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Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Workplace. An interview with Celeste R. Warren.

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Many improvements can and must be made in the workplace to ensure a viable, more welcoming work culture. The workforce will continue to become more and more diverse, only further stressing the need for equity and inclusivity. Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) expert Celeste R. Warren spoke with the Garden State Woman Education Foundation on the importance of cultivating an inclusive work environment, how to become a Diversity and Inclusion Ambassador in an organization, and the benefits of focusing on DEI in the workplace.

Celeste R. Warren is the Vice President of the Global Diversity and Inclusion Center of Excellence at Merck & Co., Inc where she works to instill diversity and inclusion throughout the organization. She has won various awards throughout her career, including Black Enterprise's Top Executives in Global Diversity and Inclusion, Savoy magazine's Most Influential Women in Corporate America, Women's eNews's 21 Leaders for the 21st Century, and Diversity Woman magazine's Elite100 List. Her articles on diversity and inclusion have been featured in many national and global publications. Here is what she shared with us.

  • What inspired you to be a leader in DEI in the workplace?

"My father was the first black teacher and principal in western Pennsylvania and so I grew up seeing firsthand the challenges he faced. It is something that has always been ingrained within me. Coming from that background, I always want to ensure that we are creating a culture that embraces diversity, equity, and inclusion. I didn't always want to be a Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer. However, because I am so passionate about DE&I, I wasn't sure if I would be able to do all the things I would want to do to impact change. I wasn't sure if I would have the support of senior leaders to drive change. But after a discussion with our then CEO, Ken Frazier, I was inspired to take the role on and drive change."

  • What does it take to be a Diversity and Inclusion Ambassador and who can take on this role?

"Becoming an ambassador for diversity and inclusion involves knowing yourself, your blind spots, your challenges, and your passions. It involves understanding what your skills and capabilities are and how they align with what is required for the role of ambassador. Lastly, it involves putting your personal strategic plan in place to help guide you along your journey. If you can do this, then you will be well on your way to becoming a successful diversity and inclusion ambassador.

There are several specific skills, capabilities, and behaviors that are required for an individual to be successful as a diversity and inclusion ambassador. Bringing together these three items, skills you learn and develop, capabilities you have innately, and behaviors that make the essence of who you are will help you to be successful through the complexities, challenges, and opportunities, as well as the rewards and celebrations you will encounter along your diversity and inclusion journey.

Most diversity and inclusion ambassadors don't have all of these attributes. As you start your journey, take those attributes that you do have and work to enhance them. And for those attributes that you feel you don't have, put a plan together to develop them as you work towards becoming a successful diversity and inclusion ambassador.

Everyone must play a role in creating a diverse and inclusive work environment in any organization. It doesn't make a difference whether you work in a small company, a large company, a for-profit, a nonprofit, a government agency, a private or a public company. If all employees don't feel that they have a role to play in creating the culture they would like to see where they work, any type of change that needs to happen will not take place.

Regardless of what you do within your place of work, you have to do something to impact change. You may be an employee who does not manage people, you may be a first-line manager, you may be a senior leader, a human resources practitioner, or a person whose role is to lead diversity and inclusion within the company. Everyone has to play a role to drive diversity and inclusion across the workplace."

  • How can companies incorporate DEI into their existing work culture?

"Companies have to take a holistic approach to incorporate DE&I into their organizations. They should ensure that their workforce is diverse and reflects the diversity of the communities they serve. Having diverse cultures helps to drive diverse perspectives which enables innovation in the workplace. Second, you have to surround the employees with a culture of inclusion, engagement, and empowerment so they can bring their authentic selves to work. You have to integrate DE&I into your people's practices, policies, and procedures, as well from the time they are being recruited until they are transitioning out of the organization.

You also have to integrate DE&I into your business processes as well.For example, integrating DE&I in your marketing strategies helps you to better reach customers who are extremely diverse around the globe. Then, you should also keep a pulse on the external environment and as necessary, look to find ways to make an impact on the challenges that exist in the world."

  • What benefits does fostering DEI in the workplace bring to employees and the company as a whole?

"There are many benefits of DEI in the workplace. It creates a competitive advantage for the organization in many ways. You are able to recruit top talent into your organization if it reflects the diversity they see in the labor market and across the world. You will be able to retain your employees by creating a culture of inclusion. You will be able to connect better with your customers because you incorporate ideals, beliefs, and information that are aligned with their cultural experiences. There are many benefits that enable the organization to increase its employee engagement and overall business performance."

To learn more about Celeste R. Warren, visit crwdiversity.com. You can order her book, How to Be a Diversity and Inclusion Ambassador: Everyone's Role in Helping All Feel Accepted, Engaged, and Valued, here

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Monday, 28 November 2022
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