Working for workplace religious diversity, equity & inclusion


Monthly Archives: June 2022

My Research Took on New Meaning at Dare to Overcome

3 Jun, 2022

By Jane Sandberg

Having the opportunity to work as an intern for the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation has been an amazing learning experience for me. Starting in January, when I was introduced to Brian Grim and the foundation, I was drawn to the idea of increased pluralism in the corporate sphere. Up to that point, my research on religious freedom had not included any focus on how religious individuals are treated in the workplace.

Beginning work on the foundation’s Corporate Religious Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (REDI) Index and researching employee resource groups (ERGs) in Fortune 500 companies opened my eyes to how often religion is excluded from various diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. Religion is a crucial aspect of identity and is closely intertwined with human dignity. Having employee resource groups and other inclusive programs that allow employees to express their beliefs in the workplace is a pivotal step that corporations can take to increase pluralism and eventually overall productivity.

One primary focus of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation is the importance of employees bringing their whole selves to work. When employees are able to fully embrace this aspect of their identity in an accepting and inclusive environment, their motivation to provide their best work increases.

At the Dare to Overcome Conference, I was amazed at how important this idea was as I met with individuals whose lives were directly impacted by employee resource groups and other inclusion initiatives at their respective workplaces. The concepts I had spent the last few months researching suddenly took on a new meaning as I met individuals working tirelessly to advocate for religious freedom in their companies.

The uplifting environment at the Dare to Overcome Conference was inspiring to me as a student intern. I was surrounded by professionals who prioritize their faith and create inclusive spaces wherever they work, and was able to connect with them on a more personal level than I would have in almost any other situation. I am forever grateful that I was given the opportunity to attend the Dare to Overcome Conference and will forever treasure the connections I made there.

When you are able to bring your whole self to work, expect greatness: An Intern story

1 Jun, 2022

By Sara Caycho

I am excited to share with you my story as an intern at Dare to Overcome 2022 in Washington DC, and how this conference changed the way I see life now, pushed me to work for my dreams, and help me start my own company.

I arrived at the conference wondering what my real purpose was and how I could work in this field, and if this was only a dream or a reality.

I am a first-generation immigrant. When I went to college, I was constantly bullied and turned down because of my strong accent. It did not matter how much work I put into my classes, how great my research papers were, or that my poetry was published in other countries, or how great my guests on the television production classes were. Everybody always focused on my accent no matter what I did. I had to decide that my accent represented my beliefs, religion and my culture. This is who I am and I did not want to give up my identity.

Because of this rejection, I lowered my standards and expectations to places and jobs that did not challenge me. Believe it or not, days before the conference I was going to give up on my dreams and, even the conference itself, because as some think: “My dreams are too big and the people around me do not understand it.” What would a person like me would do in Washington D.C. and in a Dare to Overcome Conference for the Fortune 500?

How did I did end up at the Conference? Let’s say it was “Divine Intervention”

I was preparing some material for a workshop about Religious Freedom and the laws.

I saw the Corporate Religious Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (REDI) Index from the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation. I thought it was not for me. Days before the conference a friend who I had not see for two years wanted to meet with me to give me something and ask then to ask something. Later that day, my friend handed me a copy of the REDI Index that she got while she was interning for a Congresswoman in Washington. I saw the internship and I applied thinking I was not going to make it because it was right at the deadline, but I got accepted.

I remember the first meeting of the interns and Dare to Overcome Global Chairman Brian Grim saying: “I dare you to overcome, and be the best of the best. I know you can, because you are here!” We looked at each other and made these words our commitment to the conference. We took the challenge.

The conference was amazing because of the open-hearted people that were part of it.

The sponsors, the attendees, the interns, the organizers, all were amazing teachers in one way or another showing me the way to greatness and that it was possible for me too. I remember some of them telling me to break out of my shell during the first hours. Others helping me to feel comfortable, others cheering me up when I was tired. There was a moment touched my heart deeply: The interfaith prayer and when we could hear and respect the prayers of others in the conference. It was very beautiful.

As I was accepted as I am with my religious beliefs, my accent and me — I could be me. My talents could shine my light on others as they shone theirs on me. It was an enriching indescribable experience. And what I thought was my weakness became my strength.

With this new mindset, as I returned to Florida, I created Speaker with Accent, a corporation that provides a variety of services, but the main is Public Speaking services for individuals and organizations promoting inclusion in all aspects.


What is my conclusion?

If you had the privilege to attend Dare to Overcome, maybe we have the same conclusion. (If you did not attend, you should attend next year.)

My conclusion is that I was empowered and renewed by the conference, by the amazing sponsors, and by the attendees. When you are able to bring your whole self to a place, expect greatness!

Repeat or Evolve – How to Gain More Focus and Purpose, Part One

1 Jun, 2022

by Steven A Hitz. Steve is a co-founder of Launching Leaders Worldwide. Launching Leaders, a partner of Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, has engaged participants in 60 countries on six continents through a faith-based personal leadership curriculum which empowers participants everywhere. This is part of our ongoing blog series, Authenticity & Connection.

So much information bombards our minds these days. We absorb more information than ever before. Let me re-phrase that. We are fire hosed with more information than ever before, but we actually don’t absorb any more – UNLESS – I’ll get to that in a moment.

In my early married life I had a job at a bentonite factory. I swept the floor from one end of the plant to the other. I would dutifully sweep in one direction, only to look back and see about the same amount of dust had accumulated on what I had just swept. Then I would turn around and repeat the process.

I hated that job. But in my mind it was a means to an end.

After a particular hard day at work I walked out from the plant in boots and mud and my wife picked me up. She announced as I hugged her, that she was pregnant with our first child, AND, there was no way she was having our baby in Lovell, Wyoming. At that moment I became acutely aware of my situation and my responsibility as a husband and future father, and I made a conscious decision. Just like Jed Clampett, we loaded up the truck and moved to California.

It was that experience that pushed me forward, out of that plant and into something that caused me to evolve.

Dr. Roger K. Allen, an expert on personal transformation, says we are not “locked in to earlier decisions; re-deciding requires that you be aware, take responsibility…and then act from a conscious decision.” The writer James Baldwin opined “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

The process of moving forward with intention, regaining focus and purpose, or in other words evolving, is not an easy process. Evolving, rather than running on the same hamster wheel all day and repeating, requires intentional decisions. Intentional decisions require focus. HOW to focus amid all the information and distractions is the question. Here are a few observations that may help.

Four Steps To Achieve Greater Focus and Purpose:

1. Limit the intake. Limiting the intake from the firehose of information available brings with it the usual dangers of detoxing from any other addictions. Often a chasm forms that must be bridged to move forward. It seems like an oxymoron at first, limiting the intake to move forward. Let me explain.

I had one of the very first car phones (before personal cell phones). Proudly mounted on my dash, it was a small phone booth-type telephone inside my car. The world became smaller.

This was the beginning, I’m almost embarrassed to say, when the world of instant data coming from all directions was not only addicting for me, but it filled the voids of my own loneliness. My focus diminished, but my knowledge of many things was expansive. I joined the hollow world of becoming a star in my own space. I was a “big deal,” and this mounted phone booth in my car proved it.

This self-made blanket of security, which built each year to circa 2015, was suddenly ripped away when I was fired from the company I had built and sold, exposing me to the real world and causing within me an identity crisis. It would, however, become an opportunity for growth and self-reflection. My cocoon of self-made narcissism had to be cracked open to let the butterfly within me get wings to fly.

Limiting our intake of the noise surrounding us is key to learning the art of focus. It might take a sudden reality adjustment. But the process of detaching from the daily firehose must start. If we can discipline ourselves regarding this intake of information and fake self-worth, we can then absorb the best life has to offer. For example, putting the cell phone down for dinner with the family, a movie, or a drive with your loved one is a small but important start. Even in church, I observe many people on their cell phones during the service. How did we get here?

Any detox has withdrawals and challenges. But control over the intake is key to evolving and not repeating the same processes of reaching for information every few seconds. Being unplugged makes the brain think again and the initial blank space is soon populated with the color of a new palette.

2. Learn the art of focusing. A recent study found that the average American college student switches tasks every 65 seconds. Adults in an office can only stay on a task for three minutes. This challenge of focus has been going on for centuries, but it has been accelerating in our time. In Johann Hari’s best-selling book Stolen Focus, he wondered if the motto for our era might be “I tried to live, but I got distracted.” He notes that Professor Michael Posner at the University of Oregon found that if you are distracted, it takes on average 23 minutes to return to that focus. How many times are you distracted in a day? How many minutes are lost?

Understand that “multi-tasking” is a myth. It was invented to help computers. But then it was applied to humans, thinking it would be successful. Professor Earl Miller at MIT discovered through his research that we can only focus on one or two thoughts in our conscience mind at once. It was found in a study commissioned by Hewlett-Packard, that multi-tasking, can lower your IQ by more than ten points. This practice of multi-tasking is also referred to as “switching.” If you do this, you will be slower, make more mistakes, be less creative, and remember less of what you ought to be focused on.

3. Slow the roll. Guy Claxton, a professor of learning sciences at the University of Winchester, analyzed what happens to a person’s focus if they deliberately engage in practices such as yoga, meditation, or other like practices that, as he puts it, “shrink the world to fit our cognitive band width.” Slowing our roll nurtures attention and focus, while adding speed shatters it.

I recently joined a group on a sailing trip. Our cell service was spotty, and we were “forced” to slow our roll. What happened? We visited, we read, we had meals together, and played card games at night. We had time to star gaze and ponder life. We nurtured things that otherwise were lost in our hamster wheel world. While sailing, it was impossible to multi-task as our attention was focused on the wind, the sails, the charts, and all that is required to not become shipwrecked. It was a detachment of real proportions from the world we live in. Magic happens when we slow the roll. We gain focus, get smarter, and gain a portion of this asset we call uninterrupted time.

4. Remove the mask and reveal yourself. You cannot evolve behind a façade. Our social media world creates a nagging sense of hollowness. As you detach from social media’s intended addictive conditioned behaviors, and your detox begins, it can create an absence of meaning. My friend who put himself through this detox found that the lack of all the texts, instant messages, emojis, likes, hearts, etc. were devastating—initially. Gradually, without the social web there to tell him how wonderful he was, he realized the shallowness of the substance he had previously counted strongly toward his self-worth.

We will continue this idea of increasing focus and purpose in part two of this series as we learn more about evolving, gaining focus, and purpose. Until then, if we can gain 20 percent more focus and become more fulfilled and happier as a result, isn’t it worth the effort?

A summary of the conference that changed my perspective of religious freedom

1 Jun, 2022

By Killian Canto

Take a second and imagine a large event space full of businesspeople ready to discuss a concept that will increase productivity, energize their corporate culture, and lead to better business practices; all these benefits will lead to the ultimate goal of a business, to make money. However, in this hypothetical situation eliminate two elements that may define the atmosphere: ego-centric attitudes and a focus completely on profit. While it may seem blunt, those elements are ever present. It must be asked, what is left when they are taken away? Methodology? Market trends? Maybe. What if they are replaced by discussion of how to allow all those within a corporation to bring their whole selves to work, faith included? The result of that is exactly how it felt to attend Dare to Overcome with the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation.

With over 250 attendees present and a multitude of religious beliefs represented, Dare to Overcome presents a unique opportunity for understanding and building religious freedom principles in the workplace. Religion is a topic often avoided, especially when it comes to corporations that strive to be diverse and inclusive. However, avoiding religious discussion creates an environment antithetical to one with diversity and inclusion. A person’s faith is part of who they are; it defines, in large part, how they see the world. It is a concept that, due to the sensitive nature of religion, is left untouched. Those at the Religious Freedom and&Business Foundation found the courage to bring that topic to the table and gathered those who are ready to join them, the ones who Dare to Overcome.

The event, featuring keynote speakers, roundtables, panels, and multiple exhibits highlighted three powerful elements for the promotion of religious freedom in the workplace, employee resource groups (ERGs), chaplaincy, and acceptance. ERGs allow associates to connect with their coworkers who share their experiences, whether it be a belief system, an experience, or a disability. ERGs are essentially support groups within companies to ensure people understand they are not alone. Chaplains serve a similar role, but they have a position dedicated to the spiritual and mental wellbeing of their coworkers. Providing that resource for employees communicates a realization of their being individual people with full, complete, and nuanced lives. During the conference, Chaplain Alain Ndagijimana from Tyson Foods emphasized the role of chaplaincy when he said, “What is not transformed is transmitted,” meaning that the struggles employees face in their personal lives, whether they be familial, financial, spiritual, or otherwise, still exist when they come to work. What a chaplain can do is help their coworkers take those challenges and transform them, rather than transmitting it into lower productivity or poor work product.

Acceptance through the lens of religious freedom in the workplace is by far the most powerful tool, enabled through ERGs and chaplains. Acceptance allows employees to openly discuss, display, and embrace their religious beliefs at work. It does not mean proselytizing, but it does mean creating a safe space for all that is held dear to the hearts of those within a company. It means building bridges of understanding that would otherwise not even be approached. It means being accommodating to every belief system that has some hand in the success of your company. Acceptance widens the perspectives of all those involved, bearing the fruit of an uplifting and ethical workplace.

Remember the hypothetical event we discussed earlier? That event is Dare to Overcome. Over the course of three days the conference was filled with opportunities to discuss religious freedom, explore and share various faiths, and celebrate the progression of religious freedom in various businesses. It created an atmosphere where it did not seem to encourage intense, cutthroat competition, but one where everyone chose to uplift one another. Attending Dare to Overcome gave a sense of hope that as people are able to follow their moral compasses, especially as they relate to faith, more and more good people will go into business; those people, hopefully, avoiding the malicious, the unethical, and the evil and embracing their role and purpose in creating a better world.