A Bouquet of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusive Culture

By:Barbara Chatzkel, Chair of DFW’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) National Committee and
Shaniece Criss, member of DFW’s Board of Directors and Chair of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusive Culture (DEIC) Board Committee


Since 2017, an extraordinary group of Dining for Women members has been championing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) for our organization. They came from different chapters nationwide, all focused on learning and growing DFW’s understanding and knowledge of how to create a more inclusive community of members, grantees, staff, and volunteers. 

This committee researched the “bright spots” of diversity within DFW and compiled a report to demonstrate that, indeed, diversity is and can be successful at DFW.  The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee also produced the “Case for Diversity” for our staff, volunteer leadership, and board to ensure that we all have the same understanding of why diversity is critical to an organization’s success. Each team member was personally changed by the experience of studying organizational and personal biases and are excited that the next chapter in DFW’s evolution will take DEI to the next level.

Rizwana Khader is a member of the DEI Committee. “As different and beautiful human beings are, we tend to group ourselves with people who look similar,” she states. “We grow into an environment with biases that the society around us dictates. But as we learn, we grow and evolve into stronger, smarter, more sensible and responsible human beings. Learning helps us accept our differences with respect and kindness.”

As we began to evaluate how to make faster and measurable progress, it became clear that efforts for diversity, equity, and inclusion cannot be limited to one committee; the efforts must be an active part of all programs and aspects of our organization. These efforts must also be led by the people who determine the vision and strategic direction for our organization.

With this in mind, DFW’s Board of Directors made the monumental decision to elevate these priorities to the highest level by creating the new, board-level Diversity, Equity, and Inclusive Culture (DEIC) Committee to be led by Board member Shaniece Criss. This decision ensures that DEIC will be incorporated throughout our organization and will be considered a top board priority like financial accountability, excellent grant making, and program oversight.

A proverb says “a lot of different flowers make a bouquet.” To extend this illustration, the variety of flowers represents diversity; ensuring that all the flowers have sunlight and water to thrive and grow is equity; and each flower feeling beautiful and appreciated in the bouquet is having an inclusive culture. This new committee’s goal is to incorporate diversity, equity, and inclusive culture into our strategic goals, priorities, and operations.

An innovative part of this initiative is the Diversity and Leadership Learning Hub (The Hub), which will be a subcommittee that includes representation from the board, national volunteer committees, and operating teams. This approach will break down silos and activate change agents in every aspect of our organization.

As the original DEI Committee retires (members listed below), we are grateful to report that many of them are taking on new roles in the organization to help share the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout. This is yet another incredible example of how our members contribute and influence the direction of this organization. It is the power of community in action. Thank you to all of the DEI Committee members:

Barbara Chatzkel – AZ,Phoenix-1 Kathy Shearer – DE, Newark-1
Shontel Babb – SC, Greenville-1 Melesa Treize – NY, New York-1
Cathy Hammoud – OH, Sylvania-4 Leah Victorino – ID, Boise-3
Rizwana Khader – DE, Newark-1 Denise Woods – DC, Washington-4