Focus on the NEXT!

By Diana Starks,
Vice President of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, And Opportunity
Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland


The work of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is integral to successful outcomes in a variety of disciplines and industries, none the least which include business, education, healthcare, service and hospitality. The pandemic required many industries to reimagine how they would operate, while others were unable to survive and have since closed their doors. The strain and impact of hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations and deaths amid seems like a growing anxiety among many, impacting for some their psychological safety. The global pandemic was a precursor to a next pivotal moment in history–civil unrest and attention on over four hundred years of systemic racism. Amid the turbulence, there arose a surge of career opportunities for DEI professionals. For-profit corporations began to see the need as integral to their market share. For others, the outcry of their employee base and stakeholder interest began to drive an increased focus on DEI. Despite the interest and heightened attention, those that are looking for an immediate remedy need to focus on transformative change to address short-term needs that lead to long-term sustainable gains. These are not just improvements related to business profits; the need is for gains that are grounded in principles and values of justice, access, and equity for all.

So, what is NEXT?

I appreciate the opportunities to talk with other thought leaders and advanced DEI practitioners as it is another foundation for birthing ideas that may lead to sustainable actions. During one conversation in early December the concept of looking for the NEXT prompted an explanation of the acronym–New Engagement to Xchange Together. NEXT is the new experience to collaborate and work together. Industry thought leaders and DEI advanced practitioners are not dwelling in the past or pre-pandemic conditions; they are looking ahead to the NEXT. Our focus is on the opportunities that are hidden and those to birth amid uncertainty. We can achieve more together than we can individually.

This is the call to action: Look beyond what was; look to what needs to be in every area to ensure equity for all.

The opinions expressed here are solely those of Diana Starks and are not the official statement of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland is one of 12 regional Reserve Banks that along with the Board of Governors in Washington DC comprise the Federal Reserve System. Part of the nation’s central bank, the Cleveland Fed participates in the formulation of US monetary policy, supervises banking organizations, provides payment and other services to financial institutions and the US Treasury, and performs many activities that support Federal Reserve operations Systemwide. In addition, the Bank supports the well-being of communities across the Fourth Federal Reserve District through a wide array of research, outreach, and education activities.

The Cleveland Fed, with branches in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, serves an area that comprises Ohio, western Pennsylvania, eastern Kentucky, and the northern panhandle of West Virginia. For more information, go to or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn.