March is Women’s History Month in the U.S. and March 8 is International Women’s Day. Beehive is celebrating with a month-long recognition of women leaders who inspire our team in the hopes of inspiring others.

We connected with Jessica Kingston, MBA and System Director, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at North Memorial Health, to kick off our series.

Jessi is a uniquely experienced leader in diverse stakeholder engagement, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion procurement, and development of highly skilled teams solving complex problems. She is a critical thinker with a passion for advancing diversity and racial equity within communities and transforming organizational cultures through consensus building, breaking down barriers and improving racial consciousness.

What advice or support was most valuable for you as you’ve grown in your career?

Early in my career at GE, I was lucky enough to engage in a series of leadership training sessions. One of the exercises had me develop a set of criteria for both the type of leader that I wanted to be and what I wanted to avoid. It was crucial for me as a leader to clearly understand organizational cultures, the rules of the game and how to uplift team members. It was important to me to be intentional in bringing people along, especially women and people of color. Too often we are left behind or harmed by leaders who looked like us and had broken through the glass ceiling. That was not who I wanted to be. Over the years, I’ve reflected upon that exercise and wondered if what I am doing is the type of leader I want to be; one that I would admire, one that people would trust, believe in and work with.

What career achievements/successes are you most proud of?

I’m proud of the ability to get people to make change for diverse communities, such as the passage of a Domestic Partnership Ordinance in the City of Edina. We were the first suburb and fourth city in Minnesota to pass this before Marriage Equality became law in the state.

I also led improved community and organizational trust in a City of Saint Paul department through redesigning the purchasing process to increase access and opportunities for small, women, minority owned businesses; and; implemented the revised ordinance for the police civilian review commission; and advanced race equity throughout city operations.

Now, I am pleased to have designed and implemented a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion strategic plan for North Memorial Health that has support from a range of team members and leaders. This work is creating a welcoming and inclusive environment where everyone feels that they belong.

What can individuals do to create organizational cultures where difference is valued and celebrated?

Creating change in an organization’s culture requires a multi-prong approach. Here are a few things people can do to ensure differences are valued and celebrated.

  • Examine policies, processes and procedures for unspoken barriers and make appropriate changes to leverage voices of those who have not typically been invited to the table
  • Analyze the existing culture, both personal and organizational, and develop training programs to help people along their journey
  • Identify allies and create active committees/taskforces/workgroups that are committed to making change
  • Offer education related to key cultural dates and moments in history, diverse underrepresented people, and the impact your industry has had on marginalized communities
  • Model the behaviors that you want reflected in the organization’s culture

We’re honored to work and collaborate with women like Jessi and we’re grateful to highlight a piece of her story through our International Women’s Day blog series. Our next blog post will feature Lindsey Nobles, VP of Marketing at Onsite Workshops.

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