On Diversity Day, a Challenge

During remarks at the Broadcast Board of Governor’s annual Diversity Day celebration, IBB Director Richard Lobo noted that the agency is among the most diverse in Washington. Still, he challenged employees at all levels to do more to build bridges among the many cultures, races and religions represented in the BBG workforce.

Lobo’s remarks are below.

Distinguished colleagues and honored guests – good morning. Welcome to the BBG’s annual diversity day program.

We’re here today to celebrate our workplace diversity and to spend a few moments thinking about ways we can maintain and strengthen our shared-commitment to making the BBG the most open and inclusive workplace we can!

Our workforce may already be the most diverse in all of Washington.

When I look at the BBG workforce I see diversity everywhere, not just in terms of race, but in ethnicity, religion, age, and gender.

Walk the halls of our building any day and you’ll hear dozens of languages being spoken; you’ll see professionals of all races and cultures going about their jobs; you’ll see photo displays of our journalists at work around the world; and you’ll overhear discussions of news events taking place literally anywhere on the planet.

Take a close look at our five prized broadcast entities. As you know, together they reach people in 59 languages in some 100 countries, and you can’t support an operation like that without a diverse team of specialists that understands the people and cultures we seek to reach daily.

As a Latino, the grandson of immigrants, I have an appreciation for the importance of diversity in the workforce.

I grew up in Florida at a time when diversity was often more feared than revered. Forget about diversity in the work force, my family and I were banned from the local public swimming pool simply because of our Cuban heritage.

I can grasp what it’s like to face adversity and to work your way up against extraordinary odds.

Fortunately, during my professional lifetime, doors began to open as the civil rights movement took hold and our country evolved to become more inclusive.

Today, at the BBG, we strongly believe in diversity not for its own sake, but for the benefits it brings.

At the BBG, innovation is by necessity a part of our culture. And innovation is driven by creativity. We believe we get the most cumulative creative energy by tapping a rich blend of beliefs, backgrounds and cultures.

Employees from diverse backgrounds bring different perspectives to problem solving, content creation, innovation, and even management.

We try to hire the best and the brightest workers we can find to help us achieve our goals. But we can’t do that unless we look at the broadest possible pool of potential workers. We must look at all communities when we make hiring decisions.

And once we hire someone, we want them to thrive among their co-workers, those who are like them and those who aren’t.

That’s why we strive to create an environment in which all employees feel included and valued. When employees feel valued, they are more likely to be committed, motivated, and productive.

America is a very diverse place and it’s getting more so every day. Doesn’t it make sense that the federal workforce should be as diverse as the taxpayers who pay its bills? It’s just the right thing to do.

So, we’ve made progress, but I’d like to challenge all our employees here and now to go even further.

It’s really all about how well we integrate all of our employees into one team, a team that is focused on one mission:  to inform, engage and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy.

The point I’m getting at here is that you can have diversity in a workforce, without true integration. But the true benefits of a diverse workforce can be lost if we fail to appreciate our differences and instead choose to self-segregate.

So I would like to ask the BBG workforce, at every level, to strive for more unity, to find new avenues toward cooperation and understanding and to build bridges across all our cultural divides.

This year’s diversity day theme focuses on change and communication and both are important as we pursue our goals of diversity and inclusion. We embrace technological change at the BBG, but that doesn’t mean we have to abandon the kind of one-to-one communication that promotes inclusion on a personal level. It is this kind of communication that can break down barriers and lead to true integration.

As president Obama said last year in his executive order on diversity and inclusion in the federal workforce: “We are at our best when we draw on the talents of all parts of our society, and our greatest accomplishments are achieved when diverse perspectives are brought to bear to overcome our greatest challenges.”

It’s an honor to be with you this morning – thank you so much for your service to U.S. international broadcasting!