Kaitz Commentary: Knowing Yourself

Michelle Ray Headshot

Recently, I was honored to  receive the  ‘Know Yourself Award  during WICT’s PowerBrokers Awards hosted  by the Washington  DC/Baltimore Chapter of the  organization. It was a particularly special recognition because it spoke to the values I hold dear and which I live every day. For me ‘knowing yourself is about authenticity and living in your truth; ‘knowing yourself is about celebrating all parts of yourself and bringing them with you into the workplace every day. ‘Knowing yourself is about realizing you are more than just one thing and embracing the sum of all your parts.

In working to  advance diversity, equity, and inclusion  within  our industry, the  Walter Kaitz Foundation (WKF), is vested in these same values. We realize that a workplace that celebrates and embraces differences can produce great business outcomes as well, and we are proud to work in an industry that has embraced these values since it’s founding. We put our money where our mouth is by financially supporting our premier industry organizations – the Emma Bowen Foundation, the National Association for Multi-ethnicity in Communications (NAMIC), the T Howard Foundation, and Women in Cable Telecommunications (WICT). Inherent in their respective missions and work is the concept of ‘knowing yourself.’

At our 36th Annual Walter Kaitz Foundation  Fundraising  Dinner, themed  ‘We Are All IN,” held during Diversity Week, we raised over $1.4 million to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in

media and entertainment The funds will enable our partners to continue in the   critical work they do that helps our industry grow, thrive, and have meaningful impact. For each and every organization and individual who contributed to the success of the dinner including our many generous corporate sponsors, we offer our eternal gratitude.

One thing that has set us apart as an industry is also tied to knowing ourselves; we have tracked our progress and our flaws for nearly a decade through workplace diversity studies. This is achieved through industry-wide research which gives us the ability to recognize trends and adapt to the needs of our constituents. As we consider diversity, we cannot forget the impact that Millennials are having on our business, both as employees and as users of our services. With them, they bring their version of ‘knowing yourself,’ which manifests itself in the search for work-life balance, authenticity, and the need to make social change. Gen X, Gen Y, and Gen Z demand to be heard and people are paying attention. A recent Forbes article offered that “modern consumers, especially young ones, crave authenticity. They prefer brands that speak honestly, punish those that break their promises, and develop strong feelings of loyalty for companies that share their commitment to a better world.”

I’m always exerted when I get the opportunity to interact with young professionals and with the students that come through our partner organizations like the Emma Bowen and T. Howard  Foundations. They are creative, think big and, I  believe, have ideas that will  propel our industry into the future. They see diversity and inclusion as an essential part of their lives. Most importantly, they require a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion within their workplaces and where they spend their disposable income.

Forbes also notes that members of Gen Z consider workplace diversity when they decide where to work This means that to attract and retain top talent, businesses must not only put their commitments into practice, they also need to preach their beliefs openly, so these expectations permeate the culture.

When people from different backgrounds with different values get together they can become more than the sum of their parts by Working in new and innovative ways. Leaders of diverse teams must learn to lead with authenticity, warts and all, if they want to get the most from their workforce and they must ‘know themselves.’

Diversity leadership is not just about accommodating differences. It’s about challenging  norms. Today’s leaders must not only accept their employees for who they are but also challenge the barriers their employees face and advocate for change when necessary.

As we welcome t his next generation into our industry, we must continue to refine our approach, maintain our authenticity, welcome change and most importantly continue to  know ourselves. If we do, our industry will continue to  be that beacon for diversity, equity, and inclusion. I  know at Walter Kaitz “We Are All IN” and  ready for the future.