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Expand Conversations: ‘We Can’t Be Afraid to Take it to the Next Level’

November 02, 2020
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As a part of NBJ’s Expand series, members of Nashville’s business community gathered virtually for a conversation on diversity, inclusion and equity.

The panel consisted of Sherri Neal, chief diversity officer, HCA Healthcare Inc.; Nikki Gibson, site director, Dell; and Brian Tibbs, managing partner and director of Nashville office, Moody Nolan.

The conversation centered around diversity, inclusion and equity with some of Nashville’s leading companies on how they create an inclusive culture that breaks down barriers, how they build a diverse workforce and how they navigate the challenges that arise.

While the conversation covered a wide range of points, here are a few notable excerpts:

Sherri Neal, of HCA Healthcare Inc.

As the chief diversity officer for HCA Healthcare, Sherri Neal is responsible for leading diversity, inclusion, equity and cultural competence initiatives.

Neal stressed the importance of creating safe environments to foster constructive conversations about diversity, inclusion and equity.

“Some of these conversations can be uncomfortable. People can make mistakes. They don’t want to say the wrong thing. But at the end of the day, we have to start creating cultures of respect where we can have these challenging conversations, because that’s when we’ll start to see the needle move. If we’re afraid to have those conversations, then we’re just going to find ourselves in some of the same places, not making progress. … It’s time for us to start figuring out ways that we can get more comfortable having those conversations. I applaud all of the organizations that are having those conversations. It’s not easy, but we’ll have to continue to evolve. Maybe we won’t be talking about the same thing we’re talking about today in 2021, but it’ll be an evolution of that. We can’t be afraid to take it to the next level, because it will be these conversations and dialogue that will impact real change in our organizations.”

Nicole Gibson

Nikki Gibson serves as the site director for Dell’s Nashville campus. Gibson is responsible for managing a site budget, supporting local talent planning, leading and sponsoring locally led initiatives and community partnerships.

Gibson discussed how business leaders can take these conversations to the next level and influence real change within their companies and communities.

“For us, it’s been making sure we’re looking inward and making sure we’re creating great workplaces and that we are an attractor. We want to bring people to our company, so making sure that we’re being intentional in how we’re doing that, and how we’re driving diversity efforts. We’re making sure that we are looking at and addressing internal gaps. We’re utilizing folks on the ground to participate in career fairs to engage with [Historically Black Colleges and Universities] and other minority-serving institutions. We’re making sure we’re being intentional with how we are attracting people to the company. We’re broadening our recruiting efforts with community colleges and different apprenticeship programs. So it’s about how are we engaging in our communities and ensuring that we’re attracting talent from these areas.

Brian Tibbs, of Moody Nolan, Inc.

Brian Tibbs has been with the architecture firm Moody Nolan for 23 years. He was recently appointed to be the managing partner of the firm and leads the Nashville office.

Tibbs reiterated the importance of these conversations and initiatives about diversity, inclusion and equity continuing into the future:

“The important thing is, as leaders, we don’t want it to be, ‘We can’t wait until 2021 so we can stop talking about these things.’ We want COVID to be over with, but for these types of conversations, we want to build on them. Maybe there’s a different tone as we continue to develop them over the years. But we want to be open. We want to keep growing as a people, as a firm, as a country so that we’re not going backwards on where we are and what we used to be.”