Diversity & Inclusion Careers - A panel discussion

During our third community conversation, hosted on Wednesday May 30th, Inclusion NextWork convened a panel of professionals responsible for inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility (aka IDEA) to speak about their career experiences in the field. Our panelists represented a cross-section of industries and organizations, and included Allison Avery (Manager of Diversity & Inclusion at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher, and Flom, LLP), Miguel Rocha (Global Diversity & Inclusion Project Manager at U.S. Bank), Shamayne Braman (Director of Diversity & Inclusion at Health Partners). The conversation was moderated by INW co-founder Minjon Tholen, who recently shifted from D&I consulting to an in-house position as the National Director for Inclusion, Diversity, Equity & Accessibility at Amnesty International USA.

Shared amongst the panelists is a desire to create communities in institutions that value the full range of human diversity and our need for belonging and meaningful participation. In service of both the organizational mission and creating equity across populations, working in IDEA is about affirming humanity and striving for greater social justice. Highlights from our conversation, along with summations from participant and moderator questions can be found below:


1)    What does IDEA look like in organizations?

Every organization approaches the topics under the IDEA umbrella differently. Many do not have any official structures or systems in place at all. Some organizations do have formal positions, functions, or departments dedicated to this work, while others view Diversity & Inclusion in particular as a capability or competency for all members of their organization to hold and develop. Within and across industries there is a lot of variance. An important consideration for people seeking to move into IDEA work is to understand where this work/role is positioned within the organizational structure  (i.e. executive team, people development, supply chain, human resources, learning & development, organizational effectiveness, etc.).


2)    How can people interested in this work get into the IDEA space?

There is no one right path or model to follow in pursuit of a career in this field. A great way to get involved is to participate in D&I councils or affinity groups (i.e. employee resource groups or business resource groups) or community spaces outside of the workplace that can serve as an entry point to organizational work. Potential job seekers may want to consider if the mission and culture of a company or organization has a mutually complementary relationship with the work of IDEA. The answer to that consideration can inform what kind of IDEA-related work an organization is situated to take on: building from the ground up or filling in gaps in an existing system. It can also help you to promote the “business case” for the organization to engage more actively in IDEA work, and position yourself as a contributor to those initiatives.


3)    What are the building blocks in terms of skills and experiences for a career in the IDEA field?

First and foremost, we want to highlight that is okay to come to this work without any formal prior experience. In fact, there are very few educational programs and tried-and-true development paths out there (though they are becoming increasingly prevalent). Having passion for and commitment to this work is a great starting place. This work is about having challenging conversations, strategic thinking, creating culture and community, taking abstract concepts and finding ways to articulate them to different audiences, and managing relationships to affect change. A helpful starting place is defining your personal brand, which includes thoughtful reflection about the kind of change you want to see in the world. There are a number of conferences and events all over the world (Diversity Women, SHRM Diversity, The Forum for Workplace Inclusion) dedicated to IDEA-related topics that can be an excellent source of information, networking, and potential career opportunities.


For further reflections on careers in Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility, please check back soon!


About our panelists

Shamayne Braman  Director, Diversity & Inclusion  HealthPartners

Shamayne Braman
Director, Diversity & Inclusion

Miguel Rocha  Global Diversity & Inclusion Project Manager  U.S. Bank

Miguel Rocha
Global Diversity & Inclusion Project Manager
U.S. Bank

Allison Avery  Diversity & Inclusion Manager  Skadden,  Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP

Allison Avery
Diversity & Inclusion Manager
Skadden,  Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP

Minjon Tholen  National Director of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity & Accessibility (IDEA)  Amnesty International USA

Minjon Tholen
National Director of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity & Accessibility (IDEA)
Amnesty International USA

Shamayne Braman is the Director of Diversity and Inclusion at HealthPartners, an integrated, non-profit, consumer-governed health system serving more than 1.5 million members and more than 1.2 million patients. She is responsible for the organizational development and change management initiatives necessary to execute and sustain the organization’s Diversity and Inclusion strategic priorities. Her work focuses on building relationships and breaking down barriers to create a culture where every colleague, patient, and member feels welcomed, included, and valued. Her past experience includes roles in Global Diversity and Inclusion at Thomson Reuters and as a Teach for America corps member. She has served on the board of Teach for America Collective: Twin Cities and she is currently the C3 Board Chair of OutFront Minnesota. A New Jersey native, Ms. Braman holds a bachelor's degree in English from Princeton University and master's degree in Education Policy and Management from Harvard University.


Miguel Rocha joined U.S. Bank in 2018 as a Global Diversity and Inclusion Project Manager. He grew up on the West Side of Saint Paul and graduated with a bachelor’s of science in marketing from the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota. Miguel is active in the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA) and most recently was the marketing lead for their Black History Month event and the 2018 Salsa Sushi Soul fundraiser.  As a project manager for U.S. Bank, Miguel leads a variety of DEI strategy initiatives that include collaborating with professional networking groups throughout the nation and implementing small business events for diverse communities.  


Allison F. Avery, began her work in diversity and inclusion 20 years ago while serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Morocco. Currently, she advises diversity, inclusion and organizational development efforts as the Manager of Diversity of Inclusion on the People Development senior team at Skadden (Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom, LLP); a premier international law firm that provides professional legal services globally. Prior to this role, Ms. Avery spent over a decade working in diversity, inclusion and leadership development at NYU Langone Health System, providing consultation, developing programming, facilitating groups and delivering trainings across the academic medical system.  Ms. Avery has held roles in educational institutions, not-for-profit health agencies and community wellness organizations. She holds a Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology from NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. Her subject matter expertise is: cultural empathy, unconscious bias, mindfulness and inclusive leadership. In addition to her position, Ms. Avery is an advanced psychoanalytic candidate with the Jungian Psychoanalytic Association (JPA) and has a private analytic practice in New York City.


Minjon Tholen is the National Director of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity & Accessibility (IDEA) at Amnesty International USA and Co-founder of Inclusion NextWork. Previously a Senior Consultant with Cook Ross, a leading DEI consulting firm, Minjon partnered with Fortune 500 companies, public institutions and nonprofits all over the world on their DEI strategies. She is a frequent speaker at conferences, coach at the Diversity & Inclusion Coaching Center, contributor to the Global DEI Futures project, and 2018 Aspen Ideas Festival Scholar. Minjon’s past experience includes roles at the Wisconsin Women’s Network, Gender and Women’s Studies Department of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. She was a New Leader with the Center for Progressive Leadership and the National Council for Women’s Organizations, a fellow with the Roosevelt Institute | Pipeline, and a delegate to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. She has a B.A. from Utrecht University, an M.A. in Gender & Women’s Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and certificates in Executive Leadership and Strategic HR Leadership from Cornell University. Minjon was born in Sri Lanka, raised in The Netherlands, and resides in the US. 

Jonathan Braxton