Expert reveals 5 ways to make your workplace more inclusive

National Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates the cultures and contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans. It also honors their journeys. Daisy Auger-Domínguez, chief people officer at Vice Media Group, has built a career around diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) efforts. The lessons she learned along the way are now captured in her new book, Inclusion Revolution: The Essential Guide to Dismantling Racial Inequity in the Workplace.

I thought there was a special connection to honoring both my heritage and where I come from and what made it possible for me to be where I am,” she tells MAKERS. “The reason why I believe in building workplaces that are inclusive and equitable, where everyone feels a sense of belonging, is that I fundamentally believe that there’s a lightness in organizations when we can take that away, when we can create places where people can be who they are, when people can do the best work of their lives.”

Here are five tips Auger-Domínguez says can help you create a more inclusive office environment.

1. Bring your authentic self to work

Latinas represent the largest group of women workers in the U.S., behind non-Hispanic whites. But Auger-Domínguez says these more than 12 million women — along with other marginalized and underrepresented groups — still struggle to bring their true selves to work. “Authenticity is a tricky little thing,” she says. “Let's be clear. It's much easier to be authentic when everybody looks like you.” To fit in at the office, Auger-Domínguez says these employees often suppress who they really are. “That is exhausting. That is damaging. That is painful. That, on top of everything that we have to do, I have to be covering up who I am, how I dress, my accent, who I love, how I engage, how I connect, in order to be able to succeed in the workplace? We can do better.”

Even as a C-suite executive, Auger-Domínguez says she still finds herself in conversations where she has to think twice. “How much of myself do I bring into this conversation and how much do I hold back? How much do I sacrifice and risk if I say, ‘You're being racist right now. You're being sexist right now.’ And by the way, I do it!” she says with a laugh. “But I'm still doing those mental calculations. We all do them. We do them if we’re white women. We do them if we're a low-income white man. And it's those different facets of our identity that create access and opportunity that we're constantly negotiating and navigating. It's about making workplaces be better so that we can actually walk in our truth every day.”

Daisy Auger-Domínguez and her husband Christopher attend an awards show in New York City on October 08, 2021. Auger-Domínguez is the chief people officer at Vice Media Group and has written a new book called Inclusion Revolution: The Essential Guide to Dismantling Racial Inequity in the Workplace. (Photo by Jared Siskin/Getty Images for ADCOLOR)
Daisy Auger-Domínguez and her husband Christopher attend an awards show in New York City on October 08, 2021. Auger-Domínguez is the chief people officer at Vice Media Group and has written a new book called Inclusion Revolution: The Essential Guide to Dismantling Racial Inequity in the Workplace. (Photo by Jared Siskin/Getty Images for ADCOLOR)

2. Think before you return to the office

In September, the number of workers back in the office was at its highest since the pandemic began, with an average of 47.5 percent of employees showing up in person. But as companies welcome workers back, Auger-Domínguez says there are certain questions managers need to ask before making that transition. “What are the teams that need to be in? What are the moments of connectivity that make us who we are?” she asks. “What I want to do is show you why it’s valuable to come to the workplace, why I like being here, why I like you being here.” She says it’s also important to examine if what’s being offered is fair for everyone. “I’m all open for creativity. But you don’t get to create side deals with how you want to run different parts of your team, without ensuring that we’re thinking about fairness and equity,” Auger-Domínguez advises. “Because when you decide to do something for your team, but the other team that works with you is coming in every day, that’s unequal, that’s unfair.” The DE&I expert believes too many corporations are weaponizing the theory that people of color are not returning to the office because of poor prepandemic environments. “Yes, offices weren’t great. Nobody wants to deal with microaggressions all day long. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t want to come to the workplace,” says Auger-Domínguez. “That means that they want to come to workplaces where they feel safe, where they feel valued, where they feel respected. That’s a difference.”

3. Diversity fatigue is real

As someone who has dedicated her life’s work to diversity, Auger-Domínguez knows the uphill battle that comes with the job. You will always have resistance. You will always have pushbacks. This work is not just because you care. This work requires skill. It requires competency. It requires courage,” she says. “It requires your ability to be able to navigate corporate and nonprofit, whatever organization you’re in, complex environments that require you to influence differently. That requires you to see what’s around the corner. It is one of the hardest jobs.” When the weariness sets in, Auger-Domínguez recommends focusing on the positive impact you’re making. “Sometimes we have to remind ourselves, because no one else will, how amazing the opportunity that we have is to shift the cultures of organizations.”

4. Sometimes mediocre is OK

Because fighting for equality is exhausting work, Auger-Domínguez says taking time to rest and recover is essential. “I’ve started saying, ‘Well, today I’m going to just be mediocre,” she explains. “Because even at my mediocre, I get everything done. But I am not pushing myself to go 120%. I’m just pushing myself to maybe do 80% today.” She says spinning your wheels 24 hours a day, seven days a week isn’t good for you or the goals you’re trying to accomplish. “I’m tired. I haven’t slept. I haven’t validated what I’m doing. I haven’t had a moment to reflect and think about what I’m doing,” she admits. “And I think a lot of us have such a hard time because we’ve been told that we have to go well above and beyond everything. We don’t have to. We have to do what’s right for our hearts and our souls and our integrity.”

The reason why I believe in building workplaces that are inclusive and equitable, where everyone feels a sense of belonging, is that I fundamentally believe that there’s a lightness in organizations when we can take that away. When we can create places where people can be who they are, when people can do the best work of their lives.”Daisy Auger-Domínguez, chief people officer at Vice Media Group

5. Share your story

Writing a book was never really on her radar, says Auger-Domínguez. “It took me years, quite frankly, to build the courage to want to have my story shared.” Once she made the decision, her first step was to find the right book agent, a process she says was a bit like dating. “You've got to find the person that both believes in you, that you vibe with and that you feel will be respected.” Ultimately, that agent also needs to know what will sell. So she suggests finding a resource that can help you make edits while still protecting your integrity. Now that she’s gone through the process, the newly minted author is encouraging other women to find their voices. “We need more stories of women of color out there,” she says. “I think, for me, it was having clarity on the voice that I wanted my book to have, which was a voice that I saw missing in DE&I work. And that’s the voice of women of color, of women who are on the inside doing the work.”

Despite the decades she’s spent in the corporate world and a new book under her belt, Auger-Domínguez says there is still plenty of work to be done. “When you can get a promotion, and nobody comes to you and says, ‘Congratulations, that’s wonderful. They must have needed more diversity’ — that’s what I want none of us to ever have to think about. And that’s the end goal of Inclusion Evolution and these conversations that we have.”