Daisy Auger-Dominguez is a disruptor. Raised by her grandparents in the Dominican Republic, Daisy grew up questioning sameness and difference. When Daisy moved to New York City as a junior in high school and labels like ‘Hispanic’ and ‘poor’ were thrust upon her for the first time, Daisy’s questions multiplied. She began to uncover answers and discover intersectionalities within diversity when she joined Bucknell University’s Social Justice Residential College as a freshman. There her passion for equity and justice was ignited.
Daisy Auger-Dominguez has made it her mission to make workplaces more equitable and inclusive. A human capital executive and expert on diversity, equity, and inclusion, Daisy inspires and equips global leaders and organizations to think inclusively, lead with purpose, embrace courage and shape the future of work. Her TEDx talk Inclusion Revolution and upcoming book with Seal Press by the same title calls on everyone to take on the work of dismantling inequity in the workplace.
Daisy is Chief People Officer at VICE Media Group where she leads the global human resources organization, diversity, equity and inclusion strategies, and social impact practices. Prior to VICE, Daisy founded and led Auger-Domínguez Ventures, a consultancy that takes leading companies and organizations from inclusive workplace culture theory to practice. She has designed and executed organizational transformations at Moody’s Investors Service, The Walt Disney Company, Viacom, and Google. Her impact over the past 20 years at the intersection of finance, media, entertainment, and technology reaches across the global business, social impact, entrepreneurial and philanthropic communities.
Daisy is an advisor to startups and social impact organizations, and serves on the board of directors of Planned Parenthood Federation of America as Vice-Chair, the Brooklyn Children’s Museum as Secretary of the Board, the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation as Chair of the Governance Committee, The 19th, and on the advisory board of Facing History and Ourselves.
Her Agenda recently had the opportunity to speak with Daisy about designing inclusive and equitable workplaces, creating safe spaces for women of color, and the ever-evolving inclusion revolution.
Her Agenda: In your bio, you state that your mission is to make workplaces more equitable and inclusive. Why do you do this work?
Daisy Auger-Dominguez: I do this work because I believe that change is possible. I do this work because as a woman of color, I have had to navigate being in workplaces where I know that people like me, people that look like me, have backgrounds like me, are often sidelined, marginalized and drawn-out to invisibility. I quickly learned that it wasn’t just about honing my skills at work but adopting white professional norms in order to succeed and that can be suffocating. So, I want to create workplaces that work for everyone where we don’t have to doubt our abilities or feel like imposters in organizations that were not designed for us. [I want to create workplaces] where we have access and opportunity to thrive. I don’t want to be the only. My mission is to create the many.
Her Agenda: In addition to being a highly sought-after HR consultant and speaker, you’ve worked at Disney and Google. The companies on your resume are on vision boards across the globe! What was it like to return to the corporate work environment when you joined Vice last year?
Daisy Auger-Dominguez: I am getting prepared to celebrate my one-year anniversary [at Vice]. I joined in the middle of a pandemic. I actually have never met my boss. I have never met my team. I’ve only been to the office once. I came at a time that was just at the beginning of the racial reckoning that we’ve been experiencing in this past year. I’ve been here during a time when people are just exhausted and frustrated. But [this] was also a time for accelerating change and really listening to employees and focusing on how to create workplaces that would help them not just survive but thrive during a pandemic.
The transition had all these layers to it. It was a health and financial crisis that had compound effects on women and people of color and people from marginalized identities. [I had to] think about how to create an inclusive organization that usually means upending traditional practices to root out issues of bias and inequities. I had an opportunity and I was able to lean on my experience very quickly to think about the right way to approach that work for Vice. It was both the hardest and the best time to do this work.
Her Agenda: Your Ted Talk, “Inclusion Revolution,” is a favorite of ours. How do you define inclusion in your own words?
Daisy Auger-Dominguez: Diversity is about representation, the mix, if you will, in organizations. Inclusion is about how you make that mix work. And equity, which is the word that we’ve been using more often, is really around how you address systems and processes. When I think about what has happened in the past year, we have really started talking about this work from a systemic change perspective and that’s equity. That’s how we build equity and think about it from the context of creating equitable workplaces for everyone. While I think diversity and inclusion are closely interrelated, inclusion is not a natural consequence of diversity. Inclusion is the behavior, they are the organizational practices, they are the social norms that ensure that people across multiple identities feel welcomed and valued and that they belong, that they can collaborate effectively. Equity is the way that you build the systems to ensure that that happens.
Her Agenda: What do you think is the next key step in the Inclusion Revolution?
Daisy Auger-Dominguez: The next step is really around accountability. It’s about everyone taking ownership of doing this work, of engaging in the difficult conversations and not side-stepping them, of being willing to reflect and question your own behaviors. It’s about asking better questions and taking real action so that we can all be a part of a solution. I think that people can change, institutions can change, but that requires all of those who are harmed and all of those who are benefitting from harming others to come forward, to admit our mistakes, our hurt, and to actively take steps to change power dynamics.
Her Agenda: Your dad advised you to “keep your head down and work harder than everyone else” at work. What message would you give to other women of color that are the “only one” in the room as you were in your first role?
Daisy Auger-Dominguez: You know I think it’s always going to depend. I want to tell all women of color to shine bright. That their voice matters. That their presence matters. They can hold space. That they can expand space. That they can create space for others. That their success is my success and that we all rise together. That to me is the message that I want all of us to be able to walk in [with] instead of being dragged down by all of the very real negative perceptions and expectations of women of color.
I think that people can change, institutions can change, but that requires all of those who are harmed and all of those who are benefitting from harming others to come forward, to admit our mistakes, our hurt, and to actively take steps to change power dynamics.
I want to see women of color just lifted up and no longer having to put on this emotional armor we have to put on before we go to workplaces to survive or that daily set of calculations that we have to make every day of whether we’re safe enough to speak, whether we can bring our whole selves to the workplace, whether we need to blend some parts of ourselves or hide some parts of ourselves. I want that to not happen anymore. But, I’m also conscious that there’s still a lot to be done to create those safe spaces for women of color.
While I give that feedback and I give that advice and I fight every day to create those kinds of workplaces, part of my advice is also: take care of you. Hold space for you. Give yourself grace. Build the partnerships and collaborations that will help create opportunity for you and if it’s not there, create your own. Lean on each other to find the joy, the grace, and the happiness that we all deserve.
Her Agenda: How can women early in their careers be passionate supporters of organizational cultures where everyone has access and equity?
Daisy Auger-Dominguez: I think you can do it at any part of your career. I work for a youth media company and that means that I work with a lot of really super talented young men and women of color and every identity you can think of. They shine a light on truths that we need to see. Certainly, positional privilege helps, right? I can say things where I know I can feel safer than when I was in more junior positions. I also know that in my position, as many of us do, as white men in power do, [that I can] credential others so that they can drive change. Sometimes, what I need to do is credential others so that they feel that place of safety. I would say for more junior people, find those partners in your organization that will stand by you and that will connect and partner with you. Find your opportunities to affect change.
I want to tell all women of color to shine bright. That their voice matters. That their presence matters. They can hold space. That they can expand space. That they can create space for others. That their success is my success and that we all rise together.
Her Agenda: What is your motto?
Daisy Auger-Dominguez: Engage in this work as if change is possible. I have a Post It in front of me that says that and every time I feel that I can’t or that I’ve had a misstep or a loss, I look at that Post It and remember I am engaging in this work as if change is possible because it is.
[Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.]