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Madison-based Quartz has been working on various diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts over the past several years. The company named Diego Campoverde its first DE&I Manager in the fall of 2019 and added Olivia Rico-McKeen as DE&I Coordinator in March 2020.
We all know what happened right after that.
As the pandemic struck and a racial justice reckoning followed, Quartz pivoted some DE&I initiatives and accelerated others, and their work earned the company the 2021 Workplace Diversity, Inclusion and Workflex Award from the Wisconsin State Council of the Society of Human Resource Management.
“This means a lot to us,” Campoverde said. “Of course ’ ‘’it’s a great recognition, but also, we really want to show the world the amazing work that Quartz is doing in diversity, equity, and inclusion.”
The company put in a nomination for the award in 2020, but due to the pandemic, SHRM didn’t give any awards last year. Rico-McKeen said she was doing the work and had all but forgotten about the award nomination until learning Quartz had won this year.
“It was incredibly rewarding once we did hear,” she said. “It had completely gone off my radar, and to come back and hear that our efforts were not just seen and heard, but recognized, was monumental.”
SHRM cited many specific initiatives in awarding Quartz with the honor.
First, Campoverde said the company gave its pandemic response a specific focus.
“Our leadership really focused on COVID 19 impacting our underrepresented communities,” he said. “What are we going to do to intentionally reach out to our members that are highly impacted by health disparities? COVID 19 proved that there are disparities because of race and ethnicity and racism. We got together with executives, and we put together rather quickly a plan to focus on intentionally reaching out to communities of color.”
That included contacting members just to ask what they needed and providing necessary information as the whole nation learned how to navigate the pandemic.
Then a couple of months later came the murder of George Floyd and nationwide protests, including in Madison.
“We decided to release a statement on the protests that were happening in Madison and all over the country,” Campoverde said, but company leadership knew that wouldn’t be enough. “Being intentional is not only releasing a statement. What will we do to support our African American and Black populations internally and externally? What is the accountability from our leadership, from our CEO?”
Asking those questions led to many initiatives that earned recognition from SHRM. First, Quartz put some money into the effort, donating nearly $200,000 to organizations working on behalf of communities of color.
At the same time, the company provided group therapy sessions specifically for Black and Brown employees, and about two dozen people took the opportunity. And recognizing that more than 80% of Quartz’s approximately 800 employees are white, the company knew it had to provide some education for those folks, too.
“I think being able to have that space for those uncomfortable conversations and moving that forward for people was huge,” said Human Resources Manager Crystal Everson. “I mean, speaking as a white person, a lot was going on that, I didn’t know how to help or what impact I could make.”
To that end, the company provided anti-racist education and even hosted anti-racist book clubs for its white employees.
The group therapy sessions for Black and Brown workers were helpful and pointed to the need for more spaces where marginalized voices could be heard. These conversations prompted the company to launch four employee resource groups: African American/Black, LGBTQ+, Military Service Member, and Hispanic/Latinx, which added to an employee resource group for Quartz Women United established several years ago.
“Because of the (group therapy) sessions and everything that was happening, we decided it’s time to do this and enhanced the safe spaces for our employees,” Campoverde said.
Quartz’s DE&I leadership was not only proud to earn the award from SHRM but incredibly proud to do so as one of the smaller firms in the running. Rico-McKeen said much larger companies were talking about wanting to do things “as Quartz did.”
“That was just such a treat to me to be a smaller company in this industry, and to be making and having the impact that we are is just huge,” Rico-McKeen said.
Quartz isn’t content to rest on its laurels, though. They’re not quite ready to publicly announce the next steps yet, but they’re coming soon.
“I think for us at Quartz, ’ ‘’it’s essential to continue this journey and align our DE&I’” ’ strategy to the overall company strategy,” Campoverde said. “’ ’That’s our next step.”
“We’re just getting started,” Everson said.