We’re excited to introduce you to some of the incredible DEI training facilitators that are part of the SGO team. We asked them to share what sparked their passion for this work, what DEI means to them, and why they do what they do. Meet Jacquis Watters, DEI Facilitator!
What does DEI mean to you?
Diversity, equity, and inclusion are words that are great to know and fantastic to put into practice! Briefly described, I see diversity as a means to highlight the representation of different social identities particularly within a group setting. Equity connects to solutions used in addressing structural imbalances related to a person’s access to fair and just treatment in the world. Equity explicitly acknowledges that based on social identities such as race, gender, or class, people don’t all start out life from the same vantage point. Lastly, inclusion spotlights intentional actions and practices that foster a sense of belonging within a group or organizational space.
Overall, I really encourage a focus on the “e” & “i” of DEI. While acknowledging that the representation of diverse social identities in the workplace is important, it is imperative that we place significant energy toward actionable equity and inclusion work. The work is only holistic when we can 1) interrogate the structural systems in place that allow an inequitable distribution of resources to take place while 2) making meaningful strides to eliminate structural/organizational obstacles that limit or prevent the full participation of marginalized individuals and communities (ie: women, Black and Indigenous People of Color, LGBQ+ and Trans folks, people with disabilities, etc) in the workplace.
How do you come to this work? How did you learn it was necessary, and how did you get involved?
My own identities, in particular as a queer women of color, innately provided a gravitational draw towards diversity and inclusion work. From my own nuanced experiences, I saw, and continue to see, how institutional and ideological “-isms” such as sexism, racism, and transphobia impact people. As a DEI practitioner and facilitator, I seek to challenge these systems in community with others from an interpersonal and intrapersonal lens. I see this challenge as necessary.
What do you think is the biggest challenge for teams when beginning DEI work, and how can they overcome it?
I think one of the challenges for teams when beginning DEI work is simply being honest enough to say there is a need for these conversations. Both on an individual level and a larger organizational level, there may be this involuntary impulse to focus on DEI work as if it’s a noun and examine “the work” in a binary of whether someone is a good or bad person. This is not what DEI work is. Additionally, this doesn’t benefit anyone’s growth or sense of belonging and biases in the workplace (for example) will continue to perpetuate themselves.
From a practitioner lens, I don’t believe this is something to “overcome”. Rather, I encourage teams to grapple with possible feelings of guilt for perceived privileges or positions of power. Additionally, I encourage teams to intentionally foster spaces for honest and messy dialogue. A great and needed initial exercise – developing community agreements that touch on interpersonal/organizational support and accountability.
What’s the most fulfilling experience you’ve had while doing this work?
Three “yays” that come to mind in response to this question.
- I enthusiastically love seeing and hearing folks lean into hard conversations.
- Building on that one, it’s also great when participants are able to absorb the content of the day and then start working as peer facilitators that challenge and support their colleagues during a training.
- Rounding my response out, it’s always fulfilling during a training when folks are able to share their personal narratives with their colleagues. Vulnerability can be a scary thing to express in any size group and I want to acknowledge that!
What have you learned through your experiences in facilitating?
A consistent lesson or reminder I hold is that facilitation must be flexible and malleable. As a DEI practitioner, one of my priorities revolves around how I can mold digestible content for the folks in the room rather than focusing on an audience’s ability to bend themselves. My aim is always to have folks find a learning edge during a conversation or training. AND if I can anticipate the need for a little more grace and patience as the facilitator, I find that invaluable.
What are some of your favorite resources related to diversity, equity, and inclusion and why?
I use a number of platforms to learn, grow, and feel affirmed as a DEI practitioner. Instagram is easily one of my favorite resources! Some great accounts to follow to help complicate an understanding of DEI and justice work include: @impact, @rachel.cargle, and @mia.mingus. I’m also a podcast enthusiast! On that end, some of my favorites include NPR’s Code Switch, unladylike, and Brittany Packnett Cunningham’s UNDISTRACTED.
Learn more about the SGO team and our diversity, equity, and inclusion training offerings.
Now that you know more about our facilitators, learn more about working with us!