Are we courageous enough to reimagine our workplaces? That is the question that Daisy Auger-Dominguez, founder and CEO of consultancy firm Auger-Dominguez Ventures, has been asking for years. “America has always been an experiment,” she explains. “A complicated experiment built on racialized concepts of freedom, citizenship, and democracy.”
“If we don’t maximize the breadth of all our talent and build inclusive and equitable organizational cultures and systems,” Auger-Dominguez continues, “we will fail to maintain our competitive position globally. And the grand experiment that is America will fail.”
For more than two decades, Auger-Dominguez has been fighting the cultural norms and structures that have prevented corporate America from capitalizing on that full breadth of talent—the same norms and beliefs that have over the years branded Auger-Dominguez as “too foreign to speak English well,” too poor to be good at math or writing, and too much a product of affirmative action to be deserving of the achievements for which she has worked so hard.
As a leader at top companies such as Google, Viacom, the Disney ABC Television Group, and Moody’s Corporation, the Bucknell University alumna has challenged the corporate world to cultivate workplaces marked by inclusion instead of microaggressions. But despite her passion for and commitment to these issues, Auger-Dominguez’s fight to “create space and opportunity for others” eventually began to wear her out.
“I was stuck in a corporate Game of Thrones,” Auger-Dominguez says with a laugh. “I was defining my entire existence by titles and achievement. I spent my energy battling toxic managers, battling ‘stuck’ organizations that didn’t want to move beyond simple solutions, and battling practices like covering, the practice of downplaying who you are in order to succeed in an organizational context.” A study by the Center for Talent Innovation found that 76 percent of Latinos repress parts of their personas at work. “I was exhausted!”
Disillusioned with that lifestyle, Auger-Dominguez took the opportunity to take a full year off work following an organizational restructuring. “I called it the ‘Year of My Heart,’” she says. “I knew that I needed to heal my heart and take care of myself—and I also knew that if I didn’t take time to travel and disconnect, I was just going to get back into the same habits.”
There Is No Equality without Choice
Daisy Auger-Dominguez has been fighting for women and women of color specifically for decades, striving to ensure that they are able to do whatever they wish in their professional lives. But as she points out, “You can’t have autonomy or control over your career if you don’t have control over your own body.”
That conviction is what inspires Auger-Dominguez every day as a Planned Parenthood Federation of America board member. The nation’s leading sexual and reproductive health care provider, Planned Parenthood Federation of America is also the nation’s largest provider of sexual education—including more than 500,000 Latino patients.
“I know it’s hard, especially for immigrants and Latinos, to access high-quality healthcare in this country,” Auger-Dominguez says. “I’m honored to be able to support Planned Parenthood and the amazing staff and volunteers on the front lines of this important work.”
So instead of taking headhunter calls and spending her days in an office, Auger-Dominguez traveled with her family over an entire summer. She reconnected with her past, with her Dominican heritage. When she returned to the US, she spent time with friends and mentees. She found time to attend every single board and committee meeting for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, and other organizations she had been serving for years. She chopped off her shoulder-length hair into a pixie cut. And she didn’t look back.
By winter 2018, however, Auger-Dominguez knew that it was time to find another role. But while she had been receiving offers for months, none of them felt quite right. “I knew that all those organizations wanted me to do the same thing I had for years—to be their voice for diversity while leaders were only willing to make surface-level changes,” she notes. “I had seen how that played out, and I wasn’t interested.”
It was time for Auger-Dominguez to strike out on her own, to find the opportunities to implement the lasting changes she had been dreaming of. And in April 2019, Auger-Dominguez made her move, starting Auger-Dominguez Ventures and sending out a call to everyone from Fortune 500 corporations to start-up companies to social impact organizations that she was ready and willing to help them “reduce the gap between the values that they espoused and the experience of their employees.”
In the year that has passed since then, Auger-Dominguez has been working “nonstop” to help the people and organizations that reach out to her.
“My vision has always been to build workplace culture(s) that work for everyone,” she explains. “In the grand scheme of things, I want to inspire leaders to be more courageous, to lead inclusively, and to shape workplace culture that are—in their very DNA—compassionate, inclusive, and equitable.”
And as Auger-Dominguez sees it, that is by no means some far-off dream. “It’s not going to happen overnight, of course, but I do believe that change can happen a lot faster than people think,” she remarks. “Instead of constantly struggling with moving past the trending hashtags, political landmines and pervasive blind spots, organizations can operate in inclusive and equitable ways.”
That inclusive culture, according to Auger-Dominguez, has to start at the top. “The individuals currently being groomed to take over leadership positions in the next five, ten years, are going to be expected to lead far more inclusively and equitably than their predecessors,” the CEO says. “We should be preparing those leaders to not just be outstanding operational leaders but innovative people leaders as well. They can’t simply replicate the same leadership patterns that have kept largely white and male executives the perpetual majority and prevented others from having seats at the table for so long.”
That work of transforming organizational structures and cultures will be hard—“really hard,” Auger-Dominguez acknowledges. “But this is about our collective future. All of our choices have consequences. We are all inextricably bound to each other, and we now have a unique opportunity to build radical new models of work that will last beyond any of us.”