Empowering Voices

Jun 23, 2021

C&IS Alumni Champion Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Across their Industries

A signal achievement of 2020 at The University of Alabama came through significant work by UA’s Presidential Advisory Committee for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI). Charged with developing plans to build on the campus-wide strategic goal to attract and support a diverse community, members of the faculty, staff and students produced a comprehensive report of strategies, best practices and research. This report of recommendations will guide the work of the colleges and units as UA moves forward toward continued progress. The same work and progress is taking place around the country as corporations and organizations dive deep into listening to and understanding their employees and constituents so they may take necessary steps forward. C&IS alumni are leading and influencing their industries throughout the nation. Here are just a few stories of how our graduates are championing diversity, equity and inclusion across their industries.

“Diversity, equity and inclusion is not only critical to creating a productive work environment, but also to creating more meaningful campaigns that reach and resonate with our clients’ diverse audiences. When you think of DEI in terms of gender, women have historically outnumbered men in the field of public relations, but lagged behind them in leadership roles. That’s why I’m proud to work for an agency like Edelman that prioritizes DEI and truly ‘walks the walk’ through education and training, recruitment programs and employee networks like the Global Women’s Equality Network (GWEN), launched in 2011 to achieve gender parity at our most senior levels and ensure equal pay for equal work.”

Lindsay Garrison (’00 & ’01) – Senior Vice President, Edelman

“Every community has members of the LGBTQIA community in it, and providing these patrons with the information they need is perhaps even more crucial than my usual duties. Working to highlight our LGBTQIA materials is a simple, meaningful step that we as librarians can take to show our LGBTQIA community members that we welcome them and are proactively thinking about their needs. The public library is one of the last truly public institutions remaining in this country, and we work to uphold that incredible precedent by ensuring that everyone in our community can find the information that they want and need in a respectful, dignified way.”

Elizabeth Burton (’20) – Adult Programs Librarian, Harris County Public Library

“As communication professionals, we play a unique role in creating inclusive workplaces. We know that years of inequality cannot be solved with one press release or one social media campaign. It is our job to challenge our clients and business leaders in this space. One way to improve diversity in our own industry is by mentoring and supporting students of diverse backgrounds as they matriculate to college and into the workforce. If we want to have more diversity and inclusion in our industry, we all need to take a proactive role in mentoring the next generation of our industry’s leaders.”

Jennifer Kitt-West (’07) – Marketing Communications Manager, Dow Chemical Company

“I’ve learned that true diversity, true equity and true inclusion happens when we can place ourselves in the shoes of someone else’s journey and open doors of knowledge, engagement and opportunities to access a better understanding of what each other needs. Regardless of my position to power and authority, I have learned that great leaders (and friends) have always been the ones who were capable of demonstrating high levels of empathy and compassion when times were most crucial. In my role, we work with philanthropists who often say, “I want the best and the brightest.” Does that only mean those who have 3.5 GPAs and higher? If we are to be inclusive of everyone, then we must see the value of those who strive hard. We must see the value in those who have challenges to overcome. We must look at those who may not be book smart but have street smarts that far exceed the classroom setting.”

Joshua Butler (’07) – Associate Dean of Advancement and Chief Advancement Officer, The University of Illinois at Chicago

“Each person on a communication team has to have a global view of the business world. Every strategy and tactic that we deploy has an impact that is far reaching. Diversity, equity and inclusion has to be incorporated in those strategies and tactics, not separated. When an employee is working on a project, I encourage them to think about how we can broaden the audiences that we are reaching. We have successfully done that, and more people who may not have known us are now enthusiasts—all because of our inclusive strategy. I expect them to think about diversity, equity and inclusion continuously.”

Kristina Hendrix (’03) – Group Communications Director, Dynetics, Inc.

“Studies show that companies with diverse leadership at the board, executive and management levels outperform those without. Work teams that value diversity and inclusion are likely to be more collaborative, innovative and productive. In today’s environment, proclamations favoring diversity, equity and inclusion will not be enough to retain the most talented and skilled employees, especially if societal tensions and injustices embed themselves in our workplaces.”

Debra Nelson (’80) – Founder and President, Elevate LLC