Stay Ellavated | August 2022 | Issue 20

Dr. Ella Speaks

     The start of August signals the ending of summer, the middle of Q3 and for me it also means back to school as I await the return of MBA students to Georgetown’s beautiful campus. In this season of transition, it is important to take a moment and check in on our wellness as leaders, DEI practitioners and colleagues. 

     Over the last 6 years, we have seen a 107% increase in the number of DEI leadership roles. As the number of DEI roles have increased, the support and infrastructure for these roles has not necessarily kept up. As a result, many heads of DEI experience burnout, stress and early departure. In fact, the average tenure for a chief diversity officer is now 2 years shorter than the average senior executive. There are numerous factors that contribute to this burnout and negatively impact the success of DEI initiatives, the following 4 are just a few of these factors.

  1. An unhealthy urgency and push for DEI initiatives can cause leaders to work with limited bandwidth and an unreasonable timeline. These pressures make it difficult to develop a thorough DEI strategy and end up focusing on “doing something” rather than “doing the best thing”. 

  2. An isolated role and the lack of resources and support of DEI leaders contributes to the stress and burnout experienced. DEI leaders need time, a team and a budget just as any other key function in a business.. 

  3. A lack of measurable goals also contributes to this problem by making it difficult to track progress and growth on the DEI front. Leaders have to be transparent and proactive scout data collection from the beginning in order to benchmark the growth that is taking place. Without data, it can be challenging to show the value of the work done and lead to feelings of frustration. 

  4. Finally, a lack of organizational integration of DEI presents challenges for DEI leaders. If the company at large does not resonate or support in the DEI strategy development and rollout, it can create an uphill battle for the leader as they work to not only develop a plan but are burdened with convincing colleagues that the work is important as well. DEI touches all parts of the business and should be treated as such. 

     Leaders of organizations have the capacity to combat some of these challenges by making sure that they are not treating DEI as an “extra”. DEI leaders must be empowered and supported with time and resources so that they can execute on the goals of the organization. Senior leadership has the power to set a tone for how these roles function as well as how other employees are expected to align with these company values. To put it simply, DEI leaders need to know that senior executives have their back in the tangible and intangible ways that can make their work and experiences infinitely more successful.  


With DEI in Mind,

Dr. Ella

The Necessary Journey

In June, I had the pleasure of being featured on The Redesigning Wellness Podcast. We had an opportunity to speak on many of the themes that informed the writing of my book. Here are a few takeaways from our conversation:

  • The average tenure of Chief Diversity Officers has dropped from 3.1 years in 2018 to 1.8 years in 2021. A common cause is a misalignment between expectations and resources and support from senior leaders.
  • No other Chief Officer is expected to run a division or a significant part of the company by themselves.
  • Although there is a moral AND business case for DEI, the moral case only gets us so far. We need to connect DEI to the business (and there are plenty of stats to show the business benefits).
  • Companies that are committed to DEI have a clear purpose (what they are trying to achieve) and have the senior leadership team on the same page (not just nodding their heads and leaving it to the CDO).

To learn and read more about the DEI journey, check out the podcast and Pre-order the book today! "The Necessary Journey: Making Real Progress on Equity and Inclusion"

Ellavated Learning

Ellavated Learning: The Metaverse- A New Space with Old Challenges

By: Hildana Haileyesus


     As technology continues to change and evolve, new spaces are opening up beyond the physical world we know. The Metaverse has been one such technological development that has taken the world by storm. Although much of the virtual “world” is still under construction and being defined, we are already seeing communities be created and even commerce taking place in the Metaverse. With the virtual recreation of the world we know, there are opportunities to create a virtual life experience by making friends, working jobs, and even shopping all in the Metaverse. However, the challenges of the real world are also making their way into the Metaverse as we see rising reports of assault, discrimination, and foul language. 

     Notably, an online watch group has identified a number of reports of sexual assault in the metaverse. One woman reported being assaulted within an hour of joining the platform. Studies of the virtual environment have also found evidence of numerous minors being exposed to racist, violent language and harassment in various gaming activities within the Metaverse. Various publications have flagged these challenges, and companies seem to be taking some steps towards addressing them. In this case we will take a look at how Meta is responding to the call for greater DEI intentionality in building the Metaverse. In February of this year, Meta Chief Diversity Officer Maxine Williams shared Meta’s intention to construct the virtual world with DEI in mind from the start. She noted the 5 ways that Meta is being intentional about diversity and inclusion:

  1. Asking the right questions: Through a funded partnership with Howard University, Meta is exploring the historical challenges in the tech sphere when it comes to barriers and access for marginalized groups.

  2. Building networks of diverse talent: Meta noted that it is crucial to have diversity among the architects and builders of this virtual world and has decided to sponsor development and learning programs to increase the representation of minorities in spaces like AI, coding, and other tech roles.  

  3. Breaking down language barriers: Meta has been working on a translation tool that can function within the metaverse and allow as much global communication across users as possible. 

  4. Broadening access to the Metaverse for users and creators: By working to diversify how people can access the metaverse beyond headsets and computers, Meta is hoping to increase the diversity of its users. 

  5. Creating diverse options for self expression: When looking at the avatar creation options, Meta realized how important it is that face shape options, skin tones and styles should not be limited to what we traditionally see in virtual spaces. Working to increase the number of options, they hope to provide more people with the opportunity to represent themselves how they wish.  


     These 5 steps alone can do a lot to further the diversity and inclusion we will see on the Metaverse platform. We must, however, stay critical about monitoring and managing how the Metaverse evolves even with these considerations. Like the DEI journey for organizations, a DEI strategy is never really finished. There must be vigilance in collecting data and acknowledging missteps to create more significant equity and access in all environments- the workplace or a new virtual reality.

4 Best Practices For Shifting from "Culture Fit" to "Culture Add"

Culture fit is often used as a factor to make hiring decisions. Defined as sharing the same behaviors, values and interests as the organization, culture fit is often an intangible quality that hiring managers are asked to look for in candidates. The problem with this is that it creates a lot of room for bias and inequality by recreating the social dynamics that already exist at a company. Individuals will be more likely to select a candidate that is similar to them and this can work against many company goals to increase diversity. A better approach is to look for culture add rather than culture fit. Culture add means that you are looking for an individual that brings something new and different to the company and to the company culture. There are 4 questions that hiring managers can ask themselves to make culture add hiring decisions rather than culture fit. 

  1. Will the candidate be effective in the work environment? This entails considering the skills and perspectives that the individual brings and how these skills will add to the team’s strengths. 

  2. How will the candidate add to the company culture? As a hiring manager, you should take the time to reflect on what defines the current company culture and what is missing in pushing the organization towards  the ideal or aspirational culture. Identifying these characteristics will make the qualities you are looking for easier to categorize.  

  3. In what ways does this candidate challenge me? Difference of perspective leads to team growth and can add to the growth potential of a team. Asking questions that help you understand how a candidate will make their colleagues better is one way to find out how they can add to the company culture, rather than simply fit within it.

  4. Do the values of the company and the candidate align? Although we are not looking for an exact replica of current employees or dynamics, it is important that there is  synergy in how an organization and individual employees grow so that their growth empowers  one another rather than push back against each other. Aligning on core values ensures that as there are differences of opinion and thought, the core tenants that drive the work of the organization are the same. This creates space for improving and pushing the organization forward on the path the leadership sees for the company. 



DEI in Action: Hispanic Heritage Month

     Next month marks the start of Hispanic Heritage Month. Technically speaking, Hispanic heritage month takes place between September 15th and October 15th. Established in 1988, Hispanic Heritage Month is a commemoration and celebration of the history, cultural impact and numerous contributions of the Hispanic and LatinX community in the U.S. Read how these three organizations celebrate and empower Hispanic communities through their organizations. 

  1. Coca-Cola: The Hispanic Leadership Business Resource Group is an ERG that aims to ensure Hispanic and Latinx people consider Coc-aCola a great place to work. Coca-Cola has done so by providing people development, networking, and community involvement opportunities. The Hispanic Leadership Business Resource Group not only benefits the employees but also assists in driving innovative business results. An example of this is in 2017 when the group created a Point of Sale Spanish Adaptation tool, that assisted taglines and phrases from losing meaning when being translated from English to Spanish. The tool inevitably assisted other Bilingual individuals from different dialects to submit their ideas, ultimately assisting more Spanish speaking employees. 

  1. FedEx: With Hispanic employees making up 15% of FedEx's workforce, they were voted #13th on the Best workplaces for Diversity. The leaders of the FedEx Hispanic Action Network group have been able to attend the Unidos US conference where two Hispanic students were awarded $5,000 scholarships. This is just one of the many ways that Hispanic employees at FedEx are able to give back to the community. FedEx also supports 10 different Hispanic organizations that aim to improve lives of Hispanic Americans by professional development, advocacy, and also education pathways.

  1. USAA: USAA has been committed to the Hispanic-Latinx community for decades. In 1999 USAA partnered with UTSA and created the Access College and Excel Program. This is a mentorship program that focuses on recruiting top performing students from Latino schools to assist the students with their transition to college. USAA also is a member of a few Hispanic-Latinx associations including the Association of Latin Professionals in Accounting and the National Hispanic MBA Association.  USAA has shown a strong commitment to helping Hispanic-Latinx professionals with developing and filling gaps in representation in the workplace.



Cultural Competence

     We are so excited to announce the kick-off of Season 3 of the Cultural Competence Podcast! Check out Dr. Washington’s most recent episode on professionalism in the workplace with guest Dr. Tina Opie.

Professionalism: What Does It Even Mean? 

     Have we collectively projected ideas about professionalism that may or may not have anything to do with what being professional actually means? Dr. Tina Opie, Chief Vision Officer at Opie Consulting Group, joins the podcast to talk about where these norms originate, what organizations miss when they let conformity to these norms take place, and where they should put their focus instead. "Organizations really need to interrogate what they are doing if people who are performing well still don't feel like they belong because of things like professional attire, guidelines or norms," Dr. Opie says.

Service Spotlight: Bulk & Custom Options of the Necessary Journey


Pre Order now for October 2022 delivery

     95% of Best Selling Authors are White. Let’s change the narrative together. You can show your commitment to making real progress on equity and inclusion by sharing The Necessary Journey with your team, organization, or clients. Books can be purchased in bulk at a discount for use in training programs, sales campaigns, or gift-giving for company Holiday events. Books are available in bulk in hardcover, eBook, or audiobook format. 

     You can even customize books for your organization to reflect your brand on orders of 50 or more copies. Contact for more information.
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