Building Our Own Table: Katherine Castro
Meet the founder of Diversity Community Group
Sometimes there’s so much serendipity in the creation of this newsletter, and my connection with Katherine Castro is one example. We met when she helped orchestrate a session with Michelle MiJung Kim for the previous iteration of the allies group I facilitated. Later, we reconnected and I spoke as part of her programme. And now this. I’m excited about the space Katherine has created and her vision for that space. Please meet Katherine, founder of Diversity Community Group, where beautiful minds unite…
Katherine, tell me briefly about your background prior to founding Diversity Community Group.
I moved from Panamá to the United States when I was four and spoke only Spanish. My early childhood memories were mainly of navigating spaces that weren't built for me. I attended various educational systems, including four high schools.
In the early 2000s, my desire to create pockets of belonging became a part of my purpose and career path. It's serendipitous that I learned in my organizational studies Bachelor's program at the University of California Davis that retention is related to people having a sense of belonging in an institution. During that time and place, I led grassroots organizations serving BIPOC folks to sustain us in the four-year university system.
Between 2010 and 2014, to soften my leadership approach, deepen my understanding of human behavior, uplift our community with careers, and help us create generational wealth, I pursued my master's in career coaching specializing in historically excluded talent. At San Francisco State University, I co-founded and led for seven years an affinity-like group, Counselors with Attitude.
From 2013-2018 at the University of California Berkeley, I coached Ph.D. and Master level professionals at The School of Public Health. Later with founders Dr. John Matsui and Dr. Caroline Kane, I led community efforts at the Biology Scholars Program of 500 first-generation medical practitioners pathed students.
Due to my ability to scale my work that centered on historically excluded talent, I was recruited to the Career Center to do the same for Cal's community to 30k students. Before departing in 2018, in partnership with 15 community-centered organizations, I developed the Career Center's first DEIB strategy–of which, in 2021, I was informed the foundation is still being used. My purpose expanded from creating diverse pipelines to 100s of organizations and recruiters to retaining us, and continuing to uplift us.
As a DEIB Program Manager, I supported seven employee resources groups (ERG) and leaders at Google X. I experienced hardship in this organization, but I received support from those same ERG leaders. My next stop was at Hustle Hunters, a recruiting placement organization for other startups that supports caregivers returning to work. They're led by the fierce leader, mother, and friend Nikki Adamson. I excelled at Hustle Hunters as a DEIB leader, where I enjoyed moving fast in a small startup, but I brought in the importance of pausing and strategizing to make sure efforts were going where they needed to be.
Today, I'm the co-founder of Common Culture with Jonathan Dumas, and Principle at Castro Career Consulting.
In combination with my learnings and early beginnings in the United States of exclusion, bullying, and racism, to similar experiences in the workplace, Diversity Community Group is here as a familiar place to be you, to learn, and give back with a DEIB community by your side. Diversity Community Group seeks to be a responsive space that runs parallel to our needs.
All this is possible because partner Jay Castro supports me ruthlessly, my son Kalani Joe Castro (7 YO) serves as my mirror of accountability and truth, and my son Ka'isa Carmello Castro (22 MOS) refuses to allow any of us to take life too seriously.
Give me the elevator pitch for DCG.
The most meaningful metric I live by is how I positively impact people around me. I am consistent in how I show up with my community. I want DCG to be a global magnetic pull with others who seek similar ways of showing up, distributing, and building generational wealth but not at the expense of excluding others, including our own DEIB practitioners, those new or those more senior.
And in more detail?
I co-founded Common Culture (a DEIB and Leadership Consulting organization) with Jonathan Dumas, Principle at Castro Career Consulting. Whatever I do, the most meaningful metric is how I positively impact people around me. This is how I strive to show up in my relationships, work, leadership, and community.
DEIB practitioners are under attack, and this is not new, although there's attention on us now. Our work existed long before I was born. Yet, we are still burning out, being called during a crisis, being underpaid, continually accumulating more work beyond our capacity while fighting for budget —but recently, we are first to be laid off.
My goal with Diversity Community Group is to:
1. Create a pocket of people who want to support each other in their DEIB practice beyond their organization's practice, respected space;
2. Create a database where prospects can find DEIB consultants that fit their budget, needs, and timeline. This tool's goal is to generate funding for DCGs operations. The goal is not to charge members, I think we are taxed enough.
3. Create paid volunteer opportunities with DCG for anyone who wants to learn about DEIB and embed it in their work, no matter their career field. The dream? ---everyone can envision DEIB as a part of their work.
My strategy to lead Diversity Community Group is between a mix of a grassroots setting and a corporate one. The best DEIB practitioners enter this work with a grassroots spirit. Still, to penetrate corporate, I want to train volunteers to navigate potential spaces in which they will work or continue to work. I teach the language (OKRS, KPIs, Q1/2/3/4, ROS, scale, metrics) and how to disrupt, even if that's pushing back on my choices or actions. When you volunteer at DCG, I cultivate an environment that is creative abundant, and judgment-free. My strategy is to give every talent, resource, and skill I have to you, so you give back to DCG.
What inequity were you trying to redress/address, and why is this important?
That DEIB Practitioners need to be included when we think of DEIB goals and initiatives. When an organization, for example, dismantles their DIEB team yet has a DEIB statement on their website, that performance is disgusting. I seek to call out that diluted direction of the work that DEIB Practitioners are striving to make whole.
How’s it going? What has the response been?
In 2022, we grew fast from 10 members in March 2022 to about 500 in December 2022. Then there was a slowing. I went to my leadership committee and I expressed my worry--were we no longer supportive to our DEIB community? And after deeper discussion it became very obvious, that is not possible with the members we have. I turned my focus to growth but with intention. For this reason, during this organic slowing, with the help of some core DCG volunteers, I systemized to better sustain DCG and its longevity. In 2023, our goal is to double in size and we are on the right path to accomplishing this goal.
What’s next for DCG?
Shmoney Sharon, shmoney. I have a couple of members and a mentor who know more about generating income and saving on taxes. I plan to do what has worked for DCG so far, lean on my community. I want to generate funding to help me scale DCG in a sustainable way. In a way so I can remain focused on my family, take a nap once in a while, train a strong line of DCG leaders, and gift to our brilliant speakers.
In relation to racism, what is your vision for the future?
All DEIB practitioners believe, understand, and can speak that racism, particularly against the Black community, will always be the center of our work. If you think centering racism is too much about DEIB, in my humble opinion, I'm not sure where your source of understanding is from other than white supremacy.
Is there anything I haven't asked you that you'd like to add?
If you have access to give resources to your DEIB leadership, I suggest empowering them with more learning opportunities unique to our role. For example, because we ghost write for the CEO, speak on platforms, or get called on for statements, a speaking coach and public relations training should be given to us. I personally plan to book Evolve Benton at Speaking for Profit in the near future but I think a DEIB budget should fund this. Any takers?
Thanks for this rich interview, Katherine. Folx, I encourage you to connect with Katherine on LinkedIn and via the DCG website.
Note from Katherine Castro: All opinions in this interview are my own.
© Sharon Hurley Hall, 2023. All Rights Reserved.
I am an anti-racism writer, educator and activist, Co-Founder of Mission Equality the author of “I’m Tired of Racism”, and co-host of The Introvert Sisters podcast.
This is a brilliant interview. Thank you for introducing me to Katherine!