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My First Year as DOC Chief Diversity Officer—From Z to A‒

By Junish Arora, Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer

As the new DOC Chief Diversity Officer (CDO), I wanted to share my perspective on the first critical year in that role. While it cannot be overstated how important it was for me to navigate the stakeholder universe and perform a comprehensive review of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA), it was also key to go from Z to A, from DEIA Zeitgeist to DEIA Avatar.

From my initial interview for the CDO position to my meetings with DEIA partners and stakeholders at DOC, it was clear that this was the “right time and the right place” for DEIA efforts to flourish at the agency. There was a strong sense of DEIA Zeitgeist at DOC. Zeitgeist is German for “spirit of the age” or the social and cultural circumstances of the time. My job as CDO is to tap into that energy and enthusiasm for DEIA efforts and use that current to power the infrastructure for sustainable DEIA strategies, policies, programs, and processes. As CDO, I need to establish a governance structure, build a community of practice, and align resources ‒ all of which work to imbed DEIA in the workplace.

The other realization I had as CDO was that my role required me to transform employees into DEIA Avatars. Before they were hit movies or virtual reality characters, Avatars were an Indian concept in which a deity descends from the cosmos and takes human form. This incarnation undergoes the lived experience of a human and is a powerful agent of change. In the DEIA context, Avatars serve as a dynamic metaphor for empathy and understanding different and divergent perspectives; they “walk in another person’s sandals” and step through a semblance of their experiences. It is also worth considering that some people might not have the benefit of sandals, shoes, boots, or bootstraps.

In your journey to become a DEIA Avatar, you, too, can do this by:

  • Joining one of the 100+ Affinity or Employee Resource Groups across the Department
  • Participating in DEIA training at the Commerce Learning Center (such as Exploring Your Role in Workplace DEI (*4 min)) *For Commerce employees only
  • Planning, organizing, or participating in Special Observance or commemorative events to acknowledge the contributions of the diverse communities that make up our nation
  • Mentoring or coaching your diverse colleagues
  • Taking time to discuss DEIA topics in your staff meetings to create a culture of openness and belonging.

As CDO, I also have the responsibility to drive leadership accountability and communicate change priorities, which further entrench DEIA in the workforce. To the employees at DOC, I hope this post inspires you in our efforts to capture the DEIA Zeitgeist and become DEIA Avatars! And as always feel free to reach out me at AskCDO@doc.gov.