Karen Jones, VP of Learning and Partner Solutions, came to NextUp with 25 years of experience and endless testimonials to her insight and grace. She was a diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEI&B) expert before diversity was a buzzword, and before many companies cared what the world thought about how many women and people of color sat on their boards.
Jones now leads NextUp’s Learning and Development team and personally leads dozens of DEI&B workshops every year. In this wide- ranging interview, we discuss what Jones has seen via searingly honest conversations inside some of the largest corporations in the world, the work we all still must do to reach equity, and what’s on the horizon in the DEI&B conversation. This article is excerpted from the full interview, which can be read at nextupisnow.org/blog.
Angelina Bice, NextUp: What’s bubbling upin the DEI&B education community and the wider conversation about women going back to work?
Karen Jones: It’s how we re-engage women, or what the engagement of women in the workforce is going to look like moving forward. And I have to say, the reality is that we’re never going to fully go back to the way we were before COVID-19 hit.It caused people to self-reflect about what would be meaningful to them when it comes to work. It caused people to become intolerant to mistreatment. We must ensure that we do not try to bring people back to into the traditional forms of work, which clearly weren’t serving women. And womenof color,on topof theintolerance for thestyle of work, will no longer tolerate going back to how we were treated prior to the pandemic. The workplaces that are going to become more appealing are those that do create a sense of belonging and are values-based.
As we talk about our approach and what we can do for our partner companies, we can help you through leadership development, as well as through understanding more about inclusion and getting those values in place. Building a principle-centered workplace creates high engagement.
Bice: It seems that people are losing patience with corporate culture and are less tolerant than ever for behavior they feel violates their values. Do you think that that’s going to get more intense?
Jones: I think it’s highly probable, and I believe we’ll see it crescendo over the course of the next five years. For those people who have been working from home for the last two years and are being summoned back to their workplace for five days in a row, they’re trying to figure out their next move.
We’re going to see waves of people departing the workplace. There is no real excuse, for example, for not letting employees work remotely any- more. It was hypothesized before COVID-19 that people could work offsite and have agile work schedules, but now it’s been proven. Productivity increased, it didn’t decrease. So what is the workplace’s excuse for bringing everybody back? There isn’t one. The old way of just working all the time, living to work, that’s over. HT