Delivering on inclusion and belonging in a global pandemic continues to be a critical challenge. Join our all-star and cross-industry expert panelists as they discuss big ideas and solutions on how to build and hire for a truly inclusive culture.

Featured speakers:


Watch the video and/or read the transcript below.

Key takeaways:

  • Building momentum and executive support for diversity, equity, antiracism, and inclusion as a core value
  • Creating employee resource groups (ERGs) and community in remote, hybrid, and back-to-workplace environments
  • Best practices to design a psychologically safe place for all employees, regardless of how they identify
  • Embracing neurodiversity in the workplace and celebrating minds of all kinds

Diversity, Equity, Antiracism, and Inclusion Leadership Forum Transcript

(Edited/modified for readability)

Sylvia Flores, Host, Head of Brand and Culture, Espresa //

Welcome everyone to Espresa’s forum on creating solidarity in a pandemic with a focus on diversity, equity, antiracism, and inclusion. Also, happy Latina Equal Pay Day. Just want to put some emphasis on that for a moment.

I’m Sylvia Flores, head of brand and culture with Espresa. Today we have an all-star lineup of speakers, which our moderator, David Kim, will be introducing. And with that, it is my true honor to introduce, David Kim, who has been innovating in the world of HR since 1996. David has directed DEI for Dell, headed up global diversity for Electronic Arts and Gilead Sciences, and is currently the VP of global diversity equity and inclusion for Zendesk. With that, I hand the floor to our moderator, David Kim.

David Kim, Vice President of Global Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Zendesk //

Thank you so much. I am super excited today with these amazing panelists and this topic for two reasons. One is they’re friends and I’ve known them for many years. And the second is just the amazing caliber and experience they bring to the table and during a chaotic pandemic time and social unrest.

Without further ado, let me first introduce, Texanna Reeves, the first Rite Aid leader, a respected diversity and inclusion leader to develop and implement the organization’s overall diversity, inclusion, and belonging strategy. And Rite Aid has continued to hire senior leaders to drive forward its broader RxEvolution strategy. And she is going to lead that effort with the support and partnership with the CEO and introduction with their board of directors.

The CHRO stated that diversity inclusion are essential to everything they do at Rite Aid and to best serve their community, their business and those communities.

The addition of, Texanna Reeves, helps elevate Rite Aid’s efforts and focus, and is a leader to drive that equal opportunity, employer of choice for people, and to provide that equitable access in terms of healthcare in a very much stronger and more successful way for Rite Aid. She has had amazing experiences across Fortune 100 companies in the past such as Merck, SC Johnson, Sodexo, and Georgia-Pacific Corporation. She is also part of that leadership team and effort with the board. Very excited to have Texanna with us. I had the pleasure of working with, Texanna, in the past and know the amazing progress and the intentionality she brings to the table.

The next leader we have is Sharawn Connors, chief diversity and inclusion officer for Micron Technology. She joined Micron in July of 2019 as the Vice President of Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion. Under Connor’s leadership, Micron established six key Identity DEI (IDEI) commitments for the fiscal year of 2021. Integrated global initiatives in the company’s business and operations and set strategy-driven goals around diversity, hiring talent retention, and advancement inclusion.

Her success has been demonstrated by several accomplishments now embedded in Micron’s culture and business. With her guidance and experience, Micron achieved comprehensive pay equity for underrepresented groups in March of 2021 – she grew membership and employee-led resource groups (ERGs) by an astounding 84% from fiscal year, 2019 to the fiscal year 2020, and launched global allyship training for all of their employees to promote an inclusive culture.

One of the things the SVP and chief people officer at Micron said about Sharawn, is Sharawn’s leader shift has been pivotal in accelerating Microns progress in diversity, equality and inclusion where all team members are seen, heard, valued, and respected.

Micron is a company that is committed to building an atmosphere where all people feel welcomed. And so Sharawn, has made progress, made an impact, and her experiences span across human resources, information technology, project management, and operations. Prior to joining Micron, she led global, diversity, and inclusion efforts at Flex. Amazing again, to see the progress and the impact she’s making for a very large and global organization.

Next, want to share a well-known leader in this space, Dr. Robert Rodriguez. He’s been very busy during Hispanic Heritage Month, and with so many companies. I want to highlight a book he wrote that is core to what is happening after social unrest and many companies leading employee resource groups and how do you drive that excellence when we are facing burnout when we’re facing sort of the need to listen more and to be more empathetic?

A highly acclaimed author , I highly recommend his newly published book, Employee Resource Group Excellence.

And from that introduction, in Employee Resource Group Excellence, renowned management and diversity expert, Dr. Robert Rodriguez, delivers a comprehensive exploration of the current state of employee resource groups in corporate America, and a step-by-step roadmap to elevating their performance. The book draws on the author’s extensive experience in consulting with America’s most well-known companies to discuss successful and current ERG initiatives and corporations, universities, and nonprofits, as well as ERG efforts being undertaken outside the United States. You’ll discover a step-by-step process and answer a lot of the questions that I think ERGs and leaders and companies are asking, and the incredible experience that he brings to the table around even development and for HR professionals, CEOs, program managers, and many of the corporate leaders that we see, this can be a huge resource for all of us.

And last but not least, we have an accomplished leader, Alex Shubat, CEO of Espresa that provides incredible tools to support ERGs, culture, and really answers questions of the complexities and the barriers that many companies face around ERG administration, management, and most importantly communication.

Alex Shubat brings an extensive history in executive management and venture funding to his leadership of Espresa. Most recently, he served as the CEO of Goji Food Solutions, an NEA-backed startup in the food tech space. He also served as co-founder and CEO of Virage Logic, a semiconductor provider based in Silicon Valley, where he oversaw the company’s highly successful performance and acquisition by Synopsys. He’s a member of the Band of Angels, one of Silicon Valley’s oldest seed fund organizations. He’s on the Industry Advisory Boards of Santa Clara University and the University of Toronto.

He also holds an executive MBA from Stanford University, a BS and MS in electrical engineering from the University of Toronto, and a Ph.D. in electrical engineering at Santa Clara University, an astounding leader with an incredible technical background and expertise.

Really curious, how did you come into this space, Alex? Tell us about the intersection between electrical engineering,  your incredible education, and your being CEO of a company that is leveraged by Fortune 50 companies. What is the intersection? How did you get into the ERG panel and in the DEI panel?

Dr. Alex Shubat, CEO and Co-Founder, Espresa //

Thank you, David, for your introduction to me, and to all the panelists. It’s a pleasure meeting you all today. And as you said, we’re all friends! Good morning, good evening, wherever you are. I know people are joining from all over the world, so very exciting. It’s a very interesting history of how we came up with Espresa. I happened to have a quick lunch with my friend, Raghavan Menon, who is now my CTO and co-founder.

We talked about what other great companies are doing, companies like Google, and how well they take care of their employees. Obviously, we all know that these companies are a great place to work, and to make that happen, you need tools and methodologies. And some companies can develop them internally, but others require the technology to be purchased, integrated and deployed.

We thought, there’s a great opportunity.

We have a passion for everything culture and helping companies build a great place to work by providing community ERGs, affinity groups, clubs, events, all of that which helps you build a great place to work.

Of course, other great programs like recognizing your employees and taking care of their wellness, all of that in addition to what the company is doing, this is what the company is doing for their employees. We had a great passion for this and started Espresa about six years ago.

And we really love the interaction of what we’re doing with a company’s culture initiatives.

David Kim, Zendesk //

Thank you. Sharawn, I believe when we initially met many years ago, you were in a different type of role. What is your story around DEI and what is your current mandate in your role?

Sharawn Connors Tipton, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Micron //

You have a really good memory. I was in a totally different role. I grew up in compensation and benefits and for me, people say, how did you get to diversity, equality, and inclusion?

There were two things that happened. One is, as I started to grow in my career, and I started to become the only woman in the room and the only black woman or black person in the room.

And while I feel like there’s a lot of things that I know and that I can contribute, I have many friends, I have family, and they’re all pretty intelligent with great backgrounds. So the question is, why aren’t they in the room? That started to speak to me to say, okay, there’s something going on here systematically that that needs to be fixed. That was one piece.

But then, living in that comp world, you get to see behind the curtain. And I started to understand all the different levers of comp, whether that be base pay or equity, or bonuses, spot awards, additional company perks. I started to see disparities in pay that sometimes could not be explained by a performance.

I’m very serious about pay and I think there is definitely an opportunity. It’s so interesting that today is Latina Equal Pay Day and in my home State of California, their pay can be as low as 42 cents to the dollar compared to a white male. And that’s a problem.

I saw a lot of opportunities to look at pay differently and make sure that we have a fair-pay workplace where people are paid for the work that they’re performing. In addition to that, the education piece – so that folks from underrepresented groups really understand how to negotiate and what they should be asking for in the many forms of compensation. Those two things, David, coupled together, really drove me to step into this work and try to make a real impact for everyone.

David Kim, Zendesk //

Thank you, Sharawn. Texanna, what is your story? What is a key mandate for you in your current role?

Texanna Reeves, Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Rite Aid //

Thank you, David. And thank you for having me today to talk about something that’s very near and dear to me, not just from the work that I do, but also the passion and commitment I have around the work. When I think about that in terms of how I got involved in this and how to make that difference in earnest – I was working on my master’s degree and I enjoyed organizational development. Very early in my career, I was managing a customer service national team.

I was involved in bringing together two different organizations because of a merger. And the makeup of those teams were very different from age, with generation, geographic, location, social economic status. In short is that they really were not working as a team, and in fact, they hated each other.

They used to call each other grandpas and kids then. And what ended up happening is that as a team, we weren’t performing. In fact, we were actually at the bottom in terms of other customer service teams. When I was able to get the team to be able to work and meet each other on common ground and appreciate their different values is when we went from worse to first. And in fact, here, what I got to see is not only around the fact of how when you’re able to really leverage all of those different experiences, those lived experiences, as well as the different styles and what each person brings to the table, is that you absolutely can be able to win and perform.

So, based on my own professional experience, my lived experience as being a black female, as well as with what I was mentioning around the educational is that I really wanted to do this work to be able to actually elevate organizations, to be able to really leverage their talent in order to meet their mission and their vision of their organization. And to help the individuals to be able to grow and to really be able to bring out their full potential.

At Rite Aid, I’m really thrilled to be able to have the opportunity, as you were mentioning earlier. We are very new to DE&I, and this is the first time they’ve looked at this in a strategic holistic approach. But what we’re doing and where we feel as though that we can absolutely bring out the full value of our associates by optimizing their experiences, as well as from a health and wellness equity perspective of being able to also bring what our very diverse workforce brings to service our customers better and to be able to help to particularly achieve whole health for them.

David Kim, Zendesk //

Thank you. Texanna. Robert, tell us a little bit about your story and your background, and how you ended up here?

Dr. Robert Rodriguez, Founder, and President, Dr. Robert Rodriguez Advisors //

It’s interesting. My parents are originally from Mexico. They came to the U.S. and became U.S. citizens. I was born in Lubbock, Texas, actually. But, I grew up in Minnesota, which is a great place to live, a great place to raise a family, but at least back in my formative years, not a very large Hispanic, Latino community in the Twin Cities.

Because of that early on in my career, I struggled with my sense of identity. I didn’t know if it was something I should be unapologetic about and shout it from the rooftop. And so you’ll say Latino and just represent, or if it was something that I should downplay. And in fact, early on in my career, some of my coworkers, my mentors, they’re telling me things like, “Robert don’t do the Latino thing. You don’t want folks to think you get special treatment.”

So this internal struggle that I had is ultimately what led me to this work. First, I joined an employee resource group at the time. And that experience helped me be more comfortable in my own skin. They helped me be my true, authentic self, and they elevated my visibility capability and promotability. Part of my consulting practice now is to help organizations not only create the conditions that nurture the success of these employee resource groups but also to do everything I can to help those ERG leaders who are doing this above and beyond their day job.

After a quick stint in corporate America, I went to get my Ph.D. in organizational development. And in fact, my doctoral dissertation is on the Latino experience in corporate America because of those earlier feelings about it. And that actually led to my first couple of books.

I looked at my consulting practice and how it focuses on those two areas, Latino town initiatives, and employee resource groups. Thank you for the shout-out of the book. It just came out this week. I’m very excited about it. But when I think about my mandate, companies bring me onboard to many times highlight trends and best practices, because I’ve worked with so many organizations, including having worked with you before when you were in Gilead, the panelists, and Alex. Part of me is, share those best practices, sharing those trends, supplement decision-making with more data.

Then at times, David, I think part of my mandate is to push back to be provocative because sometimes I can say something to a client that may be internally somebody else can’t sing. Quick example, I was working with a company recently that wasn’t doing that well with their ability to recruit top Latinx talent. And when I was talking to their head of recruiting, they said something to the effect of, “Well, Robert, we’re doing the best we can.” And that’s where I think my role is because I pushed back a little bit. I said, “Well, let me show you what “best we can,” looks like, and you tell me if you’re doing these sorts of things.”

And of course, they weren’t. I think that expertise that external trends, best practices, that scholar-practitioner perspective are part of my mandate of working with organizations and other DNI executives.

David Kim, Zendesk //

Thank you, Robert. As the audience can see, we have an incredible diversity of experiences, expertise, background, and different perspectives. I want to share with the audience, if you have questions throughout the panel discussion, please place them in and chat. Our host, Sylvia, will review those questions and we will have a Q&A time towards the end. You can also put it in the Q&A section, I see it there on Zoom as well. In this world today of polarized views, the relevancy of DEI. I was just on a discussion with, I believe 28 chief diversity officers yesterday. And it was just a lot of back and forth around what hybrid environments might look like or what the forest vaccinations would look like. There’s a lot going on right now around the world.

Current events, including unequal access to health, unequal access to wealth, work-life challenges facing women and people of color.

Now, what does it mean in terms of micro-inequities in a physical environment versus the tools and the support you might have from an accessibility standpoint at home? And how does that change with evolving trends? Violence against the Asian population or with, George Floyd, and the commitments that many, many companies made very publicly a year ago and us seeing progress against those commitments and what we’re doing against that.

And so in this area and space, in terms of relevancy and impacts, what are your thoughts on the DEI? How is that part of the answer and what critical role does that play in your respective workplaces and employees and your customers? And I’m going to start with, Robert, and Texanna, on this one, but feel free other panelists chime in. It’ll be the same for these other questions as well. And so we want this to be a free-flowing dialogue. And so please, riff off each other, jump in, and contribute. But Robert, what is your perspective on what’s going on today and the impact of DVI?

Dr. Robert Rodriguez //

Two quick things, I would say. One is, we’re starting to see organizations take much more ownership in, what are they doing to help create the condition that nurtures the success of their historically underrepresented groups or employee resource groups? Because previously, David, companies would call me in, for example, to help with their Latino initiatives.

And while they wouldn’t say it this way, David, a lot of times the implied message was, “Robert, come on in and fix those Latinos, would you? Because they’re not assertive enough. They’re not aggressive enough. They’re not willing to relocate.” And they would list all these things that, apparently, were deficient. That’s why we didn’t have greater representation. No, I’m not fixing anybody. We’re not broke.

Can we benefit from professional development? Absolutely. But I think where the narrative has changed a lot, particularly, over the last 18 to 36 months is companies are starting to take more responsibility to say, “Hey, we have an obligation.”

It’s not that members of these communities are broke or deficient, it’s that we’re not creating the systems that allow them to be successful.” And so that’s why the work that you do at Zendesk and Micron and Rite Aid, I think they’re all going towards that route, creating the systems, the talent management programs that help elevate the success of every employee. And then the second quick thing I’ll say is that much more focus on allyship. And we’ve seen that for a while, but it’s a different focus. Before the focus on being an ally was much more on the noun, have an ally to this community and I support this community. And that’s great. That was a big start.

But where I see DNI changing is helping fuller allies focus, not so much on an ally, as a noun, but ally as a verb. Okay.

That’s great. You’re an ally, but how does this community feel that allyship? What are you doing? Are you leaning into it? Are you learning more about these communities? Do you understand their struggles? Are you lending a voice to folks whose voices have been maybe marginalized or unheard in the past?

I think for me, those are the two things I’ve seen change the world of work, much more ownership of the companies and then a greater focus on allyship as a verb, as opposed to a noun.

David Kim, Zendesk //

Insightful, Robert. Texanna?

Texanna Reeves, Rite Aid //

I’m building on that from what the external environment is like, and what’s happening actually internally, particularly, when we think about equity, as well as with the social inequities, is that Heyward Donigan, our CEO, as well as our board, is that what they really want us to focus on if I use the analogy of the airlines, when you’re on an airplane, put the oxygen mask on first. And that is really to ensure that we’re providing our organization, our associates are diverse that we have an equitable work environment, and that everyone within our workplace feels like that they can bring their whole self to work.

When we think about it in reference to what we do as an organization, is that how are we bringing health and wellness equity to our customers? When our customers are coming into the store, how are they feeling welcomed and included, and that they can find the products that meet their specific needs?

So, my focus has been based on that to ensure DNI is an enabler of our RxEvolution with our business. And to make certain that when I came into the organization, the board was eager, our CEO and the executive team were eager to have DE&I, our associates were eager to have DE&I, and I was eager. But the circumstances are that we have to be able to ensure that we are taking a very systematic and holistic approach in order to make progress and to show that we have that commitment that we absolutely can deliver on results.

So, that’s where our focus has been, is really around making sure that we had a strategy or three-year strategy roadmap that addressed the needs of all of those different constituencies, as well as to ensure that we could bring to our associates a noticeable difference.

Before we felt as though we wanted to say a lot externally, that we were making sure that we were dressing our house internally. However, we also knew that we had that obligation to indicate what our values and beliefs were. And so that’s why as well, what we’ve done in July is actually agreed on a new set of values.

In August we built off, we integrated DE&I, and those values, but built off of that to complete, what we call a DE&I commitment statement. That commitment statement, we’re actually also including into with our government relations, et cetera, is that everyone that we’re talking to and addressing with, we’re sharing with them, our DE&I commitment statement. They know what we believe in, what we value, and anything that they’re doing that’s going against that is that we’re going to start to call them out on that.

As we’re still working on all of our various processes, we wanted to at least start to put a line in the sand, if you will to start to be able to communicate what we’re doing around DE&I. And one last point on this topic on this question is around the facts of, with that belief of focusing in-house. If you look on our website, there’s not much as yet around DE&I, it will be, and we’ll be telling a good story, but I want to make sure that we really have that authentic story to be able to tell. And so I wanted to share that with you as well.

Sylvia Flores, Espresa //

I just wanted to break in for just a moment, Texanna, that was beautiful. Rite Aid inherently is an inclusive brand. You are dealing with the uninsured and the insured. Inherently from just a retail perspective, you are [embracing] community. You’re doing the inside out and the outside in. I just wanted to state that.

Sharawn Connors Tipton, Micron //

Yeah. I was just going to jump in and say preach, Texanna, because what you are talking about is performative DEI. And that’s what we don’t want. We don’t want to come out with these big flashy statements.

As we’re responding to external events, me talking about Latino Pay Day and posting, but knowing that we need to develop our LatinX population at Micron. That’s a misalignment and that’s where companies get called out. I think it’s what you said about doing that inside work first is so important. The other thing that I would highlight, we’ve struggled a lot at Micron, going through this journey, times are different now, team members are holding us accountable.

Shareholders are holding us accountable. They want us to speak up on these external matters now. But there are so many. How do you, as a company decide, what is your CEO going to speak out on? What is DEI going to speak out on? What do we feel called to send as our message?

And so what we had to do is get clear on our values as a company, and make sure that it would be authentic coming from our CEO. And so we pull together a team of DEI, our giving foundation, government affairs, and our marketing team. And we have a crisis team. As these things come up, we pull together and we actually have a matrix that we run through that will help us and guide us as we decide, whether or not to speak out.

I’ll give you an example. Most recently, there’s been a lot of talk about abortion rights in Texas. Is that something your company wants to speak out about? That’s a conversation you need to have with your key leadership team.

We know that blacks are hesitant to get vaccinated. Texanna, at Rite Aid, might say, we absolutely have to speak out about this, this ties to our business around health and wellbeing. Whereas Micron might say, we’ll pick a different platform that aligns more closely with our business and our cause.

I just want to encourage everyone as you’re seeing all these things happen externally, don’t feel pressure to speak out on everything, make sure that it’s authentic, it aligns with your business. Does it impact your team members? Is it the right thing to do for your organization? And then once you’ve made those commitments, make sure to, Texanna’s point, that you’re thinking about the internal folks as well, and that you are making good on those commitments.

Dr. Alex Shubat, Espresa //

These are amazing comments. What I would like to add, just because we have a bird’s eye view of many companies and to answer David’s question, what we see in a big way, our companies are just more serious about this. Where it was maybe a grounds up the initiative and maybe some people just handling it part-time and they were passionate about it, but there is not a lot of support.

What you see now is that it starts at the board level. We see companies, they all have a board initiative to really be serious and take this, embrace DNI initiatives, and to make sure our companies are executing on certain plans. And then it goes up to the CEO? When somebody reaches out to us and says, “Well, the CEO asked us to get us to the next level.”

And with DNI, it’s a journey. Some companies are at a very early stage. Some companies already have great ERGs and they’re not trying to get more activity and some companies have very established processes. It doesn’t matter. I can see that there’s a push at all levels. The companies who already have processes and have ERG communities, they’re being asked, well, how many people are participating? Well, if they just click the join button, are they really part of the community? Are they really passionate about it? Or, yeah, we got numbers because we have 10,000 people in the company and 5,000 people joined something. Well, then the next question is, we’re going to put a lot of initiatives and budget, how do we know that it’s making a dent?

Well, now you want to see what their engagement levels are. Did they actually read the content? Did they actually show up to some of the events? Did they actually post something? Are they reacting to the post? Now they’re looking for much more data because they’re saying, look, it’s a closed-loop. If you put more budget into it and more attention, and we get the results, then we’ll get back and see what can do about it. We see companies are definitely more passionate, more serious about it coming from top-down, and definitely, it’s making a difference. And another thing that we’re seeing is that it’s not only what you’re doing within the company, but how you tie in some of your business goals, or what can you do to connect the ERG community to the external community?

Just like Sharawn said, maybe the black community is not getting vaccinated as much. Well, we have a black ERG community in the company. What can they do about this? And bring it back. What do you learn from maybe the Latino community in your area? How do you bring it back into the company? How can you tie this together? All of that requires a lot of energy, a lot of focus, the cross-functional groups, the communicating, the messaging. Yeah, it’s a very exciting time because I would say, it’s still fairly new, even David is doing it for 20 years, but I don’t believe it was ever done at this level. That’s our observation.

David Kim, Zendesk //

Thank you. What I’m hearing is massive amounts of visibility from the board, the C-suite, our employees, external stakeholders. What I love hearing about your respective companies and your input and expertise is these are not checking the box exercises for you. It has to be integrated. Well, you are talking about business and culture and employee priorities in your organizations. Many companies like our own have made these external commitments, and I’m going to direct this question initially to, Sharawn, and Alex, and Texanna, and Robert, please join in after. But what now? What is the focus now since we made that infrastructure change or putting those pieces in place that we just talked about and the importance of that? What are you focused on? And what’s the now answer for you and what you’re seeing in response to these external complexities and trends and what we’re facing? Some examples, the Great Resignation has come up, hybrid environment, that debate where all these companies are tackling a bit differently some more rigid and some really into flexible work solutions. And so what is your perspective in terms of what’s now and maybe what’s next? Sharawn.

Sharawn Connors Tipton, Micron //

Yeah, I’ll kick it off. We were one of those companies, we came out and we made six DEI commitments externally. And I would say, so what’s next, as far as commitments are, are you meeting them? Are those commitments that you made truly making an impact? Are they yielding the results that you thought that they would? And so this year our DEI report comes out on December’s six, we’ll have a scorecard and breaking news. It’s not all green. There are definitely some areas where we’re going to have to double down and continue to focus on to make progress. I would say what’s next is holding yourself accountable because we’re only a year away from where we started and it takes time to make progress. I would say go back to those commitments, be very honest with yourself, and transparent about what you’ve done, and then ask yourself if you’ve done great, then set the bar higher. Let’s do more.

That’s what any company does for any other business objectives. If you haven’t done well, what resources do you need? What attention and time do we need to put into this so that we can make more progress? And is it having the impact that we thought it would? I think the other thing that is next is we spend a lot of time in DEI thinking about the talent life cycle. How do we bring in talent to the organization? How do we develop them? How do we retain them? Even, how do we exit them? How do we pay them? And that’s wonderful. But to me, that is the first level of DEI. And you’ve got to, to Texanna’s point, get your house in order.

But then the next level is thinking about your business practices. How do we do business as a company? Do we hire diverse suppliers? Are we actively making it a point to do that? When our sales team goes out to pitch, what do they look like? Do they look like our customer base? Or do they look different than that? Are they representative of the communities that we are living, working, and playing in? When we think about who manages our cash as a corporation, are we investing with minority-owned institutions? These are reputable businesses. This is not charity work. But really, thinking about applying that equality lens to every single thing that we do in the business.

And in order to do that, that means DEI leaders have to go beyond partnering and supporting HR. Do they have a seat at the table when we’re reviewing our quarterly business reviews so that they’re able to say, hey, IT, you’re thinking about collaboration tools, are you thinking about our people with disabilities and what that looks like for them? And so we really need to elevate the role in which our DEI teams and leaders play and have everyone thinking through that lens. And then I want to talk just quickly about ERGs and I want to thank you, Dr. Robert Rodriguez, for helping us to really elevate our ERGs because we’ve been able to use them strategically to help advance our business objectives.

A great example at Micron is we’ve implemented a patent program within our women’s ERG, and we’ve doubled the number of women with patents. And so that’s what’s next, it’s great you have ERG, what is their engagement look like compared to everyone else? What is their career project look like? Are they growing along with the company? And are you helping to foster an environment where they can make a real business impact instead of what, Alex said, saying, we have three new chapters? That’s great from a metrics perspective, but what is the actual impact? I think that’s what’s next, David.

David Kim, Zendesk //

Thank you. Alex?

Dr. Alex Shubat, Espresa //

Yeah. Absolutely. I think that you hit on a couple of very, very topical items. One is the hybrid work-from-home environment. That was very, very challenging. Now I think it became, I don’t know, double, triple, quadruple, whatever the challenge was, to the ERG initiatives because the ERG initiatives a lot of it is about events.

Getting people together, having some event with speakers, having some discussions, some outcomes and that was difficult already when you’re on big campuses. And now that employees are working from home, how do you bring them into these communities? It is very challenging. So absolutely the case.

Like we were doing today, a lot of things went virtual. You have to make sure everybody’s included, whether in big campus, small office, somewhere, or working from home or working in a different country altogether. How do you include them making sure they can participate, their voices heard, they can contribute? Definitely, any technology that can help you there is just going to make it better. And we definitely see that. And the second thing is that the Great Resignation is becoming an employee market. What does that do that creates more churn. And I think now with the ability to great people and have them be part of the community. And that means a greater place to work, and hopefully, we’ll reduce that churn. That’s our vision.

But you have to be able to take care of your team, take care of employees, be able to recognize them. You can’t recognize them anymore, but patting them on the shoulder after meeting, you did a great job because you’re not with them. Any digital tools to help employees feel that they’re not just a cog in the wheel and recognize them in an ERG community. Is that going to stop the resignation process? No, but if you can make even small percentage points, it’s a big deal because recruiting is very expensive. Training is very expensive. If you can just show that you’re making some improvements. I think that’s a great outcome.

Sylvia Flores, Espresa //

As the timekeeper, which I’m the worst at, as we already know. I’d like to have some Q&A time but also keep this going. And who can go over? I want to go over because you all are too interesting to stop. The conversation’s too important.

David Kim, Zendesk //

We want the audience to have access to these incredible minds. If okay with you panelists, we can open it up to some Q&A. And then I would like with just maybe three minutes at the end to maybe pause Q&A to allow our panelists to share some final thoughts before we leave, if that’s good? Okay. What questions are we seeing, Sylvia? And I really support anyone in the audience, please add to the Q&A button or in chat, and, Sylvia, will help share.

Sylvia Flores, Espresa //

Yes, in fact. But I really could have this go on forever. One question, what would you advise privileged people like me, who aren’t diverse enough, too privileged to be say a chief DEI officer, but are fervently committed moving the needle in this, in our organization, and beyond? This is from, Molly garner.

Dr. Robert Rodriguez //

Wow! One of the things that I would say is just getting a much more textured understanding of an appreciation for historically underrepresented groups. For example, I was working with a company and one of their executives would say, “Hey, Robert, I want to really support Latinx initiatives and I want to be a strong ally.” But in talking with the individual, it was very clear that he didn’t know much about the community. Well, he said something like, “She doesn’t look Latina.” I’m, “No, being Latino is not a race, it’s an ethnicity.” And they’re, “Really?” Yeah, Latinos can be blonde hair, blue eyes. We can be Afro-Latino. We can be indigenous. But so here is someone who’s saying they’re being an ally coming from a privileged background, but yet hadn’t done the work. And then in talking further, he thought we were all Mexican and just these misconceptions and stereotypes.

I think that’s part of what we can all do, is just, hey, if we want to support and be a stronger ally to another community, we have to go work. We have to get educated. We have to look at the issues. And don’t just sit back and say, okay, educate me here I am. I was, no, you have to do that work. And that’s one of all this COVID, new world of work, is we are starting to see those allies take that step. And leverage their position of privilege to now only educate themselves but help elevate the voices of those who maybe have been silenced in the past.

Sylvia Flores, Espresa //

I love that. Is there anybody else who would like to respond to that or are we all in consensus on that moment onto the next question? Okay. Shannon McHale, how do you measure the progress from ERGs within your organization? I’m just going to add that to the tail end of that.

Sharawn Connors Tipton //

I’ll jump in and kick-off. We have an amazing foresee roadmap. We implemented Dr. Rodriguez’s foresee plan for our ERGs. And we are so blessed that now, I mean, this is great. Each of our ERGs has a roadmap and goals around community culture, career, and commerce, which is really the business impact. I would say there’s a couple of key metrics we look at. One, we look at membership, is our membership growing, and is it growing in areas where we know we have the opportunity? Another area that we look at is we look at our engagement survey and we look at the scores of those that are in ERGs and those that aren’t in ERGs. And then we also look at career pathing. We look at those who are in ERGs and how long are they staying in job grades. Or are they progressing up versus those that aren’t?

This is an interesting one, we do look at attendance in events and we look for leadership so we can see who’s attended. And what I’m looking for is my C-suite who showed up and I send them a percentage. And that’s very impactful because you say you’re an ally and you want to support, well, what were you during Juneteenth or Autism Awareness Month or Latino Heritage Month, did you show up? Did you support it? Did you demonstrate that you are an inclusive leader? But then lastly, and I think this is the most important that roadmap really helps us because we’re able to see, are the ERGs making an impact? For each of those four areas that I mentioned, they have specific goals and measurements, that we’re an engineering company so we love data. Let me just lead with that. We do measure how they’re doing on their plan, and then we provide them support and executive support to help push them along the way. Those are some of the ways we measure at Micron.

Alex Shubat, Espresa //

That’s great. Just to add to what, Sharawn said, is that there are two aspects, one, something we call member activities scores. How many members, how many of them are actually doing anything? How many are attending events, participating, commenting, reacting, leading groups? And then it has to finish with the KPIs, which is the ForeSee model is very popular to what, Dr. Rodriguez, champion with a lot of our clients. And then you need tools and methodologies. You want to automate some of that because tracking any KPIs requires a lot of administrative work. Having the membership activities scores, and the KPIs will allow you to see how your ERG initiatives and the journey [inaudible 00:50:41], are just at the beginning? Are you in the middle? Are you progressing? And it’s a never-ending cycle of continuous improvement, never stops.

Dr. Robert Rodriguez //

One thing, Alex, I’ll offer this up as a gift. One of the chapters in the book is called, “Developing ERG Metrics that Matter.” Very much building on what, Sharawn said, hey, it’s one thing to measure activity, it’s another thing to measure impact. And how are you leveraging metrics to more effectively tell your story, establish a baseline measure of progress? Alex, what I’ll do is, in the work and writing that chapter, I collected the 50 most commonly used ERG metrics.

I’ll share that with Espresa, I’ll share that with you and you can send it, share that with anyone on the call today who maybe wants a copy of those 50 metrics because it’ll just help elevate the thinking to say, okay, yeah, we do measure activity, but what other things can we measure to help really allow the ERGs not only to measure their impact but tell their story? And that was based on my work with, Texanna, when she [inaudible 00:51:47]. She was, “Robert, these metrics are great. These metrics really make a difference. They matter. I love that. Metrics that matter.” And there we go. Thanks, Texanna.

Texanna Reeves, Rite Aid //

You’re welcome. Did you have another question, Sylvia?

Sylvia Flores, Espresa //

Yes, we do. What advice would you give to someone tasked with leading DEI work at their organization, but receive pushback from a C-suite? And I think that this one was something that, Texanna, was really interested. I’d love to hear from her and the rest as well.

Texanna Reeves, Rite Aid //

Sure. I would say in terms of really ensuring that you’re providing alignment to the business of what the focus is on what the objectives are trying to be made with the business and focus on solutions. With that being said, is that whenever having a discussion with any one of the leaders, one way that I’ve started out with that discussion is what is your top three priorities? And whatever those top three priorities, I can assure you there’s DE&I alignment, because typically, it’s about their talent or how are they actually servicing their customers better? And so you can be able to provide those solutions for that leader. And then that automatically changes the conversation in which now they can see, okay, this is something that can help the business as opposed to some that are at the beginning stages of their DNI journey or maturity level is to be able to have that as the avenue to be able to than to talk about perhaps some even more difficult conversations that might deal with what’s their team makeup, et cetera, but to really focus on those solutions.

I would also state as well is that I think that we have to be careful as DE&I professionals. And even if you don’t have direct responsibility for DE&I, is to also not be making assumptions as to where you think certain leaders are, is that to be able to go into that conversation and to ask questions on why, how do they about this? Where do they see the value of DNI coming into play? Is not to automatically think that they’re resistant. Maybe there are other factors that are involved such as they don’t know how and are comfortable in terms of how to ask for that assistance. That’s how I would recommend in terms of addressing someone that’s resistant to DE&I

David Kim, Zendesk //

Thank you. I can listen to the four of you for hours and hours which I would love to do. But we’re at time. What I would like is just in a minute or less, I want to leave with your final thoughts or advice to this audience. And then we’ll wrap it up, Sylvia. Let’s start from my left, Dr. Robert Rodriguez.

Dr. Robert Rodriguez //

Thank you, David, and thanks for the opportunity Espresa, and thanks to everybody for joining. I would say really take a look at your talent management systems. We’re just finding that so much relies on who’s being deemed as a high performer. Who’s being deemed as a high potential. Are folks in our community being over-mentored and under-sponsored? How come all of our women and historically underrepresented talent, how come they get pushed towards staff roles and not roles of profit and loss responsibility? Just take a critical look at your talent management systems, because we can have the greatest spouse values, we can have metrics, we have the right culture, but at the end of the day, what happens in those rooms when key decisions are being made is so critical. Focus on talent management, would be my advice.

David Kim, Zendesk //

Thank you. Talent management. Texanna Reeves.

Texanna Reeves, Rite Aid //

What I would say is we live in a very complex environment right now, and it’s really, really difficult in terms of DE&I management. What I would state to you is to not make it be so complex, is to really view this and more from the perspective of, what are you really wanting to focus on? What do you really want to be able to make sure that you’re making a difference on and to focus on a few things that you’re going to be so good at that has a really high impact that you know is going to be felt not only by the C-Suite but also around your associates? And get alignment on that. These are the three really top priorities, even though your strategy or other initiatives are absolutely going to be there, but you’re going to really focus in on what you know can make a difference, so that then you can get that and manage momentum and encouragement that you are making progress to achieve other initiatives.

David Kim, Zendesk //

Thank you. Our CEO resident, Alex.

Alex Shubat, Espresa //

Yeah. Thanks, David. I think that from our perspective and there’s no one solution or advice that is for all companies here because everybody’s at different places in their journey. Companies are starting out way before you run, start small, couple of groups, small budget, get the momentum going get, get some awareness, get some attention, and then go to the next level. If you already have, five, six, seven groups, and you already have this membership, now you’re looking at KPIs. Now you’re looking at how does that impacts your business?

How does it impact your hiring? How does it impact your other employee, NPSs, the surveys that, Sharawn, talked about and keep building it up? And if you’re already a mature company, then you want to get even more bang for the buck. You want to have a more direct correlation about the effort that your company’s putting into these initiatives, to how it impacts the company’s position in the global market in line with the competition, in line with recruiting, again, bringing talent and making a difference in the world, which is not just shipping a gadget, right? Depending on where you are, your challenges are very different but keep at it.

David Kim, Zendesk //

All right, take us home, Sharawn Connors Tipton.

Sharawn Connors Tipton, Micron //

I’m going to be super quick. Understand how folks influence in your organization. Every organization has its love language. At Micron it’s data, we’re engineers. Whatever we’re pitching, where we’re trying to get alignment on those three big things, Texanna, talks about, we lead with data. Understand how you need to influence to make an impact in your organization and lead with that.

David Kim, Zendesk //

My deepest, deepest thanks to this accomplished panel and my friends, and thanks to you for the audience for this incredible discussion. Look out for the next Espresa forum sometime in January. And hope to connect and see you soon. Thank you again. Thank you.


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