Acumen is delighted to announce our partnership with Equity expert and thought leader Zhou Fang from Intersectional Group.
Zhou Fang is the founder and principal equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) practitioner of Intersectional Group LLC, an EDI consulting practice with a focus on intersectionality, empathy and compassion, as well as curiosity.
Zhou is an advocate for pay transparency and equity, immigration reform and climate justice, as well as a committed ally for the LGBTQ+ and Indigenous communities.
Currently, Zhou serves on the board of Portland HR Management Association and AMA PDX.
Outside of work, Zhou is a proud dog and plant parent and a comedy and horror movie enthusiast. She appreciates good food and loves to travel.
Zhou can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can connect with her on LinkedIn as well.
Why is EDI/Equity training important? More and more organizations are coming into consciousness around the value and benefits of integrating equity frameworks at all levels. Supporting equity efforts and integrating equity as part of your culture leads to benefits such as
- Increased empathy for employees from historically underrepresented communities; ensuring they are feeling seen, understood, supported, and valued.
- Stronger ability to attract and support talented employees from diverse backgrounds, leading to better retention rates, better products, and better overarching strategies.
- Doing the right thing: using DEI tools to help level playing fields for staff from vulnerable and/or marginalized communities.
- Greater understanding of bias and privilege to help people make better, fairer decisions.
- Increased feelings of trust and psychological safety; employees in high-trust organizations experience higher levels of productivity and creativity, lower levels of stress, and greater life and job satisfaction https://hbr.org/2017/01/the-neuroscience-of-trust
Equity Practioner and Author of “The Waymakers: Clearing the Path to Workplace Equity with Competence and Confidence.”* Tara Jaye Frank says it beautifully:
“Waymaking creates space for those leading and those being led to learn and succeed together by waking up to the fundamental call of leadership. It encourages us to better understand why we are where we are–after decades of equality initiatives and what we can do to accelerate change toward truly equitable workplaces where every employee has an opportunity to achieve their highest aspirations.”
Recently, Suzanne Hanifin sat down with Zhou to discuss her work in EDI (Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion), her background, and the support her clients receive when working with her and her team.
SUZANNE: “Welcome Zhou, we are so excited to partner with you and Intersectional Group. EDI (also referred to as DEI) efforts are so important for organizations to work on both within their company culture and their work in the community. It can also be a bit overwhelming for businesses that are just starting their journey. Thankfully, that’s where you and Intersectional Group can help. Can you please describe what does an EDI consultant do?
ZHOU: An EDI consultant like myself spends a lot of time studying and researching. One thing about equity, diversity and inclusion work is that it is fluid and ever changing – because that is the nature of a human society. That is also why “checking a box” and “one-off training” are seen as red flags to EDI consultants. As one of my colleagues puts it:” We live and breathe EDI.” Equity, diversity, and inclusion is more than a job to an EDI consultant.
When I am not doing research, I use my knowledge and personal experience in content and curriculum design. It is critical for me to weave learned knowledge and personal experiences into EDI consulting. Equity, diversity, and inclusion is very much a “live and learn” profession. Without learning from real life experiences, we wouldn’t do a good job on EDI.
I also help organizations look deeper and find root causes of their internal struggles on EDI related issues. I have sit-down meetings (both virtual and in-person) and create surveys and questionnaires to help teams answer questions such as “why are people stressed?” “what is causing low productivity?” “why are people not happy?” “what causes high turnovers”, etc. After identifying the “whys,” I help organizations create tangible programs that help them address those issues.
SUZANNE: This is so important and the work is evolving rapidly. Many companies have dedicated resources to improving diversity within their organization, but they may not be aware of how EDI efforts can improve company culture as a whole.
You didn’t start out in this line of work though. What did you go to school for and how did you choose this field?
ZHOU: I came from a multicultural background. I earned my bachelor’s degree in Journalism in China and got my master’s degree in Mass Communications in the U.S. Intuitively, people, culture, and stories interest and inspire me.
Looking back, I had chosen my field when I went to school for journalism, studying and reporting social, cultural, and political events in mainland China.
Since moving to the U.S. in 2010, I have been using my communications skills and multicultural mindset to study and appreciate the uniqueness of the collective life that is called “the American life” (note: America is a big continent, the American life here is referring to life in the United States of America). Through the lens of intersectionality, which is the framework I use, as well as the perspective as an immigrant, I am at a place where I see equity, diversity and inclusion beyond the conventional Human Resource setting.
EDI work is also emotion and mind work. As a thinker, I have always been fascinated by human emotions such as compassion, love, empathy, and curiosity. What can these emotions be helpful in equity, diversity, and inclusion work? That is a topic that keeps evolving and makes my work ever so interesting.
SUZANNE: Many companies would like to improve their company culture and work towards better EDI, but do not know how to begin or what help is available. What are some of the ways you assist your clients?
ZHOU: I try to be as creative as I can when it comes to working with clients. Many organizations like to offer workshops to their employees. I am able to customize those workshops based on their needs.
I also design surveys and assessments to help organizations identify and understand underlying issues. Based on the reports I produce, I am able to design EDI programs for organizations.
One-on-one consulting is critical for leadership development. I work with managers and leaders to better their internal EDI work and develop empathetic and compassionate leadership.
Last but not least, I speak at events that are EDI focused. Usually these events are public facing, which means both my clients and public audience will be able to learn from my presentations, ask questions, and walk away with some new knowledge on EDI.
SUZANNE: Acumen has the pleasure of working with a wide variety of businesses and organizations from public to private. What kinds of organizations do you work with?
ZHOU: Generally speaking, I work with organizations of all industries as EDI work is critical across the board. Those include both for- and non-profits.
I do prefer to work with teams and organizations that are committed to equity, diversity and inclusion, especially those that have leadership buy-in and support. Leadership buy-in is critical to EDI work as it usually sets the team up for success. While without, it can be an uphill battle for team members and EDI consultants trying to do impactful work.
SUZANNE: Teams look to leadership to set the example and if support is missing from the C-Suite and other leadership positions, it is very difficult to educate team members at all levels and improve the company culture.
What can a new client expect in their first meeting with you?
ZHOU: New clients can expect me showing up not only as an EDI consultant, but also a partner who’s alongside them on this journey.
After initial introductions, I ask questions that lead to conversations about the team, the culture, people’s wellbeing, the challenges, and the opportunities on EDI. My partnerships are relational, not transactional. When a new client and I start to work together, I also start to build our relationship. I use intersectionality, empathy, curiosity and compassion to understand and feel for the client in a non-judgmental way. I make clients feel safe and comfortable to open up about their EDI experiences. From there, we are able to create a partnership that is impactful and meaningful.
SUZANNE: Zhou, thank you so much for taking the time to share information about you and your work! The team at Acumen is looking forward to our partnership with Intersectional Group and developing our work in equity, diversity, and inclusion further. How can other companies learn more about Intersectional Group, LLC and working with your team?”
ZHOU: Intersectional Group’s official website is www.intersectional.group; our company LinkedIn page is https://www.linkedin.com/company/intersectional-group-llc/; my personal page is https://www.linkedin.com/in/zhoufang35/. * Interested in reading more about creating an equitable workplace? Read Tara Jaye Frank, “The Waymakers: Clearing the Path to Workplace Equity with Competence and Confidence.” https://wearethewaymakers.com/book/