One year ago today, the Executive Leadership Team (ELT) at RTI announced their commitments to pursuing racial justice and equity on a personal and organizational level – an answer to a call to action stemming from the nation’s racial reckoning as a result of the racially motivated murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.
The ELT formed a partnership with RTI’s Black Employee Resource Group (BERG) to inform the institute’s path forward. The resulting public commitments included active ELT participation in new initiatives, including:
- ally training,
- diversifying staff and leadership at all levels, and
- examining business practices and RTI culture to eliminate barriers for the recruitment, advancement, and success of Black employees.
One of the ELT’s most significant steps was the formation of RTI’s Racial Justice and Equity program. This program is responsible for evaluating racial equity policies and practices, identifying systemic issues and barriers, recommending actions, and supporting the implementation of action plans and programming at the institute.
The Journey to Forming the Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging Council
The Diversity and Inclusion program at RTI has existed for almost a decade. However, the ELT recognized the need for a more concentrated effort surrounding racial equity and systemic racism.
Cara Valentino, a Certified Diversity Professional, and the founding member of RTI’s BERG, served multiple roles on the Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) Council, including as the training and development lead and employee resource group (ERG) program lead. Her work outside RTI includes facilitating a meditation group for Black people to heal from race-based trauma and hosting regular community conversations on race.
Valentino was appointed the full-time leader for the Racial Justice and Equity program.
“Cara has a demonstrated ability to lead and build effective relationships with diverse groups of staff across the institute,” said Lisa May, Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer. “She has become a recognized Diversity, Equity & Inclusion thought leader, bringing Inclusive Interactions and Ally trainings to RTI and leading regular dialogues around race. The ELT frequently consults with Cara on matters of racial equity at the institute, and we’re excited about the RJE strategy she will help lead.”
With the existence of the Diversity and Inclusion program and the establishment of the Racial Justice and Equity program, the Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging (EDIB) Council was formed as an umbrella program to create a culture of belonging where all staff enjoy equal and absolute dignity, value, and opportunity to thrive. The EDIB Leadership Council leads diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, as measured against the Global DEI Benchmarks.
When these commitments were established and these councils formed, staff were asked to reflect on these changes.