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My Moment: From an Existential Crisis to Solutions

Following up from our last guest post by Arianne Donoghue, today we welcome Cheryl Ingram. Cheryl Ingram PhD is the CEO and Founder of Diverse City LLC and Inclusology, two small businesses that focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Her clients currently include companies such as Netflix, Families and Youth Incorporated (Las Cruces, NM), University of Washington, Highline Public Schools, and Ada Developers Academy. Recently Diverse City LLC was selected as the recipient of the Greater Seattle Business Associations, New Business of the Year Award after just 2 months of being in business. She has been training and coaching in the area of diversity, equity, and inclusion for 17 years.

I remember it like it happened 5 minutes ago. The moment I realized what it felt like to be miserable and un-purposeful in my professional trajectory. This moment wasn’t just related to a singular experience, it was a collective of moments that added up and caused my emotions to pour out of my face, metaphorically speaking, my thousandth cut.
 
The previous day at work, I was speaking with a very powerful person in our national office about discrimination against the populations we were serving and how our organization was continuing to perpetuate oppression. I distinctly remember him rolling his eyes during our video call. Here I was one of the highest performers in our organization, and I was being ignored! He had spoken to me with great condescension, while maintaining a smile on his face. This wasn’t my first interaction with this human being and every time we spoke, I always ended the call or left the meeting feeling the same way, angry and dismissed. For some reason, on this day, I had had enough. I remember going home, closing the front door and falling to floor and just sitting there unable to move as the tears rolled down my face.

‘I finally grasped the root of it all – I couldn’t live another day fighting in a system that perpetuated systems of oppression, it was time for a change'

I had to sit there in silence trying to uncover the root of my emotional outbreak, and then I finally grasped the root of it all. I felt the heaviness of disappointment in my chest. I was reflecting on every experience of microaggression, racism, explicit and implicit bias, lack of diversity, and in that moment, through the tears I washed away my blinders and my purpose became clearer.  I couldn’t live another day fighting in a system, that perpetuated systems of oppression, it was time for a change. I needed to contribute to the world differently. I needed to create systems that promoted diversity, equity, and inclusion so that this didn’t happen to anyone else again.
 
The next day on my drive to work about 1 mile away from the front door of my job, I broke down crying at a stoplight. I was overwhelmed with frustration that I was returning to the same entity where I would experience the same situation from the previous day.  I dried my eyes and pulled into the garage and went into my office. I was, as usual, the first one there. I remember hearing this voice in my head saying very clearly “it’s time.” I turned on my laptop and started writing my resignation letter. Four pages later, I felt the weight that was sitting on my chest from the previous day, lifted. I knew I had made the right decision.

‘My goal is to create a lens for people to understand the pain of experiencing discrimination, equity and inclusion’

Now I am the CEO and Founder of two companies that are doing just that, improving the awareness and action within companies by building systems to address issues around diversity, equity, and inclusion. My goal in this piece is to create a lens for people to understand the pain of experiencing discrimination and oppression.  I feel it is my duty to give you, the reader, some brief guidance for addressing the topics I have described throughout my blog post If you or someone you know is having an existential crisis around (DEI) diversity, equity, and inclusion in your company, here are some helpful tips to begin approaching the topic:
  1. Practice awareness: to solve a problem (s) you must first be aware of its existence. The existence could be manifesting interpersonally or systemically. Do your research, conduct an assessment, use your resources to help you figure out where the problem lies.
  2. Be intentional about solving the problem(s): whenever you have DEI problems, recognize that they are never caused by one single entity. They are more than likely a sum of parts in your organization and never a single issue. For multiple problems you need multiple solutions.
  3. Set sustainable accountability systems: your company should be working on a strategy that is both long term and short term. This strategy must include action steps, goals, objectives, and outcomes. Accountability systems must be in place for when you do not reach these goals. Remember the revolving process should be: investigate, plan, implement, measure and revise.
These three steps are my way of giving direction to systems that need change, but I also want to be intentional about recognizing those of you who have shared in my experience. Ask yourself:’ Should my real job be instigating a change for myself and others?’
 
If you are a person who has faced discrimination and oppression and have been feeling lost or overwhelmed. I encourage you to practice healing along your journey of self-discovery and purpose. It is important to show up being your best self. Don’t be afraid to jump into your greater purpose. Fear should not stop you from achieving your purpose in life. May peace, love, and strength be with you, on your courageous exploration of the world and yourself.

If you’d like to support the work Cheryl does, have a look at her fund-raising page.