Harris from McDonald’s Enlightens Students on the Importance of Diversity

Posted: Sunday, April 16th 2017 at 9:19 AM

SHRM’s annual diversity keynote lecture was held in Ashurst Auditorium during NSHM’s Hospitality Week on April 5, 2017. The event featured recently retired Patricia Sowell Harris, Global Chief Diversity Officer and VP of Global Community Engagement at McDonald’s.

Guests were welcomed by Dr. Wanda Costen, SHRM executive director, who emphasized the importance of diversity in the hospitality industry, and the excitement SHRM has for supporting the National Society for Minorities in Hospitality (NSMH) to make the lecture possible.

Costen then introduced Dr. Chad Hamill, professor and NAU’s VP of Native American Initiatives, who gave praise to Harris, and shared the efforts NAU is undertaking to maintaining a diverse, and inclusive campus.

Kayla Moore, Hospitality Week Chair for NSMH at NAU, and Emily Thompson, VP of NAU’s NSMH chapter, shared information about NSMH, and introduced Harris.

Harris began by thanking Costen for inviting her and spoke about her enjoyment of coming to Flagstaff for the first time. “I’m loving it!” she joked.

She then went into her background, including her bravery in moving to New York at the age 16, and her education at Roosevelt University.

From there, she explained her journey with McDonald’s, and the impact she has had while working globally as a diversity officer.

She shared a story of travelling to Japan to increase women in leadership positions within McDonald’s. When meeting the CEO of McDonald’s Japan, he told her “I cannot change Japan, but I promise you I will change McDonald’s Japan.”

Through her stories and examples, Harris had a positive impact on students and faculty alike. Everyone in attendance gained an understanding of the importance of diversity in the hospitality industry.

She referenced her book, None of Us is As Good As All of Us: How McDonald's Prospers by Embracing Inclusion and Diversity, which tells the story of how McDonald’s established itself as a business leader in diversity and inclusion.

Harris also spoke about the importance of treating everyone in the workplace with respect. “If we respect our crewmembers, they will respect our customers.”

Harris also shared a video with vignettes about different situations that occur in business settings, which helped the audience gauge their own reactions, and gain insight on how people handle situations related to diversity and inclusion. After watching the video, some students had the courage to share some of their personal experiences, which enhanced the awareness of those in attendance. Ultimately, people recognized the importance of standing up and promoting diversity.

To conclude, Harris challenged NAU students to take action towards diversity. “Own a piece of diversity,” she said.

Harris also encouraged the students to “challenge the status quo,” and “respect and value each other...respect and value the differences between you.”

Harris’ lecture was nothing short of motivational and eye-opening to the students, who will be responsible for resolving diversity issues, and more importantly advance, support, and promote diversity and inclusion in the hospitality industry.

One student, Kathryn Cambra, loved having Harris speak and said diversity and discrimination is something everyone should know about. She agreed the talk was beneficial. “It definitely starts with us,” explained Cambra. “We are going to be the new generation going into the workforce.”

The end of the lecture brought a large surprise to the attendees; SHRM purchased 100 copies of Harris’ book, and gifted a copy to students, faculty, and staff in attendance. Harris then signed and wrote personal messages in the books.

The gift paired with an extraordinary lecture made for an incredible evening for students and faculty alike. SHRM and all attendees are grateful for the opportunity she provided.

“We have the courage to be in the presence of discomfort that results from an inclusive environment.”
–Patricia Harris

Categories: students shrm 2017 spring 2017 diversity week kathryn cambra patricia harris mcdonald's wanda costen diversity diversity speaker national society of minorities in hospitality nsmh executive speaker