Much of the material in this, our diversity and inclusion issue, was either taken directly from or inspired by our March Plus One conference held in Philadelphia. The diversity and inclusion event, held on an old wooden ship docked on Philly’s Delaware River waterfront, drew a crowd of 55 people from agencies, pharma companies, medtech firms and other friends of medical marketing. If you read only one MM&M eBook this year, make it this one.

For me, the event was riveting and eye-opening in equal measure. Riveting because it quickly became apparent that people have been dying for a safe-place forum such as Plus One in which they could have the awkward, uncomfortable and hugely important discussions about race and inclusion.

Many people — most of them white — approach the topic as if it were a minefield. A black participant told me that black people feel no such trepidation: “We talk about it all the time, at breakfast, lunch and cocktails. We live with it every day so we talk about it.”

There were some eye-opening moments, too. I’m the kind of guy who resents having to wear a shirt with a collar to work, and I’m proud of my Boston accent. So it killed me to hear about people feeling the need to hide their light — put on a phony persona in order to fit in at work — or code-switch — speak with a different accent or vocabulary than they would at home, also to fit in.

It’s one thing to feel the need to wear a button-down shirt; it’s appalling that at this point in our history people are still made to feel like they need to leave their true selves at the office door for whatever reason. That’s just flat-out wrong.

It’s also bad for business. America is changing, and if our workforce doesn’t reflect those changes, our products and the way we market them will be sorely out of sync with the people we’re trying to reach.

It’s appalling that at this point in our history people are still made to feel like they need to leave their true selves at the office door for whatever reason

Let’s agree that the term “diversity and inclusion” means that everybody gets a fair shake and a fair hearing and that they get to be just who they are. It only makes sense.

What we’re after with the efforts we make isn’t a quota or a goal but a change in values, a change that has us recognizing that a diversity of color, creed, gender, sexual orientation, race, religion — of everything — will lead to a diversity of thought and ideas, which can only be good for business, and good for all of us.