviting younger, more diverse, voices to the boardroom table could prove to be a wise investment. Currently, the median age in the United States (US) is around 37 years-old, while the median age of S&P 500 board directors was 63-years old (2,3). In 2016, the Wall Street Journal published a report on the board demographics of the S&P 500 and only two boards, Facebook and TripAdvisor, had a median board member age less than 50 years old. Individuals serving on boards today often have a long tenure of experience and success, and while it is important to have experience and some “wins”, it is also important to integrate fresh ideas and invite new voices to boardroom tables. Should we be examining the lack of age diversity on boards as a potential opportunity?

In 2011, Starbucks invited then 29-year-old technology entrepreneur Clara Shih to join the board. Student loan and financial services provider Navient also invited a 39-year-old to serve on their board of directors. These examples of board service are important because they illustrate companies’ understanding of their target markets. Navient probably took into consideration the lack of 60 year-olds applying for college loans, and Starbucks is utilizing Clara Shih’s core competencies to connect with customers digitally. These examples do not prove that younger board members are the only innovative decision makers serving on boards, however they provide evidence that differences in age, experience, and perspective can prove advantageous in generating customer solutions and financial return when individuals are given the opportunity to be heard.

A 2003 study found a significant positive relationship between the percentage of women or minorities on boards and firm value (4). Further, board diversity can influence financial performance as well as reduce the occurrence of groupthink, a phenomenon that occurs “when one or two people or personality styles dominate a group’s culture so completely that there is no room for those with other styles, perspectives, needs, or beliefs to get their ideas on the table (5).”

At the collegiate and university level, the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges cited 68.5% of university and college board members are over the age of 50 years-old, while the primary consumers of higher education, i.e. students, are generally 18-25 year-olds (6). These board demographics demonstrate the lack of age diversity is not just a function of private sector practices, and that an opportunity exists to recruit younger members to college and university boards.

Millennials, individuals born between 1982 – 1997, are the largest living adult generation in the United States fully occupying labor force and voting ages (7). Additionally, Millennials are the most racially and ethnically diverse demographic in the US and they act as a resource for implementing diversity and inclusion initiatives (8). In short, Millennials are leaders and decision makers who possess racially and ethnically diverse experiences, and now is a great time to start thinking about inviting young members to sit at the board table.

Below are a few ways to get started.

  1. Invest in building a pipeline of young talent. There are organizations already working to build the skills of young talent to be effective board members. The Boise Young Professionals’ annual B On Board training educates young professionals about board service. Plug into this event or others like it to support efforts and to leverage others’ expertise recruiting and developing future board members.
  2. Review board bylaws to determine whether current governance standards support diversity. Boards typically have bylaws outlining the skills and experiences required of board members and even if they are not codified in the bylaws, they often exist implicitly. Have an open and honest debate about the value of bringing younger, more diverse perspectives on to the board, especially if your company or organization targets younger demographics as customers or employees. If they do not already exist, explore the idea of board term limits, as the practice ensures that boards are periodically refreshed with new members, and board member on-boarding is regularly practiced, opening space for younger, more diverse members to join.
  3. Create opportunities on your board for younger leaders. Starbucks and Navient choose to appoint two young board members to the Board of Directors. However, there are other pathways to include younger, more diverse perspectives. For example, you could create a “board fellows” opportunity that solicits or seeks young people for a non-voting position on the board for a set period of time. Another approach is to recruit younger members to serve on board committees to gain their perspective and experience, and to build skills and knowledge before nominating them to becoming full members of the board.


Gender Identity and Inclusion: Three Leading Practices

Written by Alex Suggs, 2018 Graduate Career Track MBA

A 2013 report from The Intelligence Group found that “60% of people between the ages of 14 and 34 think gender lines are blurred.”

Áine Duggan of Re:Gender stated, “Gender is less of a definer of identity today than it was for prior generations. Rather than adhering to traditional gender roles, young people are interpreting what gender means to them personally.”

How is your organization responding to this societal shift?

Companies have the opportunity to demonstrate to employees, customers, and applicants their commitment to a diverse and inclusive workforce through their approach to gender identity. When gender non-binary and trans folx* are asked to select either “male” or “female” as their gender within the application, options the applicant may not feel are accurate, companies immediately illustrate their lack of awareness and inclusion.

This article brings together a few best practices Treasure Valley businesses can incorporate into their organizations in order to foster a diverse and inclusive workforce.

(A) Design forms for gender inclusion

When designing human resource (HR) forms for your organization, ask yourself:

What is the business rationale for asking about gender on this particular form?

If there is a good reason to ask about gender, articulate that within the form. Explain why you’re asking about gender and how the response will benefit the respondent. And further, look for ways to remain inclusive with this question. Consider an open-ended response that allows respondents to self-identify. Consider distinguishing between sex assigned at birth (if you truly need this information) with supplemental questions asking gender identity and preferred pronoun(s). This link provides an example of some effective questions. Lastly, if your organization does not have a good rationale for requesting gender information, consider not asking for it at all.

(B) Create an inclusive culture

Outside of designing inclusive forms, work to help your employees understand how to engage with gender non-binary and trans colleagues. When meeting an individual for the first time, there are a few best practices when someone’s preferred gender is unclear:

  1. Ask yourself why you need to know.
  2. Start with an introduction: Introduce yourself and your own preferred pronouns. This shows those around you that you’ve given thought to the conversation and am open to hearing how others identify.
  3. Don’t ever assume.
  4. Recognize that you may make mistakes. Ensure you respectfully correct yourself as needed and make an earnest effort to get it right going forward.

(C) Create inclusive work space

Finally, in addition to addressing individual awareness, it is also important to address systemic barriers. Offering gender neutral bathrooms or clear policies allowing employees to use the bathroom that feels most comfortable is an effective first step. A majority of Millennials and Gen Z feel strongly that public spaces should provide this access, so without them, you’re sending a clear message that inclusion in the physical environment has not yet been achieved.

While there are a number of best practices, training initiatives and other opportunities for your organization to foster inclusion for non-binary and trans employees, we hope these practices provide an effective starting point. Treasure Valley businesses seek to both attract and retain top talent, and these practices will contribute to an inclusive environment to support those goals.

*”Folx” is a gender neutral collective noun used to address a group of people. Unlike the term “folks”, the ending “-x” on “folx” specifically includes LGBTQ people and those who do not identify within the gender binary.

This article first appeared in the June 2018 Diversity and Inclusion Newsletter. 

But I’m Not the Problem

Written by Alex Suggs, 2018 Graduate Career Track MBA

I recently overheard a statement that made me pause: “Men have it a lot harder in society than women do.”

Any room full of people will have a reaction to hearing that, but we happened to be in a workshop at the College of Business and Economics at Boise State on sexual harassment, hosted by the Women of the Workplace Organization on campus. The room was so crowded with students and faculty that the only available seat I had was on a windowsill.

Midway through the workshop, the presenter asked if anyone was feeling uncomfortable. A man raised his hand. “I feel like society has painted a view of men as perpetrators. I would never sexually harass a woman, so why am I being personally blamed?”

Pause. Just a quick reminder that men can also be victims and sexual harassment is not about sex, but about power. Right, carrying on.

The question he asked comes up repeatedly. It comes up in discussions in the news, in the classroom, in conversations with my friends. Sometimes the context is race, or gender, or sexuality, but it’s always along the lines of: But I’m not the problem, so why am I being blamed?

And really, is it that ridiculous of a question? If you don’t feel like you’ve done anything wrong, is it so strange to question why you’re being made to feel guilty?

So, there I was, perched on a windowsill barely visible to the majority of attendees, opting to respond to this man, and frankly, to all of the other individuals in the room. And now, I’m sharing my response and reflection with you.


It’s easy to be on the defense when these sensitive subjects arise; I get it. It’s easy to throw your hands up and shout to the heavens that you aren’t racist or sexist or all the others “ists” out there. But we all have to realize that our mental models form our lens to the world.

Yes, YOU would never intentionally do something to hurt someone or put someone at a disadvantage, and that’s great!

But – (and you knew there was a ‘but’ coming) just because we would never intentionally do something to hurt another individual doesn’t mean we’re immune to the unconscious biases that everyone exhibits and acts upon. It is our responsibility as community members to consider the systemic barriers in place that stack the odds against marginalized communities and attach privilege to the majority demographic.

Unfortunately, our defensiveness on these issues leads us to forget that it’s not always about us and our need to justify our own actions, but rather, the collective output from individuals and the system in which we operate.

Still with me?

So, what can we do besides shouting to the heavens that we aren’t a terrible person? Rather than saying, “I would never do that,” I propose it would be more productive to say, “I recognize my role in this and how my gender, race, sexuality, etc. has historically contributed to this problem, and now I get to choose how I show up and participate.”

We get a choice in how we show up, we get to change the dynamic and play a role in the progress. Rather than opting out because we don’t think we are part of the problem, we can instead opt in and be part of the solution.

We can simply say, “I hear you, I’m listening.”


I’m still working on how to get it all just right.

I’ll admit that the later breakout session following the workshop, when this man and I were grouped together, was challenging for me.

I may have shaken my head at him and rolled my eyes when he professed the only reason women don’t advance in their careers is because we all choose to have families instead, among other lofty generalizations. But surprisingly, we somehow kept the conversation going, we somehow were able to have a genuine laugh here and there, and at the very least, we both planted a seed to think critically about our conversation.

The truth of the matter is, he showed up to the workshop to learn and ready to listen. He was present and engaged and willing to voice his opinion. We can all recognize that the “everyone thinks like me” belief system doesn’t really work, but it takes time to arrive there emotionally.

If we shut people down, without meeting them where they are, they aren’t going to be interested in being brought into our corner. And when it comes to sexual harassment, we do need men on board to make social progress.

We need to actively engage with dissenting voices, especially when they say, “…but not all men.”


In a divisive time, people must be called in, not called out. Each person who opts in and chooses to participate, positively, has a chance to be a catalyst for change. By focusing on the issue rather than our need to prove our innocence, we can make this world a better, more inclusive place.

It’s a grassroots effort, folks.

So, how will you show up?

This article first appeared in the May 2018 Diversity and Inclusion Newsletter. 

Business Leaders Gather to Explore the Impact of Inclusion in the Treasure Valley

The College of Business and Economics (COBE) cohosted the third annual summit on diversity and inclusion as a business driver focused on the impact of inclusion, with more than 150 attendees from across the business community. Held on November 1st, the summit was cohosted by Wells Fargo, the City of Boise, the Boise Valley Economic Partnership (BVEP) and the University of Idaho-Boise.

Dr. Chris Bell presenting the opening keynote

The Summit keynote address was given by Dr. Christopher Bell, Director of Graduate Studies and Associate Professor of Communications at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, who impressed participants with a demonstration of the strategies used by the media to introduce and reinforce stereotypes and biases along racial and gender lines. Bringing in familiar examples from well-known media companies such as the Disney Company, the audience was encouraged to improve their media literacy and to evaluate the various storylines that exist in our society more critically.

Two panel sessions followed. Angeli Weller, Co-director of Boise State’s Blue Sky Institute, hosted a conversation on financial inclusion with Alejandro Hernandez, Senior Vice President, Wells Fargo; Lisa Cooper, President and Founder, Figure 8 Investment Strategies; and Ben Wright, Idaho Market Manager, Montana & Idaho CDC. Francisco Salinas, Boise State’s Director of Student Diversity and Inclusion, chaired a panel on workplace inclusion that included Trina Ponce, Diversity and Inclusion Program Manager, HP; Toni L. Carter, Inclusion and Diversity Strategy Director, Idaho National Laboratory (INL); Dawn S. Hutchison, Global Integration and Inclusion Manager, Micron Technology; and Alexandria Suggs, Research and Consulting Coordinator, IBIS Consulting Group and Graduate Assistant, Responsible Business Initiative at the College of Business and Economics.

Stacy presenting for The Dignitas Agency

A closing panel was led by Cofounder and Partner of The Dignitas Agency, Stacy Parson, who wove together the discussions on inclusion from the previous speakers to help attendees understand why inclusion is the most critical – and the most difficult – aspect of any diversity effort. Stacy also highlighted inclusion activities ongoing in the community with short presentations from Diane Lachiondo, Director of Community Partnerships, City of Boise; Pete Gombert, CEO, Goodwell; John Tansey, COO, Happy Family Brands; Gayla Thomas-Dabney, EEO/AA Officer, Boise State University; and Donna Llewellyn, Executive Director, Institute for STEM and Diversity Initiatives, Boise State University. The summit was followed by an afternoon hands-on workshop facilitated by The Dignitas Agency offering attendees practice in building collaborative and inclusive work environments.

Emily Erickson, the Director for the Responsible Business Initiative at the College of Business and Economics, noted that “The conference is one of the best ways to get people together in the same room to have these crucial discussions around diversity and inclusion, and where we want to be as a community.” The next summit will be held in the fall of 2018 and Erickson’s team will seek a larger Boise State venue to accommodate the growing interest from the business community.

The summit was made possible by the following sponsors: Boise State’s College of Business and Economics, Wells Fargo, Boise Cascade, City of Boise, Happy Family Brands, Idaho Power, Saint Alphonsus and Micron Technology.

Special thanks are extended to Summit cohosts Wells Fargo, City of Boise, Boise Valley Economic Partnership, and University of Idaho-Boise.

Questions regarding the 2018 Summit, including sponsorship, presentation and attendance opportunities, may be sent to

Boise B Corp Now Number One B Corporation in the World

Eco2Librium, headquartered in Kenya with a US location in Boise, ID, was recently ranked the highest scoring B Corporation in the world by B Lab.

Eco2Librium’s business ventures include producing and selling energy efficient stoves and biomass waste fuels, selling household solar electricity, restoring indigenous forests in degraded areas of the Kakamega Rainforest in Kenya, and offering micro-financing to local Kenyan entrepreneurs. It became a certified B Corporation in 2014. Today, there are over 1,900 certified B Corporations in 50 countries around the world. According to B Lab, “B Corps meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability, and aspire to use the power of markets to solve social and environmental problems.”

To become a Certified B Corp, Eco2Librium first completed the B Impact Assessment which “assesses the overall impact of your company on its stakeholders.” This generated a B Impact Report for Eco2Libruim. In its first assessment, Eco2Librium received a score of 148, which was more than enough to become a certified B Corporation. This year, Eco2Librium recertified and in the process, they achieved the highest B Corp score ever awarded, 180.

Dr. Mark Lung, CEO of Eco2Librium, said, “When making any business decision we ask ourselves four guiding questions. Will the business activity create jobs? Will it conserve natural resources? Will it improve the livelihoods of the underserved? Will it make a profit that can be reinvested on the ground to continue its enterprises? Yes to all four questions is the change we seek.” To find out more about Eco2Librium check out their B Impact Report and website.

B Lab is “committed to building a global community of Certified B Corporations™ who meet the highest standards of verified, overall social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability.” Eco2Librium achieved the highest standard within this global community, illustrating the bright future of social impact for Boise businesses.

If you would like to learn more about Certified B Corporations, you are encouraged to attend one of the quarterly SBDC Idaho B Corp Workshops.