The finalists for WashingtonExec’s Pinnacle Awards were announced Oct. 13, and we’ll be highlighting some of them until the event takes place virtually Dec. 8.
Next is Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Industry Executive of the Year finalist Tashi Carper, who’s director for inclusion and diversity at Leidos. Here, she talks key achievements, career turning points, career advice and more.
What key achievements did you have in 2020/2021?
Key enterprisewide achievements over the past year include:
- Formed the Leidos Enterprise Inclusion Council, comprised of executive leadership, board member liaison and employees, to advise Leidos on the evolution of the enterprise I&D strategy, partnering with leadership on high-impact actions to deliver superior business outcomes.
- Developed and launched The Inclusive Leader Learning program, the company’s largest training effort, designed to educate, equip and empower leaders to recognize and mitigate barriers to inclusion in the workplace, required for all 5,900 people leaders across the enterprise.
- Successfully delivered mandatory inclusion training, Inclusion Acumen 101, for all Leidos employees, with 28,000 employees trained in 2020 and roughly 40,000 by close of 2021.
- Developed and implemented the Courageous Conversations on Race in the Workplace Manager’s Guide designed to equip leaders on how to have necessary and effective conversations on race with leaders, peers and direct reports.
- Re-launched enterprise inclusion and diversity internal/external messaging for increased visibility and awareness, to include an intranet and external web page redesign.
- Created the Enterprise Demographic Data Disclosure Policy for increased transparency and planning for senior leaders, while ensuring appropriate data integrity measures are enforced to minimize company risks.
- Expanded the Inclusion & Diversity team during the pandemic.
- Attained best-in-class rankings by numerous organizations including Forbes’ list of America’s Best Employers for Diversity and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s 2021 Corporate Equality Index. Additionally, we had numerous employees recognized at the Black Engineer of the Year awards, Women of Color STEM conference and the Society of Asian Scientists and Engineer awards.
What has made you successful in your current role?
Working with an agile executive leadership team has been instrumental, as it has allowed me to lead with intention and craft strategies that address dynamic circumstances in real time.
I also look for creative ways to effectively leverage the vast array of skills and experiences of our team resources — academic, professional, experiences and the dissenting voice — to assist in creating programs and strategic initiatives.
In combination, these factors have been key to our organizational growth and instrumental in meeting our set goals.
What was a turning point or inflection point in your career?
Ten years into my professional career, during my pregnancy, I was publicly scrutinized and challenged by senior leaders that I was no longer committed to my job, simply because I was pregnant. Despite being a seven-time Presidents Club and corporate award winner, my ability to do my job was questioned without merit.
As a result, I was removed from my most lucrative accounts. I wasn’t forced to choose between my family and my career — the decision was made for me.
Unfortunately, at that time, I was not yet equipped with the knowledge or empowered to push back and speak up. Workplace retaliation was not just a fear, but in fact was realized in this instance.
I chose to leave the company, but I missed an important and necessary opportunity to become an advocate for my own career, my rights and broad organizational change.
That turning point clarified two concepts for me: I never wanted to experience such discrimination again — and I wanted to ensure that others never found themselves in a similarly disadvantaged position.
Consequently, I became my own case study, analyzing what I could have done differently to drive positive change. I decided to courageously become that change agent in every role I have held since.
This was notably the beginning of my corporate activism and full pivot into the diversity and inclusion space, a lifelong passion now turned profession.
What was your biggest career struggle and how did you overcome it?
Many people fall into the seductive trap of seeking career and personal validation from external sources and others. I was not different in the early stages of my career. I often second-guessed my knowledge, expertise and success based on subjective insights and opinions.
At the urging of trusted mentors and coaches challenging me to break this unproductive cycle, I began to assess myself according to the metrics associated with my roles to gain an objective perspective of the quality of my work product. This allowed me to set goals for mastery of concepts and standards.
I began to reflect and dissect each success and failure, to extract learning from each experience and apply it to future endeavors. This method has transformed my perspective into the realization that the most important view of my worth, contributions and value had to come from within.
This personal strategy has become my professional “superpower” that has established an inner resilience and confidence that is resounding and unmoved by external factors. I continue to apply that today and teach others to do the same.
What’s your best career advice for those who want to follow in your footsteps?
Find ways to add value to your current role and the organization through your interactions and your deliverables. Collaborate with others on purpose and intentionally show up with your authentic self, bringing your ideas, knowledge, research and experiences to add perspective and value to every task with the end goal in mind.
When you focus on mission excellence and the relationships with those who help you achieve it, you increase your value not just to others, but to the organization at large. Simply put, make yourself bigger than any and every job description.
Contribute in such a meaningful and impactful way that the role must be rewritten and redefined to replace you. Most importantly, be great to people along the way, for no reason at all, expecting nothing in return.