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D&I Honors awards ceremony in Washington, D.C.

Source: NewsOne.com

The quest to achieve both diversity as well as inclusion (D&I) in the workplace is a tireless effort spearheaded by a number of means and factors. But ultimately moving the needle depends on a universal willingness to accept people for who they are, a stubbornly persistent obstacle with barriers that have been steadily chipped away at over the years.

That’s where Dee C. Marshall comes in.

The CEO of Diverse & Engaged, a nonprofit organization working to boost D&I across different professions and businesses, has been a pivotal cog in the larger diversity and inclusion machine. She and her organization hosted the D&I Honors to recognize the efforts of champions in that arena on the sidelines of the annual Congressional Black Caucus Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C., last week.

“Many industries have early wins, which we’re recognizing some of them,” Marshall said ahead of the ceremony at Google headquarters in Northwest Washington on Sept. 11.

However, despite some major strides having been made, that work was far from complete.

“There are some industries and sectors – fashion – that are just beginning to embrace diversity,” she said optimistically before mentioning the flip side of the equation: “Then there are others who are holding a memorial service for diversity,” she said.

Needless to say, those folks were not in the room. 

Instead, the room was filled with folks who were making a serious difference in the world of diversity and inclusion. That included Candace Waterman, the President and CEO of Women Impacting Public Policy, who noted that Marshall — an international speaker, published author, “a genius at mobilizing women” — was also a survivor of 9/11.

Marshall told attendees exactly why they were there: “Specifically to recognize those diversity champions, those who have measurable results, significant impact or those who have made bold moves in advancing people of color in general, but African Americans in general.”

One of the primary goals of the night was to unite people from different business sectors and have them begin a larger conversation about best practices to achieve diversity and inclusion. But it was paramount to set an understanding of exactly what diversity and inclusion truly means.

While offering a brief blessing before the awards ceremony began, Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner, said the awardees have shown measurable results and significant impact while pushing the movement forward. 

“We also want to show what can happen when we literally come into the same room with the same promise and say, ‘What can we do together?’” she asked the audience.

Marshall was ready to answer that question.

“Whatever it is that we were doing five years ago is not good enough today,” she said.

VIP attendee Janaye Ingram, the Director of National Partnerships at Airbnb who was representing the tech sector at the gathering, seemed to agree with that sentiment. She told NewsOne on the sidelines of the ceremony that she placed a high priority on “equity” when discussing diversity and inclusion.

“Diversity in being in the room,” Ingram said succinctly. “Inclusion is having a seat at the table.”

“What we need to be talking about is equity,” she said. “We need to be talking about equitable programs that create that level playing field. Being able to have programs that really address equity is I think the next frontier and how we should be changing the conversation” from just diversity and inclusion to “belonging and equity.”

Ingram went on to say that many times companies conflate diversity. Citing her own intersectional experience — having two or more identities in the same being — she said she is a Black person who is also a woman, attributes that businesses can either separate or combine at their discretion in an effort to check off diversity boxes without necessarily offering any true semblance of inclusion.

Clint Odom, the Senior Vice President Policy & Advocacy and Executive Director at the National Urban League, spoke about diversity with a bit more urgency: “I say it is a business imperative.”

New York Rep. Yvette Clark, a Democrat representing Brooklyn, was one of the night’s honorees. While accepting her award, she warned Black folks in particular of serious consequences if diversity and inclusion isn’t addressed head-on.

“It’s a paradigm shift,” Clark said. “And if we are flat-footed when this shift is complete, we will find ourselves right back where we were. So I want us to be ready.”

Building off that sentiment, New Jersey Rep. Donald K. Payne, Jr., another D&I honoree, said that diversity and inclusion are about aiming to smash the glass ceilings in order to affect the intended changes at the top of the corporate ladder. While discussing “the benefits of diversity,” Payne explained to the audience that to him, inclusion meant promoting diverse talent that was “not only on the shop floor but in the executive suites, as well. And that’s where we’re looking these days – in the C-suites.”

Valerie Rainford, head of Advancing Black Leaders & Diversity Advancement Strategies at JPMorgan Chase, was another of the D&I Honors recipients. Representing the financial sector, she said the key to truly achieving diversity as well as inclusion means the two terms must always remain together in order to make real movement, which she said you very seldom see.

“Having a focused strategy like Advancing Black leaders is how you engage people across the company in supporting diversity and promoting an inclusive environment,” Rainford said, citing the impressive diversity and inclusion strides she’s made at JPMorgan Chase after just three and a half years in her current role.

If the goal of truly achieving diversity alongside inclusion is to be reached, it’s time for a collective and unapologetic push in that direction across all business sectors.

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Diverse & Engaged presents D&I Honors where #Congress meets #culture #inclusion and belonging Wednesday, September 11, 2019 6pm recognizing #DiversityandInclusion leaders across industry and sector ….powered by Full Color Future In collaboration with National Urban League, Black Women’s Roundtable and The Joint Center for Economic and Political Studies … #CBC #ALC #Diversity #DIHonors Diversity & Inclusion Honors recognizing diversity leaders, game-changers, corporate leaders across industries and sectors, and community representatives who have moved the needle and made bold moves to advance marginalized and underrepresented people in workplaces and common spaces. This year's theme is: "Diversity is Multidimensional; People of Color cannot be Forgotten." The event will be Honoring: The Honorable representative Yvette D. Clarke from New York's 9th district, The Honorable Representative Donald M. Payne Jr. from New Jerseys 10th district, as well as Chanelle Hardy, Valerie Irick Rainford, Esi Eggleston Bracey, and Cyrus Mehri.

A post shared by Dee C. Marshall (@deecmarshall) on

“We’ve had best practices for years, but they haven’t moved the needle,” she said. “But bold practices do. To achieve results, you can’t do what you’ve always done — you need to be bold and courageous.”

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