By Amy Steadman, SVP People Operations
Last week, ABD formally launched its company-wide Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DE&I) Initiative, beginning the collaborative work required to make DE&I part of ABD’s DNA.
For many months prior, our DE&I Council members diligently researched, assessed the landscape and our own readiness, and planned our efforts. We came together as a company to describe the “Why”, with guest, Alvin Tillery, Professor of Political Science at Northwestern University, whose work led to the launch of the Center for the Study of Diversity and Democracy, to help us better understand context. We introduced the “What” by illustrating ABD’s current status and tools for addressing desired change. We then rolled out the “What Next” by sharing action plans for six different program areas and announced our first Employee Resource Group (ERG), ABDHer, for women and allies of women. We enjoyed some lunch together and returned to business – but with a new (or refreshed) focus on these important issues.
Our Council and leaders believe the many stories and statistics are sufficient to support the prioritization of making DE&I part of our DNA. The argument has been won and we are moving to action. In other words, the “Why” feels proven and also multifaceted. Addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion:
- Matters to our employees;
- Is important to our clients;
- Is good business; and
- Is the right thing to do
Melinda Gates wrote in her book, The Moment of Lift, “We all have something to offer. … inclusion means that everyone is a contributor.” As a company, ABD aspires to ensure everyone is able to bring what they have to offer – our individual sense of fulfillment and our collective success depends on it.
ABD is pleased and eager – as a Council and now with our employee population – to be on our way to making a difference. We’ve created a charter and mission. We’ve identified program areas on which to focus our efforts. We’ve begun training for both our Executives and our People Managers. We’ve created the framework for ERGs and officially launched the initial one – ABDHer. We’ve also kicked off a company-wide exercise for sharing our individual diversity stories to start the proverbial, and sometimes challenging, conversations about diversity, equity, and inclusion. Getting the conversation started is key to creating meaningful change.
The What Next
We are asking a lot of one another: to be engaged and attentive, to practice real listening, and to be open to learning. We recognize that People Managers have an outsized impact on the employee experience, so we are actively preparing to manage and repair matters of bias and inequity. Since People Managers can inadvertently become the systems that perpetuate bias (holding certain underrepresented groups back), we are training and preparing our team to become the type of champions who elevate everyone.
We are working to bring everyone along. This is neither a check list item, nor is it a sprint or even a marathon. This is our new, shared path. We will include everyone as we navigate the road ahead.
At the conclusion of our launch last week, I asked Alvin Tillery – based on his work in this space and observations of corporate America – what we should do going forward. His reply (paraphrased) was:
“Don’t stop if the road ahead gets bumpy, because it will. Keep doing what you are doing and treat DE&I as you would any other business critical function, because it is.”
SVP of People Operations
amy.steadman [at] theabdteam.com