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Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion

How Businesses Are Learning About Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

As more companies recognize the importance of diversity in the workplace, TFA alums are helping to bring DEI training to companies and organizations.

By Jessica Fregni

July 10, 2018

Mariana Aguilar (Los Angeles ‘12) had the first inklings of an idea for a professional summit about diversity and inclusion in the workplace shortly after she joined Deloitte. 

She saw how passionate Deloitte professionals were about the diversity and inclusion work the organization was providing for clients externally, and she was interested in expanding opportunities for employees within the company to experience this type of impactful and inclusive programming. 

After sharing her idea with Deloitte leadership and receiving their support to design and implement a full-day programming available to the entire LA office, Mariana got to work building a team. She knew she’d need help bringing such a big idea to life, so she assembled 16 experienced employees in the organization, including former Teach For America staffer Miranda Fang and alumnus Robert Franco (Los Angeles ‘12), to make her vision for an Inclusion Summit a reality.

Mariana Aguilar at the Deloitte Inclusion Summit
Mariana Aguilar at the Deloitte Inclusion Summit

The Deloitte LA Inclusion Summit

The inaugural LA Inclusion Summit was a full-day of inclusive programming for the whole organization. The summit, which took place on January 12, 2018, included content about unconscious bias and intersectionality, a lunch that highlighted Deloitte’s various affinity groups, and an evening social event to facilitate networking. 

There was also a panel on the business case for diversity and inclusion in the workplace, led by external and internal leaders. Attendees learned how many aspects of a successful workplace are ultimately shaped by an organization’s inclusive culture. 

“As leaders are able to work towards diminishing unconscious biases and continuing to build an inclusive culture, it leads to a much more engaged team, which can increase everything from employee productivity and retention to organizational agility as the landscape of work continues to rapidly evolve,” Miranda says.

One of the activities Miranda developed for the LA Inclusion Summit was inspired by an exercise that TFA-LA facilitates with its new corps members.

“We designed an activity for our practitioners to reflect on their own identity journeys in order to help people understand the ways their identities are learned and shaped throughout their lives,” Miranda explains. The activity helped build “Deloitte’s inclusive muscle” by encouraging practitioners to understand how their personal identities play a role in their professional lives and to grow authentic relationships with their colleagues.

TFA Alumni Bringing DEI to Businesses

The hard work and dedication Mariana, Miranda, and Robert poured into the Deloitte Inclusion Summit is just one example of a growing trend in corporate culture. More and more companies are recognizing that diversity, equity, and inclusion are not office perks, but actual business necessities.

Mariana, Miranda, and Robert are just a few examples of alumni who are applying the principles and values they learned through their Teach for America experience to help transform the workplace.  

Commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion is central to TFA, and it grounds us in everything we do as an organization, even as we continuously learn and improve on how we live out these values.

Many alumni carry their commitment to DEI into their professional lives beyond TFA. And that’s why a number of TFA alumni end up pursuing DEI consulting as their line of work after their time in the classroom.

Bringing the Justice Journey to Businesses

Jamie LeShaé Jenkins (Metro Atlanta ‘07) never sought out a consulting career, but as more and more people reached out to her asking for her help on equity and social justice in their workplaces, she found herself facing a “calling” on her life. So, she founded Conscious Consulting, LLC.

Jamie credits her ancestors, her family and community, mentorship by activists, intellectuals and organizers, and her years at Clark Atlanta University as the source of her DEI views and approach.

She uses these learnings to push against the status quo and rebalance power through her work. Part of this practice happened while Jamie was a staff member at Teach For America, where she challenged existing perspectives by going against the grain and created new structures, including the “Justice Journey.”

Today, Jamie helps clients examine who they hold at the center in their efforts to fight inequity, and whether they are allowing those who have directly endured injustice to rightfully lead the movement forward. Above all else, Jamie challenges businesses to focus on why they want to pursue equity, and whether they’re in it for the long haul, even if it means taking risks.

“The work of Conscious Consulting is social justice education and coaching, and that is our victory: organizations and leaders internalizing the reality that justice is truly a journey; that change is not easy, comfortable, or pretty; and that unless we are shifting power we’re just putting on a show,” Jamie says.

Jamie LeShae Jenkins Teaching
Jamie LeShaé Jenkins teaching

Tackling Turnover With Inclusive Management Training

During their time on staff with Teach For America, Kimberly Diaz (D.C. Region ‘09) and Andrew Daub (D.C. Region ‘09) noticed a worrisome trend: Schools and educational organizations had a difficult time retaining passionate and talented staff—particularly employees and teachers of color. As they researched the issue, the two discovered that the turnover was often due to unfilling relationships with the managers.

"In coaching teachers and working with partners all around D.C. and Prince George's County, we were seeing exceptional teachers—most of whom of color—leaving their schools. The one common thread in their stories? Managers,” Andrew says. “We continue to see that nationally in education and beyond, too. According to the Race to Lead Report, one in three talent of color cite managers as the key source of tokenism and microaggressions at work.”

Kimberly experienced this personally during her time in education. “As a Latina doing this work, I have experienced countless microaggressions from managers and colleagues. The message has been sent over and over: This space isn't for me,” she says.

“When I had the privilege of being promoted as people manager at Teach For America, I didn't want that experience for anyone on my team, particularly my team members of color,” Kimberly continues. “As a team leader, I saw what was possible with inclusive management. I created a space that affirmed difference; I doubled our average staff retention and diversified our team so that the majority identified as of color.”

Kimberly Diaz and Andrew Daub
Kimberly Diaz and Andrew Daub

Knowing the difference inclusive management makes, Kimberly and Andrew envisioned sharing their learnings through management training that could improve retention by being fun, innovative, and incorporating the principles of DEI. That’s when the two started work on creating the organization that would become oneTILT. “We specifically co-founded oneTILT across lines of difference,” says Kimberly. “It is my opinion that doing this work truly requires coalition-building--we have to work with people of color and white people if we want to transform the current system."

Through oneTILT, Kimberly and Andrew host trainings that tackle issues like implicit bias and white dominant culture within schools and educational nonprofit workplaces. And in December 2017, oneTILT received funding from NewSchools Venture Fund as members of the Diverse Leaders Portfolio, which will help the organization grow and develop even more inclusive management workshops and coaching as well as create its own fellowship.

The Future of DEI Training Events

At Deloitte, Mariana, and Miranda both believe the deep convictions to diversity, equity, and inclusion they developed at TFA played a big part in helping them to host the organization’s very first Inclusion Summit, and will continue to guide them in the future.

For Miranda, her time at TFA was a critical foundation for understanding how DEI issues exist in society and influence life opportunities and outcomes. “Most importantly, it drove a personal commitment and investment to pursue DEI,” says Miranda. “The issues of DEI that can exist within workplaces are of paramount significance and have the power to influence how human potential is realized.” Mariana sums up her perspective simply: “To me, all leaders should be inclusive leaders.”

As corporate America’s appetite for workplace diversity training and education continues to grow, the team at Deloitte looks forward to hosting even more diversity and inclusion programming in the future.

Top Photo: © EDDY GONZALEZ, showing Mariana Aguilar, Miranda Fang, and Robert Franco