Everest Celebrates Juneteenth with a Discussion about Diversity

Juneteenth has always been recognized as an important day, but recently it has taken on a newfound (and overdue) notoriety. On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger issued an order,

“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.” 

When he issued this order, he was unaware that this date would be the most popular celebration of emancipation from slavery in the United States. Although this is the most popular day to celebrate, this wasn’t the end of slavery. In fact, this proclamation was issued after President Lincoln was assassinated, while the 13th amendment was already well on its way to being established and the Confederate capital (in Richmond) had already fallen. In short, slavery was supposed to have ended two and a half years before this announcement. 

At Everest, we have spent the last few weeks educating ourselves, supporting our team, and discussing how we can contribute to a future we will be proud of. We want everyone reading this to know that we stand behind the people. We believe black lives matter, we hear those who have been speaking out, and we are listening. 

We recently sat down with our COO, Trishelle Kirk to have an open discussion about diversity at Everest.

photo of Trishelle Kirk, COO of Everest apothecary
Trishelle Kirk, COO of Everest Apothecary

Do you think diversity is important?

“I firmly believe that diversity is a requirement for great business. With diversity comes better culture, decision-making, and problem-solving. I think the best way to ensure you have a diverse organization is to focus on the diversity of thought.”

How does having a diverse team support a stronger business?

“When we’re hiring or promoting, we always talk about the value of adding a new perspective into the team. We also encourage people within the organization to speak up if they have a different opinion or a new idea. As a management team, we recognize that we don’t know everything and the best idea wins. Having people that think differently than you in the organization is always an asset. The act of having to examine your own beliefs and opinions, whether you end up sticking with them or not, will ensure better decision-making in the future.”

Let’s talk about what happens when there is a lack of diversity in the workplace…

“Groupthink is incredibly dangerous for an organization that wants to stay cutting edge. Collective bias is very toxic for an organization that wants to grow and retain employees. If you want your business to thrive and remain relevant, you cannot afford to run your organization from the perspective of “we do things this way because we’ve always done things this way.” It is easier in the short-term but rarely results in longevity.”

Groupthink is bad. So, how do you promote diversity during the hiring process?

At Everest, we agree that diversity of thought is the only way we will be able to continue our mission of providing high-quality cannabis to qualified medical patients in a rapidly changing and growing industry. When the diversity of thought is a core value, diversity in individuals is an easy goal to achieve. 

We have to consider experience and qualifications for any candidate, but I find that giving consideration to the unique or different perspective a candidate would bring to their team or to the organization is an incredibly effective way to promote diversity. Every employee that joins Everest is responsible for helping us make the organization better. It’s not a stretch to make your criteria for “better” include different. 

This graphic is a diversity breakdown of the employees and leadership at Everest Apothecary.

How does having a more diverse group of leaders trickle down to a more diverse team?

“As leaders and hiring managers, we have to be honest with ourselves about our hiring process. As much as we wish we could rely on a well-written resume, strong references, and our interviewing skills alone to bring in the perfect candidate, the ultimate decision is a very gut-based one.

If your gut is uncomfortable because a candidate looks or sounds different than you, because you don’t have others of their race, gender or sexual orientation in the organization, because you don’t have a similar background, it is easy for your “gut” to take you toward another candidate that feels more comfortable but may not be any more qualified.”

Is there anything else you would like to add, that can potentially limit diversity in a company?

“One of the things I love about Everest is that very few of our jobs require a college degree. Without that requirement, we can instead recruit for work ethic, passion, problem-solving, experience, and drive. We have a responsibility to do just that. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in the value of college education, I hold a master’s degree myself. I also believe it’s important to recognize that many jobs simply don’t require that level of education for an individual to excel.

When you dismiss the inherent bias of an unnecessary educational requirement and instead use it as a way of perpetuating bias against individuals from lower-income backgrounds coming into your organization, you are refusing to take responsibility for using your power and privilege to close the opportunity gap in America.”

Truer words have not been spoken! Any suggestions out there for businesses looking to become more diverse, but that don’t know where to start?

“Business leaders must recognize that education itself is not an equal playing field and using it as one of the biggest criteria for an opportunity in the business world is inherently biased. A gap in opportunity starts nearly at birth and becomes more and more difficult to close as a child grows. A child isn’t responsible for the circumstances of their birth but in business, we often hold them accountable for their entire life.”

We at Everest would like it to be known that we stand with those pushing for reform. Everyone can do better, educate themselves more, and listen. We have made a start, but we understand that there is still work to be done at Everest and around the world. We believe no one is free until everyone is free. 

We stand in solidarity. Black Lives Matter.