K12 hosted its first-ever Week of Understanding last month, to mark the company’s commitment to cultivating a diverse and inclusive workplace.
CEO and Chairman Nate Davis kicked off the week’s events with a live Q & A session via Zoom, hosted by Celeste Chatman, Director of Diversity & Inclusion. Nate shared his eagerness to foster an open and inclusive culture at K12, and said he looked forward to a week of opportunities for people at every level of the company to share opinions, ideas, and experiences that would get us there.
More than an exercise implemented by K12’s executive leadership circle, people company-wide made a personal commitment to the K12 Diversity and Inclusion journey by signing the I Act On Pledge, joining hundreds of other companies participating in The CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion™ campaign to help drive inclusive behavior in everyday life.
“I believe most values held by individuals here at K12 should align with that of the pledge – to reduce preconceived biases we may have towards one another and to give a voice to minority groups without the fear of retaliation,” said Marian Rivera, a K12 tax analyst. “By signing this pledge I’m letting others know that I stand by this objective and will actively work towards being more mindful and inclusive of others.”
Ideas were shared virtually and in person throughout the week, via interactive forums and live discussion sessions, where participants could safely and openly express their thoughts and opinions on K12’s diversity strategy and identify areas of improvement.
Establishing a sense of belonging, support, and value in the community was a recurring theme, and K12 also announced this week the formation of two new Employee Resource Groups (ERG): Veterans in Action and K12 Proud.
Jenn Rios, CRE Chief of Staff at K12 and the president of the Veterans in Action ERG, said she saw a need for a platform for veterans to share their experiences, motivated by her own experiences of adversity and times where she felt like the ‘only one’.
“I had served 13 years of active duty in the U.S. Army and done four years in corporate America. I had a ton of experience, it was just different,” said Rios. “I want to help others understand what veterans really bring to the table and how they can be a great asset to an organization. They bring more skill sets than a resume can translate and hiring managers should understand that.”
Rios added, “It is important to have an ERG like Veterans in Action, because we’re surrounded by so many veterans. The more we know, the more we can help one another and the better we can work together.” Veterans in Action hopes to bring training, awareness, education, comradery, and a different perspective on hiring veterans.
The courageous conversations didn’t stop there. A discussion moderated by Jakki Mathis-Hull, Vice President and Senior Associate General Counsel, brought together a diverse panel of four K12 leaders: Ellen Colby, Enrollment Director; Celeste Chatman; Teresa Scavulli, Vice President of Program Development; and Natarsha Bryant, Regional Marketing Director to share their own personal accounts of how they’ve navigated being the “only one” in a room.
With so many dimensions to diversity, it’s important to continue these conversations in the future and outside the workplace in order to make progress. K12’s Week of Understanding gave employees the safe space to do just that.
“It’s important that we have these conversations, because we’re the ones that will shape and drive the change we want to see,” said Chatman.