Black History Month offers us the opportunity to reflect on our country’s history of racial inequality, honor leaders of color, and continue to drive progress towards a more equitable society. At Summer Search, we keep Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (ED&I) at the forefront of our conversations and work all year long, so our staff, students, alumni, and board are equipped to be ED&I change-makers in their own communities.
A few months ago, Summer Search held an Industry Leadership Panel on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at our National Alumni Summit and Leadership Conference, a multi-day convening of nearly 300 Summer Search alumni to connect, learn, and network. The panel discussion offered alumni the chance to hear from three industry leaders about the opportunities and challenges in building more equitable and inclusive workplaces.
From left to right: Monica Parham, Bernard Guinyard, Antoine Andrews, and Marie Pierre.
Marie Pierre (Summer Search Boston Alumna and Portfolio Management Associate at Hall Capital Partners) moderated the panel featuring ED&I experts Monica Parham (Diversity & Inclusion Business Partner for Technology at Uber), Bernard Guinyard (Head of Diversity & Inclusion at Goodwin), and Antoine Andrews (Summer Search National Board Member and Chief Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Officer at Year Up). These panelists share a depth of experience in the ED&I space, being involved in this work “before Diversity & Inclusion was a thing,” as Monica put it.
The conversation was inspiring, informative, and real. It focused on several issues related to ED&I work in professional settings, as well as the experience of being a person of color, often the only one, in predominately white workspaces. Here are a few highlights:
Right off the bat, Monica provided a powerful perspective on confronting these challenges during one’s career, saying “You can look at obstacles as either things that are designed to keep you out, or things you have the power to overcome on a daily basis.”
She also addressed a common misconception about ED&I. “It’s not programmatic, it’s structural,” Monica explained. “Diversity 101, in hopefully the distant past, was, ‘oh gee… let’s get together and celebrate heritage months,'” she continued, referring to the fact that cultural celebrations like Black History Month are fine for community building, but fail to make true ED&I impact. “If you really want to drive change in diversity, inclusion, and equity, you’ve got to look at structural systematic change. You can have all of these programs, but if you have the same people doing the same things in the same way, with respect to access to opportunities, you’re really not going to change anything.”
Industry Leadership Panel on ED&I at the 2018 Summer Search Alumni Summit.
When the conversation turned to how companies can measure ED&I impact, all three panelists stressed that this kind of evaluation goes way beyond the numbers. Antoine put it quite eloquently, saying that “Diversity is counting heads, inclusion is making the heads count.” In other words, it’s not just about filling seats, it’s making sure the people in those seats are supported and empowered.
Finally, Bernard shared an invaluable piece of advice for Summer Search alums wondering how to lead ED&I change in their organizations. “Let’s get comfortable being the only one in the room,” he explained. “Your organizations have hired you because you’re the right fit for the job. They’re not investing time and wasting money just to fill slots. Just own that part of the conversation. You have a right to be there.”
Thank you to Marie, Monica, Bernard, and Antoine for sharing your experiences and expertise with our Summer Search community, empowering our alumni to relentlessly lead ED&I work in their personal and professional lives 365 days a year.
You can watch the full panel discussion here.
Introductions: 0:00 – 11:20
Common misconceptions about ED&I work: 11:25 – 15:40
Measuring and quantifying ED&I: 15:41 – 19:40
Being “the only one” and becoming change-makers: 19:45 – 25:40
Finding peace with your career: 25:45 – 33:21
Starting ED&I conversations at your job: 33:25 – 39:12