CHARLOTTE, NC — Creating a diverse and inclusive culture in the workplace means that people must understand their limitations and be open to new points of view, the panelists at the “Creating an Inclusive Culture” agreed at SNAXPO21, held Aug. 22-24.

“You can only see from where you stand,” said Cathy Harrell, founder and consultant of DreamVision Diversity and Inclusion Consultants, who moderated the panel presented by Women in Snacks. “I believe that holds true on so many different levels but especially for diversity, equity and inclusion. We all use our own life experiences — that filter — to gather information, to understand it, and to move in the world around us.”

Shannan Redcay, senior vice president of productivity and development at Utz Quality Foods, Hanover, Pa., agreed and added that company leaders need to keep in mind that they don’t know everything.

“So how do I acknowledge that’s a limitation of my knowledge?” she asked. “How do I start to seek a difference of opinion? How do I start to not put my own assumptions onto other parties and instead really start to learn from them firsthand? I think that then starts to translate into a lack of expectation that everyone does things the same way I would. Once that starts to permeate through the organization, it starts to build the broader culture.”

It’s a welcoming culture for all viewpoints that will move things forward for companies seeking people with diverse thoughts and backgrounds. And that culture must begin with leadership or it will not permeate throughout the company, Ms. Harrell said.

“If the leadership is not inclusive, if they are not open to this, it will just keep churning,” she said.

Diversification is not always easy and being open to new ideas can challenge leaders and employees, but it’s crucial to keeping companies strong, the panelists agreed.

 “You have to want that diversity of opinion,” Ms. Redcay said. “You have to be comfortable with it, and you have to be comfortable with the challenge that comes with that.”

It’s easy to get stuck in a mindset, thinking that everyone thinks like you do, said Lisa Stern, senior vice president of sales and marketing at LifeSpice, Chicago.

“You need to step outside of your comfort zone and start looking at ‘Who am I? Who is my company? Where are we going and what do we need to add to get there?’ ” she said. “That will help you become more diverse.”

Mike Harper, chief financial officer and vice president, finance, at Rudolph Foods, Lima, Ohio, said companies must first figure out where they stand in creating a diverse and inclusive environment, then set goals.

“Think about your companies and how much money you spend to understand the market and the people you sell to,” he said. “Imagine if we made the same effort to understand the people that we want to hire, the people that we want to be in our company, the people that we want to help create that diversity. We really have to understand where we’re at so we can start to begin that journey.”