Louisiana Diversity Council Board Member Profile — Shannon Brice

"People tend to think of diversity as race relations," Shannon Brice, member of the Louisiana Diversity Council Board of Directors and CFO of Richards Disposal, says. "And that is definitely part of it. But diversity training is about learning how to work with not only people of different races but also people of different genders, backgrounds, religions, etc. That is important not only in the workplace, but also in advancing each individual's daily life." As a woman in the predominately male field of finance, with fewer than 20% female representation on corporate boards, Brice has seen her share of struggles. "Part of that is because women in corporate are thought to be too emotional, empathetic, and not able to handle the work/life balance as easily as men. Communication styles are sometimes different and we are viewed to not be as willing to take risks," she says. Brice figures the remedy to those misnomers comes with collective hard work and a good dose of education about the realities of women. "We have to work harder to put those types of perceptions to rest. That will only occur with more diversity training and team building exercises," Brice says. Being a part of the Louisiana Diversity Council allows great opportunities to learn how best to handle issues and situations in the workplace and in daily life, and Council participation helps Brice measure the effectiveness of diversity within Richards Disposal as a whole. "It offers a platform to discuss with peers workplace issues, such as how to handle recruitment and retention of employees. It aids in awareness of the workplace climate and assists in handling inclusiveness for all employees," she says. Stepping out and speaking up is a start for women at all levels, Brice says about her efforts to help empower women in business. Whether it's encouraging questions to be asked, recalling mistakes made or sharing stories about lessons learned, her office door is always open. "It's okay to ask. I may not know all the answers, but I will help you find it." Inspiring women like Oprah Winfrey, Brice says, set the stage for breaking barriers for women. Winfrey, for example, did it not by simply being a woman or an African American woman, but a businessperson who produced a stellar product. "I look at people like that for inspiration because they don't let their gender nor race keep them from moving forward personally or professionally." Hoping to inspire youth in much the same way, Brice reaches works with young girls in the city of New Orleans and helps them learn "background and race does not determine how far you can advance." Bullying, peer pressure, hygiene, dressing appropriately and eating healthy are all part of her work with several organizations. "It brings all girls together because all girls of a certain age have some of the same issues. They can relate to each other in one way or another." And the same holds true for grown-up girls as well.

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