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Video: Leading Toward Equity with Glenda Humiston, Jorge Silva and Cathy O’Sullivan

Glenda Humiston, Jorge Silva and Cathy O'Sullivan

Glenda Humiston, Jorge Silva and Cathy O’Sullivan

Thank you to those who joined us for our first Leading Toward Equity session of 2024. Hosted by the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Department and Internal Communications, this series presents unscripted conversations with leaders across UCOP on equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI), and our efforts toward becoming an anti-racist organization.

The series’ central premise is that becoming an anti-racist organization requires time and continual effort. No single group or office within UCOP is solely responsible for that journey or for advancing a culture of EDI at UCOP.

Our June 6 session, the fifth in the series, featured Glenda Humiston, vice president, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, and Jorge Silva, associate vice president, UCOP Communications. Cathy O’Sullivan, chief of staff for UC Operations, moderated.

Jorge, Glenda and Cathy shared who they are, how they identify in life and how their identities influence the way they show up at work. Jorge and Glenda shared perspectives on navigating the assumptions they have encountered as a Latino male leader and white female leader; facets of privilege; and how UCOP is demonstrating steadfast leadership in EDI work as it is being systematically targeted across the U.S.

Watch the recording here (Box login required)

Session Highlights

On who they are and how their identities influence how they show up at work

Jorge: “I am a son. I am a husband. I am a dad. I am an immigrant. I’m a Mexican-born American. I am a soccer fan, ex-soccer player and coach for my daughter. And, I’m a Star Wars geek. I try my best to be an inclusive leader. I am a curious person by nature, and I try to remember every day who I am, where I come from and where I want to go. Many times in my career, I have been subtly reminded that there are not many people who look like me in the positions that I have held. I know the weight that comes with those positions, but I also know how others see my presence in those roles or in those rooms. I always try to open the door for others around me, so they can have the same opportunities that I was lucky enough to have.”

Glenda: “I grew up on a ranch in Southwest Colorado, where we were very poor, but nobody knew it at the time, because everybody was. We had plenty to eat and a big loving family, and life wasn’t that bad. This shaped my passion for interactions with people because that was what I grew up with. I’m a fixer and I love to fix things, passion-wise. My ‘fixing things’ is trying to get the ag and environmental communities together, urban and rural, and find ways to build bridges. That’s what I’ve spent the last 30 to 40 years doing and is how I identify. But when I consider identity today, I think, ‘Oh, I should mention that I’m a lesbian.’ I’ve been very out since the late seventies/early eighties, which wasn’t that common then. I don’t often think about it because it’s not one of my key identifiers. I identify with all the various people I work on ag and environmental issues with.”

On feeling othered at work

Glenda: “I’ve always dealt with the realities of being the sole woman working in ‘men’s work.’ I was the second woman in the state of Colorado to operate heavy road construction equipment, and the guys weren’t always thrilled about that — they’d slash my tires and dump my lunch. It got a little ugly at times. I’m also an out lesbian in agricultural rural settings that can be very conservative. And, I’m a large woman — I’m tall, strong, big-boned and I have a voice that nobody has ever said doesn’t carry well. I try to temper myself with a certain amount of humor because people can find me intimidating. It’s something I have to consciously think about all the time. I think a lot of women do — people get really intimidated by big, strong women. I try to make other big, strong women feel like they can be big and strong, but at the same time, if you want to be successful, you have to learn how to temper yourself. It’s been a little bit of a tricky path. I haven’t always done it perfectly, and I’m still learning. I’ve always tried to focus on the work because that’s where I find I can try to get common ground with people.”

Jorge: “I started my career late in politics. When I started, I was a 32-year-old intern doing press clips and translating press releases into Spanish. Many of my colleagues didn’t know that I had gone to law school and had a master’s in international policy. During my first years in politics in Washington, D.C., I was a Hispanic media press secretary and many people assumed that I was only an immigration expert. Immigration was a personal issue for me. I was passionate about it, and I knew a lot about it, but that didn’t mean that I was the only person who could speak about immigration, or that because I spoke in Spanish with the Spanish media, I was only talking with them about immigration during interviews. I struggled to make others aware that when I was speaking with Hispanic media, we were also talking about the economy, education and many other topics besides immigration. It was hard to show people that you can do both jobs — you can talk to some reporters in one language and talk to other reporters in another language. In politics, there is a perception that Latinos only care about immigration.”

On acknowledging subtle acts of exclusion as a leader

Jorge: “While I was leading a large communications team, a couple of team members spoke Spanish. We were not doing that much proactive outreach to Hispanic reporters or Hispanic media outlets, so I started advising them to be more proactive. During meetings, I started making suggestions about terms we should use, stories we should pitch, and reporters we should approach, and I would do this in Spanish. On some occasions, I asked some team members to stay behind and have an in-depth conversation about the strategy that we should take, and those conversations were in Spanish.

“I did not consider that I was excluding members of the team who did not speak Spanish. A team member told me that they wanted to learn from me and from other members of the team, but because I was giving advice and talking about strategy in Spanish, they were feeling left behind and left out. I acknowledged my mistake and then talked to the full team about it. There were others who felt I was either favoring that group of people or leaving other people behind, and not sharing the advice or experience that I had.”

Glenda: “When I was in the Clinton administration in Washington, D.C., we were working on policy. I had a wide array of staff, and we had some losses that I was trying to get folks to understand on my very diverse team. I used the word ‘incrementalism’ without even thinking about it because it was the strategy that I was trying to use. I was blessed with a staff person who was several levels below me but had the strength of will to come up to me after and say, ‘You can’t use that word. It really annoys Black people because they’ve been told that for decades. They’ve been told that about trying to get civil rights since after the Civil War. They’re always being told “Wait incrementally, we’ll get you there,” and it is just annoying.’ That hit me really hard, and I’ve tried to keep her advice in mind ever since.”

On EDI leadership

Glenda: “EDI is one of the issues we have a great deal of concern about. I’m not as worried about my folks in Oakland and Davis, where my two big offices are. They’re urban areas and pretty progressive so that’s not really my concern. I have academics and staff in every county of the state, and some of those counties are very, very conservative, and we’ve got a very diverse group of academics and staff, and it’s a concern about their safety at times. So, we really look at how we can make sure they feel safe and also included in the larger issues.

“We really make a point of trying to create a lot of opportunities for people to serve on various committees and task forces and provide input, and interact with folks from other parts of the state, and make sure they know they’re part of a larger family, so to speak, and that they’re not out there in the hinterlands all alone.

“There’s a lot of other things we try to do. Another one I really try to focus on is empowering my staff assembly. We didn’t even have one when I got here, and we’ve now got a really active staff assembly that does a wide array of projects. And I’m really thrilled with that. And it gives people a voice. Every one of my offices has a staff assembly ambassador.”

Jorge: “EDI efforts are under attack, and they have become a target of some for political reasons for some members of a political party. As a university, we must continue to make a public case for why we are continuing these efforts, why we’re behind them. Why it’s important for the university to continue on the path that we are. It’s a values issue for us, and we must embrace the values behind it. And sharing that example with other institutions that are under attack will be the most valuable thing for them, because when they are under attack sometimes they lose. You lose perception, and you start following the red light that they are shining, and you start going down the rabbit hole about diversity statements or about other questions on the admissions process. Restating our values and the top reasons why we’re doing this is going to be the most important thing for the University to do publicly.

“I know that within ER&C, we still have a lot of work to do. I am the co-lead of our divisional EDI working group and I know that we’re going to be working really hard to ensure that we continue to advance, and I am sure that our new leadership will continue to reflect those priorities at ER&C.”

Previous Leading Toward Equity events

Dec. 11, 2023: December recording | December summary
— Nathan Brostrom, executive vice president and chief financial officer for the University of California
— Jenny Kao, chief of staff to President Drake, President’s Executive Office
— Epiphanie Gillette, executive advisor, UC Legal (moderator)

Sept. 15, 2023: September recording | September summary
— Charlie Robinson, general counsel and senior vice president, Legal Affairs
— Marie Hairston, associate vice president of Systemwide HR Strategy and Staff EDIB
— Günter Waibel, associate vice provost and executive director at the California Digital Library (moderator)

May 10, 2023: May recording | May summary
— Rachael Nava, executive vice president and chief operating officer
— Paul Williams, associate vice president and chief procurement officer
— Shirley Bittlingmeier, executive director, IT Client Services, Information Technology Services (moderator)

Feb. 15, 2023: February recording | February summary
— Pamela Brown, vice president, Institutional Research and Academic Planning
— Van Williams, vice president, Information Technology Services, and chief information officer, UC
— Andenet Emiru, director of external partnerships and projects at the Center for Data-driven Insights and Innovation (moderator)

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