The average person spends roughly a third of their life working. Of the 90,000 hours we spend in the workplace, most of it is spent with people who come from backgrounds different than our own. Each interaction we have, each conversation we share, and each connection we make gives us a better understanding of humankind.
A group of us wanted to encourage these interactions, further the conversations, and deepen the connections—both within this agency and in the industry as a whole. With the support of many passionate, dedicated individuals, the Lewis DE+I group was formed. In the beginning, there was a single goal in mind: to deliver mindful, deliberate, and consistent opportunities to learn about different cultures and perspectives.
When looking back on those early days, graphic artist Alan Howell in our Mobile office had this to say: “When I first joined DE+I, it was a small group of four to six people who would meet every other week to discuss different topics without being judged or frowned upon. DE+I was essentially a safe space. Once the group was established, we wanted to make it official by branding DE+I so that it was more than just a place to talk about different topics—we tried to put actions behind this group.”
That is where we began, and it’s gratifying to see how far we’ve come. Since its launch, the DE+I group has worked hard to grow our healthy, inclusive office culture. We send out resources like articles, studies, and podcasts in our quarterly newsletters, as well as reminders of upcoming events. Our speaker series provides excellent learning opportunities and sparks productive conversations.
Since our launch, the DE+I group has already made great strides in the agency.
With the first installment of our speaker series, hosted by Shruti Shayam, we dove headfirst into cultural diversity in the industry. A New York-based Indian graphic designer and illustrator, Shayam shared her incredible insight on how to better ingratiate different cultures into our creative. Her talk gave us all new ways to look at our work and the impact it has.
As Nashville's Hannah Williamson, Research Project Manager, put it: “The conversations generated by the DE+I initiatives we’ve done so far are so exciting and encouraging, and I love seeing how our greater purpose to fuel those conversations is being met with enthusiasm.”
Along with the important, meaningful conversations, we decided to have some fun. Each quarter, we come together to celebrate different cultures with food, drinks, and games in a social hour. Although these social hours are easy-going, it’s still enriching to celebrate someone’s heritage together. Nashville’s Pablo Riquelme, UX/UI designer, says, “One of the things that makes Lewis a great company is how respectful and encouraging everyone is. Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month is one example where the whole company was willing to not only celebrate but also learn about Latino culture. As a Latino who works for Lewis, it is important that everyone can understand my culture and how it shapes who I am.”
The second guest in our DE+I speaker series, Albert Bender, came during Native American Heritage Month to share his timely perspective. A Cherokee activist, author, historian, political columnist, and freelance reporter, Bender is an expert in indigenous matters. His presentation detailed the many legal and cultural factors affecting Native Americans today, prompting necessary questions and the desire to know more. Nashville’s Brooke Nemchak, web developer, says, “Listening to Mr. Bender speak and the in-depth conversations that followed, as a result, made me proud to work at Lewis. Our DE&I team works so hard and the passion for meaningful education shows.”
There are many more steps to take and many more conversations to have, but each quarter will bring new events, speakers, resources, and, hopefully, opportunities for growth. This is the beginning of real, meaningful change, and each one of us is excited to be a part of it.