Dr Shirley Davis has many nicknames – global workforce expert, best-selling author and successful business owner, to name a few – and can now add the Golden Gavel Award winner to the listing.
At a ceremony Aug. 20 in Nashville, Toastmasters International presented the Tampa resident with its highest honor. The organization awards the Golden Gavel to just one person each year, and Davis joins an illustrious group of past winners such as Dr. Joyce Brothers, Walter Cronkite and Zig Ziglar.
Founded in 1924, Toastmasters is a nonprofit educational organization that teaches speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of clubs. It has more than 300,000 members in 149 countries and has presented the Golden Gavel to distinguished communicators and pioneers since 1959.
“It’s amazing; it’s exciting, and I still pinch myself,” Davis said. years in corporate America has come full circle in being appreciated and recognized because he has had so much impact on so many people around the world. world.”
Davis is the president and CEO of Tampa-based SDS Global Enterprises, a women’s and minority-owned C-Corporation. According to its website, SDS provides development solutions that empower leaders to create high-performing and inclusive cultures. While its clients span the globe, SDS Global works with several local businesses, including Raymond James, Vinik Sports Group, and the Straz Center for the Performing Arts.
Using her previous experience as Director of Diversity and Inclusion for several Fortune 100 companies, Davis has offered her insights to business leaders in more than 30 countries on five continents. Published by Wiley Press in January, his latest book, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for Dummieshit the bestseller lists.
Davis also wrote Live beyond “What if?” published by Berrett-Koehler Publishers in August 2021. She has served as a pundit on several nationally broadcast television shows and has written for leading publications such as The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. She was on the cover of Oprah Winfrey’s magazine, Oearlier this year – a particularly proud moment for Davis.
Although she called the recognition “wonderful” because it highlights the importance of her work, Davis relishes the increased opportunities to share her message.
“About how we really need to change our mindsets, our attitudes and our behaviors as leaders because the world around us is changing,” she said. “And I see too many companies I work with that hire our firm, whose leaders aren’t as inclusive. They are not as effective in overcoming differences.
While many leaders across the country have recently increased their diversity and inclusion efforts, Davis said there’s still a lot to be done to create opportunity and parity. She noted that some clients have just increased their funding for women and minority-owned businesses, and one of the biggest challenges for these demographics is getting noticed.
Women and minorities, Davis said, are often overlooked because those in power tend to only offer opportunities to friends and colleagues who provide a sense of familiarity.
“And if they don’t know a lot of minority-owned businesses,” she added. “So they don’t usually give us the opportunity.”
Diversity and inclusion extends far beyond race and gender, Davis pointed out, and encompasses many underrepresented groups. These include the elderly, non-native English speakers, people from low-income backgrounds, or even someone with an introverted personality in an office full of extroverts.
“We still have a lot of work to do to educate everyone that it’s about engaging with all talent and all workers,” she said.
As the pandemic has caused a shift to remote and hybrid working, business leaders must also change employee engagement techniques. She added that at the heart of these significant changes is ensuring that those less seen in the workplace still feel included and valued.
Workers, Davis explained, are increasingly quitting their jobs because they feel overwhelmed and suffer from burnout. She said those who participated in the “Great Resignation” generally thought they were undervalued and lacked opportunities to grow and develop.
Many companies, she added, have recently raised wages and tried to address these issues. However, she said owners must not only pay their employees a fair and equitable wage that matches the rising cost of living, but they must also treat them with the highest level of respect and dignity.
“And the final piece of that is the culture of the company,” Davis said. “They need to know what sets them apart from other companies that their businesses are leaving to go.”
Despite his recent achievements – Inclusion The magazine also inducted her into the Hall of Fame this year — Davis said she will be serious about pursuing her mission to improve corporate environments for underrepresented populations.
She said much more needs to be done to ensure leaders continue their discussions on increasing diversity, equity and inclusion with measurable results. She also plans to write another book and work on a documentary.
“I have so many great opportunities, and I’m just going to ride the wave and keep doing whatever I’m doing,” Davis said. “I’m just glad it was a natural result of the work that was so impactful.”