SOURCE: Booz Allen HamiltonDESCRIPTION:
Booz Allen’s Multicultural Business Resource Group (BRG) serves a growing number of functions within the firm. It originally began as an affinity group that helped employees make connections, develop new skills, and rise in their careers.
It grew to provide resources, guidance, and amplification to Booz Allen’s five employee networks that fall under the BRG—including the African American, Middle East and North Africa, Native American, Asian American and Pacific Islander, and Latin American networks. And increasingly, the group has had a direct voice in the firm’s overall diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts, from recruiting, retaining, and rewarding talent, to diversifying the firm’s supply chain and understanding and communicating employees’ needs through the challenges of the last year.
“The Multicultural BRG exemplifies diversity not only as leaders within Booz Allen but within our industry and society at large,” said Executive Vice President Rob Silverman, the Multicultural BRG’s longtime executive co-sponsor, a role he shares with Executive Vice President Tony Mitchell and Vice President Alice Fakir.
In honor of 2021’s Celebrate Diversity Month, the Multicultural BRG’s leadership team—including three new co-chairs—talked about the group’s expanding role at Booz Allen, how they’re bringing its mission to life, and their visions for the future.
Continuing a tradition of leadership and service
Booz Allen Principal/Director Siraaj Hasan, one of three new Multicultural BRG chairs, expressed excitement about the year ahead with the group and its new co-chairs: Organizational Transformation and Change Consultant Zach Heng and Senior Lead Technologist James Agbai. “We have such potential here,” Hasan said, outlining goals from increased collaboration and inclusivity to metrics for DEI progress. “We have the best and brightest and are poised for success.”
Heng, who has led college, alumni, and industry groups supporting Asian-American communities, oversees communications and engagement.
“With every stop in my career, I’ve taken a very intentional and proactive approach to ensure I add value and effect change for and on behalf of my community,” he said. “The BRG is bridging these passion areas. I felt like it was almost a calling.”
Agbai’s community involvement also began in college, as vice president of his school’s Black student union. With the Multicultural BRG, he manages the finances and tactical details. Streamlined financial processes and dedicated support are essential, according to Agbai, and enable the BRG to empower, support and promote the ongoing activities of the five networks that fall under the BRG: AAN, APAN, LAN, MENA and NAN.
Growing and evolving—even in an unprecedented time
Throughout the turbulence of the last year, including Black Lives Matter, violent attacks against Asian Americans, the COVID-19 pandemic, and beyond, the Multicultural BRG—working with its chairs, executive sponsors, networks and across the firm—expanded its role to serve as a frontline resource.
“Listen, learn, and act. There is a role we all can play in the firm's efforts to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI),” Hasan recalled the group’s rallying cry of 2020. “We’re also, many of us, leaders both in our communities and in the firm. On both fronts, we must step up.”
Going forward, the BRG looks to build on the critical activities and programming built during an unprecedented year by the outgoing chairs: Principal/Director Anne Muindi-Shemenski, Senior Lead Scientist April Young, and Distinguished Engineer Kimberly Page.
Milestone activities in 2020—and what the new chairs hope to continue—included the inaugural Unstoppable | Diverse | United Summit; hosting, with the AAN, the firm’s first-ever celebration of Juneteenth; the re-launch of the NAN; support of MENA colleagues following the Beirut, Lebanon explosion; and the promotion and celebration of critical DEI-focused awards programs like the Women of Color STEM Awards, Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers Awards and BEYA Modern Day Technology Leaders awards.
Moving forward, Heng sees the BRG continuing in this role. “I’m seeing us being those critical advisors, the folks that senior leaders seek for counsel—talking to networks, representing constituencies ourselves, and sharing with leaders the needs of our groups.”
Making diversity, equity, and inclusion business as usual
Another key focus is connecting the Multicultural BRG’s efforts to Booz Allen’s core work—making “DEI initiatives part of the business versus extracurricular”—in Hasan’s words—to the benefit of the firm’s employees, leaders, and clients.
“The Multicultural BRG must grow and expand,” Hasan said. “It must help build leaders within the firm, and it must provide chances for those leaders to further their client missions to create business opportunities.”
Looking ahead, the Multicultural BRG hopes to serve as an example of what is possible beyond a “typical affinity group,” and shifting into the everyday business of the firm.
"Moving forward in the next few years, we want to expand even further into driving our diversity efforts into our clients and everyday business,” said Silverman. “For example, we’ve worked with clients to drive diversity efforts across federal agencies and are engaging with others as they push their constituencies into more diverse communities. Finally, like all of us, our colleagues in our Native American Network and those who serve Department of the Interior clients applauded the nomination of our Nation’s first Native American Cabinet Secretary, DOI Secretary Haaland, and are thinking through how we can continue to collaborate to support our native lands and peoples."
“Our clients are diverse, and you need a diverse cast and a diverse way of thinking to help them serve their missions,” said Agbai.
For employees, this means enhanced programming in leadership training, business development skills, navigating promotion opportunities, and more toward the end goals of stronger recruitment, retention, and advancement.
“People want to join companies that hire people like them,” Heng said. “We only get stronger by letting people flourish and giving them a platform to shine.”
Learn more about diversity, equity, and inclusion at Booz Allen.
KEYWORDS: NYSE:BAH, Celebrate Diversity Month, diversity equity, inclusion