DEIAJ Action Steps

Group at desk

March 17, 2021 • Taylor Clark • ECHO Digital, ECHO Digital, General Articles, Zoos + Aquariums

We had a fantastic discussion! A special thank you to Nicole Armstrong, David Jenike, and Jeff Walton for sharing their experiences and passion. Here are a few key take always!


If you’d like the full recording, shoot us an email and we’ll get it to you!

Queen City Certified is starting another DEAI Cohort in May of 2021. Email or check it out at


3 Key Points

1. It’s not fast enough.

It will take over 200 years to reach gender equality at our current pace. Nicole shared that, although things are continuously improving, we have to expedite the process and start making significant changes. Many of our organizations don’t make movements because we don’t know what to do.


2. Systems Not People.

We are frequently relying on, or hoping that people will simply make unbiased decisions. The challenge is that all of us have un-realized biases. To see significant change we have to examine our systems, measure them, and make changes to the systems. We can’t simply rely on good people. Nicole shared that as we dig into our internal systems, we discover that great people with good intentions, can’t always overcome the systems in place. Things like how we find and recruit for new positions, how we hire, internal policies, etc. It’s so important to take a critical look at our policies and practices and pair this with listening to our staff and teams to find out what is and is not working for them.


3. Just Listen!

It sounds so basic but it doesn’t always happen. If we want to understand the experience of others, we have to ask and listen. One of the best things, as Jeff and David from Cincinnati zoo shared, is to connect with organizations that are not zoos. They discovered that all companies are facing similar challenges and no one knows the perfect solution. Everyone is in this together striving to create a better, more equitable experience for their staff, guests, volunteers, and partners. One of the best steps you can take is to connect with other local organizations and their HR teams to simply start talking and brainstorming.


Practical Application

Everyone’s context is different. The process or asking, listening, and testing ideas is essential. Queen City Certified’s process uses this systems-based, data-driven, listening and ideation process at it’s core. Here are just some of the ideas we discussed on the call:

  • 1. Does your parental leave policy give equal time for men and women? Unequal time off is suggestive of different gender roles and gender priority in parenting.
  • 2. Are your staff able to take time off to care for aging family members? This can be essential for many staff and we don’t always know it.
  • 3. What is your support system for child care? Child care can be incredibly expensive and significant stress for your staff.
  • 4. Have you completed a pay assessment looking at equal pay across the organization for comparable jobs? Sometimes, pay gaps exist because of gender or sometimes it comes down to how skilled a negotiator the new hire was.
  • 5. Are our jobs competitive in the market? Traditionally zoo jobs are below our local market and we rely on passion to retain people. What other benefits can we provide to improve the lives of our staff? Many full-time zoo staff across the country work additional jobs just to pay the bills. Is that the human-experience we want for our staff?
  • 6. What is your vacation policy? We have found that many zoo staff don’t take their vacation. One organization actually gave additional vacation time for staff who used all of their vacation as an incentive practice.
  • 7. During interviews, make sure you have more than 1 person of color as a candidate. Statistics tell us that if you have one person of color interviewed, their chances of being hired is almost 0%. if you interview two, the percent goes up to almost 50%.
As David, Jeff and Nicole all said, the most important thing is to simply get started. We are all on this journey and there is no perfect path. An object – or organization – in motion, will stay in motion exponentially easier than one that is just doing what it’s always done.


Join the next ECHO Digital

Each month, ECHO Digital is hosted to create opportunities for passionate zoo professionals to connect with innovative ideas from outside the zoo field as well as with other zoo colleagues around the country. To join the next ECHO Digital, email us at