Zoom video call with 25 individuals
Students from across the Warrington College of Business had the opportunity to hear from Margo Downs (second from left, top row) as part of the college's Diversity in the Workplace event.

What I learned about creating inclusive workspaces from the former CHRO of Stitch Fix and Lululemon

As part of Warrington's Diversity in the Workplace event, Business Gators heard from Margo Downs on how to support the authentic talents of each individual while building a high-performing and inclusive culture. UF MBA student Ana Carolina Gutierrez reflects on what she learned.

Margo Downs is the former Chief Human Resource Officer (CHRO) of Stitch Fix and Lululemon; she’s also a speaker, teacher, and advisor who we had the privilege of engaging with in a discussion and Q&A session titled “Creating Inclusive Workspaces.” As an MBA candidate pursuing a career in Human Resources with a passion for diversity, equity, and inclusion, I was extremely excited to hear from Margo and learn about how we, as future business leaders, can work to create inclusive workspaces.

From Margo’s first response to her last, the hour-long discussion was rich with countless takeaways that had our MBA students jotting down notes and nuggets of wisdom. Our VP of Diversity and Inclusion, Mikaela Medeiros, asked Margo questions such as, “what are the building blocks of great company culture and how does inclusivity fit into culture building?”, to “how have last year’s events impacted culture?” and “how can we influence change and get buy-in for diversity initiatives from all levels of leadership?” When talking about how COVID-19 has impacted culture, Margo said, “COVID showed us what was missing in culture.” She spoke to the importance of communication and how crucial the 1:1 relationship between managers and employees is to connecting employees and creating a strong culture.

One key takeaway for me was that an inclusive culture is built one person at a time. What we choose to do and how we interact with each colleague and peer is how inclusivity comes alive. We are, as Margo says, just “people interacting with people in the workspace.” If we treat each other with compassion and care, regardless of any differences in our roles, upbringing, or background, then maybe inclusivity and equity will become so engrained into our culture that it becomes second nature, rather something we have to think about. This is a mindset I plan to implement in my own life and career.

The opportunity to connect and learn from someone as inspiring as Margo Downs was incredibly rewarding. As an aspiring HR leader, I will remember what Margo identified as the ingredients of an inclusive culture: giving everyone a voice, leading with compassion and care, creating a sense of belonging, encouraging people to be their authentic self, encouraging growth, and acknowledging biases and privileges exist, whilst having overt practices to combat them embedded within the processes of a company.
Thank you, Margo Downs for the insightful conversation, and thank you to the UF MBA program for providing this opportunity. I know I will be a better business leader because of it.