In June 2020, most companies in the U.S. felt a seismic shift in awareness, conversation, and activism related to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and the systemic racism in our country. While DEI has always been a value at Two Rivers, we recognized that we needed to be more intentional in how we were thinking about these issues and — most importantly — taking action at our agency and in our community.
Turning talk into action
I volunteered to join our new DEI committee, aware that I knew almost nothing about how to approach the topic. I had experience on the board of a local nonprofit that serves underrepresented communities, but that was the extent of my engagement and knowledge. I just knew that I wanted to play my part.
As a committee, we had a lot of conversation about our purpose and goals (a conversation that is ongoing). Ultimately, we knew we wanted these efforts to be genuine and intentional — we wanted to make meaningful change within the agency and avoid being performative. We wanted to not only increase representation among associates, but ensure they felt they could bring their authentic selves to work each day.
To be clear, we understand that DEI goes well beyond race and ethnicity. We strive to include gender expression, sexual orientation, religious backgrounds, physical and mental differences, and so much more in this work.
So two years later, what progress have we made?
Implemented a floating holiday. Two Rivers used to be closed the Friday before Easter (Good Friday), but we now offer our associates a floating holiday to celebrate the days that are most meaningful to them and their families, culture, and/or religion.
Developed and introduced internal training courses around bias and allyship. While these just begin to scratch the surface of some complex topics, we’re proud to have these in our training library.
Contributed to community organizations that serve underrepresented populations. We make sure that at least one of our three chosen charities each year meets this criteria. Last year we donated time and financial resources to Urban Dreams.
Surveyed associates on their thoughts and priorities around DEI topics, including a request for their ideas and input at any time.
Participated in webinars to expand our committee members’ understanding of various DEI topics so we can implement that knowledge in our work.
Shared volunteer ideas and opportunities with associates for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, which is intended to be a day for serving others.
While we’re proud of these accomplishments, we know there is much more work to be done; truly, our work has only just begun. A few areas of focus that our committee has identified include:
Recruitment: Developing strategies to recruit and retain associates with diverse perspectives and experiences and who value diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
Education: Continuing to offer valuable DEI education and training opportunities to our associates by providing resources and safe spaces for personal development and engagement.
Participation: Offering opportunities for associates to give back in ways that support communities outside their own.
Empowerment: Making sure associates feel they can speak up when they see or hear something racist, sexist, homophobic, etc., without fear of backlash.
Maybe the most important thing I’ve learned through this work is that it is a process. You can’t flip a switch and suddenly be “inclusive” or “diverse.” But having a dedicated group of people who keep these issues top of mind can help make incremental change and bring us closer to where we want to be.
Learn more about what it’s like to work at Two Rivers by checking out some of our other blogs.