Are You Around the Table or Are You AT The Table?


At the most recent Women Connect event, put on by Varnum, GROW, and GRAM, we had the chance to hear from local women leaders, including Debra Guyton, the VP of HR at Wolverine Building Group. Her words resonated with us, and every single client we work with, especially women. Debra shared that  as a black woman currently leading HR at a white male-dominated commercial construction company, she knows a thing or two about diversity and inclusion. Her question for attendees? “Are you around the table, or are you at the table?”

This message applies to so many things in business, and in life. It’s a humbling question to ask ourselves. Whether in our personal lives or in our careers, as women we owe it to ourselves to understand where we’re seated. Are we in the back, watching our lives go by, seeing decisions being made from the sidelines? Or are we right in the thick of it, making our voices heard?

And if we are at the table, are we doing our part to ensure that our contemporaries have a seat, too?

The Importance of Diversity

West Michigan is no stranger to people of all different backgrounds, races, ethnicities, and orientations, but in some spaces, diversity is still lacking. Here at GROW, we understand that creating an inclusive environment where all perspectives can be shared and heard only strengthens a business, its customer service, and its success overall. Not to mention the communities where we live.  The question is, then, where can you make a change? Where can you invite other viewpoints into your life, into your business, into your community? Can you make room at your table instead of around it? We certainly hope so!

It’s Up to Us

Which brings us to Debra’s main point: we need more people, both women and men, to support diversity at the table. You may feel defensive here, thinking “I’ve invited people to the table plenty of times!” But that’s where the difference lies. Did you invite them to gather around the table, or did you give them a chair and ask their opinion? This is a simple example of the difference between being included and being inclusive.

In every facet of your life, we at GROW invite you to ask Debra’s question to yourself each and every day. Are you around the table or are you at the table? And who is there with you? We applaud and support all of those throughout our clients and community who are dedicated to making your voice and the voices of others heard. It is only when we encourage and welcome diversity and differences in our local businesses that we can all reap the benefits of our strong entrepreneurial community.


We’d love to hear your thoughts and examples of how you’ve changed from being around the table to at the table. Let us hear it in the comments below.