Future of Work: Advancing Equity

Pam Sornson, JD

Pam Sornson, JD

September 30, 2021

It’s like the COVID-19 pandemic drew a line in time: long-held beliefs that were ‘acceptable’ before its arrival are almost unthinkable after its devastation. The long-running health crisis surfaced innumerable social divides, and the turbulent times allowed people to openly react to those, in some cases for the first time. Consequently, in many sectors of society, leaders are now investing in equity-based initiatives that promise to resolve age-old injustices and facilitate both a happier community and a more robust economy. 


From Premise to Practice

It’s not that the awareness of the ‘equity’ challenge is new, however. The ‘diversity, equity, and inclusion‘ – DEI – impetus has been rising for some time, and the pandemic seems to have pushed it further into the forefront of social consciousness. What IS new, it seems, is the push to not just talk about it but to actively pursue the embrace of DEI principles as an embedded aspect of doing business in every business. Companies across the country are reviewing their existing policies on DEI concerns and revising them to advance those ideals into practices that actually accomplish the goal of ‘inclusion’ of humanity’s broad scope of ‘diversity’ in all corporate corners.   

In many cases, the success of these newly articulated practices depends on the success of the strategy used to implement them. The non-profit community offers relevant lessons on how to develop that strategy.


Alliances Add Emphasis

There are 50+ non-profit entities that make up the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities (Alliance), all of which embrace DEI principles as a fundamental aspect of their corporate personas. From the American Alliance of Museums to the YWCA, the work of these organizations impacts millions of lives across America.  

In Fall 2020, the Alliance announced its statement of guiding principles to advance racial equity and justice. Those principles are notable not just in themselves but also in the fact that so many entities actively asserted their relevance within the individual organizations. In a nutshell, the Alliance as a whole is committed now to:

dismantling systemic racism to redress previous discrimination

through programmatic practices and public advocacy for change

with investments in an enhanced social network to better serve all communities in their schools, healthcare services, and economic opportunities.

The aggregate impact of all that effort to level the playing field for all people promises to be immense and significant. 

At the same time, the Community Science organization, also deeply engaged in promoting DEI policies and practices, published its five-point strategy to advance equity and justice. The five points offered by this philanthropic think tank offer clarity to ground the ‘how’ into building a truly DEI-sensitive organization:

    1. Lead the way. Actively cultivate a diverse workforce and openly embrace all the significant tenets of each of those individuals. Then apply those inclusive principles to every transaction. 
    2. Recognize the size of the challenge. In America, too many artificially segregated populations face insurmountable barriers to progress because of centuries of discriminatory policies. The strategy to overcome them should acknowledge that it will take time to dismantle them. 
    3. Prioritize activities that generate change. These days, those activities should include active advocacy, focused messaging, and the use of data to underscore facts.  
    4. Maximize the organization’s existing role within the larger ecosystem. Every company – for profit or not – holds a specific niche within the community. Leveraging the relationships that evolve within that community can also leverage the advancement of fairer practices. 
    5. Look beyond yesterday’s limitations. Previously impenetrable barriers are eroding and opening avenues to change, improvements, and advancements. Look for and embrace those opportunities.  

Becoming a more equitable community means recognizing the destructiveness and economic devastation wrought by centuries of prejudice. It’s heartening to see so many community leaders actively engaging in practices to remediate those systems and the damages they caused.  


Sharing Insights and Opportunities

These timely discussions underscore the significance of Pasadena City College’s (PCC) upcoming Future of Work Conference and its theme of Advancing Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity: Beyond the Benchmark.’ Running virtually from 9:00 am – 11:30 am PST, Tuesday, November 9th, the conference promises a lively conversation among DEI experts to enlighten and inspire attendees. (Register here.) 

Co-hosted by PCC’s Economic & Workforce Development Director Salvatrice Cummo and Dr. Kari Bolen, PCC’s Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer, the conference is gathering speakers who have ‘moved the DEI needle’ in their respective sectors. While more panelists are coming, attendees will hear from these confirmed speakers:

Keynote speaker Dr. Vijay Pendakur brings his DEI talents to Zynga, the maker of the game ‘Words with Friends®’ and many other globally successful games. OVerseeing staff sited on three continents, Dr. Pendakur has some experience with overcoming entrenched social biases.

Naomi Iwasaki, Senior Director, Office of Equity and Race (OER), LA Metro, provides DEI-infused planning and policy insights to one of the nation’s largest urban transportation systems.   

Sylvia Torres-Guillen is an attorney currently in practice with the Parris Lawyers law firm. Ms. Torres-Guillen’s experience as the ACLU’s Director of Education Equity and California’s first Latina General Counsel for the state’s Agricultural Labor Relations Board indicates her deep knowledge of how bias negatively impacts underserved communities. 

Monique Earl is the inaugural Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer for the LA Department of Water and Power (LADWP). Part of the Senior Management Team, Ms. Earl provides leadership for internal and external development of the department’s Racial Equity Action Initiatives.    

PCC’s Future of Work Conference is presented by the school’s office of Economic and Workforce Development and reflects PCC’s commitment to providing structure, intelligence, and fairness for all its students, faculty, and neighbors. 


The job placement agency GlassDoor recently profiled twelve for-profit companies that are now infusing the DEI perspective throughout their entire enterprise. And McKinsey reports that there is a compelling business case for every company to adopt the DEI mindset as an integral element of the corporate persona. So if there’s a silver lining to be found in the rubble created by the coronavirus pandemic, perhaps it’s that all communities can experience future social and economic success when they integrate DEI principles into their fundamental ways of doing business.     


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