A trusted advisor, innovator, and strategist, Dani Monroe, is one of the nation’s premier leaders in diversity, equity and inclusion work. With over decades of experience under her belt, Monroe is providing thoughtful strategies for a complex world.
Creating an equitable, inclusive and diverse environment is more than just a ‘good thing to do.’ All the evidence shows that doing so also delivers a sustainable and competitive advantage. It leads to higher retention levels, better workforce engagement, the ability to attract top talent, more innovation and productivity, and better decision-making. It helps build better businesses and the communities in which people live.
One individual who has gained decades of experience mastering the ins and outs of DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) in the workplace is Dani Monroe. Monroe is the CEO of Center Focus International, Inc., a global consulting firm and the former Senior Vice President and Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer for Mass General Brigham, Massachusetts’ largest healthcare organisation.
Throughout her career, Monroe successfully crafted a United Against Racism strategy that was put in place for the very first time in MassGeneral Brigham’s 200 years. Included were hiring goals at the director level and above. She has led diversity, inclusion and organisation effectiveness efforts in significant institutions like the Central Intelligence Agency, John Hancock, Hasbro, Pfizer, Novartis, Raytheon, Shell America, the State Street Corporation and the Walt Disney Company.
But today, the era of 2022 that has a strong focus on social justice is something that Monroe feels is helping DEI stand at the forefront of change like never before. “This is an exciting time for diversity, equity and inclusion. I’ve been in the field for decades. I’ve seen it evolve in its different phases. Today, the impact is measured by substantiality, business outcomes, policy changes, and equity across the organization. It’s been wonderful to have the opportunity to grow up in a profession in a field and as it’s maturing,” she explains.
With awareness around diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace beginning to transition rapidly, Dani Monroe shares her expert advice on how DEI is expected to thrive in 2022 – an era Monroe believes will change corporate America for generations to come.
Chief Diversity Officers Need Strong Resources And A Position As An Executive Member At The CEO Table To Thrive
For diversity, equity and inclusion to thrive, it has to be anchored at the CEO level. The Chief Diversity Officer needs to be an executive within the CEO’s team. DEI cuts across all aspects of an organization. Sitting at the table with peers that lead those functions allows for the integration of DEI to take place. It also signals that DEI is a strategic imperative and critical to the business of an organization. Reinforcing the seat at the CEO table is the allocation of appropriate resources to perform the job. Without resources such as access to functions or budget staff, everything will be much more complicated. “To cut across all aspects of an organisation’s work, it needs to be given the highest priority to achieve this,” says Monroe.
When it comes to choosing the right voice for the position, Monroe believes that one’s lived experience is insufficient to step into DEI work. According to Monroe, “expertise is needed to move an organization forward. Understanding organizational change, the policies that support this work, the study of bias and understanding talent management. Passion does not qualify one for a Chief Diversity Officer position – it will only get you so far. It doesn’t get you through those challenging times when you’re sitting with a group of senior leaders, and they’re looking for your expert advice,” she explains.
Having the right expertise, and in-depth experience coupled with passion will allow the Chief Diversity Officer to integrate DEI across everything an organization does.
By Embracing ESG, DEI Will Thrive, In The Next Phase
ESG stands for environmental, social, and governance consideration in our investment process. These factors are used to identify material risks and growth opportunities as many investors are requiring corporations to connect their work to the environment, social justice and governance responsibilities. DEI is a natural lever for ESG to evolve and thrive. The work is so intricately linked that some organizations are restructuring DEI from Human Resources to ESG Departments. It is interconnecting with ESG as it lies parallel to the traditional human capital strategies.
More than ever corporations are giving a great deal of importance to what’s going on in the external world, how it’s impacting the internal workforce and their responsibility in shaping the social narrative. It’s almost like DEI has formed parallel tracks. One is the human capital track, which is the typical traditional strategy that the work evolved from. The other is now ESG, where we’re looking at environmental, social responsibility and governance.
“Today, these two things are interconnected. You can’t do social justice and responsibility without thinking about who your workforce is, your workforce’s demographic, and what their concerns are. And with regards to the environment; in terms of sustainability, a clean environment impacts everybody,” explains Monroe. “By connecting ESG to environmental, social responsibility and governance, we can optimise the performance of an organisation.”
In 2022 DEI Will Thrive By Taking Action. This Will Help Us Move Away From Static Empty Promises To Organizations Leading With Ever Lasting Impact
The third way DEI will thrive in 2022 is by implementing action and understanding that it’s not just about the activities but more about impacting plans that are tied to the business strategy of the organisation. If we are going through the motions of saying that we support diversity, equity and inclusion but are not moving into action by having solid plans that cut across businesses and functions, “then we are just spinning our wheels.” This is what Monroe calls ‘window dressing.’
Why not do something in which you’re tracked and measured based on the plans that you set forth? When it comes to the type of action that will thrive, it’s not just about focusing on activities; it’s about impact–changing policy and tracking behavior. “Activities outside of the overall organisational strategies, like celebrating Black History Month or International Women’s Month are great examples of self-identity and moments of well-being, but by themselves, they don’t have a lasting impact,” she says.
For a company to succeed, there needs to be a fair and inclusive organisation that recognises and fully embraces the importance of a diverse workforce. It’s about developing a culture where everyone can feel valued, engaged and respected for what they do. If they can demonstrate that they’re having an impact, which usually means an action connected to a broader business strategy, then Monroe believes you can be successful.
Monroe encourages taking risks because – only by taking action can we move forward. “It’s always been about making a difference in people’s lives. I don’t think there is anything more beautiful than seeing people tap into their potential and start to soar. That self-expression can finally be valued and honoured. Both the organisation and the individual can feel accomplished – this all plays a big part in what drives me to continue doing this work,” says Monroe.
For more information on the trusted advisor and thought leader to Chief Diversity Officers and Senior Executives, visit Dani Monroe’s website: https://danimonroe.com/.
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