The Executive Alliance Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belong task force had its first meeting today so I wanted to share some thoughts coming out of that meeting.  Sometimes when I start writing or at least beginning to think about a topic, I start in the middle. This definitely applies to the topic of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging as it applies to Executive Alliance. My presidency continues a line of leadership, who have cared deeply about the topic.

The challenge is clear and not unlike the past twenty five years in the business community. The case has been made for establishing a truly diverse workforce, at all organizational levels,  and grows more compelling each year. We have focused on the business case : When women are at the table, the discussion is richer, the decision -making process is better and the organization is stronger.  And, the same case is clear when it comes to diversity within our organization.

Here is our truth. When Network 2000 was founded in 1993, it was not founded with a focus on inclusion. It was a club that focused on helping women who looked like me gain increased access and entry to boards. Our history includes the admission of several notable African-American women and a brief presidency of one . I share that as a glance at our past and an introduction to acknowledge the work of many women behind the scenes to arrive here and now. 

If you are a tenured member of the organization, this is not a new story, but I want to help our newer members understand the path to here and now. In 2017, one  year after our rebranding to Executive Alliance, Karen Bond became the first African-American woman to serve as President of the organization. If you have had the opportunity to meet Karen, you will know that she is not only passionate about EA, she is passionate about equity and access. We share a common interest in embracing diversity and inclusion. So, it was a no-brainer when I prepared to lead EA to invite Karen to lead our DEI Taskforce. She took on this topic when it was not easy and she probably felt alone.  Thank you, Karen for continuing to serve and most importantly recruiting Lynne Durbin to co-chair. You might be beginning to see a theme here. #1 Our former presidents continue to stay involved (both Karen and Lynne were president) and #2 we are very fortunate to have their collective talents and expertise.

Honestly, talking about race and inequity are not easy topics , but our nation has arrived at a crossroad. George Floyd and the long list of other names, reminds us all that silence is not golden. Creating empty DEI statements is not enough. We have to build trust. We have to work against discrimination. And, make our cultural differences a resource for learning. I invite you to add your voice and thoughts to our upcoming conversations on how our differences can grow into our strengths.

To that end, the DEI&B task force will be crafting a DEI&B statement for Executive Alliance and developing training first for the board and then to be shared by all members.  To ensure that we are incorporating your voice, we will be both sending out a survey to get your thoughts and creating opportunities for facilitated conversations amongst our members.  This is a process to ensure that all members and prospective members are  welcomed and feel included in Executive Alliance as an integral part of our culture.

I want to thank our task force led by Karen Bond and Lynne Durbin.  The other members are Carla Nelson Chambers, Toni Draper, Anne Lin, Melissa McGuire, Lori Robinson, and Melanie Santiago-Mosier.  I want to thank each of them for bringing their passion, expertise and time to this important work for EA.

Please send your thoughts and ideas to Karen, Lynne or me.  You can also reach out to Rebecca, as she is staffing the task force.

Mary Jean Herron