By Andre LaFontant
Boston, MA — Darla Pires DeGrace, Senior Recruiter at Reebok, embraces the challenge of helping shape the corporate brand to accurately reflect the community she loves. DeGrace joined the company in 2018 and wasted no time laying the foundation of integral diverse and inclusive initiatives. Her extensive business acumen overflows into leading the DeGrace Group, a diversity consulting firm that she founded and concurrently acts as a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Strategist.
It was a joy to speak with Ms. DeGrace regarding these endeavors, as well as understanding her perspective as a leader among women of color.
Andre LaFontant: What was it about Reebok’s culture that enticed you to join their talent acquisition team? Do you believe it mirrors the growth that the city of Boston has seen in the diversity and inclusion space?
Darla DeGrace: The idea of working for a brand that I grew up wearing and have admired for a long time was appealing to me. The HQ move from the suburbs to Boston and the opportunity to develop a localized diversity recruitment strategy solidified my decision to join Reebok. In the past year, the Talent Acquisition team has developed a targeted approach to recruiting diverse and qualified talent. I am confident that with the commitment of Matt O’Toole, our brand president, executing on an intentional strategy, we will continue to lead the industry in diversity and better reflect our community and consumer.
AL: Building upon the momentum you helped established with Reebok’s first Person of Color Employee Resource Group, what further opportunities for growth do you see in Reebok’s recruitment strategies?
DD: In addition to our POC ERG, Reebok has also launched four other ERGS: LGBTQ, Women’s, Passport Diversity, and Parent. The Talent Acquisition team is excited to partner with the respective ERGs to build on our employee referral program, participate in our interviewing and onboarding processes, and continue to move the needle on creating a diverse and inclusive work culture.
AL: What skills do you lean upon as you lead your own diversity consultant group?’
DD: My career spans two decades; in that time, I’ve been fortunate to establish and nurture meaningful relationships as well as build a strong personal brand as a polished professional who gets stuff done. In the absence of a formal marketing campaign, my strong reputation for appropriately assessing company needs, engaging in the tough conversations, and developing and executing successful talent solutions provided me with a platform to launch, grow, and sustain my consultant practice.
AL: In your opinion, what does it mean to be a person of Color in 2019?
DD: When I reflect on my Native American and Black history, I realize how privileged I am in not having to experience the severity of those historical injustices. However, in 2019 women of color are still facing adversity especially when you add the complexities of intersectionality to the proverbial glass ceiling, gender wage gap, or perceived opting out of the workforce. We are constantly burdened with checking biases, helping others to grow in their allyship, and being the only ‘one’ in the room. An added responsibility as a person of color, is the expectation to lift as you climb – in other words, if you elevate to a leadership role or another position of power, you must “send the elevator back down.”
AL: In your opinion, what skills are necessary to be an effective leader?
Leadership isn’t about a title or hierarchy. Servant leadership requires you to listen, value diverse perspectives, invest in the development of others, have compassion, empathy, humility, and transparency. If you are missing any of those characteristics, you are not leading to your fullest potential.