Daisy Auger-Dominguez has made it her mission to make workplaces more equitable, compassionate and inclusive. A human capital executive and workplace culture strategist, Daisy inspires and equips global organizations to think inclusively, lead with purpose, embrace courage and shape the future of work. As the Chief People Officer at VICE Media Group, Daisy shapes, builds and reinforces the culture of the Vice teams, promotes professional growth, engagement and development, helps to accelerate business performance and champions an equitable and inclusive employee experience. Prior to VICE Media Group, Daisy founded and led Auger-Domínguez Ventures, a consultancy that transformed the leading companies and organizations of our times by taking them from inclusive workplace culture theory to practice through organizational psychology, applied experimentation, strategic planning and organizational capacity building. She has designed and executed organizational transformations at Moody's Investors Service, The Walt Disney Company and Google. Her impact over the past 20 years reaches across the global business, social impact, entrepreneurial and philanthropic communities. Here, she shares practical ways to increase inclusivity in our offices.
Your life’s work is driving inclusion and belonging in the workplace. What does it mean to truly belong?
I have dedicated my career to removing the roadblocks that make workplaces unwelcoming, unequal, and often unsafe to women, BIPOC, LGBTQ, people with disabilities, and other non-normative people because I know firsthand the marginalization and loneliness these employees experience in the workplace.
In the early part of my career, as the only Latina and youngest person in most rooms, I often fell prey to what Kenyi Yoshino has coined “covering”, the practice of downplaying who you are to survive in an organizational context. You simply can’t perform at your best when you’re constantly modifying or playing down who you are, including your appearance, body language, abilities and communication style.
It’s possible for people to be invited to important meetings and be asked to speak up, and still to not feel that people like them belong there. We all want to be where we are supported and encouraged to grow. Instead, many of us, especially women of color, are tolerated yet not accepted; we are put on display for optics, yet disempowered and silenced.
Belonging means this is a place where I don’t have to constantly calculate which parts of myself to bring forward and which parts to blend. I know that my whole truth matters. I can fail fast and recover quickly, and I am essential to the team.
The world has changed and employee attitudes have shifted. Employees want a sense of connection, clarity on purpose - why they work and for what, and to be seen, valued and understood. Organizations need to both invest in belonging at every level and chip away at systemic inequities and disparities by forcing the equitable prioritization of resources and decision making.
You simply can’t perform at your best when you’re constantly modifying or playing down who you are, including your appearance, body language, abilities and communication style.
How can your new book Inclusion Revolution help leaders reimagine diversity and inclusion in their offices?
For far too long, leaders have been unwilling to acknowledge the barriers that exist for historically excluded employees, and have failed to make the changes necessary to dismantle those inequities. As a result, there is so much human potential left unrealized within organizations. I want to change that.
Inclusion Revolution equips managers with the knowledge, skill set, and self-belief necessary to create workplaces that work for everyone. Packed with real life stories of success and failure, plus worksheets and checklists to establish key takeaways across the employee lifecycle (recruitment, onboarding, development, retention and advancement), Inclusion Revolution is the workplace equity guide for people who are ready to stop talking about the need for change and start making it happen.
Beginning with an internal lens, Inclusion Revolution helps you get clear on your truth and the truths of your coworkers. This first section is intended to build readiness - that’s the willingness and capacity to address organizational inequities and disparities - through deep interrogation of assumptions, fears and organizational practices, policies and systems. Operationalizing this work requires intentional action in hiring, onboarding, and other elements required to transform culture and practices. Inclusion Revolution follows the arc of the employee lifecycle and aims to fix one part of a broken system at a time. Rumbling with the uncomfortable, holding ourselves and others accountable, and making small tweaks over time are key to sustainable change.
In your TedTalk, you mentioned building your bravery muscles. How can we as women build our bravery muscles as we navigate our careers?
Women traditionally have trouble asking for help because we don’t want to appear weak or imposing. My advice is to call in a friend, a colleague or a mentor. This is not a solo performance. When I struggle to find my courage, I reach out to my community of fierce women for wisdom and guidance. I’m no longer willing to contort myself into a caricature of white professional standards. I will not play poker face with my dreams and aspirations. No one should. When I face resistance, waiver in my courage or feel fatigued, which happens often, I go to the people, mostly women, who offer me emotional and practical nourishment.
It takes time to build your bravery muscles and the networks we need to help us exercise them. When I host gatherings with women at my home, I set aside time to make an ask and create space for others to do the same. Support has to be reciprocal. Each time, without fail, the group comes alive, and solutions and offers float through the room. Imagine if we were to create those safe spaces of community and support in the workplace?
I want to underscore that despite recent advances, women of color still lag behind white women in organizational access, upward mobility, and other key indicators of leadership success. Women of color are often not invited into social networks, and when they are, sometimes it’s in a way that doesn’t speak to our whole truth. But we can change that.
White women have a responsibility to be intentional in using their power and influence to remove barriers and clear the advancement path for all women. To build their own confidence and comfort level with their own relationships to difference, especially race. If we don’t overcome the silences and denials surrounding privilege and abuses of power in the workplace as they manifest across gender, race, and other identities, we can’t rise together. And I firmly believe that we can rise together.
Belonging means this is a place where I don’t have to constantly calculate which parts of myself to bring forward and which parts to blend. I know that my whole truth matters.
Everybody's talking about the Great Resignation. Why are women quitting in such great numbers and what can companies do to drive retention?
Workplaces were never designed for women. The last two years have lifted a veil on the systemic barriers that make it nearly impossible for women, especially women of color, to access career opportunities and navigate workplaces. Nearly 2 million women have left the workforce throughout the pandemic, and one in three women has considered leaving the workforce. They’re not leaving because of a lack of ambition. They’re leaving because public policy and corporate practices have made it impossible for them to manage their lives, aspirations and careers.
The caregiving crisis resulting from the pandemic has widened the gender equity gap wider. Companies have to respond by rethinking and redesigning everything from their recruitment, onboarding, advancement, retention, benefits and pay with an inclusive lens. They must build deliberate systems and supports to achieve and sustain equity that considers the complexity of our identities and intersectionalities.
Employers can attract and retain women by providing policies and benefits that make sense for their needs, eg, pay equity, paid leaves, child care subsidies, fertility, adoption benefits, wellness and mental health benefits, etc. They must also provide fair opportunity for growth by removing bias in performance evaluations and disrupting outdated gender roles in workspaces (virtual and in-person). And they must ensure workplace cultures provide a sense of belonging and psychological safety by eradicating the anti-mother bias and microaggressions that make it impossible for women to navigate their careers and advance fairly.
What are some tips for being a better ally?
I define allyship as being willing to sacrifice your own comfort for the comfort of others. Being an ally means more than just recognizing your privilege and agreeing that people from traditionally underrepresented groups should be valued and accepted. It means normalizing speaking up against passive-aggressive racist statements, calling attention to the emotional and psychological labor of marginalized groups, and learning from your mistakes. Being an ally starts with empathy.
It’s not about “can I be an ally” but rather “do I have the will to be one?”. Allyship that doesn’t come with solidarity and action is performative. It is a skill cultivated through action. From how we design meetings to who we invite to speak at conferences to how we plan teams and high profile assignments, part of being an ally is amplifying those with less power and privilege. It can be as simple as credentialing someone in a meeting with “+ 1 to that great idea” or offering a platform to speak in a team meeting for those who are more likely to be silenced or those who have a harder time having their voices heard.
When I struggle to find my courage, I reach out to my community of fierce women for wisdom and guidance. I’m no longer willing to contort myself into a caricature of white professional standards. I will not play poker face with my dreams and aspirations. No one should.
Have you had any mentors throughout your career? If so, how have they impacted you?
Having a personal team of mentors and advisors is not just having access to a life jacket; it’s getting a ticket on the speed boat. My mentors and sponsors have offered me different degrees of support. Those I have worked directly with have offered insider knowledge about how to advance in an organization, advocated for a promotion before I thought I was ready, and made introductions to influential people in their network who have opened up doors to opportunities I may have never been considered for. They have also checked me when I’ve grown impatient, made me face my development gaps, and shared mistakes of their own to help me avoid making the same ones. And I, in turn, have honored those relationships by sharing insights and resources not on their radar, prioritizing their asks, and honoring their contributions to my career. In Inclusion Revolution, I acknowledge with great love and admiration the many mentors who have helped shape my career and aspirations from college to this day.
What’s an “Aha Moment” in your career?
It took me time to clarify my values, define what success means to me and the leader that I want to be. In the process of transforming organizations for good and protecting my place in the corporate pecking order, I gave up small parts of myself, let my courage shrink, my voice diminished, my heart fractured.
In the summer of 2018, I ventured into a career gap year that changed me in unexpected ways. It all started with a two-day journey of self discovery with executive coach Zander Grashow. I saw clearly what had tampered my courage early on and throughout my career, the roots of my desire to bridge-build, and my highest and best use.
Then, I spent a long and decadent summer traveling around the world with my husband and daughter, and reconnected with my childhood tribe. In volunteering for social impact organizations that nourished my heart, I found the space and clarity to explore contributions I had not considered before. I also expanded my tribe and circles in exciting and energizing ways.
All the while my fortitude and character were revealing to me in the purest and rawest way. In trying to focus on what I wanted and perhaps most importantly didn’t want going forward, I also realized just how boss and brave I am.
As challenging as it felt, there was a great value in being forced out of the seeming comfort of a 9-5 job. It offered me the opportunity to experience myself untethered to institutions and expectations. Understanding what motivates you, what you’re set to do in this life and which levers to pull to make an impact at the right scale takes time and thought. I am now choosing to pour my time and passion into what brings me the most joy, and what allows me to explore and express the profound sense of empathy and belief in justice that has guided me until now.
My intention going forward is to live more deliberately with courage, compassion and kindness; connect more deeply to my heart; and support, believe in and encourage others to build a better future where all workplaces work for everyone.
It’s not about “can I be an ally” but rather “do I have the will to be one?”. Allyship that doesn’t come with solidarity and action is performative. It is a skill cultivated through action.
What’s your advice on giving and receiving feedback?
A key ingredient to professional advancement is feedback. Yet feedback is difficult to give and receive. Too often, managers fail to be honest with women and BIPOC team members on what their strengths are and - crucially - where they need to fill gaps or build their skills. The most effective managers, colleagues and friends, use feedback to unlock people’s potential and improve performance. They establish trust and deliver feedback from a place of support and growth by asking questions that help individuals arrive at their own solutions, and recognize and point out strengths more than corrections. Try asking: Where did you feel you delivered the best results? What made that possible? Where did you need most support? Where do you think you’ll need support moving forward? What does that look like?
To give better feedback, we must also ritualize asking for it. What worked well? What could I have done better? What do you think I can improve on, learn, or strengthen?
Who are women on your radar?
I’m inspired by so many women in my life. My grandmother and aunts whose deep devotion to their family have always served as my north star. My younger cousins who are charting exciting careers and lives on their own terms. And my friends who are changing the world - Tiffany Dufu, Cindy Pace, Yrthya Dinzey, Diane Solash, Susan McPherson, Elizabeth DeLeon, Dominique Jones, Erica Gonzalez, Katy Romero, Minda Harts, Rha Goddess, Carmen Rita Wong, Aimee Cunningham and so many more.
What is your favorite part of your job?
I gain the greatest satisfaction coaching and inspiring others to achieve to their fullest potential, deepen their impact, tap into their creativity and innovation, and build radically empathetic and equitable workplaces.