Diversity MBA Industry Design Sprints 2022


Diversity MBA Benchmarking has collected data on the intersection of diversity, equity and inclusion and talent management for the past 17 years.  We learned that diversity, human resource, and business leaders are constantly trying to create inclusive and engaging strategies in the workplace while remaining relevant.  Design thinking is a proven approach with a validated structured process to drive innovation and creativity in problem-solving.  In today’s fast paced changing business world, it is prudent that DEI strategies are agile enough to adapt to market and industry priorities. In this article discover how to leverage Diversity MBA’s 5 Step Design Thinking Process which incorporates experience, education, and insights into practical strategies. Insights from the Industry Design Thinking Summit will highlight examples from industry experts on how the design thinking model can be applied in the financial services, manufacturing, municipalities, and healthcare service industries.


Creating a DEI design thinking process that allows leaders to leverage education, experience and evidenced based data to support strategy enhancements that create new ways of getting work done was needed. This is because more of the same ineffective approaches continued to occur across industries with the same stagnant results.  The reality is that leaders need to learn how to think differently while achieving business results.

Our team created a five-step process to innovate creative thinking as part of DEI strategy development.  We leveraged the foundation of design thinking so that activating new ideas becomes the norm.  We know that practitioners that are doing the work of diversity can easily pivot if given the effective tools with information to navigate their current environments.  Moreover, diversity leaders’ business imperative is to not only illustrate business alignment, but they must prove it.

To solve the problem, we created an industry design thinking summit that facilitated synchronous and asynchronous learning.  Equally important the program is open to all those bold enough to design their way through the blind spots of the unknown.


Diversity Learning Solutions team developed a structured framework for the diversity, equity, and inclusion space; that was inspired by the Nielsen Norman Group. Larissa Williams, Vice President, DEI Center of Excellence, led the research for Diversity Learning Solutions to identify effective processes that supports the development of agile DEI strategies that adapt to market and industry changes.

Below defines the process of the DEI Design Thinking process:

STEP 1 – INFORM – Research data to support the vision, goals, and realities for DEI possibilities

STEP 2 – ASSESS – Examine current state to determine readiness for change for addressing the problem

STEP 3 – DEFINE – Create goals that provide clarity and direction for achieving stated outcomes.

STEP 4 – CONCEPTUALIZE – Ideate a variety of innovative and creative ideas for solving the problem

STEP 5 – UNDERSTAND – The priorities of change for putting the vision into effect.  Create one big idea for driving change.

All that remains is to turn your vision into a reality. You may have to go back and reexamine this method (ex. Do more research, generate more ideas for facing roadblocks, reassess your standing, etc.) to fully achieve your vision but that is why the method is presented as a wheel. These strategies allow for changes in one’s vision and the possibility of growth and new goals. We can and should always aim higher, and with this method one has the tools needed to do so.

Below is the DEI Design Thinking Wheel:

Copyright and service marked by P&L Group, Ltd of IL


In 2022, Diversity MBA Media hosted the first DEI Industry Design Thinking Summit. The goal of the summit was to answer the following question: How are different industries employing the design thinking method when looking to reach their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) goals? The summit spotlighted the following four industries: Municipalities, Financial Services, Manufacturing, and Healthcare Services. Four panels were held, in which key experts in each industry engaged in a dialogue explaining how their companies and organizations have leveraged aspects of the design thinking method in their experience working towards the advancement of DEI goals.


The DMBA 2022 Inclusive Leadership Index identified the most common obstacles and challenges that exists across industries for building a diverse and inclusive workforce.  The chart below captures these key themes:

Additionally, trends were identified for successful initiatives that delivered impact. These programs accelerated  the ability of companies to achieve diversity and inclusion within their leadership ranks, and workforce.

Further the key findings from the 2022 DMBA Inclusive Leadership Index (ILI), identified some of the hard truths facing each industry regarding roadblocks towards the advancement of diversity, equity, and inclusion.  In addition to identifying these truths, the ILI also identifies which best practices are being employed to break down these barriers and improve the industry culture. Using the design thinking method, our key experts contributed their insights on how to overcome these barriers, based upon their experience in these industries.


Over the past few years, there has been a heightened awareness of systemic inequities within government. Constituents have raised concerns surrounding policies and budgeting allotments, and many have begun to lose faith in their governments as a whole. There is a definite sense of mistrust towards governing officials in the very same communities they are meant to be serving. Rebuilding this trust is paramount for those working in municipalities. The following are some of the leading practices for reestablishing the bond between government and constituent.

Below are a few of the examples that our key experts in the Municipalities industry have provided based on their experiences of how design thinking can be utilized to achieve these outcomes:

Municipalities take various approaches to the research portion of the design thinking method. These approaches are usually tailored to the nature of the specific municipalities. Research is leveraged from both an internal and external perspective to develop actionable plans.

  • For example, in January 2020, Philadelphia Mayor James Kennedy, issued an executive order requiring all departments to submit a racial equity assessment and action plan. This type of actionable effort required to drive change.
  • Mandating that each department complete a racial equity questionnaire required each department to examine how they could mitigate harm to their communities. These questionnaires allowed departments to assess the needs of their communities and had a direct impact on future spending decisions.
  • The nature of municipalities is that departments and offices in operation are autonomous, therefore, having clearly defined DEI goals that are evident to the public is critical for advancing change. In municipalities, this clarity and transparency must come not only from diversity officers but directly from elected leaders as well.
  • In 2020, Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles California issued Executive Directive 27 which clearly outlines his goal to create Racial Equity at every level of city government. This directive involved the introduction of several new initiatives. Among them were the designation of a Racial Equity Officer to all departments/offices, the development of a racial equity plan from each department/office, and the creation of the City of Los Angeles Racial Equity Task Force. Additionally, the directive included a plan to prepare for the future by ensuring accountability through reporting. By issuing this directive, Mayor Garcetti ensured that every department/ office in the city had actionable goals towards creating a more equitable city and that the public was aware and could hold officials accountable.

Financial Services

The talent pipeline in the financial services industry is suffering from a lack of diversity and inclusion in key functions of the business. Companies must prioritize DEI to make progress and that starts with understanding it’s importance which is often minimized in the face of other crises (rising interest rates, skyrocketing inflation, etc.).  To address this issue organizations must be made to understand that DEI is good for business. The following are some of the leading practices for advancing diverse talent in the financial services industry.

Below are a few of the examples that our key experts in the Financial Services industry have provided based on their experiences of how design thinking can be utilized to achieve these outcomes:

In the financial services industry, when the priority is to develop an equitable work environment, one approach to research and assessment is to hear directly from employees.  In 2020, in the wake of the death of George Floyd and anti- Asian sentiments, 87% of commercial banks leaned into courageous conversation sessions with employees, beginning with small groups to help build trust.

  • These conversations helped to create empathy and understanding and pushed the business to build out career paths, journeys, and opportunities for equity. This best practice allows for companies to gain information directly from the source, as well as highlighting for their team members why diversity, equity, and inclusion are necessary focuses in the workplace. When utilizing this best practice, it is pertinent to remember to create an environment of growth and education where employees don’t feel they will be penalized for what they don’t know.

When looking to increase representation in the company, hiring managers in the financial services industry may not often encounter a diverse applicant pool. This can be attributed to diverse candidates not feeling empowered to apply for positions. To address the issue, companies in this industry must assess their own recruitment strategies and how they can be bolstered.

  • When it comes to hiring, most of these companies are incorporating best practices at a macro level but not a micro level. For example, one company shared, of the 12 micro hiring processes only 4 are typically utilized (unconscious bias training, diverse candidate slates, inclusive candidate panels, and salary transparency), causing companies to miss opportunities in other areas like job advertising, resume screening, background checks, and offer management.

Showcasing the interest and enthusiasm of leadership in DEI is also key for the advancement of diversity in the financial services industry. One key expert of financial services panel shared that the experience of establishing a series of big rock and bedrock goals for their organization was influential in beginning the planning. These goals were reported on at every board meeting. There were 5 total bedrock goals and 2 out of 5 were centered around:

  1. Increasing the number of racially and ethnically diverse certified financial planners (CFP’s), and
  2. b) increasing the number of women CFP’s. These goals are linked to compensation and evaluation.

Tying DEI goals into organizational goals transforms them into a full organizational effort rather than just the responsibility of a DEI team/ office. Ultimately, if the organization’s goal is to be a more diverse organization, leaders must be able to articulate what that means and establish metrics for it.


The manufacturing industry is facing a major issue with regards to advancing diverse talent up the pipeline. Often companies without representation fall into “the revolving door of recruiting” in which entry level talent is recruited into a non-inclusive organizational culture with little opportunities for development and eventually moves on from the company after a few years without advancing. To avoid this, it is imperative to manage and develop new talent, so representation moves up the ladder. Below are some of the leading practices for addressing this issue.

Below are a few of the examples that our key experts in the Manufacturing industry have provided based on their experiences of how design thinking can be utilized to achieve these outcomes:

  • Consistent communication on reporting helps leaders to be informed with transparency. The industry best practice for leaders is to have information real-time. This communication helps to keep leaders informed at every level of the company on what is needed for maintaining accountability for DEI goals at all levels. Delivering expectations, metrics, and tools are key strategies for securing the involvement of middle management as well.
  • Taking a career lifestyle approach to the talent pipeline when seeking to ensure representation is another key practice for diversity leaders in the manufacturing business. The “revolving door of recruiting” is a major roadblock when trying to ensure representation is present at all levels of the company. To avoid this, it is imperative to manage and develop new talent, so representation moves up the ladder.
  • It is also helpful to be transparent about the need for diversity, while also expressing a willingness to develop skills in the new hire for their growth and advancement. This sort of sponsorship can help to encourage new talent to come on board and stay on board.

Healthcare Services

The equitable advancement of talent of color is one of the major roadblocks to establishing equity in Healthcare Services. The lack of diverse representation in management can lead to oversights when administering care to patients. Ensuring that health management is as diverse as the communities they serve is essential to driving healthcare initiatives in these communities. Below are some of the leading practices for addressing this issue.

Below are a few of the examples that our key experts in the Healthcare Services industry have provided based on their experiences of how design thinking can be utilized to achieve these outcomes:

  • The healthcare industry is constantly creating programs that will not only support the development of employees but patients. Coming out of the pandemic created opportunities for the industry to lean in and to support the gaps that continue to drive inequities of care in under-represented communities. The companies on our panel, that included large systems from North Carolina and Wisconsin stepped up to provide wrap around services to help both their front-line respondents while ensuring their communities had the necessary measures.
  • The health insurance industry found it necessary to create new ways of attracting talent, especially in hard to fill positions. The insurance industries struggle with finding Black and Hispanic actuaries so many of them created an intentional initiative to invest in college campus clubs and Black & Hispanic actuaries’ clubs, to establish their own pipeline.  Moreover, insurance companies brought back apprenticeship programs that deepened their reach to hire talent from vocational and specialty schools.
  • Author, George Halvorson current CEO of Interfaith and Peace and retired CEO from Kaiser Permanente, emphasized the importance of integrated healthcare systems re-engineering their approach to patient profits, health equity and diversifying the workforce. During his tenure, Mr. Halvorson said being intentional with a clear transparent strategy, and cultivating the diverse leadership team for execution is imperative. While this may appear to be basic and simplistic, that is because it is.  Halvorson has published eight (8) books and we encourage you to spend time on reading Ending Racial and Ethnic Disparities in American Healthcare.

Action Summary

Identify key steps to become a part of your tool kit and expanded process of thinking.

Key Takeaways

  • Assessment of an organization’s current practices and history are vital for creating an effective action plan.
  • Be sure to fully and completely understand how the business operates and/or generates revenue before creating your DEI strategy. Launching your strategy with limited understanding of the business will result in limited impact.
  • Collaborating with multiple business functions to ensure development of alignment of goals and to better understand business priorities at each functional level and the enterprise.
  • Follow the design thinking wheel to allow your thinking to expand. Where there are gaps tap into experts near you to support the development of your strategy.
  • Be bold in soliciting feedback from peers, partners, support staff and others.
  • Ensure that there is clarity on goals, metrics, and strategies to secure involvement at all levels of your organization.
  • Tie in specific goals with organizational goals to maintain accountability at multiple levels.
  • Maintain multi-level reporting and communication are necessary to facilitate creative problem solving and identify chokepoints in your strategy.
  • There is always room for improvement, so ensure that you are consistently revisiting your goals and strategies to accommodate for new developments.


Pam McElvane
Pamela McElvane,
CEO, P&L Group,
Diversity MBA Media,
Diversity Learning Solutions

Larissa Williams,
Vice President, DEI Center of Excellence,
P&L Group, Diversity Learning Solutions

Sasha Parrish,
Staff Editor, Diversity Business Review & Manager,
DEI Center of Excellence, P&L Group

Diversity learning solutions design thinking Strategists

Pamela A. McElvane, CEO Diversity Learning Solutions, A P&L Group Brand

Larissa Williams, Vice President, DEI Center of Excellence, Diversity Learning Solutions

Dr. Suri Surinder, Chief Learning Officer, Diversity Learning Solutions & CEO, CTR Factor

Expert Contributors


Capri Maddox Esq., Executive Director, Los Angeles Civil & Human Rights and Equity Department

Marquis Miller, Chief Diversity Officer, The Obama Foundation

Nefertiri Sickout Esq., Chief Diversity Equity and Inclusion Officer, City of Philadelphia Office of Mayor James F Kenney

Qaadirah Abdur-Rahim, Chief Equity Officer, City of Atlanta Mayor’s Office

Financial Services

Cynthia Hardy, CEO and Founder, Pivot Global Partners

D.A. Abrams, Chief Operating Officer, Groundswell Inc.

Iliana Levy, Wealth Group Executive, Citibank

Marsha Jones, Executive Vice President/Senior Partner, Tier 1 Level Consulting, LLC

Miriam Lewis, Chief Inclusion Officer, Principal Financial Group


Keith Wyche, Vice President of Community Engagement and Support, Walmart

Karl Binns, Black Farmer Equity Lead, Cargill

Nereida Perez, Vice President, Global Head of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, McCormick & Company

Sally Bartas, Chief Talent and Culture Officer, Choice Hotels International

Timothy Thomason, Global Director- Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Action, VF Corporation


Andres Gonzalez, VP & Chief Diversity & Community Affairs Officer, Froedtert Health

Fernando Little, Enterprise-wide, Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer, Atrium Health

Stephanie Brown, Retired VP & Chief Diversity Officer, Blue Cross Blue Shield, MA

George Halvorson, Retired CEO Kaiser Permanente & 8-time Author