Kiera Vinson has emerged as a visionary in corporate diversity and inclusion, steering transformative initiatives that resonate across organizations.
Currently, as the Global DEI Program Director at BCG X in the Los Angeles Metropolitan Area, Kiera leads a global DEI team, orchestrating strategies for approximately 3000 employees.
But it wasn’t global tech innovation that first drove her to champion change in her world; it was a middle school classroom and students that showed her the growing inequity in our world.
As a middle school teacher in New Orleans, Kiera recognized that societal changes can materialize when compassion meets leadership, and Sanford’s mix of research and practice was the perfect way to lift others through policy.
Throughout her career, Kiera’s resilience and strategic vision have positioned her as a driving force in advancing diversity and inclusion, leaving an indelible mark on workplaces and communities.
We asked Kiera to share her beliefs on how Sanford has shaped her quest for equity.
What impact has Sanford had for your professional and/or personal journey?
Sanford opened up the possibilities for me to explore how to practically apply my personal values of justice and equity in the real world. I came to Sanford fresh out of teaching for a couple of years in New Orleans. I taught incredibly talented, smart, and funny (it was middle school, after all) students. I was energized by their curiosity and interests but incredibly perplexed by the disciplinary and punitive approach my former employer cultivated in a school environment full of Black students. Truthfully, I came to Sanford tired and also ready to learn how I could make a sustainable impact on the lives of kids who looked just like me.
Sanford taught me to zoom out and approach problems from a wider lens. I came to understand education policies in a deeper way, but I also came to understand how food, environmental, health care, and transportation policies impacted education policy. I was able to learn from and collaborate with classmates to uncover root causes of some of society's biggest inequities. Sanford created the space for exploration for me and to safely learn and innovate how to take an interdisciplinary approach to problem solving. I left Sanford with a greater understanding of equity, realizing that could be applied in many different sectors.
Why does public policy matter in 2023 and beyond?
At times, I feel like the world is on fire both physically and metaphorically. Public policy is a crucial tool in ensuring we all have access to basic necessities and, dare I say, a good quality of life. I believe public policy forces society to think about the greater good as a collective, rather than ourselves as individuals. We continue to see the gap in life outcomes widen globally and in the United States. Strong and comprehensive public policies can begin to level the playing field and redistribute resources so that where you are born does not determine your life outcomes.
I lead a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) team in the corporate/tech space, and while it’s not the policy field explicitly, my work requires mitigating societal outcomes that show up in the workplace. I often hear that we cannot implement DEI policies, strategies, or programs because they are not based on merit or give particular groups favor over another. As I think about the future of the workforce, I believe policy will play a crucial role in shaping who has access to jobs or educational opportunities that facilitate access to high-wage jobs.
What is the most interesting highlight so far in your career?
Around the end of 2020, I was working for a talent consulting firm in the non-profit sector. A funder gave us some resources with a broad request to support leaders of color through that particularly difficult time period of COVID-19 and after George Floyd’s murder. A colleague and I took this request and created a virtual space for Leaders of Color to connect across the US. This included a two-day renewal retreat for senior leaders of Color to focus on the origins of resilience and how to effectively set boundaries and tools for professional restoration in social sector work. We discovered a huge unmet demand when we began work on this retreat, which eventually began a firm service offering, running over 5 times. I enjoyed the process of creating something from scratch and being able to create a solution at scale for an often-overlooked community of leaders. DEI work can be emotionally taxing and sometimes it is hard to see the impact you can have as a DEI leader. This retreat was another signal that my personal values and professional work could be aligned to make an impact.
Terry Sanford implored students to 'stand for something.' What do you stand for?
I stand for walking the walk, equity and justice, which should not be a surprise at this point. It’s pretty easy to say that you condemn something in words. I believe that doing, far more than speaking, takes courage and risk. I can talk about how important equity and inclusion are with my colleagues, but if I’m not working on how to learn and model inclusive behavior, what type of impact am I really having beyond verbal cues?
I by no means am perfect but walking the walk means spending my dollars, time and other resources on people and organizations that are working to dismantle some of society's greatest inequities. I often ask myself if my actions align with my values and, if not, I ask my peers and community members to hold me accountable in that alignment.
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