Workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) initiatives are prioritized in today’s business climate more than ever before, and for good reason:
Racially diverse teams report a 35% increase in performance compared to their competitors
57% of employees wished their company was more diverse
Cognitive diversity drives innovation by up to 20%
But beyond the business case, 80-percent of the talent pool is looking to work for a company that values diversity, equity, and inclusion.
At Convene, prioritizing DE&I helps our team feel comfortable, increases connection, boosts morale, and supports our employees as they do their best work. Investing resources to DE&I efforts across the organization has become vital to Convene’s growth and success as an employer of choice.
Our DE&I Efforts
In 2020, we introduced five diversity, equity, and inclusion pillars: Philanthropy, Partnerships/Procurement, Community, Internal Policies/Practice, and Training & Development. These are the fundamental themes, which our long-term DEI strategy is built around.
In 2022, we’ve narrowed our focus to the Community & Training/Development pillars by doubling the amount of employee resource groups we offer, growing our mentorship program, and facilitating workshops with our external partner, Swarm Strategy, on various DE&I topics. Most recently, we’ve trained our team members on the following topics: “Unlocking the Power of Identity to Understand Power + Privilege and Transform Culture” and “Beyond Allyship: Anti-Racism in Action”.
Internally, we’ve worked to prioritize the Community pillar through launching and expanding on our DE&I event series, including:
Conscious Conversations – A series of talks focusing on DE&I with regard to Mental Health and Wellness topics
Tastes of the World – A cooking series focusing on dishes from various cultures
How I Built This Career – Fireside chats with inspiring individuals about their lives and career paths
Trivia Night – Hosted in correlation with Heritage Months, focuses on history and culture
The Person Behind DE&I at Convene
Shantel joined the Convene team in 2017 as an Event Producer, bringing more than ten years of experience to the role. She considers herself people-centric, and regularly spent her days (and nights!) producing social and corporate meetings and events for clients across a variety of industries. In 2021, Shantel decided she wanted to pivot her passion from hospitality to impact and corporate strategy, taking on the role of Senior Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Manager at Convene.
We recently sat down with Shantel to get to know her better and learn how she runs an effective DE&I program.
Shantel, can you please introduce yourself and tell us more about your passion for DE&I?
I’m a first-gen Indo-Caribbean American, born and raised in Miami, FL. I joined Convene back in November 2017 in Event Production and have been in my role as Senior DE&I Manager since October 2021. I’ve been in the hospitality industry for more than 10 years, and worked in events and opening teams for boutique and major luxury hotel and restaurant groups like the Westin, St. Regis, SLS Hotels, and Hyde Resorts and Residences before joining Convene.
My passion for DE&I comes from my late grandmother, who had a tremendous heart and spirit of giving back through equitable practices. Growing up, she exposed me to different cultures, religious beliefs, and taught me about many other sociocultural factors. She instilled that I should see everyone as equal no matter the circumstance, and really doubled down on that through mutual aid efforts she organized to help others throughout South Florida and Guyana. I hope to continue to carry her torch by giving back to the community and supporting individuals from different cultures and backgrounds both in and outside of the workplace.
What has your career looked like at Convene/ what steps did you take that landed you in this role?
Since joining Convene, I was greeted with the opportunity to share my ideas and express my interest to explore different areas outside of my own department. One of those included being involved in and helping lead one of our newly formed Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) at the end of 2019 and when the pandemic and racial injustice events of 2020 occurred.
I took it upon myself to bring Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion to the forefront by setting up monthly one-on-one calls with our CEO and COO to provide feedback and share ideas about DE&I, and partner with our People & Culture, Learning & Development, and Internal Communications teams to launch and revamp our DE&I programs.
It was important to expand my skill set beyond my lived experience. So outside of my day-to-day role in event production, I spent many late nights and weekends reading books, networking with others in the DE&I field, and completing certifications like the CDP (Certified Diversity Professional). But it was worth it when Convene saw the importance of truly investing in DE&I and offered me a full-time role leading DE&I on our newly-created Impact team at the end of 2021.
What has been the most rewarding part of your new role?
Hearing the feedback from our team about the strides we’ve made as an organization, our DE&I programming, and how they feel the culture is continuously shifting for the better. This work is far from easy and can be emotionally taxing at times, but the rewards motivate me to keep going!
Why should every company be focusing on DE&I?
That’s simple. Besides being the right thing to do. Companies that focus on DE&I provide an environment where individuals can show up to work as their true selves and have their unique experiences and perspectives be heard and respected. As a result companies focused on DE&I see increased productivity, innovation, and profitability. I highly recommend looking into the research study done by McKinsey & Co. that goes more in depth about this. It’s a great resource on stating the business case for DE&I.
What can companies, especially smaller ones, do to build out the DE&I initiatives?
Start small, focus on your strengths, set realistic expectations, and partner with DE&I consultants to determine your areas of opportunity. For Convene, our strengths and core values as a company are GRIT (Genuine, Relentless, Integrity, Teamwork), and being 1% Better. With the relaunch of our ERGs in 2020, their initial focus was hosting inspiring internal events and providing community which we do every day as a provider for Meeting & Event and Office Space/Coworking solutions and each year they’ve become 1% better by becoming more involved with our initiatives.
For anyone reading this, feel free to connect with me if you want to learn more about DE&I at Convene or are looking for new career opportunities in the DE&I world, I would be happy to share my insight and advice. If you’re interested in joining Team Convene, you can see our full list of available positions on our career page.