May 26, 2021

What Has Changed Since George Floyd: The New Landscape of DEI Work, with Dawn Cooper

Episode 84:

What Has Changed Since George Floyd: The New Landscape of DEI Work

What You Will Learn:

  • What has changed since George Floyd was killed at the hands of Minneapolis police a year ago, and the global protests his killing sparked
  • Dawn shares her thoughts on DEI practice today and on our society’s evolving views of equity and diversity
  • Why it is crucial to remember that Diversity is not new, and how the murder of George Floyd opened people’s eyes to the reality that has been with us all along
  • How in some regards we’ve slid backwards in our collective cultural competence, and why some people now feel free to voice racist opinions openly
  • How Diversity’s slow slide towards being a “political” topic has created an additional challenge for DEI practitioners
  • Why more businesses are making public statements after race-based violent events take place, and why they are sometimes getting pushback from employees
  • How DEI work has evolved since the 1980s and 1990s and moved beyond just training to more organizational and strategic efforts, and what work still needs to be done
  • Why “training” isn’t the quick fix for racial equity in the workplace, and what positives Dawn recognizes in our progress
  • Why Dawn is happy to see that we’re still having conversations around these subjects and providing a framework for new DEI practitioners to build on
  • Why Dawn suggests new practitioners focus on understanding where your organization is, where they want to go, and what challenges they face

What Has Changed Since George Floyd

It has been nearly a year since the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. In that time, so much has changed in the collective awareness of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. But as the expression goes, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”

In some regards, the national and global conversation about racial equity sparked by George Floyd’s murder has opened society’s eyes to the pervasive inequities that were here all along. But in other ways, it feels like we’re sliding backwards into further divisiveness and race-based hostility, as though people with racist views and opinions feel empowered to air those views openly.

So what has changed since George Floyd was killed, and since the video of his murder forced us to have a global conversation about systemic racism and police violence against unarmed Black people? How has DEI work changed in the last year, and what work do we still need to do?

Pushing Forward and Sliding Backward

To answer these questions, I invited Dawn Cooper to join me on this week’s episode of the What’s The Difference podcast. Dawn is a Diversity and Inclusion practitioner with an extensive and extraordinary depth of experience, consulting for some of the biggest brands in the world, from American Express to Amoco.

During our conversation, we discussed how things have changed in the last year, both in positive ways and in negative ones. Somehow, the concept of Diversity has become a “political” topic, and some organizations who have voiced support for a more diverse, equitable and inclusive society have received resistance for “pushing a political agenda”.

This politicization of DEI work has created yet another obstacle for practitioners to have to overcome, and the reality can feel overwhelming and progress can feel nearly impossible. However, new data, new methods and a new understanding of the challenges we face mean that we can make progress. It’s important to remember that, as Dawn said in our conversation, Diversity isn’t a new concept, and the last year has only illuminated issues that have been a part of our world all along.

One key piece of advice Dawn shared for anyone new to DEI work, especially if you’re entering the field in today’s complicated environment, is to focus on understanding where your organization is now, what goals your organization has for the future, and what challenges your organization faces in achieving those goals. Doing so will offer you a road map for the work you must do, and that can be invaluable in helping you navigate the complexities.

If you would like to connect with the extraordinary Dawn Cooper, you can reach out to her on LinkedIn.

What Has Changed Since George Floyd

About Dawn Cooper

Dawn Cooper, MA is Principal of DMC Consulting Services and a seasoned Diversity and Inclusion professional who provides strategic and tactical direction, consultative support and training to clients looking to implement change, manage conflict, and improve organizational effectiveness. She also consults to organizations on ways to leverage diversity and build inclusion as an organizational imperative. She specializes in cross-cultural communications, program development including initiating diversity councils/ committees, developing and facilitating training programs, retreat facilitation, program evaluation, leadership development and executive coaching. She has served in diversity leadership positions at The Arc of the United States in Washington, DC; Erickson Living in Baltimore, MD; InterAction in Washington, DC; Freddie Mac in McLean, Virginia; Amoco in Chicago, Illinois; and American Express in New York, New York.

Dawn specializes in developing strategic diversity plans and has worked with organizations to create action items and deliver measurable results. She developed the 5-year diversity strategic action plan for The Arc and implemented a Diversity Annual Report for monitoring progress.

As an independent consultant, Dawn has taught courses in Diversity Certification programs at Cornell, Georgetown and most recently at Thomas Jefferson University including: Facilitating Strategic Diversity Planning and Goal Setting, Diversity Strategy and Leadership, Fundamentals of Conducting a Diversity Assessment, Introduction to Diversity as Organizational Change, Strategic Approach to Diversity Councils and Measurement and Evaluation.

Dawn has a M.A. in I/O Psychology from New York University and a Psychology from
Howard University. She is based in Washington, DC.

How to Connect with Dawn Cooper: