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Frances Hesselbein

President & CEO

New York, NY

In a few years we more than tripled racial and ethnic representation at every level across the organization.

In my early years at the Girl Scouts of the USA we were working hard to make sure people of all races and backgrounds could find themselves in our organization. The defining moments in my life and work meant that diversity and inclusion would be vital ingredients of whatever I was called to do. Those moments have really changed who I am inside, far beyond lip service. But at one point in those early years, I met a business leader who told me, "Frances, I really care about you and the organization, but you have to stop this diversity stuff. Nobody wants to hear about it, and if you keep it up you will never raise any money!"

I thanked him politely and went out and recruited John Creedon, who was the new president of MetLife, for the Girl Scouts' capital campaign. With John's three wonderful co-chairs, we raised $10 million to build the new Edith Macy Conference Center, an environmentally sustainable retreat center on four hundred beautiful wooded acres in Westchester County, New York. Girl Scouts of the USA owns the center, and it is symbolic of where the organization is headed.

We can preach mission and values, put them on a plaque on the wall and print them in an annual report, yet unless we live them every day of our lives, we fail. The people we work with watch us closely, and when we embody our mission and values in all we say, all we do and how we lead, the result is a highly motivated, highly productive workforce. We light the fire in our colleagues. However, if we speak one way yet lead, behave and act in the opposite way, the result is a dispirited, unmotivated and unproductive workforce. No fire, just getting by.

And if we value diversity and inclusion, then we must ask, "When they look at us, can they find themselves?" This is the powerful question that uncovers whether an organization practices what it preaches. If the response is a resounding "Yes," then indeed the organization is a viable, relevant organization of the future. We asked ourselves that question at the Girl Scouts of the USA, and the result was that in a few years we more than tripled racial and ethnic representation at every level across the organization.

Today, whenever I serve, wherever I go, my fellow travelers and colleagues always represent the face of America. And if someone tries to hold us back, we politely say, "Thank you," and continue walking through the open door.