Anne Maghas, PhD, is an entrepreneurial leader and innovator experienced in all aspects of business creation, operation and management. She is the CEO and founder of Dash Group, as well as co-founder of Mikan Associates and Dukapepe. Anne is a participant in TechTown Detroit’s Catalyst Angel Program and we spoke to her about diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace.
The Catalyst Angel Program helps emerging angel investors in the Great Lakes region who identify as Black, Latinx and/or women gain knowledge about investing, engage in curated courses through partner organizations and connect with other investors in local and national angel communities.
As the CEO and owner of Dash Group, LLC, how does your company participate in diversity and inclusion continuously?
Dash Group is in the logistics business which is very male-dominated so we are keenly aware of some biases that may exist towards those who are not in the “core group.” Starting with our hiring practices, we intentionally position the jobs we hire for with the full metrics of what it takes to succeed – such as reliability, attention to detail, excellent customer service, meeting quality standards, etc. We intentionally use language that makes it clear that anyone can do the job as long as they are committed and willing to learn.
On an ongoing basis, we have monthly performance bonuses and awards, and the winners of those performance awards usually include people from every demographic group in our employee pool – male, female, young and old. So, we continuously validate that success at the job comes from anyone willing to work hard.
What does diversity and inclusion mean to you and your company?
As a black woman, I take it as a privilege to be a business owner in the logistics industry as it allows me to bring a different kind of leadership to my company. My lived experience allows me to naturally go beyond the demographic labels as I have seen how the diversity of thinking leads to better outcomes. I personally model excellence to my team and set that expectation for everyone in respective of their demographic label. In the end, we can normalize the fact that everyone can succeed if they are given that opportunity.
How can we encourage industry leaders to participate in diversity and inclusion?
I think most leaders would agree that diversity leads to better solutions, and the best argument I can make for diversity is really looking at business performance as the guiding metric. For a while, business leaders looked at diversity as a favor to the underrepresented employees which gave us a lot of tokenization without any positive outcome for either party. Successful business leaders that have genuinely leaned into diverse thinking to their advantage have seen positive improvements in business outcomes. Diverse thinking comes from diversity in lived experiences, so that’s why it’s critical to seek individuals that will bring that difference in lived experience as part of their skill and expertise to the job.
How can we participate in diversity and inclusion authentically?
If we use business performance as our guiding intention for participating in diversity and inclusion, then we challenge ourselves to go further and find the best diverse talent and not just go for tokenization. Often I hear from some leaders that they are really interested in promoting diversity in their organization, but they just can’t find the right talent. When pressed further, you realize that they are recruiting from the same sources they got their current employees, rewarding the same metrics, and maintaining the same organizational culture. To be authentic in something the organization does means the business needs to genuinely shift within the organization and it should be felt by everyone in a small way, otherwise status quo is the enemy of progress.
What is the most challenging part of implementing a diversity and inclusion program?
I think the tricky part of implementing a diversity and inclusion program is defining small enough chunks of progress metrics that can provide quick success and momentum. From an operational standpoint, having specific actionable short-term (e.g three months) measures helps to make the changes easy for adoption in the organization. Ultimately, having sustainable diversity and inclusion in the organization is a mind shift for everyone. We have to respect the fact that changing human behavior requires patience and persistence.
How do you represent employees from underrepresented populations without tokenizing anyone?
I think tokenization is something that we as a society have collectively learned as something counterproductive and a lose-lose situation for both parties as no one gains much out of it. As a leader, we need to identify what the strengths of employees from underrepresented groups are, just as we do with high performers, then lean into giving them the responsibility that makes them shine. We naturally seek out high performers and give them more responsibility which reinforces the fact they are good performers- we can use the same mindset to intentionally zone in on the strengths of underrepresented employees and give them the kind of responsibility they will shine at. We in turn blow their horn to the whole organization about their great performance. Success begets success, but for underrepresented employees, a leader has to be willing to flip the first domino, and the rest will follow.
What are some creative ways to proactively source candidates from underrepresented communities?
A good source of candidates is referrals from existing underrepresented employees, assuming they had a good experience in their organization and would encourage others to join. However, if you need to start from scratch, first I would recommend a source for at least two positions within your organization, so the underrepresented employee who is hired does not walk into an island that is culturally isolating. I would have a startup mindset and know it will cost more time and money to convince a high-performing individual to join your organization and deal with a non-ideal cultural environment, so invest more in a good recruiter.
I think some organizations have made the mistake of assuming that an underrepresented employee will be glad to be part of the “pioneers” in their organization and have offered lower compensation for that privilege of working there. Just like tokenization ran its course, high-performing underrepresented employees come at a premium, and successful organizations understand that is what it takes to build a culture of diversity and inclusivity.