Johnita Due: Why Every Office Needs a Diversity and Inclusion Plan
By Schania Anderson
Johnita Due is making her workplace more welcoming to everyone. As senior vice president and chief diversity and inclusion officer (CDO) at WarnerMedia News and Sports, she’s focused on building an organization where all employees can feel free to be their true selves. In episode 38 of the Coffee Break w/NYWICI podcast, Johnita chatted with us about how she got this important job and why it’s crucial for companies to have a diversity and inclusion action plan right now. Here are some takeaways from her conversation with host Julie Hochheiser Illovich.
You Don’t Have to Have a Clear Career Path
As the daughter of civil rights leaders, Johnita always knew she wanted to make a difference—but it took her awhile to figure out exactly what she wanted to do. In college, she studied social change theory, race relations, and social psychology. From there, she became a lawyer and a First Amendment attorney at CNN. Within this role, Johnita gave a voice to communities of color and helped to tell stories that mattered. But it was when she volunteered to lead the diversity council at CNN that she finally found her calling. Working on that project launched Johnita into her current role.
It’s Okay to Have a Varied Background
Want to work as a CDO or a similar role? While it may be helpful to have a marketing, sales, or HR degree, there’s no particular major or career path that can truly prepare you for the job. (In fact, Johnita was almost discouraged from joining the diversity counsel because of her background as a lawyer!) But if you’re passionate and eager to fight for diversity, it’s worth getting involved, no matter what your current job is. “Don’t feel limited if you haven’t studied a certain thing,” Johnita says. “There are so many ways you can gain experience.”
Everyone Should Implement a Diversity and Inclusion Strategy ASAP
Johnita believes that all companies should be expanding their diversity and inclusion efforts. After all, she points out, having a diverse and inclusive workforce creates a welcoming workplace, provides a variety of different perspectives, and leads to a higher employee engagement.
She urges organizations that are making the initial steps of expanding diversity and inclusion efforts to develop a clear mission statement. To do this, companies should spend time talking to employees, encouraging them to speak up with feedback. After areas of concern are identified, a company can begin to launch initiatives to address issues and create a comfortable work environment. And of course, it’s also important to find a way to measure the results, so it’s clear whether the diversity and inclusion efforts are having a positive impact. One diversity officer alone cannot change an entire company, Johnita says, but having a dedicated role is vital for an organization to make advancements and truly see progress.