Interviewer: Krista (Huff) Lindsey
Interviewees: Heba Mahmoud (HM), Stephanie Turner (ST)
The Week of Belonging came into fruition at MITRE as the grand debut of the re-created Business Resource Groups (BRGs). To increase engagement with the new BRGs and awareness of tools to advance inclusion and belonging, Heba Mahmoud (Senior Manager, Inclusion & Diversity) led the charge to create an enterprise-wide event that was fully supported by Stephanie Turner (Vice President, Inclusion, Diversity & Social Innovation) and others in executive leadership. The MITRE Corporation is a nonprofit organization that manages federally funded research and development centers supporting various government agencies.
HM: The idea started as a Day of Diversity, where ERGs and the organization could gather for a day to celebrate the progress that our employee-led groups have made in the last year, maturing from ERGs to BRGs. We realized in early 2021 that most of our ERGs were affinity groups that were operating independently with no official guidance from corporate Inclusion & Diversity. MITRE engages with several collaborators in our I&D work, and using our Diversity Best Practices membership, we found Seramount’s resource that cited Jennifer Brown Consulting, and we had each group assess themselves. From there, we formulated a plan and roadmap to transform them into BRGs. With hard work and dedication, we were able to create a BRG playbook that encompassed our strategy focused on talent, community, brand, and culture. As planning commenced, we quickly realized that we had an opportunity to host a weeklong event to reintroduce our BRGs to all departments, share resources to cultivate inclusion and belonging, and work with partners across the enterprise—because diversity and inclusion doesn’t belong just to the Inclusion & Diversity Department.
HM: Amazing! The ERGs were reduced from a group of eleven to form nine new BRGs. Each BRG group hosted a session, and we hosted five other learning sessions with internal partners and external experts. Plus, we had several forums where employees could share feedback. We incorporated lots of opportunities to have fun and showcase MITRE pride! We had T-shirts that said “You down with BRGs?” for our BRG leaders and members. There was an additional slogan: “One MITRE – I/You/We Belong” that was a hit at the event and was also showcased on our buttons.
ST: We also focused on people skills and what we needed from inclusive leaders. It was important for us to focus on what makes us similar instead of different. So, in addition to T-shirts and pins, we promoted our MITRE “Get to Know You” card decks, composed of 52 cards that had questions people could choose from to answer, learn, and connect with others on their differences and similarities. The entire event was filmed by our Communications Department, and they plan to utilize what was captured for promotional use, highlighting how all our people are diverse and can tell the story of who they are beneath the surface.
ST: The impact was greater than expected. They came in with the mentality of being open and honest with the audience, and as they got real, the questions got real. They knew that MITRE wasn’t just checking a box; we really want to create change across the organization. Our impact report shows that the opening and closing events, which featured our CEO and Board of Trustees members, had the largest attendance. All our Week of Belonging sessions were recorded and put on a landing page to be accessible throughout the year.
HM: This is a continuous journey for us. We are focused on integrating inclusion, diversity, belonging, and equity into the systems at MITRE so that we can sustain all the work we are currently doing and build upon it into the future. We look forward to creating a MITRE culture that celebrates and engages current employees and ensures all new employees are a cultural-add that helps strengthen us to achieve our mission of solving problems for a safer world for all.
ST: Our strength has been our technical expertise, and we need to focus on our people skills. People at MITRE are natural problem solvers—and even though we’ve been around for sixty-plus years, we sometimes must operate as a start-up as we grow our teams and expand our outreach through our BRGs. We will continue to equip our leaders with the skills and capabilities in being more culturally responsive. The learning is focused on changing behaviors that are aligned toward our aspirational goal of cultivating an inclusive environment that is representative of and welcoming to our multiple dimensions of diversity.
MITRE’s Relationship Manager, Amanda Faircloth, says: “We are so thrilled that MITRE has chosen DBP to provide insights and support along their DEI journey. As a partner to them in refining their BRG strategy, we couldn’t be happier to see such a successful launch. We look forward to seeing the ways in which this work and our partnership continue to drive a broader culture of inclusion!”
Interested in learning more about Seramount Solutions and how we can help move your DEI efforts forward? Contact us.