Sheryl Battles leads discussion on the importance of DEI in the workplace

Battles, vice president of global diversity, inclusion and engagement for Pitney Bowes, discussed the current state and importance of DEI in the workplace to the Elon community on Nov. 9.

The LaRose Digital Theater was full of students, faculty and staff on Nov. 9 eager to learn from Sheryl Battles P’23, the vice president of global diversity, inclusion and engagement at Pitney Bowes, as she presented on “The Present and future of DEI in the Workplace.”

Tuesday evening was the second opportunity for students to engage with Battles, who offered a presentation on navigating the hiring process from a DEI perspective on Jan. 28.

When Battles was asked why is it important for students to take interest in DEI regardless of their field of study, her response was simple.

“Diversity is reality,” said Battles, who serves on the Elon University Parents Council and the School of Communications Advisory Board.

One of the points she raised during her discussion is that diversity is involved in any business or relational interaction. “When you think about our world in the 21st century, the people you are going to be working with, the companies you are looking to work with, clients those companies serve, the communities you will operate are all diverse,” Battles said.

As Battles spoke, it was obvious she wanted to instill her excitement into the others in the room, especially the students. Battles wanted to give her listeners a different way to think about diversity that could help them overcome the unfamiliarity of the topic that some people experience. “If we can touch young minds, then that will build a better tomorrow for all of us,” she said.

Battles said that beneath her mask, she has freckles. If someone in the audience had the notion that all people with freckles were “shifty and less intelligent,” then they would be reducing her abilities by judging one attribute. “Get to know the whole person,” Battles said.

Emily Lyons, program assistant for the Office of Parent Engagement said after the presentation that the analogy about the freckles helped underscore an important point. “I think as a society we see someone and have preconceived ideas, but when working and attending classes with people who are different, we can learn from each other,” Lyons said.

The message was clear to Hunter Leong ’23, an accounting major in the Martha and Spencer Love School of Business. “I felt like her presentation was very relevant to today in terms of the digital world and how COVID has impacted us,” Leong said. “As well as how no matter our background or race, we can change our perspective and diversify what we are doing, how we talk to people at school or in the workplace.”

Battles said she is confident in this generation of students who will go into the world more tolerant and excepting of others. With this, students will have the opportunity to develop an appreciation for each other’s humanity.

“When we see one another as human, we get to know each other,” she said. “When we see one another as human, it expands who we are and grows our understanding of the world around us. When we see each other as human it is virtually impossible to treat each other with disrespect or disregard.

“You are our future and I have great hope and confidence in what you will do,” she said.