Dr. Diana Artis, CEO and Founder, Olive Branch Educators (OBE) Dr. Diana Artis, CEO and Founder
Though future generations will primarily remember 2020 for the pandemic, they can’t ignore one remarkable change that occurred in the year—the increased quest to prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) at workplaces and educational institutions. This much-awaited transition was the result of the racial revolution that exposed racial inequities and subsequently reinforced the need to consider DEI as a societal necessity. As a result, most companies are now propelling their operations to get ahead of the curve and foster a sense of inclusion within their workforce. However, their efforts to combat organizational biases and ensure inclusive environments are often encountered with several challenges.

On a general note, the lack of cultural competence among the workforce, where employees fail to effectively interact, work, and develop meaningful relationships with people of various cultural backgrounds, impedes their DEI initiatives. But, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Several other complicated and challenging issues crop up when we delve deep into an organizational setup.

The concept of DEI goes beyond creating a diverse workforce; today, businesses need to redirect their attention more toward incorporating inclusion and equity within their ecosystem. While this goal is admirable and often supported, what organizations do not initially realize is that this goal requires both heightened personal awareness and also a disruption of existing systems, policies, and procedures in order to achieve a truly inclusive environment. In simple terms, meaningful and deep rooted change needs to occur. Yet, this holistic view — understanding what DEI means, and strategizing programs accordingly — is perhaps the most significant hurdle companies across the board are yet to overcome.

This is precisely where Olive Branch Educators (OBE) can help.

Founded in 2018, OBE is a Black woman-owned diversity consulting firm that helps organizations successfully embrace DEI in their ecosystem. The company specializes in motivating, educating, and inspiring clients who are seeking a path towards increased DEI. Committed to helping create the ideal strategies for their drive toward achieving an inclusive workplace, OBE leverages evidence-based principles to transform institutions and assist individuals in their journey towards increased awareness regarding DEI. “We empower clients to push past any resistance to change, identify and unpack cultural biases, and create spaces that encourage community members to remain focused and forward-moving in this challenging, often difficult, and rewarding work,” says Dr. Diana Artis, the CEO and founder of OBE.

Materializing a Childhood Dream

OBE is the result of Dr. Artis’ interest in understanding the nuances of DEI, which was fuelled while pursuing a doctoral thesis on racial and ego identity development and its impacts on one’s academic success. In the years that followed, Dr. Artis had the opportunity to work with the New York City School System and the results of her research confirmed what she believed to be true. Simply put, ‘success occurs when one sees people who look like them, doing what they wish to do, which supports their belief that they too can achieve similar goals.’ This launched her passion for understanding the impact of race and her attention to DEI principles in her work as a clinician.

There’s no one who is absent from the work or should be excluded from the work or not held accountable in work

Dr. Artis had the opportunity to practice these principles in post-aparthaid South Africa in 1998- 2000. While there, her efforts were primarily focused supporting educators who sought to enroll students of color. She guided the school educators, parents and students as they worked to create inclusive classrooms. Upon returning to the U.S. Dr. Artis began working with several independent and private schools. She realized that the playing field was a bit different and new approaches were needed. She then leveraged her twenty-five years-worth experience and in-depth know-how in DEI to establish OBE in 2018. Today, her company serves as one of the most prominent players in the space, helping several independent schools and public school districts, private corporations, non-profits, and government agencies achieve their DEI goals.

Taking a Customer-Centric Turn

What makes OBE the most sought-after partner is its commitment to ensuring its clients’ success in the most sustainable way. “Rather than rely on one-size-fits-all solutions, we believe that a personalized, collaborative, deliberate, and strategic approach can better serve our clients’ needs,” says Diana. “At OBE, we focus on delivering tailormade, fit-for-purpose solutions to organizations, helping them steer toward long-term success.” To do this, the company adopts a comprehensive approach while collaborating with customers.

A typical client engagement begins with the team at OBE assessing their environment to understand their current status in DEI, self-awareness, organizational awareness, and DEI goals. OBE gathers qualitative and quantitative data by conducting climate surveys, interviews, focus groups, and a review of relevant materials. OBE’s initial report includes an analysis of the data to help identify institutional stumbling blocks, biases, and blind spots that do not align with the client’s DEI goals. The experts at OBE then outline an ideal strategy that includes all stakeholders, providing comprehensive training to the leadership, management, and other employees.

OBE leads both didactic and interactive training sessions designed to increase awareness of implicit bias and their impacts, change behaviors for an authentic cultural shift that results in sustainable growth, and ensure that marketing and recruiting are consistent with their DEI goals. OBE goes the extra mile to educate and empower clients with practical knowledge rather than just providing theoretical training which ensures long-term DEI sustainability.

OBE recognizes that one of the leading causes of failed DEI initiatives is lack of engagement amongst leadership. “There’s no one who is absent from the work or should be excluded from the work or not held accountable in work”, says Dr. Artis As such, OBE realizes the need to strengthen communication between leadership and the rest of the organization to ensure the successful incorporation of a unique DEI plan into their ecosystem.
  • We empower clients to push past resistance to change, identify and unpack cultural biases, and create spaces that encourage community members to remain focused and forward-moving in this challenging, difficult, and rewarding work

Upon identifying any roadblocks in internal communications, the team at OBE halts company-wide training programs to redirect their focus toward empowering the leadership. This manifests however works best for the organization’s unique needs, whether it be guiding the client to create a diversity mission statement, helping the leadership to define what DEI means for them, or something entirely different. Establishing harmony between leadership and others creates an ideal environment for an organization to implement their DEI initiatives.

A Real-World Performance

Successfully delivering such a value proposition, OBE serves as the most sought-after partner that helps organizations begin their DEI journey. The company’s recent collaboration with a non-profit organization grappling to achieve their DEI goals exemplifies its capabilities. The company identified a goal of increasing the diversity of their Board of Trustees whose membership was all white and primarily male. An initial assessment revealed that board members would benefit from an increased understanding of the nuances needed to attract a diverse pool of trustees. Informed by the assessment, OBE successfully conducted a comprehensive training session which allowed the organization to better display their commitment to this DEI initiative. At the conclusion, the board chair shared his new awareness that the goal is to be actively anti-racist rather than simply being nonracist. His renewed commitment to increase the diversity of the board was solidified following the work with OBE. Overtime, such tangible evidence of DEI helped to ensure a more inclusive workplace for their employees and an increase in diversity amongst the Board of Trustees

Creative Benchmarking: To Re-envision DEI - What’s Next?

By helping several such clients successfully navigate this complex, but much-needed, transition OBE is paving the way for an inclusive future. OBE is looking forward to expanding its footprints to the international markets, especially Europe. Dr. Artis has engaged in conversations with DEI experts in the UK and is exploring the possibilities to collaborate with them. Another important factor that OBE focuses on is providing real-time, one-on-one coaching to employees, helping them to implement the skills and tools they have acquired.

Dr. Artis began her work in DEI with her dissertation and so she is no stranger to the prospect of contributing to the larger DEI conversation. As such, OBE is looking to solidify itself as a thought leader in this industry through their own publications and scholarly work. Time spent working with a wide array of organizations has made it clear just how crucial material pertaining to all levels of complexity within the DEI sphere is. OBE plans to begin the process of meeting the need for material to help all organizations reach their DEI goals, regardless of their current positioning relative to those goals. With this increased presence within the field comes the opportunity for more collaboration with new and unique industry segments. However, what OBE is most committed to is working with leadership, across industries, to understand that DEI success cannot be achieved overnight; it takes proper training and requires a change in mindset to undergo a complete overhaul.

“At OBE, we believe success is achieved when everyone extends an olive branch. It involves everyone; no one should be excluded from DEI initiatives. This way, we can create a cultural shift within the organization and attain sustainable DEI, which plays a vital role in organizations’ existence and success,” concludes Dr. Artis.