5 Questions For: Bria Griffith, Senior Manager - Government and Public Sector
Bria R. Griffith, Senior Manager - Government and Public Sector, CohnReznick Advisory and Chair of our National Diversity & Inclusion Council, talks to Katura Hudson, Senior Manager – Internal Communication. A graduate of Millsaps College, with more than 10 years of consulting and leadership experience, Bria discusses why it’s important to have courageous conversations in the workplace, the historical Black figures she’d most like to interview, and what she’d pick to be her superpower.
Q: As National Diversity & Inclusion Council Chair - how do you define success?
A: My role is to lead and set the direction of the Firm’s National D&I Council in implementing D&I strategy that supports the Firm’s overall strategy; motivate others to acquire and share knowledge with the intent of implementing impactful solutions that drive value for the Firm and our people; and, work with internal partners to create a culture that fosters an environment of inclusion and belonging making CohnReznick an employer choice for current and future employees.
Success is a transformation in culture that is both visible and quantifiably measurable – a diverse workforce, growth and advancement opportunities for our people, new market opportunities and community impact.
Q: We have a D&I purpose statement: “To use D&I as a strategy to drive innovation and engagement that promote growth.” Why is it important that D&I is a strategy – and why is it so important to growth?
A: The research is clear that companies focused on and committed to D&I are more profitable, which suggests that in order be successful at implementing D&I initiatives, D&I cannot be a program or add-on. It has to be a strategy that is aligned with and tactically integrated into the Firm’s overall strategy. D&I strategy forms part of the Firm’s DNA; it’s a way of thinking about how we do business, interact with one another, our clients and the community.
If you think of workplace, marketplace and community in a Venn diagram - the intersection of the three is where we want to be. A diverse and inclusive workforce with opportunities for advancement lead to more opportunities in the marketplace and a deeper connection to the community (all contribute to growth).
Q: At an Executive Women’s Forum event, you talked about the importance of having difficult conversations about D&I in the workplace. Why do we need those conversations?
A: Honest assessment requires courageous conversations. We’re living in a time when what we’re seeing on the news and in our communities cannot be ignored. And it’s happening real-time to our people – Women’s March, #MeToo, Charlottesville, Black Lives Matter, increase in hate crimes, etc. Hearing, seeing and being surrounded by these events affects how we show up in the workplace and ultimately how well we do/don’t perform in the workplace. So, first it’s incumbent upon our leadership to acknowledge these events and commit to creating safe spaces to have courageous conversations. Second, it requires all of us to commit to empathy for one another. Empathy gets us to inclusion, belonging and support. An honest and accurate assessment of our Firm’s D&I challenges and progress requires having tough conversations about what got us here and what we can do collectively to move forward. Like most introspective work it’s uncomfortable, but with empathy it’s not impossible.
Q: As a senior project manager in our Government practice, you’ve led teams that have worked on huge disaster recovery efforts. Does your experience in that space help shape your approach to D&I leadership?
A: Absolutely. When it’s time to help respond to and recover from disasters the only thing that matters is working together to rebuild our communities [I say community as a broad term]. I’ve led teams that had members affected by the very disaster we were working on. It brings about a different perspective of the importance of the work you’re doing. During a disaster, there are constant reminders that people are experiencing great loss, not numbers on a geographical chart. D&I leaders examine and implement strategies that bring workplace, marketplace and community together. It’s important to obtain and interpret data to drive decision-making. But D&I strategy is not focused on numbers and quotas. So, I’ve learned to approach D&I leadership by putting people first and focusing it around inclusion and belonging.
Q: Let’s say it’s Throwback Thursday and you’re doing an old school Black History Month project. If you could interview any Black person – past or present – who would it be, and what would you ask?
A: Wow. That list is so long. Short list: Sojourner Truth [importance of intersectionality], Shirley Chisolm [aiming for the top], Bessie Coleman [conquering fear, and I wanted to be a pilot], Claudette Colvin [youth speaking truth to power], Mary McLeod Bethune [transformational leadership], Madame C.J. Walker [persistence], Fannie Lou Hamer [resilience and resistance], my great grandmother Gran Mag [legacy].
Q: (Bonus question) The movie “Black Panther” came out this month, which centers around Black superheroes, many of them Black women, who are helping to save the world. If you were a superhero, what would be your super power?
A: What’s so great about superheroes is that they reveal to us qualities that we need to bring about equality and equity in the world. Superheroes are problem solvers and inclusive leaders seeking justice. There are generations of magnificent superheroes who paved the way for me to stand and sit where I am today. In honor of their sacrifice, resilience, and grit - my super power would be showing up authentically, uniquely, fearfully and wonderfully as me. Can you imagine where this world would be if everyone was able to show up as themselves every day? We may not need superheroes.
Q: I’m supposed to limit this to one bonus question, but I have to ask this. Disaster recovery and D&I require longstanding commitment to see real change. I’m sure working in both can take a lot out of you. What do you do for fun?
A: What’s fun for me? Naps! Naps are so fun! Seriously, I spend the bulk of my time traveling for work. So, any time I get to connect with family and friends (regardless of location) I’m having fun.