Art: Charter

Co-founder and CEO, Paradigm

Read the full list of Charter 30 honorees here, and learn more about Charter Pro here.

A former civil rights lawyer focused on workplace gender discrimination, Emerson has channeled her legal background into helping organizations build comprehensive diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies. The result is Paradigm, a leading DEI consultancy with a data-driven approach that has counted AirBnb, Zillow, The New York Times, and American Express among its clients. (Paradigm’s impressively thorough DEI calendar is also a resource any leader should have on their radar.) Emerson is also a prolific writer and speaker on current DEI issues, most recently weighing in with actionable advice on navigating the rising public backlash to corporate diversity programs.

Right now, what is your biggest question or curiosity about the future of work?

I spend a lot of time discussing the future of work with executives, and one of the biggest questions I ask them, and myself, is: How are you preparing for your future workforce? The generations coming into the workforce are more diverse than ever before, they have higher expectations of their employers, and they’ll need to be able to help their companies innovate and adapt as new technologies proliferate. How can organizations make sure that they are harnessing the power that comes with that, instead of relying on practices designed for the workforce of the past?

What is one problem leaders should be focused on solving in the year ahead?

In the year ahead, with economic certainty still high in some sectors and a presidential election around the corner, I’d encourage leaders to focus on fostering inclusion for their workforce. In inclusive cultures — ones where employees feel like they belong, where they can share ideas, and where they’re not wasting energy covering up their identities —people are more engaged, they are more productive, and they can do their best work. A lot of what’s happening externally in the world can have a big impact on how people perform at work. I would encourage leaders to be proactive in solving for that inevitability. It’s important for leaders to recognize that doing this doesn’t just help people from underrepresented backgrounds. It actually helps all employees.

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