When Gatson Group founder Felicia Johnson speaks to audiences, she always begins by laying a common foundation when it comes to the definition of diversity, equity and inclusion. From the beginning of her practice in 2018, she has succeeded in making certain everyone’s on the same page, whether the audience is a company of 20 employees or 20,000. “That fundamental understanding of diversity and how it aligns with an organization’s culture and values is so important.”
Johnson uses that commonality to foster a safe space where both leaders and employees feel comfortable engaging in often uncomfortable conversations. She recalls a workshop in which she was the only person of color, when a CEO asked if she believed there was such a thing as systemic racism. Her first response was to thank him for trusting her with that question.
“I did not take that lightly. I can only imagine the amount of courage it took for him to ask me this.” And it told her that she had succeeded in setting the stage for that CEO to feel that he could go there. “That’s something we’re often missing — making the space safe enough where people can ask the hard questions.”
Helping others incorporate diversity and inclusion takes whole-hearted commitment, something Johnson understands well. “You can’t fake it in this space,” she says. “There’s a difference between those who are truly committed to this work and those doing it for the sake of optics. It’s important that if you stand in this space, you stand in a manner that’s respectful and authentic to what it represents: serving as a voice for the voiceless. That authenticity has always been my guiding light.”
2021 DE&I Influencers List