Although Padilla had begun its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) program in earnest in 2019, the George Floyd tragedy, which happened only a few miles from our Minneapolis headquarters, compelled us to accelerate our efforts.
Padilla established a DEI Council to ensure we are being intentional in creating a more diverse work environment. The Council – with guidance from Senior Leadership – focuses on the following key areas: Recruitment and Retention, Agency Training and Content, Client Work and Community Engagement. DEI client counsel is part of work we provide within our Corporate Advisory Group – and specifically, the Social Impact team. To supplement Padilla’s internal expertise, we assembled the DEI Collective comprised of external advisors to help ensure an inclusive and culturally appropriate approach to public relations and communications for our agency and clients.
To help shine a light on their expertise, experiences and the immense value they bring to Padilla, we’ve hosted Q&As on our blog. Today, we’re featuring Leslie Wright, VP of Development and Alumni Relations at Mitchell Hamline School of Law.
- Tell us a little bit about yourself. I have been in the Twin Cities, living in Eden Prairie for 18 years and am the proud parent of a recent Marquette University graduate. I was in the hospitality industry for most of my career and moved into the nonprofit space approximately eight years ago. I am currently in fundraising for Mitchell Hamline School of Law and enjoy the learnings that take place in this environment. I have lived in nine cities in six states in my adult life, and Minnesota is the longest!
- Why did you join the Collective? To learn, share and continue to grow in the DEI space. This allows me to have access to people that have an interest in making the world a better place. We can discuss issues and scenarios that make businesses better. Having multiple lenses allow us to view things differently while understanding the bigger picture.
- You mentioned that you began your career in the hospitality and tourism industry. How did that experience influence your approach to communications? I was able to gain a strong foundation in not only how things should be done but also how they could be done. I believe that it usually isn’t the message that creates the problem, but the delivery. If we listen to understand and react accordingly, we can communicate better. I also like to start with the “WHY” so people can gain a better understanding of what direction we are moving. What I really learned early on is that I don’t have all the answers, but collectively, we can produce something that can impact all people more positively.
- Can you share an example from your community board service that kept you up at night or inspired you? What really keeps me up at night is when we try to determine the answers without having those most impacted at the table. I was on a board where we were trying to solve a large problem in the community. I kept asking if any of my fellow board members were ever in the situation we were attempting to solve. As everyone around the table said no, in fact, no one even knew anyone that had ever been in that situation, I asked to bring people from the community into the room. Does this make the process longer, yes! Does it make it better, YES! Community members can solve problems; however, they may need assistance and resources to make things happen.
- What is the most challenging and rewarding part of your work with Mitchell Hamline? As an independent law school, we don’t have many of the resources that a larger university has. However, it is great to be in an environment that believes in access and opportunity for those that seek a legal education. I am proud of the work that we do in and with the community and getting back in direct contact with our alumni, now that in-person meetings have resumed.
- What are a few things we can all do to help be DEI advocates within our own communities? Listen, learn, participate and be part of the solution. I always say that DEI is not only done from 9-to-5, but also part of how we live. So, let’s live it!
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