‘Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Shouldn’t Leave Anyone Behind’: Inspiration for DEI Changemakers

Sponsored by Howard Hughes

Ellie Chamberland. Photo courtesy of The Howard Hughes Corporation.

Ellie Chamberland. Photo courtesy of The Howard Hughes Corporation.

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Are you hoping to improve or grow new DEI initiatives at your company? Looking for advice and inspiration on how to do so? If so, Ellie Chamberland, the Vice President of Seaport Marketing and DEI leader at The Howard Hughes Corporation has you covered!

Due to her participation in The Howard Hughes Corporation’s DEI Council, which was formed in 2020 to address employee concerns after the murder of George Floyd, Chamberland knows firsthand how to spark change both within and outside of an organization — and she’s passionate about doing so. 

Reflecting on her work, Chamberland shares that, “I love working at Howard Hughes, but there is always opportunity for improvement, and I wanted to get involved in the DEI Council to help drive change — not only within the company but within my community.”

The DEI Council. Photo courtesy of The Howard Hughes Corporation.

Chamberland’s drive to help others and make a difference in her community has led her to have a positive impact not just in the DEI Council, but in her previous and current role, with her team, and beyond, too! Today, Chamberland’s taking the time to share her story and her company’s inspirational work with Fairygodboss! Keep reading to learn more…

Tell us a bit about your job. What’s your current role, how long have you been in this role, and what were you doing previously?

I’m currently the Vice President of Marketing at the Seaport, a neighborhood located in Lower Manhattan. I’ve been with Howard Hughes for nearly five years and am tasked with driving awareness to the Seaport.

Prior to Howard Hughes, I worked for Scholastic Publishing, the world’s largest children’s book publisher. While the companies are very different, my role was very similar in that my job was to educate a community (teachers and families in this case) about the benefits of the Scholastic Book Clubs program, which provides access to affordable books for the home and classroom. It was incredibly nostalgic for me because I ordered from Book Clubs when I was a child.  

At Howard Hughes, my role is about placemaking by building a connected community in one of the best cities in the world through programming, strategic campaigns, and outreach

That’s amazing! Can you tell us how you have used your role to help bring up other women behind you?

I’ve been incredibly lucky to have worked with so many strong female leaders in the workforce. I’ve seen many management styles, which have helped determine the kind of leader I want to be. My goal as a leader is to have patience and use my time to teach and mentor — not just for my own team but for individuals across the organization. I want everyone to feel comfortable coming to me with questions and challenges. Finding the time as a manager can be hard, but mentoring is critical for building a culture of equity and inclusion, and for employee retention.  

Next, can you tell us a bit about the DEI efforts at The Howard Hughes Corporation?

The Howard Hughes Corporation is dedicated to diversity, equity, and inclusion — not just from an employee perspective but also within the communities we build. As a company with offices nationwide, it’s important that we foster connections within local offices and across the organization. We use employee resource groups (ERGs) to connect employees with similar interests and backgrounds to share experiences, resources, and ideas. 

Some of our other DEI initiatives include: 

  • Evaluating our contractor lists and policies to diversify the vendors that we work with.

  • Building a more diverse and equitable recruiting pipeline with efforts such as a revamped internship program, expanded college recruiting efforts, and establishing partnerships with organizations like Project Destined

We are also constantly evaluating our employee benefits and programs to ensure that the benefits we provide attract diverse talent, which creates a culture inclusive of all. 

What advice would you share with others who are looking to get involved with DEI work? 

  1. Be patient. Change does not happen overnight. As with many things, consistent, incremental changes over time have the most impact. When we first started the council, initially the group felt a lot of frustration because we didn’t see immediate results. We’ve now learned to focus on specific initiatives that can build over time to make the largest impact.

  2. Leave your ego at the door. This is key for individuals engaging directly in DEI work. While some initiatives and projects may impact you personally in the long run, the goal is to make improvements across the board. Sometimes, that means the high-priority projects won’t make any difference to you personally, but it is critical that you stay engaged. As the saying goes, ‘a high tide raises all boats.’

  3. DEI work is for everyone. In my experience so far, straight, white men are often not included in DEI conversations. Sometimes they may be excluded because they are not a traditionally underrepresented group. Or maybe they exclude themselves because they don’t know how to engage. Open the door for them and encourage allies to participate — diversity, equity and inclusion shouldn’t leave anyone behind.

Finally, what DEI accomplishments are you most proud of at your company?

Having dedicated employees and resources focused on DEI initiatives is a huge win. I’m in awe of the members of the DEI Council — participation in the Council is an extracurricular activity that takes a lot of time. The individuals on the Council are extremely dedicated, and I learn something new from them every day. We are also very lucky that we have the full support of senior leadership across the organization. We’ve been able to accomplish a lot by having buy-in from our leaders from the very beginning. 

Recently, Howard Hughes was recognized by GRESB in its 2022 Real Estate Assessment as #1 in our peer group, in part for our DEI initiatives. It is a huge testament to the work done over the last two years, and I’m incredibly proud of that. 

The one initiative I’m most excited for in 2023 is bringing back our Lunch & Learn program. This formal company-wide program will provide different perspectives on topics like financial literacy, advocacy work, empowerment, non-profit engagement, and mental health.



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