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DEI x ILC Movie Night

By Antionett Jackson

April 29, 2024

Antionett Jackson

Last week, I had the privilege to host a DEI x ILC collaboration movie night! The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Chair is a title I hold that’s part of the Graduate Business Association (GBA). The GBA serves as the umbrella organization for graduate students at the Wisconsin School of Business and is led by an elected board, representing the student body as a liaison to the office of the dean, faculty, staff, alumni, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I’m also a member of the Inclusive Leadership Committee (ILC) which was founded by Shanae Doerr, a fellow SHR student, in 2023 during her time as DEI on the GBA. Shanae has been instrumental in bringing more inclusion to the WSB and she encouraged me to increase visibility of the ILC within the WSB community. I plan on doing this by bringing more life, fun, vulnerability, and community into DEI.

These goals in mind, I put together a DEI x ILC movie night event where people can enjoy food in a relaxed environment while being educated through a classic media medium like film. During the movie night we watched the film ‘Let’s Work!’, which was created and directed by Joey Travolta and his production company, Inclusion Productions. I was a bit nervous about hosting my first event, but we ended up having a great turnout. I was able to facilitate some thought-provoking conversations while leaving people with some thoughtful takeaways.

To summarize the event, the movie night was held in the MBA Lounge of Grainger and included Ian’s Pizza, a local Madison favorite, as well as popcorn, drinks, and cupcakes. I was planning for around 20 attendants, so I was extremely happy with the 15-17 people who showed up. The movie followed the incredible stories of eight adults with physical and/or intellectual disabilities through their journey of success within their careers. All eight individuals had different genders, sexual orientations, race, religion, and different presenting disabilities. Some people were visibly disabled while some were not. I thought this was important to point out because this affected how they were treated in the workplace. People who were not-visibly physically or mentally disabled often experienced more negative treatment from customers because they wouldn’t perform at the standard the customer expected them too. This included them being yelled at, berated, or sometimes physically harmed; most of the time by a manager or another customer would intervene and come to the employee’s defense. We know this because the film included interviews with each person’s family (parent), friends, co-workers, and direct leadership; so we got a full insight into the person’s life, beginning with their childhood.

There were so many impactful stories within this film, but I want to discuss one that left a message on my heart. The film followed a man named Christian Jimenez, a non-disabled-presenting man working as a stocker, bagger, and cart grabber for a local grocery store called Staters Bro’s. At the time of filming, Christian had been working at Stater Bro’s for four years and expressed how much he loved his job and what it did for him. Christian spoke about the kindness of his peers, customers, and leadership. What stood out to me was how impactful this job opportunity was for him, people within his community, and his family. Christian has two non-disabled siblings, and in the film, his mother stated that he wanted to live and experience the lifestyle of his siblings, including things like moving out, getting a job, adult independence, etc. However, his mother was worried about his ability to do and hold a job and people’s kindness and willingness to allow her son to work a job. As a mother, she couldn’t foresee that independence for her son or herself. Through local connections she was able to get in contact with a Goodwill representative who partnered with local businesses to recruit and hire disabled people for a variety of positions in the area. Christian was originally employed at Vons, but they closed, so Stater Bro’s happily offered him a position. I really loved this bit of the film, it depicts a beautiful moment of community engagement, support, and empathy for the disabled community in the region. It also shows how impactful HR work is to everyone in all communities. The Goodwill representative met with Christian to help him fill out the application, set up the interview, practice for it, and supported him throughout the process of obtaining the job. She was certain he would get it and he did; this employment allowed him to obtain his own independent-living housing and a sense of independence for him as well as his supportive family. The Goodwill rep was a saving grace to Christian and his family. She was able to open doors and provide opportunities that he didn’t have access too. As HR employees, we must consider and put the business needs first, however, we are all just people working with people making a business work for a bunch of other people. With that, we must include humanity and consider everyone from all communities when making business and HR decisions, especially in the recruitment and acquisition phase.

At the end of the event, the attendees shared personal stories regarding disabled family members. They described how their loved ones spent the majority of their lives stuck in one building or one room. Not everyone has the opportunities depicted in the film, but the future graduates of the WSB-MBA/MS program will have the ability and resources to create these opportunities for all communities, we just have to prioritize their creation. Throughout the SHR program, we have talked about job requirements, job design, and recruiting, but we should be more creative and forward-thinking regarding ways that HR can help reach under-represented populations in disabled communities. We spend a lot of time making sure we have POC and LGBT friendly workspaces, however, disabled people can get left on the back burner quite often. This is one of the reasons I wanted to show this film to my peers. We must think of and include all communities in every aspect of a company’s organizational chart, especially if they meet all the job requirements and can do the job. In the future I hope there will be more “Goodwill” representatives recruiting within these communities and encouraging these individuals in their careers.

When I graduate and obtain employment, I plan to implement similar programs that reach the “Christians” of my future community and provide them with greater variety of resources to live the lives they envision for themselves and their families. Regardless of you affiliation with the disabled community, making sure these individuals have the resources to live their full lives is important, and I’m happy the attendants of the movie night left with this message.