In My Over 20 Years in DEI, I’ve Kept My Promise to Always Uplift Other Women: Here’s How I Do That

Sponsored by Cornerstone OnDemand

Heather Cummings. Photo courtesy of Cornerstone OnDemand.

Heather Cummings. Photo courtesy of Cornerstone OnDemand.

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July 20, 2024 at 4:11PM UTC

If you’re interested in learning more about working in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), then Heather Cummings is the person to speak to!

With 20 years of experience in the DEI realm — ranging from consulting, to education, to publishing, to tech in local, regional, and global organizations — Cummings is an expert in this field and is passionate about building communities and uplifting other people. And, she knows firsthand how important it is to empower others.

Reflecting on her journey, Cummings shares a moment from her early 20’s when she was in the education field and wanted to learn from someone who had great teaching strategies. However, this teacher “was unwilling to share her practices,” says Cummings, “which surprised me and really hurt me. I promised myself to always be open to sharing things that helped me grow in my career and life with other women.”

Since then, Cummings has continuously kept this promise. “Any opportunity I’ve had to help elevate other women, such as by sharing strategies, helping to craft or revise a resume, or connecting them with others who can influence the direction of their career — I do it,” she states. “Most importantly, I remember the importance of encouragement. When we encourage each other and help people see their strengths, it can truly shift their trajectory, opening opportunities they didn’t feel qualified for previously.”

Today, Cummings is continuing to live by this promise as the Global Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Manager for Cornerstone OnDemand — a cloud-based people development software provider and learning technology company. In this role, she tells us that “everything I do is DEI.” Here, she walks us through a few of the amazing DEI projects and groups that are available at Cornerstone OnDemand…

To begin, can you tell us a bit about Cornerstone OnDemand’s DEI efforts and employee resource groups?

Cornerstone’s DEI vision is to be a force of good in the world through empowering our people, the learning content we create, our customer partnerships, the work we do within our communities, and enabling the disruption of systemic inequities. We have done a great deal to ensure this by building our employee resource groups, the Cornerstar Resource Groups (CRGs). However, we know that building DEI trainings or ERGs alone will not maintain systemic change. Our DEI Strategy is on a more holistic level, understanding that DEI happens when employees advocate at a grassroots level and when our Executive Leadership Team supports those efforts.  

To foster this, our DEI Strategy encompasses building development opportunities for all people leaders and managers, collecting metrics on both diversity and inclusion across the company, and building diversity and inclusion into our day-to-day ways of working. This is all in addition to building employee engagement through offering Employee Network Groups and CRGs.  

Let’s talk more about CRGs. How do these groups function and contribute to company-wide goals? 

CRG Committees meet monthly and have quarterly meetings with their Executive Sponsors and Senior Sponsors. Each CRG schedules three-to-four events for members each year and also has member meetings a couple of times a year. The agenda of the CRG Committee meetings is driven by the CRG Strategic Plan that each CRG creates every year. 

We have built a structure for our CRGs that ties our company-wide goals and DEI priorities to CRG Strategic Plans. This has helped CRGs identify reachable goals that build inclusion and belonging, increase diverse talent and equity, and drive community impact

How are you involved with the CRGs at Cornerstone?

Given my role, I am involved with all the resource groups at Cornerstone. However, the ones that connect to my areas of diversity would be our Working Parents & Caregivers CRG, All Abilities United CRG, Women at Cornerstone CRG, and Unidos CRG. Each of these areas are close to my heart and create the intersections (among many others) that make up my lived experiences.

ERGs have always helped me connect to others with similar lived experiences. At the same time, they enable me to learn about and more deeply understand those with different lived experiences by providing opportunities to connect to others on all levels. It is because of this that I gravitate toward ERGs.

Do CRGs function on a global, national, or local level?

Our CRGs are currently all global. In the future, we hope to build out regional and local CRG chapters. 

To ensure that we are engaging our Cornerstars globally, regionally, and locally, we have started a project focusing on conversations with Cornerstars across the globe on specific DEI topics. This “DEI Themes Committee,” involves 25+ global Cornerstars meeting every other month to discuss an important DEI theme. These meetings have a focused agenda with guiding questions for each discussion to help us better understand the lived experiences of our Cornerstars across various diversity and inclusion dimensions. This project is one that we are committing 1.5 years to complete, and we will summarize our findings throughout and in culmination of completing the overall project. We want this information to help inform everything from training and development to our resources, partnerships, and events. The first meeting has brought deep insight and we are excited about the project moving forward. 

Can you tell us about one resource group accomplishment that you’re proud of? 

As a mom of a nine-month-old son (and a 27-year-old son) I’m most proud of all that the Working Parents & Caregivers CRG has done to advocate for prenatal and postnatal benefits for new mothers. My experience as a working mom through my pregnancy and following has been amazing, and I owe it to all those women who advocated to get these benefits in place.

Finally, why do you believe Cornerstone OnDemand is a particularly supportive place for women employees?

Cornerstone prides itself on creating the most inclusive workplace for women from all walks of life. For example, Women at Cornerstone (W@C) is a place where women Cornerstars and allies can receive and provide support, be inspired, and amplify one another as working women. Our goal is for members to use W@C to receive encouragement, development opportunities, and advice while connecting with others. We lead our W@C CRG from a global lens, trying to bring women from across the company together, connecting to similarities while understanding that we all bring different experiences.

We also provide training to all Cornerstars around building inclusive environments. We use data to measure where we are making growth in relation to DEI and where we are following short. From this data, we work closely with our Executive Leaders and Senior Leaders to set goals across each business division. For example, this year, we have set the goal to raise our global representation of women by increasing women hires, decreasing women exiting, and increasing women representations in Sr. Leader & Director roles. To foster this, our CRGs provide connection, resources, learning, and celebration across different intersecting areas of diversity that our Cornerstar women are part of.

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