As part of our series about ‘5 Steps We Must Take To Truly Create An Inclusive, Representative, and Equitable Society’ I had the pleasure to interview Korryn Williamson.
Korryn Williamson serves as the Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Insight Global, one of the nation’s largest staffing companies. Committed to creating positive change for the future of America’s workforce, Korryn focuses her work on creating new opportunities for job seekers to change the way companies select, interview and hire for positions. She also is responsible for implementing a robust DE&I strategy that revolutionizes every role at Insight Global to empower people in new and meaningful ways.
Since being appointed in February 2021, Korryn has implemented several initiatives with the help of a team of six individuals and 20 ambassadors across the country. Korryn is especially proud of a key partnership with Year Up, an organization whose mission is to close the Opportunity Divide by ensuring that young adults gain the skills, experiences, and support that will empower them to reach their potential through careers and higher education. Under her leadership, Insight Global has been able to raise more than $40,000 for Year Up and place individuals from the workforce development organization into jobs with Insight Global clients.
Korryn also plays a key role in the company’s Pathfinders program, which is leadership development training for the company’s Black leadership consultants. She is also spearheading the company’s DE&I consulting arm, which is slated to officially launch this year.
Korryn is a proud advocate of the Black Lives Matter movement, which she has personally supported through meaningful work and events at her alma mater, San Jose State University. In her free time, Korryn enjoys attending church, reading and creating new weekly hairstyles to showcase her passion and advocacy for Black women and the Crown Act.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to ‘get to know you’. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?
Iwas originally born in Oakland, California but moved to Stockton when I was a young child. For those unfamiliar, Stockton is one of the most diverse cities in California but is extremely segregated and divided. I was a Black girl living on the “white” side of town, which created a lot of insecurities and anxiety, but also a lot of opportunities for reflection and for finding my path in life. Most importantly, it instilled in me at an early age the importance of diversity and creating a community that is accepting, loving and respectful.
I attended San Jose State, one of the most diverse college campuses in the country, where I honed in on my passion and explored the topics of ethnography, ableism, dating, sexuality, racism and more. As a proud alum, I’ve gone back throughout my adult life to help create movements and initiatives pertaining to diversity, equity and inclusion.
I would also be remiss not to mention that I grew up in awe of my father. His journey has shaped who I am today. My father didn’t have a college degree but showed that grit, perseverance and hard work can help you achieve greatness. He started working right out of high school at an entry level IT job and worked his way up the ranks, providing the best he could to create a comfortable home for my family. We didn’t always have much, but we had enough to live happy and fulfilling lives. I don’t have many family members that have graduated college, and my parents were with me every step of the way, encouraging me to apply for financial aid and see my dreams through to fruition.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
My mentor at Insight Global had me read a book called Mindset by Carol Dweck. It was absolutely pivotal and life changing for me as it showed me that there is no such thing as failure. This book helped to reinforce that if I do something and it doesn’t work out, it’s okay because a lesson was learned. It has encouraged me to have a growth mindset, to push beyond the limits, and to take chances. I’ve taken many chances since then — working to be the first ever DE&I Director at Insight Global, educating myself on financial literacy, purchasing my first home, and so much more.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?
Whether we are talking Stacey Abrams, Naomi Osaka, Rihanna, or Amanda Gorman, I’ve seen Black women over the last several years rise in unprecedented ways, and I decided I want to rise, too. Less than 60 years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to share an office space with my white peers, and today I can. We have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go. And I have learned that there is power in sharing my story and making myself vulnerable. Despite its challenges, I love being a Black woman. In the words of my favorite poet, and fellow Black leader Maya Angelou, “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor and some style.” I am Black, I am a woman, and mattering is the bare minimum. I am valued, I am loved, and like the historic Black women who have come before me, I am a change agent.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
I think there is immense strength in being a vulnerable leader. One that also has humility, passion and humor. I have a very specific style and perspective that I bring to leadership, and I bring my whole self to the role. Not just “work” Korryn or “play” Korryn, rather I choose to have one identity — my whole self — that I bring to work. I also am what people would call a young leader. At the ripe age of just 24, I view my age as a strength. I have the unique ability to connect with younger generations but also have the aptitude and maturity to connect with older generations as well. As a young Black woman, I will continue to do my best to redefine what leadership means.
In my work, I often talk about how to release and relieve stress. As a busy leader, what do you do to prepare your mind and body before a stressful or high stakes meeting, talk, or decision? Can you share a story or some examples?
I rely on my faith in all facets of my life, especially when it comes to releasing and relieving stress. I don’t always know how things are going to work out, but I’ve learned that God always provides. There were times that my dad was laid off, that we had weeks upon weeks of rice and beans for dinner, that things looked bleak. But, my faith led me through these difficult moments and taught me very valuable lessons about survival, love and growth.
The United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This is of course a huge topic. But briefly, can you share your view on how this crisis inexorably evolved to the boiling point that it’s at now?
The silver lining of the pandemic is that we had quite a bit of time to stay home, think and self-reflect. We also had a front seat to so many of the heinous hate crimes throughout the last several years that I know for many, like myself, have made me pause and question everything. While a lot of this wasn’t new for me, it’s the first time that we saw so many people from different races, religions and backgrounds coming together to try and create change. We all had a lot of time during the lockdown to think about where we want to go — not only as individuals, but as a collective country, and it was inspiring to see so many people come together to create positive, peaceful disruption. I can only hope that this continues and can help create tangible and meaningful change.
Can you tell our readers a bit about your experience working with initiatives to promote Diversity and Inclusion? Can you share a story with us?
I felt a strong desire and need to make a difference when many of the Black Lives Matter protests started to take place. I went back to my alma mater, San Jose State, and while I attended a few protests, I knew I wanted to do something more. Over the course of three days, I came together with several other individuals and planned a large-scale event. Hundreds of us came together — from different backgrounds and communities — to listen, talk, speak and connect. It made me realize that people want to talk and want to work together. And while it was emotionally taxing, it made me realize that I am meant to be a bridge that connects people. I bring this mentality into my work every day at Insight Global.
When it comes to DE&I, it is our responsibility at Insight Global as one of the largest staffing companies in the country to change what the future of the workforce looks like. We need to advocate and educate, whether it be women who haven’t had the right interview and compensation opportunities, to Black people who don’t have a degree. Insight Global plays a major role in the workforce, and we see recruitment as a movement to provide opportunities and push back on things that have once been viewed as non-negotiables (i.e., a college degree). It’s our job to make sure people have access to a diverse talent pool and to make sure companies have an infrastructure that supports the growth of diverse employees.
I’m excited to be spearheading the launch of our DE&I consulting arm at Insight Global. Our goal is to help other companies recognize the importance of diversity, as well as create ways to implement and execute on the change that needs to be made. We’re excited to take all of the research we’ve done and not only apply it to our workforce at Insight Global, but to our clients and prospective clients across the country.
This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?
It is important that businesses are reflective of the audiences they serve. For the staffing industry, we’re helping people get jobs from all walks of life and different backgrounds. We can better help and serve them if we have a workforce that is reflective of the audiences we are helping. It will make for better leaders and better companies to be surrounded by different points of view, different perspectives and diversity of thought. And, financially, it’s been proven that you will grow if you are more diverse.
Can you please share your “5 Steps We Must Take To Truly Create An Inclusive, Representative, and Equitable Society”. Kindly share a story or example for each.
- Self-Reflection: It’s important to think about what type of person you want to be, what type of leader you want to be, and what steps you can take to achieve that. We all pull different levers in society that contribute to a bigger picture, a bigger movement. What I’m doing at Insight Global is helping society progress forward, and it can be a positive snowball effect. Self-reflect on who you want to be, what you want your legacy to be, and how you will individually help create change.
- Listening and Learning: Diversity is so much more than just racial and ethnic diversity. There are so many more layers and dimensions. It’s complex and wonderful all at the same time. By listening to others, you can create growth.
- Take Action: Think about the things you can do in your everyday life to create change in the DE&I arena. Mentor someone, empower people, volunteer, lift others up, and be the positive change you want to see.
- Be Consistent: Human and civil rights are lifelong fights. There has never been a point in history where society has been truly inclusive. When I was 22, I had a conversation with our CEO as an entry level employee. I shared my thoughts and ideas with him, which is something that a young Black professional would’ve never been able to do years ago. Consistent conversations and contributions to society will help push us even closer to a truly inclusive world.
- Be Compassionate: Work in the DE&I space can be hard and emotionally taxing. So, lead with compassion. Be open to learning from your mistakes, and understand that compassion will create change.
We are going through a rough period now. Are you optimistic that this issue can eventually be resolved? Can you explain?
For me, resolution isn’t the right term. A win for me would be growth. It’s not about living in the binary of success and failure, but more about living in progression. As a society, we will never be perfect, but we can make progress. We can see generational change when it comes to financial literacy, equity, diverse leadership and more. I would love to see a corporate America that is more reflective of the real world. Specifically at Insight Global, my goal is to look back and see how many people we have given opportunities to that didn’t have those before. I want us to be able to say that we’ve created generational change.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them.
There are so many people that have inspired me, but Issa Rae (actress, producer and writer) sits at the top of that list. She had a show on HBO called “Insecure” that examines the friendship of two black women in a unique, authentic way. The show had Black characters that I could relate to in a way I haven’t been able to do with any other television series. They were professionals, trying to balance work life, romantic and platonic relationships, and personal growth. It was a show for Black people to exist without feeding into stereotypes and solely focusing on racial issues. She has also done a tremendous job of creating resources and opportunities for Black creators in Hollywood. She is relatable and powerful and has changed the narrative for Black people in a profound way.