October 11-13, 2022, marked the American Association for Access, Equity and Diversity’s (AAAED) 48th annual national conference. This year’s virtual conference theme was “Building an Infrastructure for Sustainable and Equitable Change” and participants were able to reflect on this call to action through workshops, keynote addresses, plenary sessions, express talks and networking events.
The conference commenced with an introduction by Shirly Wilcher (Executive Director for AAAED), Jerry Knighton, Jr. (AAAED Conference Chair) and Dr. Annette Butler, (AAAED President). The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs Director, Jenny Yang, provided the first plenary session, where she discussed the latest corporate scheduling announcement list, recent directives regarding pay and the agency’s role in building infrastructure for equitable and sustainable change.
Other plenary sessions featured the Office of Civil Rights Assistant Secretary Catherine E. Lhamon, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Vice Chair Jocelyn Samuels and the Office of Disability Employment Policy Assistant Secretary Taryn M. Williams. They spoke of their agency’s recent accomplishments, provided timely updates and shared reflections on the conference theme.
The keynote speakers supplemented these updates with innovative ideas for promoting change. In “Technology-driven DEI Programs: How Technology is Increasing the Impact,” Dr. Christopher Metzler (LEAD Fund President; SVP, DEI and ESG, The National Urban League) explored how companies can use virtual reality to provide impactful training. The following day, Millicent St. Claire (LIGMO Institute) introduced healthy approaches for addressing stressful encounters and eliminating their negative impact on productivity, relationships and business outcomes in “Maintaining Resiliency While Walking the Line.”
Celebrating Title IX’s anniversary, the conference featured sessions on remediating prejudice in investigations and the future applications of Title IX. Building inclusive practices for individuals with disabilities was another common theme, with presentations on service animals, support for mental health in college communities and dispelling fears and stigmas about talented workers with disabilities. Through additional workshops and express talks, attendees learned best practices in areas such as artificial intelligence and hiring, electronic postings, online applications and data discrepancy checks for affirmative action plans.
The final day featured a panel discussion regarding the impending Supreme Court decision on affirmative action. The panel was moderated by Dr. Jamal Watson (Editor, Diverse Issues in Higher Education) and featured Carol Ashley (Attorney at Law, Jackson Lewis P.C.), David Hinojosa (Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; Director, Education Opportunities
Project), and Theodore Shaw (Center for Civil Rights, Julius L. Chambers Distinguished Professor of Law, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill).
The conference closed with the presentation of awards:
Cesar Estrada Chavez Award: Margaret Huang, president and CEO of the Southern Poverty Law Center
Roosevelt Thomas Champion of Diversity Award: L2 Defense, Inc.
Founders Award: Renee Dunman, AAAED president, 2006-2010.
President’s Award recipient: Jackson Lewis, P.C.
As the longest-standing national civil rights organization comprised of professionals working in affirmative action, equal opportunity and diversity programs, AAAED is excitedly looking forward towards next year’s event and our 50th anniversary conference in 2024! For more information about how to join and upcoming events, please visit AAAED.org