Always creating a more inclusive environment; she’s IAC Applications’ Netta Jenkins
January 13, 2019
Ever since she was a little girl, she made it her mission to make the world more inclusive.
Netta Jenkins, head of diversity and inclusion for IAC Applications, has led the company to award winning success. The company was named a 2017 Profiles in Diversity Journal Excellence Award and was named 2018 Top 1000 Company Worldwide for Millennial Women by Mogul. Jenkins inspires inclusion within the company and its four businesses that include Apalon, DailyBurn, Ask Applications and Slimware. When it comes to inspiring inclusion and diversity in the workplace, her work does not end at IAC Applications. Jenkins stays busy spreading her knowledge to others publicly speaking at functions like conferences or other sorts of professional industry gatherings.
Public speaking was something she’s done more of after speaking at her graduate school commencement. When she graduated with her MBA at Cambridge College she was chosen to speak before her peers and since that opportunity has turned public speaking into another avenue to empower others.
“That moment was indescribable. Truly the turning point for me in my career,” Jenkins said reflecting on her experience as her commencement speaker. “It gave me courage to want to speak and share my experiences with others. I love to empower people.”
Growing up in Johnston, Rhode Island, in the Little Italy community, she experienced living in a predominately-white neighborhood. There she enrolled in a school with similiar demographics. While living in the area she experienced and witnessed exclusion seeing things like her mother being pulled over by the police. Knowing her mother done nothing wrong Jenkins came to the conclusion the police stop was initiated due to racial profiling.
“I remember wanting to break barriers [and] allocate change,” Jenkins said, thinking of her thoughts as an early adolescent.
Hoping to be a “change-maker,” she took her first step in doing so in school. She aspired to become the president of her freshmen class in high school and did so methodically.
“I put together a program focused on inclusion,” Jenkins said.
She brought all kinds of people to the table to talk about their experiences. In doing so, this built a larger network of people with differences together to talk about the challenges they faced when it came to inclusion. Whether it was the girl who felt she was not pretty enough to be a cheerleader; or the person who thought they were not smart enough to hang with a certain group of people, this all helped Jenkins.
“It gave me a sense for what things made people feel excluded,” Jenkins said.
Using the forum she used, bringing all sorts of people from different backgrounds to talk together about exclusion, helped when it came to addressing race.
“They were more receptive to hearing things,” Jenkins said.
Race is not something you can change, she said. Not smart, you can try studying more. When it comes to appearance things like cosmetics or how you dress can change that. But when it comes to race no one can control that, Jenkins said.
“It was nice to have this conversation at a young age,” Jenkins said.
Transitioning her talents professionally
When it came to making diversity initiatives at IAC Applications a success, she took the lead by making some changes. It was comprehensive in what she learned mostly from two things. One, drawing from her campaign experience as a high school freshmen. The other, what she learned as a communication major, with a strong emphasis in leadership, when obtaining her Bachelor of Arts at University of Rhode Island.
“I focused efforts on creating an inclusive workplace for every single person,” Jenkins said. “You can set all the quotas you want but who wants to be a number?”
While observing there were committees in place with a lead representative she noticed it didn’t solve anything. Having a person of color rep for a subgroup, a disability rep and LGBT rep for all these subgroups was essentially preaching to the choir. While each subgroup would get together and talk about the issues they were having the people in that subgroup were only talking to amongst each other. The messages were not reaching the executives and employees outside those subgroups as they were not attending those meetings even when they were welcomed to join. Jenkins knew why.
“It’s like the next door neighbor that has his door open and you see people inside on the dance floor but you keep walking because you are unsure if you are really invited,” Jenkins said.
Getting rid of all these sub groups to make one was what Jenkins did. Like her freshmen class, this would bring everyone to the table and while everyone is sharing their experiences it would break the ice when discussing uncomfortable topics. From what she learned prior, she knew this was a necessary step.
“We have to break some of those barriers,” Jenkins said. “Bring every group to the table.”
While doing all this she created one group where employees led and executives were able to be onboard. With the program opened to all employees the executives were finally hearing the input from employees. And this was able to be done through an application. An application Google raved about.
“IAC Apps is a star example of a partner pushing towards gender equality as well as overall cultural equality,” Google was quoted saying.
Receiving recognition after seeing her dream come to fruition
Through an evaluation it was revealed approximately 91 percent of the employees under Jenkins leadership feel they work in an inclusive environment.
“Everyone looks at head of Diversity of Inclusion as the end all be all. It will not work without being a companywide initiative and everyone taking action,” Jenkins said. “This is not a one person show. They are all passionate about creating change.
“Working with them is by far most intriguing thing.”
Gino Terrell is the Director of Content at Hidden Valley Culture Blog/In-Depth section. Terrell covered local artists and reviewed mainstream shows in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area under the Twin Cities Daily Planet (2014-15). He also freelanced for MinnPost and interned at Pioneer Press, KSTP TV (the Minneapolis ABC News Affiliate) and American Public Media Group. He's accumulated over 30 awards from the Associated Collegiate Press, Society of Professional Journalists and National Association of Black Journalists and founded award winning student-magazine Pipers In-Depth at Hamline University (St. Paul, Minnesota). He was once the sports editor for the school newspaper, The Oracle. Follow him on Twitter: @Gin026