Tujuanna Williams is Fannie Mae’s Vice President and Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer. Reporting to the Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer, Williams is responsible for leading the development, implementation, management, and evaluation of Fannie Mae’s corporate diversity and inclusion strategy, policies, and programs.
Before joining Fannie Mae in August 2014, Williams was co-founder and managing partner of New Season Coaching and Consulting Group, LLC, a management consulting and executive coaching firm. Prior to that, Williams was Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer for Freddie Mac. Her previous positions include Director – Diversity and Recruiting Strategies, Verizon Business; Director – Workplace Diversity, MCI; and Director – Diversity and Work Life Programs, US Airways Group.
Diversity Best Practices spoke with Ms. Williams about her career and the challenges and opportunities facing Fannie Mae’s diversity and inclusion efforts.
1. What was your career path leading to diversity and inclusion?
My career trajectory has always consisted of roles that were focused on people internally and externally. Each of my positions provided me with the latitude to determine the best way to enhance the employee/customer experience. Most of my career was spent with a major airline, in various positions from operations to corporate human resources. It was shortly after 9/11, I was a Human Resources Business Partner traveling around the country closing offices and conducting workforce reductions. After months of this activity I was in discussion with the then CEO about the workforce impacts to the organization and to me personally, as I had either interviewed, trained, and or supervised many of the individuals that were now unemployed as a result of the necessary downsizing. While everyone understood the business case for such drastic measures it was an emotionally draining time. While expressing this to the CEO I also stated that it was time to do something that impacted the remaining employees in a positive way. Months later, the CEO came to me with a proposal that could be a solution for my concerns. That solution was to create a diversity office focused on improving the employee experience. While this sounded great it was a very lofty idea without any framework. To my surprise my CEO said, “you are the person that we want to lead this work. In your twenty one years in this organization, you understand the organization, you are a problem solver, you are respected as a leader with influence and credibility. Employees believe in your leadership.” In essence my career path started in a reservations office and customer service, then to hiring, training, and supervising. I then provided human resources services to pilots and flight attendants. I worked to create a strategy that impacted the employee experience in a non-traditional way that let to improved employee morale and promotions and visibility for many women and people of color.
2. What is something you are most proud of since you started in D&I?
I am most proud of the opportunities that I have been able to create for others. The internship programs that focused on HBCU’s and HSI’s , to see those students enter organizations as interns and grow into roles and positions that would have been difficult to obtain without that focus and foundation. Additionally, as a CDO I have had the opportunity to have substantial influence in the succession of pipeline talent, which has resulted in the creation of new leaders in various companies.
3. What do you see as Fannie Mae’s biggest strength when it comes to building a diverse and inclusive workplace for all employees?
Fannie Mae’s biggest strength is its richly diverse workforce consisting of 47 percent women and 51 percent people of color across the enterprise. Our demographically diverse workforce provides us with the opportunities to effectively create an inclusive culture. Our multi-year diversity and inclusion strategy consists of the key pillars of Workforce, Workplace/Culture and Marketplace. A goal under the Workforce/Culture pillar is to provide training and education to increase and enhance every employee’s cultural competence level, moving to the desired state of acceptance of all cultures. We use the Diversity Advisory Council (DAC) and our eleven Employee Resource Groups to help drive the organization to the desired state. The rich diversity of people, positions, tenure, and thought that comes from these groups enable us to build and enhance its cultural competence. We are committed as an organization to have a worldview awareness and appreciation of differences. We remain in a mode of continuous learning that results in improvement in our acceptance of differences, as we aspire to be America’s Most Valued Housing Partner.
4. What is it about D&I that you are most passionate about?
I am most passionate about creating and providing opportunities for people that enable them to reach their full potential. These opportunities can manifest in career trajectory, more effectiveness in current role or more visibility and exposure to senior leaders. At the end of the day, I am very passionate about creating opportunities for people to have entry into the room, with a seat at the table and a voice in the decisions that enables Fannie Mae to achieve optimal business results.
5. What is on the horizon for D&I at Fannie Mae?
At Fannie Mae, diversity and inclusion is the foundation of everything that we do. Our vision is to be America’s Most Valued Housing Partner. In order to do that we have to live our values which are serving our partners, leading the market, valuing our people and communities and getting things done and done right. This is the foundation of what an inclusive culture is built upon. We are effectively managing our culturally diverse workforce to create a one Fannie Mae!
6. What is the greatest challenge currently facing Fannie Mae regarding diversity and inclusion and how is the organization addressing it?
We are moving so fast in the execution of all business deliverables and we have accomplished so much in a very short time. It is important that we periodically pause and pulse check to ensure that all of our diversity and inclusion processes and practices are embedded in everything that we do and continue to drive us to the desired state.