April marks a number of important celebrations and recognition days, including Arab American Heritage Month, and Ramadan, one of the holiest months on the Islamic calendar. In recognition, we sat down with Raheef Alturkmani, Senior Talent Acquisition Specialist for Inclusion, Diversity & Equity (ID&E) at Dow to discuss the holiday in more detail, why it’s important to feel accepted and included in the workplace, as well as best practices for building employee resource groups (ERGs). Catch a snippet of the podcast conversation below, and be sure to listen to episode eight in its entirety to increase your diversity and inclusion knowledge and awareness.
What recommendations do you have for how fellow team leaders can be inclusive to their employees?
That’s a very good question. My main recommendation, and it’s based on my personal experience, is to be a trustworthy colleague and trustworthy leader. If your team trust you, they will feel psychologically safe to bring any topic in their mind to a conversation with you. As you know, and I’m sure our listeners know, it is hard, if not impossible to address an inclusion related issue or challenge if you don’t at least have the conversation about it, so trust, to me, is a key word and then the actions and the commitments comes after that.
Yes, trust definitely is huge because a lot of these topics, they can be difficult to talk about or to know how to talk about and are you saying the right thing, asking appropriate questions? Having that trust already built in makes those situations as easy as they can be or easier. They’re not always so simplified in that way.
Yep, I agree, but you at least need to start the conversation.
Yes, exactly. Speaking about conversations, employee resource groups are a great way to help mediate those rough conversations or tough conversations. You serve as the global chair, correct, for Dow’s MENA ERG?
Correct, as well as the North America chair.
Okay. Can you just go over what the acronym MENA means and just give us an overview and walk us through that?
Absolutely. MENA stands for Middle East and North Africa and the MENA ERG at Dow is a group of Dow employees who share a MENA background and or have interest in the MENA region. You don’t have to be a MENA descent to join the ERG. It’s a global ERG. We have over 2,000 participants globally and almost half of them are here in the United States, which is great, because it gives the opportunity to those almost 1,000 individuals to get to know MENA more. This ERG was formed around, I would say 11 years ago under a different name, different logo, different strategy, and this happened when we had many Dow employees move to the Middle East or came from the Middle East or worked with people from the Middle East to support a major project that we had. It’s called Sadara, which right now, Sadara is a joint venture between Dow and Saudi Aramco, the famous oil group in Saudi.
The MENA group activities slowed down significantly between 2014 and 2018. When I joined in 2015, we didn’t have any active chapters, we didn’t have leadership teams, but when I revived the MENA ERG with few leaders and colleagues in 2018 with a new name, new logo, new strategy, I personally had two main goals in mind. I wanted to bring awareness and break stereotypes about MENA region and its people through cultural events, through bringing MENA external speakers, highlighting MENA success stories, showcasing MENA as a diverse region. All of that goes under bringing awareness and breaking stereotypes. The second goal, which is equally important, if not even more important, is to make people like myself, who are of MENA descent, feel included at Dow and give them the opportunity to grow and develop as well as give them the opportunity to bring their authentic self to work and celebrate their culture without having to hide any aspect. I am a MENA descent person outside Dow and I am a MENA descent employee inside Dow. I don’t have to separate or be two persons, one outside and one inside Dow.
To learn more about Dow’s ERGs, how they encourage participation, and get an insider’s look at celebrating Ramadan, tune in to the full episode and keep an eye out for another new episode next month. Want to be notified when new episodes become available? Subscribe to our DE Talk email list or sign up to receive text alerts on your mobile device!
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