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Use Your Difference to Make a Difference

A. Paradiso, Judy Elliott-Pugh, T. Rockson, M. Harts

As the North Jersey – Rockland SHRM Chapter Vice President of Diversity & Inclusion, I’m happy that our May programming event this year will be a panel moderated by Judy Elliott-Pugh and me, along with our special guests, Minda Harts & Tayo Rockson. The date of this event is Wednesday, May 20th at 5:30 PM and located at the Holiday Inn in Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey. Click here for additional information. We will keep you posted if there are any changes due to COVID-19.

I’m excited about this important event as the chapter VP as well as the owner / founder of AllThingzAP, where it is our primary mission for an employee to always be their authentic self.

In last month’s article, Be Open, Read, and Educate Yourself, Minda Harts book, The Memo: What Women of Color Need to Know to Secure a Seat at the Table, was highlighted. After Harts book, I read Use Your Difference to Make A Difference: How to Connect and Communicate in a Cross-Cultural World, by Tayo Rockson. Rockson’s book is educational, informative, and personal.

Before discussing Tayo’s book, let me give some thoughts about COVID-19. COVID-19 is without a doubt a pandemic and will have a great impact throughout the world. It will affect us personally and professionally. Beyond the obvious such as handwashing and video conferencing, there are other ways to extend the spirit of empathy, community, and inclusion:

- This is not a Chinese Coronavirus

- Be a good bystander

  • Be extra kind

  • Help calm fears

  • If you can, intervene if you see bullying or speak out against negative statements on social media.

- Understand how the COVID-19 response intersects with public policy

  • Share accurate information about how the virus spreads and raise awareness without fear.

- Not everyone is safe in their own home

- Breathe. Be thankful. Be helpful

-->Please be on the lookout as I coordinate a webinar surrounding COVID-19 and its impact towards diversity, inclusion, and equity.

One of Tayo’s favorite heroes is Superman. Tayo states, “My moving around all over the world often made me feel like an alien and an immigrant. I often wondered which part of my identity to reveal, because I related to a lot of things. At the same time, I also wanted to do something bigger than myself and speak up for others – so when I came across Superman’s comics, I thought I was looking at a mirror image, because Superman also believed in the best of humanity despite living in a cynical world.”

Additionally, Tayo’s Father, a diplomat, said “The World is bigger than you and if you want to succeed in it, you have to understand it.”

Tayo is an expert at discussing and correlating cultural issues with diversity and inclusion. His motto is “Use Your Difference to Make a Difference.” These are the three things that people who know how to connect effectively:

-->They Educate

-->They don’t perpetuate

-->Instead they Communicate

The dictionary meaning of perpetuate is to make (something, typically an undesirable situation or an unfounded belief) continue indefinitely.

Applying the acronym LORA helps us to not perpetuate.





Active listening includes: listening to learn, listening to evaluate, listening to understand.

Rockson states that Diversity and Inclusion in the workplace should be approached with a top-down, bottom-up strategy which embraces engagement with your employees at all levels. Tayo articulates the difference between diversity & inclusion, “Diversity refers to demographic differences that distinguish one person from another. These differences may be observable or unobservable…Diversity takes into account many things like personality, communication, leadership style, learning styles, economics, culture, work styles, language, social, privilege, and education. Inclusion is the action or state of including or of being included within a group or structure. Inclusion is the state of being that supports diversity. It enables diverse individuals and groups to function in ways in which differences are respected, gifts are valued, and everyone is welcome, regardless of their diversity.” Diversity, inclusion, and engagement enhance creativity, higher retention rates, improved communication, and effective problem solving.

Tayo Rockson’s 10 Commandments of incorporating diversity and inclusion into your workplace:

Thou Shall Be Culturally Aware

Thou Shall Ask More Questions

Thou Shall Leverage Your Differences

Thou Shall Connect Diversity initiatives to Your Business Objectives

Thou Shall Fully Participate in Employee Engagement Surveys

Thou Shall Involve Yourself in the Diversity Efforts of Your Organization

Thou Shall Understand Your Diversity

Thou Shall Be a Paradox

Thou Shall Be an Ally

Thou Shall Dedicate Yourself to Continuous Improvement

--->Click here for further details

Media plays an enormous role in shaping our culture. Through media, we receive information, see others engage and therefore this is a large part of how we learn about the world. At a very young age through our adult years, we develop biases both conscious and unconscious. There are many biases and one of the first things one can do is to understand your internal culture. We develop these biases from family, friends, the media, etc. Acknowledging your biases are of extreme importance. First and foremost, we must accept that we all have biases. “Unconscious bias training is different than diversity training as it starts with understanding ourselves first. When we become more aware (or shall I say more “conscious”) of how we understand others in relation to ourselves – we begin laying down the first bricks of building a bridge towards other people. Don’t just stop with the training, though.”

Tayo Rockson’s additional info:

· Highly recommends keeping a bias journal

· He admires Nelson Mandela & Oprah Winfrey

· Meditation is extremely helpful, healthy, & helps soothe the mind

· Intersectionality is raised. This is a concept that was introduced in 1989.

· Encourage Regular Interaction with Other Cultures

· Recruiters & talent acquisition teams are at the forefront of it all

· A topic that should be taught is social justice. It is often met with resistance as it appears to be

a liberal agenda, but this misses the point.

· There are many reasons to communicate effectively but one is to not pass negative habits to

the next generation. Like Peggy O’Mara said, the way we talk to our children becomes their

inner voice.

We are facing difficult times and with that comes fear of the unknown. Please be safe, vigilant, and cautious. Remember, we truly are in this together. In the words of Tayo, “Use Your Difference to Make a Difference.“

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