When I embarked on my recent search for a new role, I decided that it needed to be at an organization that truly aligned with my values and allowed me to give back. I found many organizations that say they are diverse, don’t really understand what that means. They are diverse only when it comes to the group they are targeting. I’ll admit that prior to applying for my new role as head of HR for Televerde, I hadn’t heard of the company. But when I learned about Televerde’s purpose and got to visit one of the prison-run call centers to see firsthand what the company is all about, I just knew it was the place for me.
Leading HR for an organization that is built on providing second chances to and career opportunities for incarcerated women couldn’t be more near and dear to my heart. We all make poor choices and mistakes, but only some of us are caught and punished for them. This is why I have spent my entire career working to empower people to do and be their best. As a proponent of second chances, the opportunity to use my skills and experience to help elevate a group that has been marginalized by our society is something I cherish.
Creating and enabling second chances is an integral part of any good diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) strategy. To borrow a line from our Chief Impact Officer Michelle Cirocco, “True inclusion means including everyone.” That includes people of different ethnic backgrounds, belief systems, identities, and those of us with disabilities. This also includes people who have a criminal record. Today, approximately 70 million people, or one-third of working-age U.S. adults, have a criminal record. For too long, employers have been missing out on dedicated, talented individuals because of the stigma of a criminal record. That’s why I’m excited to be in a position to help change the narrative.
One of the strongest reasons why I chose to join Televerde is the company’s overarching commitment to DE&I. I’ve been made aware of criticism facing this organization about a lack of diversity and I just don’t see it. Our executive team is primarily made up of women, including women who are formerly incarcerated and myself, a woman of color and disability. Beyond that, this is an organization that is helping to empower a population of talented and capable women with the skills needed to succeed in the workplace. And in my brief time here, I have seen an incredible diversity of backgrounds, cultures, and ideas. I firmly believe in hiring the best person for any role. And given Televerde’s strong culture of hiring and promoting from within, there is a natural inclination toward diversity and inclusion.
No matter where I’m working, I want people to love the work they are doing and to feel valued for their contributions. It’s vital for employees to feel like their voice and perspectives matter, and to be involved in making decisions. Feeling valued and heard is especially important for incarcerated individuals, as they are in an environment where they have very little choice, input, or control over their situation.
The women who work for Televerde are what makes the company successful, so it only makes sense that they should have a voice within the company. In fact, when I was interviewing and had the opportunity to visit one of our call centers, I knew that the opinions of the women I met would be weighed in the decision to bring me on board or not.
Real, sustainable change happens from the bottom up, not the top down. That’s why I want to strengthen a culture of listening where ideas and different perspectives are not only encouraged but valued. And by creating and enabling new opportunities for those working for Televerde, regardless of where they are working from, we can ensure that our employees are reaching their full potential in an environment that cherishes the big and little things that make them unique and valuable. As I settle further into my role as head of HR, I look forward to doing what I’ve always done: helping to promote a culture of belonging where people can thrive in any environment. And in such a passionate and purpose-focused organization, I know that I’ll have total support in building upon the incredible foundation that Televerde has already established.