The Struggle Is Real! When Race Makes You the Designated Expert (Whether You Really Are or Not) - Q & A with Karen M.R. Townsend, Ph.D. #Inclusion2020

SHRM's Inclusion 2020 Conference is October 19-21 and will feature several amazing presenters including Karen M.R. Townsend, Ph.D., President, KTownsend Consulting who will deliver the live session The Struggle Is Real! When Race Makes You the Designated Expert (Whether You Really Are or Not). 

Karen M.R. Townsend, Ph.D. is the president of KTownsend Consulting—an award-winning organizational development firm offering expertise in leadership development and 21st Century diversity. Dr. Karen works with leaders to create inclusive environments and build strong teams so that they can effectively and efficiently meet the needs of their diverse colleagues, co-workers and clients. Dr. Karen believes in a holistic approach to professional development, and as such, her programs highlight the importance of both technical expertise and interpersonal relationships. This approach ensures that professionals at every level have the tools required to live and lead…confidently. A recognized subject matter expert, Dr. Karen has written articles on diversity and inclusion which have been featured in local, regional and national publications and media outlets. Because of her commitment to excellence, in 2019 Dr. Karen was recognized by the Dayton Business Journal in the category of “Woman-owned Business of The Year.” She currently serves on the board of trustees and executive committee for the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce, the board of directors of the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center and the Diversity Advisory Council for the Dayton Business Journal.  

Q. Why did you decide to present on the topic "The Struggle is Real!  When Race Makes You The Designated Expert" at Inclusion 2020?

​Several people who know I work in the diversity and inclusion space were contacting me for advice and guidance on how to lead diversity conversations in their organizations.  But none of the people were diversity professionals. They were, however, all African American.

Q. How have your personal and professional experiences affected the way you view the social-emotional-professional impact of race in the workplace?

Believe it or not, as a woman of color, I have been asked to "pick a side." To make a choice about whether I would be an advocate for women OR African Americans. How does one choose when both describe who I am?

Q. Why is it important for DEI professionals to understand how, when and whether to accept (or assign) added responsibilities that are outside one’s primary area of expertise?  

This is not just an important question for DEI professionals. It is an important question for any person who is asked to take on additional responsibilities that may be outside their scope of knowledge or expertise. And, it is something for leaders to consider. To whom and why are you asking any person to take on a task? For example, if someone were to call "Dr. Townsend" and ask her to do cardio-thoracic surgery, I should decline. Why? Because I am not "that" kind of doctor. I don't want to see any professional take on--or be asked to take on--responsibilities for which they are not equipped to deliver. Doing so sets them up for failure and can potentially negatively impact the DEI efforts for the organization.  

Q. What in your opinion is the biggest challenge faced by African American professionals in a post-George Floyd world?

Being expected to show up professionally without being given the opportunity to process how they are feeling personally. 

Q. In your session, attendees will learn about the unique challenges faced by African American professionals. What is one challenge that you’ll be sharing more about?

In the past six months, we have experienced a pandemic, an economic downturn,  and social unrest. At work, we are rarely "allowed" or "encouraged" to talk about our feelings or how we have been impacted by what is going on in our community or the world around us.  I will be sharing how not doing so resulted in my having an emotional breakdown on a live video broadcast.  I am a firm believer in the notion that if I tell my truth, it gives other people permission to tell theirs. 

Q. What do you think attendees will be the most encouraged or inspired about after they attend your session?  

My primary goal is to acknowledge that "The Struggle Is Real." All too often, African American professionals have to deny the realities of what it means to be a person of color in the workplace.   If we can say "out loud" what the challenges are, then we can collectively develop strategies to ensure our professional development and career success.  

The Struggle Is Real! When Race Makes You the Designated Expert (Whether You Really Are or Not)

Monday 10/19/2020 11:30 AM - 12:30 PM 


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