Importance of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Elizabeth Morrison

Vice President of Diversity & Belonging at Levi Strauss & Co.

Learning Objectives

Please join the Vice President of Diversity & Belonging from Levi Strauss, Elizabeth Morrison in this Executive Interview where she will discuss the importance of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion.

  • Why now more than ever is Diversity, Equity & Inclusion critical for business?

  • What are your top 3 Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Best Practices?

  • If someone was interested in a career in Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, what path should they follow?

"There was an automatic feeling of inclusion and the beginnings of belonging at Live Nation just when you walk in the door."

Elizabeth Morrison

Vice President of Diversity & Belonging at Levi Strauss & Co.


Britt Erler

Hello, everyone. Welcome to the Connect Virtual HR Leadership Summit. My name is Britt Erler, QN Executive Correspondent. We have a fantastic conversation lined up for you today and an amazing guest speaker. Her name is Elizabeth Morrison, she is the VP of Diversity and Belonging with Live Nation. Welcome, Elizabeth. We’re so happy to have you here.

Elizabeth Morrison

Thank you so much. I’m excited to be there.

Britt Erler

I’m really excited to dive into this conversation as we discuss the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. Before we get started, I would love if you could give the audience just a quick introduction about yourself and your current role with Live Nation.

Elizabeth Morrison

Sure. So, as you mentioned, I’m the Vice President of Diversity and Belonging. I think most people think immediately—don’t you mean inclusion? No, we mean, belonging. The reason that I shifted us from diversity and inclusion to diversity and belonging is that belonging is an actual state of psychological safety when you are truly free to be your whole self, and bring that person to work, where you can innovate, where you can make mistakes, and still know that you are included, you are part of the family. That’s what we’re striving for. That really is my background in employee communications, change management, and culture. So that’s been something that I’ve been focused on for my entire career.

Britt Erler

Fantastic. Does your team focus on the same thing as well? Is it a large team that you work with?

Elizabeth Morrison

No, I describe us as a small but mighty team. I have five people—three here in the US, two in the UK. They manage International and outside. We do North America. So it’s a global strategy and a global team. We are all focused on diversity and belonging, including our ERGs, learning and development, different work for culture training. It’s a big proposition.

Britt Erler

Big proposition. But for a strong mighty team, I like that. To dive right in, obviously, we’ve had a lot of shifts in 2020, a lot of changes. Why is diversity, equity, and inclusion so important in business right now?

Elizabeth Morrison

The reason why it continues to be important is because there is a war for top talent. Diversity and inclusion, equity, belonging—whatever words your company uses—are way to differentiate your company from others. Of course, you have pay, of course, you have benefits. But these days, a lot of employees are focused on diversity and inclusion.

If you look at the research around the future of work, two thirds of job seekers want a company that prioritizes diversity, and lives into and up to their values through those as aspects of the culture. It’s a way to activate innovation and high performance, I was talking about the belonging piece. That’s really critical. You’re obviously out in the marketplace shopping for top talent, you want to get everything that you can out of that talent, and also create an employee experience. That’s rewarding, and that matters.

There’s also incredible shifts in not only consumer behaviors, but their expectations. I think that, but research also shows that consumers are looking at corporations to see how they’re acting from a corporate citizen perspective, where do they stand on political values, on human rights issues, and then they’re using their dollars to kind of vote for and against those brands. So creating a space where you are saying what your company stands for, and what your values are, and again, living into that. Those are all aspects of why diversity is critical.

Britt Erler

Absolutely. To talk about that a little bit deeper, how do you build that diverse catalogue of candidates that you’re bringing on board and kind of separate yourself from other companies? You know, why should they work for Live Nation? What separates your company apart?

Elizabeth Morrison

First of all, when it comes to building up our candidate pool and pipeline, it really is about relationship building. So you should be going to market, and this is the challenge for many organizations, you have to be flexible and open minded about the types of talent that you want to bring into your organization. A lot of times, managers or organizations have a perfect, almost like template, like the person has to have gone to the school and they have to have these previous job experiences. What you’re missing out on is that people choose to go to colleges and universities, the ones that they do for all different reasons.

Some people want in school, some people want [unintelligible], some people want HBCUs, some people are looking for sports. So making judgments around what university or college someone goes to, and not looking deeper into the experiences that they have and those transferable skills, you’re really missing out on rich diversity of talent, especially now that our consumers are changing their demographics, their spending power. You need all of those different people and the diversity of thought that they bring at the table. So as you’re developing your products and your brand, and you’re out there, you are able to attract as many people as you possibly can.

Britt Erler

I completely agree with that. Personally, as well, I went to a school based on personal goals. I could have gone to a top school in Florida, I could have gone to University of Florida, but I chose the University of Central Florida based on the needs in my major and what I wanted to do. I agree with you, people look at resumes, and they look for these bullets, but that doesn’t necessarily mean quality of talent. I couldn’t agree with you more that being more diverse, kind of looking outside of the box for those people that are just determined, they want to bring new ideas to the table is just as important as where you went to school, where you grew up, what other jobs have you had. So I couldn’t agree with you more.

To expand upon that a little bit, this strategy that you have set in place for diversity, for equity, and inclusion? Is this a strategy Live Nation has always had or is this something that you’ve developed more recently, with these coming months that we’ve had going on?

Elizabeth Morrison

We’ve absolutely been on this journey for five years, and I’ve been here for three and a half years. So there was some work that was done in the early days before I arrived. When I came, it really picked up steam as a global strategy, and something that was important to the business, but also to our culture and for talent. So it’s something that, in the last few months, we’ve kind of turned up the heat in terms of making very specific commitments about increasing the diversity of our workforce.

This is a path that we’ve been on, not only broadly around diversity and belonging, equity and inclusion, but also a few years ago, launching a women’s initiative, woman nation, or the women of Live Nation, and really focused on gender and pay equity. So this is something that’s kind of been in our ethos, and that we have dedicated teams and resources to for the long haul.

Britt Erler

I love to hear that. Hopefully, that’s something other companies follow suit in. As far as your team goes, how do you make sure that they’re in line with the goals you have for your program, and making sure that they’re constantly evolving with the change?

Elizabeth Morrison 07:27

Because [unintelligible] is not a traditional major in college, and it is a function or a career path that most people evolve into after starting. Like, for myself, I started in communications, change management culture, evolve that into diversity, equity, and inclusion. It is a field of ongoing research and study.That is something that I pride myself on. I’m so passionate about it, literally spending hours probably every day either, first of all, on social media, trying to figure out and keep track of everything that’s happening, but also learning, doing research around best practices research, connecting with peers, seeing what’s going on.

Elizabeth Morrison 07:28

I’ll say that’s a tone and expectation. I set up my team. I will say that that’s not something that I have to drive really hard. Everyone that goes into this work tends to be super passionate about it, because it’s not easy work, it’s emotional work. I liken it almost to, like, social work. My mom was a social worker, and she would be drained because there’s such a human element involved in what we do. Honestly, I don’t have to drive my team hard in that area. We have a habit of sharing articles and interesting sites that we come across amongst the team, and then also do a weekly newsletter and other communications we do with the organization at large.

Britt Erler 08:54

What do you believe are some of the best practices for diversity, equity, and inclusion?

Elizabeth Morrison 09:02

I would definitely start with leading with data. Leading with data following through with storytelling, and then driving it as a change management initiative is kind of like my first best practice because the numbers are going to tell—not only the numbers, but the pattern that you see in the numbers.

Elizabeth Morrison 09:21

So I talk about workforce analytics at work a lot. That’s looking at how employees flow through the employee lifecycle—hires, promotions, terminations, growth, promotions, development, retention. Looking at those numbers, and then learning more about how employees feel about their experience. Then, focusing on diversity as a change management initiative. In change management, you have to focus on the change on the individual level. Then, if you can impact people on that individual level, then you work your way up to collective impact.

Elizabeth Morrison 09:55

The second best practice I would talk about is seeking to build organic strategies. So I talked a lot about looking for best practices and diving deep into research. What you really need to do at your own organization is listen and learn about it. Then, you’ll figure out what you can celebrate, what’s great about your culture, the things that you all do, and where you need to challenge the status quo. That’s critical because just coming in with a bag of tricks or suggestions from other organizations may not be where your organization is.

Elizabeth Morrison 10:30

That kind of leads me to the third best practice. That is the realization that you have to meet people where they are. Sometimes, that’s challenging, because they might be doubters, they might have a completely different mindset. So you’ve got to walk in the door, knowing that you’re going to have people that are on a full spectrum of marching in the streets, and being not believing and actively working against you. So, I say come armed with your data, your storytelling, and your plans around change management, but don’t get stuck on the doubters because they will sap all of your energies.

Elizabeth Morrison 11:12

I am going to make my best effort, but where I’m really going to concentrate my energy over the long term is those people in the middle that are open to the influence, and obviously, your champions and how you can empower them to be not only champions, but almost activist in the space. Like my team of five people isn’t going to be able to completely impact an organization of 20,000 plus people, which is what Live Nation is during our season of concerts and festivals. It takes a village and a village that’s located kind of throughout the organization. So that’s really critical.

Britt Erler 11:50

Of course. As far as collecting that data, and also making sure that you’re sticking to those best practices, has it been more difficult since everything has gone virtual?

Elizabeth Morrison 12:00

Yeah, we had to think of things through a new lens. There was an automatic feeling of inclusion and the beginnings of belonging at Live Nation just when you walk in the door. Just being in the office in our lobby in Beverly Hills, we had a barista, bar, we had a huge video screen, tour posters on the wall, like you come in, and you automatically feel the vibe, right?

Britt Erler 12:27

You feel the excitement.

Elizabeth Morrison 12:28

You feel the energy. You see the people and everybody. It was just, I miss it, just talking about it. So recreating that virtually has definitely been a challenge, especially because of course, live entertainment has been hit hard by the pandemic. I think the thing that is enduring is our connections to each other. Our love of music and our belief in resurrecting live, and the role that we can play in that.

Elizabeth Morrison 12:59

One thing that’s interesting, that is almost a silver lining to this, is the intimacy that the virtual connections can spark. Like, right now you’re literally seeing my home or I’m sitting in my home, and I’m inviting people into my home on a regular basis. This is an aspect of myself that they haven’t seen. I mean, there’s days that I’m more casual. We’re pretty casual in the office, but I’m like, I’m in stretch pants for five days.

Britt Erler 13:26

That’s normal attire entire across the board.

Elizabeth Morrison 13:30

Yes, exactly. So it’s really looking for, again, those silver linings, but also realizing that we’re dealing with the fatigue—Zoom fatigue. [Unintelligible] people when they don’t feel like being on camera today, not having a good day. My cat sometimes gets up and walks across the screen. I’m like, really? Because all day you’re sitting over there, and now you’re over here. It’s been challenging, but also rewarding in some ways. I’m definitely looking forward to when we can hit that.

Britt Erler 14:03

I completely agree. I hope that some of the practices, we’ve picked up, some of the changes we’ve made with everything going virtual that that sticks a little bit, even when we go back in office, because I think we’ve seen some silver linings even with everything going on. As I’ve mentioned, there’s been a lot of change this year alone. A lot of people are now more interested in diversity, equity, and inclusion more than ever. So for someone who is interested in a career and taking this path, what are some of the first steps? What do you recommend?

Elizabeth Morrison 14:34

I think it’s really interesting. I mentioned that people come from all different careers. I’ve seen people in accounting, I’ve seen people in communications, I’ve seen people in HR learning. So my first piece of advice is to do the work. This can be a challenge for some people, especially marginalized people because they translate lived experience. So being a woman, being black, being LGBTQ as kind of translating into being a diversity practitioner, and it’s not. While it gives you unique insight into the challenges, it doesn’t really translate into strategy and the actual science of being a practitioner.

Elizabeth Morrison 15:16

You can do the work in a number of different ways. You can volunteer at a nonprofit dedicated to diversity. That’s actually how I started getting my start outside of communications and things I was doing at work. I raised my hand for several organizations, sat on boards, helped with communications and different aspects of operations, and really learned about the industry through nonprofits. You should absolutely, and I think it’s easier now than ever before be doing self driven research.

Elizabeth Morrison 15:45

There’s so many studies out there. I mean, Google is your friend. There are articles, there are stuff that’s trending in the media every day, but really digging deeper than kind of like the latest protest or march and looking at, again, research and the science of diversity and inclusion.

Elizabeth Morrison 16:03

You can absolutely apply to and participate in a certification program. I know that Cornell has a great program. I got my diversity certification from Georgetown, they have a wonderful program. A lot of them are now virtual, whereas once they were in person, so that is a plus at this time.

Elizabeth Morrison 16:23

I would also say, get involved in your community. You can [inaudible] at work, you can join an ERG, you can raise your hand to the diversity team and say, “I want to help. How can I help?” in your community, connecting with local leaders and officials to see what diversity issues are impacting your community, and how you can get involved.

Elizabeth Morrison 16:45

My last piece of advice is something that I spoke of a little too earlier. That’s realizing that this is emotional work, and it’s identity driven work. When you come to it, you’re going to bring who you are to it. That is going to shape the lens that you look through as you do the work.

Elizabeth Morrison 17:06

One of the parts of my diversity certification was an emotional intelligence lab, where they literally tried to trigger us because you’re going to get triggered through this work. They warn you, they’re going to show you material that’s probably going to trigger you, but they did that so that we could get triggered, realize what it felt like and what the warning signs were, so that if I’m facilitating a class or training, and someone tells a story, and I’m triggered, but I’m the facilitator, how do I handle that in the moment? So that’s a really important part.

Elizabeth Morrison 17:41

I think that people don’t realize, with this work, that’s how it is very different from your typical career path. I like to get to social work, because you are going to bring who you are, and really your heart to the work. That can be good, but it can also be dangerous. You have to be aware of your own kind of emotion, what matters to you, and then how to control that in the moment.

Britt Erler 18:06

That’s incredible. To be honest, I think most companies, most people, even myself, when you think of diversity, equity, inclusion, it sounds a lot simpler than you realize it is. You think, “Oh, we’ll just bring on diverse content. We’ll make sure everyone’s included,” but underneath all that, it’s a lot more difficult. The people that have to deal with it head on, obviously, have a lot of obstacles to face. So that’s very interesting to hear. For a company that really is trying to take their steps and make a change of their organization, what do you believe is the first step for them?

Elizabeth Morrison 18:37

I believe the first step is realize that not putting your diversity practitioner or your team in a place where they have to even prove that this is something that’s important to the business, it’s time to move on from that. Luckily, at Live Nation, we did that. In years in years past, it’s how I got my job, it’s why I was brought on board. Even though I tell all diversity practitioners to be prepared with their business case for diversity, we need to move past that into the recognition of the challenges that we have and the solutions.

Elizabeth Morrison 19:13

We can spend years debating, do these inequalities exist? If so, the how is going to be what you really need to focus on and then what you’re actually going to do and how are you going to measure it. But if you get stuck, and even debating if we should be going after this, that’s going to be tough. Then, realizing that, like you said, there’s no silver bullet, there’s no one size fits all solution.

Elizabeth Morrison 19:38

A friend of mine has a saying and he says it’s a long game. Diversity is the long game. Think of it as long term investments, like your 401k. You’re going to put money in there, you’re going to put resources in there, you’re going to do research, you’re going to make sure that your investments are growing and that you’re measuring them and you’re you’re kind of holding them accountable for the investments that you make, but it’s not going to be something that’s going to be instant, Sure, you should work to identify kind of low hanging fruit, and things that you can deliver more quickly.

Elizabeth Morrison 20:12

Overall, shifting the diversity of your workforce, I mean, think how long it took to build your workforce as it is today? Think through that lens, and then think, okay, we need to take meaningful steps along the way. That’s really where the storytelling comes into play, because you need to set your plan out, set your goals, and then tell the stories and show your progress, but also be very transparent around, this isn’t working, or we’re not seeing the results that we want to, what else can we do? How can we pivot? So investment, patience, accountability, and collaboration.

Britt Erler 20:48

Absolutely. What I love about this topic in particular, and just the steps you’ve given, best practices, it’s really relatable across all departments, all different types of companies, not just entertainment, specifically, right? It’s across the board. Are there any programs or frameworks already out there that are easy for companies to replicate? Or is it something where they really have to start from the ground up?

Elizabeth Morrison 21:12

There’s tools and practices that we use, like forming, employee resource groups is something that folks do often launching diversity councils. The fact is, I’m not going to just come in and suggest a bunch of things that you can do, because you need to do the work around looking at your data, What is the flow of talent to your organization? Where are you rich in diversity? Where are you poor? What are you doing in the areas, in the places where you’re rich? How can you retain and grow that talent? Asking employees about their employee experience, and what about your culture has drawn them in and keeps them there, and makes them happy. What are the things that they tell the people in their family and their friends about why your organization is a great place to work? It really is a very unique journey for every organization.

Elizabeth Morrison 22:10

So the one piece of advice I would say that everybody needs to start with is an assessment. That’s looking at the data, listening to employees, whether that’s surveys you’ve done in the past, or new survey, or doing focus groups. Then, talking to your leaders and seeing what are some of their goals around diversity, and what are some of their concerns. From there, that’s going to equip you. Once you look at all of that data and information and feedback, you’re going to be able to identify two or three areas of focus. That’s how you’re going to build a really successful strategy and your action plan.

Britt Erler 22:43

I completely agree with that. Starting from the root of the problem, where is it all beginning and working from there? Before I let you go back to changing the world, because I really feel like that’s what you’re doing at your company, is there any final tips, pieces of advice? Anything you’d like to mention specifically about Live Nation for our audience?

Elizabeth Morrison 23:03

Listen, Live Nation is just an awesome place to work. Being at the center of culture and music is just incredible. It’s been a rough year, a tough year, but we’re excited to come back. We are excited artists have taken up the the virtual mantle, but they’re ready to get back out in front of crowds. The employees at Live Nation are working really, really hard to bring back live. That’s something that we really want to see. We can’t wait for it. Just as an organization that has embraced diversity historically. I stated that we started five years ago on workforce diversity, but diversity of talent and music is something that is the lifeblood of this organization. We welcome everybody who’s out there advocating for diversity, equity, and inclusion. We thank you. We do. We thank you.

Britt Erler 24:04

Well, thank you so much, as well. You provided some incredible insights. I can feel the passion you have for your team and the work that you’re doing. I hope our audience does too, and take a lot of these tips and starts utilizing it in their own departments, with their own team.

Britt Erler 24:17

Thank you so much, again, for being here, Elizabeth. It’s been a pleasure. Thank you to everyone tuning in who has watched today. Don’t forget, if you have any comments or questions for Elizabeth, please make sure you comment in the discussion forum below. Please be safe, be happy, and thank you again for joining us at the CONNECT Virtual HR Leadership Summit.

Elizabeth Morrison 24:36

Thank you.

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