United Way of Metro Chicago's new VP of Human Resources, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Tamiya Aurel

1) Congrats on your new role. Tell us what it is -- what’s the title, what’s the scope?

Thank you! I am humbled by the recognition of my work so far at United Way and I am excited about this opportunity. My official new title is Vice President of Human Resources, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. This expanded role reflects how our organization is recognizing the increased importance that diversity, equity, and inclusion plays in our work every day. I will continue to lead our human resource efforts but will also help facilitate our work around equity, both internally and externally.

2) What are your main priorities in the new role?

Right now, my primary focus is to help create our strategic plan around DEI efforts. I am immersing myself in all things equity with a primary focus on race and recently became a member of United Way Worldwide’s Equity Advisory Committee. This select group of multidisciplinary professionals is creating the framework for DEI efforts at the network level.

I attended the United Way Equity Summit last month and, I have to tell you, it was one of the most educational and engaging conference experiences I have had. The United Way network convened not only United Way staff who are charged with executing this important work, but also invited select partners and volunteers and impressive equity champions who are actively doing this work to participate in the conference as well.

One of the highlights of the conference was having an opportunity to hear social justice philanthropist and famed author and “Decolonizing Wealth: Indigenous Wisdom to Heal Divides and Restore Balance,” Edgar Villanueva speak. He spoke of his childhood experiences and his work educating others on racial equity.

This experience is helping me to build the framework and strategy for our local United Way chapter. In addition to this, I will continue to dive deep into our local HR processes to ensure our culture is one that reflects a truly diverse and inclusive population and engaged practices.  

VP of Human Resources, DEI, Tamiya Aurel poses for a photo with the author of “Decolonizing Wealth”, Edgar Villanueva during the United Way Equity Summit in August.

VP of Human Resources, DEI, Tamiya Aurel poses for a photo with the author of “Decolonizing Wealth”, Edgar Villanueva during the United Way Equity Summit in August.

3) What are you nervous about / what keeps you up at night? What do you want to make sure you get right?

I would say I am most anxious about stepping into such a crucial body of work because DEI application is essential. I feel I have a responsibility to my profession, my family and the organization to be impactful. I love the work of Human Resources and it helps drive my day-to-day. However, I also have a personal interest in helping United Way of Metro Chicago achieve success in this equity work. My personal experiences and those of the communities with which I identify give me particular insight into the unfair treatment and inequities that unfortunately exist. I want to ensure that our United Way team and the communities we work alongside feel seen, heard and valued.

4) Tell us in your words why United Way is a great place to work / a great organization to be a part of.

United Way of Metro Chicago is on the cusp of doing more amazing work across the Chicagoland region! Every person on our team plays an important part in helping us continue to make a tremendous impact in the neighborhoods and communities we serve. We’re focused on raising funds that will impact systems, improve outcomes for families and increase opportunities in communities.

Internally, we have been intentional about improving engagement over the past year. Some of the programs we’ve instituted include lunch & learns, brown bags with the CEO, quarterly staff development and fellowship rallies, paid parental leave, paid personal leave and summer leave days!

I recently traveled to California and had the opportunity to visit Facebook headquarters. A good friend of mine works there and arranged a personal tour of the campus. It was interesting to see all of the unique workspaces and employee-centric perks. I returned home with so many ideas around training, development, and engagement. It’s always good to see how others do it; you can get some great ideas. United Way is not a tech company, but we are a great place to work! So I’m excited to see how we can apply many of the same concepts.

5) What are you doing for fun these days?

My aforementioned trip to California was a girl’s trip. My gal pals and I visited Napa Valley. Talk about FUN, FUN, FUN! We toured the wine country, ate well and shopped ‘til we dropped. It was nice to get away and enjoy time with friends.

As fall approaches, when I’m not working, you will find me in the bleachers cheering on my youngest son in basketball. I love the sport and I absolutely love watching the boys play. Yes, I’m THAT team mom, so watch out...just kidding!

Johnny Beckworth