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Facilitating Change: One Dialogue at a Time

From the beginning of the company, our leaders knew that cultivating a diverse and inclusive workplace begins at the top. Over the years, they’ve taken meaningful actions to nurture an environment of equity, including hosting diversity and inclusion community forums and, more recently, the Courageous Conversations series. However, one of the most meaningful actions they’ve taken was enlisting the expertise and trusted guidance of Judy Jourdain-Earl, a nurse and diversity, equity and inclusion consultant, to help guide their efforts.

Judy’s reputation for empowering participants to open up and trust one another during dialogues precedes her—she’s worked in a variety of schools, hospitals, government agencies and organizations like Bozzuto. “I have always used my voice,” she said. During her time at Boston University, she studied to be a nurse while simultaneously fighting for racial justice as an activist. After graduating, Judy helped lay the foundation for the formation of the National Black Nurses Association began doing quality assurance and nurse education work in hospitals and collegiate settings.

In 2000, she decided to pursue diversity and inclusion work after meeting with a friend who was working in that field. Judy went through an 18-month training at the NTL Institute for Applied Behavioral Science and earned a diversity practitioner certificate to further expand her knowledge. Since then, as a diversity, equity and inclusion consultant, she’s been facilitating “study circles” at schools and other forums designed to encourage dialogue about race and other dimensions of diversity between students, colleagues, etc. Dialogue, Judy says, is so significant. “If you create an environment where people trust each other and where they can be open and honest, they can really see and relate to the experience of others,” she explained.  However, she emphasizes that dialogue alone is only a part of the solution to racial injustice—it must be followed by action. “What are you going to do with the dialogue?” she asks her participants.

Judy has been impressed by Bozzuto’s consistent dedication to equity. In 2014, she and her colleague John Landesman took the Operating Partners through a study circle. The partners immediately recognized the impact these sessions could have on Bozzuto employees and worked with Judy and John to create the Bozzuto Diversity & Inclusion Community Forums. These forums give us a chance to open up and talk about subjects we might not normally discuss at work, like race. They also give us an opportunity to discuss barriers to equity and inclusion at Bozzuto and suggest action steps that the company can take.

“We’ve been socialized not to talk about these things at work, so we don’t get to know the story behind that co-worker,” reflected Judy. “In these dialogues, you can share some of who you are on a more personal level.”

In 2020, we’ve been faced with unrest as a result of not only a pandemic but also racial injustice and the deaths of beloved civil rights leaders. In response, Bozzuto worked with Judy and John to launch our Courageous Conversations series, online forums in which employees can engage in important discussions on race and share their personal experiences. Acting as a facilitator during these sessions, Judy has observed that people need an opportunity to talk about what’s going on in our country. Many feel overwhelmed. Many want to help but aren’t sure how. These dialogues provide a safe space in which to address these issues.

Judy commented that Bozzuto has always been willing to speak to issues differently than she usually sees in organizations, but there is still work to do. These dialogues are a great starting point—the catalyst for action. One concrete action Judy recommends taking is voting. Voting, she says, is one of the best ways to not only raise your voice but also honor former Representative John Lewis’ legacy as a leader and civil rights activist.

Judy believes that a change is taking place in the country. During this pivotal moment, people of many racial and ethnic backgrounds are standing together to demand change and participate in dialogues. As President and CEO Toby Bozzuto said, it’s time for action.

For more information about Courageous Conversations and helpful resources, please visit the Culture & Inclusion community in BOLD.

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