How to Combat Harassment in the Architecture Profession

Posted by Teresa Whiteacre

Thank you, American Institute of Architects and Kathleen M. O’Donnell, for featuring me in your June 2018 issue. 

Shirley Davis - How to combat harassment in architecture firms

Human resources expert Shirley Davis discusses how architects can foster inclusive workplaces where employees can thrive personally and professionally.

Sexual harassment is top of mind for many Americans, as it is one of the most pervasive types of discrimination in US workplaces, according to the US Equal Opportunity Employment Commission. But harassment can come in a variety of other forms that often go undetected by employers and damage employee wellbeing and work culture.

Shirley Davis is a human resources expert and longtime partner of AIA, having helped steer the Institute’s positions and programs on equity, diversity, and inclusion. Davis reminds us that discrimination against an individual based on sex, gender, race, religion, and economic status is prohibited by US law, but she also notes that compliance with the law is just the start to fostering a respectful work environment. Companies, including architecture firms, are well advised to establish policies that support legal compliance and go beyond them to build a permanently respectful culture.

“Policies set guidelines and boundaries for employees to understand what are acceptable and unacceptable behaviors,” says Davis. “At the end of the day, it’s about trying to build a foundation for company culture in a respectful, inclusive, high-performing way so employees feel the company really allows them to accomplish their best work.”

Davis brought her training session, “Building a Respectful & Harassment-Free Workplace Culture,” to AIA Conference on Architecture 2018 and is working with AIA to provide similar anti-harassment training on AIAU later this year at no cost to members. She offers some insights into how the architecture profession can build a culture of respect at work that’s both in compliance with the law and fundamental to their workplace ethos.

In the field of architecture, where there are more men than women, what are some ways we can work quickly to overcome harassment?

Davis: It is important to start with the top leadership. We must ensure that they are aware of laws that govern harassment, but also of the liability and what their responsibilities are. Next, it’s important is to create a policy and communicate it up, down, and across the organization. Employees should understand that harassment is against the company’s values and that the organization has resources and channels in which this should be addressed.

We don’t always understand clearly how to lead and work across differences, so there needs to be education around how to build greater cultural sensitivity and competence to work and lead in a more effective way. We can put in place actions to attract and select talent that is reflective of today’s diverse workforce.

We need to focus on creating a culture of inclusion. That means not just putting a training program in place or writing down a policy and sending out an email communication that we’re committed. We should seek to find out what is toxic in our workplace culture, identify the issues, and be proactive in addressing them. I think it’s important everyone knows what their role is in contributing to a workplace of inclusion, respect, and high performance. Everybody has a role to play, and it’s not just leaders.

Many architecture firms are small and don’t have dedicated human resources staff. How can employees at such firms navigate issues of harassment?

Davis: You need to have an updated and relevant policy with a clear anti-harassment strategy, regardless of how small or large your company is. Make sure all employees are aware of the policy and what resources are available. For companies I’ve consulted with to create policies, I ask them to consider hiring a third party for both their HR and their employee relations issues. If that’s the case, they need to include that agency and phone number in their policies, so they can be reached by employees to voice concerns.

For handling discrimination complaints, some companies have an ombudsman, someone internal that they can go to who acts as a resource for launching complaints and sometimes conducting investigations. You could also utilize your legal department and go to general counsel. Outside of the company, you may also use your medical benefits or employee assistance program to get counseling. To report issues, you can go to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and other local or state agencies. The last resort would be to get an attorney. The best-case scenario is to provide resources so employees know where to call for someone who will speak to them objectively, so they feel like they can get the resolve and solution they need.

What are some additional common-sense tips to bolster respectful treatment in the workplace?

Davis: Remember that this is not about intent, it’s about impact. Oftentimes, people say “Well, I didn’t intend to offend or I didn’t mean it that way,” but offensive behavior is in the eye of the beholder, not in the perpetrator’s intent.

When we’re talking about harassment, it’s not just about sexual harassment, it’s about harassment in general, which can come in visible, physical, and written forms. Harassment can take place in the workplace, but also during non-work hours. If something happens at a work-related event with employees, vendors or clients, it’s still a reportable offense. Don’t think harassment only happens during work hours in the workplace. It is a very broad spectrum.

Lastly, I would say, if you are a victim, please don’t assume that you’re the only one that a person is harassing. It’s likely that they are doing the same thing to other people as well. And by you not sharing anything, oftentimes, you are allowing it to continue.

AIA is committed to helping overcome issues of inequity and discrimination. Architects stand together to build a model profession that welcomes everyone to safe, healthy, and equitable workplaces. For more information and updates visit our Harassment Resources page.

Shirley Davis, PhD, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, CSP, is an accomplished corporate executive, global workforce and talent management expert, and certified leadership coach. She is the former Global Head of Diversity, Inclusion and Workplace Strategies for the Society for Human Resource Management and a current board member of the National Speakers Association.

Kathleen M. O’Donnell is a writer/editor at AIA, specializing in practice and professional development topics and Institute coverage.

Image credits

Shirley Davis - How to combat harassment in architecture firms

Todd Winter

Unconscious Bias in Leadership Decision-Making (Part 2)

Posted by Teresa Whiteacre

In continuation of my Unconscious Bias in Leadership Decision-Making article that was published with the Florida Association of Account Executive’s (FSAE) Source Magazine in April, I am excited to share the second part of this conversation entitled Moving From Unconscious Bias to Inclusive Leadership

Read the Article Below…

In the March/April issue of Source, I explained that everyone has bias and that when left unchecked, it can have a negative impact on everyday interactions and decisions, particularly as leaders. I also suggested that simply being aware that we all have bias does not let us off the hook—that given a more global, diverse, multi-generational, and multi-cultural society, we have to practice inclusive leadership. Simply put, this means that leaders must:

  1. Value diversity and work to foster a more inclusive workplace culture;

  2. They need to develop new competencies, skill sets, and a new mindset for leading the workforce of today and in the future;

  3. They must recognize that great talent comes in all shapes, sizes, colors, preferences, backgrounds, and ethnicities; and

  4. They must embrace the reality that inclusive leadership is becoming the new normal and a key lever for attracting, engaging, and retaining top talent and for achieving competitive advantage, high performance, and business success.

Becoming an inclusive leader is not as easy as it sounds. It is much more than a title, giving a hug, and being nice.

It requires intentionality. It demands a paradigm shift and openness to different ways of thinking and doing things. It means leaning in to some discomfort and demonstrating courage to embrace the unknown and the unfamiliar.

These requirements of 21st century leaders are driven by the needs and expectations of the new generation of workers that will dominate the workforce and change the way the work gets done – and the way that leaders lead. For example, we already have five generations working alongside each other; nearly half of the global workforce is comprised of women; nearly 10,000 baby boomers are exiting the U.S. workforce every day and in the next fifteen years, Millennial’s will make up 75% of the workforce; 40% of the U.S. workforce today works part-time, remotely, and virtually; 60% of all degrees (from Associate to Doctorates) are now earned by women; and I could go on, but the heart of the matter is that amidst these demographic disruptors, the ability for leaders to lead across different work styles, world views, belief systems, time zones, communication styles, personality styles, and unique needs and expectations requires inclusive leadership. It’s been said by Marshall Goldsmith that “what got you here, won’t get you there.” And that couldn’t be truer today. The leadership traits and competencies that were needed in the 20th century won’t work for the workforce of 2030. So what are they? Combined with my 20+ years of HR experience and certification as a leadership coach as well as the latest research on 21st century leadership, below is a list of common skills and competencies (not in any order). Review the list and take a personal assessment of how effectively you demonstrate each of these.


• Adaptability                    • Passionate
• Strategic (visionary)   • Risk Taker
• Decision-maker            • Inspirational
• People Skills                  • Empowering
• Manage less                    • Technologically savvy
• Trustworthy                   • Team-oriented
• Results-oriented          • Authentic & transparent
• Self-Awareness             • Accountable
• Keeps it fun                    • Knowledgeable

When leaders become more adept in demonstrating the competencies and traits that workers value, they are fostering a culture of inclusion and high performance.

The new generation of workers want leaders who connect with them, understand their individual needs, inspire them to grow and become better, treat them fairly and respectfully, and give them a sense of belonging and meaning at work. When leaders become more adept in demonstrating the competencies and traits that workers value in the workplace, they are building the kind of workplace culture that attracts
top talent, increases engagement and productivity, fuels innovation and creativity, increases retention, and positively impacts the customer service experience. And most importantly, they are fostering a culture of inclusion and high performance that contributes to business success and long term sustainability.

Dr. Shirley – Expert Resource for AIA Architect

Posted by Teresa Whiteacre

In the current issue of AIA Architect’s newsletter, Dr. Shirley acted as an expert resource on today’s #MeToo movement and it’s effects on the architecture industry.

Meeting the #MeToo moment

Steps to fostering a culture of respect within architecture firms are within reach

Last year, the #MeToo social media movement (along with the related #TimesUp movement) launched a national public conversation about sexual harassment and assault, unmasking long-standing patterns of harassment, accusations, and cover-ups across entertainment, sports, politics, and, yes, architecture. With women comprising almost 22 percent of registered AIA and FAIA architects, 37 percent of Associate members, and 24 percent of International Associate members, this remains a stubbornly male-dominated profession, and one that is not immune to sexual harassment. Architects may now be at a critical juncture to take a leadership position on harassment and inequity, and therefore change the culture of the profession forever.  

When asked about the #MeToo movement, Meghana Joshi, Assoc. AIA, could instantly draw up several negative experiences about being, as she puts it, the only woman at a table of men. “All of the site visits,” she recalls, “where the contractors would inappropriately address me as ‘the beautiful architect’ instead of learning my name, all my friends who poured out stories of being demeaned by their bosses…and above all, the constant doubt that weighs heavily on my shoulder every day. Doubt that my work and efforts would be seen on the same level as my male counterpart, doubt that this endless cycle of treating women differently than men would ever stop.”  

Joshi is far from alone. “My experience centers largely around unconscious bias, which often manifests by way of insensitive comments, actions, or attitudes,” says Zena Howard, FAIA, managing director and principal of Perkins+Will. “In this male-dominated profession, women at all levels may experience various types of unwelcome behaviors.”

Data points…to a way forward?

In February, the 2018 Women in Architecture survey conducted by the U.K.-based Architects’ Journal found that 32 percent of female respondents had experienced sexual discrimination in the prior 12 months, and 14 percent had experienced sexual harassment. Although only half of female respondents thought that the profession treated men and women fairly, a full 73 percent of men felt this way. Another third of female respondents thought that the architecture profession favored men over women, whereas only 13 percent of men agreed with this. As with all fields, many women might have chosen not to report incidents of harassment and assault because of the threat of disbelief and retaliation. Others might not consider “smaller” incidents—catcalls or wolf whistles on construction sites, lascivious stares, inappropriate jokes—as being worthy of reporting when, collectively, they can add up to a hostile work culture.

“In this male-dominated profession, women at all levels may experience various types of unwelcomed behaviors.” – Zena Howard, FAIA

Other data sources paint a similar picture. In a 2016 survey of diversity in the workplace, the AIA found that more than two-thirds of women felt that gender equity was not sufficient in the profession, versus only half of men. Half of all women surveyed felt that women were less likely to be promoted to senior positions than men, whereas only 21 percent of men of color and 13 percent of white men felt this way. Last fall, the design magazine Dezeen found that among the world’s 100 largest architecture firms only one in 10 senior positions are occupied by women, and one in six firms have no women at all in their management teams. The data strongly support the view that the work experience, and the perception of their worth and competence, is completely different for female architects than it is for males. When women aren’t given positions of power, their power to contribute is compromised, and their power to speak up against harassment and discrimination is diminished as well.

“I’m very happy this is all coming out and am supportive of it as a woman in the world,” says Janet Bloomberg, AIA, principal of KUBE Architecture in Washington, DC. “Many years ago, people just didn’t say anything. Women I really respect, who were abused and assaulted, didn’t say anything. And I get it. It can be a scary thing.”

Challenges to changing firm culture

When asked to comment on #MeToo, several architects, representing firms of all sizes, declined to participate “due to the sensitivity of the issue.” Other architects didn’t respond to requests at all. Reticence on this subject is unfortunate, perhaps, but not surprising. In addition to concerns about assault and physical misconduct, language—particularly how we talk with and about women—is often at the heart of these issues. And no one wants to misstep, at least publicly.

But being careful about what is said and avoiding the issue are two different things. “Companies that take a ‘not us’ attitude are setting themselves up for potential disaster,” wrote Christina M. Reger and Robyn Forman Pollack in the Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM) HR Magazine last November. “Failing to prevent an issue—or worse, ignoring an existing problem—can have monumental, negative consequences.”

Large and small architecture firms face different benefits and challenges in addressing sexual harassment concerns. Larger firms, for instance, are likely to have a human resources staffer or department and an established channel through which to address harassment complaints. But adverse behavior might not garner the immediate attention and swift action it deserves if it happens in pockets of a large firm.

“I have witnessed hundreds and hundreds of cases of bullying, subtle and not so subtle, in large firms,” says an architect who asked to remain anonymous. “The levels of hierarchy, politics, and competition make it extremely hard for an individual to speak up and feel safe. An HR department might be effective for very egregious cases of abuse or bullying, but it is not going to be effective for the smaller, more subtle cases that usually get classified as ‘whining’ by the corporate culture. In a large firm, there are much less opportunities to just walk out and leave.”

“The younger people are much more aware of these things than we were [at their age], and that’s a really good thing.” – Janet Bloomberg, AIA

Smaller firms are, by their nature, tighter-knit communities that require open communication among all levels of employees. “The beauty of a small firm,” says Susan Jones, FAIA, founding principal of atelierjones in Seattle, “is that…there is a sense of understanding and awareness of each person’s personal lives, including the principals’. That community makes it harder for abuse to thrive, unless the atmosphere is really toxic.”

The potential downside for smaller firms is that they are less likely to have a human resources person who can be a confidential avenue for complaints. The power structure within small firms can be especially challenging for employees, with a single principal managing them, if harassment occurs. On the other hand, harassment could be easier to identify and address with a small firm’s employees working so closely together on a daily basis.

Bloomberg notes that all the other employees in her six-person firm happen to be men (she says she doesn’t get as many qualified applications from women, another testament to inequities in the field), and that #MeToo has made her think about how inappropriate comments and behavior affect everyone, men included. “We want all our employees to be comfortable and happy, men or women,” she says. “The younger people are much more aware of these things than we were [at their age], and that’s a really good thing.”

Steps to fostering a culture of respect

Across the country the #MeToo movement has already spurred much discussion among AIA members and committees. All firms, regardless of size, can take certain steps to create a culture of respect that has no space for sexual harassment, discrimination, and bullying.

Go beyond the standard sexual harassment policy: Responsible firms might issue a policy on sexual harassment, require some staff training, or send out an email on the topic, says Dr. Shirley Davis, a human resources expert and president of SDS Global Enterprises—and that’s necessary, but not enough. Firms need to be asking hard questions about themselves and accepting hard truths, Davis says. “[This means] initiating a culture transformation, and that is being willing to identify the parts about your culture that do not necessarily resonate or align with—or do not support or sustain—all generations and people of different backgrounds.” And when someone lodges a complaint, act on it, Davis says. “When [executives] respond in a quick, fast, and consistent way, others see them walking the walk and not just talking the talk.” That’s how cultures change.  

Embed equity in all levels of your practice: Davis adds that firms should embed equity throughout the firm culture, from hiring practices to methods of communication and feedback to performance reviews and beyond. “Project assignments and positions [for women] should be commensurate with their ability and aspirations, and consistent with career growth that is paced similar to comparable male counterparts,” Howard says. “All this begins with fostering a company culture and environment that encourages speaking up and values the importance of diversity and inclusion.”

“All this begins with fostering a company culture and environment that encourages speaking up and values the importance of diversity and inclusion.” – Zena Howard, FAIA

Consider establishing an external outlet for complaints: All firms, but especially small firms, could consider establishing an unbiased external person or small group that could investigate and make formal recommendations regarding all complaints leveled against the firm, according to Bettina Deynes, chief human resources officer for SHRM (a suggestion seconded by Davis as well). This step would “go a long way to making employees comfortable that they will be heard and the proper actions will be taken,” Deynes says.

Join or start a Women in Architecture committee: In response to what she had experienced in the industry, Joshi started the Women in Architecture committee for AIA Orange County two years ago. “The sole purpose of the committee,” she says, “is to provide a safe space for women and minorities to work together and bring positive change, providing support and mentorship crucial to surviving in the profession. In addition to social and networking opportunities, we have taken our committee a step ahead by organizing events that showcase everyday role model women and mentors.”

Celebrate women’s accomplishments and leadership: Last summer the AIA Women’s Leadership Summit brought together 400 attendees to discuss pathways to success and leadership for women in the field. The vast majority of attendees, not surprisingly, were women. Among the attendees was 2018 AIA President Carl Elefante, one of few men to have attended more than one such summit. Having more men attend would be a natural step towards better understanding of women’s experiences and ambitions. “It is very important to speak and act in ways that are uplifting and encouraging,” Perkins+Will’s Howard says. “When women are placed in professional roles, they must be empowered, supported, and heard by leadership and their male peers.”

AIA Orange County, for example, recently hosted Laura Oatman, AIA, an architect running in Orange County for the US House of Representatives who shared stories of her frustrations in her profession.

Practice the Platinum Rule: We all learned the Golden Rule as children, which is to treat others as we ourselves would like to be treated. Davis suggests instead that architects (and all people) practice the Platinum Rule, which is to treat others as they want to be treated. “This way, we put ourselves in other people’s shoes,” she says. “We try to learn and understand and recognize that not everyone sees the world the way I do. By doing this, I am more inquisitive, I come with an open mind, I come with an attitude of gratitude, of being willing to learn and understand. A key skill in all this is listening, listening with the intent to understand, listening with the intent to suspend judgment, to assume positive intent with other people, and to learn and broaden our own perspective.”

“Equity cannot be achieved overnight,” Joshi says. “But when we speak up together as a united voice and amplify [each other], change is inevitable. The fight for rights is beyond annual marches. It is in every project on the boards and in construction, educating the clients, consultants, and contractors to respect a woman for her talent, and look beyond the gender.”

Learn more about resources to address harassment in your workplace.

Based in Arlington, Virginia, Kim O’Connell writes about architecture, conservation, and sustainability for a range of national and regional publications.

Image credits

Meeting the MeToo moment

Getty Images

Link to the article HERE


Unconscious Bias in Leadership Decision-Making (Part 1)

Posted by Teresa Whiteacre

Dr. Davis had the honor of being a featured writer for The Source Magazine, the official magazine for the Florida Society of Association Executives. Read the article below and stayed tuned for Part 2!

It couldn’t be more appropriate to address unconscious bias than at a time we are experiencing significant demographic disruptions, polarization and divisiveness, globalization, and political discord. This two-part article attempts to introduce this topic as a leadership competency as well as an organizational strategy. Everyone has bias. It’s a part of the human make up. We need bias to protect us from danger. Biologically we are hard-wired to prefer people who look like us, sound like us and share our interests. But when left unchecked,
biases can have a negative impact in every interaction. With the vast amount of diversity that makes up our global workforce, including more women, people of color, LGBTQ, veterans, introverts and extroverts, immigrants, people with different abilities, thinking styles, and personalities, and five generations, to name a few – the level of complexity and potential conflicts that can arise from unconscious bias is sure to increase.

“Unconscious bias is a spontaneous judgment, positive or negative, that occurs within 3-5 seconds of encountering a person. Attitudes or stereotypes are reinforced over time, and affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner.”

Every day, decisions are made in the workplace — including sourcing, selection, development, pay, promotions, terminations, assigning projects, constructing teams and creating business strategy. Whether we recognize it or not, unconscious bias enters into every one of these decisions. Having worked in Human Resources for over 20 years, I am intimately aware of how leaders think, behave and make decisions about all aspects of the employee experience. In particular, I’ve worked with hiring managers as they reviewed candidates from diverse backgrounds and I’ve heard comments such as, “She didn’t look me in the eye or shake my hand with a firm handshake so I don’t think she’s cut out to lead this team,” or “We need a Millennial for this new project on technology,” or “This job requires
a demanding schedule and I don’t think she could be available.” In other instances, leaders may assign special projects to team members who think like them, or invite only the guys to the golf outing assuming the women on the team wouldn’t be interested, or delegate administrative tasks such as notetaking or ordering lunch to the only female in the meeting. These are both overt and subtle forms of bias and both can have a negative impact on the workplace culture and perceptions of fairness. Unconscious bias is an opinion, positive or negative, we have about a group or person. It occurs when we make spontaneous judgments about people or situations based on our past experiences, culture, background or exposure to media. These spontaneous judgments occur within 3-5 seconds of encountering a person. The attitudes or
stereotypes that develop early in life (as early as 1-6 years old), are reinforced over time, and affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner.


It is not enough to be aware that everyone has bias and therefore assume we are off the hook. All leaders, particularly people-managers, have a responsibility to ensure that their biases don’t negatively impact employment-related decisions. They should practice mindfulness — STOP, PAUSE and THINK before making these decisions and be more intentional about valuing diversity and learning how to LEAD across differences. They should learn how to leverage the gifts and talents of ALL employees, recognizing that great talent comes in all shapes, sizes, colors, preferences, backgrounds and ethnicities.

The first step in managing unconscious bias in the workplace is to ensure employees understand exactly what unconscious bias is, when it happens and the ways in which it can impact how they work and treat each other. Educating employees formally through training and informally through multiple communication methods is the start of what should be a continuous learning process. Employees should also know that they are a part of shaping the culture into an inclusive, welcoming and collaborative workplace.

In the next issue, I will conclude this two-part series with how to move from Unconscious Bias to Intentional Inclusive Leadership.



Building a Respectful & Harassment-Free Workplace Culture Training Program

Posted by Teresa Whiteacre

How long has it been since your organization updated its sexual harassment policy?

When was the last time your leaders and employees attended a harassment course?

How inclusive, respectful, and welcoming is your workplace culture?


Every organizational leader has a responsibility to create a culture that values diversity, demonstrates respect, and is free from any form of harassment or discrimination. There is a high price to pay for ignoring and/or allowing sexual harassment to flourish in the workplace, including exorbitant legal fees to defend lawsuits, poor employee morale, low productivity, employee disengagement and turnover, and not to mention the price for repairing a damaged reputation or brand.

SDS Global is pleased to offer our training program

Building a Respectful & Harassment-Free Workplace Culture

This 4-hour interactive course will cover:

Current Compliance & Legal Regulations on Workplace Harassment

How to Create a Respectful, Inclusive, and Harassment-Free Culture

How to Identify Inappropriate Conduct

Actions Required to Address Harassment Issues

We also know that implementing harassment training is simply not sufficient.

Organizations Must Begin with a Culture Transformation

SDS Global Enterprises has the consulting expertise, programs, and resources to help you transform your workplace culture into a welcoming, respectful, inclusive, and great place to work.

Click Here to Schedule Today!

Dr. Davis’ Interview with Inclusion Magazine

Posted by Teresa Whiteacre

Read the Interview Below…



Dr. Shirley Davis is an experienced and accomplished corporate executive, global workforce management expert, and leadership consultant. She has presented on a variety of human resource, workforce development, and diversity and inclusion topics in more than a dozen countries. The company she founded, SDS Global Enterprises, Inc., specializes in HR strategy, talent management, organizational transformation, D&I training, and leadership and career coaching for executives.

In her more than 30 years of business experience, Davis has worked at five Fortune 100 companies in various senior and executive leadership roles. Most recently, from 2006 to 2014, she was the global head of diversity and inclusion and workplace strategies for the Society for Human Resource Management. 

She has been featured on and quoted in NBC’s Today Show, NPR, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, Essence, Black Enterprise, and the Washington Post, among other media outlets. In 2015 she earned the highest designation in the speaking industry as a Certified Speaking Professional, bestowed by the National Speakers Association.

Davis is the author of Reinvent Yourself: Strategies for Achieving Success in Every Area of Your Life. Last fall, she released a second book, The Seat: How to Get Invited to the Table When You’re Over-Performing and Undervalued. She holds a bachelor’s degree in pre-law, a master’s degree in HR management, and a Ph.D. in business and organization management.


Inclusion: What are some of the biggest issues now for corporate diversity and inclusion leaders like yourself?

Shirley Davis: One of the biggest challenges we’re facing right now that impacts our field is the political climate. It has put diversity and inclusion front and center and not in a good way. Americans and even the global community are recovering from what was deemed as one of the most disruptive, divisive, and emotionally charged elections in modern history. It elevated some very sensitive and unhealed wounds in our history. It also uncovered some really nasty and unhealthy biases that are still pervasive and prevalent in our society. And it revealed just how much further we have to go in order to achieve parity, equity, dignity, respect, and inclusion.

Another big challenge we face is the need to reinvent and transform corporate culture. Corporate cultures have not kept pace as this era of disruption has redefined the way that we think, work, and communicate, and the way that we embrace difference. Many corporations are responding and reacting instead of leading, and therefore they are being disrupted instead of anticipating the shifts and being the disruptors and change leaders.

IN: There is much greater emphasis in recent years on inclusion. Has that superseded diversity as the focus and, if so, why?

SD: We’re seeing more companies recognizing that you can have diversity and not have inclusion. Diversity is the mix of cultural and ethnic backgrounds, experiences, preferences, physical characteristics, thinking styles, gender and identity, and other personal attributes. But inclusion is all about the workplace culture and how it enables these differences to work well together. In previous years, companies were more focused on diversity as an act of representation—compliance, “checking the box,” and raising awareness through training. But today those same companies are also recognizing that that alone is not sufficient. They are recognizing that inclusion drives everything from innovation to talent acquisition, employee engagement to greater problem solving, better customer service to retention, and, as a result, greater performance overall.

IN: What brought you to do this work? Is there a personal motivation or story from your childhood or past that inspired you in this direction?

SD: I didn’t grow up aspiring to be a global HR or diversity and inclusion workforce thought leader. This work called me, and I discovered that it was aligned with my purpose, interests, strengths, and mission in life. What motivated me to do this work was that it afforded me the opportunity to help organizations and leaders better understand that talent comes in all shapes, sizes, colors, backgrounds, beliefs, experiences, family structures, ethnicities, and genders.
This work is also personal for me. In The Seat: How to Get Invited to the Table When You’re Over-Performing and Undervalued, I share in detail my feelings of being “the only one” in so many instances, and my personal experiences of being marginalized, insulted, and discriminated against simply because I was a woman, a single mom, and a person of color.
Too many of my colleagues are still experiencing the same thing, so in my book I outline several strategies for what I had to do to take back my personal power and to overcome the effects of these biases to earn a seat at the table. In this work, I also have the opportunity to influence behavior and mindsets, and to assist in the development of new policies, strategies, and outcomes to ensure that people like me have a level playing field.

IN: Tell us about your greatest success story.

SD: I have a number of successes and achievement that I’m very proud of. One would be going back to school to get my master’s and Ph.D. My initial intent and motive in getting those advanced degrees came more from being marginalized and overlooked [in the workplace] and being told that if you just do this and if you just get that or go through this class or take this certification, then we’ll give you the promotion or job. I was already doing the work anyway, getting great results, and I was training others who didn’t look like me, either my male counterparts or white female counterparts, but they were getting the promotions and I was not. So I got my Ph.D. and multiple certifications. And while I still experienced biases and minimization, I took pride in the fact that I accomplished it while I was still working full-time, being a single mom, and traveling quite a bit in a demanding job.

The other thing I’m really proud of is that I made the decision a few years ago to build my exit strategy and to look at how I could take control of my own destiny. So I made a decision that it was time for me take a risk, take a leap of faith, and create my own global consulting, speaking, and training enterprise to leverage all of the wisdom, education, experiences, and successes that I had accumulated. I am thrilled to report that the business is doing extremely well.

IN: What are some of the recent thought-leader topics in the world of inclusion that organizations are learning about and implementing? 


SD: There are at least 10 that I am currently working with organizations to address. I’ll touch on a few. First, companies are realizing that they have to provide more career mobility and flexibility for their workers. It means a shift in their strategies, policies, systems, attitudes, and behaviors. Because we now live in a digital world and are hyperconnected, work gets done in very different ways, in different places and spaces, on various schedules, and in different time zones. Second, inclusion drives innovation and, when properly implemented, can impact a company’s ROI, ROE [return on equity], ROS [return on sales], and even ROL [return on leaders]. Lastly, unconscious bias, inclusive leadership, and courageous conversations have become even more significant, particularly given our political environment.

IN: As more and more millennials join the job force and baby boomers are slowly aging, has this phenomenon provided challenges for your clients? What are some suggestions for addressing these challenges?

SD: Many companies are not ready for the generational shift, and it is causing missed opportunities in talent acquisition, retention, productivity, and innovation. I help companies find ways to bridge communication gaps and maximize each generation’s strengths and contributions versus dwelling on stereotypes and biases. I also assist them in creating cultures that all talent can thrive in.

IN: How will the CDO role change in the next five years? Will more be expected of CDOs?

SD: What I’m seeing more and more is that chief diversity officers are having to be more globally focused—meaning they need to consider the global workforce and marketplace, as well as cultural contexts. I’ve also seen the role of CDO move into different roles and reporting relationships. There was a time when many of my colleagues were reporting directly to the CEOs. Now I’ve seen a shift as diversity and inclusion is coming under HR. One reason for this is that, in general, chief diversity officers have not always done a good job of talking about the numbers, the analytics, the impact, the longer-term importance of D&I as a sustainable business strategy. That has hurt the role of CDO in a lot of ways because it has not been seen as a strategic business, global, innovative business leader. Instead it has been seen as a glorified part of HR.
As CDOs, we must have the boldness, courage, and skill set necessary to have crucial conversations and use them as opportunities to build bridges, create understanding, and allow for collaboration.

IN: How does a company best cultivate a diverse talent pipeline?

SD: As I have headed up recruiting for a number of years in previous companies, one of the things I’ve found that’s been a best practice in cultivating talent pipelines is developing relationships, [promoting] community building, and creating a great culture for employees that keeps them satisfied and engaged. When I headed up diversity recruiting while at Capital One, I was managing 23 relationships within our community, and among colleges and universities, and with minority organizations. The more that we showed up and the more visible that we were as a company, the more attractive we were to diverse talent. The more that we focused internally on our employer brand and building a culture of fairness, respect, and inclusion, the better we cultivated a diverse talent pipeline.

IN: For a number of years, practitioners of D&I have been making the business case for D&I. Do you think this message is sinking in? If one of your clients doesn’t buy into that culture of diversity and inclusion as a competitive advantage, how do you convince the client?

SD: Yes, we have been talking about the business case for well over a couple of decades. I believe that in many industries and companies, we have seen it sink in. This is evidenced by the commitment from the CEO; investment of dollars in staff and resources including a dedicated lead of D&I; commitment to culture transformation; changes in policies, business strategies, systems, leadership, and staff development; and engagement and retention efforts. It is also evidenced in branding and marketing efforts, customer service philosophies, greater focus on leveraging inclusion to drive innovation, and how the community is engaged.

What I do for companies that don’t fully buy into D&I is focus them on the missed opportunities. I shift them to seeing how diversity and inclusion truly help impact and drive sustainability and innovation, and I position D&I around how the companies can better serve their customers and keep them around for years to come. IN

Dr. Shirley Leads Dynamic “Women in Leadership” Series for APA Annual Conference

Posted by Teresa Whiteacre

On May 17 -18, 2017 Dr. Davis facilitated a phenomenal four-session seminar for the American Payroll Association’s Annual Conference “Women in Leadership Series” held in Orlando. FL. This powerful, high-energy, interactive, series featured not only Dr. Davis as the HR expert, but payroll and human resource executives, Alison Sellar and Stephanie Salavejus for an international perspective of global HR a payroll practices. The seminar covered pertinent and hot-button topics such as “Being Agents of Change in the Workplace”, “Leadership Qualities in a Male-Driven Society”, “Emotional Intelligence”, and “Speaking Like a Pro”.  Women, and even a few men, sat enthralled and engaged from start to finish as this series not only offered strategies and tips, but statistics, tools, resources, exercises, and self-assessments. Attendees were encouraged to tweet throughout this two-day session and tweet they did! The overwhelming sentiment was that of excitement and anticipation.

Over 350 attendees packed the ballroom at one of Orlando’s largest conference hotels centered in the heart of Disney over the two-day series. Nicole SmithDirector of Instructional Design and Learning Development for APA, who coordinated and organized this series, recalls the impact she noticed on conference-goers. She states, “We have received such positive feedback and it is continuing even into this week! Women even switched their workshops sections during the conference.”

In true Dr. Shirley fashion, this series was jam packed with 25 years worth of HR and D&I expertise infused with infectious humor and clever quotes, in addition to invaluable career development nuggets found in her bestsellers “Reinvent Yourself” and “The Seat”.  Attendees left feeling not only enlightened, but inspired and equipped to spark positive change in their respective fields.

Experiencing Stereotypes, Prejudices, and Unconscious Biases

Posted by Teresa Whiteacre

All my life, being a woman and being a person of color, I’ve also had to deal with stereotypes, biases, and prejudices, or prejudgments. That’s what prejudice is—it’s pre-judging someone before you know them based on their skin color, gender, age, race or ethnicity, or any other characteristic of their outward appearance. And those prejudgments can impact decisions regarding selection, promotion, pay, performance ratings and feedback, delegation of special projects, and all other decisions regarding employment. And unfortunately, I’ve experienced this in every aspect of my career—everything from being denied opportunities for promotions that were given to others who were already cherry picked, to training the person who would later become my supervisor, to being marginalized on performance reviews or surprised by ratings that had no substantiation, to having my ideas stolen and credit taken by my supervisor, to being accused of getting certain roles due to tokenism, to receiving offensive or insulting comments disguised as compliments. Comments referring to me as “very articulate,” “talking white,” “even-tempered”, “intelligent”, and “not like those other angry black woman,” are just a few examples.

See, the thing about being a woman or person of color, or being the “only one” amongst a dominant group is that none of us are asking for opportunities simply because of our minority status. We’re simply asking for opportunities that we deserve. We’re not asking for a hand out, we’re asking and demanding a level and equal playing field.

We want equal access to opportunities. We want insight and advice that is not found in the employee handbook—the unwritten rules of the game that the dominant group plays by. We see some of our counterparts who do less work and who put in less effort, and who have less skills and experience, but they move up faster, they get paid more, and are given more choice assignments. When you look at the rate now of where women get paid compared to men, it can’t be because all women are not doing their job at the level of a man.

When a woman is doing the exact same job and getting paid 78-79 cents for every dollar that a man makes, it can’t be that she’s not qualified; that she’s not working hard; that she’s a slacker; and that she’s lazy. More and more research reveals that it is a systemic problem of implicit bias and pervasive prejudice that goes unchecked in many organizations and in our society.

One of my most devastating experiences with prejudice and bias came early in my career when I was working at an organization and was on a steady trajectory to being promoted to a senior level role. But unfortunately, my boss of three years left the company. We had such a great rapport and I felt supported and championed. In the interim, a woman whom I had worked with on other projects, and had trained on some of the systems and programs that we developed, was promoted into the job. She had very little experience working in our functional area and had a much smaller team than mine. So, I wanted to be sure that I was clear about what her expectations of me were and I didn’t want to lose traction with the path that I was on. I met with her and shared my previous performance reviews, the feedback I received from clients, and my career aspirations for the next level. I asked her about her specific expectations of me and wanted to ensure that she would support my development. We discussed my goals, performance objectives, and what success looked like. I even asked her, “What would ‘exceeding’ expectations, and absolutely stellar performance look like?” I needed to be specific about what “meeting” expectations was and what was “outstanding” because I didn’t want to start over simply because she was new in her role.

We sat down and laid those things out and agreed on what success would like. Once I had those specifics, I continued to work hard to exceed them. I was not given any feedback, or any coaching from her. And you know, if you haven’t heard anything different, you assume you’re on track and that things are fine. But at the end of the performance period that December, I was told that not only had I not “exceeded” expectations like I thought, but that I wasn’t even “meeting” expectations. You can imagine my reaction. When pressed about the ratings, she could provide no specific examples or point to any impacts to the client that substantiated her ratings. I had received an “exceed expectations” for the past three years and now it had dropped two ratings in one performance cycle with no justification.

It was one of the most devastating experiences that I have had in my career. I was very effective at what I did; a great people manager according to my team. I was very knowledgeable of how to run my department and my division, I had great respect and support from my customers, and I achieved solid results beyond what was expected. I had gotten clear expectations and goals for the past three years before her arrival and I worked hard, and now this person had come in and began to marginalize and sabotage all that I had worked for. Yes, I felt angry, degraded, and betrayed, and it was my last straw.

In this instance, I went above her head. I involved HR and I presented my case that before this person came on as my supervisor, there were three years’ worth of previous performance reviews where I had always been rated very high; where I could show that I was “exceeding” expectations. I asked what I could have done differently that warranted a lower rating, particularly since I’d never gotten any feedback to the contrary. She could never provide any particulars. So, HR requested that she rewrite the appraisal and change the ratings to match the performance. Turns out that she did not want to give me credit for a lot of the results and successes in our division, because she had taken the credit in her own performance. Sound familiar?

Even though she attempted to revise the appraisal, it still wasn’t to my full satisfaction. She watered down my results and worked even harder to unravel and sabotage the positive reputation that I had built with my clients. But I didn’t become bitter and I didn’t act out. That would have played right into her hands. I became better and subsequently, I moved on to a new role elsewhere. That wasn’t the first time that I had experienced bias and discrimination and I was sure that it wouldn’t be the last. These are the kinds of stereotypes, prejudices, and biases that I have endured much of my life. And in 2016, I still experience some of it in daily business dealings with well-meaning clients, company leaders, and places where I do business. But with each experience, I grew stronger and more determined to stand up for what was right. Who knew that it was preparing me for the role I was later to assume: Chief Diversity Officer.


Now is the Time to Reassess

Posted by Teresa Whiteacre

      THERE COULDN’T BE A MORE APPROPRIATE TIME to consider reinventing yourself than right now. Think about the times in which we live. We’re living in what economist and business leaders refer to as an Era of Disruption and if you are not a disruptor, you are being disrupted. It’s in these times of unprecedented challenges, overwhelming change, and increasing complexities that we come face to face with the realities of life— and we have to make critical decisions. And the decisions we make right now in the midst of disruption and transition may affect the rest of our lives.

     This crisis at the crossroads brings not only new challenges but it can bring new opportunities, new possibilities, and new ways of looking at life and at yourself. First, disruptions represent an opportunity to redefine who you are, reassess your WHY, examine what strengths, gifts and talents you possess, and to reprioritize your goals. It’s a time to ask yourself “Am I where I want to be in life?” If not, it’s time to discover why.

     Second, by now nearly 50% of those who set New Year’s resolutions have broken them. Additionally, research reveals that by April 15th, 70% of those New Year’s resolutions will be abandoned. So, it’s time to reassess why they were broken and were they realistic in the first place. So now is the perfect time to reassess your goals, priorities, and your life plan. It’s a time to reflect on what you’ve done well and what’s not worked well for you, to look at your life, both past and present, your actions, behaviors, and attitudes, and determine if they’re helping you or hindering you on your path to success.

     The following self-assessment questions are for you to reflect on in order to get you started on this journey of redefining success for your life. I use these questions for my own clients. I encourage you to engage in some deep thought and introspection; be as open and as honest with yourself as possible. I understand that you may be experiencing a crisis at the crossroads, but in order for you to take your life to the next level you must first start with yourself. Take whatever time you need to respond thoughtfully and honestly to each question. And if you don’t have an immediate answer to a question, take the time to develop a meaningful response.

How do you define success and what does it look like for you in one year? In 3 years?
In 10 years?
What do you value most in life and why?
Are you where you want to be in life? If not, why?
What is your life’s motto?
What legacy would you leave behind if you were to leave this earth tomorrow? How different would it be from what you
hope to leave?

For more information on Reinventing Yourself, join me for a FREE webinar “Are You the Master of Your Own Reinvention?”
on March 13, 2017 at 2 pm ET.  Click here to register now.

FREE Webinar with Dr. Shirley Davis: “Are You the Master of Your Own Reinvention?”

Posted by Teresa Whiteacre

Are you the master of your own reinvention? I believe we have all asked ourselves this question after experiencing some of the greatest shifts and disruptions in our marketplace, workforce, workplace, and in our personal and professional lives. These disruptions not only affect our performance and productivity on the job, but they affect our relationships, our sense of self-worth and confidence, our financial stability, our health and well-being, and they can spill over into every area of our lives. Given the current state of affairs, it couldn’t be a more perfect time than now to reinvent yourself.

Join me for a FREE webinar on March 13, 2017, 2 pm ET, as I share some of my expert advice and compelling personal stories of how I faced these disruptions and was able to tackle them head on. I will also share strategies and tips on how to recover and reinvent yourself to achieve greater success. You don’t want to miss this highly engaging and transformational webinar! Register today to reserve your spot!


UPDATE: The event is over and you can watch the Screencast of it below for FREE!

Get Out Of The Office

Posted by Teresa Whiteacre

     How do you earn a seat at the table if you’re not even in the office? Well many of us today have this misconception that visibility equals value. In other words, many think “if I’m in the office, I’m bringing value to the table by virtue of being present and available.” But this is old-school leadership thinking. This is that outdated mindset that believes that if you’re “here,” you must be productive. But we know this isn’t the case. We know there is an epidemic of disengaged employees in today’s workforce that show up but don’t produce; they are visible, but not present; they believe that their paycheck is directly linked to attendance and nothing more. But we know that in reality, productivity and true engagement can happen anywhere, anytime, provided we have the right drivers, the
right support, and the right resources.

     In fact, in today’s society where we’re so hyper-connected, technology allows many of us to work from anywhere at any time, not just in the office. This is a product of our rapidly changing environment and something the Millennials and the upcoming Generation Z have embraced wholeheartedly. If you haven’t, you should now. Because getting out of the office gives you a change of scenery and a fresh perspective on your organization and your role, and helps clear some of the fog that might be clouding your route to the table. 

     Some of the best decisions get made outside of the office—outside the four walls of the organization. So it’s important to build relationships both inside and outside the organization. Here’s an example of how I learned the value of getting out of the office.

     I was working for a certain company a few years back and we were in Las Vegas at a leadership conference. As was typical in this company and in its industry, it was a very male-dominated event; I was one of the presenters that day and as the session ended, the Regional Director outlined the next day’s team building session, which unsurprisingly, was a golf day. I was one of only two other women and the other woman had already left to catch a flight back to the East Coast. I didn’t play golf so I was already moaning and groaning inside at the idea. I thought, “I don’t know the game, I don’t like the game, it’s too long, it’s going to be too hot, and I don’t want to be the only one that doesn’t know how to play.” The Regional Director indicated that everyone should show up at 6:30am at the Golf Club and we would break off into teams. Then he passed the sign-up sheet around, and when it got to me I was still tormenting over whether I should participate or
find an excuse to get out of it. And I thought, “They won’t care because they probably don’t want a woman on their team anyway.”

     But the more I lamented over it, the more I warmed up to the idea and I decided, “Why not?!” There were presidents of the different regions, senior executives heading up major units within the divisions, and other high level leaders so I didn’t want to appear as if I was not a team player. I’d be playing golf with the most influential people in the company who already have a seat at the table, and I would have an audience with them. So, I decided that even if I don’t like golf, if it’s not my personal choice, I’m still going to go and I’m going to let everyone else get to know me. What I recognized that day on the golf course is that there
were a lot of conversations and a lot of learning taking place. We told jokes, we talked about our families, our vacations, our favorite things, sports, and had a lot of fun; and I was able to give my elevator speech on a few of the projects that I was working on then I elaborated on some of the points that I shared in training the previous day. Funny, some of the learning was resonated better with them on the golf course than it did in the classroom. Now key decision makers knew who I was and had a better sense for what I do. At that event I was able to be my own biggest sponsor, pitching my brand to the team. 

     Had I allowed my uncomfortable self to make an excuse to get out of the golf experience, I would have missed this wonderful opportunity to get exposure and visibility with key leaders. It was a true learning experience on the importance of getting out of your head, taking a risk, and moving beyond the office. For some it might mean going to the company picnic. It might be going out after work to the pub. It might be going bowling one night with coworkers. It may be participating in the Habitat for Humanity project. Whatever it is, you need to take advantage of some of these opportunities to get outside of the office. Do some drivebys. Do some pop calling. Or maybe invite leaders out to lunch, for no reason other than to get to know them and allow them to get to know you. This is the foundation for building your personal brand and getting an invitation to your seat at the table. You can’t build a bridge to the table if you never leave your seat at the desk. Get out and get exposure to others and give them exposure to you, your ideas, and your unique value proposition. 

     For more research and data on the value and impact of diversity at the table, purchase the new book: The Seat: How to Get Invited to the Table When You’re Over-Performing and Undervalue.

Living on the Other Side of Imagination

Posted by Teresa Whiteacre
For those who have known me for a while or have read Chapter 3 of my book, “Reinvent Yourself,” know that for the past 15 years, that the night after celebrating Christmas with my family I would be on plane heading to some tropical paradise near water, sand, a 5 star resort, and beautiful scenery. I would go to places like Barbados, St. Martens, Paradise Island, Jamaica, Cabo, Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, etc. It would be 7 days of ME time for rest, relaxation, reflection, cleansing, prayer, fasting, refreshing, goal setting, and celebration of the year’s successes. It was always my time alone with ME and GOD to reinvent myself and to imagine what was possible the next year; to imagine living a life of peace, joy, fulfillment, happiness, abundance, and love ALL THE TIME.

Somehow, I could always find that peace by a beach, where no one knew my name, where no demands of life existed, where the hustle and bustle had ceased, and where the calm of the water seemed to whisper God’s direction for my next level so clearly. I would imagine living a resort lifestyle, by the water, in a peaceful safe haven, and joyfully enjoying his constant favor, peace, and abundance; a place where I would escape to every year is what I imagined I could one day live everyday. I would come back so refreshed, refueled, and ready to take on all that God had revealed to me down by the ocean. And today in Dec. of 2016, I can unequivocally report that I am now living on the other side of imagination.

For the first time in 15 years, I am blessed to be able to come off the road after delivering over 80 presentations this year and racking up several hundred thousand travel miles, and have a place where I can enjoy my own ‘staycation.’ I don’t have to travel out of town to enjoy the best beaches in the country, to check into a 5 star resort, to get away from the hustle and bustle, and to enjoy the calm of peace and quiet. I have now created it right here where I live and I can enjoy it every day. When I relocated to Florida I intended to create the life that I always dreamed of and I didn’t want to wait until I retired to do it. Life is too short and it is not promised, so we can’t take anything for granted. We must live each day with purpose and intention, not knowing if it’s our last.

My word of encouragement to you for the new year, is to imagine the life that you want to live–the life that God created you to live–that life of purpose, meaning, significance, peace, fulfillment, and love; and recognize that there is more to life than trying to having the fanciest car, the biggest home, the largest client list, the most money, trying to keep up with the Jones’, or trying to keep up facades. There is more to life than living in a constant state of drama, strife, fraud, unforgiveness, disappointment, self-condemnation, regrets, bitterness and trying to impress people who don’t give a hoot. Many people have said that 2016 was one of their worst years and they can’t wait for it to be over. Well, when you are living on the other side of imagination, each year can be your best year. It’s all in how you see it. I must say, I thought 2014 was great, then 2015 topped it. I thought 2015 was transformational, then 2016 arrived. And on every aspect, it was my best year!!! And I expect that 2017 will be EPIC!!!

On New Year’s eve, don’t focus on a new year’s resolution, but on a life plan that is resolute in what is meant for you. One of my favorite scriptures in the book of Jeremiah 29:11 says: “I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Whatever life you are living now, if it is not fulfilling, prosperous, hopeful, joyful, and a life of abundance (not just money, but abundance in love, joy, peace…..), I invite you to begin re-imagining life and seeking God on his divine purpose and will for your life. Write the vision down and make it plain. Pray over it, act on it by faith, expect God to do what he said he would do, do all that you can do, and know that, you too can begin living on the other side of imagination–which in essence, is living out all of your dreams and making them your reality.

Happy New Year.

Being The Only One

Posted by Teresa Whiteacre

At the core of my identity, I am a woman, a person of color, a mom, a Christian, an entrepreneur, a daughter, a sister, and a friend. Sometimes these identities particularly that of being a woman, a person of color, and a mom, worked to my advantage, and other times they were a disadvantage. Oftentimes, I’ve found myself being the “only one,” and it had an impact on my career in many ways, both positively and negatively. In this excerpt, I’ll share how it worked to my advantage.

For anyone who is a part of a non-dominant or minority group, you know exactly what being the only one means. For those who don’t, it means being the onlytheseat242w one who looks like you in a group, on a project, or in a meeting. It means that you stick out like a sore thumb and may not feel included or even welcomed by the dominant group. You may feel quite awkward like all eyes are on you with quiet whispers of, “why is she here?” I’ve been in Human Resources most of my career, and being a woman worked to my advantage because it’s a female-dominated field—67% of the HR field are women so I fit right in. As a matter of fact, it allowed me to have a voice, to be heard, and to be a “go-to” resource because the nature of Human Resources deals with answering employee questions, responding to problems, creating policies and programs, training and developing others, resolving conflicts, and managing performance. When I entered into this profession over 30 years ago, it was expected that you be caring, nurturing, a good listener, a mediator, and set policies for how people were treated.

Before entering into HR, I worked in banking as a Teller Supervisor, Associate Branch Manager, and Customer Service Rep. I was very good at my job. So good that I consistently exceeded expectations and sales goals, and was asked to develop and facilitate a training program for new CSRs. I did this for nearly a year and absolutely loved it. And when a position opened up in Human Resources to lead Training and Development, I jumped on it.

This was my first HR job but it would ultimately become my career path and open new doors of opportunity. After a year of being the Director of Training, bank officials approached me about taking on a broader role leading “cultural diversity training.” I was the only minority in the bank working in that role at the time. But as I’ve come to learn, many of my other colleagues who are also in the field of diversity and inclusion were either ‘volun-told’ (they didn’t volunteer) or selected because they too were ‘the only one.’ I can attest that none of us grew up saying, “one day when I get older, I want to be a Chief Diversity Officer or a Human Resources professional.” This work found us. And once we took on the responsibility of the work, it became our “calling” and life work.

But no one likes to be chosen just because they are the minority in the group. You want to be chosen because you are the best person for the job in skills, qualifications, and performance. But the way that I turned it into a positive impact for me was that I was willing to take a risk. I was willing to learn. And, I figured, “I’ve been a minority all my life, I’ve been a woman all my life, so I can probably figure this out.” I certainly understood the struggles of women and minorities and I could relate to them in the community. And I figured that I could do the research, find some experts, and partner with some consultants to learn about the technical aspects of the role and the new laws that necessitated a greater focus on the minority community (The Community Reinvestment Act). And this began my new career path in the work of Human Resources and Diversity & Inclusion.

So being a woman and a person of color did work to my advantage then, because it actually became a career path for me. It really was a game changer because it was that job at the bank, and that role in training and cultural diversity, that allowed me to see a path where I really felt like I added value, that utilized my strengths, and that aligned with my personal values. It was work that made me feel like I was impacting other people’s lives.

The other positive impact is that it allowed me to be like an ambassador; to be a champion for those who were not given a fair shot even when they were over performing; to help others grow, develop, and be successful. I was helping to influence and change policies that would have a positive impact on our community as well as to our staff.

I recognized, having been on the front line, how some policies really can and do have a negative and disproportionate effect for certain groups. So I was able to be a champion and an advocate for women, people of color, as well as others who were the “only one” in the organization. And that’s been my path now for the last 30 years.

However, those 30 years were not paved with the best experiences. There were some real disappointments and challenges that I faced being a woman and a person of color. I was marginalized, pre-judged, misunderstood, labeled, and discriminated against. On the webinar (Dec. 13, at 2 pm EST), I will highlight a few of them and what lessons and strategies I implemented in order to take control of my own personal power.

Join me for a FREE webinar on December 13, 2016, 2-3 pm ET, where I’ll give you a sneak preview into my new book “The Seat: How to Get Invited to the
Table When You’re Over-Performing but Undervalued”.

I will share some of my expert advice on how to add value to your organization and strategically position yourself for whatever seat you seek.
Register today for the webinar by completing and submitting the registration via the link below. Purchase your copy of the book today here:

Register Now Here!

The Gift and the Power of Your Presence

Posted by Teresa Whiteacre

This past week I attended a spiritual Leadership conference in Orlando, FL, not as a speaker, but as an attendee. I wasn’t dressed up, I didn’t have an entourage, I didn’t have any products with me, and I didn’t have on a name badge. I just wanted to be incognito amongst a crowd of thousands of other leaders and to absorb the great teachings of the speakers. On the second day of the conference, I went into the exhibit hall to visit some of the booths and to pick up trinkets (you know how we trick or treat all of the wonderful giveaways that companies have at their booths).

I visited a booth promoting Tampa. Since moving here just a few months ago, I’ve yet to really explore all of the beauty that the Tampa Bay area has to offer because I’m on the road 80% of the time speaking or training. I began talking to one of the women and for 10 minutes we exchanged introductory information about what we each did for a living. Turns out that she was a national sales manager for an event management company and her role was to book all of the hotels for large conferences that come to Tampa, handle their onsite logistics, and help them secure speakers. I shared a bit about what I spend 80% of my time doing on the road. Just then, the other woman in the booth interjected herself into the conversation and shared her name and what she did. Also turns out that she was an events coordinator for a large firm that worked with events all over Florida and was also responsible for securing speakers. She admitted that she was immediately drawn to me when I started speaking to her colleague and she knew that there was something different about me. She went on to admit that after overhearing what I did, she just had to jump in.

Immediately she indicated that she thought that I’d be the perfect speaker for a business women’s conference that was occurring in Tampa this fall. We exchanged business cards and I committed to stay connected. She promised to make contact with the Founder of the conference to let her know about me. By the time that I had finished visiting other booths and made my way to another session, she had visited my website, previewed one of my videos and immediately made a virtual (email) introduction to the Founder. Within the hour, the Founder had responded and indicated that she had already heard about me from someone else that had heard me speak at a recent conference and who happened to live in Tampa and was working on the programming for this women’s conference.

So, although I went to this conference incognito and was there for my own personal and spiritual development—with no name badge and no speaking role, I walked away with a speaking engagement at one of Florida’s premiere women’s conferences. It turns out that even though I had done no marketing, made no sales pitches, or made no efforts to talk about work, the gift of a powerful presence did it all for me.

This woman in the booth didn’t know who I was or what I did as I walked up to her booth. She said it was just an aura about me that appealed to her. Wow!!! This is what PRESENCE looks like and how it can work in your favor.

So here’s what I learned from this experience…..

  1. You can never hide your gift and you should never underestimate the power of your presence. It exudes from you even when you are not even trying. Your gift makes room for new opportunities and new connections that you would not otherwise have;
  2. Your website can make or break your brand. Don’t build a low budget website if you want high profile opportunities. It represents you and if it doesn’t appeal to a potential client and it doesn’t grab them in the first few seconds, you have lost an opportunity;
  3. I had her at hello. How you approach and treat people makes a big difference, and first impressions are key. We all know that they are formed within 3 seconds of meeting someone. You have to exude confidence, passion, conviction, and purpose in your body language, your appearance, your tone, and your demeanor;
  4. It’s always about connections.  Remember: everybody knows somebody who has something that could be a blessing to you OR you have something that could be a blessing to them. This speaks to my 3 ft. rule. If you come within 3 ft. of someone you should BE prepared to be a blessing or to receive one;
  5. Always walk in a spirit of expectation and readiness. You never know who is watching you, what opportunity is around the corner, or who may become your next client. Though I wasn’t at the conference to drum up business, I was ready when the opportunity presented itself. And that brings me to my last point.  
  6. Have your elevator pitch perfected. When she asked me what I did, I could articulate it in a clear, compelling, and concise way.

As a result of this connection, I now have someone who helps plan and execute conferences all over Florida and bigger than that…she knows other event planners who are seeking speakers all over the country. This was a BOOM moment, thanks to the gift and the power of presence. So never underestimate the power of YOUR presence.

For more strategies on how to build a powerful presence, check out chapter 4 on The Power of First Impressions, and chapter 5 on The Three P’s of Personal Branding in my book: “Reinvent Yourself.”

Are You the Master of Your Reinvention?

Posted by Teresa Whiteacre

Two years ago I had the pleasure of being featured on the cover of Smart Meetings Magazine. In the interview, I shared several personal experiences of when I’ve had to reinvent myself–whether from a career setback, a relationship breakup, a financial challenge, or a family issue. After hearing the stories and learning how I bounced back after every challenge and how I got ‘better and not bitter’, the writer coined me as a “Master of Reinvention.” I realize that “life is not what happens to you, but what you do with what happens to you.” We all face challenges in life, but not everyone can turn their setbacks into a comeback.

Since then, I’ve reflected on my life and realized that my successes today are built on the foundation of my past experiences and the life lessons (aka failures and mistakes) that I gleaned from them. My successes are also built on having courage, taking risks, a spiritual foundation of faith, a willingness to learn, knowing my purpose in life, and a strong network of supportive family and friends. When you have these characteristics, anyone can be a Master of their Reinvention.

So I thought it worthwhile to share this excerpt of the article from Smart Meetings Magazine because it is still relevant today,  particularly as many of us reflect on a new year and set new goals for success. It’s a story that I believe will help inspire and encourage many of you.



Shirley Davis has a message for you: You can reinvent yourself. You can increase your level of influence and success, on the job, in your career and in your relationships.

She ought to know—she’s done it, several times. The accomplished executive with a doctorate in business and organization management now speaks to companies and groups worldwide on lofty topics such as global workforce strategies and solutions, talent acquisition and management, and the importance of diversity and inclusion. But over the years, Davis has personally dealt with a bad manager, bad relationships and financial difficulties. She was a single mother of a daughter for 17 years, and a woman of color struggling to move up the corporate ladder. She wrote a book about her journey—Reinvent Yourself: Strategies for Achieving Success in Your Career, Personal Life, Relationships, and Finances—to help others learn what she has lived.

“Early on in my career, I was constantly being told that I was a great worker, yet I was not getting promoted,” says the 47-year-old Davis, CEO of SDS Global Enterprises, a strategic development solutions firm. “I would say to my manager, ‘What else do I need to do? I took the course, I got certification, I did everything you asked.’ I was told I needed a master’s degree, but after I got one, I still didn’t get promoted. I was training less experienced people who became my boss. After I got my Ph.D., I was told I was over-qualified. Every time I ran toward that carrot, it moved.”

Her manager gave her no explanation or coaching, and Davis eventually transferred out of the department and later left the company.

One of Davis’ maxims is “never get bitter, get better,” and she moved on to great success helping companies and individuals navigate the evolving 21st-century workplace, with all its complexity and diversity. She sees the challenges posed by a workforce that is no longer homogeneous; instead, there are multiple generations, different cultures, ethnicities, and countries of origin, growing numbers of women, people with disabilities and disorders, various styles of thinking, and much more.

“My expertise is helping organizational leaders understand how to get the most productive and engaged employees, how to keep great talent, and how to be a great people leader (many of which I didn’t have)” says Davis, known as “The Success Doctor.” “I share tips and strategies that have a major impact on companies’ bottom lines. I talk about leadership in the 21st century and the importance of more flexible workforce strategies to meet their needs.”

 Davis is particularly focused on talent management and diversity & inclusion issues, which are directly related to a company’s ability to thrive in a competitive global environment. She tries to be inclusive in her presentations as well. In the middle of her presentations—not at the end, as is usual—she’ll often ask the audience to answer questions, respond verbally to a video and tell her what they’re thinking; she runs insta-polls to capture the mood and feedback. Davis knows that more voices mean more opportunities to learn and share.

She also offers practical advice and insights. Regarding what professionals must do to increase their level of influence, for example, Davis posits “the four V’s”:


Davis suggests that finding the right mentor or sponsor can help. “You have to listen to voices around you, [people] who see in you what you don’t see in yourself,” she says. She said she first encountered this when “my kindergarten teacher saw something in me and asked me to be class valedictorian and deliver a speech. She recognized that she I had a gift for public speaking in addition to being a good student.” “So, I’ve been public speaking since I was a child.”

When she was 13, she entered her first pageant, drawn by an offer of a scholarship. One part of it was a speech competition. “I wrote my own speech. I delivered it with power and confidence,” Davis says. “I won the speech competition and placed 2nd runner up in my first pageant.”

She returned to the pageant the following year, and became Miss District of Columbia starting a 20 year pageant career. She went on to win Mrs. Oklahoma, Ms. Richmond and Ms. Virginia; in 2000 she won the national title of Ms. American United States. During her reigns, she honed her special skill even more. “I did press conferences, interviews, worked with speech coaches—I learned to master what I’m on this earth to do,” she says. 

Davis is the first to say that her path to success was not smooth. She started her career as a bank teller and worked her way up to senior-level jobs at Bank IV Financial (now Bank of America), Circuit City, Constellation Energy, Capital One, and most recently as an executive at the world’s largest HR association in the world, The Society for Human Resource Management. Though she was always identified as a “high  performer” at work, she suffered setbacks and challenges professionally and personally. Nevertheless, with the help of friends and mentors, and by studying executives and their strategies, reading self-help books, she learned how to reinvent herself.

“I rebounded, re-prioritized my goals, reset relationships and my repaired my finances,” Davis says. “When you let go of toxic relationships, regain your personal power,  and stop self-sabotaging and giving away your power, you have a better chance of reinvention.

One of her mentors is Les Brown, world renowned motivational speaker and former member of the Ohio House of Representatives. He has seen Davis’ growth and development as a speaker and entrepreneur in the decade since they met. “She’s lived an achievement-driven life,” Brown says. “She’s one of those people who IS the message of what she brings. She’s powerful.” 

Brown says he’s been a combination of teacher, coach and friend to Davis. “I’ve helped show her how to leverage her story and her knowledge,” he says. “She knows how to create value and impact. She orchestrates an experience when she presents, to create the desire within audience members to move their lives—create a shift in their lives—and reach higher. They see themselves differently and accept the challenge of being more self-driven and -directed.”

She continues to coach young girls competing in pageants on poise, public speaking, professionalism, and communication. Her daughter, Gabrielle Victoria, who watched her mother compete while growing up, started participating in pageant life about five years ago and won the first pageant she competed in–Miss Montgomery County Teen in Maryland in the Miss America Pageant System. Not surprisingly, she went on to win 4th runner up at the state Miss America Teen Pageant. 

Davis is intent on helping others reinvent themselves. She now devotes all her energies to SDS Global Enterprises, and in addition to having a full schedule of speaking engagements around the world, is planning to expand her scope. She’s writing more books, new programs, new keynote speeches, and serving on several boards. She’s ready for all of it. “Life is boring to me if I don’t have 10 projects going on. That’s why I have to constantly reinvent myself. There’s so much in me that I have to get it out and I don’t have time to play around, deal with drama, and become complacent.”

For more tips and strategies on Reinventing Yourself in 2016, download my eBook or order a hard copy of my book today at

And for a limited time only, I am offering The Ultimate Success Reinvention Package including 6 personal coaching sessions, books, and other development resources that will help you establish a Life Plan and begin to take your life to the next level. Only 25 slots available. New Year’s Special Offer for $1999 (a $5,000 value).  Click here to complete the form to get started with The Ultimate Success Reinvention Package.  Invest in yourself today and begin your journey of reinventing yourself for success. We look forward to working with you.

For more about Dr. Davis visit her at

“The Seat”–Strategies for How to Get it, Keep it, and Create One for Others

Posted by Teresa Whiteacre

Whether it’s trying to get it at the C-Suite table, trying to get your foot in the door of your dream job, trying to make a sale with a client, or asking for a promotion or a raise, getting ‘The Seat’ is one of the biggest challenges we face in our career progression. It’s illusive, it’s coveted, it’s competitive, and it’s tough to get. I’ve keynoted on it, conducted webinars and seminars about it, and written numerous articles on it for years, and yet it still remains a seat that only a select few attain. 

As a success and life coach and a 30 year HR veteran,  I’ve been asked by people from all walks of life and from various stages and ages including women, people of color, Millennials, Generation Xers, Human Resources professionals, military veterans, salespeople, insurance agents, consultants, and myriad others for strategies and tips on how to get a seat at the table. And while many are finding that they have a title such as Director, Head, Senior, Lead, and Chief, they are faced with the reality that it doesn’t necessarily translate into positional authority where they are sought out as key contributors when important decisions are being made, or that they have an open invitation to occupy The Seat on an ongoing basis. This is particularly common among people from an under-represented or minority group in the organization.

Getting access to The Seat means cracking the code of the unwritten rules that provide access, opportunity, and success inside the company.  It’s a seat of leadership at the table of decision makers within the organization, from the C-Suite level down to the departmental level. Getting a seat at the table is about being SEEN and HEARD; being heard and making a difference. It’s about being visible in the organization and being known by the key players. It’s about relationships–key relationships with the right people in the organization at the right time. And it’s not just WHAT you know (expertise is important), it’s WHO you know, AND what they know about you. It’s about having a BRAND that is reputable, credible, and impactful. But why is it that even if you have all of these qualities and have demonstrated the expertise and the performance, that you still can’t seem to get The Seat. Is it the company culture? Is it your direct supervisor? Is it senior leadership? Is it YOU?

If you don’t have The Seat and you aspire to get it, read further. If you already have a seat and want to keep it, read further. If you have a seat and have created value while at the table, please share with our readers what strategies you used to be successful while occupying seat. And even so, share some of the realities, the pains, and the obstacles you had to overcome to attain The Seat.

Below, I’ve listed 12 strategies that tend to be most common among those of us who have achieved a seat at the table. I would love to hear your thoughts and additional tips that worked for you. Share them in the comments section below.

 12 Strategies for Getting and Keeping The Seat

  1. Earn it. Don’t just expect to get invited.
  2. Know your organization’s business.
  3. Know your leaders.
  4. Be/become an SME.
  5. Demonstrate strong leadership skills.
  6. Get some quick wins. Measure outcomes and goal achievement, not work processes.
  7. Be a partner/collaborator across the organization; set others up for success.
  8. Demonstrate courage to speak up on the tough issues.
  9. Think innovatively, strategically, and futuristically.
  10. Secure a champion/sponsor for your efforts.
  11. Get out of the office. Your seat may not be at the boardroom or conference room table.
  12. Operate your office like a business owner.

Coming later this spring, I will be releasing my new book, “The Seat” in which I will go into much more detail about each of the strategies listed above. But I will get more personal. I will chronicle my journey to the executive seat as a woman, a person of color, a single mom, and as an HR and D & I professional, and a Sales executive. It was a road wrought with disappointments, setbacks, haters, failures, being marginalized, unjustifiably criticized, and held to a different standard. Yet, it is a story of perseverance, making sacrifices, compromises, right decisions, staying focused, becoming fearless, and being determined to succeed in spite of the obstacles. I’ll detail the 12 strategies and steps that I took to not only get The Seat, but to find my voice, and own my power while I occupied it. Stay tuned for pre-order announcements and the release of The Seat later this spring.

Don’t Set New Year’s Resolutions, Work Your Life Plan

Posted by Teresa Whiteacre

Like most hard working professionals, every year around the mid December time frame, I start to wind down projects, clean up paperwork, organize my desk and office space, minimize my demanding travel schedule, and bring outstanding financial matters to a close. I do it so that I can breathe a bit, rest a lot, reflect on successes and lessons learned, and set goals for the upcoming year. I call it my time my annual sabbatical/retreat/vacation, and time of reinventing myself.

A Change of Venue Is a Good Idea When Making Plans. I’ve developed an annual ritual, and I’ve done it for at least the last ten years, of just getting away to a tranquil, quiet, tropical paradise where I can think and reflect. I review my successes and accomplishments for the year just ending. I look at setbacks I’ve experienced and mistakes and missteps I’ve made. And I figure out what I need to do differently to reprioritize, revise, or just reinvent myself. Whatever time works for you, I recommend that you just get away and do it. I do it at the end of the year because the first part of the New Year is approaching and it’s the best time to be thinking about making a new start. I don’t recommend setting New Year’s resolutions, because by most accounts, 50% of them are broken by Valentine’s Day and 75% are broken before April 15.

I recommend having a Life Plan and setting goals towards achieving it. A Life Plan is a roadmap of your life’s purpose, mission, and vision that spans out over your lifetime. It identifies WHAT you want to achieve, HOW you want to achieve it (the goals and tactics) and what resources/skills/experience you need to make it happen, WHO you need in your life to support you, and by WHEN you will achieve certain milestones along the way. And each year, each quarter, or even monthly, you should refer to it so that you remain focused on your goals, and make any necessary adjustments that life’s realities require.

This time every year is a great opportunity to revisit your life plan (or for some, to establish one for the first time) to ensure that you are on track or to determine where you need to make adjustments. I use this time away to identify those things that I need to put into place so that I have the rest of the year to make those things happen. And I certainly don’t want to repeat the same mistakes of the previous year, so it’s important to inventory what worked and what didn’t.

For me, it means getting away from home. I recommend you do that too because, if you’re like me, being at home it’s too easy to look around and see everything that needs to be done. It’s so easy to get interrupted with phone calls when you’re in your own house. If you’ve got children at home as well, obviously, you’re not going to have a whole lot of peace and quiet since they are on school vacation. There are just too many distractions. So it’s good to get away—even if you have to limit it to a day or two. It might be an overnight trip; it might be to a friend’s house where you know that it’s going to be a quiet place where you can have peace. More often than not, friends will respect and appreciate your need for alone time.

So, as we set goals for ourselves, it’s important that we think about our broader life plan and not just set New Year’s resolutions that are often unrealistic, unachievable, and lack our true commitment. We need to make sure that, despite all that’s on our plate, we are reprioritizing our goals, staying on track, remaining focused, and making sure that we’re disciplined and directed toward accomplishing our true WHY in life. When we don’t take time for ourselves to smell the roses, reflect on each year, celebrate our successes, acknowledge our missteps, and reinvent ourselves for each New Year’s opportunities and possibilities, we take the risk of burning out, repeating mistakes, and becoming stagnant, bitter, and apathetic. Ultimately, it can mean vacating our life’s goals altogether and settling for “whatever life brings us” versus ‘creating’ the life that we want.

Reinvent Yourself Paperback book + Workbook bundleI challenge us all to establish a Life Plan. Begin with the end in mind. Where do you want to be 5 years from now, 10 years from now,
and in 20 years? What dreams do you continue to leave behind because they seem so elusive and unobtainable? What opportunities are you talking yourself out of because of fear? Are you your biggest obstacle to success? Do you have the wrong inner circle of relationships with people who are no better off or no more successful than you? I challenge you to get out of your own way. Get out of your head and step into your greatness this year. Reinvent yourself and start living the life that you were created to live. Only you can make it happen…And it starts with a made up mind and a plan. Begin your journey today.

For more tips and strategies on Reinventing Yourself in 2016, download my eBook or order a hard copy of my book today at


And for a limited time only, I am offering The Ultimate Success Reinvention Package including 6 personal coaching sessions, books, and other development resources that will help you establish a Life Plan and begin to take your life to the next level. Invest in yourself today and begin your journey of reinventing yourself for success. Only 25 slots available.

Here is the form you have to fill out and eMail to me when you want to try The Ultimate Success Reinvention Package.  

Let’s Celebrate, Not Desecrate CEOs for Making Diversity a Priority

Posted by Teresa Whiteacre

In an interview with CNN’s Poppy Harlow that aired last week, I couldn’t have been more proud to hear Rosalind Brewer, CEO of Sam’s Club talk candidly about

Rosalind Brewer, CEO of Sam’s Club

Rosalind Brewer, CEO of Sam’s Club

giving employees pay increases, how they were responding to the changing workforce, and to declare Diversity as a priority. When Poppy Harlow asked her about her commitment to diversity, she stated:

“It has to start with top leadership. I can tell you that even with myself, I have to live it also. My executive team is very diverse and I make that a priority. I demand it of my team and within the structure. And then every now and then you have to nudge your partners. And you have to speak up and speak out, and I try to use my platform for that to remind people. I try to set an example. I mentor many women inside my company and outside my company. Because I think it’s important.”

If you’ve been a practitioner, supporter, or champion of diversity for any period of time, these words should be music to your ears. You know how important it is to get CEO commitment and buy-in as a necessary first step. We all know that if you don’t have it, your D & I efforts are likely to stall or fail altogether. So instead of Rosalind Brewer being applauded and celebrated by most, she has been met with strong resistance, vile accusations of racism, protests against the company, and a call for her firing. I couldn’t have been more disgusted, frustrated, and saddened, yet reminded that in 2015 [might as well say ‘in 2016’ since the year is almost over], that we are still experiencing this level of small-minded rhetoric and hate speak rather than embracing what is our NEW NORMAL….Diversity is not only an American value, it is a global workforce reality, and it is a recognized business strategy by forward-thinking leaders. Those companies and individuals who don’t see it as such, will be faced with the reality that they ARE the minority and an obstacle to any progress towards making our nation even greater.


Let’s not forget that at Sam’s Club, a division of Walmart, diversity is not a new concept. The company established a Supplier Diversity Initiative more than a decade ago to encourage suppliers to prioritize diversity among sales teams. It has also increased its spending with diverse suppliers, meaning companies owned and operated by minorities, women, veterans and those with disabilities. In 1994, it spent $2 million with diverse suppliers; today, it does business with over 3,000 diverse suppliers, spending $13.5 billion with those firms.

Brewer is not the first CEO or C-Suite executive to speak out about the need for greater focus on diversity. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook called it out in her best-selling book,Lean In,which started a national conversation. But there was no call to boycott Facebook. Last year, a number of Silicon Valley Tech company executives from Google, Yahoo, and LinkedIn, revealed their need to focus on diversity by publicly stating how “white and male their workforces were.” They even went so far as to show their diversity representation (or lack thereof) vowing to do better ( But there was no call to boycott them.

Figures from Google, Yahoo, and LinkedIn showed their workers were more than 60 percent male; meanwhile, black and Hispanic workers often account for less than 10 percent of their worker population. In a groundbreaking disclosure, Google revealed how very white and male its workforce is—just 2 percent of its Googlers are black, 3 percent are Hispanic, and 30 percent are women. Google execs said that the transparency about its workforce—the first disclosure of its kind in the largely white, male tech sector—is an important step toward change.

Being pro-Diversity does not mean anti-white; it’s about being pro-equality, pro-inclusion, pro-equal pay, and pro-equal opportunity. Diversity benefits us all. It allows everyone the opportunity to contribute to a company’s and our society’s success.

And just like I applaud Sam’s Club CEO for speaking out about diversity, I also applaud these tech companies for proactively revealing that they had a problem and were committed to doing something about it. But just because Rosalind Brewer happens to be an African American female CEO (another minority group since less than 20 females head up Fortune 500 companies in 2015), shouldn’t brand her a racist for making diversity a priority, no more than I would characterize the Silicon Valley company executives as racists for NOT having a more diverse workforce.

There are many other forward thinking CEOs who understand the power and value of diversity. I don’t consider them racists or anti-white. I consider them honest, open-minded, and living in the 21st century. But we need more of them to speak up and to publicly call it a priority. I have been a Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer for several major global organizations and today, I educate, coach, and consult with CEOs, senior executives, and other business leaders on strategies for building a more diverse and inclusive workplace. I am pleased to announce that more and more of them ARE making it a priority inside of their organizations, and they are holding their leaders accountable. We don’t need to vilify them, coin them as racists or anti-white, protests their companies, or even demand their firing. We need to stand with them. Stand beside them. Stand for Diversity as an American value and as a global business strategy. I stand with Rosalind Brewer and all of the other forward-thinking CEOs and business leaders who are making diversity a priority in their organizations, and I stand with everyone who recognizes that talent and contributions come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and backgrounds. I will continue to do my part in making our world a better place through diversity and inclusion.

Dr. Shirley Davis, CSP, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is President and CEO of SDS Global Enterprises, Inc., a strategic development solutions firm that specializes in global workforce management enabling organizations to build inclusive and high performing workplaces. Visit us;

President & CEO Of SDS Global On WUSA9

Posted by Teresa Whiteacre

Dr. Shirley Davis, a recognized authority on the global workforce and Master of Reinvention talks to Chris Leary and Markette Sheppard about megatrends and business implications that will shape the workforce of the future.

Be Visionary, Be Visible, Be Vocal & Add Value

Posted by Teresa Whiteacre

10 Strategies for Getting a Seat at the Leadership Table

By Dr. Shirley Davis, SPHR


As the global workforce becomes more complex and competitive, the demand for HR professionals to be strategic and business-focused is no longer an option. It is a necessity. By doing so, HR professionals are not only providing leadership and strategic guidance, but they are also positioning themselves for a seat at the leadership table that so many covet.

However, in order to achieve that coveted seat, I believe that you must be a visionary,be visible,be vocal, and you must add value(what I’ve coined as my 4 V’s to Career Success). With that in mind, I have outlined a set of strategies to help HR professionals and other business leaders get that seat at the table with senior leadership.


Earn it. Don’t just expect to get invited.

This first strategy is earning that seat. HR professionals, diversity and inclusion practitioners, and other business leaders have to be able to show worth and value. We cannot assume that we should get the seat just because we have a senior title or position. We have to drive results, build trust, demonstrate credibility and high levels of competence, and show that the business really should not make a decision without HR’s participation.


At the core, the HR professional is responsible for ensuring that the organization has the right talent in the right areas, doing the right kind of work
that’s going in the right direction. Remember that people don’t leave organizations; they leave bad leaders.


Know your organization’s business.

Human Resources is considered the “people side of the business” but that doesn’t diminish the fact that it is still a business-within-a-business. And that meansbe-visionarythat HR must spend time outside of the HR department as often as possible getting to know the business.  It’s important to learn about the key areas of the business such as Communications, Finance, Sales, Operations, Production, Quality, Supply Chain and others. Understand the construct, the infrastructure and what the business objectives of each division are. Understand what the employees do and how they get their work done. In addition to knowing what’s going on in different divisions, learn about the customers, competitors, and marketplace trends that have an impact on your organization. All these things will inform how you build your HR strategy and how you can make valuable contributions to enabling the business’ success.



Know your leaders.

Meet and build relationships with the organization’s leaders —at all levels. Spend time with them; find out what’s important to them. Find out how they perceive you as an HR leader, how they perceive the role of HR and the work that you do. Discover their sweet spots and their pain points, meaning, what are they most passionate about, what’s keeping them up at night, and where are some of their business gaps and weaknesses. Also explore where are they most successful and why. Learn where you can make offers to assist in closing their gaps and solving their business challenges. Once they see you as invested in their business, and as a strategic partner, coach and advocate, they then will invite you to the table.


Be/become a subject-matter expert.

image1As HR or diversity and inclusion professionals, we must be knowledgeable and serve as trusted advisers and thought leaders to the other leaders in the business. Leaders — at all levels and in all business units and divisions — have a responsibility for some HR functions in the organization. As HR professionals, we have to help leaders hire great talent; coach, develop and manage performance; build great teams; create inclusive, respectful work environments; and adhere to state and federal laws. Just as other leaders in the company are experts in their areas of the business and know how to drive operational goals, HR professionals must demonstrate their expertise and drive HR results in the operation. Sometimes that means not always speaking in HR terminology. We must learn to speak the language of business such as understanding customer service terminology, knowing the products and services, understanding the metrics, and so on. Let that knowledge inform how you may need to shift, adjust or enhance your approach, so that your organization is able to be proactive in the marketplace. Lastly, understand what the future looks like for your business and industry and be able to offer solutions in a proactive versus reactive way.


Be a partner/collaborator across the organization.

Many organizations have transitioned their HR professionals into HR Business Partner (HRBP) roles in which they are located and embedded into the business units both physically and functionally.  It allows for better collaboration among the business leaders and HR; it enables HR to experience firsthand how the business operates on a daily basis; and it provides opportunities where human resources can offer more integrated solutions. By doing this, the strategic business partner model is showing great results and successes for the organization. For those HR departments that have not moved to this model, it’s still critical for HR to partner and collaborate across the organization and to be viewed by leaders as accessible and invested in their business units. At the same time, employees appreciate seeing HR as a visible entity understand the unique complexities and challenges that they face each day. Additionally, they expect that HR will be their advocates and champions and to solve these challenges and to make the work environment more inclusive, respectful, and a great place to work.


Our profession has gotten a bad rap for being too much in the weeds, too tactical and administrative—focusing on putting out fires, being hall monitors, completing stacks of paperwork, and organizing company picnics and holiday parties and not having time to be strategic.


Demonstrate strong leadership skills.

People want to follow leaders who have a vision, are transformational, are problem-solvers, are creative, are great coaches and mentors, and have integrity and conviction for what they do. Moreover, executives want to know how you get results and how you work with people at all levels. Do you have influence up, down and across the organization? Do you have integrity, act ethically and build great teams? Do you bring out the best in people and see great talent? Are you able to leverage that talent?

Human resources has the responsibility of helping to develop leaders who also can develop other leaders. Our role is critical because we have to ensure that current leaders are leading effectively while they are building leadership capability on their teams. At the core, the HR professional is responsible for ensuring that the organization has the right talent in the right areas, doing the right kind of work that’s going to drive the organization in the right direction. Remember that people don’t leave organizations; they leave bad leaders. If you are a leader and nobody is following you, then you are an ineffective leader.


Measure outcomes and goal achievement, not work processes.

Being able to demonstrate strong, sustainable results is important, so you need to get some quick wins and learn to measure outcomes and goal achievement, notimage2 just work processes. Just because you implement a new process doesn’t mean that it was successful. It may have costs a lot of money and took a lot of resources but may not be adding any value. Know your key metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) and back them up with research and data that shows how HR outcomes have saved money or generated revenue for the company or created greater efficiencies. To that end, keep an HR scorecard, dashboard or report card to track the tangible metrics that you can influence and control and that affect the bottom line. Make sure you are measuring the right things, because what might matter in one organization won’t necessarily matter in another. Part of getting to know the business, its leaders, the operational strategic plan and goals, and what’s keeping your senior leaders up at night is so that you can assist them in achieving their goals. And you want to be able to show how your efforts made a positive impact.


Speak up on the tough issues.

Talking about tough issues can be a real challenge. In our role as HR and diversity professionals, we deal with a lot of highly sensitive information and difficult situations. We must have the courage to point out bold and abrasive disrespect and be willing to talk about issues that may cause friction or conflict in the workplace and that may be unpopular. For example, you must be able to discuss with leaders employee complaints such as why no one wants to work for them, and why is there so much turnover in a particular area.  The topic of termination is another example that is never an easy conversation, but we have to have courage and strength to discuss it in a way that maintains a person’s self-esteem or doesn’t make leaders feel as if they are just bad leaders. Some may be, but we have to find ways to maintain a working relationship while also coaching them on what is and is not appropriate, what is and is not acceptable, and even what’s legal and illegal. You also have to be diplomatic and respectful.


Think innovatively, strategically and futuristically.

Our profession has gotten a bad rap for being too much in the weeds, too tactical and administrative—focusing on putting out fires, being hall monitors, completing stacks of paperwork, and organizing the company picnics and holiday parties and not having time to be strategic enough. This area — thinking innovatively, strategically and futuristically — is an opportunity to change that. This is a great opportunity to consider other options such as outsourcing some of the administrative tasks; automating some of the manual tedious tasks; and/or reprioritizing some projects and programs altogether. Rather than being asked or told what to do, HR professionals must be proactive in sharing trends, best practices, and opportunities or missed opportunities with leaders to move the function from an order-taker to a thought partner and thought leader model, as discussed earlier.


Reinvent Yourself—Invest in your development.

As the workforce continues to change and become more diverse, global, and complex, HR professionals and D & I leaders must upgrade and enhance their knowledge, skills, approaches, mindsets, and behaviors. Like so many companies who reinvented themselves amidst a global recession and in a V.U.C.A. world (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity), so must HR professionals reinvent themselves. Old models and mindsets that still resemble that of a personnel department, outdated systems that don’t embrace new technologies of the 21st century, and new competencies that aren’t developed such as agility, flexibility, authenticity, creativity, innovation, business acumen, strategic thinking, cultural competence, collaboration, and inclusion will cause HR professionals to remain tactical and administrative. Moreover, they will cease to be effective and relevant, and can be guaranteed that they will not get a seat at the table.

Using these 10 strategies will help any HR professional — at any level — be more strategic and business-minded, which is a necessity in today’s globally diverse and competitive environment. For success in your career, in your organizations and certainly in the HR profession, remember, you have toearn your seat at the table by being a visionary, being visible, being vocal and adding value.


image4Dr. Shirley Davis, SPHR is a well-respected thought leader on global workforce trends and solutions and owner of SDS Enterprises, LLC. She has been named one of the top 100 corporate executives America by Uptown Professional for four consecutive years and she has been featured and quoted on the Today Show, NPR,, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal, to name a few. She’s the author of the best-selling book, Reinvent Yourself: Strategies for Achieving Success in Every Area of Your Life.

If Companies Can Reinvent Themselves, So Can We

Posted by Teresa Whiteacre

For nearly a decade we’ve lived what Charles Dickens penned as “the best of times and the worst of times” in his 1859 novel: A Tale of Two Cities. Americans are recovering from one of the worst economic recessions since the Great Depression of the 1930s; major corporations have collapsed; people are being devastated by job loss, pro- longed unemployment, home foreclosures, overwhelming debt, loss of their entire life savings, and suffering with the highest rates of stress, anxiety, and depression that America has seen in decades. Economists and business analysts have characterized this as the Era of Disruption.

Additionally, companies are faced with increased competition, accelerated change, and overwhelming complexity. It’s in times like these that we see a clear distinction between good and great companies who reinvented themselves and were prepared for this season of disruption, and those that barely survived, became irrelevant and ultimately ceased to exist. Companies such as Blockbuster, Borders Books, Harold’s, Circuit City, Linens ‘n Things, Lehman Brothers, Kodak, and many others either filed bankruptcy or went out of business because they were not poised or positioned to navigate through these waters significant change.

The pizza giant, Dominos is a great example of reinvention. After consumer surveys revealed that their pizza tasted like cardboard, they went on national TV to admit that their product needed an overhaul. Subsequently, they introduced a new recipe and brand campaign. Lego, whose profits soared in 2009 to 63 percent when sales across the country were tanking, did so by expanding to Asia and increasing sales in Europe. Of course, a blockbuster movie and a celebrity en- dorsement from David Beckham, who admitted that he was building a Lego Taj Mahal, added an increased boost to their sales and brand. Starbucks continues to reinvent itself. Not only is it still opening stores in new markets such as China and Europe, but it now enjoys a strategic partnership with the “brand queen” herself—Oprah Winfrey, and launched the Oprah Chai Tea in 2014.

There are many other examples, but if these companies can reinvent themselves in this era of disruption, why can’t we as individuals do the same? As a success and leadership coach, and author of the bestselling book, Reinvent Yourself: Strategies for Achieving Success in Every Area of Your Life, I am intimately aware of the number of individuals who are at a crossroad in their lives and experiencing the effects of the global recession listed above.

In examining the strategies that successful companies employed in reinventing themselves, below are six key traits that they possessed and that we can apply to our own lives:

  1. They recognized that redefining what success looks like was a necessity. “What does success look like in your life?” is one of the first questions that I ask my coaching clients. Chances are, your definition today is different than it was 10 years ago, and what you thought was important then, is no longer a priority. As ‘life’ happens and we experience defining moments (good and bad), we have to constantly redefine what success looks and be willing to adopt new mindsets, skill sets, and strategies that enable us to shift with the vicissitudes of life.
  2. They were clear about their purpose and they stayed true to their mission and vision. Unfortunately far too many individuals can’t say the same. I ask this question of audiences around the world, “how many of you know your purpose and are living it?” Less than 25 percent of the hands go up. To identify your purpose, think about where you are the most gifted; what you would do if you knew you wouldn’t fail and you had the money to do it; and what you are most passionate about. Knowing your WHY brings meaning and fulfillment.
  3. They knew when to reprioritize their goals. As your definition of success changes, so will your goals. They should be aligned with your purpose and reviewed frequently for adjustments. If you want success in every area of your life, I suggest setting goals each year towards five key areas: Family/Household, Finan- cial, Health/Wellness; Professional and Career Development, and Spiritual Enrichment.
  4. They consistently rebranded themselves. Whether you believe it or not, all of us have a brand. Your brand is ‘who you are’ and ‘what others know/say about you.’ It’s how you present yourself and the impression and aura that you leave. In essence, it’s your communication skills. This is particularly important in your career because hiring, promotions, new assignments, and performance decisions are made based on what others know about you. If you don’t know your brand, ask your friends, colleagues, co-workers, and your direct supervisor and start reinventing your brand. 
  5. They made the tough financial decisions while also making great use of their corporate assets (physical, financial, and talent). This couldn’t be a more appropriate time to reestablish your financial management plan [i.e., budget], or to create one for those who have never done so. Examine spending habits and investments to deter- mine where to make adjustments. Identify multiple ways of utilizing your gifts and talents to make money, and learn from the mistakes that may have contributed to the financial losses you suffered during the recession.
  6. They built and capitalized on strategic relationships and alliances. It’s been said that “your network, can determine your net worth.” Evaluate your inner circle to determine whether you are surrounded by N.I.O.P.s (negative influences of other people) or O.Q.Ps (only quality people), and establish diverse and mutually beneficial relationships that will enable your success.

Reinventing yourself is not just another buzz word, nor is it a fad. It is a journey, and a real solution to the realities of life that both organizations and individuals will inevitably face. Those who respond proactively and intentionally will be better positioned to enjoy the best of times even when the worst of times hit. And those who do not, will become extinct.

The following article contains excerpts and strategies from the book, “Reinvent Yourself” by Dr. Shirley Davis. She is a 30 year HR veteran, a corporate senior executive, and President & CEO of SDS Global Enterprises, a workforce solutions firm that provides keynotes, consulting, coaching, and training on strategies for organizational and individual transformation.

5 Key Drivers of Increasing Employee Engagement and Loyalty Part 3 of a Three Part Series on Employee Engagement

Posted by Teresa Whiteacre

In the first two parts of this series on Employee Engagement, I laid the foundational knowledge about how the workforce has and will be changing in the next decade, how it is impacting engagement, what are the key drivers of engagement, who’s most engaged and who’s not, and what are companies doing to become Great Places to Work. In this final installment of my three part series, I leave you with twelve actions that you can implement in order to increase employee engagement and loyalty which will lead to increased productivity, performance, and business results.

  1. Provide clear and compelling direction and vision that empowers employees.
  2. Make retention strategies personal—not one size fits all.
  3.  Offer meaningful and challenging work.
  4. Invest in leadership development and people manager training.
  5. Provide open, honest, and balanced feedback/coaching.
  6. Maintain a focus on career growth and development.
  7. Allow more flexibility.
  8. Closely examine underperformance.
  9. Recognize and reward high performance. Know what motivates your people.
  10. Practice the Platinum Rule.
  11. Build inclusion into all of your business processes.
  12. Conduct stay interviews.

Please feel free to leave comments on other actions you can take to increase employee engagement and loyalty.

If you would like to access the recent webcast that I presented on this topic to see the slides and hear more in detail, click here:

Are you disengaged at work and want to reinvent yourself? Check out my new book. It is chockfull of strategies and tips that will empower you to achieve success not only in your career but in every area of your life. There’s also a companion workbook full of activities, assessments, and personal reflection questions that will walk you through your journey to transformation. Click here for more details

And be sure to sign up for my E-newsletter—The Success Doctor’s Digest

Reinvent Yourself Paperback book + Workbook bundle

Keep the Dream Alive by Reinventing Yourself

Posted by Teresa Whiteacre

MLKing Day Keynote at Averett University, January 19, 2015

All over the nation on Monday, January 19th communities united to celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. including in Danville, VA where Averett University held their annual MLK Community Celebration and Day of Service. I was honored to be the luncheon keynoter for this program where more than 300 students, faculty, administrators, community and business leaders, and city officials gathered for the celebration. Several media outlets were also on hand and provided great coverage. See here for the highlights on the local news.

Following are excerpts from my speech that received a standing ovation from the audience.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a man of strength, tenacity, vision, and responsibility. And on this special occasion, nearly 50 years since his “I Have a Dream” speech, I stop and ask the question: “How do we keep the dream alive?”

Surely Dr. King would be proud of some of our major accomplishments. We’ve achieved many firsts for minorities such as the first black President, first black Secretary of State, first black female CEO of a Fortune 500 company, first Hispanic Supreme Court judge to name a few. We’ve seen many blacks become millionaires and billionaires; more women and minorities enrolled in college than any other time in history, we’ve seen more minority owned businesses start up and succeed; and corporations, municipalities, institutions of higher learning, and government agencies have put in place the role of Chief Diversity Officer as an outward commitment to diversity, equality and inclusion. But let’s be clear: having these firsts, doesn’t mean that we now live in a post-racial society as some have postulated.


Dramatic shifts have occurred in the world since 1968 when Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis, TN. It has become more global, more diverse, and hyper-connected. Economists and business leaders have called this a VUCA world (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity) where we’re experiencing increased competition, accelerated change, and overwhelming complexity. As a result, many organizations have restructured, reorganized and reinvented themselves. And those who did not, cease to exist.


If we are going to keep the dream alive and live in this new global reality, we must reinvent ourselves and BE the change that we seek. In order to reinvent ourselves:

1.) We must have a dream. Martin Luther King not only had a dream, but he was committed to his dream; he worked towards his dream; he was willing to die for his dream. Dr. King showed us that there is power in having a dream. There is power in knowing your WHY. The problem is that too many people don’t know their WHY. And too many people have dreams that are unfulfilled and lying dormant.

Dr. King’s dream was that one day his four children would not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. He had a dream that one day this nation would rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “that all men are created equal.” He had a dream so that we could all have a dream and have the opportunity to see that dream realized.

But there was a price to pay for his dream and he was willing to pay it.

There were harsh realities and bitter disappointments that Dr. King and other pioneers had to endure so that we could enjoy the freedoms that we do today. There were struggles and setbacks, defeats, and discouragement, denouncements and death threats, but when you know that what you are doing is making a difference, and it’s your life’s calling, you have to be willing to suffer for it; you have to be willing to speak out against, and you have to willing to die for it.

Dr. King said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in times of comfort and convenience but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” He taught us that any dream worth having is a dream worth fighting for. So if you don’t have a dream today, I urge you to honor Dr. Martin Luther King’s memory today by getting one.


The second thing that we must do in order to reinvent ourselves and keep the dream alive:

2.) We must invest in ourselves. That includes investing in education, economic opportunities, financial empowerment, and in your community through service to others. Education is the key to economic empowerment, personal fulfillment, and to unlocking doors to opportunity. Dr. Martin Luther King said that Intelligence plus character is the goal of true education. I don’t believe that Dr. King would be too pleased with the state of education today.

Too many schools are still segregated and substandard. In every indicator of performance, African American children are at the bottom. Just 68% of them are graduating from high school. Schools are remain underfunded and overcrowded. There is evidence that shows that if you stay in school and finish college, you make $1 million more dollars over your life span than if you don’t stay in school; that you live 10 more years than if you dropped out of high school; you vote, give blood and volunteer more when you have an education. The research on post-secondary education/college is unimpeachable and unambiguous. We have a responsibility to ensure that our children become graduates and not drop outs and that they become gainfully employed and not willfully imprisoned.

We have to provide economic opportunities that afford us new jobs and business enterprises and greater equality in terms of pay and promotions; that provides everyone a fair shot and that opens doors of opportunities for all, not just a few.

In terms of economic power, there are 6 Black, 9 Asian and 8 Latino CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies. From 2002 to 2007, the number of Black-owned businesses increased by 60.5% to 1.9 million, more than triple the national rate of 18.0%, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Business Owners. Even so, Black owned businesses only make up 7% of all U.S firms and less than a half percent of all U.S business receipts.

Probably most disturbing, after adjusting for inflation, the median net worth for Black households in 2011 ($6,446) was lower than it was in 1984 ($7,150), while White households’ net worth increased 11% for the same time period. In comparison, the median net worth of White households was $91,000. In 2013, the average household income for blacks was $34,598, Hispanics $40,000 and whites $58,270.

Additionally, we have to address areas of systemic and institutionalized barriers to achievement and be willing to be part of the solution versus part of the problem because an injustice to one is an injustice to all.

And lastly, we have to invest in our communities.  We have to revitalize our neighborhoods and restore pride where it was lost.  We have eliminate black on black crime and drug dealing as a career choice among our youth. We need more men to mentor our young black men and show them what it means to be a man, a present and active father, and a career professional. We have to provide resources, programs, and opportunities that empower individuals to gain independence and not co-dependence.

This is what Dr. King dreamed of when he said, Life’s most persistent and urgent question is what are you doing for others? That’s why we have a day of service all around this nation. I hope that you will participate in serving your community and serving others.

Dr. Shirley Davis speaking at a podium at Averett University

3.) We must leave our own legacy. You must make a difference in other people’s lives by the life that you live. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. The late Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Live your life every day with a purpose. Leave a legacy. Like Dr. King, leave a lasting legacy of love, service, truth, and of humility. Your legacy may not be that you earned a doctorate degree. It may not be that you won a Nobel Peace Prize. It may not be that you were a drum major for justice. It may not be that you left behind a lot of money. But let it be that you tried to love your fellow man; that you served your brother and sister; that you lived a committed life; that you lived your life in truth, that you helped somebody along the way so that your living was not in vain.

May Dr. Martin Luther King’s holiday not be limited to a great celebration and program like the many that are going on across the nation. But may it be reflected in our dreams, in our lives, and in our legacy.

As you reinvent yourself and keep the dream alive, may the world be a better place because you were you here.

Dr. Shirley Davis posing for a group picture at Averett University


My Top 14 Highlights and Most Memorable Moments of 2014

Posted by Teresa Whiteacre

I’m a big believer that it’s not how you start something, it’s how you finish it. To say that 2014 was a transitional year for me would be an understatement; yet I can also say that it ended up being one of my most phenomenal years. By the end of 2013, I was clear on what my vision and goals were for 2014. Every year in December I take a personal retreat away from family, friends, home, work, and church to not only get some much needed rest and relaxation, but to reflect on the year and to assess what I did well, what I could have done better, celebrate my successes/achievements, and set new goals. This year I came to Cabo San Lucas and plan to stay in paradise for 8 days. As I reflect on 2014, I am amazed at how fast it has come and gone and yet, how much has happened. Here are my most memorable moments of 2014:

1. One major decision that I made at that retreat was to take the leap of faith and to finally venture out on my own to launch SDS Global Enterprises full time. I had been contemplating it for several years but I knew that it had to be done at the right time, in the right way, and with the right planning. And honestly, I had to build up the courage and faith to do it. I knew that it would mean living without a steady paycheck, great benefits, and all of the other perks that come with an executive level job. But in February of 2014, I walked into my boss’ office and delivered the news that I would be leaving SHRM in July (after our Annual Conference which is SHRM’s largest conference that occurs every year in June). And now, the rest is history. Read my blog on the announcement of my departure from SHRM

Dr. Shirley's Brother2.Not all of my most memorable moments in 2014 were exciting and joyous. My closest and favorite cousin who I grew up with and was like one of my brothers broke the bad news to me in January that he had been given less than 6 more months to live. So in January we went to pick him up in North Carolina and brought him to stay at my home for 7 days. As soon as we got home, it snowed 18 inches and we were snowed in for a week. We spent every minute together laughing, crying, sharing memories, and taking pictures. He transitioned into heaven on April 8, 2014. What I was reminded from this experience was that life is so precious and that each day is a blessing. Tomorrow is never promised and you should never take for granted that your loved ones will be here tomorrow. As busy as I was, I made time for him and I’m so glad that I did.R.I.P. Robert Darren Davis.


3.I was asked to join the Board of Directors of the National Speaker’s Association—DC Chapter as Secretary. I couldn’t be more honored to serve.


4.Fortunately, I have a dad who has been in Car Sales for over 30 years so when it was time to purchase a new car, I put in my order for a Chocolate Fudge Ford Edge Limited Edition. And he delivered.

Chocolate fudge Ford Dodge

5.Being asked to keynote at a SMART Meetings Conference at the Park Hyatt in Washington, DC. was a big deal. It resulted in being featured on the front cover of their July issue as a Master of Reinvention and on the front page of their website.

Dr. Shirley at podiumSmart Meeting magazine cover

6.I finally published my book, which I call my labor of love. I took on the role of life coach, mentor, and business executive and included more than 100 strategies that will enable you to transform your career, personal life, finances, and your relationships. As of today, more than 1,000 copies have been sold. In 2015, I hope to distribute it globally and sell more than 5,000 copies. If you need to Reinvent Yourself so that you can start your year off right and set yourself up for a successful 2015, click here for more details

Books category

7.I attended the National Speaker’s Association Annual Conference in San Diego and I learned so many strategies, tips, and techniques that were instrumental in my launch into the full time speaking business this year. A highlight was being asked to speak at the Global Speaker’s Federation while there. What an honor to be amongst my peers.


8.I am so proud of my daughter. She is truly a ‘chip off the young block’ (LOL). In a lot of ways she is following in my example as an aspiring international performer, a former beauty queen, and a straight A student. She is also gorgeous, talented, grounded, passionate, and she’s my best friend.

Dr. Shirley's DaughterFelicia Reshad

She recently competed in her university’s talent showcase and took first place. I know that we as parents tend to exaggerate about our children’s talents, but believe me when I say, “this girl can sang.” Listen to her here and judge for yourself:

9.I had the honor to share the stage and to meet so many fascinating people in 2014. I was honored to be asked to be the Honorary Chair at the 2014 International Women’s Luncheon on behalf of the Texas Women’s Empowerment Foundation. I was also asked to be an executive coach at Diversity Woman Leadership Conference, the panel moderator for the National Sales Network’s Executive Women’s Session, and to be the closing keynoter at the National Association of African Americans in HR.  Here are a few that you may know.

other1other2professional woman


10.Attending the Executive Leadership Council’s Annual Gala featuring Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, BET’s Debra Lee, and hosted by Brandy and Entertainment Tonight’s Co-host, Kevin Frazier escorted by my husband and my good friend and the Founder/CEO of Diversity Woman Magazine, Sheila Robinson.

Dr. Shirley with her Husband at a formal eventSheila Robinson and Dr. Shirley Davis

11.Part of my business model when I branched out into my own was to engage in strategic alliances and partnerships in addition to my own channels of business. I am pleased to have established those with SHRM, Cook Ross, the Winters Group, and HR Spectrum as a Consultant and Contractor where ALL of my expertise in design, development, delivery, coaching, and consulting have been fully utilized. Looking forward to forging new partnerships in 2015.

12.I’m not ALL work and no play J. My husband and I spent our wedding anniversary at the Fontainebleau in Miami Beach and Boca Raton. We had a blast.

boca raton


13.The companion study guide to the Reinvent Yourself book was released in September. This workbook has 120 pages of personal assessments, reflection questions, and exercises that will take you on your personal journey of reinventing yourself in 2015. If you need to Reinvent Yourself so that you can start your year off right and set yourself up for a successful 2015, click here for more details

And be sure to sign up for my E-newsletter—The Success Doctor’s Digest, and check out my book and workbook for Reinvent Yourself.

Reinvent Yourself Workbook coverReinvent Yourself Paperback book + Workbook bundle

14.My end of the year retreat to Cabo San Lucas was absolutely fabulous. Every year for a decade I have celebrated the Christmas holiday with family and then headed out of town to some paradise by the water, with lots of sun and sand. I get rested, refreshed, refueled, and ready to take on a new year. This year was no different. Watch out 2015. I am ready to take you by storm and go to higher heights and deeper depths in my business, my personal relationships, my finances, my spiritual life, and in my health/well-being. I thought 2014 couldn’t get any better…..but I am excited to see what great things are in store for me in 2015.


If you haven’t already reflected on your year, now is the time to do so. If you don’t take inventory on what worked well and what didn’t, you are apt to repeat your performance. Here’s wishing you a prosperous, profitable, and productive 2015.


5 Key Drivers of Increasing Employee Engagement and Loyalty: Part 2 of a Three Part Series on Employee Engagement

Posted by Teresa Whiteacre

In part 1 of this three part series on Employee Engagement I outlined some of the dramatic shifts that will continue to shape the workforce in the next 10 years making it the most diverse, global, hyper-connected and virtual workforce than any other time in history. I shared some human capital challenges that will plague organizations who do not focus on employee engagement. I described the current state of employee engagement according to the latest findings from Gallup, Towers Watson, and the Hay Group revealing that the total number of employees who are Actively Engaged is only 30%, up 1% from the prior two years. That means that 70% of employees are Disengaged and Actively Disengaged. Finally, I listed five of the most common drivers of employee engagement including the work itself, the management environment, flexibility and inclusion, the ability to learn and grow, and trust and meaning from Leadership.

In this series, I will further describe each of these drivers and identify who’s most engaged and who’s not and why. I’ll also share what companies who are listed as Best Places to Work are doing to address this issue.


The Work Itself—Employees report that they want work that is challenging, utilizes their skills and grows new ones, provides meaning, and contributes to the company’s objectives.

The Management Environment—Employees today want leaders and not managers. Managers ensure that rules are adhered to, while leaders guide and inspire others to perform at their best potential. Employees also want an environment where leaders are authentic, respectful, inclusive, visionary, consistent, fair, capable and knowledgeable and invested in their development.

Flexible and Inclusive Workplace—More and more research reveals that inclusion and workplace flexibility are key drivers of why people choose to work for companies, why they stay, and why they are more productive. Organizations must adopt flexible work arrangements to accommodate the 21st century workforce in which nearly 40% of them report that they would even be willing to take a pay cut if they could enjoy more flexible work arrangements.

Ability to Learn and Grow—Employees want to take on broader assignments and new projects that will enable them to grow new skills and experiences. It doesn’t always have to be promotional opportunities (as they are often slim the further you go up the organization). Help them to understand how lateral moves and stretch assignments can be meaningful and have longer term payoffs in their career.

Trust and Meaning from Leadership—Trust in leadership tended to be the most common reason why employees were disengaged at work. They want to see leaders “walk the talk,” behave consistently with the organization’s core values, and be genuine and authentic in their communications. In other words, tell them the truth about organizational changes, the state of the company, and the real reason behind decisions that are made.


So Who’s More Engaged and Who’s Least Engaged?

According to the Gallup Organization:

I would love your thoughts on why you think these statistics ring true for each group.

Examples of What Companies are Doing to Increase Employee Engagement and Loyalty

There are a number of companies who have been consistently identified as Great Places to Work because of how they have built cultures of inclusion, flexibility, great leadership, and engagement. For example, Google has created an environment for employees to thrive that goes beyond stocking its kitchens with free gourmet food and on-site laundry service. Its corporate culture is one of the reasons it is consistently ranked a great place to work. Recreational Equipment (REI) uses social media to get intimate with employees. Its online “company campfire” offers associates and executives the ability to share their thoughts and participate in lively debates and discussions. More than 4,500 of its 11,000 employees have logged in at least once since it was launched last year– demonstrating that having a voice matters to engagement. DHL Express takes employee engagement seriously in the office, on the roads and in the air. It has an incredible culture of thanking employees, whether that’s through monetary rewards, honoring top performers at its annual Hollywood-style black-tie event or pinning notes of appreciation on the company corkboard. At SAP, communication is core to the culture. Employees understand the “why” behind their jobs – what they’re expected to achieve and why it’s important to the greater good of the organization. Collaboration is valued and teams communicate globally to get projects accomplished. Leaders listen to employee feedback and encourage it.

These are just a few examples of how companies are building greater employee engagement. They understand what employees are thinking; they create an intentional culture; they demonstrate appreciation for contributions at any level; they commit to open, honest communication, and they know how to communicate the organization’s stories.

In the final installment of this three part series (coming Jan. 13, 2015), I will share twelve strategies for how organizations and leaders can increase employee loyalty and engagement and how they can contribute to business success and greater profitability.

If you would like to access the recent webcast that I presented on this topic to see the slides and hear more in detail, click here:

Are you disengaged at work and want to reinvent yourself? Check out my new book. It is chockfull of strategies and tips that will empower you to achieve success not only in your career but in every area of your life. There’s also a companion workbook full of activities, assessments, and personal reflection questions that will walk you through your journey to transformation. Click here for more details

And be sure to sign up for my E-newsletter—The Success Doctor’s Digest

Reinvent Yourself Paperback book + Workbook bundle

5 Key Drivers of Increasing Employee Engagement and Loyalty: Part 1 of a 3 Part Series on Employee Engagement

Posted by Teresa Whiteacre

This past week I conducted a webcast at the request of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), whom most of you know is where I worked for the past 8 years as Global Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer until launching my own global workforce solutions firm this summer. I am pleased to continue to work with SHRM on a contractual basis as a thought leader, speaker, and facilitator of their curriculum. I was asked to focus on a topic that—according to recent research—is one of the most important business challenges for CEOs today—Employee Engagement. More than 600 registrants joined me live, and I’m sure many more will access throughout 2015 (that’s how long SHRM keeps its webcasts archived). Here are a few highlights that I shared about the current state of the workforce and why employee engagement should be top of mind for every HR professional and other business leaders.

The workforce will continue to shift dramatically over the next 10-20 years making it more diverse, more global, more hyper-connected, and virtual. For example, by 2020 50% of the workforce will be made up of Millenials; by 2030, 54 percent of new workers will be people of color; today, the global workforce is nearly 50% women; the buying power of people of color is estimated to be $3 Trillion; nearly 40% of the workforce today works part-time; and 10% of the world’s population has a disability; to name a few. Additionally, in a recent study released by Deloitte Consulting entitled, “Global Human Capital Trends 2014: Engaging the 21st Century Workforce, human capital challenges will plague organizations who don’t focus on employee engagement NOW. The list below illustrates a few of the grave results reported by CHROs and CEOs.


Moreover, only 40% of companies are focused on Employee Engagement, and 87% of C-Suite executives recognize that disengaged employees is the biggest threat to their businesses. When I conducted a live poll on the webcast asking: “for how many of you does your organizations administer employee engagement surveys at least once a year?” the results were pretty consistent with the stats above—46% reported yes. While 52% said that they were not. To NOT be focusing on this critical issue is a “going out of business” strategy because employee engagement is a key driver for talent acquisition, talent productivity and performance, and talent retention. There is a real cost to the bottom line when employees quit but don’t leave; when employees show up at work to get a paycheck but don’t produce; and when employees sabotage your employer brand and undermine every new program, policy and project. The Gallup Organization, Towers Watson, the Hay Group, and other global consultancies have been tracking Employee Engagement stats for years. The reality is that in most of the research, only 30% of employees across the country are engaged (globally only 35% are engaged). That means a whopping 70% of employees are either disengaged or actively disengaged. Either way, it costs companies billions in lost productivity and turnover.

What are the 5 Key Drivers of Employee Engagement?

  1. The work itself
  2. The management environment
  3. Flexibility and inclusion of the workplace
  4. Ability to learn and grow
  5. Trust and meaning from leadership

In my next blog (coming Dec. 20, 2014), I will further describe each of these and identify who’s most engaged and who’s not and why. I’ll also share what companies who are listed as Best Places to Work are doing to address this issue. Finally, in part three of this series (coming Jan. 2, 2015), I’ll outline 12 strategies that you can implement to increase employee engagement and loyalty.

If you would like to access the recent webcast that I presented to see the slides and hear more in detail, click here:

Are you disengaged at work and want to reinvent yourself? Check out my new book. It is chockfull of strategies and tips that will empower you to achieve success not only in your career but in every area of your life. There’s also a companion workbook full of activities, assessments, and personal reflection questions that will walk you through your journey to transformation. Click here for more details

And be sure to sign up for my E-newsletter—The Success Doctor’s Digest -> here

Reinvent Yourself book and Workbook Bundle



“Bring Your Dog to Work Day” Every Day?

Posted by Teresa Whiteacre

Nestle's logo

Let me first open this blog with a disclaimer: MUST LOVE DOGS TO APPRECIATE THIS POST!!!! This week I had one of the most unique experiences while visiting a client’s site. It was Nestle Purina in St. Louis, MO. Much of the talk about Missouri these days is all about what’s going in Ferguson, which happens to be 20 minutes away from the client’s site. But I wasn’t there to protest. I was there to conduct a full day of sessions on Diversity & Inclusion, Unconscious Bias, Best Practices of Successful Business Resource Groups, Leadership, and Career Success. As I entered the lobby and approached the receptionist’s desk, I noticed a life size painting that draped the wall as the centerpiece of the lobby. It was this photo affectionately referred to as their Board of Directors:


Immediately after receiving my visitor’s badge, my hostess began to walk me towards the conference center down the corridor. The lobby was quite active as it was 8:00 am and associates were beginning to arrive to work for the day. But much to my surprise, I began to see workers arriving with dogs (on lashes of course) and I became intrigued. I turned to my hostess with all seriousness and asked, “Is today bring-your-dog-to-work day?” She laughingly replied, “I guess you could say that, but every day is bring-your-dog-to-day here at Purina.” Being a dog parent to 3 dogs and a major dog lover, I was in “dog heaven.”   I couldn’t have been more impressed.

Once I got set up in their new state of the art training auditorium, I conducted the 2 hour first session with nearly 60 HR professionals at Nestle Purina, and it went great. But after the session, while lunch was being served, I couldn’t resist the urge to request a tour of the facility to see how the dogs live at work every day. My first introduction was to Duke and Ralph.

dogAs you can see, dogs live the cubes with their owner and have doggie gates. Where the names of the associates appear on their offices/cubes, so does the name of the furry friend. Many of the cubes were their home away from home and were lined with their favorite toys, their beds, and water tins. In the back of the building is a dog park where they can go for a walk and to release. Dogs feel quite at home while at the office and everyone knows each other’s pet.

I was curious and asked the question if they had a pre-requisite that anyone working at Purina MUST LOVE DOGS, and the answer was, officeNO. I assume however, that it would be quite difficult to work there though and if you don’t like dogs, are afraid of dogs, or are allergic to pet hair.  Nestle Purina has become the benchmark for how to work, live, and love your pets at work. They have shared their policies with other companies who have implemented their pet policy. In addition to their great pet policy, I had the opportunity to hear their CHRO reaffirm how important it was for them to take control of their work and life balance, prioritize and determine if they really needed to be in all meetings, and to be sure to stay home if they are sick. I so appreciated hearing this come from the CHRO. He was walking the talk!! Kudos to Steve.

I’m thrilled that all sessions went so well that I was invited back next year.  But I have to admit that the highlight of my visit was seeing how Nestle Purina represents their company and values so well, and the new and innovative way to make our four-legged friends feel welcome and appreciated at work.


How Serious Are You About Achieving Success? Your Checkbook May Reveal the Answer

Posted by Teresa Whiteacre

By Dr. Shirley Davis

An excerpt from my newly released book, Reinvent Yourself, July 2014


I have coached many professionals, at various levels and stages in their careers, including entry-level and mid-level supervisors and managers, officers up to and including vice presidents, senior VPs, chiefs, and CEOs. And I often ask them how they define success in their lives. Consistently, their definitions have varied based on gender, age, ethnicity, and their stage in life. But there are some commonalities. Here are a few examples of some of the most common responses I hear.

Some say that success is about having a great job and making good money. Some say their fulfillment lies in their personal relationship with their spouse or their significant other and with their children. Some feel that success is being personally wealthy and being able to buy anything they want. It’s having the car of their dreams. It’s winning the lottery. Some even tell me that success is being spiritually grounded in their faith, having good health, and living a long life. For others, success is retiring and being able to travel around the world.

I’m sure that many of these definitions resonate with you, as they do with most Americans. Statistics confirm that 40 to 45 percent of Americans—that’s nearly 100 million Americans—make New Year’s Day resolutions and set goals under the premise that their lives will be better off and more successful if they accomplish these new goals. The most common New Year’s resolutions include losing weight and getting healthier, finding a new job, spending more time with loved ones and friends, quitting smoking, and getting out of debt. Even so, according to a recent USA Today article, nearly 50 percent of those goals are abandoned by the end of January, and only 40 percent of them are maintained beyond six months.

Where Do You Invest Your Time, Talent, and Treasure?

One way I encourage my clients to consider how they define success is to have them look at how and where they invest their mental, emotional, financial, spiritual, and physical energy. If I were coaching you, I’d want to know what you really spend the majority of your time doing and thinking about, and planning for and working toward. If I looked at your daily planner and your checkbook, and at your debit and credit card statements, what would it tell me about what’s most important to you?

I’m a big believer that where one invests one’s time, talent, and treasure is a clear demonstration of where one’s heart is committed. Where you commit your resources and energy says a lot about who you are and where you’re going, where you’ve been and what you believe, and what legacy you will leave. One of my favorite authors, John Maxwell, has written a number of great books on success and leadership (How Successful People Think; The Difference Maker; 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, to name a few). He describes success as a journey. It’s like a cross-country trip—just use your imagination and envision such a trip with me. It’s a trip that’s filled with beautiful scenic views and signs and guideposts. But also along the way, the trip comes up against rocky roads, hills, valleys, mountains, and deserts. So in order to get to the right destination, you have to have a roadmap or a navigation system. Unfortunately, too many people take trips without using a roadmap and refuse even to ask for directions when they get lost.  In other words, success doesn’t just happen. Like most things, it requires that you go through a process or a journey in order to achieve it. You may ultimately reach your destination, but along the way you will experience some peaks and some valleys. Successful people know this, and they’re willing to take this journey.

They actively invest in themselves. They require constant self-discovery. They’re growing and developing new knowledge, skills, attitudes, and perspectives. Plus, they’re meeting new people and expanding their network, and doing things that benefit others as well as their society.

Unfortunately, most of us are not making the right investment of our time; we are not doing things that lead to success. Research tells us that the average American spends 20 to 28 hours a week—that’s three to four hours a day!—watching television, when we could be using that time developing fresh skills or learning something new. The Consumer Expenditure Report published in 2011 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that individual consumers only spent $945 on education for the year. (This includes personal development activities such as attending a seminar/workshop, taking a college course, learning a new language, etc.) And purchasing reading materials made up only 0.2 percent of the average consumer’s income, which equates to about $118 a year. This means the average consumer spent only $9.83 a month on reading materials—Yes, that’s correct: only $9.83 a month!

A Huffington Post/YouGov poll conducted in October 2013 revealed that 28 percent of Americans haven’t read a book in the past year. And, what’s even more shocking, the Consumer Expenditures Report for 2011 mentioned above revealed that the average consumer spent nearly $2,700 on entertainment, almost $500 on alcoholic beverages, $323 on tobacco products, $588 on personal care products, and over $1,800 on clothing.

Wow! I don’t know about you, but the message is clear. If I were to look at the average American’s bank statements and credit card bills and daily planners and see where they’re investing most of their time and their money, I’d likely see time spent at the movies, video stores, concerts, shopping malls, liquor stores, restaurants, hair care product and nail salons, day spas, and other personal care shops. But I wouldn’t see much time spent at the library or buying a book from the local bookstore, or attending a seminar at the local college, or even listening to motivational CDs or DVDs or MP3s—and I certainly wouldn’t see time spent enrolling in a career or professional development program.

If you’re one of those consumers who finds him or herself spending frivolously and wastefully without anything to show for it at the end of the year, or at the end of each month, now is the time to redefine what success means to you.

Is success for you a repeat of that vicious cycle of dressing up outward appearances and having a short-lived good time on the weekend, only to wake up every day trying to fill a void and facing an emptiness caused by a lack of fulfillment? Do you want to enjoy life or endure life? Do you want success in every area of your life? If so, it’s time to Reinvent Yourself. And what better time than now to set forth a new direction and make the necessary investments towards your success. As 2014 comes to a close in less than 45 days and 2015 arrives, start by investing in your personal growth and development.

Remember, success starts with oneself, and it works its way outward—not the opposite. And when you have true success, when you have true fulfillment, it flows through every area of your life.


To read more about how to redefine success and to begin the journey of reinventing yourself, order the book, Reinvent Yourself and Workbook today. [button style=”btn-primary” url=”” size=”” block=”false”] Order Here [/button]

Women’s Equality DAY – AUGUST 26 – Remembering the Struggle

Posted by Teresa Whiteacre

In honor of August 26 -Women’s Equality Day and the 94th anniversary of the 19th amendment—granting women the right to vote, I had the pleasure of delivering the keynote at Homeland Security’s US Border Protection Agency’s Women’s Equality Day Program.

And in this blog, I’ll highlight a few of the pioneers that fought for justice and equality so that women were afforded the same rights and privileges of men.

Long before women had a right to vote, they had a vision; they had a voice and they were visible.

The foundational principle of the Declaration of Independence is that “we hold these truths to be self-evident—that all MEN are created equal.” But did it include women? For years and years a silent voice became louder and louder challenging the notion of whether “ALL MEN MEANT WOMEN too?

Abigail Adams, wife of the 2nd president of the United States John Adams wrote letters to her husband frequently sharing her political views. She had a vision for this new country as we declared freedom from England’s rule. Her vision was simple: that women should have rights too.

In one of her most famous letters to her husband, Abigail writes:

“I long to hear that you have declared an independency—and by the way in the new Code of Laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire you would remember the ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors.  Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands.  Remember all men would be tyrants if they could.  If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.” In other words, “by any means necessary, women will fight and prevail.” And thus the birth of the women’s rights movement.

She was one of many others with a vision and a voice.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton:  In 1840 Elizabeth married the lawyer, Henry Bewster Stanton. The couple both became active members of the American Anti-Slavery Society. Later that year, Stanton and Lucretia Mott, travelled to London as delegates to the World Anti-Slavery Convention.

Lucretia Mott, become a leading social reformer spoke widely for both women’s rights and the abolition of slavery. Her book, Discourse on Women, published in 1850 discussed the educational, economic, and political restrictions on women in Western Europe and America. After slavery was abolished in 1865, Mott supported the rights of black Americans to vote.

At the World Anti-Slavery Convention, both women were furious when they, like the British women at the convention, were refused permission to speak at the meeting. Stanton later recalled: “We resolved to hold a convention as soon as we returned home, and form a society to advocate the rights of women.”

However, it was not until 1848 with Lucretia Mott and several other women, Elizabeth Cady Stanton held the famous Women’s Rights Convention at Seneca Falls. At this meeting, the attendees drew up its “Declaration of Sentiments” and took the lead in proposing that women be granted the right to vote. She continued to write and lecture on women’s rights and other reforms of the day.

In 1866 Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony and Lucy Stone established the American Equal Rights Association. Susan B. Anthony founded the National Women’s Suffrage Assoc with long time friend Staton. She was the first woman to be arrested, put on trial, and fined for voting on Nov. 5, 1872.

Other suffragette sisters (Lucy Burns and Alice Paul) long before the civil rights movement of the 1950’s, were chaining themselves to rail stations and hosting hunger campaigns in the 1910’s, but always in the most ladylike manner. Alice Stokes Paul (1885 –1977) was an American suffragist and activist. Along with Lucy Burns and others, she led a successful campaign for women’s suffrage that resulted in the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920.

In 1912 Alice Paul met up with her friend, Lucy Burns, and they took over the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) Congressional Committee, trying to get a constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote. By 1916, she formed the National Woman’s Party (NWP) that demanded a constitutional amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote.

Women started demonstrating in front of the White House for women to have the right to vote. By July, President Wilson was tired of all the demonstration going on and arrest started. Finally, President Wilson gave up fighting and said that he would support a woman’s right to voting.

After the amendment passed in Congress, Alice and Lucy and others began working for the amendment to be ratified by each state. That finally happened in 1920. That was the first year that women were allowed to vote in the Presidential election. Alice Paul just kept studying and earned a law degree from Washington College of Law in 1922 and a Ph. D. in law from American University in 1928. Alice wrote the first Equal Rights Amendment and in 1923 it was introduced in Congress. It was supposed to prohibit discrimination based on sex.

Gloria Steinem: an American feminist, journalist, and social and political activist who became nationally recognized as a leader of, and media spokeswoman for, the women’s liberation movement in the late 1960s and 1970s. A prominent writer and political figure, Steinem has founded many organizations and projects and has been the recipient of many awards and honors. She was a columnist for New York magazine and co-founded Ms. Magazine. In 1969, she published an article, “After Black Power, Women’s Liberation” which, along with her early support of abortion rights, catapulted her to national fame as a feminist leader.

We continue to hold on to the American fundamental principle that all of us were created equal. We celebrate those who suffered and made the sacrifices necessary for all women to enjoy the pursuit of life, liberty, and the American Dream. We commit to continue the fight for equality, inclusion, and justice for all women today and for generations to come. If we are to continue the fight for greater equality, we must possess the same traits and qualities of these pioneers and trailblazers:

a commitment to the cause;

a courage for our convictions,

and be conduits for change.

Yes there remains some backlash; yes there will be resistance; and yes there will still be blood, sweat and tears. But there will be progress and reward.       


Executive Presence: Poise, Posture, and Professionalism

Posted by Teresa Whiteacre

This week I had the pleasure of participating in the National Sales Network’s Annual Conference in Dallas, TX. More than 500 sales professionals, sponsors, exhibitors, and speakers were in attendance bringing excitement, expertise, and energy with them. A special track was created specifically for women and I was asked to speak on Career Strategies for the Professional Women. My session was entitled, Executive Presence: Poise, Posture, Professionalism, and Perseverance under Pressure. Afterwards, I participated in a book signing of my newly released book: “Reinvent Yourself: Strategies for Achieving Success in Every Area of Your Life.”

Workshop poster

Here were some of highlights of my key points:
Research continues to reveal that it does play a role in hiring decisions, promotions, and perceptions and that executive presence is not just required for executives—rather it is a  sought after skill for high potential professionals. Moreover, executive presence is now the second highest reason why clients seek an executive coach. According to an October 2012 study by the Center for Talent Innovation, a non-profit research organization in New York, being perceived as leadership material is essential to being promoted into leadership positions. In fact, the 268 senior executives surveyed said “executive presence” counts for 26% of what it takes to get promoted.

What is more compelling is that 81% of women surveyed in the study found executive presence confusing and were unsure how to act upon it. Further interestingly findings just released by Brian Underhill and his research team in the US highlight that executive presence is now the second highest reason why clients seek an executive coach (behind the main driver which is leadership development).


So what is executive presence?

Executive presence remains an elusive term that leaves many professional women struggling with how to act upon it. Commonly included in its definition is poise, posture, and the ability to perform under pressure, among others. Most researchers concede that understanding exactly what defines executive presence is still difficult. It is also fraught with the gendered expectations of what traditional (typically male) leadership looks like, and this can be particularly challenging for women in managing these unwritten expectations.
The definition provided by the Hewlett study found that executive presence consists of a trilogy of the following qualities:


  1. Gravitas – Described as self-confidence, poise under pressure and decisiveness, this was considered to be the core of executive presence by the 268 executives surveyed.
  2. Communication – Excellent speaking skills, assertiveness and the ability to read the audience comprised this quality, which was considered a secondary but important skill, particularly in being able to talk the language of business and to convey opinions with conviction.
  3. Physical appearance rated a much lower third and was described as “looking polished and pulled together”. However, the main takeaway was that if an individual’s appearance wasn’t managed well, it could detract from the two key qualities above, rather than being a central concern.

In my personal experience, executive presence has been referred to as the “wow” factor, an “aura” that exudes from you when you walk into a room, a magnetism that draws people to you that carries an ability to influence, and having “IT”—that thing that commands attention and respect. It’s not limited to an outward appearance, albeit a critical part of getting attention, but it also comes from a deep place of self-assurance and confidence from within. And when you speak, you use clear language, you speak with authority and intelligence, you display positive body language, give solid eye contact, a warm smile, and you exude passion and energy. On the outside, you are dressed professionally, appropriately, fashionably, and you are not overdone with too much jewelry, makeup, cologne/perfume, nor are you over-exposed with cleavage, tummy, and buttocks, distracting body piercings/tattoos, and tight clothing. It is not flattering and it brings the wrong kind of attention.

Additional research findings from the study quoted above by the Center for Talent Innovation, authors say the findings offer new insight into why fewer women make it to the C-suite. Women and racial minorities were found to struggle more with executive presence, likely because corporate culture has long been a bastion of white men. Some 56% of minority-race professionals feel they are held to a stricter code, compared to 31% of white professionals. Meanwhile, women said feedback on executive presence is often contradictory and confusing, which may be why a whopping 81% say they’re unclear about how to act on it.

People at a workshop

A few strategies that I offer if executive presence remains an area of development for you:

Executive presence may remain an elusive term but it can be developed. While it is a real standard that is used for promotions, hiring, and perceptions every day, if you have a baseline of self-confidence, have identified your talents and expertise, and you have a willingness to develop all of these, executive presence can go from being elusive to being conveyed.

To book Dr. Davis to speak at your next conference click here 

For more tips on how to enhance your communication, presence, and impact in the workplace order my new book, “Reinvent Yourself: Strategies for Achieving Success in Every Area of Your Life,” ($19.99) at

Dr. Shirley Davis at a book signing