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Creating an environment of diversity, equity, inclusion & belonging

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This episode of the Sage Thought Leadership Podcast features Arianna Campbell. Campbell is a shareholder and consultant at Boomer Consulting, Inc. and is presenting a session entitled, “Creating an Environment of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging” as part of the Sage Wednesday Wisdom series.

Below is an edited transcript of our conversation. 

First off, let’s talk about your Wednesday Wisdom session.

Arianna Campbell: I’m really excited to have the opportunity to just share some information around this session. We’re going to be talking about how to achieve a safe and inclusive environment for your team. But not only your team, but also your clients are critical to the success of your organization. I’m also going to be covering how you can lean into the dialog of diversity at your firm and some actionable steps you can take to bring forth positive change.

Before we dive any deeper, I want to pick up on something you just said that I really hadn’t thought about, specifically around clients. Can you unpack that a little bit?

Arianna Campbell: When you think about, we often focus on diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging within our teams and within our organizations. But there’s just as much of a need for those considerations with our clients, just as we need to be pursuing diverse talent pool internally. We also need to be pursuing a diverse client base as well—It’s imperative for the success in the future of our businesses.

Can you talk about how that might be a little challenging and counter-intuitive for people who say things like “Well, we need to just specialize in certain areas”?

Arianna Campbell: It starts with an awareness of where we are right now and what opportunities are out there. Many times, we continue being in situations or creating environments that are less diverse, and it’s not usually with malicious intent. It’s just that we haven’t thought about different approaches, either from the talent aspect, or from the client prospecting aspect of where we might be looking, who we might be talking to, and what circles we’re in. So yes, there are definitely inherent challenges, but it also takes thinking about it differently and really being intentional. You can’t wait for that to just come to you. It takes some intentionality in order to make changes in those areas.

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Why do you think some people misinterpret diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging as just checking boxes?

Arianna Campbell: It’s really all about making sure that you’re making actionable change. I like to think of it as being more about transitioning away from just informing, where we’re doing webinars within the firm and giving general information about the topic, to a place where we’re actually including. So, it’s not just checking off boxes.

I also think about one of the aspects that’s often left out is diversity of thought. You can certainly have diversity where people perhaps look differently, but all think the same. That’s not helpful either.

Arianna Campbell: This is so true. When you think about diversity, you have to think about it in several different ways. I once saw this great graphic that listed several different areas of diversity. It had race, class, education, language, culture, ethnicity, gender, age, ability, sexuality, and thought. There are so many different areas of diversity that, when you think about it, we really don’t have any excuses for.

It’s interesting that the more you push on the concept of diversity, the more you realize we’re all individuals. We’re all diverse from one another in many different ways, and it’s almost about embracing that.

Arianna Campbell: Absolutely. I think a misstep that is commonly made is starting with diversity first. In fact, often, when we list it out, we always start with diversity and equity. And then it’s like the inclusion and belonging get thrown in at the end.

But it is, from my perspective, difficult, if not impossible, to truly have diversity if you’re not starting with inclusion. Inclusion is really about making sure that thoughts, ideas and perspectives of all individual’s matter. And diversity is just having the presence of those thoughts, ideas and perspectives. If you don’t have the inclusion beforehand, people who are of diverse backgrounds, no matter what those may be, aren’t really going to feel included, and therefore, may not want to stay.

So, it’s not just about getting diverse people there, it’s about focusing on the inclusion but also the belonging. And that’s when an organization is really engaging the full potential of the individual. And that’s where innovation thrives, and viewpoints, beliefs, and values are integrated.

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So, would you make the argument for beginning with inclusion?

Arianna Campbell: I would make the argument for really evaluating “Do you have an inclusive organization for the diversity that you currently have?” Because, to your point, there has to be some degree of diversity and all of our organizations. Are we really making sure that those thoughts, ideas and perspectives matter, and that those voices are being heard? I think a place to even start with firms is among different roles. Are we truly inclusive? Are we hearing the voices of the different levels? Do we value what the staff are saying? Do we value what admin is saying? Or is it only the voices at the top that are truly being heard? Starting there with an evaluation of what you’re doing really well and what aren’t doing? “Well, let’s do more of that”.

Who is a hero of yours and why?

Arianna Campbell: Well, for me, and especially considering the topic we’ve been discussing—My hero is John Wesley Cromwell, Jr. who was the first black American to become a CPA in this country. That was obviously a huge barrier for him to be able to cross.

Another hero of mine that I highly recommend is Teresa Hammond. She wrote a really good book called “A White-Collar Profession: African American Certified Public Accountants since 1921”.

Lastly, how can somebody contact you?

Arianna Campbell: You can reach me on Twitter at @Arianna_BCI. Or you can find me on LinkedIn at “Arianna Campbell”, or just email me at [email protected].

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