North Texas Daily

Business leaders speak on diversity, skill-building during leadership symposium

Business leaders speak on diversity, skill-building during leadership symposium

Business leaders speak on diversity, skill-building during leadership symposium
March 03
12:00 2023

The UNT College of Merchandising, Hospitality and Tourism hosted three guest speakers for its Leadership Symposium at the University Union centered around themes of diversity, equity and inclusion.

The speakers for the Feb. 21 event — Lisa Mitchell, Lauren Phillips and Otis Stuart — gave keynote speeches focusing on experiences in their fields as Black leaders. Professor and director Christy Crutsinger of the Leadership Academy at the CMHT said the college “married” a grant from the Office of the Provost and their Executive-in-Residence Lecture program into the symposium.

“We were going for a big impact and something that would expose our students to diversity,” Crutsinger said prior to the symposium. “We started generating ideas for who would be our folks to actually participate, and it all landed that we were able to do this during Black History Month. So all of our stars aligned.”

The first speaker was Lisa Mitchell, who has been in the beauty and retail industry for over 15 years. Mitchell spoke on how she created her “empire” after working at Pacific Bell and transitioning from working at a phone company to becoming a hairdresser, including the racism she endured throughout her career.

“It doesn’t really matter whether you’re Black, white, green, male, female — someone is always going to try and discriminate against you,” Mitchell said. “But if you’re the smartest person in the room, and you study really hard, one day they’re gonna need you.”

Mitchell used her time to promote STUDIO by Sally, a new concept salon she’s created at Sally Beauty Holdings. Mitchell was also the only university student out of the three speakers, as she is currently studying to receive her bachelor’s in consumer experience management.

The second speaker was Lauren Phillips, the director of research at Visit Fort Worth. Phillips recounted her experience of going from media analytics at news stations to Visit Fort Worth, a business working with the city of Fort Worth to drive “economic development through tourism,” according to their website.

Phillips spoke on how important it is to market “frequency” to people who live in their own “bubble.”

“Whatever you want to do, keep putting that message out there,” Phillips said. “That message may not come across the first time, but keep putting what you want to do in their faces. You can show people better than telling them.”

Oris Stuart was the final keynote speaker of the day. The president and CEO of Inclusion Instinct spoke on how broad diversity is and how important inclusivity is.

“If you’re an organization, and you want to have the best talent, then you need to look around and make sure that talent is diverse,” Stuart said. “And if it’s not, however you measure diversity, then you don’t have the best talent.”

Stuart’s presentation visualized the importance of integrating diversity with inclusive actions for the success of a company.

“It’s not only about the potential of diversity, but it’s the active exercise of inclusion that reaches that potential,” he said. “If you’re not going to be serious about welcoming in new ideas and differences and allowing people to bring their creativity, their experiences and their perspectives into the game, then you might as well not even do it, cause you’re going to perform worse.”

After the keynotes from each speaker, the audience was given the opportunity to ask questions. One of the students was fashion merchandising junior Jissel Hernandez, who asked how the speakers stay motivated in their respective jobs. 

“One of the speakers said it’s always important to learn and [be] a constant learner, and honestly, hearing successful people makes me want to be even more successful,” Hernandez said.

She also found their backgrounds as successful people of color to be inspirational.

“I’m a Hispanic woman — I’m a first-generation student,” Hernandez said. “So although I might not encounter the same struggles that they have, I understand that they have also gone through struggles and that it’s not that easy to get up the ladder.”

Hernandez said she found the event encouraging, and the speeches made her want to “grow as a person.”

Featured Image Lisa Mitchell speaks to the audience, explaining how she initially got into the salon and beauty industry and eventually began working for Sally Beauty. MaKenzie Givan

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Ismael M. Belkoura

Ismael M. Belkoura

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