D&I COVID-19 Recording: Invisible Lines & Advocate Aurora Health's Erickajoy Daniels - 7/14/20

In response to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak and its unprecedented impact to business and employers, i4cp holds a weekly series of standing calls to help Diversity & Inclusion leaders navigate this unpredictable time.

Erickajoy Daniels, SVP & Chief Diversity Officer, Advocate Aurora Health, was our featured guest this week. During the call, she discussed a variety of topics including the documentary Invisible Lines, a Milwaukee-centric film that invites viewers to experience conversations they would not ordinarily hear, and encourages the audience to do one thing not often done in this increasingly noisy world -- listen.

More than 100 inclusion leaders and other interested professionals signed in to i4cp’s Diversity & Inclusion Action Call on July 14th featuring special guest Erickajoy Daniels, Senior V.P. and Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer at Advocate Aurora Health and board member of 88NINE Radio Milwaukee, a non-profit radio station and media company.  

i4cp Chief Diversity Officer Board Chair and call leader Jacqui Robertson welcomed Daniels to a discussion of organizational efforts to address racial inequities. The conversation leveraged a clip from the film Invisible Lines that featured a short exploration of neighborhood segregation from the perspectives of biracial residents. 

Key Ideas Shared Today: 

  1. Partnerships drive solutions. Radio station 88NINE is a convener and community developer, says Daniels of the organization she serves as a board member. As such, it helps develop relationships and bridge gaps across the city of Milwaukee, which she describes as “one of the most historically segregated cities in the country.”

    Against that backdrop, 88NINE positions itself as a part of the solution needed to forge greater understanding and bring people together. As the D&I leader for Advocate Aurora Health, Daniels says her board participation enables her to sit down with other board members to work out ways the healthcare system (and other members’ organizations) and the station can partner to further the shared purpose of building a more inclusive and diverse city.
  2. Using media to make a powerful statement. A key result of the station’s partnerships with Advocate Aurora and other entities is the film Invisible Lines. The name evokes the geographical lines that separate parts of Milwaukee, but speaks more directly to the often-unacknowledged invisible lines that divide people in their relationships and interactions with each other—lines of race, ethnicity, orientation, and other differences.

    Daniels notes that the ability to use storytelling brings ideas about diversity and inclusion to life. The film enables viewers to listen in to conversations about race and perceptions about it. “When we learn more about others and change our experiences,” she says, “that impacts our beliefs and our thoughts and leads to greater outcomes.”

    Created by the production and design teams at 88NINE, the film is available for use by organizations that want to open conversations and stimulate learning and inclusion. Information about the film may be requested from film’s creators. They can be reached by email at invisiblelines@radiomilwaukee.org.

  3. Candid conversations take many forms. Asked about the ways in which their respective organizations have candid, or courageous, conversations about race, both Robertson and Daniels provided brief descriptions of some of the efforts.

    Robertson is global head of talent, diversity, and inclusion at the financial services firm William Blair. There, she says, conversations began with a global town hall that enabled people to share their thoughts and experiences (at work and in their communities) in an unfiltered way. A series of mini-sessions among smaller groups followed, allowing employees to share their observations of the town hall and of diversity at the company. A second part of the small-group discussions centered on actions that should be taken to make the workplace more inclusive. Gaps in perceptions and experiences of diverse employees were revealed, and Robertson says the company is acting to close those gaps via increased accountability and transparency

    At Advocate Aurora Health, says Daniels, exposure and action are keywords. Explaining that the healthcare system collects REAL data on patients (race, ethnicity, and language) which helps inform clinical decisions. Similarly, insights gained from real talks helps drive decision-making and ensures organizational health. While conversations weren’t necessarily comfortable, they did provide new perspectives from employees, she notes, adding that they also pointed out the capabilities leaders needed to develop to host and facilitate the discussions in their various departments or busines units.

    Both Robertson and Daniels said that the conversations are part of ongoing efforts to drive change and make progress.

  4. “Every action is an action.” Daniels says the Invisible Lines film was screened for leaders at Advocate Aurora Health who were ready to lead conversations in the organization. Doing so helped the leaders move from viewing the film into engagement with employees. It helped drive action. Leaders in one of the system’s facilities used the content of the film, along with its facilitation guide, to direct viewers through reactions to the film and on to individual learning. 

In many cases, she notes, candid conversations taking place in organizations are good starting points, but people don’t know how to take action because their companies don’t have infrastructure in place or leaders to drive action around diversity and inclusion. However, she observes that action can be as simple as participants absorbing what they heard (in a town hall or other organizational conversation) and then taking some kind of individual action. Daniels says that starting small is ok, that “every action is an action.” 

Also on today’s Action Call: 

  • A poll on organizations’ approaches to candid conversations found that the greatest portion of call attendees who responded (39%) were of the opinion that the conversations were helping to increase understanding and inclusion in their companies.

    In some organizations (27%), senior leaders led the conversations; in 24% of firms represented, leaders at all levels did so. The same proportion of respondents (24%) said that candid conversations represented only one part of their organizations’ broader listening strategies, and 22% affirmed that their organizations applied the insights gained from candid conversations to drive positive change. 

In addition to this recording, please see these resources: