Nearly six weeks in, Adrienne Alberts returns to the Red Cross with style and grace as our new Chief Diversity Officer. When you first meet Adrienne, she is a ball of energy that speaks very highly of her team and others and shows exceptional gratitude for the opportunities that have helped guide her to positions in leadership.
For Adrienne, there are many reasons that led her to this role at the Red Cross. She credits her years of experience in higher education and for-profit organizations, as well as the seven years she spent at the Red Cross serving in Disaster Cycle Services and Human Resources. But the way the Red Cross helped her and her family after Hurricane Katrina, has also made a lasting impression in her heart and mind to this day.
In a recent LinkedIn live discussion, moderated by Rodney Marshall, Programs Manager for the Office of Diversity & Inclusion Services, we asked Adrienne some questions about herself and on Diversity and Inclusion at the Red Cross.
How has your career path guided you to lead a large organization in Diversity and Inclusion?
“It really started in undergrad. I was in an organization called Students for Minority Outreach and our role was to help recruit underrepresented talent for James Madison University. As I reflect, every role I had has always passionately connected me to this work. I did a stint in higher education, I have done corporate roles for for-profits and even my work at the Red Cross had a substantive piece of it, whether I was leading workforce diversity programs or leading enterprise initiatives that really focused on underrepresented populations.
My Red Cross story has a lot to play in that too. My family was significantly impacted by Hurricane Katrina and the Red Cross was there for us. The Red Cross leaned in to help us figure out what steps to take with my mom and how to rebuild her experience to the point where we could rebuild houses and we could go back to being connected in New Orleans. We were all struck by the disparities and the way individuals were able to be supported and not. Yet, the Red Cross leaned in, in very important ways. I never forgot that. I never forgot the important role that the Red Cross played in my life at such an important time.”
What does Diversity and Inclusion look like at the Red Cross?
“Our workforce is made up of employees and volunteers. These are very different motivations coming together to serve the mission. Our mission has us in, and connected to, serving communities and identifying ways to partner around neutrality and universality; two of our fundamental principles. But we are also honoring the lived experiences of the communities we are engaging and partnering with.
One of the things that ties me so much to the Red Cross is our motto. ‘Sleeves Up. Hearts Open. All in.’
I think that in our D&I work as well. We, Red Crossers are rolling up our sleeves to get ready to help and be a part of owning what it means to be diverse and inclusive as a community.
‘Hearts Open.’ We are expecting the best of each other every single day with compassion and vulnerability as we lean into our work.
‘All in.’ Red Crossers are all in. They say, ‘It is important to me that I am creating a space for every single Red Crosser.’ When I think of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the Red Cross, that is what I think about.”
How does the Red Cross work with diverse partners to support the communities we serve?
“We don’t do this alone. There is no way we can serve, connect and support communities if we tried to do it ourselves. Our partners mean everything to our ability to carry out our mission at the end of the day.
One example that comes to mind, I had the pleasure and honor to meet with a D&I committee board in Philadelphia. They showed us that by connecting with faith-based organizations, they can bring visibility to the mission work we are doing around closing the sickle cell gap. They had the opportunity to create blood drives that really help us support individuals who need lifesaving blood but that partnership is really the reason that it happened. It was about us being mutually connected and wanting to honor and serve communities, that allowed us to come together to accomplish a goal.”
How are Red Cross leaders leaning into the D&I space?
“I’m proud that our executive leadership have embraced this notion of allyship in a way that makes me beam with pride to be part of this organization. For them to say, ‘it is my responsibility to make sure we are the Red Cross we want to be. I have to be active in my allyship to sponsor individuals and their voices at the table, to sponsor the way we engage in community and to make sure it becomes the fabric of who were going to be in the future.’
Those notions of inclusiveness and allyship are things I have really seen in a significant way and it makes me proud.”
Why is it important to have diverse perspectives on a team or project?
“Can you imagine a conductor leading an orchestra and only letting the audience hear the violins. Our teams are orchestras. We have the opportunity to benefit when we ensure that; one, all the instruments are there, i.e. all the voices are represented, and then two, that you actually utilize them because that is how you hear the beautiful music and how you actually meet the mission.
Research has shown us that organizations and teams that lean in to make sure all voices are represented and heard, are far more resilient, far more financially sound and the engagement of the workforce is stronger. I hope we think of that during a critical discussion. Think of it as an orchestra, where you make sure all your instruments are there and you make space for every single note to be heard.”
To hear more from Adrienne’s discussion on all things Diversity and Inclusion at the Red Cross, hop over to our LinkedIn page to watch here.