An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis
Recruitment and retention are key to helping a company’s bottom line. Companies spend thousands of dollars on continuous hiring and training. If organizations can create an environment where people want to work because they can bring their true, authentic selves then they’re saving money in the long run.
As a part of our series about “How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nika White.
Dr. Nika White is a national authority and fearless advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion. She is an award-winning management and leadership consultant, keynote speaker, published author, and executive practitioner for DEI efforts across business, government, non-profit, and education. She has presented over 200 keynote speeches and presentations across the country on issues such as team engagement, organizational leadership, strategic diversity, a lens of equity, and intentional inclusion. Dr. White’s talks bring a mixture of expertise, passion, vision, and authentic style to create holistic takeaways for audiences. With over 20 years of leadership, Dr. White helps organizations break barriers and integrate DEI into their business frameworks. Her work has led to designation by Forbes as a Top10 D&I Trailblazer.
The heart of Dr. White’s work addresses the ability to create transformative environments with intentionality around inclusion. She helps create professional spaces where people can collaborate through a lens of compassion, empathy, and understanding. Dr. White is the author of two books: “The Intentional Inclusionist®” and “Next Level Inclusionist: Transforming Your Work and Yourself for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Success.” A third book published by Forbes Books is scheduled to release in September of 2022, titled, “Inclusion Uncomplicated: A Transformative Guide to Simplify DEI.”
Colleagues and clients often call Dr. White the “inequity disruptor” — and she’s known for treating DEI not as just a job responsibility, but a vital leadership function.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive into the main part of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you share a bit of your “backstory” with us?
“Leave no one behind” is more than just a phrase or affirmation I often reflect on. This organizing principle drives every aspect of my leadership in the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) field and is embedded in the ways I show up personally and professionally to do this critical work.
As an award-winning leadership consultant, entrepreneur, Black woman, and devoted mother of a neurodivergent son and a strong activist daughter, DEI is much more than a career choice. On the one hand, it is my lived experience as a multi-generational minority within a dominant culture that systematically disadvantages people like me. On the other, it is within that same dominant system I became an educated, global expert because of college-focused parents and a commitment to generational wealth.
This unique perspective enables me to understand conditions within both dominant and nondominant cultures. I’ve inhabited both all of my life and can now tease out parts of the systems and entrenched beliefs that get us all knotted up, frayed, and disoriented inside and out. It is the act of fully unraveling the yarn — straightening and pulling taut the raw fibers that bind humanity in belongingness — that we remember we are intertwined. Interdependent. Only then, can we begin the true work of weaving a more equitable future.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? Can you tell us the lesson or take away you took out of that story?
I grew up in South Carolina and spent most of my adult life in Greenville — a town historically known for its discrimination and the last county in the United States to officially recognize MLK Day as a holiday. At a time of intense division and adversity, I and a group of change makers founded the MLK Dream Weekend, where Martin Luther King Jr’s daughter, Dr. Bernice King was the keynote speaker for the inaugural year. To think that she could have been anywhere given a keynote to honor her father’s legacy and that she chose Greenville was a defining moment for me that has inspired my career trajectory. Her message that night was the last shall be first. And, sure enough, 10 years later Greenville became known for being one of the largest and most meaningful MLK celebrations across the U.S.
The lesson for me behind this story is that a transformation can occur if you are willing to let it.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you tell us a story about how that was relevant in your own life?
“Don’t tell me the sky’s the limit when there are footprints on the moon.”
― Paul Brandt
This quote reminds me of the fact that people want to be seen, heard, and valued, and part of feeling this strong sense of belonging and acceptance is having people believe in your potential and support you in creating full opportunities for success. We can’t limit one’s potential by not showing them all the possibilities.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
Way too many to name but in short, women of color who dare to dream big and believe they can achieve inspire me and motivate me. I dedicate this interview to them.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
There are so many factors that set us apart from other consulting agencies. To start, I would like to share our core values, which help set us apart and describe the essence of who we are as a full service DEI boutique consultancy. Collaboration, curiosity, change as a constant, continuous improvement and constructive candor keep us agile and able to construct individualized solutions for our clients. At NWC we seek to understand before we solve. We anticipate, expect, and embrace change as a gateway to growth for our clients. Through our Deep Dive Assessment, survey, learning & development sessions, focus groups and 1×1 interviews we learn about the intricacies of our clients. We believe in getting to the crux of the matter and solving for issues at the root cause. NWC sees all data as opportunity; new information generates new possibilities and the beginning of an eye-opening Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging journey. We also speak our truths in caring, courageous, and constructive ways. This ensures that our clients can fully realize their DEIB potential.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?
Yes, book number three, Inclusion Uncomplicated: A Transformative Guide to Simplify DEI in partnership with Forbes Books scheduled to release fall of 2022. DEI is complicated, but it doesn’t have to feel that way. My primary reason for writing this book, Inclusion Uncomplicated, is to demystify DEI concepts so that leaders, champions, and change-makers like you can own practical, actionable tools to make a real difference, right now.
The heart of my work is to help create transformative environments with intentionality around inclusion. This book will teach you how to do that, personally and professionally.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I’ve used my success to establish a nonprofit centering Christ, Commerce and Community with a mission to equip and empower disadvantaged communities across the globe. The Carlo and Nika White Foundation is fueled by the idea that these three foundational beliefs are the answer to building a brighter future for all. Dreams for better communities remain dreams if people aren’t taught to create economic empowerment for themselves and others, and act on what they know. Furthermore, small business is the economic engine to any community. Small business sparks innovation and provides opportunities to the residents of the community where it is located. Therefore, CNWF believes the secret to building stronger communities is to invest and build stronger small businesses.
Ok. Thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main part of our interview. This may be obvious to you, but it is not intuitive to many people. Can you articulate to our readers five ways that increased diversity can help a company’s bottom line. (Please share a story or example for each.)
Recruitment and retention are key to helping a company’s bottom line. Companies spend thousands of dollars on continuous hiring and training. If organizations can create an environment where people want to work because they can bring their true, authentic selves then they’re saving money in the long run. Diverse people equal diverse ideas and solutions. Companies will begin to see greater innovation, creativity, and problem-solving ability from their diverse employees. In a homogeneous environment, group think may begin to surface which can crush originality. Companies may not find that million-dollar idea when employees are just meeting the status quo. When companies reflect the community, their clients will respond. Organizations can then attract a larger and wider client base. This opens up an organization to new business opportunities. And DEIB can serve as risk management by forming an environment where people feel safe to disclose troubling practices. A level of transparency forms within your company.
What advice would you give to other business leaders to help their employees to thrive?
Eliminate process bias and focus on equity. Biases aren’t solely in people; they’re also in processes and systems. Solving for DEI requires looking at systems, procedures, policies, and culture. Many different business processes — such as how you onboard employees, how you secure suppliers, how you recruit, or how you market — can be operated through the lens of DEI. Take time to audit your processes and see where you may fall short in respect to DEI. Institutional discrimination and systematic lack of inclusion are big players in the conversation on DEI. Although individuals may hold biases, they’re ultimately reinforced by processes and systems that are inherently exclusive.
What advice would you give to other business leaders about how to manage a large team?
Over-communicate with empathy and compassion — there’s no denying that empathy and compassion are both vital. Any time we find ourselves in a period where there’s so much uncertainty, we need to over-communicate. We must ensure that leaders and messengers on behalf of the company are thoughtful and considerate. There’s value in those leaders demonstrating vulnerability and sharing how they’re navigating and being impacted by complex social issues. This allows others to know that they’re not alone, and that moments of uncertainty abound. You must ensure you have a voice of authenticity, transparency, and truth. Authentic updates will be helpful and comforting in these times of uncertainty. Organizational leaders should think through and ask these questions:
Which different groups will be impacted by this decision and how?
Is there a way to create more equitable divisions of the impact?
Am I communicating any changes or shifts in an empathic and inclusive way?
Bottom line, keep asking strategic DEI questions at every point, and encourage other leaders to do the same.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this 🙂
Michelle Obama — she’s among the many Black women who consistently display excellence at a high level both professionally and personally. Her grace, intelligence and beauty always amaze me. She’s used her position to create programs that can transform communities for the better. She’s trail blazed a path that women of color can emulate and find guidance. She is an inspiration.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Your readers can visit my website at nikawhite.com where they can discover a wealth of knowledge through my books, blog, podcast, white pages, publications and podcast called “Intentional Conversations.” Readers can also connect with me on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.
Thank you for these excellent insights. We wish you continued success in your great work.
Dr Nika White On How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.