Published in The Day on November 12, 2021

By Karen Florin
k.florin@theday.com

Have you ever thought about the "tailwinds" that helped push you along and make your life a little bit easier?

This week, as The Day and Shore Publishing staff began six months of diversity training, consultant Stephanie Johnson posed that question.

Many of us said it was the support of our families, friends and mentors that helped propel us, or the opportunity to attend good schools. Some mentioned that their race, gender or skin tone had given them an advantage.

Johnson asked us next to think about the "headwinds" of our lives that slowed us, and how much more difficult it might have been had we not had the aforementioned tailwinds.

The two-hour session, which focused on types of bias, was, we thought, a great way to start our training, which will continue with four months of self-paced courses and culminate with another in-person session with Johnson.

One of the key lessons the training reinforced was that we all have biases and should realize we jump to conclusions about one another. A video Johnson showed demonstrated that when you ask a man his wife's name, he might just respond by saying "Frank." And before you ask a woman with a dark complexion who her manager is, consider first that she may be the leader of her team.

In a casual survey of newsroom staff, the reviews of our first training session were positive, with most people saying it went by more quickly than they thought it would, they liked the group activities Johnson coached us through, and that the tone of the training was not "judgy."

Talking about diversity can be uncomfortable, but it helps to have a great trainer and open-minded co-workers. Johnson kindly agreed to be interviewed for an episode of "The Storyline" podcast that is being published along with this column. I hope you'll take a few minutes to listen.

This kind of work is never actually finished, but we wanted to make sure everyone in our company has tools to navigate what has become a critical topic in our work and everyday lives.

Here's how it started at The Day.

After the death of George Floyd, and the social unrest that followed in the summer of 2020, The Day formed a diversity committee and went to work on several fronts. As our committee chairwoman, Managing Editor Izaskun Larrañeta said, "We want to be on the right side of history."

Larrañeta will be telling you more about our work in the near future, but I wanted to let you know our training is underway. We had interviewed several vendors during the past year and decided Johnson and her employer, OneDigital in Atlanta, is the best fit.

We're grateful to have received financial assistance for the training from the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut, the William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund and Chelsea Groton Foundation.

We'll update you on our diversity work as we move along.