Sargent & Lundy Employee Resource Group Explores Race-Based Stress

Black EmPOWERment kicks off 2024 with presentation focusing on racial stress and strategies to cope

Feb. 22, 2024 - Sargent & Lundy’s Black EmPOWERment employee resource group recently welcomed Keya Williams, a counseling psychology fellowship award recipient at Lehigh University, for an engaging presentation and discussion exploring race-based stress and strategies for dealing with it.

More than 65 employees participated in the hour-long session, “Is It Them or Is It Me? Signs of Race-Based Stress and How to Cope,” delving into serious and sometimes uncomfortable issues of racial discrimination often manifested in subtle terms or actions that can lead to lower job satisfaction and burnout.

Sargent & Lundy | Keya Williams“Race-based stress is a chronic stressor and is not associated with the amount of intense stress that is needed for a formal diagnosis,” Williams said. “So, in other words, people experiencing race-based stress are not sick or disordered, they’re simply contending with an additional stress that doesn’t seem to go away.”

Williams suggested several tools that can be useful in coping with heightened stress, including speaking with colleagues, friends, and family and getting involved in community advocacy.

“You already are doing some of these collective actions right now by forming this group where folks can come together and have discussions that might feel hard and uncomfortable,” Williams said. “This is one of those collective actions that we can do to mitigate some of the effects of race-based stress.”

Williams’s presentation coincided with Black History Month and was the first in a series of sessions and events planned throughout the year. Later this week, Black EmPOWERment members will be leading sessions for students at the Illinois Institute of Technology as part of an Engineers Week event organized by the local chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers.

Having Williams discuss her expertise fits the employee resource group’s foundational objectives to engage and empower Black employees to enhance their workplace experience, while also sharing the unique challenges they face to foster better understanding, said Kim Hayden, a member of Black EmPOWERment’s steering committee and the firm’s senior corporate counsel.

“I hoped that with a data-driven presentation folks would feel comfortable, allies would feel comfortable, that everyone would feel comfortable engaging in a difficult discussion,” Hayden said following the presentation. “I think this discussion makes people feel closer to one another rather than further apart.”

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