Lessons in leaning in

recently had the honor of sharing the virtual podium with fellow Isenberg alum Derek Monson of Evoke GroupWe shared our experiences and perspectives with the students of Isenberg’s Introduction to Diversity & Inclusion in Business, a new elective co-taught by Alaina Macaulay, Dr. Nefertiti Walker, and Dr. Nicole Melton.   

I was asked to share my experiences as a woman in a historically male-dominated profession. I spent most of my career in public accounting, before becoming the CFO/COO of Mass Insight Education & Research. Mass Insight’s programs and services are founded in equity in education. As such, Mass Insight has been “leaning in” to our own diversity, equity, and inclusion journey. I’ve grown as a leader by dedicating time to learning, owning, and allying. I jumped at the opportunity to learn more and share my perspectives with the class. 

Reflecting on my encounters with the glass ceiling, I recall achieving career milestones as fast as or faster than my male peers…until I didn’t…I bumped up against the invisible glass ceiling. In response, I advised the students, speak up. Call people out. Or, as I’ve learned through our training at Mass Insightcall people in to engage in a learning and growing experience. Find an ally. The ceiling can be broken. In some organizations, it already has been. However, if you’re not in an environment where you can grow to and contribute at your full capability, move on.   

Ms. Macaulay asked, “What did you look for in the way of signals of inclusion when you were job searching?”  Derek shared that in the less than 10 years since he graduated, awareness and understanding of matters of DEI among employers has increased significantly. Eons ago when I graduated, inclusion and employee resource groups weren’t in the human resources vocabulary. In fact, I was among the unenlightened!  I used to applaud the HR Director of a prior firm for finding candidates that were a great cultural fit. But, from a recent Q&A with documentarian Robin Hauser, I came away with a gem that she shared: Find candidates that will make cultural contributions rather than those that will be a cultural fit.  With this mind-set, she added, you’ll expand the perspectives of the team, inevitably benefiting the work of the organization. Brilliant!  

Organizations like Isenberg, Mass Insight and Evoke, and many others, are committing the necessary time and leadership to counter the impact of bias, achieve harmony across diverse identities, and shrink the economic disparities in our schools, companies, communities, and our country. I’m hopeful about what Isenberg’s future inclusive leaders will achieve! 

Margery Piercey

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