After years of weathering unconscious (and deliberate) bias, Daisy Auger-Domínguez has made it her mission to make diversity, equity, and inclusion the core values of companies. And with more than 20 years building diverse and inclusive cultures for companies like Google, Viacom and The Walt Disney Company, Daisy shares what she believes are the real opportunities and challenges for change.
You're on a mission to make "all workplaces work for everyone." Tell us about that.
I advise executives, founders and board members on how to integrate diversity, equity, and inclusion into the core of their organization. Together we build a clear and effective diversity and inclusion strategy, train leaders and teams to shorten the time frame from ideation to execution and create the workplace culture all employees deserve. I work with clients at all stages of their journey because I believe that with the right capabilities, diverse perspectives, and inclusive practices, they will design better products and solutions, deliver better services, thrive in the future of work, and build a better world.
What led you to this career path?
I was imprinted by diversity and the complexity of identity from an early age. I was born in New York City to teenage parents of Dominican and Puerto Rican descent and raised in the Dominican Republic by my paternal grandparents. I studied at an international school where I straddled the privilege that comes from high educational attainment and proximity to wealth with the reality of working-class life. I also grew up with an identity tightly tied to my national heritage — I was very much Dominican and Puerto Rican. When I moved to New Jersey, I became “Hispanic.” All of a sudden, I was placed in this seemingly monolithic group that felt strangely limiting, and there didn’t seem to be anything I could do about it.
What pivotal moments did you face along the way?
"I soon experienced the insidious effects of everyday sexism and racism in the workplace."
When I launched my career, I soon experienced the insidious effects of everyday sexism and racism in the workplace. All around me, talented women, people of color, LGBTQ and people with disabilities were quietly sidelined and marginalized. Stories of daily slights were commonplace like repeatedly being called the same name as the only other Latina in the department who happened to be a secretary or being asked if all Dominicans played baseball in the middle of a client meeting. These seemed to be a universal truth of the corporate experience for women and underrepresented employees that were to be suffered and unchallenged. I felt the toll it took on black colleagues when they were passed over for promotions twice over their white counterparts. I saw women secretly leave the office to pick up a child because they were afraid they would seem less committed than their single colleagues. And if you were gay, Monday morning conversations about your weekend were heavily coded to avoid being outed. The combination of these experiences motivated me to build thriving diverse workplaces and cultures of belonging and dignity, where innovation and opportunity thrive.
What do you see as the major opportunities and challenges for women today?
The assault on reproductive and women’s health care rights is perhaps one of the greatest challenges of our time. Women's access to reproductive rights connects to their overall empowerment in the workplace and their economic security — it’s about gender equity, economic security, and the economies women support. Access and agency can allow a woman to plan and care for her community, pursue her education, grow her businesses, advance her career, and so much more.
Sexual and reproductive health is at the heart of the most important decisions a woman makes: if and when to marry, when and how to advance their career, how many children to have. It also fundamentally affects the safety and wellbeing of employees. When women have access to tools they need to control whether, when, and how often to have children, their families benefit too.
We also have to acknowledge that poor women, women of color, Native American, immigrant, and undocumented women are most severely affected. And these are the women whose economic security is most at peril.
What advice and solutions can you share?
"When we act with intention, courageously and with the power of sisterhood, we can do anything."
First, understand and share your story. There is incredible power in reflecting on and sharing your story. To influence with authority and impact, others must be clear on who you are and what you bring to the table. By staying true to who you are, your core values and sharing your truth, you can’t be shaken.
Second, don’t wait your turn. You’re ready. You don’t have to wait to give your life meaning and purpose. And you don’t have to wait to take career risks such as taking a stretch assignment, launching a side business of your dreams or taking that new role which you think you’re only 60-70% ready — because you’re ready now. It’s taken work to achieve what you have. When we act with intention, courageously and with the power of sisterhood, we can do anything.
Who has helped you in your journey and how did they help shape your thinking?
I have been the beneficiary of the wisdom and guidance of many generous mentors and sponsors throughout my career. Professor Walter Stafford who encouraged me in graduate school to fight for the voiceless. Pioneering Latino leaders Lisa Quiroz, Luis Miranda and Rossana Rosado who opened doors, lifted me up and helped me see myself reflected in their leadership. And wise women like Dr. Ella Bell, Roz Hudnell and Subha Barry who have always been there for me with a wise word, tough love and rich insight. And my sheroes, Tiffany Dufu, Cindy Pace, Yrthya Dinzey-Flores, Diana Solash and Helene Yan. Because of them, I give of my time richly. Because of them, I can lead with intention and purpose.
How have you found the right balance between your personal life and career?
"For me, the term work-life integration feels far more attainable."
Work-life balance is a fallacy that can breed shame and insecurity in women. Men, for the most part, are not asked to or even consider there is a balancing to be made. For me, the term work-life integration feels far more attainable. My husband is a true partner. I lean on friends, family and support teams to get things done because I’ve long, as my friend Tiffany Dufu has coined, been very comfortable “drop(ing) the ball”. I’ve also learned that saying “no” to an event or a trip is really saying “yes” to living a fulfilling and joyful life. Thank goodness for FaceTime, texts, email and every form of technology that allows us to stay connected even when far. My daughter now sends me lovely texts when I’m traveling with all types of awesome emojis. Those warm my heart!
Knowing what you know today, what one thing would you have done differently early in your career?
Stay present and trust each step of your journey. I spent much of my career in overdrive partly because I’m impatient and partly because the story I told myself was that I needed to achieve to be worthy of acceptance. I would tell myself to trust that we all get through life in increments, not leaps. And I would try to remind myself that my superpower, to inspire the hearts and minds of others, has been inside me all along.
If you weren’t doing what you’re doing now, money or talent would be no object, what would you be doing?
I would travel the world with my husband and daughter exploring and doing good. We’ve long talked about launching a social impact project or joining a local initiative in a remote part of the world where we could immerse ourselves fully.