With a focus on confidence and respect, The University’s Women of Color Task Force convened their 33rd annual conference Friday.

The annual event aims to empower women of color in their workplaces and promote career and educational development. Open to any University employee, the task force promotes professional development, particularly for women of color.

Eilisha Dermont, communications manager at the University’s Center for the Education of Women and a member of the WCTF executive team, said the conference is the largest professional development event hosted at the University.

Dermont said the task force offers mentoring programs and training seminars to help women develop leadership and workplace skills.

This year’s theme, “Tools for the Journey: Self-Awareness, Confidence & Respect,” focused on encouraging women of color to excel in leadership and career development as well as promoting financial education and work-life balance.

Alfred Squire, a former workforce development manager for the Greenville Health System and current director of the MedEx Academy, presented the conference’s keynote speech.

The conference also included 22 workshop sessions around campus, which focused leadership and workplace development pertaining to this year’s theme.

Inspired by the WCTF’s programs, GHS created their own professional development opportunities for women of color. The initiative ultimately resulted in an alliance between the University and GHS to further increase development opportunities for people at both institutions.

As a director of operations, training and human resources, Squire promotes diversity and leadership development at different institutions by mentoring staff. He helps organizations and individuals achieve success by promoting mutual respect and investing in “human capital.”

Squire discussed GHS’s slow evolution to a diverse community throughout the years and his involvement as a director there.

“My personal mission is to educate, enable and empower individuals and teams to achieve excellence,” Squire said.

During his speech, Squire focused on how “color groups” can be used to represent work performance. He discussed how people could be broken into red, yellow and green groups to indicate differences in work motivation, skills and performances among the workforce.

“Colors reflect our lives because we all have them,” Squire said. “We bring them to our work. They bring up the question — what color are you? Are you the manager who never provides follow up to your instructions? Are you the person in the team who always complains and tries to bring the team down? Or are you a different color because you are always sincere in work and take risks to achieve your goals?”

Using this concept of colors — where green is considered the best of the workforce — Squire also discussed implementing changes to increase the staff’s efficiency and satisfaction and to understand problems stemming from a lack of communication, initiative and awareness of consequences.

“The most important responsibilities of leadership are to recognize, respond and reward,” Squire said. “Then you can have your work done the way you want it done every day.”

Squire concluded his speech by emphasizing the importance of a diverse workforce.

“We are the most creative when we are not homogenous,” Squire said. “Working with various groups of people can create the most effective leadership skills.”

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