The Unconventional Path to Success: How Jiquanda Nelson Became a Leading D&I CEO Through Boldness and Resilience

The 10 Most Influential D&I Leaders to Follow In 2023

With great pleasure, we present the inspiring tale of Jiquanda Nelson, CEO of Diversity Window, who has rightfully earned her place amongst the distinguished ranks of The 10 Most Influential D&I Leaders to Follow in 2023.

Mrs. Nelson’s invaluable insights and astute observations make her an individual worth following on LinkedIn and someone to look out for in panel discussions. Her reservoir of knowledge and experience provides a treasure trove of wisdom that all should eagerly absorb.

Jiquanda Nelson characterizes herself as “EXTRA,” a term that encapsulates her larger-than-life energy, confidence, and enthusiasm. Her boldness is reflected in her clothing choices, blinged-out nails, and passion for her work. Her indefatigable commitment to going above and beyond in all aspects of her life, including taking unconventional paths to achieve her goals, is a testament to her resilience and business acumen.

“I’m a woman, I’m black, I am passionate, I am transparent. The culture changes simply by being, right? It’s like any other thing where you change one molecule and the matter changes.” – Bozoma Saint John

Transformative Perspective on Achieving Success

Jiquanda Nelson’s view of success has undergone a significant transformation. From a young age, she was driven to excel in everything she did, motivated by a desire to make her family and community proud and set a good example for her siblings and younger cousins. This drive was further reinforced by her selection into a gifted program in elementary school, which placed additional pressure on her to perform at her best.

However, her perspective on success changed abruptly when a tragic event shook her family to its core. The sudden and unexpected passing of her 16-year-old brother made her realize that the things she had been striving for were not as important as she once thought. In the aftermath of this tragedy, she refocused her priorities on her personal joy, faith, family, and well-being.

This new outlook compelled her to take action and pursue her passions without delay, realizing that life is too short to wait for opportunities to come to her. She also became more discerning in the spaces she occupied, evaluating them more critically and seeking out environments that aligned with her values.

“I would leave unapologetically if I weren’t respected, valued, or seen. True success is finding joy in the spaces you’re in while showing up authentically!” she says.

From DEI Strategist to CEO: The Inspiring Professional Journey

Leading a company to success is no easy feat, especially in the realm of Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) leadership. But what inspired Jiquanda Nelson to take the bold step of faith in pursuing this path?

Before joining Diversity Window, Mrs. Nelson had already been involved in creating, building, and executing DEI strategies. However, one of her biggest challenges was the need for more access to data that could support and validate her work. She found it easier to drive meaningful action and secure stakeholders with the necessary data.

It was through her introduction to Diversity Window’s work of helping organizations gather DEI data that Mrs. Nelson became captivated. Initially joining as an advisor to the co-founders, she was later offered the opportunity to assume the role of CEO and help scale and grow the business.

Her extensive experience executing DEI strategies and her passion for data-driven decision-making made her an excellent fit for the role. Through her leadership, Diversity Window has continued to make significant strides in the field of DEI, empowering organizations with the critical data they need to create more inclusive and equitable workplaces.

“Sometimes just being yourself is the radical act. When you occupy space in systems that weren’t built for you, your authenticity is your activism.” – Elaine Welteroth

Navigating Roadblocks: Jiquanda Nelson’s Insights on Overcoming Challenges in Professional Growth

Challenges often require pushing ourselves beyond our comfort zone and developing new skills or approaches. By overcoming these obstacles, we gain valuable experience and confidence, which can propel us toward tremendous triumph in the future.

In the case of Jiquanda Nelson, a familiar challenge marked her early career journey: taking a job far below her qualifications to get her foot in the door. Despite her talent and potential, she was pigeonholed into a role that did not fully utilize her capabilities.

This experience could have been discouraging, but Mrs. Nelson saw it as an opportunity to grow and learn. She was determined to prove herself and rise to the challenges ahead.

Through perseverance and hard work, she overcame the limitations that others had placed on her and developed her skills and expertise. She refused to let her current position define her and instead focused on building her reputation and credibility within the industry.

Mrs. Nelson shares, “Through it all, I never gave up on myself and not ascribed to how people saw me. I truly leaned into the work and believed my passion would carve out space for me while opening doors of opportunity that honored that.”

Brief on Diversity Window and Its Services

At Diversity Window, they prioritize information. They utilize data to determine a business’s success, but they also aid in deciphering the data. The company’s philosophy is that knowing where you are and being honest about it are prerequisites to knowing where you’re headed. They collaborate with groups to develop a plan that supports where they are but challenges them to grow. With training, DEI project management, inclusion practices, belonging surveys, leadership development, and mentoring, they link teams with solutions to close gaps. To help its clients quickly address gaps and be proactive, when possible, the Diversity Window team maintains DEI data front and center at all times. They take great satisfaction in coaching their partners through the hurdles and difficulties of implementing genuine DEI strategies in an organization using the knowledge and expertise gained by their team during the implementation process.

“Unless we determine what shall be measured and what the yardstick of measurement in an area will be, the area itself will not be seen.” – Peter Drucker

Jiquanda Nelson’s Role in Redefining the Industry Through Innovative DEI Ideas

Diversity Window’s CEO conveys, “We know how to execute! For us, that’s the magic in how we approach the work. Innovative DEI happens when it is not done in one area of the business but in all areas.” 

Furthermore, Mrs. Nelson reveals that in addition to DEI, Diversity Window has recently broadened its service offerings to encompass HR consulting, Environmental, Social, Governance, and Well-being. The incorporation of DEI principles into these areas has presented ample opportunities for DEI to have a profound impact on the business.

Strategies for Cultivating a Culture of Integrity at Diversity Window

Jiquanda Nelson explains that at Diversity Window, they approach each client relationship humbly, seeking to understand their culture and climate before proposing solutions. When forming a partnership, they strive to uphold their commitments and acknowledge that mistakes can happen. When this occurs, they take responsibility for their actions and request forgiveness, just as they extend grace to others. As a leader, Mrs. Nelson sets an example by leading authentically and transparently, demonstrating what it means to learn and grow with grace.

From Hot Dog Stand to Diversity Window: Jiquanda Nelson’s Career Trajectory

Talking about the beginning of her career and life before Diversity Window, Jiquanda Nelson shares that her first job was working at a hot dog stand, a black-owned business ran by friends of her parents, where she gained valuable experience. During her college breaks, she worked as a temp administrative assistant and took on leadership roles in employee resource groups (ERGs), developing professional skills beyond her role. Concurrently, she was actively engaged in community initiatives, serving on boards and community organizing around issues of poverty and racism. These varied experiences gave her a diverse portfolio of skills and relationships that paved the way for her to enter the field of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). Her current work at Diversity Window allows her to draw on these experiences and approach DEI work from a broader perspective.

The CEO of Diversity Window’s Responsibilities

As the CEO of Diversity Window, Jiquanda Nelson is responsible for leading and overseeing the company’s operations and growth strategies and ensuring that the organization delivers exceptional value and quality to its clients. She also plays a key role in setting the vision and direction of the company’s diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.

When questioned about her responsibilities as the CEO of Diversity Window, Mrs. Nelson responds, “Every. Single. Thing! I ensure everything in our organization is running, pouring into my team and ensuring they have everything they need so we can give our clients the best-personalized experience and support.”

Simultaneously, she dedicates time and effort to envisioning the future and exploring new possibilities for the organization.

The Best Recognition as a Leader

Jiquanda Nelson, a seasoned executive, considers two recognitions as the most meaningful during her leadership journey.

“My first-ever award was given to me by a local Muslim community in my hometown. It was the “Love for All Role Model Award.” I was 17 years old, and back then, I didn’t fully understand the significance of it,” she says. “Now, it reflects the wonderful village I had that saw something in me, even as a young girl.”

The second one is the Puget Sound Business Journal’s 40 under 40 recognition, which she received for her work driving diversity, equity, and inclusion in the healthcare sector. These accolades testify to her dedication and impact as a leader in creating a more inclusive and equitable workplace for everyone. Her work has positively impacted her team and organization and the broader community, making her a well-deserved recipient of this recognition.

“You have the power to do whatever you want. You’ll face challenges but they won’t stop you. So, go do it!”  – Johnny and Marlene Smith (Jiquanda’s beloved parents)

Mantra for Striking Work-Life Balance: ‘Asking for Help’!

Women CEOs face unique challenges in maintaining a work-life balance due to the demands of their high-pressure roles. However, many successful women CEOs like Jiquanda Nelson prioritize self-care and efficient time management to ensure they excel professionally and personally. Over the years, she has learned that seeking help when she needs it is necessary. Mrs. Nelson acknowledges her husband’s Brian’s unwavering support and comprehension of her job responsibilities. Additionally, she has built a strong support network and willingly seeks assistance when necessary, recognizing that she cannot accomplish everything independently with only 100% of herself to give. She admits that she could only do everything by devoting herself to it.

Enhancing Employee Morale with a Focus on Integrity and Service to Customers

Jiquanda Nelson expresses, “I believe my authenticity keeps my team and me motivated!” She emphasizes listening to clients’ concerns before offering recommendations in a dynamic field like hers. She has faith in starting with the client and building from there. This strategy necessitates a disposition that is adaptable and receptive to alternative methods of input gathering and strategic formulation.

What’s in Store for Diversity Window

Diversity Window’s Chief Executive Officer states that they envision organizations that incorporate a comprehensive DEI strategy as a fundamental aspect of their overall business strategy, prioritizing the needs of people and empowering everyone within the organization to take ownership of their DEI across all aspects of the business. According to Mrs. Nelson, this can only be achieved if leaders in positions outside of HR and DEI also share a responsibility in driving the DEI strategy forward.

Words of Wisdom: Advice for Aspiring Leaders

Jiquanda Nelson has reached the pinnacle of her professional aspiration thus far: she can find delight in all she does. On a personal level, her goal is quite clear and concise. She notes, “My hope is that I can make an impact in everything I touch to truly bring the change I want to see in the world.”

Aspiring leaders can take away three lessons from her words of wisdom –

  • Stay true to your core by being authentic, and never stay in spaces that don’t honor such.
  • Keep sight of the future you’ve envisioned for yourself, even if no one else can comprehend it.
  • Surround yourself with those who inspire, push, correct, and, most importantly, celebrate you.