My D&I Journey with:
Senior Inclusion & Diversity Adviser,
United Nations Human Rights Office
1. What was your journey into diversity and inclusion?
When I am asked this question, I respond by saying that I didn’t choose this work but this work chose me. I never set out to be in DEI in fact I ran away from it for a long time as I didn’t want to be the token. If I am honest in every organisation and company, I have worked for, I have always been interested in finding solutions to address underrepresentation and equal access to opportunity. To be honest, I was just fighting against things I had experienced growing up as a third culture black woman.
2. How would you describe a typical day in your role?
Is there such a thing? Honestly no one day really looks the same. I would sum it up by saying it’s all about communication and building relationships with people internal and external to the organization. This can be in the form of meetings, presentations, facilitation of workshops, seminars and events, running focus groups, one on one meetings, developing strategies and action plans to guide leaders and staff and responding to emails, telephone calls and requests for reports.
3. What is the best part of your job?
I am very relational and love that I get to work with people. I love hearing peoples stories, experiences and their journeys. All of us have a story and are part of a story, so the stories we listen to determine the stories we tell.
4. What advice would you give to someone looking to move into D&I?
Don’t see it as something to attain because it should be something you should already be doing. Some people are attracted to the glossy side of DEI, but almost all the practitioners I speak to share the same frustrations and challenges. Ask yourself what is the WHY and lead from there. If DEI isn’t part of your DNA, I think it will be hard to make it a career choice.
5. What are the main challenges faced by D&I professionals at the moment?
The expectation to produce results and outcomes overnight. Essentially DEI is about culture change and the inclusion aspect is about challenging and changing people’s attitudes and behaviors and this is exhausting and takes time. The biggest challenge for me is when diversity is seen as a destination and not the means to getting to a place of belonging. It’s also often under resourced, with the responsibility to fix all the problems on someone like me rather than being seen as everyone’s responsibility. The other main challenge is dealing with the diversity hierarchy e.g. gender vs race vs LGBTI vs Age vs Persons with Disabilities. How to ensure everyone is heard.
6. Name three skills that support you to succeed in D&I
1) Compassion – going beyond empathy and coming up with practical solutions to assist others but also to love people.
2) Commitment – courage to know this work is a marathon and not a sprint. You must be committed for the long haul and not quit at the first sign of challenge.
3) Curious – don’t loose the ability to be curious, to learn about people because this unlocks creativity and innovation which are so needed.
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