By Tisa Jackson
Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion, Union Bank, N.A

Despite the progress we’ve made toward greater diversity and inclusion, many companies still struggle to fill gaps in their workforce and in the marketplace they serve.

Diversity professionals can help by asking questions such as: What stops people from walking through the doors we work so hard to open? Are some women and people of color unconsciously passing up opportunities that fall outside their comfort zone? There may be few, if any, role models for women and minorities, so they may need extra encouragement to pursue job opportunities that are open to them.

“Oprah’s presence was a powerful way to get across the message that times have changed and it’s safe to explore opportunities outside our comfort zone.”

Oprah Winfrey gets how important role models can be. She took a camping trip to Yosemite National Park last year after learning that of some 280 million visitors to national parks each year, only one percent are African American.

Oprah’s presence was a powerful way to get across the message that times have changed and it’s safe to explore opportunities outside our comfort zone.

The challenge for our national parks—and many other organizations that want to appeal to a more diverse market—includes luring young people away from their computer games and attracting the aging population as well as various racial and ethnic groups.

This is partly a branding issue—with a better understanding of the cultural norms that people in different market segments have been wedded to, we can capture the imaginations of consumers with messages that motivate them to take a risk and try something new.

We need to do the same for employees who may have unconsciously opted out of certain career paths, therefore contributing to the shortage of women and minorities in senior management, revenue-generating, decision making careers.

Young people are particularly passionate about their values. The 9/11 generation grew up with the Enron scandal, and some who distrust corporations as a result are attracted to organizations with strong social responsibility efforts and jobs within the nonprofit sector where they feel they can make a difference.

We also see too many women and people of color settle for support or back-office roles in the business world rather than pursuing higher-profile positions. They may not realize how much they could accomplish—without losing their integrity—as executives whose leadership reflects a strong sense of corporate social responsibility.

The late business leader Darwin P. Kingsley once said: “There are no limitations in what you can do except the limitations of your own mind.” We can grow the talent our country needs for the future in part by helping women and minorities into career paths historically less traveled by those who look like them. We must follow First Lady Michelle Obama’s advice and think BIG.

Tisa Jackson

Tisa Jackson

Tisa Jackson, vice president of Diversity and Inclusion for Union Bank, N.A., is founder of the Professional & Technical Diversity Network (PTDN) of greater Los Angeles. Union Bank, N.A., is a full-service commercial bank providing an array of financial services to individuals, small businesses, middle-market companies, and major corporations. Visit for more information.