Key Takeaways: Meet Trailblazers Creating Equitable Access to the Workforce

Published by Ellen Zhang on March 15, 2021
2 min read

Ellen Zhang

Ellen is the Chief Marketing Officer at Symba. Prior to Symba, Ellen worked in the cybersecurity industry, marketing data loss prevention (DLP) and cyber insurance solutions. She graduated from Boston College with a degree focused on Marketing and Information Systems.

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Last month, we kicked off our inaugural LinkedIn Live event with a panel discussion in honor of Black History Month. Our featured speakers were Ronda Harris Thompson, National Director of Alumni Relations and Interim Chief DEI Officer at Year Up, and Nathaniel Cole, Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives and Partnerships at America's Promise Alliance.

Ronda and Nathaniel shared their experiences championing a more inclusive workforce, with Symba CEO Ahva Sadeghi serving as moderator. They discussed what inspired them to get into workforce development, how to meet the needs of diverse youth seeking employment, the importance of measuring the results of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, and more.

Here are some key takeaways from this inspiring session:

  1. Corporations have a business imperative to step up and diversify employee populations.

In fact, according to a McKinsey analysis, companies with gender and ethnic diversity on their executive teams were more likely to have above-average profitability than companies that did not. This starts with youth employment opportunities and bringing youth from diverse backgrounds into the workforce. Diverse youth bring different perspectives to solve business problems and will eventually advance in their roles and climb the corporate ladder to make up the executive teams.

  1. DEI efforts need to be measurable and data-driven.

It’s important to monitor the long-term outcomes that result from DEI programs. Real change is measurable over time. With interns and youth in general, it’s not just about getting them into these entry-level positions, like internships, but how are they progressing through the rest of their careers?

  1. Develop affinity groups and mentorship opportunities so that employees can be inspired by and learn from peers and role models.

The first job is just a springboard to a career but degrees and certifications, which are often high cost, can become barriers to progressing further. This is why it’s important to connect youth to mentors, like a career coach or program coordinator, and peers to help support their professional development.

YearUp trains their talent leaders to maintain relationships with their alumni and has developed partnerships with organizations that offer coaching services or certifications to help alumni grow into leadership positions.

  1. Take a human-centered approach when partnering with young diverse talent.

Economic opportunity goes beyond just offering someone a job. For youth, it’s important to consider their lives beyond remote work. How can you as an employer accommodate and adapt your program models according to people’s needs? YearUp has graduated 2 classes during the pandemic, and is now going to test alternative models that help different kinds of learners (such as accelerated or slower models to help young talent that don't fit in the traditional 6-month program model).

Looking to this summer, Nathaniel recommends connecting your interns with digital literacy tools, especially for the platforms you are using. Ronda doubled-down on this, voicing the importance of providing your interns with WiFi and laptops, the physical tools required to enable virtual collaboration. Additionally, be intentional with the ways you create opportunities for folks to connect and build community. Ronda also recommends being realistic about how life responsibilities mix with remote work, and to create space for your interns to be able to deal with those inevitable life interruptions.

To view the entire panel discussion video, head over to our LinkedIn Live event page here.

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