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Six Sigma Racial Equity Institute helps Black women upskill, close pay gap 

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In this one-on-one with the Indianapolis Recorder, Joy E. Mason, CEO of Optimist Business Solutions, shares the inspiration for creating the Six Sigma Racial Equity Institute, “an innovative leadership program designed to upskill Black Women and Black Latinas to be complex problem solvers.” Participants in the institute will work toward earning their green belt while being trained by instructors, coaches, mentors and Six Sigma Black Belts and Master Black Belts. 

Joy Mason (Photo provided)

Recorder: What inspired you to create the Six Sigma Racial Equity Institute (SSREI)? 

Mason: A number of factors divinely came together in 2021. My love of continuous improvement, my enthusiasm for supporting women, my commitment to the Black community, an obsession for equity and my anger over George Floyd’s murder culminated into an urgent desire to step up. I believe God wanted me in this current role to address equity in this way – an institute that empowers and teaches women how to leverage Six Sigma for our communities and our workplaces. 

Recorder: What successes have you observed since the first cohort? 

Mason: Of the previous participants surveyed, 67% stated that they received a pay raise since completing the Green Belt program, and 33% noted that they had received a promotion. 

After completing the program, 33% of participants noted they received a salary increase of more than $10,000, while an additional 44% received a salary increase of $1,000-$9,999 since completing the Green Belt program. 

In a post-program survey of SSREI’s most recent Green Belt cohort, 100% of participants responded they gained new or increased problem-solving skills. 92% of the cohort participants said the program met or exceeded their expectations regarding improved leadership confidence. 

These findings (see below) are important to SSREI’s work and equity in central Indiana. Ensuring pay equity for Black women is a critical imperative in the pursuit of justice and equality. Closing the wage gap is not only a matter of fairness but a key step towards dismantling systemic discrimination.  

RELATED: Six Sigma helping professional women skill up

Six Sigma Racial Equity Institute announces its fourth cohort. (Photo provided/Six Sigma Racial Equity Institute)

Recorder: Who are your community partners? 

Mason: Our Institute would not be a success without the incredible partnership with Indiana University. IU Columbus provides instructional expertise and IU Indy, specifically the Herron School of Art, routinely provides us with the space that we need for meetings, workshops and events.  The values of our institute and Indiana University are clearly aligned toward professional development, equity and community empowerment 

Recorder: What have previous participants said about the program? 

Mason: More than 87% of women surveyed believed they would have a greater impact, influence, and contribution within their organizations and community after completing the Green Belt Program. 

RELATED: Six Sigma program helps Cummins fulfill mission

Recorder: What do you hope participants gain from SSREI?  

Mason: By creating the Six Sigma Racial Equity Institute, I hope people see that there are innovative and mutually beneficial ways to advance diversity and equity. Our approach is like a rising tide that lifts all ships creating a triple win. Our participants win by gaining additional leadership skills, employers win from the additional capacity that we provide to address equity gaps and communities win because we equip employers to work and serve more equitably.   

Most of all, I want our Black women to experience professional and personal transformation. The bump in salary from applying their news skills is an added bonus!  

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