Corporate Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion leader (DEI) Ky’a Jackson has a proven track record of executing DEI strategy, establishing, and managing employee resource groups (ERGs), and developing internship programs in the fields of healthcare, telecommunications, and technology. She is an expert in the strategic integration of DEI partnerships, programs, and initiatives. She is results-oriented, has experience defining vision and designing procedures to support diversity and inclusion initiatives, and is an authentic leader who guides employees at all levels through the organization’s DEI journey. She has consistently been recognized for extraordinary efforts that advance DEI strategy and elevate DEI as a priority.
The Journey of Lifelong Experiences
The experiences Ky’a had before joining AmerisourceBergen enabled her to develop initiatives, programs, trainings, and community collaborations that integrated diversity, equality, and inclusion at each organization she worked into each of her organization’s operations. Ky’a often refers to the combination of her experience in DEI, community investment, and communications as her “special set of skills” that contribute to her success.
Ky’a began her professional career in the healthcare industry at Independence Blue Cross in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where she began her career in claims and then transitioned to communications. On the surface, these roles might have appeared to be completely different, but in reality, they both required a high level of teamwork and attention to detail. She has always been grateful that her professional experience began at Independence Blue Cross because, as an early professional. She recalls, “I was able to build my personal board of directors by watching, learning from, and listening to professionals who, to this day, still offer me guidance. I was able to hone in on my communication skills, and as a Provider Communications Specialist, learned how invaluable it is to listen and truly hear people in order to effectively communicate with them.” She goes on to say that these lessons were crucial for her future DEI work as it has helped her engage with people in demographics that are different from her own. With positions like Account Coordinator at PRNewswire and Communications Specialist at CDI Corporation, Ky’a was able to continue her career in communications outside of the healthcare industry. However, she was looking for a greater challenge and how she could give back to the community in a more impactful way. At the time, Ky’a didn’t think she could land a job at a company the size of Comcast, but mentors and her mother pushed her to give it a try. She recalls, “I will always remember receiving my job offer at Comcast as both the most exciting and the saddest time of my life because I was offered the job at Comcast the same week my mother passed away. Sometimes things happen in life that you think will break you, but they end up being the things that give you the most clarity. It was not an easy time for me personally, but as I reflect on that time in my life, I realize that experience provided me with tools I knew could help young people in similar situations. I knew there were young people out there who did not have access to supportive parents, mentors, and a village to encourage them. I decided that from then on, I would do my best to invest in diverse communities and support to young people.”
Because Ky’a grew up in Camden, New Jersey where there were limited resources for students of color, her work as a Senior Program Coordinator and, eventually, as Manager of National Programs and Partnerships allowed her to build and manage programs that would help level the playing field for young people in similar situations. After spending a little over ten years at Comcast, she returned to the healthcare industry as the Workforce Initiatives Program Manager at AmeriHealth Caritas. Ky’a has always been acutely aware of her life’s full circle moments, and this action appeared to be one of them.
AmeriHealth Caritas provides health insurance to those who are most in need—those on Medicaid and Medicare. In Ky’a’s mind, it was the perfect role because she could help change the trajectory of people’s lives by helping them gain employment with the company. It also brought Ky’a joy to run the summer internship program. She asserts, “I could help families of all backgrounds by providing employment to the parents and, at the same time, provide internships to their children. I left AmeriHealth Caritas as the Director of Diversity and Inclusion and continued the work of DEI at Money Mart as their Senior Director of Diversity and Inclusion.” Ky’a’s desire to embed DEI in everything organizations do became her attraction to AmerisourceBergen, and she is now their current Senior Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
As a Senior Director of Diversity and Inclusion at AmerisourceBergen
AmerisourceBergen fosters a positive impact on the health of people and communities around the world by advancing the development and delivery of pharmaceuticals and healthcare products. As a leading global healthcare company, with a foundation in pharmaceutical distribution and solutions for manufacturers, pharmacies, and providers, they create unparalleled access, efficiency, and reliability for human and animal health. 41,000 global team members power their purpose, to create healthier futures. AmerisourceBergen is ranked #10 on the Fortune 500 with more than $200 billion in annual revenue.
Ky’a is a member of the global DEI team that serves as a center of excellence to drive DEI strategic initiatives and culture priorities globally. Ky’a interacts with leaders and stakeholders at all levels to imbed DEI into engagement both internally and in the communities where we live and work. She works cross-functionally and with business leaders to integrate DEI into all aspects of the business and culture. Ky’a also serves as advisor and leads governance for the eight Employee Resource Groups that create community with the organization and influence culture evolution to align with DEI priorities.
Ky’a’s leadership style is a combination of coaching and servant leadership methodologies. She asserts, “I have to say my philosophy of leadership and life in general is similar to the Ubuntu philosophy—the idea of connectedness—when you succeed, I succeed. That has been my way of working and living, and it has certainly supported my work of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.”
Inspiration at Work and Play
The happiest part of Ky’a’s daily routine is being able to engage with an employee that has taken the steps to learn more about DEI and comes to her to either share what they have learned or ask more questions. She tells people all the time that DEI work keeps one “in a constant state of learning”. She states, “Helping employees expand their cultural lenses is so fulfilling to me.” When describing what Ky’a does to people unfamiliar with DEI, she tells them that she helps people see and hear each other. Ky’a is a self-proclaimed nerd, so whenever someone wants to learn more about others different from themselves, she loves it! She adds, “It happens at least once a day and I welcome the exchanges.”
According to Ky’a, most of the time, her work and personal life inspire each other. For example, her idea of having an HBCU panel at her job with representatives from Cheyney University, UNCF and an AmerisourceBergen talent acquisition colleague came to her while she was attending homecoming events at Cheyney University of Pennsylvania, her alma mater. She shares, “I continued to enjoy Homecoming but not without quickly jotting down the outline of my idea on my cell phone.” As a current doctoral candidate at Drexel University, Ky’a often finds she can use what she learns from academic research in her daily DEI work. Since her concentration is in higher education, she finds her academic research allows for her to be a much better collaborator to the talent acquisition team whose job it is to find early, diverse talent.” So one can see, the lines can get very blurred, but Ky’a welcomes the inspiration.
Attributes of Successful Leaders
One of Ky’a’s favorite quotes from Dr. Cornel West is, “You can’t lead the people if you don’t love the people. You can’t save the people if you don’t serve the people.” She believes leaders lead with their heart and mind. They are authentic and understand that it isn’t just important to sharpen their own skills but to make sure that they are leading are growing, developing, and being challenged. Ky’a thinks one of the best skills a good leader can have is also the ability to listen. Sometimes, she feels like listening is a lost art. She asserts, “If you are a leader that truly listens, you can hear not only what is said, but also what is not said. Sometimes people are not exactly sure how to express what they want and/or need. If you are listening deeply to them, you can build a level of trust in them that will help both you and them develop.”
Her advice is, “No matter how high you grow in your career and in your life, always remember that you did not get there alone. It is your responsibility to work hard, develop and master your skills, and always remember to reach back.”
Written by Steve Sanchez.
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