[00:00:00] Jackie Ferguson: Thanks for tuning to the Diversity Beyond the Checkbox Podcast. My guest today is Jonita Wilson. As Chief Diversity Officer, Jonita is responsible for leading DISCOVER’s diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies. Jonita, thank you so much for being here today.
[00:00:17] Jonita Wilson: Thank you for having me.
[00:00:19] Jackie Ferguson: Yes. I always like to start Jonita with a little bit about you.
[00:00:23] Can you tell us about your background, your family, your identity, whatever you'd like to share?
[00:00:28] Jonita Wilson: Yeah, happy to. So, Jonita Wilson. I identify as a black African American woman, I'm in my, I'm a half a century old. That's, I like to say so. And, you know, that's a, that's a lot to celebrate, I think, you know.
[00:00:47] I am married, have been married to my high school. No, actually I met my husband, my gosh, he's probably gonna kill me for this, but I met my husband in sixth grade.
[00:00:56] We were both, yeah, we were both, in the band. [00:01:00] He was actually my section leader. And, here we are married 27 years later.
[00:01:05] Jackie Ferguson: I love that.
[00:01:06] Jonita Wilson: Yeah, so we both, we have a dual career household, so his career is just as demanding as mine, and we've been managing that since we've been, since we've been married. So, as you can imagine, raising a family as a dual career and trying to do it in a way where our, two sons felt like we were constantly present was a, was a juggle.
[00:01:27] and so, I am a proud, super proud mother of two, young men. they are... young adults at this point, but very successful, in their own right. one will be starting medical school here in a couple of weeks, and the other, will be starting his, under undergrad career... at a university in Iowa.
[00:01:54] So we're just super excited, you know, for all of the, the blessings that our family has experienced. I have been in HR career wise, doing all of HR professionally for about 25 years now. So, you know, it's actually been fun. I've had the opportunity to, you know, rotate through different areas of, of HR, but my mainstay has been in the HR business partner space.
[00:02:22] So I'm just excited to be here and, you know, representing DISCOVER. I have been with DISCOVER now for, coming up on four years in, in September. yeah, so it's been a great journey.
[00:02:34] Jackie Ferguson: That is fantastic. And Jonita, having made your career in human resources, how have you seen diversity, equity, and inclusion become more important to organizations? And what are some of the reasons that you think we're seeing that shift?
[00:02:51] Jonita Wilson: Yeah, you know, having been in HR for, like I said, 25 years, it's been, it's been interesting watching the shift. And I think that, many [00:03:00] companies are really starting to understand the importance of DE and I, as both the right thing to do and a core business practice critical to their success. It has a strong impact on innovation, creativity, revenue, growth, and it's more than policies, programs, unconscious bias, training and compliance.
[00:03:24] While many corporations might have been on some D and I journey, I do believe, that the impact of the pandemic and the national attention on racial injustice ignited more action and helped them to see that their D and I paths, in a new light. And really reexamine how to transform their processes and systems to work towards achieving equity and equality.
[00:03:52] I do think that, you know, they started to make these decisions and then they realized that actually these are really good business decisions. [00:04:00] Right. And started, it, started to see some results, which is, which is really, favorable, right? It's nice. And then, I also think that the talent market is also holding companies more accountable in this space.
[00:04:13] Jackie Ferguson: That's right.
[00:04:14] Jonita Wilson: They're using the, the company's commitment to D and I as a determining factor to join an organization or not?
[00:04:21] Jackie Ferguson: That's exactly right. And Jonita, you know, that's one of the things that I think surprises a lot of business leaders. You know, back in the day and, and you mentioned your age, and I'll say, I'm right there with you. So, you know, for Gen Xers we would get offered a job, usually after one interview, which is a little different than it is today right.
[00:04:42] Jackie Ferguson: And we would take that job and we would work really hard with our head down and and move up the ranks based on how hard we're working and, and a little bit of hope. And, you know, those things. Now what's happening is these, candidates are really doing as much research [00:05:00] on the companies, as the organizations are in reviewing resumes, looking at all of those things, even employees or prospective employees are talking to other employees.
[00:05:11] In advance of an interview and, and companies and company leaders are surprised sometimes to hear that. I think now they're like, okay, we see this shift. But, you know, those prospective employees are doing as much research on those companies as the companies are doing. And it's, it's really interesting that you've gotta come across from your brand presence to your interviews, your application with that DEI lens, or you're gonna lose candidates.
[00:05:44] Jonita Wilson: For sure.
[00:05:46] Jackie Ferguson: Absolutely.
[00:05:48] Jonita. As we think about some of the systemic inequities that exist in finance and lending, how does DISCOVER work to ensure fairness and provide education for [00:06:00] underrepresented consumers?
[00:06:02] Jonita Wilson: You know, this is a topic I can tell you that really, resonates with me. when you think about systemic issues and, and a lot of the gaps that happen, amongst, you know, our, our diverse communities. I think first and foremost, banks must acknowledge that their practices created financial injustices and wealth gaps. And it's time to make changes and act, actually act to close those gaps, right? No more talking about it. Let's put some things, some real things, you know, to, to, to action. I think that, as far as DISCOVER goes, DISCOVER believes, brighter future financial futures begin by providing our youth with the skills that they need to help them succeed long after they leave the classroom.
[00:06:51] And more than one in six students in the US do not reach the baseline of proficiency and financial literacy. [00:07:00] And so we created, DISCOVER created the Pathway to Financial Success, which is a curriculum that is bringing financial education to students across the country. This includes more than 14 million dollars that have been invested in high school financial literacy programs across the country.
[00:07:21] We're, we're located, our, our corporate offices are located here in the Chicago land area, and with that, then, more than 1 million dollars in support of Chicago public schools for curriculum materials and, and teacher training.
[00:07:34] Jackie Ferguson: Wow.
[00:07:35] Jonita Wilson: In addition, on our website, right, we, we offer many more resources that anyone can access to help them build, financial literacy.
[00:07:44] It does, and also, you know, we focus internally too, right? So, while we recognize that, you know, our employees, could also be our consumers, right? I have a DISCOVER card, so I'm also a consumer and we work to educate our employees as [00:08:00] well. In fact, our benefits team just launched out a financial matters, series of communications that are coming. And it gives us all information, and raises up more resources for our employees to even go out and educate themselves more on, you know, what's a Roth 401k?
[00:08:19] What's a 401k? Are you using your benefit to the maximum to make sure that you're getting the match? So, it's not just external consumers that we really work to help build financial literacy for, it's also our, our employees. Um.
[00:08:35] And I'm happy being an employee to be able to receive those services. And you know, the pandemic, I think, really exacerbated financial insecurities for many people. And had a disproportionate impact on younger generations and communities of color.
[00:08:54] And so DISCOVER wants to make sure that we are providing financial products and services that are [00:09:00] helping to create brighter financial futures for all. And as a result, for our products, we eliminated all fees for our customers. We don't require a minimum balance, there are no insufficient fund or overdraft fees, and there are no origination fees for any of our loans, and we have no ATM fees.
[00:09:21] So, this way people, we, consumers, can keep the money that we worked hard for. And use it in places that we need to use it. Right? That that's, that's important for us to keep our families healthy. And then I think that, you know, it's important for individuals to know their credit worthiness, so what's your credit score?
[00:09:41] You know, that way when you have this information, it does help to manage your finances. So, we pioneered, I don't know if you know this or not Jackie, but, but DISCOVER actually pioneered getting our customers access to their FICO scores. And it's through a tool. It's through a tool called the DISCOVER Credit Score [00:10:00] Card.
[00:10:00] If you haven't seen it, go on our website, look it up. You know, use it. You don't have to be a DISCOVER customer to, to leverage this tool. It's available to anyone. which I think is a great resource for, for, for people to have. And then of course, you know, Jackie, we're always looking for ways, new ways to support and enhance financial education.
[00:10:23] And do our part right to really being the change in the industry. And so while we recognize that we have a lot more to do, through our ESG commitment, we are bringing new focus on, social impact and financial literacy and financial inclusion. Those are two key topics for us. And so we're working to better define our goals in that space and, we'll continue to drive awareness and, and try to create real action.
[00:10:51] Jackie Ferguson: That's awesome.
[00:10:53] And Jonita as we think about education, right? One of, one of the issues in this systemic [00:11:00] problem that we have with finance and lending is that, we're not able to share what we don't know. Right. And so for parents who don't have access to, you know, something like the Pathway to Financial Success Education for their child.
[00:11:18] What advice do you give parents on how to make sure that their children are financially literate? When, when that's certainly a problem, and so many of us have, have expressed that, you know, we, we learn calculus in high school, but we don't learn the importance of a credit score, which, you know, is I, I have not used calculus yet.
[00:11:42] Jonita Wilson: Yeah, me either, thank goodness. (laughing) I think I probably fail tremendously if I did. but so, so I mean, Jackie, I think I'll just take it like a little personally, right? So, one of the things that, that, that my husband and I, we do for our [00:12:00] family is we educate our children on these things, right? We let them know what our finances look like, and I know that for some that's being that transparent is probably not something that, that, you know, a lot of parents probably feel comfortable with. But we in our household feel that it's important that our children know and understand this is how much we make, this is what makes up our compensation pro, you know, portfolio.
[00:12:27] We talk about and help them to understand, you know, how base salary works, how when you get into your career field, negotiate that you know, the, that base compensation get your money coming in the door. But, then we also talk about the components of that package, right?
[00:12:41] So short term incentive, long term incentive, and what that means. but also giving them access. And I know like, again, like I said, a lot of people probably won't feel comfortable with this, but giving them access to those to, to your accounts, right? I mean, you know, of course you manage it.
[00:12:59] But [00:13:00] when you think about it, if something were to happen to, to you as a parent. You know, my husband and I, we recognize this. We wanna make sure that our children has the, have the easiest path to getting to the money.
[00:13:13] Jackie Ferguson: Mm-hmm.
[00:13:14] Jonita Wilson: Right. Not getting themselves tied up in any court systems and so forth to, to, to get there. So, we actually have them as beneficiaries on our accounts and so forth.
[00:13:23] So while, you know, those are things of course that require you as a parent to be more transparent, and maybe have some difficult conversations. Right, um. I think it's necessary so that the children, your children, our youth, can understand the importance of, you know, economic opportunity, financial literacy, financial inclusion, and so forth.
[00:13:48] but understand the components, of what makes up your salary, what makes up the money that comes into your home, and how it comes into your home. So, all that to say is I think [00:14:00] having these open dialogues and and conversations about some topics that could be uncomfortable are necessary.
[00:14:07] Jackie Ferguson: Absolutely. And I love that. I think that's such great advice because you can have the conversation of what is going right and some of the things that you might have done wrong and, and share that so that they can avoid those, those mistakes. I think that's fantastic. Thanks for sharing that.
[00:14:25] Jonita Wilson: For sure.
[00:14:27] Jackie Ferguson: Jonita, let's talk about some of the other initiatives that you're leading at DISCOVER, and I wanna make sure that we talk about your efforts in disability inclusion specifically as well.
[00:14:39] Jonita Wilson: Yeah, so this is, something that really gets me excited because I'm really, I'm really proud of, of the work that my team is doing. I'm proud of how the DISCOVER Village has come together to help us really execute on these initiatives and bring them to life, right? And drive them to maturity and and accomplish our goals.
[00:14:57] so we have, we have several [00:15:00] initiatives that we're working through, right, to accomplish our four pillars, right? So, we have four, four pillars of, of multi-year goals that we're really working towards driving. And I'm not gonna, go in the detail of them, but, and actually you can actually find all the details on our transparency report.
[00:15:15] Jackie Ferguson: Yeah.
[00:15:16] Jonita Wilson: So. But really, it's around, driving greater diversity representation amongst all groups, you know, really, making sure that we have a strong inclusive work environment where, there's no statistical significant difference amongst the feelings of engagement of any of our groups. Also, then looking at equity and how are we ensuring that equity is really resonating throughout all of our talent processes and that there's no adverse impact, being felt by anyone through those talent processes.
[00:15:48] And also, we have an external pillar that really focuses on how are we driving impact in society, right? In our social networks and so forth. But in order to [00:16:00] accomplish those things, we have to have things to do. Right. And so, a couple of things I'd love to highlight, and I'm gonna save the disability inclusion for last, cuz I think that that's a big piece.
[00:16:11] It's an exciting piece at the end. I think it's a game changer. so one of the things that we, that we launched and we're super proud about is our inclusive leadership training. It goes far beyond unconscious bias training. I know a lot of people really anchor, we have to have unconscious bias training, but for us, we really wanted to focus on inclusive leadership training to help our leaders build their capabilities.
[00:16:34] You know, we're taking our leaders through, this training. We started with our executive levels and their direct reports, and actually we we're to the point now where we are expanding it throughout the company, throughout different levels. It's not a mandatory training, so people have the opportunity to opt in right, and, and, and go through it.
[00:16:55] We're offering a a different modes, so we're doing in-person [00:17:00] trainings as well as virtual trainings. It's all administered by my team. Which is a small team, by the way, so just to give you an idea. By the time that, so we launched this series in March. Our very first session was an all-day session with our executive leadership team.
[00:17:16] And then by the, but it's all said and done. We will be rounding out our final session, this year with our international, team members. So, by then we, we will have done about 65 sessions.
[00:17:30] Jackie Ferguson: Wow.
[00:17:30] Jonita Wilson: Yeah, just to give you an idea, it's, it's, it's been a whirlwind, but it's been, it's been great. But the goal of the, the program is really to help our leaders understand how they can demonstrate more inclusive behaviors and make more equitable decisions.
[00:17:48] And so that is obviously going to help us across all four of those pillars, but it will really help us when we talk about driving, greater inclusion, [00:18:00] and DISCOVER. The other initiative I'd love to highlight is around self ID. You know, inclusion requires active and intentional efforts to engage the full participation and sense of belonging for every employee.
[00:18:15] And our belief statement really anchors on ensuring that our employees feel like they, like they belong in our environment.
[00:18:23] Jackie Ferguson: That's right.
[00:18:24] Jonita Wilson: Right, and, and that belonging can mean so many different things and, and, and be prescriptive in so many different ways, right? Inclusion is one way. But being able to, really understand and drive inclusion through social identity.
[00:18:41] It can help people understand similarities and differences and their impact in the workplace or on the workplace, right? So, you know, social identity comprises, the parts of a person's identity that come from belonging to groups. And feel and fuels our, [00:19:00] distinct perspective and unique value. So, this year, now we've already been running a self ID campaign, um.
[00:19:08] Especially through our affirmative action program. But what we wanted to do is make it more comprehensive and try to shift with the times, right, because the space is just so dynamic. So, what we did this year was we enhanced our self-identification options. So, we included sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, and an additional field, to specify.
[00:19:37] Cuz you know, when our employees self-identify as two or more races, sometimes it's hard to understand, okay, which two races are we, you know, talking about? And so, we added another field to kind of segment that out. So, it allows our employees the opportunity to specify which races and ethnicities, if they identify with [00:20:00] two or more.
[00:20:01] So we kicked that campaign off in April, um. It was actually a pretty successful campaign. And what we, what we tell our employees is, you know, it's not mandatory that you're self id. We encourage that you do. and you know, we, we give them all the reasons why, it's important. And so, we have seen an an increase in self id.
[00:20:23] Obviously these newer, options, people are still trying to kind of get the feel of it. Like what does this mean? Right? And that, that's all, that's all a piece of the how dynamic this work is, right? People, some, some people get it right away, and you know, some just take a little bit of time to kind of suss around and just, just figure it out.
[00:20:41] but we have seen an increase. I can tell you one thing I'm super proud of about this campaign though, is, we've seen an increase in our, military, self id, numbers and our disability numbers, which, which is amazing, right? and those are things, [00:21:00] especially disability identification. It's something that's so personal for people.
[00:21:05] And so, you know, with that dis, and I'm gonna shift over to, to this last point, Jackie, which is around disability inclusion. Which is super important to me, and my team members, right? So, we have, we have people on, on my team who identify, in the disability groups. And so just kind of really understanding and, and listening to their stories, right?
[00:21:29] Listening to stories across the business, and really get ingrained in what, what is, what are disabilities, right? Because, you know, we all know that there are disabilities that are more seen and there are so many more that we don't.
[00:21:47] Jackie Ferguson: That's right.
[00:21:48] Jonita Wilson: And we need to be mindful and aware of that, and do things that are creating safe spaces, psychologically safe spaces for, [00:22:00] for those who, who, who do identify.
[00:22:02] You know, people enter the work world and advance through their careers when unevenness of advantage, unevenness of opportunity, unevenness of privilege, and unevenness of power.
[00:22:14] So, what is fair opportunity is not the same for everyone...
[00:22:19] Right? And that spans across all of these dimensions that we're talking about, but disability is the biggest.
[00:22:28] And so we are committed to addressing these potential barriers. One example is, how we're doing this is through our newer, neurodiverse hiring program. So, we have a goal to hire talent with neurodiverse conditions. Now, keep in mind, we already have people in our employee base who have neurodiverse conditions, right?
[00:22:52] So we are aware of that, but right now through this program, we're being really intentional [00:23:00] about, you know, bringing some normalcy, to that, and it's okay. And we want this population in our work environment because there's so much richness in what, you know, can be brought to, to our teams, right? To helping us grow, helping us be more innovative and so forth.
[00:23:21] So we are actually partnering, with a third-party workforce solutions firm. That has an extensive talent pool and will help us with best practices and guide us through designing, a holistic end to end hiring program. Right? So, through implementation, training our leaders, we really wanna make sure that we're creating, and sustaining and engaging ex, experience, for, for, for this population.
[00:23:47] Jackie Ferguson: That's so great. You know, and it's important to remember that so many people with disabilities are unemployed or underemployed. And also, you know, what I, I tell people [00:24:00] so often is that the disability group is something that any of us can become a part of at any time through age or diagnosis or accident, right?
[00:24:11] And so we all should want to work for an organization that embraces us, as navigate life. And, you know, creates those conditions for us to be able to continue to work well and successfully, and, and embraces what that looks like for us. So, I think that that's so fantastic. I also love that you're doing inclusive leadership training.
[00:24:38] I think that's so important and I've had a few conversations about that recently. That, you know, generally people become leaders because they're wonderful, talented in, you know, independent contributors. But they, there's not that, that training in [00:25:00] such a big bridge between independent contributor and manager or leader. And there is a lot to learn, and especially now as we're prioritizing as a society DEI what does that look like and what are the expectations of employees now, for an inclusive workplace and how do you become an inclusive leader?
[00:25:22] So, I think that is really fantastic. And Jonita, you mentioned, your transparency report looking toward a brighter future. So, you released that earlier this year. I'd love to hear some of the things that you learned by creating and then releasing that report.
[00:25:41] Jonita Wilson: Yeah, so, this report was seriously, like an act of love, right? Just cultivating this report was, was something that was, so exciting for me, for our team, for DISCOVER. And it really was, was a full team effort [00:26:00] to bring this together. So, we were so proud, in March when we launched our first, D and I transparency report, and we had, we had everybody, like so many people in our organization involved in this, our CEO, our CHRO, our general counsel, you name it, was, was involved in this report.
[00:26:20] And, when we spent that full day of training, Inclusive Leadership Training with our executive committee, we actually spent a good majority of that day just really deep diving into the report and helping them to really understand, you know, the components of the report and really how they can help us to represent the goodness in the report, but then also talk about our opportunities.
[00:26:41] Right. So that, that's what a transparency report does. It, it highlights the goodness and it highlights the areas that you need some help for. so one of the things that was, important for us with this report, well actually were several things, but. We wanted to make sure that [00:27:00] we were keeping the report, within a realistic number of pages, right?
[00:27:06] And so there's, you know, and through benchmarking we realized that there's some, you know, really great reports out there. And some of them like really stem like 60 plus pages.
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[00:27:16] Jonita Wilson: And for us it was important that we, really focus on getting, you know, being concise, getting to our point and doing it in a way that was more palatable in, in, in fewer pages.
[00:27:28] So, that's why our report is like, I think it's like 32 pages long. And I think that that is inclusive of all of our, our section pages as well. But it's more about the content that's in this report that's important. We did a really good job highlighting, our workforce diversity and includes examples in data that demonstrate the company's commitment to a more equitable environment.
[00:27:54] One of the things that I'm super proud of too with this report is all of our photos in this [00:28:00] report, there's not one stock photo. All of our photos are pictures, of, of real pictures of our employees, of our community, of our office space and so forth. So, and we were intentional in that because we wanted to make sure that our employees and our community saw themselves in our report.
[00:28:20] and, and so that was, that was a, a goal of ours. Our transparency report shows that we have strong workforce diversity. And that over the past few years we've increased overall representation of diverse groups.
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[00:28:36] Jonita Wilson: Now we understand like talent movement is very dynamic, right? And so, you know, we see the ebbs and flows. And I watch actually on a monthly basis through my dashboard how our numbers are moving, in these groups.
[00:28:49] We made it a point to highlight our workforce diversity. And we did it in, in many different ways, the representation. We did it through, you know, showing our, our employee movement [00:29:00] numbers. And so that was important. But we also have strong year over year employee engagement, and that's another number that I watch every time we do a poll survey.
[00:29:09] I make it a point to look at that data, look at those breakdowns by, demographic. And so that year over year employee engagement really anchors on that second pillar that I talked about around inclusion. And, you know, we, we leverage that employee engagement survey to really help us understand how are our diverse groups feeling with our company.
[00:29:31] And of course we test and measure different, you know, sentiments and so forth. One thing I can say that, you know, in the report that that's really highlighted is about our pay equity. Since 2018, we've been intentionally focused on pay equity. And we've been doing a biannual pay equity reviews and have definitely taken appropriate actions.
[00:29:53] So, having accounted for factors such as role, tenure, and geography, we've [00:30:00] determined that women and minorities that DISCOVER earn an average between 99 cents to a dollar three for every $1 earned by men and non... minorities. So, this is something that we highlight and talk about in the report. You know, all that to say while we have strong benchmarking, right. We do, we were bold and actually did a comparison, and we put our numbers in the report comparison to external benchmark numbers.
[00:30:24] Jackie Ferguson: Okay.
[00:30:25] Jonita Wilson: Right? And so, we did that as a way to show like, look, we can benchmark ourselves against ourselves all day long.
[00:30:32] Jackie Ferguson: Mm-hmm.
[00:30:33] Jonita Wilson: But how do we know what good might look like? Right? Are we good? Are we not?
[00:30:38] Are we average? And so forth. And so, we were intentional in making sure that we leveraged some benchmarking data, some external data to show by comparison, how are we faring? And I think that that was something bold, and it's not something I've seen, other reports to do. And that's something that, when people have looked at our [00:31:00] report, they've called that out and actually recognized us for, for doing that.
[00:31:03] Right. It was actually a pretty courageous move when you think about it. But, while we have all that goodness, there's opportunity. Right. And so, we know that there's opportunity and so we, we don't take our strong points for granted at all. We use them as an opportunity to help us catapult and continue to do better.
[00:31:23] And so, we do recognize that our work is ongoing. And we're applying more intentionality and focus in, in driving greater engagement and inclusion amongst all of our diverse groups. Closing the gaps where we see that there's opportunity. We're working towards meeting our diverse group representation goals.
[00:31:43] we're continuing to test and measure our, our talent processes. You know, making sure when we talk, when I spoke earlier about equity, you know, and when I talk, but when I, you know, shared with you about our pay equity. We're taking a similar test and measure approach to our talent processes, [00:32:00] and just making sure that you know where there's opportunity to continuously improve our process.
[00:32:07] We're doing that. So, we test them every year. And then we're continuing to find more opportunities to make long lasting external impacting communities to, to make sure that we're, you know, helping people achieve brighter financial futures.
[00:32:21] Jackie Ferguson: Absolutely. And Jonita, you know, I think this is great, but you're gonna have a lot of leaders that say transparency report, right? And that they get nervous, right? Because they're, they're not sure. You know, what it really looks like inside their organization other than the sentiment that they think. Right. And what advice do you give to organizational leaders about the importance of transparency in their DEI journey?
[00:32:55] Jonita Wilson: Yeah, so, so, while there is not [00:33:00] one written prescription on how to do this work. Many insights and lessons learned typically span across all organizations and industries though when, when you think about the D and I space. So, we all bump up against similar issues and it's up to us to think about how we will take these lessons and imply and apply them on our own unique journey. You know, transparency I think is important, right? It helps. It helps to basically let everyone know your workforce know, and depending on if you're sharing your data externally, your external population know, especially the talent that you're trying to attract. Listen, these are our sore spots, right? We recognize these are our sore spots and this is what we're doing to act to, to fix those things because no one's perfect.
[00:33:47] No organization is perfect. But, I think that if companies get to the point where they feel comfortable to be transparent and share, this is what it is. Then, I think it gives, [00:34:00] future talent in your employees, your village is what I call 'em, you know, the opportunity to come in and, and help fix it, right?
[00:34:07] So, it's like, I can be a part of that movement and really do something that's meaningful, right, to help drive this long-term systemic change. So, you know, really, data is important, right? It it, it helps you to understand where you need to focus. It helps you to understand, you know, how you wanna be intentional about going after specific things. But it also helps them bring people on board too.
[00:34:38] And you know, I always say it, it's, it's hard to, to challenge data, although I do have people who do. But... you know so it's important too to make sure that, with that said, to make sure that that, you know, you have strong integrity in your data, as well.
[00:34:57] But, you know, another thing is assess [00:35:00] the pulse of your organization.
[00:35:01] So, there might be some things that your company is just not ready to receive and process.
[00:35:05] Jackie Ferguson: Mm.
[00:35:05] Jonita Wilson: And that's okay, so it's like you gotta table it and then maybe find an opportunity to come back. And I use equity as an example. So, when I first started doing this work, I tried to introduce the concept of equity related to diversity and inclusion.
[00:35:22] And, I realized that my organization just wasn't ready for that yet. Right? Equity and D and I, like I do believe is a newer concept that people are starting to, to wrap their minds around. But it's still taking some work, so that's an example. So, I pulled it back, but then 2020 came and it gave me the opportunity to introduce it again, and then it landed, right?
[00:35:44] And so I think that it's important, to learn about what systemic barriers exist in our policies and processes, test measure them and problem solve them. And then also understand that D and I is a business imperative, right? It's an enabler to our [00:36:00] business success. And one of the most powerful actions that a company can do is to promote D and I, is to lead from the top.
[00:36:08] And you know, our executive committee has really done a good job at DISCOVER of doing that. Our CEO has been, just, you know, really a strong partner in helping us to, to advance, you know, D and I in our organization, you know, and I definitely lean on our village, right?
[00:36:24] It's our people are people who are ready to get involved and really take charge. And everyone in the ecosystem has responsibility to achieve these goals.
[00:36:34] Jackie Ferguson: That's great. And you know, I, I love that you said that not every organization is ready for everything all at once, right. Sometimes you have to step through the process and, with equity, in order to understand that and wanna advocate for that, you have to understand that there are systemic problems within our society, and a lot of people really [00:37:00] didn't see that until 2020.
[00:37:04] And so, you know, when you're thinking about, well, everyone has the, you know, the same opportunities, you just have to take advantage of that. You really have to dig in and understand that that's not the case. And these systemic inequities are set up intentionally to create different outcomes for different people.
[00:37:24] And so that's why there is such a need for equity and, and that's fantastic. Thank you for sharing that. Jonita, I often hear from diversity leaders how challenging this work can be, right? When sometimes you are a team of one or you feel like a team of one. What are your tips for succeeding in the space and achieving those organizational goals that you set for DEI?
[00:37:50] Jonita Wilson: Yeah, so it really is, about some of the things that, that I highlighted, right? It's about understanding the data, helping your business partners [00:38:00] understand the data. And constantly communicating that, right? So, establishing some type of scorecard. Before I had the transparency report, I established an internal scorecard against those four pillars that gave our organization the data. So that they could see how we're moving, right?
[00:38:21] How we're moving the needle. But I also make it clear within our organization that listen, this work is not the CDO work, right? This work is not the D and I teamwork, it's not the HR work. It's, it's the company's work, right? And so, in understanding that, then everyone knows that they play a role, in the success of integrating and embedding D and I within our organization in everything that we do, right, within our ways of working, within how we act, how we behave.
[00:38:53] And so we also, make sure the D and I is integrated in our, in our behaviors. And so, you [00:39:00] know, I recognize that I have a village, right? And so I put all my tentacles out, and I remind people too, that listen, just because you may not sit in the D and I office doesn't mean that you can't help us. and so, you know, I've had the opportunity to really establish some, some really good relationships, across the company with many different levels, many different groups, to really help, drive the maturity and success of D and I within DISCOVER.
[00:39:30] Jackie Ferguson: Hmm, that's fantastic. And. You know, as we're getting into a little bit of the personal, and, and, and I love that you, talked about data. Because what's what's important to recognize is that you have to measure, because sometimes the movement is in, it's small, it's incremental, but it can have an exponential effect on your business.
[00:39:56] And the culture and that sense of belonging. But [00:40:00] you know, if you're looking at the, you know, percentages, right? That movement might be very small. That's why you need to measure it so that as you know, you're going in for additional resources, additional team members, you've got that data to show the value of what you're doing.
[00:40:17] So I love that. And then Jonita, I did wanna come back to, since we're talking about the, you know, how does it feel being, you know, leading in, in this space when it's sometimes hard as a DEI leader of small teams or a team of one? I wanna double back to managing a dual career household because I know a lot of professionals have that challenge. Right.
[00:40:46] And just and feeling like they can't get it all done all the time. Tell me what your tips are for how you manage that as a, a professional. Raising children and, you know, [00:41:00] your, your husband working as well, in his career, and what are your tips for us there?
[00:41:06] Jonita Wilson: Yeah. So, gosh, Jackie, you're making me like go back and reflect on like all the years, right? and, and it, it's funny cuz I just, you know, my, my youngest just, finished his, what I call his elementary school career, right? So, he graduated from high school this year and it was a countdown and I had a big countdown because I was like, oh good, I have like 30 more days of lunches, that I had to put together. so. You know, the countdown, the countdown was, was good. And so, you know, gosh, it's, it's been such a journey.
[00:41:40] So one of the things that, that I would say that, you know, was important for us in our house and, and really managing our household was to make sure that we had a calendar.
[00:41:51] Jackie Ferguson: Mm-hmm.
[00:41:51] Jonita Wilson: And what that calendar looked like and everything was merged, right? So, it was, and even to this day, we still do this. Is it on the calendar? Can you put it on my calendar? [00:42:00] But we manage a couple of calendars, so sometimes marrying up those calendars can be a challenge, but, you know, so, so we make sure my husband and I made sure that we sat down, you know, and just really compared and looked at our day to days, right?
[00:42:14] So, so where do you have to be, you know, you have to travel, when you have to travel. And then putting on top of that our, our children's schedules, because our children, you know, were athletes and, and had, you know, things that they were doing from, from an athletic standpoint, getting to, to training and, and so forth.
[00:42:30] So, I would say managing a calendar was critical for us to be able to balance out our lives. I think the other thing is we worked to create, self-sufficient children as much as we could. And so teaching them really the basics of life, right? Unloading the dishwasher, loading the dishwasher, washing the dish, because Jackie don't know about you, but growing up I didn't have a dishwasher.
[00:42:56] Jackie Ferguson: Right? Mm-hmm.
[00:42:57] Jonita Wilson: I was the dishwasher.
[00:42:59] Jackie Ferguson: Me too. (laughing) [00:43:00]
[00:43:00] Jonita Wilson: So, so teaching them those basic life things and how to sustain on your own, do your own laundry fold and put your laundry away. Although the fold and put your lo the fold and put your laundry away was a battle. you know, still is a battle
[00:43:16] Jackie Ferguson: That basket in the corner that never seemed to get put up right.
[00:43:20] Jonita Wilson: And it still exists, but with that, then it's understanding pull back on that stuff, right?
[00:43:26] Because some of the stuff is just not important. So, if, if you know, the floor doesn't get swept that night, guess what? That's okay if the clothes in the basket don't, don't get, folded and put away, that's okay because the bottom line is all of that is gonna be there waiting for you when you come back.
[00:43:44] And so it was a matter of let's prioritize the important things. And so that's what we did, right? within, in our household. Now, I didn't live close to my family, [00:44:00] so, you know, it was, although we did live in the same state, we live about maybe an hour apart.
[00:44:05] And so it wasn't like, you know, I could just call, hey mom, can you help me do this?
[00:44:10] Or my sisters, can you help me do that? On some occasions I could, right, but it was planned. So, we really had to figure out how to pull on and leverage our, our local network. And so, we became, you know, and also it's a great way to, to form lifelong friends too.
[00:44:25] So we really built our network, relied on our network to help us, you know, toad, our kids around. But we did it in reverse too, right? So, we took their kids and ended all that too.
[00:44:36] So it was really a matter of prioritizing, but understanding what was important and who was important, and, you know, making sure that our children felt like regardless. We were all always there. My husband and I never missed one of our children's activities.
[00:44:53] Jackie Ferguson: Wow
[00:44:55] Wow. That is fantastic. Those are such good tips and you know, it's so important. [00:45:00] I also use a calendar. My daughter is in college now, so it's, it's lighter than it was when she was a high school athlete. I'll tell you. that's fantastic. Jonita as a leader in financial services, there are not a lot of peers that look like you.
[00:45:17] So will you share a little bit about how you navigate being the only one or one of a few at your level? And what advice would you give for our listeners who are endeavoring to forge their own path, where we're often underrepresented?
[00:45:34] Jonita Wilson: Yeah, so, while walking into to certain rooms and being at certain tables and so forth, you know, it is glaring often that I'm the only one there, right. Throughout my entire career that's been pretty glaring. And so, you know, while, while it's clear to me, you know, I may, I've made sure throughout my career that I have formed good [00:46:00] relationships across, all right, across all levels and so forth.
[00:46:04] So I've really, worked to have, really good mentors, really good advocates, allies and so forth, regardless of what they look like, and there was benefit in that, right? So, we all have something in common. And oftentimes too, I'm not always the only woman in the room, right? And so I've made it a point too, in those, in those certain settings to make sure that I have a strong connection with the women in the room, as well.
[00:46:29] But I do leverage my network to kind of help me figure out, you know, how do I navigate some of these instances? and especially people who have been there before or who are there like me. So, you know, I can't express enough how important that network is, just even to be able to unleash, right?
[00:46:48] Jackie Ferguson: Yeah, that's right.
[00:46:49] Jonita Wilson: Call you now we're gonna be like, can I just tell you about this? and so, I try not to though, to get so anchored in. Always being [00:47:00] the only one or being the underrepresented one in the room. And I really try to lean more so in what's my value in this room, what's my value at the table, and what is it that I can say or do that makes sure that I'm garnering that respect so that I can continue to be, at that table, regardless if I'm underrepresented or not, so.
[00:47:25] Those are just some of the things that, that, that I've pulled on to help me, in those spaces and, and also to not feel so alone.
[00:47:35] Jackie Ferguson: Absolutely. That's, you know, that's so important and I, I certainly have been one of those onlys in a, in a room before. And, that network becomes so important. And, you know, a lot of times people are not intentional about building that network. And you really need to, as a professional, [00:48:00] especially when you're, you know, one of a few when you're new in your career, building that network is one of the most important things I think that you can do.
[00:48:09] So that's great advice. Jonita, you were featured in Ad Week last year and you discussed how to help your employees become advocates for DEI. And you know, sometimes your C-suite understands the importance from the perspective of your culture and sustainable business, but it's tough to get those employees on board sometimes.
[00:48:30] Can you share some of those best practices with us?
[00:48:34] Jonita Wilson: Yeah. You know, I, I can say at DISCOVER, I feel like, I've been pretty lucky because a large, large portion of our employee base is on board. And oftentimes I hear, what can I do to help, how can I help? Which has been fantastic, right? And in itself, sometimes too, it's a little bit of a challenge because it's like, oh my gosh, how can I really take this person and [00:49:00] mobilize them?
[00:49:01] Because you don't wanna just put 'em to the side and be like, I'll be back, right? Because they're right there in the moment with you. So, for me, it's really been okay, what can I have on hand. When I do get that reach out from someone that says, what can I do to help? How can I mobilize them in that moment to go do something to help, right?
[00:49:19] Cuz I don't wanna miss that opportunity. Now, I would be naive to believe that everyone in our system is on board, right? And so, what I've learned though is people are not always that vocal about not being on board. And I think a large part of the reason too is because they don't wanna call attention to themselves or be looked at as the one that's just not, not on board, right? That's not a part of the movement.
[00:49:48] And so, those are the people that actually make me the most nervous. I'd rather hear from people, right? Because then that transparency there, but it also then gives me the opportunity to kind of take a little bit of [00:50:00] pulse and process where they are, where they are along the journey.
[00:50:02] Because I think, Jackie, you said this a little bit when we were talking about data and movement. This is a journey. It's not a sprint.
[00:50:09] Jackie Ferguson: Uh huh.
[00:50:09] Jonita Wilson: Right? And so with that, it's important to meet people where they are on this journey.
[00:50:16] Right. And one of the things that I tell my team often is we gotta make sure that we're calling people in.
[00:50:22] We're not, we don't call people out at all. And if there's someone who is counter, or we think is encounter to what we think and believe that helps us to advance D and I, that's okay, let's have a conversation about it. Right.
[00:50:37] When you're ready to talk about it.
[00:50:39] But, I'm not gonna sit here and make you feel bad because then what happens is then they go dormant and we lose 'em. Right. So at least if people are out talking about it, talking about their discomfort and so forth, that has helped us to really kind of, assess where they are on the journey and they come back, right? [00:51:00]
[00:51:00] They may not come back in the next three months, but eventually they'll circle back. And especially if we can create psychologically safe spaces for that population to come in and have a conversation with us.
[00:51:12] So calling people in has been, a critical, for, for our success journey, and, and, and bringing those people along who just might not be on, on board, with us on this journey.
[00:51:27] So, you know, again, I use data, you know, the transparency report. It was, it was an interesting, it played so many different roles and it continues to play so many different roles.
[00:51:38] I think one of the things that it does though, is it makes it real. And so by putting this information out there, putting the data out there, putting the things that we do where everyone can feel like they see themselves in that, helps to bring people along a bit more, right? So, it's not just about, when you think about the dimensions of diversity, people have a [00:52:00] tendency to go just towards more like some of the more visible attributes, right?
[00:52:04] Jackie Ferguson: Mm-hmm.
[00:52:06] Jonita Wilson: So, but one of the things that we've highlighted in our inclusion training is all of those dimensions, right? So, everyone that sits in our ecosystem is on that dimension.
[00:52:16] Jackie Ferguson: Yes.
[00:52:17] Jonita Wilson: So, helping people see that has been important.
[00:52:20] Jackie Ferguson: Absolutely. Jonita, thank you so much for a wonderful conversation. I wanna just end with what is the message that you want to leave our listeners with today?
[00:52:32] Jonita Wilson: Oh, gosh, I have so many messages I can share. I'm so passionate about this, Jackie, if you can't tell. but I think that inclusion, and equity requires, active and intentional efforts, to really engage the full participation and sense of belonging for every employee. Right and it kind of gets back to, to the last conversation we were just having, but increasing transparency is important. [00:53:00]
[00:53:00] It, it reinforces commitment to advancing DE and I. And this visibility can really help us to show where our businesses are taking real action versus simply being performative. And this gives permission to, to be held accountable right through that action. And I just say, you know, lastly, get involved, do something, and we can all win if we just come together.
[00:53:23] Jackie Ferguson: Absolutely Jonita. Thank you so much. So many amazing tips. I was taking notes and then I said, oh, this is recording. (laughing) So, I'm so excited about all the things that you shared. for our listeners, thank you so much for being here today.
[00:53:41] Jonita Wilson: Thank you Jackie. Thanks for having me.
[00:53:43] Jackie Ferguson: Of course.
With only half of the US population claiming financial literacy, DISCOVER is working to bridge that education gap through its Pathway to Financial Success curriculum and a personal finance online education series. In her role as Chief Diversity Officer, Jonita Wilson is pioneering a culture of transparent, equitable and inclusive practices for the company’s employees and its customers. In this episode, Jonita shares tips on topics including driving greater representation, opening doors for disability inclusion, and successfully managing a busy family dynamic.