By Alysha Conner
The first-ever Diversity and Inclusion Honors: “Where Congress Meets Culture, Inclusion, and Belonging” was held on September 11 at the Google headquarters in Washington, D.C.
The theme for this year’s inaugural Honors was, “Diversity is multidimensional; people of color cannot be forgotten.”
Dr. Dee C. Marshall, Wall Street alumnus, international speaker, diversity consultant, author, certified coach, and TV lifestyle expert, hosted the event as an extention of her Diverse and Engaged platform.
Marshall is a former corporate executive and leadership trainer for Fortune 500 companies. She now devotes much of her time working as a diversity and inclusion advocate, while serving as the CEO of Diverse and Engaged, LLC.
Explaining the process and purpose for creating the Honors, Marshall stated, “The Diversity and Inclusion Honor’s Award is essentially the meaning of a diversity champion. So that can be a thought leader, game-changer, and trailblazer who have measurable results of making a significant impact for people of color in the workspace. We really launched this event because we’re experiencing growing pains in diversity and inclusion. The emerging trend right now is diluting and diverting away from the original intention of diversity.”“We live in a very hostile and racially tense America right now. Many corporations are focusing on gender diversity and not necessarily race or ethnicity. So, we wanted to hold a space for the original intent of diversity, and really hold the space for people of color, so we don’t get lost in the growth.”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, “By 2024, historically marginalized and underrepresented minorities are projected to make up more than half of America’s population.” The Diversity and Inclusion Honors were designed to serve as a platform for leaders who have advocated on behalf of marginalized and underrepresented people in workplaces nationwide. Marshall formed a selection committee, who then decided on which diversity leaders, community representatives, and corporate executives to award this year. Moreover, this year’s honorees consisted of Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke, Congressman Donald M. Payne Jr., Chanelle Hardy, Valerie Irick Rainford, Esi Eggleton Bracey, and Cyrus Mehri.Dee Marshall pictured with Honors corporate partners (Courtesy/Brian R. Cauthen)
Google, JPMorgan Chase, and Zora Magazine acted as sponsors for the event. Full Color Future resided an essential Honors partner, in addition to News ONE contributing as the official media partner. Although the Honors were officially founded by Diverse and Engaged, Marshall formed a coalition called Dimensional Diversity and Inclusion to help execute the event as well. The coalition consists of five different advocacy and non-profit organizations that support the advancement of Black excellence and equality in the workforce. Their primary goal is to close the gap between where minorities are and where minorities need to be in workplaces. With the support of her colleagues, Marshall was able to orchestrate the event within six months.
“It takes a village to raise a baby. It takes a village to raise an idea. So, this is our village. Our sponsors, Dimensional Diversity and Inclusion coalition, our media partner, my team, and specifically Juneann George, with all of our stuff that touches the U.S. House of Representative, really all helped to make it happen. When you work, partner, and engage with the U.S. House of Representatives, some subtle nuances have to be managed. We wanted to have Congress involved because we knew that there was a gap in knowledge and conversation about diversity and inclusion,” Marshall explained.
In light of the anniversary of her encounter as one of the survivors who made it down the 33 flights of stairs in the One New York Plaza, during the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Marshall decided to administer the Honors on the same day. The events of September 11, 2001, significantly impacted Marshall’s life, and ultimately inspired her to shift gears toward an entirely new professional trajectory. After firsthand witnessing the fall of the World Trade Center, Marshall felt compelled to pursue a more meaningful and abundant lifestyle.
“I consider myself a little Black girl from the hood, and I can say that I had a good experience working on Wall Street. It could have been that I was really young, fresh out of college, and probably a bit naïve, but I didn’t have any horrible experiences working in financial services. However, I was one of the only Black people, for forever, in so many spaces,” Marshall portrayed.
“After September 11th, I made a definitive decision about finding my purpose in life. My businesses came later, but more of the defining moment of September 11th was finding my purpose and living with no regrets. The work that I do now is very much on purpose and aligned with my passion. It still work but very much aligned with why I believe I’m here,” Marshall conveyed.
Marshall was also intentional and strategic with the placement of the Honors being in D.C. so that the Congressional Black Caucus can establish better relations with the U.S. Congress. A significant number of Honors attendees gathered at Google’s D.C. headquarters, dressed in variations of business casual attire. Men wore slacks, sports coats, and pants suits, while women dressed in chic jumpsuits, dresses, and pants suits. The event exceeded its maximum guest capacity, which subjected some guests to limited standing room only.
“D.C. was very intentional because it aligns with Congressional Black Caucus. Since we’re going to break down the silos across industries and sectors, we wanted to invite all industries and businesses to come to D.C. They should want to come to D.C. to develop friendlier relations on friendlier terms with members of Congress, so members of Congress can get to know them. As far as I’m concerned, this will be an event that will always be in D.C. because that’s the purpose and intent, to bridge the gap and break down silos,” Marshall proclaimed.
“You may go into your workplace and don’t see people who look like you. Maybe your employer wants to do better and is trying to do better, or maybe you have an employer that’s not necessarily thinking about it. So, Congress is where we have support from the perspective of accountability. They can hold businesses accountable to diversify the workforce, create opportunities, close the equity gap, and address the inequity,” Marshall explained.
In addition to the Honors, Marshall constructed “Diversity on the Hill” as a grassroots advocacy approach for diversity and inclusion. Through the means of Diversity on the Hill, Marshall and her team invite people of color to meet them once a month on Capitol Hill. Marshall and her team then educate people of color about the legislative process and encourage people of color to remain engaged in political concerns past the voting season.
As a follow-up from the Honors held this past September, Diverse and Engaged will be hosting an event on November 1st called Diversity and Inclusion Redefined 3.0, at the Rockefeller Center in New York. Marshall intends to use the event as an advocacy platform for individuals across various business sectors to discuss diversity and inclusion matters. The 2nd annual Diversity and Inclusion Honors is set to take place during September 2020. For more information about Diverse and Engaged events, or to get in contact with Marshall about getting involved, visit https://diverseandengaged.com.