4 Ways to Celebrate Women’s History Month

4 Ways to Celebrate Women’s History Month

Every year, the U.S. recognizes March as Women’s History Month, and as the CEO of Center for Executive Excellence, a Woman-Owned Business, I’m excited to celebrate. If you’re wondering how you can celebrate Women’s History Month this month and beyond, here are four excellent tips.

1. Explore the history of women’s rights.

The theme of Women’s History Month 2022 is “Providing Healing, Promoting Hope.” This theme is both a tribute to the ceaseless, and often unrecognized, work of caregivers and career professionals during the ongoing pandemic. It’s also a recognition of the thousands of ways that women of all cultures have provided both healing and hope throughout history. If you don’t know the history of women’s rights in America, now’s a perfect time to learn.

2. Be aware of issues women still face today.

Although women have made progress, there are still areas where women face obstacles because of gender. For example, women still earn less on average than men, carry the majority of household and childcare responsibilities, face workplace stigmas, and are under-represented in politics, leadership, and STEM careers.

3. Support a women’s nonprofit.

If you really want to make a measurable difference this Women’s History Month, support a charity that works with women and girls in need. There are tons of great nonprofits, big and small, working to empower women and move the needle on gender equality. All of them could use every little bit of help. Here’s one of my favorites in San Diego: Girls Rising Mentor Program whose mission is to empower girls to recognize their value and pursue higher goals through a community of women mentors.

4. Write a thank you note to a woman who inspires you.

A few simple words to acknowledge how another woman has inspired you can mean a lot to her. Maybe she’s a role model or a friend who helped you through a tough time. Maybe you admire certain qualities about her and haven’t taken the time to let her know. A show of gratitude is a meaningful gesture.

Question: What women do you know whose contributions should be recognized and celebrated this month?

Driven by the premise that excellence is the result of aligning people, purpose and performance, Center for Executive Excellence facilitates training in leading self, leading teams and leading organizations. To learn more, subscribe to receive CEE News!

Highlights from our Panel Discussion: Building a Strong DEI Foundation

Highlights from our Panel Discussion: Building a Strong DEI Foundation

I have no idea how or even when I registered for the webinar yesterday but I am so glad I did. You put together a well-informed panel of leaders and I wanted to congratulate you on having a successful event.

That was a dart to my heart and I’m thrilled that I was able to participate. I’ve admired the careers of several of the panelists and everyone provided *real* value.

I always enjoy hearing from and seeing you on webinars, including tonight’s on the Building a Strong Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Foundation Webinar!

Feedback like this is what motivates our team to host free, quarterly DEI community-building panel discussions. Last week’s panel, Building a Strong DEI Foundation, included a Who’s Who of tenured practitioners in the DEI space. Casey Tonnelly, our moderator, has over 15 years of experience as a leadership development coach, anti-racism educator, and DEI strategist. Casey was joined by the brilliant Monica Davy who serves as the Chief Culture, Diversity and Inclusion Officer at Vizient, the nation’s leading healthcare performance improvement company with 4,000 employees in 20 metropolitan areas across the United States. In addition to being a passionate community-builder, Sarah Hassaine is the Global Director of Diversity at ResMed, a global Medtech company based in San Diego. The panel was rounded out by the gifted MyMy Lu, Director of Diversity & Inclusion for Thermo Fisher Scientific, a world leader in serving science with a global team of 80,000 colleagues.

You can view the replay of the panel discussion below. Meanwhile, here are a few key takeaways from this thought-provoking and powerful discussion.

Q: Share with us your biggest flex about something that you helped to accomplish with DEI in 2021.

Monica Davy: As you may recall, last March was a time when an anti-Asian movement was growing in the United States. So, we kicked off a series of monthly enterprise-wide conversations where we tackled difficult topics around diversity, equity, and inclusion. In March, we addressed the anti-Asian movement. In April, we had a conversation about neurodiversity. In May, my CEO sat down with me for a conversation about systemic racism. We included follow-up resources that team members could use to dive deeper into the topics. Those monthly conversations have been very helpful, and we are continuing to hold those and refine them in 2022.

Sarah Hassaine: I started in my position at ResMed 14 months ago and walked into a company that didn’t have diversity and inclusion practice. So, I began with a discovery tour to learn what the words diversity and inclusion meant to the senior leaders to mid-level managers across the organization. We discussed both what D&I meant at ResMed at the time and where it could evolve. Also, the company had four ERG’s (employee resource groups) when I joined, and we’ve since grown those to ten. Like Monica mentioned, having ongoing conversations around these subjects helps galvanize people, build community that drives engagement, and helps the company speak to real world issues as they arise. I’m really proud that, although we were fully remote in 2021, 6,000 ResMedians engaged.

MyMy Lu: When I walked into my position 7 months ago, Thermo Fisher already had 240 ERG chapters around the world. While it’s important that the people in those groups had a safe space to build community and belonging, the biggest flex for me last year was to be able to help align business strategies and initiatives that would make a difference to the ERG communities. We know our colleagues want to see progress, and I’m pleased that we’re actively working to make that happen.

Q: In January, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that a record 4.5 million Americans voluntarily left their jobs in November. That means there were 1.5 available jobs for each unemployed person, the most on record dating back two decades. My question is, how has having a dedicated DEI program helped your organization respond to the workforce gulf caused by the Great Resignation?

Sarah Hassaine: The Great Resignation is one way to look at it. The Great Talent Swap is another. That’s how we framed it at ResMed which helped us consider how we could leverage our competitive advantage for talent. We learned that candidates were asking broader questions around culture, diversity & inclusion, and how they’re going to feel when they join our team. We were able to partner with our Talent Acquisition team to be more intentional about promoting our D&I efforts. I provided toolkits for our recruiters and hiring managers with talking points about how to focus on our inclusive culture and improve the candidate experience.

MyMy Lu: I loved Sarah’s point about needing to be more intentional about both our existing and incoming talent. Thermo Fisher created an intentional, multi-pronged strategy. One was targeted diversity recruiting with HBCU’s and the launch of the JUST Project where we committed to hiring at least 500 alumni from HBCU’s through 2023. For our existing colleague population, we created mentorship and networking programs to address their professional development needs. We also improved the onboarding process in partnership with our ERG’s to drive inclusion right out of the gate, and focused on what belonging needs that some of our population had. For example, last year was both the 20th anniversary of 9/11 and the withdrawal from Afghanistan. Our Veteran’s ERG actively worked to support our veteran colleagues by hosting an event simply titled, “Your Service Matters” to create a space for anyone who wanted to come to share their experience and know that they were not alone.

Monica Davy: One of the things that we’ve done at Vizient is to couple diversity and inclusion with culture. My title is Chief Culture, Diversity and Inclusion Officer, because the leaders understood when they created the position that the two must be inextricably linked to be truly effective. If you ask anyone in our company what our values are, no one will hesitate to answer: Be Bold, Be Accountable, Be Inclusive, and Be Purposeful. We live our values every day. They inform how we hold meetings, how we make decisions, and how we recruit and retain talent. I would also say that The Great Resignation has not significantly impacted our attrition rate, and I believe that our culture of living our values contributed to that.

Q: What would you say are one or two areas that we are falling short in the Inclusion & Belonging work and what would you recommend CEOs and DEI leaders consider to make continued advancements? 

Sarah Hassaine: All of today’s panelists represent organizations in the health space. We have the opportunity to not only live our values – like Monica mentioned – internally, but to show our values in action in the marketplace to champion health equity. We have the opportunity to take advantage of the many lenses of D&I such as our branding component, the language used in our marketing collateral, and the accessibility of our content. We need to be asking ourselves every week, “What are we missing?” and “Are we inclusive enough?” It’s really having a holistic approach and incorporating D&I into all of its many lenses.

MyMy Lu: I want to touch on the prioritization of DEI. This work is heavy, and the potential impact can be great. To be truly effective, CEO’s need to show that they prioritize the work by creating a budget and building a dedicated team. The companies that have figured it out have really taken it on themselves to integrate D&I into every aspect of the business. I always say that if I can get this right, I would be working my way out of a job. There would be no need for a diversity and inclusion team because it would be evident in the organizational DNA.

Monica Davy: I agree with MyMy and Sarah. As Sarah pointed out, we are all in the health space and have an opportunity to make meaningful improvements in health equity. DEI should be so much more than internal metrics of who we attract, hire, and retain. But, depending on where your organization is in the maturity model, you must lay the foundation first and get it right internally before applying it more broadly.

Q: Are you seeing any trends in DEI? And what predictions would you make for the future direction of the work? 

Monica Davy: I think our external, societal, polarized climate is making this work much more difficult. Identifying DEI work as divisive has been commonplace in the political and external debate. This reaction is permeating into the workplace and we are getting more open resistance. Concepts like bias, or privilege, or systemic racism – that we believe are either scientific, or factual, or not debatable – are now up for debate. If we had resisters in our companies before who weren’t fully on board with what we were doing, we’re now seeing them more openly resisting. Five, six, even seven years ago, I was talking much more about how to create inclusive environments without the need to defend whether something happened in history. I’m hoping that it will get better, but I sit patiently and wait.

MyMy Lu: Sarah and I are nodding our heads, Monica. We’ve definitely seen a difference, but I have a little more optimism on this subject. I feel like more courageous conversations are being driven. As a part of the celebration of Black History Month, for example, one of our white, male leaders wanted to put up a Black Lives Matter flag to show support. When we spoke about it, I asked him if he’d taken the time to have conversations about what the movement meant. If not, his well-intentioned gesture could trigger unhealthy reactions that will not drive progress. This goes back to the maturity model that Monica talked about. We may not be ready to raise a flag and assume that it means the same thing to everyone who sees it, but we have the opportunity to talk about its meaning.

Sarah Hassaine: I agree with both Monica and MyMy. I also want to touch on the growing mental health issues, what a hybrid working model looks like, and the effect proximity will have on our workforce. We want to make sure that people feel included regardless of where they physically do their work. We don’t truly know how it’s going to play out, but it’s important to build inclusion into these conversations now so that we’re not dealing with unintentional damage later.

If you are a leader or practitioner in the DEI space, you know that it is filled with amazing, transparent, generous, passionate people like these esteemed panelists. We are incredibly honored to share our platform to continue to take part in the conversation and growth of this community. Watch this space for more amazing panel discussions and our 2022 DEI training program to help you put these concepts into practice.

Watch the recording of this panel discussion:

Question: Where is your organization on the diversity and inclusion maturity model and what initiatives do you need to get right this year to keep moving forward?

Earn Your DEI Credentials in a Safe Place at Your Pace in 2022

Earn Your DEI Credentials in a Safe Place at Your Pace in 2022

It’s hard to believe that Center for Executive Excellence will celebrate our 10-year anniversary next year. For nearly a decade now, we’ve been asked to work with senior leaders to define and execute strategic goals, to train both high-potential employees, emerging leaders, and their mentors, and to help teams work together more cohesively.

We’ve also continuously refined our work to help leaders navigate the rapidly changing workplace landscape by offering training to match their most pressing needs. When Millennials started entering the workforce en masse in 2013, we helped managers adapt their leadership styles with programs like “Ditch the Pyramid: Reimagining Leadership in the 21st Century”. By 2017, Millennials started moving into management roles. We helped them appreciate and leverage the diverse generational lenses of their teams with topics such as “5 Generations. Side by Side.” And, as we studied recent research in neuroscience, we learned that power gives the brain a hit of dopamine which suppresses our ability to empathize. That led to writing and speaking about “The Power Puzzle: Re-Wiring Your Brain to Excel at Leadership.”

In response to the global movement for racial justice in the summer of 2020, more and more companies are committed to building diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplaces. We committed to using our platform to push progress forward on inclusion and diversity. We also committed to partner with organizations to move from protest to policy to redress racial injustice.

Microlearning Platform

That commitment led to hosting a series of free online discussions with diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) practitioners and leaders around the globe. These discussions have attracted thousands of people around the world who wanted to share what steps they were taking in their own organizations or who were interested in learning where to start in their own DEI journey.

Last year, in response to dozens of requests we received to offer DEI training to complement the free webinars, we started building a community of masters in their fields – master DEI facilitators, master online training platform builders, and master credentialing services – to create a DEI training program worthy of the Center for Executive Excellence brand.

I am thrilled to share that we’re kicking off our DEI Executive Certificate and DEI On-Demand training program this month. For those interested in earning a DEI Executive Certificate, we’re offering a program that blends online learning modules with weekly facilitated group discussions to deep dive into the subjects. The same online content can be accessed in a self-paced, subscription format for those who want DEI On-Demand. Either way, learners can earn digital credentials that can be displayed, accessed, and verified online.

DEI Executive Certificate Credentials:

DEI Executive Badges




DEI On-Demand (Self-Paced) Credentials:

DEI On Demand Badges





If you or your team are interested in breaking down the complexities of DEI into consumable, engaging bites, demystify the process, and build confidence while learning at a pace that works for your schedule, we invite you to register or learn more here.

Question: What diversity, equity, and inclusion skills would you most like to learn this year?

Driven by the premise that excellence is the result of aligning people, purpose and performance, Center for Executive Excellence facilitates training in leading self, leading teams and leading organizations. To learn more, subscribe to receive CEE News!

7 Books to Read in Honor of Black History Month and Beyond

7 Books to Read in Honor of Black History Month and Beyond

Every February, the U.S. honors the contributions and sacrifices of Black Americans who have helped shape the nation. Black History Month celebrates the rich cultural heritage, triumphs and adversities that are an indelible part of our country’s history. If you’re looking for a way to educate yourself and expand your knowledge about the accomplishments and contributions of Black people in American history, as well as reflect on the inequalities and injustices that have been done against them, we’ve rounded up 7 recent books by some of the most brilliant Black authors and historical scholars to read this month and beyond.

1. Speaking of Race: Why Everybody Needs to Talk About Racism―and How to Do It  by Celeste Headlee

A self-described “light-skinned Black Jew,” Celeste Headlee has been forced to speak about race—including having to defend or define her own—since childhood. In her career as a journalist, she’s made it a priority to talk about race proactively. She’s discovered, however, that those exchanges have rarely been productive. While many people say they want to talk aboSpeaking Of Raceut race, the reality is, they want to talk about race with people who agree with them. The subject makes us uncomfortable; it’s often not considered polite or appropriate. To avoid these painful discussions, we stay in our bubbles, reinforcing our own sense of righteousness as well as our division.

Yet we gain nothing by not engaging with those we disagree with; empathy does not develop in a vacuum and racism won’t just fade away. If we are to effect meaningful change as a society, Headlee argues, we have to be able to talk about what that change looks like without fear of losing friends and jobs, or being ostracized. In Speaking of Race, Headlee draws from her experiences as a journalist, and the latest research on bias, communication, and neuroscience to provide practical advice and insight for talking about race that will facilitate better conversations that can actually bring us closer together.

This is the book for people who have tried to debate and educate and argue and got nowhere; it is the book for those who have stopped talking to a neighbor or dread Thanksgiving dinner. It is an essential and timely book for all of us.




Born In Blackness2. Born in Blackness:  the Traits, Foibles, and Genius of Breakthrough Innovators Who Changed the World by Howard R. French

Traditional accounts of the making of the modern world afford a place of primacy to European history. Some credit the fifteenth-century Age of Discovery and the maritime connection it established between West and East; others the accidental unearthing of the “New World.” Still others point to the development of the scientific method, or the spread of Judeo-Christian beliefs; and so on, ad infinitum. The history of Africa, by contrast, has long been relegated to the remote outskirts of our global story. What if, instead, we put Africa and Africans at the very center of our thinking about the origins of modernity?

In a sweeping narrative spanning more than six centuries, Howard W. French does just that, for Born in Blackness vitally reframes the story of medieval and emerging Africa, demonstrating how the economic ascendancy of Europe, the anchoring of democracy in the West, and the fulfillment of so-called Enlightenment ideals all grew out of Europe’s dehumanizing engagement with the “dark” continent. In fact, French reveals, the first impetus for the Age of Discovery was not — as we are so often told, even today — Europe’s yearning for ties with Asia, but rather its centuries-old desire to forge a trade in gold with legendarily rich Black societies sequestered away in the heart of West Africa.



3. White Space, Black Hood: Opportunity Hoarding and Segregation in the Age of Inequality  by Sheryll Cashin

The iconic Black hood, like slavery and Jim Crow, is a peculiar American institution animated by the ideology of white supremacy. Politicians and people of all colors propagated “ghetto” myths to justify racist policies that concentrated poverty in the hood and created high-opportunity white spaces. In White Space, Black Hood, Sheryll Cashin traces the history of anti-Black residential caste—boundary maintenance, opportunity hoarding, and stereotype-driven surveillance—and unpacks its current legacy so we can begin the work to dismantle the structures and policies that undermine Black lives.

Deeply researched and sharply written, White Space, Black Hood is a call to action for repairing what white supremacy still breaks.




4. Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man by Emmanuel Acho

“You cannot fix a problem you do not know you have.” So begins Emmanuel Acho in his essential guide to the truths Americans need to know to address the systemic racism that has recently electrified protests in all fifty states. “There is a fix,” Acho says. “But in order to access it, we’re going to have to have some uncomfortable conversations.”

In Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man, Acho takes on all the questions, large and small, insensitive and taboo, many white Americans are afraid to ask―yet which all Americans need the answers to, now more than ever. With the same open-hearted generosity that has made his video series a phenomenon, Acho explains the vital core of such fraught concepts as white privilege, cultural appropriation, and “reverse racism.” In his own words, he provides a space of compassion and understanding in a discussion that can lack both. He asks only for the reader’s curiosity―but along the way, he will galvanize all of us to join the antiracist fight.



5. Care Free Black Girls: A Celebration of Black Women in Popular Culture by Zeba Blay

An empowering and celebratory portrait of Black women—from Josephine Baker to Aunt Viv to Cardi B.

In 2013, film and culture critic Zeba Blay was one of the first people to coin the viral term #carefreeblackgirls on Twitter. As she says, it was “a way to carve out a space of celebration and freedom for Black women online.”

In this collection of essays, Carefree Black Girls, Blay expands on this initial idea by delving into the work and lasting achievements of influential Black women in American culture—writers, artists, actresses, dancers, hip-hop stars—whose contributions often come in the face of bigotry, misogyny, and stereotypes. Blay celebrates the strength and fortitude of these Black women, while also examining the many stereotypes and rigid identities that have clung to them. In writing that is both luminous and sharp, expansive and intimate, Blay seeks a path forward to a culture and society in which Black women and their art are appreciated and celebrated.



6. You Don’t Know Us Negros and Other Essays by Zora Neale Hurston

Spanning more than 35 years of work, the first comprehensive collection of essays, criticism, and articles by the legendary author of the Harlem Renaissance, Zora Neale Hurston, showcasing the evolution of her distinctive style as an archivist and author.

You Don’t Know Us Negroes is the quintessential gathering of provocative essays from one of the world’s most celebrated writers, Zora Neale Hurston. Penned during the backdrop of the birth of the Harlem Renaissance, Montgomery bus boycott, desegregation of the military, and school integration, Hurston’s writing articulates the beauty and authenticity of Black life as only she could. Collectively, these essays showcase the roles enslavement and Jim Crow have played in intensifying Black people’s inner lives and culture rather than destroying it. She argues that in the process of surviving, Black people re-interpreted every aspect of American culture—”modif[ying] the language, mode of food preparation, practice of medicine, and most certainly religion.” White supremacy prevents the world from seeing or completely recognizing Black people in their full humanity and Hurston made it her job to lift the veil and reveal the heart and soul of the race.



7. How to Talk to Your Boss About Race: Speaking Up Without Getting Shut Down by Y-Vonne Hutchinson

Reporting and personal testimonials have exposed racism in every institution in this country. But knowing that racism exists isn’t nearly enough. Social media posts about #BlackLivesMatter are nice, but how do you push leadership towards real anti-racist action?

Diversity and inclusion strategist Y-Vonne Hutchinson helps tech giants, political leaders, and Fortune 500 companies speak more productively about racism and bias and turn talk into action. In this clear and accessible guide, Hutchinson equips employees with a framework to think about race at work, prepares them to have frank and effective conversations with more powerful leaders, helps them center marginalized perspectives, and explains how to leverage power dynamics to get results while navigating backlash and gaslighting.

How to Talk To Your Boss About Race is a crucial handbook to moving beyond fear to push for change. No matter how much formal power you have, you can create antiracist change at work.



Question: What titles would you add to your reading list for Black History Month and beyond?

Driven by the premise that excellence is the result of aligning people, purpose and performance, Center for Executive Excellence facilitates training in leading self, leading teams and leading organizations. To learn more, subscribe to receive CEE News!

5 Trailblazers We’re Celebrating in Honor of Black History Month

5 Trailblazers We’re Celebrating in Honor of Black History Month

When you think of pioneers in African American history, who comes to mind? For most of us, it’s leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.Rosa ParksMaya Angelou, and James Baldwin – and rightfully so. But, if names like Pauli Murray, Matthew Henson, and Katherine Johnson don’t ring a bell, you’re not alone. In honor of Black History Month, here’s an opportunity to learn about activists, adventurers, and scientists who enriched the American culture by following their calling – often breaking barriers for those who rose to fame in recent history.

No alt text provided for this image1. Pauli Murray. Overlooked by history, Pauli Murray was a legal trailblazer whose ideas influenced Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s fight for gender equality and Thurgood Marshall’s civil rights arguments. Pauli was a Black, non-binary luminary, lawyer, activist, poet, and priest who transformed our world.

 Learn more: My Name is Pauli Murray (Amazon Prime, 2021)

Quote: In not a single one of these little campaigns was I victorious. In other words, in each case, I personally failed, but I have lived to see the thesis upon which I was operating vindicated. And what I very often say is that I’ve lived to see my lost causes found.



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2. Buck Franklin. Born in 1879 in what is now known as Oklahoma, Buck Colbert Franklin studied law by mail, and after passing the bar, moved his family to Tulsa. Tulsa’s Greenwood District was one of the wealthiest communities in the United States. In 1921, a young Black man was arrested over an incident with a White girl which led to the Tulsa Race Massacre destroying more than 35 blocks along with 1,200 homes. 300 died, mostly Blacks. After the massacre, Tulsa city council passed an ordinance preventing Black people from re-building their homes. Buck Franklin sued the city in Oklahoma Supreme Court and won.

Learn more: A Long-Lost Manuscript Contains a Searing Eyewitness Account of the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 (Smithsonian Magazine)

Quote: This is true today and will continue to be true to the end of time: that most great issues are moral, not political; are human, not racial; that the statesman can never be displaced by the politician without harmful dislocations of natural evolutionary processes; and that the entire world is both mentally and spiritually ill today because of this derangement.



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3. Matthew Henson. While the geographic location of the North Pole was understood in theory, the hostile environment was not explored until 1909 when Matthew Henson and Robert Peary became the first people to reach the top of the world. Although Peary was the public face of their partnership, Henson was the front man in the field. With his skills as a carpenter and craftsman, Henson personally built and maintained all of the dog sleds used on their expeditions. He was fluent in the Inuit language and established a rapport with the native people of the region. Henson learned the methods the Inuit used to survive and travel through the incredibly hostile landscape of the Arctic.

Learn more: The Legacy of Arctic Explorer Matthew Henson (National Geographic)

Quote: There can be no conquest to the man who dwells in the narrow and small environment of a groveling life, and there can be no vision to the man the horizon of whose vision is limited by the bounds of self. But the great things of the world, the great accomplishments of the world, have been achieved by men who had high ideals and who have received great visions. The path is not easy, the climbing is rugged and hard, but the glory at the end is worthwhile.




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4. Benjamin Banneker. A self-taught astronomer and farmer, Banneker is best known for his series of highly successful astronomical almanacs that ‘predicted’ events such as solar eclipses, sunrises, and sunsets. Many passages also contained predictions of the weather and seasonal changes and medical remedies and advice on planting crops. Banneker sent a copy of his first almanac to then U.S. Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson along with other documents explaining his position on racial equality. His earlier accomplishments included constructing an irrigation system for the family farm. At the age of 22, having seen only two timepieces in his lifetime – a sundial and a pocket watch – Banneker constructed a striking clock that was reputed to keep accurate time and ran for more than 50 years.

Learn more: Benjamin Banneker (YouTube)

Quote: Presumption should never make us neglect that which appears easy to us, nor despair make us lose courage at the sight of difficulties.




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5. Katherine Johnson. Johnson was the youngest of four children. She would show an interest and aptitude for mathematics at a young age, which her parents nurtured into her adulthood. Because her home county did not offer public schooling for African-American students past the eighth grade, her family arranged for her to attend high school in West Virginia. Johnson attended West Virginia State University, and graduated summa cum laude with degrees in Mathematics and French at the age of 18.

Post-graduation, she worked for a time as a schoolteacher before joining NACA at Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory in 1952. At NACA, Johnson first worked as a “human computer” and then, after NACA became NASA, on the space program, where she became an aerospace technologist, calculating the trajectories for many NASA missions.

During the Mercury space missions, when NASA began using electronic computers for the first time, astronaut John Glenn apparently refused to fly unless Johnson first verified the calculations. She also published 26 scientific papers throughout her career. Her work at NASA was profiled in the film Hidden Figures.

Learn more: September 2017 Video Interview (NASA.gov)

Quote: When the space program came along, I just happened to be working with guys and when they had briefings I asked permission to go, and they said the girls don’t usually go. And I said, well, is there a law? They said no and then my boss said let her go.

If you’d like to hear more stories to celebrate Black History Month, listen to this beautiful StoryCorps collection featuring Black voices in conversation.

Question: What stories would you want to see elevated in the narrative of American history?


Driven by the premise that excellence is the result of aligning people, purpose and performance, Center for Executive Excellence facilitates training in leading self, leading teams and leading organizations. To learn more, subscribe to receive CEE News!

5 Key Takeaways from Our Webinar – DEI in Action: Building a 2022 Roadmap

5 Key Takeaways from Our Webinar – DEI in Action: Building a 2022 Roadmap

On October 27th, we hosted our final 2021 quarterly webinar dedicated to the subject of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). If you’ve joined our previous DEI webinars, you’ve seen Arthur Benjamin, Sr. Director Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Tinuiti, take on the role as moderator for a panel of experts in the field. For this webinar, we asked Arthur to deep dive into the subject by interviewing Martina Winston, VP and Senior HR Partner Diversity & Inclusion Leader with Protective Life.

Specifically, Martina came prepared to share her experience with developing and honing Protective Life’s D&I Strategic Roadmap. Here are the top five takeaways from the webinar:

1. Don’t try to keep up with the D&I Joneses. You’re DEI journey must begin by starting with an honest assessment of your organizational readiness. Don’t try to do what everybody else is doing or rush to win awards. Instead, hold one-on-one conversations with executive leaders and key stakeholders about where you are and where you aspire to go.

2. Let the numbers tell the story. Review the demographic data of your employee population to help you determine where to start your DEI journey. At Protective Life, for example, Martina and her team found that improving both gender and racial diversity and inclusion in the areas of recruitment, development, and retention were key areas to focus on and help the organization mature.

3. Not all consultants are created equal. Just as you need to assess the reality of your starting point, finding a partner and tools that meet you where you are and what you need at key legs in your journey is critical. “You’ve got to constantly check where you are,” Martina said. Stay true to your progress, and don’t take it personally if you haven’t achieved 100% of your goals at the outset.

4. ERG’s: We. Are. Not. Ready. When you agree to step into the diversity and inclusion role, be prepared to field a well-intentioned, continuous flow of ideas from your colleagues. This includes starting employee resource groups, or ERGs. “I should have gotten a t-shirt that read, “We Are Not Ready,” said Martina. “If we had started ERGs 3 ½-years ago, they would have failed. We simply were not ready. But I’m happy to share that in 2022 – 4 years into our journey – we’ll be starting our version of ERGs called Growth Network Groups where our employees can learn, grow, and connect.”

5. Share the load. Martina shared samples of Protective Life’s Strategic DEI Roadmap for 2019 and 2021 to show how the work developed and matured. A key takeaway was that no single person could be responsible for developing the roadmap or doing the work. She worked with a diverse group of stakeholders from across the organization to determine what initiatives to include and who should own the work. The 2021 version also designated the Support needed by each Owner to deliver the work.

If you are a student or practitioner in the DEI space, you’ll know that it is filled with amazing, transparent, generous, passionate people like Arthur Benjamin and Martina Winston. We are incredibly honored to share our platform to continue to take part in the conversation and growth of this community. Watch this space for what we’re teeing up for 2022!

Watch the replay from this lively discussion.

Question: What traction did your organization gain with its DEI strategy this year, and what’s on your 2022 roadmap?

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