LaChaun J. Banks serves as the Ash Center’s first-ever Director for Equity and Inclusion. She is a seasoned professional in economic development, strategic planning, and merging private enterprise with government and academia for overall shared prosperity.
At Ash, she works to advance the practices, policies, and networks needed to diversify the Center’s community; inform its organizational culture and resource allocation; and help move the organization toward shared understanding, language, and values around diversity, equity, and inclusion.
LaChaun also works with the Center’s Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative where she manages the deployment and adoption of the newly launched City Leader Guide for Equitable Economic Development.
Substantial got the opportunity to sit down with LaChaun and ask her a few questions regarding the buzz surrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion in our nation right now.
Take a moment and read a few of the highlights from our conversation and visit wearesubstantial.com to dive deeper into the podcast conversation.
SM: LaChaun let’s dive right in, tell us in your opinion why diversity, equity, and inclusion is so important right now?
LB: So diversity, equity, and inclusion has been important forever. But it is a hot topic right now because people are actually listening.
This is the first time in history that we are having the murder of black people by policemen filmed where the whole world can see, though some would say it’s always been happening. This is a moment where the country is saying, “We have got to do something.”
The reason why I’m so passionate about equity, diversity, and inclusion is because not only is it good for a community or business, but it’s bad if we don’t do it, the implications of what happens if we’re not diverse, if we’re not equitable, it actually ends up being bad for everyone.
I was lucky enough to moderate a book talk for “The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together by Heather McGee. It just really hit home how even the policies that have good intentions can have bad outcomes. And even when one group is suppressing another group, it actually has implications for the group suppressing that group.
The only way really to move forward is by creating a more diverse, a more equitable, and more inclusive organization, no matter what it is, no matter if it’s a fund, community, local government, corporation, etc.
SM: As we get into some of these ‘new’ DEI conversations, what are some of the important factors and pieces that we should be considering?
LB: One of the things that I would say is when things are being created, whether it’s a project, a policy, a program, an initiative, is really looking at who has the leverage to make things happen, but then also, who are the people that are going to be impacted.
Also thinking the whole DEI process through and making sure that there’s diverse thought, as much as there are diverse people in the process at every step. These two things to me have been where I’ve seen success happen, diversity should be planned out from the beginning.
So really looking at when these programs, policies and initiatives are created, having a seat at the table and being able to influence what the outcome is, and having that diversity from the beginning.
SM: What is one barrier or challenge as it relates to achieving real diversity, equity and inclusion or at least moving the needle forward?
LB: I would say the number one thing is bureaucracy. I see it in cities, I see it in firms. I mean, there is this ‘BS’ bureaucracy, bureaucratic practices, that have only served the people that created them 100 years ago, that people are trying to navigate through.
For the folks that really want to create equity and diversity, that are white males running organizations, they’re even having challenges because of the policies in place.
So one thing that I would say that would make all of our lives a bit easier is if people could really remove these bureaucratic systems that are in place for no reason.