Breinn Richter is one of two scholars in residence at Collective Leadership Strategies. Breinn's trademark inquisitive nature makes her the model for questioning internalized bias and the ways in which it manifests into external actions. Breinn’s area of expertise is Human Resource Development through a critical theory lens.
Breinn got her undergraduate degree from Texas A&M University in Animal Science and as a young woman, she was active in 4H and FFA. Now Breinn is back at Texas A&M University for her Ph.D., but her focus lies on a totally different world!
Let's ask Breinn some questions!
What made you get into this line of work?
Early on in my Ph.D. program, I was interested in learning more about the career trajectory for mothers, particularly those who are privileged enough to take maternity leave. Through that initial line of research, I saw the stark comparison between white women and women of color in the amount of leave available and how/if it was taken (paid vs. unpaid) and wage-over-time disparities and career trajectories (climbing the ladder) with return-to-work moms. That was my entry point into studying race and its intersection with career and organizational development.
In your opinion, what is a common practice that you'd like to see more companies institute?
My biggest piece of advice for organizational leaders is to not assume what you think employees need or want...you can simply ask THEM. And trust me, they will tell you if you've created the right environment for them to do so. It seems like such a simple question, but it reveals so much about what you're doing right or wrong with your greatest resource - the people.
How do you like to spend your spare time?
I love going camping with my family! I spend so much time doing research that I sadly don't really read for fun unless I force myself to get out of my everyday environment. So camping becomes my opportunity to leave it all behind for a bit. It doesn't sound luxurious, but it is for me! Just being in the woods with something other than a scholarly article!
What is your professional background?
When I graduated from undergrad, I took a sales job for a year before transitioning into a decade-long marketing career. First, I worked for five years at a small, statewide insurance company (whilst completing an MBA with a 10-day old baby on my hip) and then another five years for a large, publicly-traded company headquartered in Canada. Part of my motivation to go back to school to pursue a Ph.D. in Human Resource Development was due to the challenges and opportunities I faced being an American working for a Canadian company. During the course of my Ph.D. studies, I have taught both undergraduates and graduate students in the Neeley School of Business, while consulting and facilitating workshops on the side. Now, I get to work with my dearest friends for our next adventure, Collective Leadership Strategies, Inc.!
Where can we see you in the community?
Well, I've served on many local non-profit boards and volunteered around the city since we moved to the Near Southside in 2010. I even managed a Mayoral campaign here during the last election cycle! I love going to art shows, live music venues, and cruising around the City looking for delicious food and drinks.
What are you reading right now?
At this very second, I am reading a scholarly article published by my colleague Dr. Jonathan Pérez about disrupting dominant workplace practices with the power of the testimonio. Seriously though, if I'm not camping, it's all research articles all the time!
As an expert in Critical Human Resource Development, what advice do you have for organizational leaders?
I always get tickled at leaders who say their organizations are racially diverse, only to look at their organizational chart and see it is dominated by white males the closer you get to the top. One of the easiest benchmarks you can set for your organization is to look at the community in which you are located. For example here in Fort Worth, the largest racially demographic groups are white (60%), Black (19%), and Hispanic/LatinX (35%). If you look out at the sea of folks at your next board or staff meeting and your racial demographics don't reflect that, you have some work to do... even more so if your executive suite doesn't match either.
And it never fails, the next common question is about recruiting...if you tell me you can't find qualified candidates who meet your demographic targets, you simply are not looking hard enough. If you want more qualified, racially diverse entry-level candidates, prioritize recruiting from HBCUs and HSIs - all the while working to ensure your organizational culture supports true inclusion and belonging for racially minoritized folks.
Diversity is the easy part. Developing a culture of belonging is much harder - that's why we started our consultancy here at CLS.