Welcome to our new spotlight series, where we introduce you to some of the great authors on the SocialTalent learning platform. With more than 100 experts delivering high-quality content in all areas of workplace excellence, we are proud to have a faculty who are not only highly experienced in their respective fields, but also engage instructors from diverse backgrounds.
Today we’re going to meet the amazing Jessica Havens. As a DEI strategist and facilitator, Jessica takes a heart-centered 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 on your experience and history in 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 additional education at the university level, focusing on identity, multiculturalism, community involvement and social justice. After receiving my master’s degree in Women’s and Gender Studies in 2012, with a major research focus on white racial identity development, I decided to shift gears and delve into organizational DEI work focused primarily on adults. I had no idea what I was getting into at the time, but here we are 11 years later!
A few years into my career as a DEI consultant, I landed a full-time job 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 leaders. I learned so much about working with a wide range of stakeholders in a multi-layered, complex and politically diverse organization.
Jessica was a guest on our podcast! Watch her episode about transformational versus performative DEI leadership here:
After those three years, I returned to my freelance DEI work, empowered by a deeper understanding of organizational DEI work and the many challenges inherent in the process. One of the biggest insights was the need for a transformational approach to diversity, equity and inclusion, involving the full humanity of everyone involved. I saw time and time again that transactional approaches did not provide sufficient band-aids for gaping wounds and did not create lasting cultural changes in the organization.
My absolute favorite part of DEI work is training and facilitating, and I dare say I’m pretty good at it! I love helping people deepen their understanding of the ways identity, power, and privilege impact their lives and 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 businesses, 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 today?
I believe addressing equality has done that always has been a major topic of study, but it seems that now more than ever there is a real hunger (and urgent need) for change. The old ways in which our world and organizations have functioned will no longer serve us in the future. To transcend and transform the oppressive approaches and policies of the past, we must first understand them. If we can understand how we got here as a society, why we view ourselves and others in certain ways, and how we then emerge as leaders in an organization, this fuels a level of emotional and racial intelligence that is vital for the culture. and systems change.
“The wound is where the light enters.” -Rumi
Q. What do you hope students will gain from completing your missions?
I hope that students can make the connection 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 students 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 approach 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