Diversity Matters

Originally published by LeNaya Crandall Hezel on NayceQuest LLC’s blog September 27, 2021.

“Birds of a Feather”

In an audience full of impact leaders, a panel moderator calls out a select group of individuals in the audience as “experts in the industry.” At first glance, it seems like a way to build connections in the room and highlight the work colleagues in the field to reference after the panel discussion. But what if the moderator only highlights who they know in their own personal network or makes snap judgments of what an impact looks like? Or what if the moderator highlights members of a specific identity-based demographic? Entrepreneurs and industry leaders are constantly reminded of the importance of networking to collectively solve societal issues. Suppose we were to use the opening scene in the context of networking. In that case, I question who is being left out of the discussion to connect people and ideas equitably and inclusively.

Learn About NayceQuest LLC

NayceQuest LLC is a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion firm led by fearless military spouse LeNaya.

Why I Got Certified

Recently, NayceQuest LLC was certified as a Small, Women and Minority-Owned (SWaM) Business through the Commonwealth of Virginia and a Military Spouse Owned Enterprise through Military Spouse Chamber of Commerce. Despite Naycequest’s public launch less than a year ago, receiving these certifications was a transformational reminder of the importance of why identity-based owned certifications matter. 

I’ve been on the receiving end of skeptics criticizing identity-based certifications for promoting division in the business community instead of bringing organizations together. I’ve also been told that access to business resources should be based on merit, not because of race, gender, or military-connection status. Hearing these comments did not stop me from applying, especially when allies in the entrepreneurship community encouraged me to seek these certifications.

The Reason Certifications Exist

Professional women were disproportionately affected by the pandemic. More women opened new businesses than men in 2020, yet only 2.3% of venture capital funding went to women-led startups… and that was an all time record… For black women? Less. than. one. percent. 
Say it louder for the people in the back.
Access to identity-based certifications goes beyond putting a logo on promotional materials. These certifications widen our networks to be recognized for the work and impact in various business sectors. The connections built in these networks are opportunities to share knowledge on navigating industries where lack of diversity is a well-known barrier. Collectively these networks can work together to uplift each other to accessing contracts that historically were unreachable for certain identities. Most importantly, these networks forge a unified voice to speak out against business practices rooted in bias to improve the industry for everyone.

Level the Playing Field

As long as the business playing field has practices that implicitly and explicitly overlook and undervalue underrepresented business owners, identity-based certifications matter. It is important to note that this need for identity-based certifications does not come from a deficit model. In other words, these certifications are not a hand-out or a stepping stool. Instead, identity-based certifications promote networks of our assets and strengths to validate to our peers and to ourselves that we deserve to be on the playing field too. 

Thank you to the group of allies and family who are a part of my identity-based network for getting me to where I am today. NayceQuest wouldn’t be here without you, and I am forever grateful. Now let’s go make some impacts that move our words into action!

LeNaya Diversity Certifications Square feature photo (1)

About LeNaya

LeNaya Crandall Hezel is a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) organizational strategist. While pursuing her PhD in Sociology at George Mason University, LeNaya founded NayceQuest LLC in 2020 to guide organizations as they explore, dive into a deeper understanding, and discover meaningful ways to shift our culture to be equitable and inclusive. LeNaya has over a decade of experience as a higher education professional supporting underrepresented student populations. Previous to George Mason University, she served as the inaugural Veterans Office Director at Georgetown University, a Certifying Official at The George Washington University. She holds a Master of Arts in Higher Education Administration from The George Washington University and a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from the University of Maryland, College Park.
NayceQuest LLC about Diversity Certifications

NayceQuest LLC

As for the name? Growing up LeNaya had two nicknames, Nay and Ace, which evolved to Nayce. The movement of equity, moral and just organizations, and consistent practices of inclusion is not a one-and-done process, but rather a quest.
You can follow NayceQuest LLC in the Military Spouse Chamber of Commerce business directory, and @NayceQuest on social: