After the tumultuous year of 2020, it is more important than ever to increase cultural competence. From small businesses to large organizations, Kimberly Harris of Distinctive Voice Consulting is here to help.
Harris got inspired to start Distinctive Voice Consulting while at a former job at an educational institute back in 2014. She had noticed a substantial disconnect between the “highly minority” student population and the representation of the student population in her employer’s advertisements — predominately white.
“I made that comment and no one knew what I was talking about,” she says. “I got the idea to put together diversity training for our staff.”
With some encouragement from her former boss, Harris took the idea and ran with it– providing diversity training to her local church, with many larger institutions following.
“I just really wanted to bridge the cultural gap between what folks of the dominant culture see and everybody else,” she says.
Since 2014, Distinctive Voice Consulting has grown exponentially, with Harris providing equity, inclusion, bias-awareness, and diversity training to more and more individuals and institutions. Some of her previous clients include Whatcom Community College, Western Washington University, Skagit Valley College, American Alpine Institute, the City of Lynden, Whatcom Transportation Authority, and the Whatcom County Library System.
The biggest change, however, has been the attitude surrounding the business.
“When I started it, people were always asking why I was doing my business. It has flipped 180 [degrees] to me not being able to keep up with the demand of people who want my various services.”
Harris credits much of this boom in business to the murder of George Floyd in 2020, saying it really opened people’s eyes to police brutality and the dispapportionate treatment of African Americans.
“People were stuck at home watching it all happen and couldn’t deny it anymore. When people were busy with their lives it was easier to ignore. Now it’s undeniable.”
Services and Education
The primary service of Distinctive Voice Consulting is equity, inclusion, bias-awareness, and diversity training. However, Harris says training varies depending on the client’s needs.
“Most of the time when people come to me, they don’t know what they want. They may know what they need but not know how to achieve it,” she says. “ A large part of what I do is determine what exactly they need and draft a proposal to help get them there.”
Individuals interested in training can find workshops taught by Harris through Whatcom Community College and sign up for the newsletter to see when workshops are being offered.
For organizations, Harris offers assessments and policy reviews. They entail an examination of company demographics, staff experiences, and policies. She then drafts a report, helping the company gear their policies and operations toward equity and inclusion.
“It is imperative for businesses to look at themselves through that lens in order to stay viable in the 21st century,” Harris says. “The systemic structures are where real change happens. Every individual can work on themselves but systemic change is required for us to reach a point of equity in our society.”
Distinctive Voice Consulting also helps with job recruiting. For employers looking to recruit applicants from diverse backgrounds, Harris offers a job board with free 30-day position posting. Perspective candidates can view postings there, with Harris also helping facilitate connections with graduating college students and local people of color. PO Box 31822, Bellingham, distinctivoiceconsulting.com