One year ago, we made a commitment to intentionally and continuously be part of creating positive change and fostering a diverse, inclusive and equitable environment – in our workplace and across the industry as a whole.

To help maintain a year-round focus on efforts, we created an employee-led Diversity and Inclusion Committee to identify and implement programs to accelerate company growth in the areas of education, recruitment, philanthropy and training. Read more below about programs we have implemented, but first, we sit down with Ashley Combs, who acted as Chair for the first year of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

As the driving force behind our action to create positive change in the last year, what are specific goals the Diversity and Inclusion Committee set in order to enact change?

Ashley: As the Diversity and Inclusion Committee was coming together, we wanted to create initiatives that were very authentic to who we are as a company.

Our first goal was to focus internally on our staff to get them engaged in this work by creating opportunities to both learn more about the diversity, equity, and inclusion space and to be active participants in the building of our initiatives.

Next, we wanted to develop initiatives that were centered on creating an equitable playing field for promising young professionals of all backgrounds to work in the sports industry, especially for those in underrepresented communities.

Lastly, recognizing that our group was the first to take up the mantle of helping to lead diversity and inclusion efforts at Excel, our goal was to create a solid foundation upon which future iterations of the Committee could build. The work of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee is work that we want to live on for years to come at Excel.

What approach did the Diversity and Inclusion Committee employ to make sure these goals were achieved over the course of the year and how did you approach your role as the first ever Chair of the committee?

Ashley: Making sure that we achieved the goals that we set was a top priority for the Diversity and Inclusion Committee

We met weekly over the last ten months to plan for and put in the work. In these meetings, we regularly challenged each other to make sure that we were creating initiatives that would be impactful and to ensure that we never lost sight of our goals and why our leadership felt it was essential to establish the Committee in the first place.

We spent a significant amount of time speaking and working with experts in the diversity and inclusion space. These conversations were beneficial as they helped us hone in on our approach, consider new ideas from a different perspective, and ultimately helped us to be more effective in making recommendations that would work.

As the committee chair, I wanted to make sure that we had a sound knowledge base and that our conversations about diversity and inclusion were rooted in something more than just opinion. Reading scholarly articles, attending webinars and engaging in discussions with thought leaders from across the sports and entertainment industries was hugely helpful in this process.

What were some of the biggest learnings from leading the Diversity and Inclusion Committee in its first year??

Ashley: Working to create change takes much hard work, and you simply can’t go it alone. Working together as a team, alongside our leadership, made our work possible.

Put your blinders on and build something that works for your company. When we first started our work as the Committee, many companies were launching initiatives, and it was easy to take a look at the work that everyone else was doing. But ultimately, we focused on building initiatives that worked for us at Excel, initiatives that would be sustainable and that we could grow over time. We took care to develop initiatives in the same way that we develop everything at Excel, to be best-in-class.

What are you most proud of? 

Ashley: I am most proud of how engaged our entire staff has been throughout this process. So many of our early conversations were centered around creating opportunities and an environment where each person at Excel could show up as themselves every day and THRIVE. That work was too big for just the Task Force to take on – we needed everyone to get in on it. And our staff showed up. We had teammates who answered the call to participate in informational interviews, recommend and help interview Fellowship candidates, and volunteer to help us put on and moderate incredible speaking events. It has been a great honor to have served alongside such a dynamic, selfless and thoughtful group in my fellow Task Force members and to know that I show up to work every day with a company full of people committed to making Excel an even better place to work.

What’s next for the Diversity and Inclusion Committee?

Ashley: We’re very excited to have our first Excel Fellow, Romen Richardson, begin his one-year term on June 1st. Following that, the Committee will host another dynamic speaker in mid-June. Lastly, we will be looking for new members for the 2021-2022 Diversity and Inclusion Committee. More to come on that soon!

We are proud of the actions we have taken together as an agency to ensure we are creating a welcome place for all:

  • The Diversity and Inclusion Committee implemented a number of programs:
    • #exceltogether speaker series, a quarterly event that features influential people who are making an impact in shifting the culture around diversity, equity and inclusion across sports and entertainment. The first two were with Halleemah Nash, who discussed the importance of creating an inclusive workplace, and Priya Desai, who shared her experiences as a woman of color working in sports.
  • The Excel Fellowship program was created to provide an opportunity for an exceptional individual from an underrepresented group the chance to gain unmatched experience and exposure to key areas of our business and industry. Our first Fellow will start on June 1.
  • An employee resource group called Black At Excel (BAE) was formed uniting the Black members of our family to provide support and reinforce their collaborative and powerful voices as part of this company.
  • Juneteenth is now part of our annual holiday calendar to encourage employees to listen, learn and love as we all strive to be better together.
  • We are on the third cycle of our internship program that provides access for those in underrepresented communities, providing a stipend to make it a realistic opportunity across the socioeconomic spectrum.
  • We implemented ongoing company-wide diversity and inclusion training to learn more about our own perspectives, other people’s experiences and how understanding the two can lead to progress.