Discovering Diversity Success: 10 Questions to Ask Yourself

By Jessica Alvarez, Chief Management Officer

A few years back, I was yearning for a community to embrace me, a tribe that would understand and respect that I’m not just a few general categories of a person, including female, Latina, mother. I needed a community outside of my corporate life that understands that the indigenous roots in me are not only from the Americas but can be traced back to slave trafficking from Africa to the coasts of the Caribbean, central and south America. My grandmother’s knowledge of the use of roots, herbs, and plant medicine has been passed down the generations through song and story.

In my search for such an embracing community, I found Centro Ashe, now the Wild Ginger Center in Washington D.C., which shares, protects, respects, and promotes the connections between plants, earth, and people. I enrolled in their training program to spark and renew the love and knowledge of plants I had in me.

Yes, it sounds very urban hippy, right? The first day I was amazed to be surrounded by an astonishingly diverse group of people, all coming together to learn and share experiences. Here, I didn’t need the emotional and mental protective walls I habitually built around me.

With my corporate and human capital lens, I tried to analyze the reasons for such “diversity success.” They didn’t use a sophisticated recruiting system with algorithms tweaked to maximize diversity. The curriculum was the same for everyone. The setting was a barn on a small farm. Yet, the diversity success was evident with race, ethnicity, creed, preferences, identities, age, careers, education, and social-economic levels all in one room, ready to learn. Everyone showed up with a smile and open to an embrace. Cell phone connection was awful, the conversation was great, and we all had meals together where we learned about each other’s families, interests, and even dreams. It struck me how different this was from work and school settings. Although there was a lot to learn and do, there was ample room for each person’s personality and voice to shine equally. They organically met the diversity and customer loyalty aspirations of the corporate world.

After months of enjoying the camaraderie, I concluded that the Wild Ginger Center’s secret ingredient for their diversity success is the kindness and respect that runs through its core. Empathy and respect not only for the plants and the earth but for people. Each person that walks into the center is unique, respected, acknowledged, encouraged, and celebrated for showing up as who they are.

By the time the workshops concluded, I had acquired lifelong friends, carpool mates, herb/veggie exchange buddies, but most importantly, I found the tribe I yearned for. I belonged.

Can we translate this success to the corporate world? Yes! Below are my top 10 questions to ask yourself.

1. Is your mission clear?

2. What is the human connection to your work (the back story of why we do what we do)?

3. Are people working with a purpose?

4. Is everyone’s uniqueness equally celebrated and acknowledged beyond the basic categories?

5. As employers, are we creating safe spaces for team members to connect beyond transactional tasks?

6. Does each employee feel encouraged to grow, to say, to be?

7. Does every employee feel free to show up as who they are (i.e., my big curly hair vs. straightened hair, my ethnic wear vs. pantsuits and heels)?

8. Is respect and compassion part of your corporate vocabulary?

9. Is diversity even valuable to your corporate goals?

10. Are you aware of your company’s diversity standing?

I can help you start diversity conversations too. I’m pleased to announce DEI360, an organization’s starting point for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI). It’s an easy, customizable, online assessment that quickly allows organizational leadership to see how they’re doing from the employee’s perspective. Once an organization takes the assessment,( our team walks through the final report giving clear DEI data, a snapshot of the internal DEI landscape, and actionable next steps. Have questions? Check out our FAQ or contact us directly.

Let’s share experiences. Leave a comment below, send me an email, or find me on Twitter.

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CHCI believes that the skills, capabilities, and well-being of employees are the most integral parts of any organization’s path to long-term success.