Reflections of Race- The Intersection of Education, Workforce and Diversity
I’m standing in the cafeteria holding a tray of food.
It’s 1979 and I am a freshman in High School. I look around to see a room
divided. The black people are sitting on one side, the white people on the other,
the Filipinos, the Mexicans–and I ask myself the question, “where do I belong?”
Little did I know this question would permeate the entire rest of my life.
I am a bi-racial woman. Being black and white has afforded me to live the life of
navigating race. Race is at the forefront of every facet of life right now. Actually,
it always has been for me and every other person of color in America. The
revealing of “just beneath the surface” racism in business, politics, day-to-day life
is just the tip of the iceberg for where I believe we are headed.
Rejection reveals purpose. In my thirty-year journey in corporate America of
trying to belong, I have come to realize, as many women of color, and discover
my journey towards self-sustainability. My own journey is about renewal,
forgiveness, healing and the courage to stand up and help reshape the world for
our next generation. I aim to heal hearts for people and organizations that are
willing to journey with me.
My practice includes three focus areas. Education, Workforce Development, and
In Washington, kids of color need champions to help them succeed and be
prepared for a full and participatory life. The intersection of income inequality,
lack of resources, systemic race based biases are a direct contributor to
problems in public education. Resources are not evenly distributed to low-
income schools, where the highest concentrations of kids of color are
represented and teachers of color are largely working.
Washington’s economy ranks near the top of all states in terms of exports and
GDP, but our student achievement and educational outcomes range from
average to mediocre. When I unpack our education story, I realize while we
graduate roughly 80% of all of our kids from high school, that percentage is far
lower for members of some groups than others. I know from experience that high
school graduation rates aren’t the be-all and end-all demonstration of high-quality
learning, and that students of color face disproportionate challenges in school
discipline, suspension, lack of access to advanced programs and enriched
curriculum, unbalanced school funding, and more. These challenges require
courage and investment to solve without losing sight of the fact that at the end of
the educational road, that students are doing more than just graduating, but are
prepared for success in postsecondary education or high-quality vocational
Remember, this is your talent pool! This is the future!
Companies seem comfortable with hiring some people of color into “entry” level
jobs and sometimes these pathways ultimately lead to “middle management”
roles. I believe the challenge for corporate America is to hire and promote
beyond middle management and propel people of color into true leadership roles.
I believe we can be better in the way we invest in improving the public policies
that promote fairness and inequity in government contracting, talent
development, and leadership attainment. We need to remove systemic barriers
that impede diverse talent recruitment, hiring and development. Initiative 1000
/Referendum 88 is an example of an effort, that if successful removes a
substantial barrier to entry that impacts people of color for small business
development, access to education and in employment. Washington was once a
state that prioritized affirmative action in government contracting. In 1995 a shift
to remove these protections resulted in millions of dollars of business
evaporating that impacted people of color owned businesses. Through I-1000/R-
88 this systemic barrier is dismantled. We must approve Referendum
88/Initiative 1000! I work with companies to assess these areas for their
businesses and develop strategies for their success.
A diverse work force contributes to increased retention and productivity, and
helps organizations respond to an increasingly varied universe of customers,
improved relationships to their surrounding communities and increases business
resiliency and creativity. There are economic advantages to increased
productivity, morale, teamwork, that come with effective teams that include
gender, and racial diversity. To build diverse talent pools, organizations must
invest differently, accept that they must confront margins of perceived advantage
that have led to the current state, and build scaffolds to workplace cultures that
reward diversity, equity and inclusion. My observation is that companies are
using gender as their measure of diversity, while racial diversity continues to be
The guiding questions work at different levels within an organization. They are
designed to uncover the heart work that must be done to transform your culture
and mindset to prepare for change. Examples include:
1- Understand the state of your own heart - Are you ready to invest in people
who don’t have your background, racial or gender advantages? Will you pay
fairly and equitably, and share access to the necessary professional, social and
academic capital needed to be successful?
2- Understand the heart of your own company and its shareholders. - Are you
ready to redefine success and the bottom line including metrics that drive high
performing diverse workplace culture?
3- Are you prepared to unlearn historical practices in order to create inclusive
pathways for historically marginalized groups?
4- Do you have the courage to expand your thinking and beliefs and measure
yourselves on outputs and achievements and not just effort and stated
5 – Are you truly ready for change?