Our DE&I Journey: The Beginning

Throughout our 51-year history, we’ve focused on people and relationships. In fact, a people-first culture is one of the things we’re known for in the industry. And throughout 2020, like many other companies witnessing the growing unrest, we felt compelled to speak out in support of social justice. And while we believe an inclusive and diverse workplace brings out the best in all of us by combining our individual strengths, backgrounds, and perspectives, the events of 2020 led us to take a closer look within our walls — as well as our industry overall — and it was clear we have work to do.

Taking a stance and raising our voice isn’t enough, though; we need action, not just words. We began making changes to encourage more diversity, empathy, and acceptance within our firm. We recognize that we’re still in the early stages of our journey toward a truly diverse and inclusive Henderson, and we intend to hold ourselves accountable by sharing updates along the way. Some of the steps we’ve taken in the last year to begin changing from the inside out include:

  • DE&I Advisory Council – We formed an internal leadership group comprised of senior executives and leaders who meet monthly to talk through upcoming DE&I initiatives, provide employee education and training, and help ensure firmwide DE&I efforts stay top of mind with clear executive-level support. This group has a four-part focus:
    • Our employees: Build a diverse and inclusive environment that leverages employee differences.
    • Our clients: Enhance our client experience to better serve our diverse client base.
    • Our community: Align our community service and giving programs with a focus on community diversity.
    • Our partners: Assess and improve our supplier and vendor diversity.

  • Affinity Groups – We created affinity groups for employees to build connections with others across the company who may share a similar background, racial/ethnic heritage, sexuality, or perspective, as well as those who have an interest in being/becoming an ally. These groups are leading initiatives and programming within and beyond Henderson. One of the most powerful things to already emerge from their efforts are ongoing dialogues happeing in dedicated company chat rooms where members share information, personal stories and struggles, and educational resources.This also provides members with a real community and safe space where they can be their most authentic selves. The three affinity groups include:
    • REAL (Race, Equity, and Learning): The REAL group has a vision to create an environment that fosters community and drives action through education on past and present race relations and equips us with practical steps to move toward restoration in efforts to build a better world.
    • UNITE: Focusing on supporting LGBTQIA+ Henderson employees and families, UNITE is a group that was formed to spread a message of inclusion to our clients and community.
    • EMPOWER: Originally started in 2014, EMPOWER’s mission is to propel professional women through connections, collaborations, and continuous development. This group has led several initiatives that have helped change the culture at Henderson over the past several years, and it serves as a testament  to what a great impact a group with a dedicated DE&I focus can have.
  • Education & Dialogue – While many larger DE&I efforts require greater planning and organization, one change we could make quickly was to increase our educational efforts and open up avenues for dialogue around these important topics.
    • Intranet/Employee Resources: We created a DE&I section on our intranet to share information with employees including company trainings, calendar of DE&I events, and links to specific pages for each of the three affinity groups, which will continue to build out over time.
    • Weekly DE&I Employee Newsletters: Each week one of the affinity groups shares a companywide communication on topics that are relevant to their mission or focus area, as well a few educational resources for readers who want to dig even deeper.
    • Unconscious Bias Training: Last fall our firm partnered with NeuroLeadership Institute (NLI) to offer a companywide training on The Neuroscience of Breaking Bias to help our employees take steps in identifying their unconscious biases. We also worked closely with NLI to lead a three-part series for leadership that went deeper into recognizing and addressing these biases and the impacts they can have in the work environment (and life in general).
    • Updated Corporate Vision Statement: Our corporate vision was historically to “Be the firm that changes the industry.” However, in light of the events in 2020, we felt moved to be part of an even larger solution. So, we chose to make a change to our corporate vision. Moving forward our eyes are set to “Be the firm that builds a better world.”

So far, our DE&I journey has been internally focused, creating or providing resources and communication channels for employees to connect and begin to learn from each other. We fully recognize this is a small step and we have a long way to go. We will continue to be intentional every step of the way, and we are also addressing some of the more systemic issues, such as altering our recruiting methods, to affect areas that can’t be quickly changed. We believe that only through reflection, listening, and trying to do better each day can we truly start to build a better world, together. Join us on the journey.

Written By

Community Sector Operations Director | Principal


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