Across the Capital Region, companies and nonprofits are investing in diversity, equity and inclusion and seeing returns. In addition to launching programs and working with consultants, many organizations are hiring permanent DEI staff and ensuring that their work in this sector continues well into the future. Comstock’s spoke to DEI leaders at some of these forward-thinking organizations to learn about their methods and future initiatives.
St. Paul Baptist Church
St. Paul Baptist Church in Sacramento has made a conscious investment in promoting diversity, equity and inclusion. “We are predominantly an African American church, but we create our programs so that anyone can participate and is welcome,” says Lamont Harris, executive pastor.
The church applied for but did not obtain grants for capacity building, so its dedicated volunteers donate their time for DEI. Dr. Colette Harris-Mathews is a member of the church and on its leadership development team. “Her responsibility is to make sure that everyone is aware of opportunities for them and that the opportunities don’t have barriers based on gender or ethnic origin,” says Harris.
The leadership development team identifies leadership opportunities, creates an interest form for people interested in applying for them, and prepares tests to gauge if their skills are a match. The process also involves developing training for new leaders, leadership mentees for those who want to become leaders, and leadership coaches who can work with mentees or new leaders. New leaders also attend orientation.
“We knew we had to change out leaders last year, thinking that this year is our 75th anniversary,” Harris says. He plans on collecting data to measure the DEI initiatives’ success. While the church has not defined metrics yet, Harris has some ideas. “How many new people in our church submitted their names? How many men and women — making sure that we have younger people: mid-20s to 35? How many did we accept?” he says.
One challenge that the church will face, which any organization encounters when dealing with new procedures in DEI or any other area, will be resistance to change. Harris has a plan to handle this. “We are in communication with everyone to make sure that it’s appropriate, not moving too fast and leaving people behind. People can ask questions. We have two rollouts. We did a presentation with staff, with leadership development, with all leaders and with the whole congregation,” he says.
“People want to know what is going on and how do they fit in, so we’ve been intentional. Communicate, communicate again, and communicate again is what we’re doing,” he says.
Sacramento Country Day School
Sacramento Country Day School has an Inclusion, Diversity, Equity Alliance Committee — or IDEA for short. It began as the Diversity Committee and supported the creation of Gay Straight Alliance-Gender and Sexuality Alliances on its campus. IDEA is open to all faculty, staff and administration, with parents and students attending some of the meetings.
“The purpose of the IDEA committee is to discuss issues of concern in the community and ways to support students and families of Country Day,” says Rachelle Doyle, director of advancement at the school.
Doyle and Jo Melinson, librarian for the middle and high schools, are part of the three-member IDEA leadership team. They meet with a committee, which used to convene monthly but now less often. The head of the school and the division heads for lower, middle and high schools are part of the committee. “A lot of what we do is based on collaboration. We are not trying to be siloed in our decision-making,” says Doyle.
Funding is another aspect of making DEI initiatives a reality. “You need to know you’re supported by administration, and a lot of times the support is monetary. We can bring in workshops because money is behind them. You can’t ignore that money is a factor,” says Melinson.
Melinson, Doyle and the rest of IDEA have been active on campus. “We make the recommendations if we have a workshop or speaker. We might give an assignment, like a book to read over the summer, and then have a discussion,” says Melinson. “IDEA is responsible for conversations. We have many conversations around DEI.”
Country Day began a new initiative in 2021 regarding DEI by giving an Assessment of Inclusion and Multiculturalism survey, or AIMS, to every group involved with the school, including parents, students and board members. The National Association of Independent Schools, of which Country Day is a member, created the survey. “All the answers came into reports that went to IDEA. We also had ten discovery groups, such as policy, governance, student life, curriculum. We added an eleventh group on hiring practices,” says Melinson.
Then an East Coast consultant affiliated with NAIS who is an expert in her field played a role. “We shared the information with her and she put together recommendations based on our survey and the reports from each discovery group. We shared them with the community,” says Melinson.
Examples of recommendations include retention and recruitment of faculty of color, accurate definitions of DEI terms, support and engagement for alumni of color, more mentorship of faculty and increased signage on campus for accessibility. Country Day has a total of 120 recommendations and the school’s 11 discovery groups are planning how to implement them.
Country Day has hopeful and realistic goals with their DEI initiatives. “What I hope I see is a student body that feels that they are empowered to name any issue that they see — it’s their campus. We want every student and faculty member to see this as their home. To see that the campus is serving them. Hopefully seeing incremental growth over five, 10 and 15 years,” says Doyle.
IDEA leaders acknowledge the hard truths while also being optimistic. “You have to know that you don’t have closure. You can step away and remind yourself that you can’t solve the world’s problems, but you can try,” says Melinson.
DPR Construction is an international builder with offices in four continents, including an office in midtown Sacramento that has a DEI mural of staff and trade partners that showcases the organization’s DEI commitment.
Renee Powers is the DEI Manager for DPR’s Northwest Region, which is a relatively new role where she can use skills from working in the operations section of construction to transform the industry. “DEI is not just the right thing to do. People perform best and make better decisions when they are their authentic selves,” she says. “Companies are more innovative and profitable.”
Powers works under DPR’s Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Leader Stacee Barkley, who created a specialized DEI program for the organization. The concepts of DEI align with DPR’s core beliefs of respecting individuals and changing the world, which aids the organization in the program’s implementation. An initial step was to require all employees to take a course on identifying and mitigating biases in their decisions.
Powers recognizes that diversity and inclusion in the construction industry is not perfect and that DPR needs to differentiate between “equal” and “equitable.” The former relates to everyone being provided the same resources, and the latter (in a DEI context) involves people being provided the resources that they individually need.
One example of equity that the organization used was to provide simultaneous translations at its “town halls,” or large meetings, so that Spanish-speaking employees could hear the presentation and ask questions in real time. “We wanted to bridge the gap between craft (laborers) and admin,” says Powers. “We want them to have their voices heard.”
Since 2015, DPR has tracked its employees’ genders and protected classes as part of its initiative to have a more diverse workforce. The organization also wants to improve its employee resource groups called “synergies” to better support women, LGBT people and others.
DPR has seen the benefits of its DEI effort. “People have reported to us that they can see themselves in leadership roles. We’ve seen differences in recruitment,” says Powers.
She knows that the work must continue. “We’ll have more opportunities to create more inclusiveness. We have quite a bit to be done and we’re proud to be doing it,” she says.
DPR shares its DEI content with others in the industry during Construction Inclusion Week, which is an annual, nationwide event that occurs in October. The organization has trainings and panel discussions to build awareness on the topic. “No competition exists for DEI. We want everyone on board. It’s really about changing the world,” says Powers.
Luna, a national in-home physical therapy provider based in Rocklin, strives to embed DEI within itself to “to create an equitable and inclusive organization, which taps into the strengths of individuals and team to ensure that they thrive,” says Amber Mauro, head of therapist acquisition and people operations at Luna.
The organization views data as being crucial in implementing DEI and it has put in place a system to collect data that will assist in finding possible biases and gaps. For instance, Luna has found that 59 percent of its clinical workforce, which is made up of independently contracted licensed physical therapists, are women.
Luna has made progress in recruitment. The organization is reviewing its job postings to ensure that they make use of non-traditional sites. “We are also reviewing educational requirements with relevant skills and competencies, as well as standardizing interview questions based on the position,” says Mauro. In addition, Luna focuses on the issue of wage gaps by hiring a consultant that evaluated the organization’s current compensation in relation to position, job scope and market range.
A tool that is aiding Luna in DEI implementation is Lattice, a performance management system that has tools to elicit employee feedback. “It also has an inclusion and belonging dashboard for admins to compare employee group scores against the largest demographic to accurately benchmark how feelings around this topic change across groups,” says Mauro.
Luna is aware that barriers to entry in physical therapy exist that play a role in a lack of racial diversity. The organization “is committed to working with academic institutions and governing bodies to mitigate those barriers. We are also exploring ways to increase awareness of the profession and to promote DEI, including early and ongoing mentorship and outreach initiatives that begin in primary schools,” says Mauro.
Luna will review its DEI efforts on an ongoing basis and the organization knows where it is headed. “Strategic goals for this and next year include moving from compliance to tactical connection to advantages,” says Mauro.
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