Akilah Cadet’s firm has a big mission: Guide companies in dismantling white supremacy and create a culture in which everyone feels valued and appreciated.
It all started when an experience of discrimination gave her pause. Until that point, she had had a solid career in healthcare and public health. Upon reflection, she realized she had been discriminated against for being a woman, Black, or both — or even for being funny. “After all the discrimination and bullying, I realized … I no longer wanted to fit in that box.” Nor did she want any underrepresented group to feel that way. “I wanted them to feel like they belong wherever they are.”
Enter Change Cadet (pronounced like her name, kah-DAY), which she founded in 2015. To accomplish company goals, her firm addresses anti-racism, diversity, inclusion, equity and belonging through executive coaching, strategic planning, facilitation and crisis recovery.
Part of the process, she says, is guiding executives to shine a light on the unconscious biases that they don’t see. “Say you want to be more diverse — the goal is to be comfortable being uncomfortable. And there’s discomfort with realizing how difficult it is for people and that things you believe aren’t true. But it’s not about feeling bad, it’s about moving forward with big and small daily actions.”
Cadet hopes that one day, DE&I and all the other acronyms will no longer require a separate movement. Instead, valuing people is integrated into every organization’s plan, budget and key performance indicators. Unconscious bias is removed from recruiting, hiring and promoting, adding diversity all the way to the top.
“Leaders and businesses, staffers, HR, all need to understand the power of actions and words,” Cadet says. “Actions and words have to match. And we have to build accountability for behaviors that need to happen, individually and organizationally.”
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