Diversity and Inclusion

Advocating for Change

Skift Take

Ren Akinci is executive vice president, people and culture officer at Emerald. Her passion lies with making diversity, inclusion, and equity an intentional focus for companies.

Ren Akinci is the executive vice president, people and culture officer at Emerald. Her role focuses on expanding and strengthening the company’s diversity, inclusion, and equity (DEI) efforts, as well as helping Emerald achieve its commitment to talent and organizational success. Before moving to Emerald, Akinci had similar roles in media, advertising, hospitality, music and retail.

As a child, her parents owned dollar stores in Connecticut, and she spend time at trade shows with them. Working in the trade show industry, or within HR, wasn’t Akinci’s goal when she was younger. Instead she dreamt of being a lawyer as she was drawn to advocating on behalf of others. Whilst she may have switched tracks from lawyer to human resources, Akinci has still found a way to fulfill the goal of advocating for others.

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Pay Transparency Creates Equity at a Company

Pay can be a very taboo subject, but this attitude is beginning to shift. There are at least seven states within the U.S. who have passed a pay transparency law, with 15 others considering to do the same. Emerald now includes in all job postings, even in states that don’t require it.

College Degrees No Longer a Requirement

In 2021, Emerald removed college degree requirements from 90 percent of its jobs with the hope of eliminating a barrier for applicants. There are many reasons for this including; the cost-prohibitive nature of college for some people, the want of some to avoid student debt, acknowledging that some people are better learners in non-traditional environments. Emerald’s focus is now on skills-based hiring. They have changed job descriptions and focus on skills instead of just academic achievements. 

The goal here is not to diminish academic achievement. The goal is to promote equity by recognizing that all talented individuals should be able to apply for a position within the company, even if they do not have a four-year degree. 

Including All

In 2022 Emerald hired a DEI Chair to help them organize and focus on the areas they wanted to make commitments to. This led to the creation of three pillars of focus: people, community, and business. Each of these pillars has an executive co-sponsor and 5-6 members of the Emerald team who are committed to driving the results.

Some of the steps Emerald have taken include:

  • Requiring all hiring managers to complete unconscious bias training which is refreshed annually
  • Securing a designated budget for immigration sponsorship and visas
  • Adding transgender benefits to their health plans
  • Enhancing the existing women’s reproductive health benefits.

Transparency is important and therefore team members share both the successes and challenges of their DEI journey during monthly townhalls. Whilst they have made progress there is always work to be done.

Making DEI a Focus

Companies should start by outlining why DEI is important to them and set goals with specific timeframes. Acheiving DEI goals requiers an intentional approach which is aligned with the company’s values, otherwise skepticism can creep in.

Analyzing HR data can help you understand where you are. Looking at current vendor roster and procurement process will show you if you are working with minority owned businesses. It also important to work with companies that are also taking DEI seriously. Ensure you ask vendors what their DEI mission and goals are, including progress made, during an RFP process. The first step is starting this process. 

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