MITRE: Why Inclusion and Diversity are Relevant

by Savoy Staff

By Stephanie E. Turner, Vice President, Inclusion, Diversity and Social Innovation, MITRE

When it comes to the workplace, all dimensions of a person join an organization. For example, ethnicity, personality, gender, work experience, sexual orientation, family structure, age, socioeconomic background, abilities, even geography, shape each of us.

Our responsibility as leaders is to inspire trust and motivate our employees to be all they can be by getting to know them better—and cultivating an inclusive culture where all individuals are welcomed, recognized, valued, and respected. When the currency of trust is leveraged, morale, inclusion, diversity, productivity, revenue, and innovation increase. Likewise, when trust is not there, the reverse occurs in the workplace.

As a Black, gay woman who has managed diversity and inclusion, talent acquisition, and employee engagement at major corporations and a not-for-profit, I bring a variety of perspectives to my role leading inclusion, diversity, and social innovation at MITRE. These different viewpoints are helping me help MITRE, a not-for-profit research and development company, broaden the definition of diversity and connect inclusion to impact.

MITRE has 60-plus years of experience applying systems thinking to solve large-scale challenges—from GPS to aviation safety to the COVID-19 response. The pandemic and ongoing protests for racial equity and social justice have reinforced for MITRE that our mission—solving problems for a safer world—begins with our people.

So, what does this mean in practice? For MITRE, it means cultivating an environment in which people feel empowered to be who they are, in person and virtually. Reinforcing a truly inclusive culture is a journey, and it never ends. It takes intention, listening, and action.

“You know people listen when changes are made,” explains Willow Woycke, cybersecurity engineer, transgender woman, and chair emeritus of MITRE’s Pride Council. “MITRE recently added gender pronouns to our email signatures. It took time to get there, but it was a small and important victory.”

“There’s something about knowing people see me as I see myself that makes me more comfortable—and certainly happier.”

A first-generation American, Latina, and daughter of farm workers, process engineer Bacilia Angel says that brainstorming sessions “make for a better outcome when they include people who approach problems in different ways.”

“My upbringing gives me a different perspective. I have a ‘make things happen’ attitude about everything.”

Angel founded MITRE’s Multicultural Employee Resource Group to ensure that often- underrepresented points of view inform project approaches and solutions.

Woycke’s and Angel’s experiences show the power in being your full self at work: individuals perform better, and so do their teams. Bo Kaufmann, technical training and development specialist, knows this firsthand.

“I’ve been hard-of-hearing most of my life, and I need certain accommodations to do my job,” Kaufmann says. “For the 17 years I’ve been at MITRE, they’ve invested in systems and tools to help me do an even better job. I have a phone with closed-captioning and a special headset that fits over my cochlear implants.”

Kaufmann invited a Deaf instructor to MITRE to teach a Deaf Culture 101 course. Nearly 100 people tuned in. “Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees attended, as well as people who wanted to know the best ways to interact with these communities.”

MITRE is committed to fostering an environment where the entire person is seen and heard and given grace and respect. As an extension of this commitment, we’ve launched the MITRE Social Justice Platform (SJP). The web-based SJP applies MITRE’s systems-thinking expertise and brings together employees, partners, decision makers, and influencers to shape solutions to entrenched social, economic, and health disparities. And deliver data-driven recommendations.

Partnerships are particularly important because MITRE can’t do this alone. Our collaborators include Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Advancing Minorities’ Interest in Engineering, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, industry, government, and academia.

Together, we can begin bridging deep divides and change the social justice landscape. It’s social and economic equity that provide the backdrop for authentic collaboration, risk-taking, and innovation, inside and outside the workplace.


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