Core competencies in DEI: Translate academic research to action and measure impact of initiatives (Part 2 of 5)

closeup of a Pyrex measuring cup
made to measure by Chuan Chew, CC-BY-NC licensed

This is the second post in a week-long series exploring DEI professional competencies. I believe the five key competencies for DEI professionals are:

  1. be strategic
  2. translate academic research into action and measure the impact of initiatives
  3. meet people where they are at and help them move to be more inclusive 
  4. influence others
  5. get cross functional projects done. 

Yesterday I wrote about strategy as a key competency for leading DEI work. Today I’m going to explore translating academic research into action and measuring the impact of initiatives.  

I love doing DEI work in the corporate space because it allows me to bring my values and all the different work experiences I’ve had (feminist organizer, academic librarian, accessibility leader, workshop facilitator) to this work. These are emergent problems, meaning that no company, industry or country, has solved them, so we need to try new things and figure out if they work. This means keeping up with the current research and being able to translate it to programs and initiatives and measuring the impact of programs. 

When I started at Mozilla I started a Zotero library to keep track of all the research and reports I was reading, so I could easily find that specific study on psychological safety in the workplace  that had the survey tool questions. I adapted these for our employee engagement survey so I could measure if a pilot program improved psychological safety on teams. I also read various posts on the impact of hiring referral programs at other companies and then working with our Talent Acquisition team to look at our actual data to understand if the referral program was helping or hindering our diversity efforts.

This is the second in a series of five posts. Tomorrow’s post will explore meeting people where they are at and helping them move to be more inclusive.

Core competencies in DEI – Be strategic (Part 1 of 5)



a white hand holds up a small round mirror that shows the clear refleciton of the mountains, the background is blurred
Photo by Ethan Sees

Three and a half years ago I changed careers from being an academic librarian who did diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) work in the library technology community to a full time job as a DEI professional in the tech sector. Many people have reached out to see if I’d be willing to have a coffee and chat about DEI work and what the work actually looks like. I hope this series of five posts answers many of those questions.

Diversity, equity and inclusion careers panel event information

I’m excited to be one of the panelists for Andrea Tatum’s DEI careers panel on January 23. Registration is free and I hope you’ll join us. 

For me, the combination of head and heart make this work deeply satisfying and challenging. I think the five key competencies for DEI professionals are:

  1. be strategic
  2. translate academic research into action and measure the impact of initiatives
  3. meet people where they are at and help them move to be more inclusive 
  4. influence others
  5. get cross functional projects done. 

Over the coming week I’ll get into more detail on each of these competencies.

Be strategic

DEI means different things to different people and most people have an opinion on what the priorities should be. A clear strategy is important to focus on what you’re going to do, and more importantly, what you’re not going to do. 

While I’d facilitated and written strategic and operational plans for academic and library organizations, I really levelled up through conversations and a planning session with technology strategist John Jensen. My mentor Candice Morgan also shared her strategy and the thinking behind it. Seeing how others approach this was really useful. 

At the start of 2020 I adapted our existing strategy at Mozilla to connect the work we’d been doing on diversity and inclusion to the goals of the business. We had just gone through a layoff and some of the key business goals were focused on product innovation. Experimenting on how to build psychological safety was a key part of the strategy. Psychological safety is the belief that it’s safe to speak up with great new ideas and to raise the alarm when things are going off the rails. Looking at this through a DEI lens meant asking questions like:

  • Who speaks up?
  • Which voices are valued?
  • What kind of training and coaching can help teams and managers do this better?

DEI is a lens to look at HR policies and processes across the entire employee lifecycle and goes beyond to look at the entire business.

Over the last few months I’ve talked to over 30 companies about where they’re at in their DEI journey. In 2020 we saw many companies take a reactive approach to DEI, quickly rolling out one off workshops on unconscious bias or anti-racism. Without a broader strategy, these types of trainings won’t make a lasting impact.

When many people think DEI they quickly jump to thinking about hiring process. Increasing representation is impacted by who joins the company and who chooses to leave. Hiring is important but maybe your bigger problem is attrition. Looking at your attrition rates and exit survey data is a good place to look to start to understand who is leaving and why they’re leaving. To make the biggest impact these programs need to connect to an overall strategy. 

This is the first in a series of five posts. Tomorrow I’ll share some examples of translating academic research to action and talk about measuring impact of initiatives.

Living Corporate podcast: The Role of Data in Diversity & Inclusion


I had the pleasure of being a guest on the Living Corporate podcast. I really enjoyed the conversation I had with Zach Nunn and love the work that Living Corporate is doing to center and amplify Black and brown people at work.

At the end of the conversation Zach asked what three things executives should be reflecting on now.

Here’s my list:

  1. Figure out what personal work you need to do around DEI and make a plan to do it–block off time on your calendar. This important work to do on a personal level, so prioritize it and make the time.
  2. If there’s not clear accountability goals around DEI, ask your peers why. Then partner with your Head of DEI or Chief People Officer to figure out what the goals should be. Make them part of the regular goals framework in your company so they don’t get lost.
  3. If you don’t know who the Black and brown leaders are in your organization find out. Reach out to them and ask for time on their calendars to learn what their goals are and really listen to them. Then sponsor their work by speaking up for them when they are not in the room.

Living Corporate has so many amazing episodes with leaders I admire like Dr. Erin Thomas, Michelle Kim and Tema Okun. Check them out!

Setting your direction for 2021

a small silhouette of a person looks up at a big multicoloured night sky
Photo by Greg Rakozy

In 2016 a Hawaiian crew piloted the Hokule’a, a voyaging canoe, around the world, using the traditional Polynesian technology of using the stars for wayfinding. This story inspired in so many ways and–one of them was to learn more about my cultural traditions around the stars. I took the fall off to rest and reflect on the impact I want to make in the world. I’ve been thinking about the following questions: Where am I? Where do I want to go? What is my North Star and how do I navigate where I want to go? 

For the past 10 years I’ve done some kind of looking back on the last year and setting goals/intentions/directions for the next one. I really enjoy this type of reflection and goal setting and it’s helped me move my life and career in a direction that I want to go. Here’s some free tools I’ve used to help structure that reflection. This was a post that I originally published in December 2019 and updated for 2021. 

Continue reading Setting your direction for 2021

Names: respect, inclusion and belonging

"Hello, my name Is" sticker and pen on table

Diversity, equity and inclusion is not about just revising HR policies and processes to be more inclusive and equitable, it’s a lens that you need to view everything through. For product organizations it’s a key lens to look at the product and customer experience. 

I’ve been thinking about personal names and how those are a point of inclusion and belonging, or not. Names are personal, and for many of us, an important part of our identity.

Continue reading Names: respect, inclusion and belonging

Thought leaders in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion you should know

many lightbulbs handing down, the middle one is biggest, clearest and brightest

I can’t think of any company, country, or industry that has diversity, equity and inclusion all figured out–it’s an emergent space where we’re all learning how to do better. We can always learn from the people leading the work and from the research. I am sharing this list of nine thought leaders who I admire. I admire that they center their values in their work, drive results and are generous in sharing their thoughts and ideas. It is weighted towards women of colour and queers in the tech sector. I think these people’s work experience, formal credentials and lived experience, makes what they have to say extremely valuable. 

Continue reading Thought leaders in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion you should know

Diversity Equity and Inclusion workshops and courses that I’m excited about

photo by Jacob Lund from Noun Project

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) is a growing business. There are numerous DEI tech startups, DEI companies, DEI consultants and DEI certifications. I’ve been underwhelmed by the certifications offered by academic institutions as they are overly theoretical and don’t seem to equip learners with practical skills to do DEI work. Here are some trainings and workshops that are coming up that I’m excited about.

Continue reading Diversity Equity and Inclusion workshops and courses that I’m excited about

Glassdoor’s D&I ratings: What does 4.6 out of 5 even mean?

close up of star shaped glitter
stars by Darko Pevec, licensed under Creative Commons

Today I learned that Glassdoor recently added diversity and inclusion metrics to their company rankings. My first reaction was excitement–this could drive accountability and increase transparency on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). We know that many many people care about DEI in an employer’s brand, so this seems like useful functionality for candidates researching potential companies.

Glassdoor launched these user submitted D&I reviews with 12 companies. Salesforce scored the highest, with 4.6/5. That’s great! But what does it mean?

Continue reading Glassdoor’s D&I ratings: What does 4.6 out of 5 even mean?

Some diversity and inclusion best practices in hiring

After 3 years leading Diversity and Inclusion at Mozilla I’m looking for my next job: Director or Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at a tech company that’s hungry to make systemic change. At Mozilla one of my key partnerships was with our Talent Acquisition team to debias our hiring process and improve the candidate experience. Now I’m on the candidate side looking for jobs. Here’s some of my observations.

Continue reading Some diversity and inclusion best practices in hiring

visual representation matters

Recently I read an article on CBC about a project by Nicole Hill from Six Nations of the Grand River to create modern stock photos of Indigenous people because they couldn’t find representations of people like them to promote development projects.

There’s been a bunch of awesome photo projects where people have created their own visual representations of their communities.

Continue reading visual representation matters