Michelle D. Sims is committed to building BIPOC workforces where fair market wages and opportunity for advancement are fairly distributed to all. She has long been dedicated to creating a universally inclusive workplace culture where candidates are judged on transferrable skills and motivation and not dismissed due to technology limitations or not having a four-year degree.
“If you’re only hiring people with four-year degrees, you’re missing an entire population,” she says. “We respectfully challenge our partners’ job descriptions. From an inclusion standpoint, are you looking at the people with the grit and determination to do the job?”
As CEO of Year Up Professional Resources PBC, or Yupro, Sims has a platform to push companies beyond their blind spots and to choose hiring courage over comfort.
A member of the board since 2018 and CEO since March 2020, Sims appreciates the freedom that comes with being a public-benefit corporation. “We can place the emphasis on people over profit and give our funds back to our talent to increase wages or add coaching programs or technology.”
Yupro focuses on providing young adults with resources that will steer them toward recession-resilient careers in fields such as financial services and IT, to break the cycle of underemployment and unemployment.
Making the program work means partnering with organizations whose values align with Yupro’s. Nudging the needle toward progress in DE&I can be a challenge, but even the smallest efforts pay off.
“Just keeping up with social justice terminology is part of the work,” says Sims. “I set up Google alerts with keywords and ask my staff to help me stay relevant.” She even has a virtual ‘swear bucket’ in the office, and encourages her team to call her out on using non-inclusive language. “I had to put in $2 the other day for saying ‘you guys.’ It’s a journey for me, too.”
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