Episode 314: DEI and Preparing Students for the Workforce with Ariana González Stokas

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Episode 314: DEI and Preparing Students for the Workforce with Ariana González Stokas

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Table of Contents

Welcome to the Workology Podcast, a podcast for the disruptive workplace leader. Join host Jessica Miller-Merrell, founder of Workology.com, as she sits down and guets to the bottom of trends, tools, and case studies for the business leader, HR, and recruiting professional who is tired of the status quo. Now here’s Jessica with this episode of Workology.

Episode 314: DEI and Preparing Students for the Workforce with Ariana González Stokas


Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:00:27.59] Welcome to the Workology Podcast. This podcast is part of a series that’s focused on diversity, equity and inclusion, and HR. The Workology podcast is sponsored by Upskill HR and Ace the HR Exam. The DEI series on the Workology podcast is powered by Align DEI and Ginger.com. Diversity, equity and inclusion are not new ideas in the HR and corporate arenas, but in recent months, the importance and significance of DEI has gotten leaders throughout the corporate America to think about what doing the right thing in our community looks like. For many of us in HR, this means working with our company leadership to develop initiatives or operations and anti-racism policies to create a more inclusive workspace. On today’s podcast, I’m speaking to Ariana González Stokas. She’s a DEI consultant and former Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Barnard College. Ariana has over a decade of experience directing, managing and teaching in higher education and has focused her work on transforming educational institutions into inclusive organizations that actively work for equity and access. This focus has allowed Ariana to blend her research interests in critical university studies with efforts to help educational institutions learn to support and serve a growing population of first generation and low income students. She most recently served as a founding faculty member of Guttman Community College and as the Dean of Inclusive Excellence and visiting assistant professor of philosophy at Bard College. Ariana, welcome to the Workology Podcast.

Ariana González Stokas: [00:02:12.74] Thanks for having me.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:02:14.42] You’ve spent your career working in and around DEI initiatives in educational institutions. I think this is the first time we’ve been able to interview someone in academia about DEI. What led you to this career path?

Ariana González Stokas: [00:02:29.78] Yeah. So again, thanks so much for having me. And I think, you know, learning organizations are interesting places to do this work, and I think every organization can be a learning organization. So for me, the work started, I guess, a while ago, you know, like back in 2008. I started off in what’s kind of described in New York state as opportunity programs. Other states have similar programs where they’re, they’re equity based access programs to higher education. And essentially what they aim to do is provide both scholarships, but also intensive academic support in the transition into higher education for low income and first generation students. So I started off kind of leading as a director of a program, but had always been connected to what I’d consider to be equity based programs or the idea that, you know, higher education in the United States in particular isn’t always accessible and frequently isn’t accessible to everybody. And then, you know, I think DEI sort of in its early versions in higher and at least was known as multicultural affairs, and I started was kind of around that world a little bit, but kind of fully navigated into it, I guess, with the position I held at Bard, which was an inaugural one as a Dean for Inclusive Excellence, which kind of is the notion that, you know, higher education can actually meet its aim of having educational outcomes, which are preparing students for an increasingly complex cosmopolitan world without ensuring that there’s many different perspectives both in the curriculum and in the student and faculty and staff population. So it kind of came through first a commitment to I consider it under the umbrella of like the access and equity parts of higher education programs. And then my own kind of personal story, family narrative of being a Puerto Rican woman who kind of watched her own family, my own mother and grandmother, you know, really struggle to ensure that both my mother had access to higher education and then in turn, that I did.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:04:48.41] Can you talk a little bit about how we should be defining equity in the workplace? What is that and what’s the definition of equity in the workplace?

Ariana González Stokas: [00:04:58.34] Sure. So, you know, I think equitiy is, for me and I think most people who do this work would probably agree, it’s one of the most important parts of that sort of DEI chain of words. And one of the things that’s, I think, the most complicated to get at. So, you know, equity, importantly, is a multifaceted idea. So I think about it as it’s connected to representation. So representational equity is, you know, really thinking about the history of a particular institution, organization or, you know, place, country, and what inequity is or what populations or demographics have been historically excluded from the work environment, the particular institution? And then how do you begin to achieve representational equity so that the institution like, let’s say, where I was working at Barnard or Bard or even Guttman Community College, two of those institutions are located within New York City. Does the population of both the student body, the curriculum, the professoriate, the staff, does it map on to the population of New York City? So how representative is the pool of people working and learning in the institution to the surrounding community? I think, you know, we have, we hear a lot of conversation now about representation mattering. Seeing yourself or someone like you in positions of authority really aids outcomes in both graduation rates of success in the classroom and feelings of belonging. So that’s representational equity. Then, you know there’s resource equity, which is really again connected similarly to an attentiveness to place to history and to the resources available to people to be able to achieve equality.

Ariana González Stokas: [00:06:56.95] So we talk, you know, we hear a lot about equality in our society and, you know, equality as an aim, and equity helps get us there. It’s a good way to think about it. So how do we ensure that communities or demographics identities that have historically had under-resourcing are provided with the additional resourcing they need in order to achieve the same outcomes from their counterparts? So that could come in a lot of forms. That can come in the form of like the most obvious one in higher ED, sort of scholarship aid. Adequate scholarship aid so students don’t graduate with an inordinate amount of debt, but they aren’t able to really repay in a realistic way. Ideally, no debt, particularly for low income and first gen and middle income families, so that there can actually be a, quote unquote, equal playing field when they graduate. And then research based equity interestingly in the pandemic has been connected to, I did a lot of work toward the end of my time at Barnard with staff, and the switch to a virtual work environment was really, you know, institutions like Barnard had never had a virtual kind of workforce. And we really needed to think about where we equipping our staff with the resources and the support that they needed? Anything from an adequate place to do their job could, was their apartment, you know, able to accommodate the work that was required of them.

Ariana González Stokas: [00:08:27.49] And then, you know, did they have an adequate chair? Right? So, you know, resource based equity is really, I think, an important core practice to looking at who your staff are, who your students are? And do they have what they need in order to succeed? Do students have access to the books that they need? Can they afford them? And it’s really lowering these micro barriers sometimes that exist to students fast faculty success that can sometimes and oftentimes remain unseen. Particularly, I think, in environments where the normal population or the population the institution was designed for was a highly resourced population, and those micro barriers were never perceptible or paid attention to. So, you know, equity. And then there’s kind of the, the tied to the representational equity piece. There is, you know, racial equity, gender equity in the workplace and really realizing that it’s, it’s about creating equity minded practitioners that can ensure that your organization or your institution is constantly designing with a view for equity, it is attentive to in any program design or new initiative or new policy that you’re thinking really hard about. Does, does this program or policy meet the aims that we’re seeking to achieve? And is it going to ensure that every person is supported no matter what barriers might be in their way? It’s a, one of them, I think, for a inclusive organization or institution, equity has to really be at the center in all things.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:10:20.29] What does cultural and structural change look like when it comes to DEI in your point of view?

Ariana González Stokas: [00:10:26.40] Yeah. So I, you know, I’m a systems thinker. That’s really how I approach this work, and I think that inequity and oppression lie within, you know, they lie within individual actions and perspectives, obviously, and behaviors, but they’re reinforced through the types of structures that we build and systems that we build. So I think if you, you know, take a very basic example in higher education like admissions policies, so, you know, higher education, particularly in the United States, is predicated on how to get in, right? The process of getting in to in a top school is complicated, and it requires a lot of support and a lot of resources often. So it’s a system that I wouldn’t describe admissions in the United States to higher education as a particularly inclusive widespread practice. If you look at community colleges, I came out of a community college also, it’s an open door. So anybody who applies can attend for the most part. So we tend to think about, you know, higher education. We accept that as a kind of condition in the way that higher education is designed, that exclusion is just part of what it means to achieve and gain access to prestigious environments versus, you know, could we ever think about a system where it’s, the doors are wider? There’s a wide gate to access to these types of institutions? And I think, you know, really I think about systemic change and cultural change as the best metaphor I use sometimes is that metaphor of a gate. How wide is your gate? How easy is it to kind of move through and access the resource that you might have on the other side of that? And I think that’s really a very significant part of, of inclusion and this notion of leveling kind of playing fields and correcting for historical harm and exclusions for certain communities.

Ariana González Stokas: [00:12:44.70] So DEI is, you know, really we have to have as a values that we have to believe that difference is an attribute that is essential. We have to really carefully attend to the systems that we build that ensure that not just the wealthiest are gaining access to the most heavily resourced educational environments, which is still often the case in the United States again. I think other countries, actually the educational system and higher is quite different when it comes to equity and inclusion work. It’s about attending to your policies and procedures and practices and how, for me, you know, at Barnard, I really looked a lot about how students were navigating and able to access the resources of the institution that existed. So how could we begin to ensure that they didn’t accidentally find out about things like scholarships or, you know, funding for a field based research trip and internship? How do we make sure that there was a really overt process in place, system in place so that they could apply really transparently for the really significant vast array of resources that were and are available to them in that institution? As someone in leadership, it’s looking like that 50 thousand foot view of, you know, not just what you say in your statements or your mission, but what are the daily practices that you have in place that affirm both belonging and difference and then have programs that address actively the differences in identity that could create microbarriers to success or advancement, or any of the other outcomes you might have.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:14:43.17] As you’re building out these programs and putting together, how are you measuring success?

Ariana González Stokas: [00:14:51.21] So, you know, I think in DEI work, it’s one of the areas that needs a lot of focus. I think there’s been a kind of checkbox approach where it’s sort of like, you know, we did 10, you know, bias awareness workshops and, you know, we did it. But what the both cultural impact and organizational impact is of those, you know that those series of workshops is really the most essential next step. So I think that it’s two things, you know, like, I think this work has a lot of correlation, obviously, with human resources offices or people in culture offices because it is about changing the culture of an environment as much as it is about changing the people who work there or supporting the people that work there. So, you know, I think that it requires this continual interplay which weaves assessment and reflective practice into everything that you do. So an example of this is, you know, if you’re going to, like, launch a new step into an institution kind of like I’ve done, it’s about getting to know the demographics, the history. So doing your research is really essential to that first step of, like, knowing your, what your outcome should look like, doing a lot of listening, gathering of information, you know, who are the people in the institution and what do they need and what are they expressing as what they need. And then, you know, building the container as I think about it for, you know, what the express need is and then always having that circular process where you, you know, filter back to those folks and say, you know, is this getting you where you, you thought you might want to go? So an employee resource group is one example of this, an affinity based group, and then I think helping those groups, just as one example sets some really concrete outcomes. And it could be anything from, you know, this is an employer resource group for single parents, and what happens out of that group as they articulate they need better leave policies for single parents or better daycare funding or support.

Ariana González Stokas: [00:17:10.24] Have you been able to achieve that? I think. And have you been able to meet and lower those barriers that might exist for, for the demographics within your institution or your organization? You know, and then I think it can be anything from the regular like, you know, looking carefully at retention rates of underrepresented staff or faculty and students. So what are the graduation or retention rates driving metrics? So did you retain those folks and then did they, did they thrive? Did they achieve promotions? Did they achieve the outcomes even that they articulated upon hire or upon admission? So assessment work is this reflective ongoing work to engaging with the difference that’s continually present and changing in a given institution. And so, for me, I generally work hand in hand with, like, institutional research, and it is, it’s a, you know, at the most basic form of that, it is really this ongoing listening and integration of the themes and the ideas that you’re hearing in the listening sessions into programs and policies that are meeting their articulated needs. Because often it’s sometimes the top down where it’s like there’s a kind of cookie-cutter implicit bias workshop that everybody’s going to offer. But that isn’t always what an organization really needs to get out of, you know, if their goal is increasing equity, racial equity, for instance, that might not be the mechanisms.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:18:53.38] I appreciate you saying that because I think a lot of HR folks are saying, OK, we need DEI initiatives, and then they’re just want, they want to take something off the shelf or directly from a consultant or some program, and they aren’t taking the time to talk to their employees and then customize exactly what they need.

Ariana González Stokas: [00:19:15.82] Yeah. And I think it’s this like fine balance between the, because obviously like folks are, you know, capacity wise, this is a learning curve for many people, too. So how do you learn quickly and integrate kind of what your learning needs are in your organization or institution, while also realizing that you do have to customize it? Because the culture, I have found any, I’ve been in a number of higher ED institutions and I’ve done consulting work for outside of higher ED. The culture of a place is always particular, right? And there’s a history that exists and you have to get, you know what that history has been. Some organizations would say have a deeper legacy of misogyny than racism or vice versa, right? So it’s, it’s kind of, as a DEI professional, I think you have to really do that attentiveness to the place and then you go out and you have to find the resources that could be an asset to the particular focus that you need to take. So I think about it as like you have to find the ground floor and in that given organization or institution, and that takes a little while. And then you have to find your tools right from consultants or from, you know, there’s so much online. Sometimes there’s too much, and it isn’t just going to be the one off thing because that culture change work is has to be consistent and regularized and ongoing. So I look at it from these three steps of normalize, organize and operationalize, and you have to take those three steps to really make a culture change, particularly around racial equity gender equity outcomes.

Break: [00:20:58.36] Let’s take a reset. This is Jessica Miller-Merrell, and you were listening to the Workology Podcast sponsored by Upskill HR and Ace the HR Exam. This series is powered by Align DEI and Ginger.com. This is part of our diversity, equity and inclusion series. We’re talking about diversity, equity and inclusion with DEI consultant Ariana González Stokas.

Break: [00:21:23.02] Every employee has different mental health needs from preventive behavioral health coaching to therapy and psychiatry. Ginger offers effective, convenient mental health care for any level of need. All from a smartphone. Learn more. Visit Ginger.com.

How Should We Define Equity in the Workplace?


Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:21:41.73] Your work has focused so much on lowering social barriers. Can you talk about the types of barriers that students face?

Ariana González Stokas: [00:21:50.91] I think, you know, obviously the pandemic. There were always barriers to higher education and retention and graduation rates. So for low income students, I’ll just say right now, you know, the enrollment in higher education just fell off a cliff with the pandemic. Meaning it was, you know, statistically, it’s been a challenging population to enroll in higher education for a range of reasons, both because of, you know, a need for advisement, the drive to go out and get a job before you go into higher education and then just, you know, lack of, of access, right? Knowing how to apply, getting the money, getting a scholarship. That’s something that we’re going to have to work hard in higher education to recover from. And then the barriers can be anything from a lack of access to a laptop. So we saw that during the pandemic, suddenly all our students had to be online and virtual and remote. And some of them lived in areas of the world where there was no broadband access, and we, you know, had to figure out ways to both get them laptops and then find a location where they could potentially access their classes. So those are significant barriers that were there before the pandemic, but sort of were highlighted because normally they’d be physically on campus as one example. Some of the other barriers to higher ED in the United States is cost, obviously. So, you know, there’s scholarships and then there’s loans, and then there’s just the gaps that exist.

Ariana González Stokas: [00:23:33.75] So sometimes students get admitted to schools and their family takes out a significant loan or they don’t, their family doesn’t have an ability to take out a loan. They have a gap of funds that they can’t, you know, they can’t make up that money. When they are enrolled, some of the, like more microbarriers, they really are about time and pressure. So we have students who are under intense pressure because they’re the first in their family to be in school. They are working for jobs and they’re still sending money home to take care of families, so they get burnt out very quickly. Sometimes they sacrifice their meal plan for, you know, money so that they can send money home so they’re food insecure. They, you know, the statistics on food insecurity for college students in the US is very high. So, you know, there’s a real need to ensure that, you know, there is a holistically supportive environment for, for students to, to succeed because they’re so incredibly bright students who, you know, life gets really complicated along the way, and they need consistent, intense advising and support. And, you know, even sometimes how to access your books. You know, books can sometimes run at least five hundred dollars a semester, and for some families, obviously that’s nothing but for their families, that’s something they can’t do. So the students have to really hustle to find the books. And, you know, the president at Barnard, I think, who I worked for, Sian Beilock, you know, she’s an incredible leader, and she described this as cognitive load.

Ariana González Stokas: [00:25:17.08] She’s a cognitive scientist, and it’s important to lower the cognitive load because then that means they’re focusing on many other things besides their, their studies. And that can lead to lower GPAs than they might want. You know, and then the last thing I’ll say about that, microbarriers is also access to like internships, you know, paid internships to kind of be that pipeline to the career they might want. So there’s for the kind of first-gen low-middle, and I say middle income because increasingly middle lass families are also in the squeeze right there in that category. We’re talking about resource equity where they’re paying maybe a mortgage, another kids college tuition, and there’s just not a lot of money left over for extras. You know, we could talk a lot about the different microbarriers that exist, particularly for undocumented, black or latinx students that arrive on predominantly white PWIs, Predominately White Institutions. The, the kind of hurdle around belonging in those institutions takes, exerts a whole nother kind of stress than the students who, white students who come from environments where it’s not a big shift for them. So, you know, there’s many, many layers to, to supporting both racial equity in predominately white institutions than one would I think seeing from the outside

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:26:45.59] One of the things you said to me on the prep call was talking about the importance of community colleges and how they really help provide resources and also affordability to low to middle income for often first generation college students. And I attended community college for that exact reason. But I hadn’t really thought a lot about it. I mean, my, I, I was a Pell Grant recipient. My family was incredibly poor, and I am so thankful for the ability to go to community college because I don’t have the, the debt that so many others have, and I stil got a great education.

Ariana González Stokas: [00:27:34.91] Yeah. You know, I, you know, I’m a huge, I can’t even describe how important community colleges are to most social mobility, but educational access in any state. They have been, I think, culturally stigmatized in a way that is problematic, and I really hope that that begins to change more and more, especially with this notion of, I’m not someone who thinks, you know, we should value our educational institutions by who they exclude. We should value them by who they include. And community colleges have a kind of radical mission to include as many people as possible into higher education, and that should be something that at the highest levels of government now is looked at well funded and well resourced because they are the doorways for so many, you know, low income first generation students of color, older adults to, to education. And, you know, when I was at CUNY, the diversity that existed in my classrooms was like none other. And you know, DEI work in elite institutions like Bard and Barnard, which are amazing and wonderful institutions, you know, there’s only a small number of slots, right? They can provide, and they cost $80,000 a year. I think the education at community colleges is, is excellent and there’s amazing faculty. They just need more resources, right? They need to teach fewer classes so they can focus on students in smaller classes like these elite institutions.

Ariana González Stokas: [00:29:11.30] And they serve overwhelmingly when we talk about equity and inclusion, community colleges in the United States they serve those students. They, they are at the forefront of social equity. Yeah, they are the, the on ramps for so many people. And I think again, you know, sometimes parents or families may see them as less because they do. They have an open access policy, right? Like somehow they’re not as good. And I think we really need to change that because I too, I have my closest friend, she started off in community college and she went on to a pace and, you know, great career and didn’t have any debt. She, you know, our students from Guttman, you know, we have a number of them have now graduated. And, you know, one student I worked with, she was remarkable. She was 38. She was returning to college, woman from Jamaica and Michelle Mayers Harry. And she went on to get a full scholarship to Mount Holyoke to finish her education. And, you know, I think that’s really one of the places that we also need to put our energy when we talk about, you know, equity and inclusion work is in that transition from community college to the four-year institution. There needs to be more support and more alignment. And there’s a lot of folks working in that space, you know, Bloomberg Philanthropies is in Aspen, SKR have this new initiative called the American Talent Initiative, which is essentially a charge to the top 272 institutions in the US to say, you know, we want to see you increase your Pell enrollment by a significant percentage because Pell enrollments at the schools have flatlined.

Ariana González Stokas: [00:30:53.06] And what they concluded, you know, a few years ago was really the focus needs to be on community colleges and transfer from community college to these four-year schools. And that’s where they are encouraging the focus to be, you know, but the truth is, you know, private higher ED at the top levels in the US, the most elite of these schools, they don’t accept transfer students, some of them, there’s not even any slots for transfers. And that’s really sad because you’ve got the best and the brightest at some of these community colleges and there needs to be space for them in those super resource-rich environments. So, yeah, I mean, I think that really as a country, especially right now post-pandemic, I really hope that we turn our resources and our attention. To those community colleges, and I think there’s a great advocate in the White House in the form of Dr. Jill Biden, who has been a professor at community colleges for many years.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:31:50.89] Can you tell us a little bit about the new model for access and equity that you created at Barnard?

Ariana González Stokas: [00:31:57.49] Sure. So during my time at Barnard, when I started there, like many institutions and you know, this was a model that I learned from CUNY, so the City University of New York. So the idea is you create kind of a hub or a central, centralized way where students can understand what sorts of resources the institution has available to them. So many higher ED institutions, they have these particular scholarship offices. Opportunity programs office is one example in New York state. First generation, low income, international students. And these are offices that are usually discreet and in institutions like Barnard, sometimes, the culture is very implicit. So a lot of students have to do a lot of work, frankly, to figure out where to go, to do what or how do I get, you know, an application to find a scholarship to study abroad? Do I go to the study abroad office? Do I go to my advisor? Where do I go? And then anything from like, how do I get support for getting assessed for learning disabilities? So basically, the idea and the model of access Barnard was to put all these offices into an umbrella and in collaboration with one another, because essentially the way I looked at it on my colleagues I worked with there is that these are the folks who are the experts in equity at the institution and advising students about how to navigate higher education if they’re first generation, and then experts and also how do you acclimate them to an environment like Barnard? Like what does it mean to go to office hours? How do I talk to my faculty member? The idea is that it’s a one stop kind of environment so they can come in through the front doors and there are folks there who can really do a kind of intake that helps connect them to whatever office they might actually be looking for.

Ariana González Stokas: [00:34:04.60] Because sometimes with college students, they don’t know the right questions to ask. So it’s a holistic one-stop approach to student support. And again, you know, CUNY’s got started this model in Valencia College, actually community college in Florida. The idea that, what they were seeing was that students weren’t being retained, not because of what was happening in the classrooms, but because of their encounters with the registrar, or, you know, things around credits that were confusing financial aid. And those are actually significant number of students cited those interactions as what knocked them off their track. That’s why they stopped out of pursuing their degree. So, you know, they created these models of these kind of one stops or hubs where you know, you had knowledgeable advisers to help them understand or connect them, you know, financial aid and credits are both really complex systems. I hopefully someday we can make them far less complex, but they are. And when you’re your first in your family, sometimes you don’t quite know what you’re looking at. So, you know, it really is a one-stop model to support first gen, low income, and international students in navigating both Barnard and Columbia University. Top institutions often don’t realize how much they have to learn about, you know, student development from these, these institutions.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:35:36.58] What does social justice look like in the workplace today, and how do you think we as HR leaders can ensure that we’re creating a safe space for diverse voices and cultural intelligence?

Ariana González Stokas: [00:35:48.37] You know, I worked with a consultant, E Fay Leonard, who I think I’ll take her, her sort of leadership approach, and I think she describes it not as safe space for brave space. And I really like that because I think that brave space is about creating an environment where people can be honest. You know, I think that honesty and transparency, and I’ll use this word we hear a lot right now, accountability are all really the core as to what gets us to socially just workplaces. Without those things, it’s really hard to get there. And, you know, brave space has to also include the idea that everybody is learning. And I see like racial identity development as it’s a developmental process and organizations, you know, need to approach it that way and help their employees understand that, and that everybody is at a different level in their racial identity development. And you don’t need to bring your whole personal life to the workplace, not everybody’s comfortable with that. But how do you understand your social identity and how it tracks onto your particular workplace? And again, then go back to that particular, the importance of awareness to your particular work environment. So my social identity in a work environment, I need to have an attentiveness to what that looks like and what it means. And you know, that’s a really again, like a ground for cultivating that brave space is normalizing, right? You have to normalize. Talk about racial equity as one example of an equity area, you have to normalize a racial equity framework as part of your process, whenever you are doing the hiring, whenever you’re creating a program, when you’re really thinking about what promotion looks like or what your performance reviews look like. Racial equity frameworks should be at the table all the time if your aim is justice and your aim is to correct for historical exclusions.

Ariana González Stokas: [00:38:03.16] I think a lot about reparation what that means. What does it mean for institutions that have developed and benefited historically from both the slave trade and the dispossession of First Nations and Indigenous people? They are in existence today because of those legacies of harm and exclusions. So how do you begin to repair or amend that harm? And I think those need to be at the core of how corporations think, how certain higher educational institutions think and then the actions they take, not just the statements, right? We have a lot of statements when you see a lot of action and policy. So there’s a lot of work to be done, but the ground floor of that work, I think, has to be creating environments that are brave, that are transparent and accountable. You know, and accountability means that you are clear about what your role is and what you are responsible for carrying out. And you are not afraid to be direct about the reasons that inform your particular decision and that you’re transparent about it, and that when something goes wrong, you’re willing to step out and say, you know, let’s try this again. This was a mistake. We’re going to keep trying again, and here’s how we’re going to do it. So I think, you know, those those are three core approaches to achieving socially just environments. And again, they take processes of normalizing them in your culture, organizing them, what are the right containers for making them happen, and then operationalizing those commitments.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:39:49.37] Awesome. Well, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us.

Ariana González Stokas: [00:39:54.23] Thank you.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:39:55.07] I really hope that HR leaders who are listening to this podcast think differently about how they’re recruiting or engaging or thinking about social injustices in just our collective responsibility as employers and preparing people for the workplace. So I appreciate your insights here for sure.

Ariana González Stokas: [00:40:19.37] And I appreciate your focus on it. I think, you know, social justice isn’t something outside our work environment, so it’s within them and it’s not cookie cutter, it’s achievable.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:40:30.73] I want to make sure that we include and open the eyes of HR leaders in all the areas of diversity, equity, inclusion. I think a lot of times we’d like to focus on a couple or what’s in the news, but there are many different facets that we need to consider when we’re building out our DEI programs.

Ariana González Stokas: [00:40:52.79] For sure. We can talk about it for hours.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:40:55.88] Agreed. Agreed. I am going to link to your LinkedIn profile.

Ariana González Stokas: [00:41:01.04] Sure.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:41:01.97] In the transcript of the podcast so people can go to Workology.com and be able to take a look.

Ariana González Stokas: [00:41:07.63] Cool.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:41:07.82] Where else can people go? Is there any other place they can go to connect with you to learn more about you and the work that you’re doing with Barnard?

Ariana González Stokas: [00:41:14.81] Yeah, they can look at, you know, Barnard’s website.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:41:18.71] Well, thank you so much for your time, Arianna. We really appreciate it.

Ariana González Stokas: [00:41:22.04] I really appreciate it. Great to talk to you.

Closing: [00:41:24.59] Conversations about diversity, equity and inclusion are extremely important, and we need to have more of them because these conversations spark change. And obviously, I’m passionate about this because we have a whole series on the Workology Podcast just about DEI. As HR leaders, we can support our company leaders with the resources and training that can open up our DEI initiatives in a way that sets our company up for long term success, while also setting an example of what doing the right thing looks like. I appreciate Ariana’s willingness to share her expertise on today’s podcast.

Closing: [00:42:03.42] This series is powered by Align DEI and Ginger.com. I want to thank you for joining the Workology Podcast, which is sponsored overall by Upskill HR and Ace the HR Exam. This podcast you’re listening to is for the disruptive workplace leader who’s tired of the status quo. My name is Jessica Miller-Merrell. Until next time, you can visit Workology.com to listen to all our previous podcast episodes.

Connect with Ariana González Stokas.



– Ariana González Stokas on LinkedIn

– Access Barnard

– Episode 310:  Measuring DEI and Systemic Change With Traci Dunn

– Episode 307: DEI and Social Justice in the Workplace With Melissa Horne

– Episode 306: AI and Workplace Inclusion With John Robinson, President & CEO of OurAbility.com

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