Binnu Palta Hill is working hard for a more diverse School of Business.
Hill is University of Wisconsin School of Business’ assistant dean for diversity and inclusion and a recent winner of the UW 2016-17 Outstanding Women of Color awards, which are presented to women making outstanding contributions in social justice issues, scholarly research on race or ethnicity or community building.
Hill said it’s humbling and rewarding to receive the award because she feels like her work on diversity and inclusion is valued.
There are a lot of barriers in the workplace and even more for women of color, and recognition of these smaller populations is important, Hill said.
“It’s symbolic of the kind of leaders and what our future will look like,” Hill said. “Through recognition, I think we signal as an institution that we value the diversity within our community.”
She said there is still a long way to go when it comes to improving diversity on campus, but having awards like this one can reaffirm the university’s commitment to diversity.
In the School of Business, she said, they focus most on inclusion because it could lead to greater diversity.
Hill and her office host monthly “Lunch & Learn” sessions, which focus on different topics like microaggressions and redefining gender norms in business. She said through the forums, everyone can get a better understanding of individual experiences, creating a healthier environment.
“If we can have that level of understanding about each other, we are much more forgiving, we are much more empathetic,” Hill said.
When it comes to issues of diversity, Hill said the university has a long way to go in multiple areas, but specifically with representation in students, faculty and staff.
She said UW needs more cultural dexterity. The football costume incident, where a Badger fan dressed up in an Obama costume with a noose around his neck, exhibits a lack of cultural understanding.
The fact that we still see racially insensitive incidents occur on campus shows there is a lack of understanding of historical context and empathy, Hill said.
For students, Hill said it is important to understand diversity and inclusion impacts everyone, and it is important to recognize “visible” and “invisible” diversity.
“The way we look and the unconscious biases we all carry about how we appear has a lot to do with how people perceive us and how we behave,” Hill said. “If you make those unconscious biases conscious, you can begin to do some work.”
Hill said there has been progress in certain pockets, but many areas still need to improve diversity.
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When looking at the business school, Hill said the business school has increased its faculty member of underrepresented minorities to 19 percent, which aligns with averages across the university.
While she said that’s still not good enough, it shows the university is moving in the right direction.
Hill said as a university, we can’t advance unless there is an environment open to talking about the issues.
“Civility and respect have to be the underlying characteristics of any kind of discussion,” Hill said. “I think we still have work to do in that space.”