Sketch of hands framing an eye

Critical Conversations was launched in 2020 as a way for Gladstone community members to challenge and empower themselves by considering different ways of thinking through the lens of others.


Learning to find your voice, tapping into your creativity no matter your role, using precise language, the history of racism—these are just a few of the topics covered in Gladstone’s series Critical Conversations. Critical Conversations was launched in June 2020 as a way to bring the Gladstone community together around important issues and feature out-of-the-ordinary speakers who would broach topics that Gladstonians may not be used to hearing within the virtual walls of Gladstone.

The first round of topics mainly covered diversity, equity, and inclusion.

“After the murder of George Floyd and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, our community was hungry to create a space where they could educate themselves and learn how to get more involved in the anti-racism movement,” says Megan McDevitt, vice president of communications at Gladstone and the creator of the series. “While diversity, equity, and inclusion continue to be a major theme of the series, Critical Conversations was really launched to get our community to shift their perspectives—to see things from new points of view.”

Past speakers have included Mercedes Jenkins, a DEI expert at Google; Stephen Gates, senior vice president of Omni-Channel Product Design at WW and creator of the award-winning podcast, The Crazy One; LaDonna Willems, associate writing director at Dropbox; and Kate Clancy, Lilia Cortina, and Vicki Magley, three researchers behind a 2018 report by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Math, titled, “Sexual Harassment of Women: Climate, Culture, and Consequences in Academic Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.”

In addition to providing historical context and sharing resources, these sessions have given community members a place to speak openly about their experiences. The two most recent Critical Conversations were open discussions around being a woman in science and the rise of anti-Asian violence, respectively.

“This series is not only important, but necessary,” says Victoria Yoon, a research scientist in the lab of Yadong Huang. “It allows us to acknowledge the presence in our community of Gladstonians from all walks of life, and gives visibility to their heritage for everyone to see and learn from in a profound way. It’s a great tool for Gladstone to stay engaged and promote a sense of belonging for all individuals, now and in the future.”

Part of Gladstone’s strategic plan, which was rolled out in 2019, was to ensure that Gladstone provide a diverse and inclusive workplace that empowers every member of the organization to fully contribute to the mission. By offering these virtual events, Gladstone has decided to proactively address issues that employees may be experiencing on a personal level.

“We hope that these events will spark important conversations both inside and outside our walls,” says McDevitt. “We’re aiming to give resources to our community so they can speak up for themselves and others, but also to help them reflect on their own behavior. By hearing viewpoints you may not be familiar with, you’re able to start reflecting on your own actions and experiences. Each of us has to start with ourselves. How am I creating—or potentially holding back—a more inclusive environment for those around me?”

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