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Shifting a Culture to Build a Sense of Belonging

By Molly Manchenton

Three years after COVID sent everyone home, employees return to the workplace that embraces them for who they are.

At MITRE, we believe innovation exists at the intersection of diversity and inclusion. Our employee population succeeds when workers know they can be their authentic selves in the workplace.

To underscore our commitment to fostering a more inclusive culture, MITRE hosted a Week of Belonging. This served to amplify this message and raise awareness of resources like voluntary employee groups organized around social identity.

The inaugural week was such a success, we’re repeating it in April 2023.

“The impact was greater than expected,” says Stephanie Turner, vice president, Inclusion, Diversity, and Social Innovation. “Our presenters came in with the mentality of being open and honest with the audience. And as they got real, the questions got real. People could tell that MITRE wasn’t just checking a box, we really want to create change across the organization.”

A Week-long Idea Exchange

inclusion and diversity team

The Week of Belonging grew from an effort to raise awareness of our Business Resource Groups (BRGs). Employees lead these groups, organized around gender, age, race, and even professional background. One group focuses on common military experience. Another is organized to promote science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers.  

But organizers knew MITRE needed something more than an I&D Expo, Turner says. Senior Manager Heba Mahmoud brought Turner a bigger idea: “Inclusion and diversity doesn’t only belong to the I&D Department,” Mahmoud said. “We needed something that would draw people out.”

The Week of Belonging event included stakeholders at every level, from early career professionals to MITRE management and officers, and even Trustees, who openly shared their ideas about how belonging made a difference in their careers.

Belonging is about feeling secure and supported. It means that I feel valued, accepted, and included.

Yvette Melendez, MITRE Trustee

DeAngelo Crane, MITRE BRG lead adviser, said that “belonging” means something slightly different to each of us. But at its core, belonging is a “sense of being valued—that your work is being appreciated, that you’re being heard, that your words matter, and that you’re being cared for.”

Jason Providakes, president and CEO, noted that it’s naturally difficult for introverts like him to find a sense of belonging. It takes practice to proactively engage. For over 30 years with MITRE, he’s worked in many locations, and had to “embrace the uncomfortable, because that’s when you learn the most as an individual and as a team.”

MITRE Trustee Yvette Meléndez said, “Belonging is about feeling secure and supported. It means that I feel valued, accepted, and included. It is vital to performance, innovation, and retention. If I experience a sense of Belonging, I can then provide those opportunities to others.”

Opportunities to Engage and Learn from One Another

Lisa Ide, who co-leads the Multigenerational BRG said, “Today’s MITRE employees and leaders understand that collaboration for impact means all perspectives, talents, and input are actively considered and valued as we execute our work. An active commitment to inclusion and diversity on our teams requires us to engage and learn more. The Week of Belonging allowed us to do some of that.”

Richard Preston, who co-leads the STEM BRG, said their membership grew after the fair.

“During COVID we saw a major drop in engagement from staff,” he added. “The Week of Belonging convinced me that people are now looking to get involved again, which is energizing.”

“The way we treat each other is vital to our collective ability to grow and thrive,” says Kathleen Federico, senior vice president, chief people, brand, and communications officer. “We endeavor to be an inclusive organization where belonging, grace, and respect inspires trust, builds relationships, and leads to impactful change.”

The response to the 2022 Week of Belonging demonstrated that MITRE’s inclusion and diversity efforts are resonating. However, there is still more opportunity for growth. “This is a continuous journey for us,” Mahmoud says. “We are focused on integrating inclusion, diversity, belonging, and equity into the systems at MITRE, so that we can sustain all the work we are currently doing and build upon it into the future.”

Learn more about MITRE's culture in our 2022 Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity Impact Report.

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