Driven to Discover


On Juneteenth: Shining a bright light on diversity, equity and inclusion efforts

4.2 minute read

June 20, 2022

This week, as we commemorate the end of slavery in the United States on Juneteenth, it’s only fitting that business owners and leaders take stock of their organizations. But at Harris & Associates, we hold ourselves to a more rigorous standard. We’ve been shining a bright light on our diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts for years—and taking action to live up to our values in this area.

Investing for change

In a recent survey of HR leaders and DEI (Diversity, Equity & Inclusion) practitioners, 81% reported that they believe DEI initiatives are beneficial to their organizations.

However, only 34% of respondents reported having enough resources to support their DEI initiatives. That’s unacceptable. It’s lip service versus action-oriented change.

At Harris, we are proud to say we are putting our money where our mouth is, investing dollars to live our DEI goals and values. We do this not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because it is also the right thing to do for our business.

We’re using our dollars to help diverse candidates succeed internally (via DEI programs) and externally. For instance, we donate funds to the Historically Black Colleges & Universities Coalition to help Black engineering or construction management students who need financial assistance buy books. Locally, in the San Diego area, we contribute to the Association of Environmental Professionals student scholarship fund, specifically for Black, Indigenous and People of Color students, to encourage diverse voices within the environmental profession.

Living our values and it shows

We realize it’s our diversity of ideas, viewpoints, and backgrounds that leads to innovative solutions for our clients and enriching experiences for our employee-owners. Ensuring equity in career advancement, professional development, and access to opportunities enables our employee-owners to do their best work and thrive.

We’re proud to say that 46% of our employee-owners and 37% of our leaders (manager and above) are people of color. Women comprise 39% of our leaders and 43% of our board of directors. Three percent of our employee-owners qualify as people with disabilities.

Inclusion of each person’s differences and all voices is vital to our success. Together, we aim to cultivate a workplace where each individual knows that their authentic self is welcome and celebrated. To that end, we’ve created Employee Community Networks (ECNs) for women and people of color, and we welcome other employees to join as allies. ECNs provide a safe space to support participants' personal or professional development and ensure that our employee-owners have an inclusive environment to foster growth and thrive.

Efforts large and small

It’s not just the most visible DEI efforts with the most funding that matter to us. We believe some seemingly “small” changes can have big impact. For instance, we’re holding ourselves accountable down to the smallest detail. What are we naming our conference rooms? Are they named after people who embody inclusive values? Is our restroom signage appropriate for our employees’ and clients’ needs? Does it represent inclusion or exclusion? Is our language bias-free and inclusive, whether it be an email, a blog or a client letter?

We’re making an effort to support diverse business owners in the communities that surround our offices—Concord, Irvine, Salinas and San Diego. Lists of minority-owned businesses help our employee-owners support the success of diverse business leaders in our neighborhoods.

All of these disparate efforts, when measured together, create change. At Harris, we believe in a larger strategy for DEI but we also believe many micro-changes add up to big change. As a result, DEI is so much a part of our conversation that it’s becoming the fiber of who we are versus a program or a series of events. We’re embedding it in our culture.

What’s next?

We have promised to continue having the hard conversations, giving each other grace as we do so. There will be mistakes. It’s what we do with those mistakes that matters.

From calling out micro-aggressions to insuring we show diversity in our presentations, our project teams and our advertising, we are encouraging our teams to speak up.

Harris staff participating in a discussion panel for Women's History Month

Harris staff participating in a discussion panel for Women's History Month

Our leaders will continue to serve on diversity panels, sharing what’s working for our firm so others who are not as far along can learn from our progress. We’ll continue to volunteer in our communities and work on projects that foster diverse neighborhoods, businesses and schools.

We do this because it aligns with our beliefs about the way the world can be—better. And we are the better for it.


Michelle White

Michelle White

Chief Executive Officer / President


Michelle White


Harris & Associates