KeeleyOne Spotlight: Ramona McCook
Keeley Companies’ most recently launched cultural pillar, KeeleyOne, is focused on Diversity & Inclusion. This pillar would not exist without the hard work and dedication of our incredible team members. Each month we will be spotlighting one of these passionate Keeley’ns about what Diversity & Inclusion means to them. Ramona McCook, IT Director for Keeley Companies and Leader of KeeleyOne, saw an opportunity to help foster change and knew this was something she needed to do to help her fellow Keeley’ns understand and get excited about Diversity & Inclusion.
Ramona was approached about joining the KeeleyOne team and after taking a step back and really thinking about what KeeleyOne could bring to Keeley Companies, she realized that she had this incredible opportunity to help change the narrative around Diversity & Inclusion. Ramona is very passionate about driving the Inclusion aspect of KeeleyOne, making it less of a scary concept. Driving home KeeleyOne’s mission of Inclusion and driving Diversity will help improve the overall culture. Diversity, by definition, is “race, ethnicity, religion, disability, and sexual orientation.” However, to Ramona, Diversity & Inclusion means remembering that people are people and we should celebrate our differences. Everybody has opinions and we must remember to have meaningful conversations so we can all connect on a deeper level. KeeleyOne works hard to instill this belief in all of our Keeley’ns and Ramona is very optimistic about the future.
“I am most excited to not only see the learning opportunity sessions take flight, but the actual implementation of our ideas and the application of what we’ve taken away from those sessions into our culture. I can’t wait to see all of our team members, especially in the field feel more comfortable to use their voice to speak up and be heard. We are going to be able to reach so many different areas and backgrounds which will allow our teams to bring additional knowledge and influence across the industry.”
Forming a culture of Diversity & Inclusion from the ground up is no simple feat. Ramona and the team have learned a lot along the way, especially that there are different ways of spreading the message and getting Keeley’ns on board. The team works hard to really promote the fact that establishing a culture of Diversity & Inclusion will not replace people’s jobs or eliminate future opportunities. It is just putting a greater emphasis on supporting the equity of our people while listening, educating, and engaging in those hard conversations. KeeleyOne is here to help people feel comfortable having those uncomfortable conversations. The biggest challenge that Ramona has faced throughout this process is navigating the delicate balance that comes with promoting Diversity & Inclusion.
“We don’t want people to feel targeted or excluded. We are still working to find that balance of how we do this in a sensitive way while still being somewhat disruptive to help drive those conversations and that change.”
Becoming more engaged with Diversity & Inclusion and having uncomfortable conversations can be intimidating for some. If Ramona could give one piece of advice to Keeley’ns embarking on this journey, it would be:
“Stay open. We are all people at the end of the day. My favorite quote is ‘I really don’t like that person. I should get to know them better.’ I encourage Keeley’ns to take that quote and realize that there is always something that connects us as people, we just have to get beyond the initial perceptions we may have about someone.”
Diversity & Inclusion is important no matter the company or the industry. Ramona has been a part of this process from the very beginning, so if asked to give a piece of advice to someone wanting to start a Diversity & Inclusion initiative at their company, she would say:
“Start attending outside sessions and meet with people that are doing this already. Understand your narrative and how you want to approach it. Make sure your drive is not in response to a specific event, but that it is something you are truly passionate about. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Diversity & Inclusion is specific to your culture, so what works for others may not work for you. That’s okay, keep going.”
Keeley’ns across the nation are encouraged to start getting involved through our monthly INCLUDE sessions and upcoming VOICE chats. However, for those wanting to continue educating themselves outside of KeeleyOne, Ramona recommends the following blogs, videos, and TV programs.
Michelle Kim: “How To Manage Your Team In Times of Political Trauma”