Dr. Arvenita Washington Cherry
Senior Director, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Maximus
In September 2020, Dr. Arvenita Washington Cherry became Maximus’ first-ever leader of the diversity, equity and inclusion work. She took on this role amid a pandemic in a country experiencing heightened politics and racial divisiveness.
As DE&I lead, her biggest recent achievement was developing a comprehensive, yet evolving, DE&I strategy for the company from the ground up and integrating it throughout the business. A key part of this initiative has been supporting employees in seeing themselves as a part of this important journey and putting this strategy into practice across the company.
Washington Cherry comes to Maximus as a sociocultural and education anthropologist who consulted in the DE&I space for 17 years and as university faculty. Her approach is very much education and engagement based.
In a relatively short time at the company, Washington Cherry has made a significant, positive impact on the culture, said President and CEO Bruce Caswell. Her framework for the company’s DE&I efforts brought structure, visibility, clarity and accountability to a previously genuine but still formative corporate commitment.
“Despite the challenges of the pandemic, she moved effectively into implementation – with the successful launch most recently of our employee resource groups,” Caswell said. “The positive support from our employees in reaction to these efforts has been nothing short of tremendous. We are grateful for Arvenita’s contributions and leadership in bringing our commitments to life — and positively impacting our employees lives.”
Washington Cherry and her team have launched three employee resource groups, the first-ever for Maximus with additional groups under development. The team has garnered support for 40 colleagues of color to participate in targeted professional development opportunities. The goal is to enhance their career experiences to help increase and sustain diversity at all levels of the company.
The tragic murder of George Floyd invoked memories of other tragedies, some of which didn’t get media attention or justice, Washington Cherry said. But his murder also was a catalyst for change, so his death wasn’t in vain, she added.
“As a result of this tragedy, our nation’s heightened focus on diversity, equity and inclusion, has presented many opportunities to push for social justice inside and outside of our places of employment,” Washington Cherry continued. “DE&I means everyone, and to be successful, we all have to commit to lifelong learning and to developing authentic relationships across difference. This helps us ensure equitable policies and practices and a truly inclusive work environment where everyone can thrive.”