This editorial, written by Nevena Staresinic and the staff at Moderna Collaborative, addresses one  possible way to help Pittsburgh become a more welcoming community.  

The newest Diversity Survey by Vibrant Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh Today reinforced what we have long known: Pittsburgh is an outlier in racial and ethnic diversity among U.S. metro regions. Something less known and highlighted by this research, is that minorities, especially African Americans, feel that they cannot advance professionally in our region. As women and new immigrant minorities, we empathize with exclusion. We simply must do better.

Diversity and inclusion are the top priorities in 2016 for the highest performing companies, according to a new Deloitte study. Talent practices are all focused on building an inclusive talent system. High performing companies and progressive, smart cities are strong only when all employees and residents thrive.

Acknowledging that we need to work on racial issues is a good starting point. Pittsburgh companies are committed to diversity and inclusion practices that change hiring processes. City and county government leadership are improving bidding and contracting processes—steps in the right direction. Welcoming Pittsburgh connects us to new citizens. Their 30 Neighbors, 30 Days campaign helps us better understand our diverse citizens.

But the majority of the work lies among us—concerned citizens who need to fully demonstrate our willingness to evolve personally and support the growth of our communities. Each of us needs to commit to action steps toward building a more inclusive society. And we need to be intentional about it.

One of the best tools for a person to change long-held mindsets is mindfulness. Solutions for moving forward in a positive direction start by becoming aware of our own habits and conditioning. Unconscious bias is real and unintentional. We can begin to change it only when we become aware of it.

Mindfulness is a technique. It asks us to be curious about our biases and judgments and be open enough to adapt our styles of communication. Mindfulness gives us an opportunity to slow down, look at our own perspective, take time to understand the perspective of another, and make needed adjustments to allow ourselves to learn and change. It allows us to notice whether our thoughts and actions are aligned in a way that benefits the entire community. A broader, more expansive and inclusive lens leads to new ways of seeing, being and doing.

The outcome of mindfulness practiced together is not only powerful, it is efficient: we give ourselves an opportunity to build trust with people because we allow more processing time which means more information registers in our conscious minds. Ironically, it seems like it takes more time, but often it doesn’t. As we shift our consciousness, our way of being shifts to allow for more effective interactions with others. We can start to see how:

  • Diversifying our local social networks and connecting to people that are different from our regular inner circle can be new and fun.
  • Reaching out to our international newcomers (academics, refugees, immigrants, expatriates, repatriates) and developing meaningful relationships with people who are different from us is enriching.
  • Listening fully to someone’s story that is different from our own helps us realize we have a lot to learn.

Of course, the heart of inclusion requires that we are willing to adapt and change. This is not always easy, but it is possible. To learn more about how to do this, check out the various ways to make a difference through Dignity & Respect. 

If Pittsburghers are up for the challenge, we have tremendous opportunities for growth and competitive advantage nationally and internationally. Pittsburgh has a history of solving problems.

Let’s raise the bar and place a higher expectation on our community. By becoming more mindful together, we can become an example of how a city establishes itself as a leader in developing a more expansive and inclusive worldview benefiting all of its citizens. Together we can create another Pittsburgh Renaissance.

Nevena Staresinic founded Moderna Relocation which helps corporate transferees and newcomers transition smoothly to Pittsburgh. Her newest initiative is Moderna Collaborative which raises cultural awareness.