Third in a Series: How to Influence Positive DEI Changes

By Yvette Owo, HighQuest Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Practice (November 23, 2022)

In this third, and last, part of our Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) series (see the first post and second post), author Yvette Owo, executive consultant, HighQuest Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Practice, leaves us with recommendations for influencing positive DEI changes, even if you’re not in a senior leadership position.


First, examine and learn more about the leader you are trying to influence. Pick an individual, or two or three others who report directly to this leader, and schedule meetings with them. Express your interest and demonstrate your knowledge of the issue at hand -- illustrate this with current articles and/or ideas and solutions for new ways to hire, retain, engage, and support women and the underrepresented community.


If you are not in a leadership position at your company, step one is to start advocating to senior management. If you're seen as someone who is passionate, speaks highly of and advocates for the company, and excels in your position, your suggestions to senior management will be all the more effective.


First, examine and learn more about the leader you are trying to influence. Pick an individual, or two or three others who report directly to this leader, and schedule meetings with them. Express your interest and demonstrate your knowledge of the issue at hand -- illustrate this with current articles and/or ideas and solutions for new ways to hire, retain, engage, and support women and the underrepresented community.


Here are some helpful hints to guide this discussion:

  • Tell them what you find positive about the company and how you want to see it progress even further (you want to set the foundation that you’re looking for the entire team/company to be successful and reap benefits).

  • Explain to them how you’ve had meaningful discussions on the topic with other women and your peers (don't mention names).

  • Let them know that you’ve heard concerns… and that you want women (yourself included) to feel they can grow and succeed within the company.

  • Provide examples of solutions and options you’ve seen peers and/or colleagues introduce at their organizations that could be a starting point for your company.

It may feel intimidating the first time you try this, but the person will likely thank you for your feedback and honesty (as long as you present it in a solutions-based manner). Hopefully they will take an interest in your suggestion, and help with developing the next steps to clarify the problem, outline a solution, and implement it. However, if the first leader you approach doesn't latch on, it's ok to cast a wider net and ask other leaders in the organization. It's often best to start with those with whom you have the strongest relationships. Don't worry if those leaders aren't in the best position to solve the issue; they can help you build more organizational support and direct you to the person with the decision-making power to bring about the change.


Remember that by coming forward to your leadership, you’ve volunteered to be a part of the solution, and people appreciate someone who is enthusiastic and forward-thinking, which ultimately makes their job easier, and the company more successful.


Making Change Happen -- An Example

A while back, I started a program teaching financial literacy; in the beginning, it was just me and a couple others at a “lunch and learn”. Within three years, it grew to teaching 5,000 people how to invest $10 million – people who were active participants and gave their spare time (lunch hour) to learn more. Furthermore, anonymized HR data showed that the people who took part in the program stayed at the company longer.


The program continued after I left. It was so successful that during COVID that the CFO expanded the program to include instruction on managing money during times of economic turmoil, and also endorsed the program to the entire company.


The point here is that if you see a way to help or provide a service or solution or path forward, you can make a change happen – that’s what leadership is.


Company executives recognize and take note of people who voluntarily take on leadership and advocacy roles. So while it may initially seem daunting to present your idea to upper management, it is a great way to bolster your career and move DEI initiatives to the front and center. See something, say something. To move the needle, we all have to be part of the solution and be the change we want to see happen.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Yvette Owo is heading up the DEI consultancy practice with HighQuest Partners by helping companies realize increased diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), as well as sustainable business profitability, process, and team improvements.

Previously, Owo had been a senior business strategy manager for more than a decade with Accenture, advising Fortune 500 and Global 1000 companies on product launches reaching 1.6 million customers, managing strategic cost reduction programs of over $2 billion and M&A deals of more than $26 million, and also improving regional, national and global DEI initiatives and outcomes.

She teaches business strategy at the University of Texas at Austin, from where she also received degrees in business and political science. Owo is based in sunny Austin, Texas, and can be reached at yowo@highquestpartners.com.


WIAT Banner 980X85 Oct. 2021 (1).png

Do you have a story you'd like to contribute to WIA Today? Or a suggestion for a story, or comments about an article? Please reach out to Michelle Marshall at mmarshall@womeninag.com and share your thoughts. We'd love to hear from you.

1/1