Our Ongoing Equity and Social Justice Journey

Last year, Presidio Graduate School (PGS) announced its Initiative for Equity & Social Justice with a mission to leverage the PGS student body, faculty, and partnerships to collaborate and create thought leadership, research, and programs on equity and social justice. While we could not have predicted the events of 2020, much of which put racial equity and justice front and center, we see that our sustainability and impact stakeholders are looking to experience and address racial justice as a part of their work more consistently, and for the long term.

In September, we launched our Racial Equity in Action series on this blog. The series sits at the intersection of racial justice and social responsibility. We heard from a variety of thought leaders who provided timely and relevant guidance, including:

Melynnie Rizvi, Deputy General Counsel and Senior Director of Employment, Inclusion, and Impact at SurveyMonkey, shared clear insights as to how a company can address racial equity issues both internally and in society, by leveraging its resources and technology.

Alice Korngold, recognized author and President & CEO of Korngold Consulting, puts racial inequity as a key element in addressing the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Alice also gives insight into the incredible value nonprofit board service can have in helping us to better understand not only issues related to racial inequity but also how our companies can partner to create sustainable change.

Dennis Kennedy, Founder and Chair of the National Diversity Council, wrote a thoughtful piece on the need to move beyond “performative” diversity commitments. Dennis also reminds us “Racial justice is neither a moment or momentum, it’s a movement that requires years of leadership, strategic work, and a top-down and bottom-up commitment from the institution.”

In October, we hosted an event, “Philanthropy and Racial Equity: Shifting Focus.” With corporations and foundations pledging billions of dollars to address racial inequity and injustice, we wanted to look into how that money was being used. We were honored to have an impressive lineup of speakers join us at this event, including Pia Wilson-Body, President of the Intel Foundation; Brittany Boettcher, Director, Portfolio and Investments, at the Skoll Foundation and PGS alumna; and Lakshmi Iyer, Director, Social Impact Consulting at FSG.

We have also held ongoing meetings with our student, staff, and faculty community for deeper dive conversations. We heard early on that our community was struggling with how to have internal conversations on race. Tanya Bluford, founder of Bluford Consulting, executive coach, leadership, and diversity specialist, spent time with us on the topic of “How to Talk about Race” and shared valuable tips in her guest post.

And with the explosion of the diversity, equity, and inclusion role at corporations and nonprofits, our community explored “A Day in the Life of a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Practitioner” with Antoine Andrews, Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer at YearUp. Antoine graciously shared what a career in DEI is all about, how to work cross-functionally across departments (including with sustainability and CSR), and what being a DEI practitioner in the post-George Floyd reckoning looks like. You can learn a little more about the important work Antoine and YearUp are doing and be inspired.

As we look ahead this year, we will continue to feature thought leaders who bring forward ideas for addressing systemic racism, inequity, and social injustice from their unique vantage points. We are also exploring programmatic learning opportunities for our partners and other stakeholders. In addition, PGS has and will continue to bring more equity and social justice expertise through its faculty and curriculum, and the student community remains vigilantly focused on building a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Cecily is Advisor, Initiative for Equity & Social Justice at the Presidio Graduate School, and serves on the Board of Directors of Mercy Corps and Net Impact. Cecily is the former Vice President of Corporate Responsibility at Symantec Corporation, where she also served as Chief Diversity Officer.

Continue to hear from thought leaders in this space by following our Racial Equity in Action series on the Presidian Blog, where we explore how, as sustainability and impact leaders, we can move the needle toward a more equitable and just society. Our series sits at the intersection of racial justice and social responsibility and features insights from the PGS community as well as external experts and thought leaders. Our goal is that through these shared insights we can better address racial inequity as a part of our day-to-day interactions and careers. If you’re looking to accelerate or shift your career, live your values, and lead with purpose, consider joining an upcoming cohort at PGS.