In some organizations, winning an award means basking in success and resting on your laurels. However, for Davenport Executive Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Rhae-Ann Booker, Ph.D., an award always represents an opportunity to raise the bar of performance even higher.
“Awards are a way to gain input from external organizations about our efforts, benchmark against what other leaders are doing, and discover potential areas for improvement,” she says.
Booker enjoyed another opportunity for that kind of assessment and networking on Sept. 14 when she represented Davenport in Detroit as a winner of a Corp! Magazine Salute to Diversity Award. Each year for more than a decade, the magazine has celebrated Michigan organizations, businesses and leaders that make diversity and multiculturalism a strategy cornerstone. As a 2018 recipient, Davenport was recognized as a nonprofit that “creates and promotes special programming, education or other initiatives that focus on diversity.” From more than 400 nominations, Davenport was one of 22 Diversity Champions and one of only three college/university award recipients.
The list of DEI awards has grown steadily since Booker joined DU in 2011. The most significant key to the progress and successes of the program, she says, has been vision alignment. “Our DEI efforts are integral to who we are at Davenport and to achieving our vision as a university. That vision informs the goals we set and the actions we take.”
For example, applying the DEI “Commitment, Competency, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” framework helps employees and students see the critical role they play in achieving the vision and provides guidelines for addressing barriers. It’s been so successful that it’s been copyrighted and shared with other organizations. And the two-level DEI training program for employees has proven to be a catalyst for in-depth conversations and new understandings of what diversity, equity and inclusion really mean, and how each can be leveraged to improve organizational performance.
Real success isn’t measured by awards, Booker emphasizes. Instead, it’s always about outcomes and results.
Her next big challenge? To drill deeper into some of DU’s high-level indicators of success as an organization – retention rates, for example. “I want to stratify the data. While we feel good about the overall progress being made, there may be some groups that aren’t doing as well as others. I want to see if there are gaps and then work with different offices and departments to dedicate time and resources to help close them. Based on our DEI commitment and the potential we have as a university, it’s worth the effort.”