Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion mean many things to people. For me, it has a personal meaning that goes beyond the workplace. When you see me, you see my Norwegian Mother, but you don't see my story and how I came to see how bias can profoundly affect a person's ability to pursue a better life for themselves and their families. I don't share many personal details on social media and am careful with what I put out in the world.
How I feel about this is still evolving and will continue to evolve, but as I co-chair our DEI committee at CFO Selections, I am thinking more about how sometimes support can come in the form of understanding.
My paternal grandfather was Native American (Oklahoma Cherokee Nation), and my grandmother was part Potawatomi. My grandfather struggled with feeling "less than" and butting up against prejudice, trying to build a better life for his family. He left the Cherokee Nation land in Oklahoma to escape the prejudice.
Let me pause to say that I don't know how this feels, but my grandfather would say it is impossible to escape how you look.
Leaving his home did not stop the bias he faced, and he struggled his whole life with anger and resentment. As a result, my father was taught to hide his true heritage, so it was a long time before I fully understood what had occurred and why. I feel sad that I could not learn about the culture and background my grandfather came from because he never reached the point of wanting to share. Would my grandfather have done things differently today? I am honestly not sure, but I hope we've progressed.
I have not faced my grandparents' same struggle in my own life but started navigating the business world as a woman in the early 90s after working full time through college as a first-generation college student. I have many stories ranging from being called "honey" to being discounted in meetings or even passed over as if invisible to assumptions about my role and abilities. I had to fight for my voice to be heard and given the same opportunities as my male counterparts. I was fortunate to have strong women leaders as mentors to help me navigate this, but many do not and give up.
The industry I love is historically challenged in not being greatly diverse. My hope is that we can look around in 30 years at a different picture.
I have been with CFO Selections for 11 years and am thankful to be part of a team that values diversity and all voices at the table. The Partnership has thoroughly identified why diversity, equity, and inclusion are essential to us and why we believe our success depends on continuing the journey. We use the word IDEAL to describe how we operate both in our professional and personal lives. As we do our DEI work, we are committed to ensuring that no team member has to hide who they are or who their relatives are/were/want to be. Every team member has a unique voice informed more by their life experiences than what they learned in school. We will lead by example so our clients can see what it is like to truly value every person we work with.
We say that while we will never be perfect in the sense of being without flaws, we are striving towards this. We understand DEI is a journey for all organizations, not a destination we arrive at and then rest. We are on our journey and will continue to pursue perfection in the sense of continually learning, growing, and evolving as individuals and an organization.
I hope those who read this article will find inspiration and understanding on their DEI journey and embrace the complexities beneath the surface.
About the Author
Becky Todd, Western Washington Practice Manager, CFO Selections
Becky is an experienced financial leader with over 20 years of experience in industries that include nonprofits, aviation, software, and retail. She has extensive expertise in helping small to mid-size companies and organizations gain control over their accounting/finance operations and apply their financial assets to support the accomplishment of key organizational objectives.
As the Western Washington Practice Manager for CFO Selections, Becky ensures the alignment of the right CFO consultant to client organizations. Becky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.