World Grain - November 2020 - 48

FEATURE: IAOM CONFERENCE GOES VIRTUAL

Randy Garvert, vice
president of the
IAOM, moderates
a panel discussion
on diversity and
inclusion in the
workforce during
the IAOM virtual
conference held
Sept. 15-17.

48	

WG_Nov20.indb 48

gap in the milling industry are subtle.
"I can't tell you how many plants I've been to where
the female locker room or restroom is an afterthought,"
Thornton said. "Some mills I've been to don't even have
a designated female restroom, so you have to use the visitor's unisex bathroom."
Although the panelists said they'd been fortunate to
work for male bosses who emphasized the importance of
diversity and inclusivity, they also had observed sexism in
the workplace.
Thornton, who during a performance review early in
her career was told by a supervisor after she was promoted to a leadership position that she, as a female,
needed to "be seen and not heard," said women working
in "a man's world have to prove themselves so much
more than a man does. It's also a known fact that women
tend to be less confident in their ability to take the next
step up."
Diversity is at the center of many workplace discussions nowadays, but the panelists said efforts to improve
inclusivity are just as important. As someone who teaches
students from all over the world through K-State's distance learning program - although most students in the
department, like her, are from Kansas - Churchill tries to
present her material with that in mind.
"I try to refrain from falling into my Kansas farm kid
bias," Churchill said. "I look at my way of speaking and
using clich├ęs, and I realize (the foreign students) may not
know what that means."
To create a diverse and inclusive work environment,
company leaders must identify their own biases and be
aware of how they can impact the way employees from
backgrounds different than their own are treated.
"It's really human to have unconscious bias," Thornton
said. "I believe 99% of the time people don't do things
with malicious intent to make someone feel lesser. Often
we just don't realize or are unconscious of how actions or
what we say have an impact on somebody else."
She noted that biases often influence managers during
the hiring process without them even being aware of it.

"It's hard to break out of the bias of hiring someone
who is more agreeable to you, like you, and seems easy to
get along with," she said.
"It can be hard to break out of that mold sometimes,"
she added. "It's important to hire people who will bring a
different perspective. It will make your team bigger, better, stronger and faster."
While workplace diversity typically is centered on issues of race, sex and religion, the panelists also emphasized that companies must beware of falling into "groupthink" during meetings. Assigning someone to be the
"devil's advocate" in a discussion is a way to promote
diverse thought.
"When you work with a group closely over a long period of time, you can get to the point where everybody
merges to the same general perspective," Thornton said.
"If that's the case, you need to assign somebody on your
team to take the other perspective, so you won't miss out
on other opportunities or ideas."
Melinda Farris, chief executive officer of the IAOM,
said the live session on diversity and inclusivity was well
attended and praised the panelists for providing provocative insight on this crucial issue.
"This is a line of discussion that we plan to continue to
focus on over the coming year," Farris said.
CHAT ROOM MEETINGS
In addition to educational presentations, the virtual event
gave suppliers of equipment and services to the milling
industry an opportunity to have one-on-one "chat room"
meetings with millers.
"The spontaneous conversations that happen as attendees roam the expo floor were a little more difficult to
replicate virtually," Farris noted. "We'll definitely need to
work on ways to better engage exhibitors and attendees at
any future virtual events."
Once the pandemic has subsided and in-person conferences return, Farris said the IAOM will consider still offering some events in an online format.
"There may be some events, like the annual conference
and expo, that are offered in a hybrid format," she said.
"It might mean a slightly different offering for attendees
dependent on whether they are joining the event in person
or online."
Jansen emphasized that while the IAOM was negatively impacted by the cancellation of in-person events in
2020, it remains on solid ground financially.
"I am proud to share that, financially speaking, we are
a strong and healthy organization and will be able to continue operations despite lost revenue from the cancellation
of in-person events and training," Jansen said.
We want to hear from you - Send comments and inquiries
to worldgrain@sosland.com. For reprints of WG articles,
e-mail reprints@sosland.com.

November 2020 / World Grain / www.World-Grain.com

11/2/2020 4:15:04 PM


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World Grain - November 2020

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