It’s been almost two weeks since I was privileged to participate as a panelist in the Council on Foundations webinar entitled: “Diversity and Inclusion in Talent Acquisitions.” To be direct, I was never sure that I was the right one to be on the panel. After all, I didn’t have earth-shattering information to share. In many ways I was just thinking out loud about the past 12 years at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), and what we had done on the racial and ethnic diversity front in our staffing and our philanthropic work.
The story has been a simple one, incremental in nature, a flexible strategy… but we have made progress. Our staff is more diverse than it was when I arrived. Recruitment strategies now focus on creating diverse candidate pools, and we are more intentional in addressing and discussing diversity as it affects our philanthropic work.
Given this experience and the foundation’s interest in diversity, I participated in the webinar, and humbly told our story. The years of work have not left us experts on the topic or the implementation. Our approaches have been more common sense than rocket science, but we have slowly changed the culture of the Foundation to make diversity much more a part of the fabric of who we are as a working community…and there is a lot more to do.
By far the greatest lesson for me is the issue of starting and not stopping. Whatever we have done, successful or not, we have not let our intentional focus on diversity diminish. It has remained unwavering through leadership transitions, high-profile attention to other work, and other potential distractions. We never stopped paying attention. We may not have done things in the “right order” (we just published our broad-based diversity statement on our website this year), but we have created a culture where diversity is part of the ongoing discussion at all levels of our work.
For example, RWJF’s New Connections program works to develop and retain a diverse, well-trained leadership and workforce in health and healthcare to meet the needs of all Americans. Created in 2005, New Connections is designed to expand the diversity of perspectives that inform RWJF program strategy and introduce new researchers and scholars to the Foundation. More information can be found at www.rwjf-newconnections.org
Strategy is always important, but execution often trumps strategy. We have started and won’t stop…
David L. Waldman is the Vice President-Human Resources and Administration for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.