For Nakeia Drummond, creating a diverse and equitable workplace is not about which practices to put in place; it’s about leaders realigning core values.
As the founder and CEO of equity-centered management consulting firm NLD Strategic, Drummond said in the past year or year and a half she had seen leaders of some major, big-name organizations step up and challenge themselves. But even then, she said, they are only taking the first steps of a long journey.
“It’s first an interrogation of yourself and your values and what you held to be true, developing a new North Star for yourself and then interrogating your practices and how they align or don’t align with that new North Star,” Drummond said. “And then it’s a lot of work after that, because you can interrogate a thing and still not change it.”
Drummond, whose firm supports strategy development, implementation, and measurement in social impact organizations and businesses, is the keynote speaker at The Daily Record’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Summit on March 23. The virtual event will bring together Drummond and three panelists to discuss how to attract and retain talent and grow business through DEI practices.
“You can’t do DEI,” is just one way Drummond describes her message.
“We have all been powerful and powerless in some circumstance,” Drummond said. “It’s about understanding the context of our own power and how that shows up in our organization and in society.”
Several of the panelists noted that organizational change is a shared responsibility.
“Everyone has a role in creating a long-term plan to transform the organizational culture and integrate diversity, equity and inclusion into all systems and practices,” said panelist A. Tonya Odom, who is the Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) at CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield (CareFirst). “Moving the needle to implement real change requires intentionality and collaboration between all parts of an organization. No one person can create meaningful impact on DEI in a company.”
One practice Odom has seen make an impact is working with employees and leadership to expand informal networks of mentors.
“So often, we find ourselves gravitating towards people who we relate to, but that doesn’t offer room for experiencing something new or growing,” she said, noting that the practice broke down walls and created a more inclusive workplace for all.
Panelists mentioned that accountability is key. Panelist Angel St. Jean has even created a technology tool — EquiScore BI — equity scoring software that will help companies make data-driven decisions to track and measurably improve DEI.
TEDCO, Maryland’s economic engine for technology companies, announced Monday that its builder fund invested $100,000 in St. Jean’s company, The Black Brain Trust, recognizing that EquiScore BI creates a more transparent and equitable workplace.
St. Jean, co-founder and CEO of The Black Brain Trust, said the investment will allow companies to target investments to the areas that need the most work, and see and track measurable improvement over time, specific to their industries.
“We can’t deal with the disparities that exist for different groups without confronting those disparities directly,” St. Jean said. “And that’s what we attempt to do with our platform is allow companies to really confront those disparities and understand where they are and provide guidance and direction on where to focus and improve.”
At University of Maryland, Baltimore, Diane Forbes Berthoud, another panelist for the summit, said her role as the university’s first chief equity, diversity, and inclusion officer and vice president is not to take over every diversity initiative. Instead, she helps bring a more cohesive vision, and to elevate and strengthen existing inclusion efforts. It’s a mindset that is needed in every organization, she said, so DEI is wholly integrated into the life and mission of the institution.
“I hope that people would leave (the summit) more empowered and informed about how to lead, facilitate and advance equity, diversity and inclusion strategy, implementation and accountability,” Berthoud said.