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Welcome to our new spotlight series, where we introduce you to some of the incredible authors on the SocialTalent learning platform. With over 100 experts delivering quality content on all areas of workplace excellence, we pride ourselves on having a faculty that are not only heavily experienced in their respective fields, but are also engaging instructors from a diverse set of backgrounds.
Today, we’re going to meet the amazing Jessica Havens. A DEI Strategist and Facilitator, Jessica engages in a heart-centred approach to personal and organizational development. Her areas of expertise include transformative DEI training and facilitation, DEI equity audits, and coaching.
Q. Can you give us some background information about your experience and history within this field?
I started my career 20 years ago in Chicago as a high school teacher with a passion for liberation. That work eventually evolved into school administration and adjunct teaching at university level, focused on identity, multiculturalism, civic engagement, and social justice. After receiving my masters in Women and Gender Studies in 2012, with a major research focus on white racial identity development, I decided to switch gears and dove into organizational DEI work focused primarily on adults. I had no idea what I was getting myself into at the time, but here we are 11 years later!
A few years into my career as a DEI consultant, I took on a full-time position as a Diversity and Inclusion Specialist for the second largest school district in Colorado. For three years, I worked with every level of the organization, from policy to public statements and advising district leadership. I learned so much about working with a wide-range of stakeholders in a multi-level, complex, and politically diverse organization.
Jessica was a guest on our podcast! Check out her episode about transformational vs. performative DEI leadership here:
After those three years, I returned to my freelance DEI work empowered with a deeper understanding of organizational DEI work and the many challenges inherent in the process. One of the biggest takeaways was the need to have a transformational approach to diversity, equity, and inclusion, engaging the full humanity of everyone involved. I saw time and time again the way that transactional approaches served as insufficient bandaids on gaping wounds and didn’t create sustainable culture shifts in the organization.
My absolute favorite part of DEI work is training and facilitation, and I’d dare say I’m pretty good at it! I love helping people grow their understanding of the ways that identity, power, and privilege impact their lives, the lives of others, and how all of this plays out within an organization. My current work and focus includes: Facilitating DEI professional development for both employees and leadership, equity audits for small organizations and companies, supporting the development of race-based affinity groups, and coaching newer DEI leaders.
Q. Can you give us a detailed overview of what your content covers?
I created two courses for SocialTalent focused on an introduction to racial identity development for organizational leaders. In those courses I cover: racial identity development, the cycle of socialization, segregation, unconscious bias, meritocracy, systemic oppression and privilege, connections to the workplace, hiring with an equity lens, and a basic overview of what it means to lead from a racially conscious place.
Q. Why is this an important topic of study right now?
I believe that addressing equity has always been an important topic of study, but it seems that now more than ever, there is a real thirst (and urgent need) for change. The old ways of how our world and organizations have functioned are no longer going to serve us moving forward. In order to transcend and transform the oppressive approaches and policies from the past, we first have to understand them. If we can understand how we got here as a society, why we view ourselves and others in a particular way, and how we then show up as a leader in an organization, it nurtures a level of emotional and racial intelligence that is vital for culture and systems change.
“The wound is where the light enters.” -Rumi
Q. What do you hope learners will gain from doing your missions?
I hope that learners are able to connect the dots between the material and their own lives. The more we can get people to connect topics around race and identity to their own lived experiences in a space of reflection, the more open they will be to others experiences that may differ from their own. I also hope that learners gain a deeper understanding of how their personal experiences are also connected to larger systems, as opposed to isolated events. Most people don’t know what they don’t know. The more we can help people see the complex messy big picture of all that is encapsulated under the banner of “DEI”, the more thoughtful and intentional leaders can be with their approaches to culture and systems change.
Q. Where can people find you?
- My website: www.jessicahavens.com
- Youtube (for podcast-style interviews): https://www.youtube.com/@jessicahavensDEI