how leaders can create strong DEI programs, how HR can support diversity,

How Three Top Workplaces Built Impactful DEI Programs

We recently hosted a virtual panel discussion on how companies can strengthen their DEI programs and best support their people, featuring Ferrara’s Head of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Natasha Miller Williams, Kin + Carta’s Sr. Director of People, Alan Durand, and LaSalle Network’s Chief Human Resources Officer, Sirmara Campbell 

For a sneak peek into the conversation, we’re recapping some of the many pressing questions asked about building sustainable DEI initiatives and hurdles to prepare for. To watch the full discussion, which qualifies for 1 SHRM PDC, download the recording here. 

How do you go about launching and growing employee resource groups and how do you get employees excited about them?  

Sirmara Campbell, LaSalle Network: Currently, we have a ‘DEB’ committee, which stands for Diversity, Equity, and Belonging. We decided to focus on ‘belonging’ Instead of ‘inclusion’ because people can be included in something but not feel like they belong. This committee is comprised of LaSallians from differing backgrounds to help create educational opportunities, as well as events and philanthropic initiatives. The educational pieces are woven into company-wide meetings, and we extend an offer to all LaSallians to get involved in events, or share causes important to them that we can be involved with.  Our program takes an “inside-out” approach, because it is initiated by our employees who are passionate about different causes, then extends out to the rest of the company. 

Natasha Miller Williams, Ferrara: We call these groups ‘Business Resource Groups’ because we have been intentional in integrating our resource groups into our overall business values and goals. Our resource groups start with a group of employees who are passionate about a certain cause or group wanting to make a difference. We have formalized an application process for which people can submit their ideas for resource groups to get company support, and in that process, we require they find a philanthropy group they’d like to partner with. This makes it so our efforts don’t just stop within the company but can extend into the community. 

Kin + Carta has coined the term “IDEA: Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Awareness” and the concept of adding awareness to DEI initiatives. Why is this important, and how is it different than traditional DEI? 

Alan Durant, Kin + Carta: At Kin + Carta, we have 3 values: Deeply Connected, Always Courageous, and Instinctively Compassionate. We see awareness as the first step to enabling people to build deep connections and become more compassionate. Knowing the current and historical issues facing a community allows people to engage in richer conversations and become better allies, which is why we emphasize awareness.  

At LaSalle Network, 50% of C-level leaders are women, 70% of executive team are women, and 73% of managers are women. How does LaSalle continue to develop female leaders to achieve these stats, and what are some top priorities in supporting women in the workplace? 

Sirmara Campbell, LaSalle Network: Many females leaders at LaSalle Network, myself included, have been promoted into their leadership roles here after starting in entry-level professionals. In my case, this happened because I was given a seat at the table, pulled into conversations and asked for my opinion. I was given opportunities to be challenged and grow my career.  

Not all, but some women may be less likely to push their way into conversations, but when they are offered the chance and encouraged by their leaders, they often will jump at that opportunity.  

Especially during the pandemic, with many working mothers having to leave their jobs in order to care for their families, it’s so important we continue to support this population. At LaSalle, our COO (a working mother of two young girls) started a Working Moms group where the moms at LaSalle come together in person to share ideas, advice and just serve as a support group. One mom even hosted a clothes/items swap where moms brought old items they no longer needed for an exchange with the group.  

 We’ve also created ‘Brain Health and Wellness’ groups, and one specifically for working parents, which are sessions led by licensed therapists for those wanting extra emotional/mental support.  

At Ferrara, what has been your biggest “win” with your DEI program so far? 

Natasha Miller Williams, Ferrara: Last year we added a fifth company value: Empathy, which was sparked by our DEI program. While we could have added something more straight forward like “inclusion,” we decided to focus on the actions we wanted to trickle down from this change and how it would impact day-to-day interactions between our people. One component we built into this value of Empathy is that we embrace different perspectives, which is so important to not only our people but the community we serve. It allows us to continue to adapt and become more inclusive in the future.   

How can organizations effectively recruit and retain diverse candidates?  

Alan Durant, Kin + Carta: We are a certified B Corp, which means we are dedicated to balancing people, product and planet in all that we do. To help support this, our aspirational goal is to have our workforce represent the customer base we serve, which requires commitment and investment in both our people and our community. We look at a variety of sources to find talent of various backgrounds – like coding bootcamps or partnerships with philanthropies.  

Sirmara Campbell, LaSalle Network: In order to retain people and help talent grow, spend time getting to know employees, especially as they grow and change life stages over the years. Someone may start right out of college and five years later they’re married with kids. What they needed to be successful in year one isn’t the same as year five. Their motivators change over time, so create a culture where communication and vulnerability are supported. Employees need to be able to go to their manager and ask for what they need and work with them to become their best selves professionally, and personally. Creating a workplace that allows people to be their true authentic selves and one that promotes work-life integration is crucial.  

Natasha Miller Williams, Ferrara: Take time to listen to your people. Especially when it comes to retaining diverse leaders, consider these people may be juggling not only their own roles, but could also be acting as role models or pseudo-representatives of other minority employees within the company. While bringing in more individuals from minority groups into leadership roles or at any level throughout the company, make sure they feel heard. People will not stay somewhere they don’t feel valued. 

*** Note responses have been modified for length and clarity. 

For more insights, download the full recording of this virtual panel discussion here. If you are hiring, we can help. Get connected with us here 




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