Professional Staff Organization

April 12, 2021

Jamilah Williams, Sustainable Seattle’s Board Chair and professional staff at UW, answers questions from the Diversity Forum

Last month, the PSO hosted the 4th annual Diversity Forum. This year’s event, attended by over 360 people, focused on “(re)building cultures of diversity, equity, and inclusion through policies, procedures and budgets”. We were thrilled by the conversations and engagement; you can read our overview here. After we formally wrapped up, more questions came through the chat from our community. Panelist Jamilah Williams, Board Chair of Sustainable Seattle, and Assistant Director of Marketing and Communications at UW’s College of Built Environments, shared her answers to some of those questions. We are grateful to share her thoughts with professional staff:


Diversity Forum Attendee: Something that I’ve become more passionate about recently is the intersection of mental health and DEI, particularly the ways in which women and BIPOC folks are underserved in that space. I think an area that is going to need more attention is the ways in which our systems do not serve neuro-diverse populations, and I’m wondering whether this is something the panelists have begun to…

Jamilah Williams: I agree that there is much more work to be done. Personally, I know I have a lot of room to grow in terms of accessibility. At Sustainable Seattle, we’ve also recognized that representation and inclusion of the disability community lacks in the sustainability space and in our organization as well. We’re working to build those authentic relationships and continuing to learn.


DFA: How do you as BIPOC women survive these organizations? How do you keep pushing for this work? And when do you know when it’s time to walk away?

JW: Find your people, find your community. Surround yourself with people you trust and who you can go to for advice, to vent, and have your back. Knowing when to walk away is hard, especially as someone committed to EDI work, but you also have to take care of yourself.  Walk away when you are giving your all, but not seeing any change or movement.

DFA: We need spaces for BIPOC staff working in a predominantly white institution!

JW: Agree! Having these spaces can help you find those people who you know will have your back. It also shows a commitment on the part of the institution when they are supportive of these types of spaces.


DFA: How can we make sure, when hiring staff, to have reached the most diverse group of candidates? We would like to make sure that the pool is as inclusive as possible and the mainstream channels are not always the best ones.

JW: There are great local job boards and groups. Ask your staff what groups/communities they are part of and have them share the job. One note in regards to job postings, is to include the salary range. Here is some great language ReproJobs on job postings, salaries, and equity:

We know that cis women are paid less than cis men for doing the same job, women of color are paid even less than white women, and disabled people and trans people earn even less than abled and cis people (for example: we know that a third of Black trans people earn less than $10,000 a year). Refusing to be transparent about salaries and benefits is a huge contributor to these inequities and puts candidates of color and trans candidates at a disadvantage in the negotiating process. Additionally, by basing a salary off of a person’s previous salaries and not disclosing what your actual budget is, candidates with marginalized identities are unable to earn a living, thriving wage, particularly if it’s always based on past underpaid wages. Do you really want your organization to be part of perpetuating this problem? By posting the salary, your organization can be part of the solution to ensure all candidates are paid wages that reflects the compensation they deserve.

Listing the salary also puts you and the candidate on more equitable negotiating grounds. If the candidate doesn’t know what the salary range is, the organization holds all the power. Candidates are left guessing about what salary to ask for, and sometimes they’ll ask for a lower salary because that’s what they’ve been lowballed previously or because they don’t know what they should asking for. It’s also becoming increasingly illegal for interviewers to ask a candidate for their salary history. So, don’t do that either!