DEI Program Promotes Equity and Belonging in the Workplace

This article was originally shared on the Georgetown University School of Continuing Studies News & Events page. 

Maria Kelts is the Head of Enterprise Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging, at Capital One Financial, but she doesn’t rely on diversity training to make workplaces more equitable and welcoming.

“Diversity training is not a stand-alone solution, and many challenge its effectiveness in organizations,” Kelts says. “I would also focus on creating fair, equitable, and transparent people processes that are sustainable” and encompass the entire employee lifecycle, from the time they are recruited till when they say good-bye.

Because, as she explains, if people “leave your organization with a pervasive feeling of inclusion,” they will promote it as a great place to work or be a long-term customer.

An Increasing Demand

This distinction—between relatively narrow diversity training and a more holistic approach—also applies to Kelts’ other position as an instructor in the Executive Certificate in Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion program at Georgetown University. Led by academics and experienced practitioners, the certificate emphasizes the best practices and latest academic research in cultural competency and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).

“The course is experiential in nature and is built on the foundation of understanding oneself through the identities one holds and acknowledging oneself as a change agent,” Kelts says. “Knowing how you walk through the world allows you to more effectively analyze, diagnose, and address DEI issues in the workplace and beyond.”

Many practitioners in her field “are absolutely exhausted right now,” Kelts says. Certainly, the pandemic’s outsized impact on underrepresented groups and a heightened focus on racial justice have compelled corporations to initiate, or reinvest in, programs to address inequities. But this investment is also part of a broader trend of corporate commitment to DEI. The demand for qualified practitioners has grown dramatically, with LinkedIn data showing a 71 percent increase in worldwide DEI positions over the past five years.

Universities have also responded.

“We’re at capacity every quarter,” Kelts says of Georgetown’s DEI certificate program, which includes six intensive courses that must be completed within six months. “The demand has enabled us to be selective with those who apply. It is highly competitive.” Admissions officers “are looking for individuals who are open to learning through non-traditional methods and embracing a cohort experience.”

A Well-Documented Advantage

The business case for diversity has been demonstrated repeatedly in recent years: Simply put, diverse, inclusive, and equitable companies are more profitable. According to MarketWatch: “Diverse companies are 70 percent more likely to capture new markets than organizations that do not actively recruit and support talent from under-represented groups.”

This statistic makes particular sense when considering the kind of out-of-the-box thinking that is required for innovation: Is this more likely to come from a group with similar backgrounds, mindsets, and experiences, or a group with more diverse ones? The answer is self-evident. In addition, forward-thinking companies are more focused on addressing inclusivity, fairness, and social responsibility—and in attracting talented prospects who prioritize these values when choosing a job.

“Diversity is an absolute reality,” Kelts says. “One cannot argue with the changing composition of the United States. In addition to being inclusive of differences, and providing your employees with role clarity, a belief that they are being fairly invested in and rewarded is essential in enhancing a feeling of belonging that leads to greater engagement and outcomes.”

A Quest for Self-Knowledge

Georgetown’s program generally attracts three kinds of students, Kelts says. They include: people who have been tasked by their organizations to implement a DEI program; those already in the field who want to learn new skills; and others who are “generally interested in DEI as a field of study.”

Early in the program, students engage in a personal inquiry designed to increase their self-knowledge. “It’s very important that you develop a level of awareness around self—how you experience the world and how that peppers and flavors your interactions with others—and really have clarity on that piece first,” Kelts says. “And then you can dive into, for example, understanding how to address systemic inequities in systems at the individual, organizational, and societal levels.”

Kelts says the benefits of this kind of experience go beyond one’s working life.

“Not everybody who completes the certificate program is going to work in a DEI position, nor should they,” Kelts says. “One of our students shared that this program provided them with tools to transform every space they enter. The cohort experience is a unique opportunity to build a network of support as one moves forward with their DEI journey. We know our sphere of influence extends beyond our workplace, including our friends, family, and community.”


Learn more about Georgetown’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion program here.  

Caring for Our Common Home

This post was shared by Lynn Screen, Managing Director in Georgetown’s Institute for Transformational Leadership.

This month marks the 51st Earth Day, a global celebration and reminder of the fragility of our planet.  This year, we also celebrate Georgetown University’s newest Jesuit value, “Care for Our Common Home”.

“Care for Our Common Home” calls us to enter into a “new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet.”  In addition to protecting the Earth through conservation and preservation efforts, there is also a moral imperative at play.   We recognize the disproportionate impact of environmental hazards on people of color, so we are called to advance the work of environmental justice.

What can you as a leader do to care for our common home?

Start at Home

Consider your own ecological footprint and reflect on how your lifestyle compares with that of the other 7.6 million people on the Earth.  The are many tools to calculate the impact of your lifestyle choices.  Try this one from the Global Footprint Network.  

Identify ways that you and your family can continue to decrease your ecological impact on our planet.  Reduce your waste, your use of disposable plastics, your meat consumption, and your water use.  Switch to renewable energy sources and to buying as much as possible locally. Commit to starting something different today.

Learn About Environmental Justice

The environmental justice movement began in the 1980s as massive disparities were exposed in the burden of environmental degradation and pollution facing people of color and low-income communities .  Since then, the environmental justice movement has focused on gaining government support to decrease the disproportionate impact of environmental degradation and pollution- especially on those communities that already face discrimination.

What is your role in environmental justice?  Educate yourself on the environmental justice efforts in your area, and elevate the voices of impacted communities.   As a leader, use your power and position to influence others to support environmental justice.  As a citizen, hold your representatives accountable.   If you are in the U.S., start here at the Environmental Protection Agency site. 

Add a Sustainability Lens to Your Decision Making

Each day, we make thousands of conscious decisions.  What would happen if you paused twice a day to ask yourself, “How will this choice impact the environment?”  In your organization, at what point in your strategic planning, budgeting, procurement, hiring, and operations do you consider the implications on the environment and those disproportionally impacted?  Raise your individual and organizational consciousness by adding a sustainability lens to your decision making.  If you are a coach or consultant, support your leaders as they navigate the moral call for sustainability, regeneration and environmental justice as they also tend to the bottom line.

Our collective home is calling us to witness the realities of how we use and abuse the Earth in a new way.  We must use our voices and make bold moves to reshape the future of our planet.  After all, we are truly in this together.

Photo by Johannes Plenio from Pexels

Body Intelligence: Coming Home

This post was shared by Marcia Feola, MCC, faculty of Leadership’s Untapped Resource: Body Intelligence in Georgetown’s Institute for Transformational Leadership.

What is body intelligence and why is it important?

First let’s start with an historical perspective. It was not until the 16th century when Descartes wrote, “I think, therefore I am.“ that  we began to believe that the mind, body and emotions are three separate and independent systems.  We now know, with the advancement of neuroscience aided by radiological imaging, that the human body in its totality operates more as a chord: all of the functions and processes work together as a whole system. We have a cognitive rational mind, emotions and physical sensations.

If you think of our human body as a three-legged stool with a mind, body and emotions as its legs, you can readily see that if we take one leg away, the stool falls over. When learning to come home to our body’s intelligence we are learning to operate with all three legs of the stool, which are all of the resources we need to be successful in our journey as a human.

Most people with whom I work talk about wanting to be their full, authentic selves — an auspicious goal for sure. If we, as humans, are not in touch with our bodies and the intelligence in our bodies, we are leaving a large portion of ourselves behind. We are socialized to disregard the important data we receive all day long from our bodies. This is epitomized in many organizations by the request to, “Leave your emotions at the door.” Ignoring physical sensations and emotions is a norm for so many of us. This comment suggests that feelings and emotions are not welcome at work. This is why tapping into body intelligence is actually a homecoming: we’re coming back to our whole self.

The work of body intelligence is to raise processes or patterns into our awareness. Awareness provides us with choice and improves our outcomes and relationships. There are three critical elements to coming home.

1. Pay attention (listen to or tune into)  – Can we be aware of our physical self, the sensations, the moves we make, the cues we receive?

  1. Discernment – How do we make sense of those physical signals?
  1. Choice  – How can we use this information to make choices and inform our actions?

When operating with body intelligence, leaders, coaches, facilitators and others have stated they have immediate access to skills and choices that allow them to show-up with more capacity and wisdom, creating positive outcomes for self and others with greater ease. When working with individuals and organizations, your personal decision tree can shift in any given movement. The fastest and most effective way to access authenticity and effectiveness, while creating inclusiveness and connection – is to come home to body intelligence.

Learn more about Leadership’s Untapped Resource: Body Intelligence in the Institute for Transformational Leadership.

Stress, Resilience, and Recovery

This post was shared by Institute for Transformational Leadership Academic Director – Bill Pullen. 

We’re all human.

Obvious, right? Maybe even a cliché.

But how often have you been witness to people acting as if it isn’t true of themselves or, perhaps, others? How often does decision-making neglect this simple fact?

We’re living in interesting times (another cliché – but also, again, true). The nation is undergoing profound changes that are calling for personal and institutional adaptation to a degree that hasn’t been seen in decades. New possibilities are opening up and, at the same time, new challenges are arising. Leaders are being asked to step up and create a safe path forward for their organizations through a chaotic and turbulent landscape, all while doing the same thing for themselves and their families.

The classic archetype of leadership in American culture is that of a lone figure, demanding and remote, who perseveres by withdrawing and powering through obstacles without regard for the emotional cost to themselves or others. It’s a model that carries with it a lot of implicit baggage around gender and race, which makes it a poor fit for the increasingly diverse workplace of today. It’s also brittle, inflexible, and leaves very little room to be human.

But leaders are human. Organizations and institutions are composed of humans. And what is increasingly apparent is that if we truly accept these facts then the outcomes for both individuals and organizations are better than if we deny them. Rather than weakening us, creating a space for us to understand our gifts and limitations and how they interact with our environment can be a source of great strength. It can bring resiliency.

The American Psychological Association defines resilience as, “…the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress—such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors. As much as resilience involves ‘bouncing back’ from these difficult experiences, it can also involve profound personal growth.”

Instead of minimizing or dismissing stress, a leader who has resilience is one who allows themselves and others the necessary space to take actions that affirm their human characteristics in a way that promotes growth and strength. The APA suggests building personal resilience by building connections through prioritizing relationships; fostering wellness by taking care of your body and practicing mindfulness; finding purpose by helping others, looking for opportunities for self-discovery; and embracing healthy thoughts by keeping things in perspective, accepting change, and maintaining a hopeful outlook.

There are many ways to develop greater resilience and build in periods of recovery. Every person can find healthy practices that work for them. These practices need not be time consuming; just stepping away from the computer, walking outside for a minute of fresh air between meetings, or pausing and taking a few deep breaths can send a message to the nervous system to slow down. The cumulative effect of utilizing these techniques is the creation of a more resilient physical, emotional, and spiritual posture towards personal and work life.

Leaders play an important role in setting the tone for their organization. A leader who practices resilience techniques is one who creates space for their employees to do so as well. All too often leaders voice encouragement for their subordinates to set appropriate boundaries but do not do so themselves. It is important that leaders model the behaviors they want people to engage in by providing an example as non-verbal cues demonstrated by leaders are at least as important as vocalizing support for healthy practices.

Organizations can be resilient, too. In a recent article in the Harvard Business Review titled on organizational resilience the authors write, “To cope – and thrive – in uncertain times, develop scripted routines, simple rules, and the ability to improvise.”

Researchers have identified three broad approaches to getting work done, and what they’ve learned can help managers respond more effectively to highly changeable environments. The first approach is the one we’ve just described: organizational routines, which are efficient when work is predictable. The second approach is simple rules, or heuristics—rules of thumb that help you speed up processes and decision-making and prioritize the use of resources in less-predictable contexts (for example, “We invest only in projects with a projected ROI of 10% or more”). And the third is improvisation—spontaneous, creative efforts to address an opportunity or a problem (for example, when a team figures out how to do manual production because a factory’s automated line has suddenly broken down).

This mix of approaches creates both continuity and the ability to adapt to changing conditions. In other words, it is possible to approach challenges using a set of tools that preserves institutional identity but leaves room for growth.

Everybody goes through turbulent periods. We’re all human. But intentionally foster an attitude of balance – of equilibrium – can help us to meet our challenges and thrive in uncertain times. Leaders who cultivate a framework of daily practices that leaves room for creative growth will find themselves and their organizations better equipped to meet the challenges of the day, whatever the day brings.

Ask yourself: what steps can you take to create resilience in your own life and in the culture of the organizations that you lead?

To learn more about Resilience and Transformational Leadership, check out our podcast:  Transformational Leadership for Transformational Times podcast. 


This post was shared by Maria van Hekken – faculty in Georgetown’s Executive Certificate in Leadership Coaching.


Not so long ago, life was an inspiration.

A conversation, a bird’s song, a child’s delightful laugh

Each was a teacher for our souls.

Then the world suddenly stopped

And we lost that joy.

Many of us went inside

And reluctantly got used to our new ways.

We kept going, not knowing

Just how long it might last (and last and last and last).

We felt trapped, lonely, sad and grateful

All at the same time, on occasion

Hitting a metaphorical wall or two (or three or four)

Bouncing back after a while (on the good days)

Retreating and becoming dark (on the not so good).

Outside, life continued, even flourished

The animals once hidden, came out in that new quiet

Mountains were visible again from afar.

Birdsong was amplified.

We were still more, we walked more, we had time to notice.

Ah, now I see it.

Pandemic, you are our soul teacher, too.

You taught us resilience, faith, appreciation, mourning and more.

Like the moon’s slivers of silver light

You keep showing us glimmers of hope in the darkness.

Winter is thawing.

Spring is on its way (I see the red buds on you, trees).

Now, may we each discover renewed inspiration from all our soul teachers.


Read more from Maria van Hekken on her Positive Thinking for Leadership Success blog here.