The United Parent-Teacher Council (UPTC) and the Great Neck Chinese Association (UPTC) joined forces to host a panel where local students, business and public figures discussed the importance of diversity at Great Neck South High School on Monday, Jan. 6.
The evening panel opened with a presentation from Matthew Jagoda, the managing director of human resources for the public relations and consulting firm Edelman, on the importance of diversity in the workplace. Cross cultural competency, which Jadoga defined as “the capability to shift cultural perspective and adapt behavior to cultural commonality and difference,” is one of the most important skills that employers look for in prospective employees. He presented statistics that showed multicultural teams with leaders who encourage the exchange of ideas tend to perform far better than monocultural teams, or diverse teams where diversity is viewed as an obstacle to cohesion.
Following Jagoda’s presentation, a group of local figures in prominent business and government positions shared their experiences dealing with diversity, or the lack thereof, in their professional lives and fielded questions from the audience.
Reflecting on the event, Town of North Hempstead Councilmember Veronica Lurvey emphasized the importance of not only building a broad coalition when working to tackle issues, but actually taking care to listen to people from different backgrounds.
“You can’t appreciate the perspective and needs of others unless you get to know them,” Lurvey said. “You need to ask questions and engage. So, using this experience, when I became councilwoman, I went on what I call a ‘listening tour.’ That listening continues now, because I am aware that there are very many different communities in the town, each with unique perspectives.”
Linda Galsim, a member of the inclusion and diversity council at a Wall Street firm, said people need to push to make sure their workplace is inclusive, not just diverse.
“I used the word ‘outlier’ on the panel as my way to explain that being different is a good thing, it’s what makes you and your perspective unique, embrace it and enjoy it,” Galsim said. “Along your journey, when you see lack of inclusion or diversity, do something about it. My humble advice for our students is to expand your lens outside of our community and explore. Great Neck is a comfortable bubble, you will get uncomfortable outside this bubble and that’s OK.”
Galsim’s sentiments were echoed by Great Neck South alum and current Brown University student Ben Kobliner, who encouraged students at his alma mater to seek personal growth in unfamiliar situations.
“My advice to students is that getting out of their comfort zone is the only way they’ll be able to grow and have access to new opportunities,” Kobliner said. “Whether it’s talking to someone who comes from a very different background or trying out an activity that they never pictured themselves doing, they’ll be better off because they challenged themselves.”