MLK DAY 2022


We never stop learning…Should it take 95 years? 

In the veteran community, we often ask our corporate partners: “Are you veteran-friendly or veteran-ready?”. So we ask you, “Are you/is your organization diversity-friendly or diversity-ready?”  

With the passing of another New Year and as we approach the annual celebration of Martin Luther King Junior’s birthday, it is important to set goals and acknowledge that there is much work to be done. Urgently! 

At Combined Arms Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) is an organizational priority: for our team, who we work with and for those that we serve. We recognize and acknowledge that we aren’t perfect. We believe that transparency and authenticity are key to learning and growing...together. 

It’s easy to fall into the trap of making statements of commitment without evidence of action. Combined Arms is committed to identifying and solving for areas of improvement and we challenge our partners to come alongside.

Our priorities are to improve within Combined Arms first and sector-wide second. Our vision is that our collective impact creates a more inclusive community that reflects and celebrates the diversity of our nation's service members and veterans. These things take time. Many organizations are being more transparent about the numbers…we should too. 

Our learning journey

In the summer of 2021, we participated in the Greater Houston Partnership’s 1st ever Equity & Inclusion Assessment. This assessment allowed 120 organizations of various sizes, sectors and industries covering 12 counties in the Greater Houston Region to benchmark where they were for talent and leadership representation, supplier diversity & DEI best practices.  GHP released the overall results and provided each participating organization with a scorecard for their future use. In the spirit of transparency, we are sharing our results, which show that while we are doing well in some areas, we can and must improve in others.

**It is important to note that this assessment only looked at racial and gender diversity. It did not consider religion, sexual orientation, disability or veteran status.

Key trends included:

  • Houston-area companies are largely proactive when it comes to advancing equity and inclusion, but are not adequately addressing the racial, ethnic and gender gaps in the talent pipeline and board leadership.  
  • Supplier diversity remains the weakest area of DEI best practice across the region.  

Combined Arms’ results aligned with the region’s overall trends. We are proactive in advancing equity and inclusion, in our communications and day-to-day work but have room for growth in our talent pipeline and on the board. We learned that we had not previously given a specific measurement or goal for the diversity of our suppliers. Since what is measured is what gets done, for 2022, we have set a goal of 25% supplier diversity. 

Admittedly, it is impossible to prioritize all things at once. I appreciate the narrow focus that the assessment placed on the BIPOC community. A report released by McKinsey in February of 2021 stated, “On the current trajectory, it will take about 95 years for Black employees to reach talent parity (or 12 percent representation) across all levels in the private sector.” From this study, we can extrapolate that black employees within the government and the social services sectors are also underrepresented, especially in senior leadership and board positions. We MUST work together to create transformational opportunities for the Black community. 

Looking for a way for your organization to get started? 

Bain’s DEI Opportunity Identifier is a great self-assessment tool that can help you identify opportunities in the near term. 

The challenge is that there is a disconnect between the impact we want to have, genuine interest and the funding to make that happen. DEI needs to be part of our every day and should be integrated at every level of all organizations. Every funding proposal and corporate partner now requests this information along with the core of work, as they should. We know that our experience is not unique in realizing that the scope of work has grown but the investment to support it has not kept pace. The Combined Arms Institute is working to make resources and training more accessible for organizations regardless of size or scale. 

At Combined Arms this year, we will continue to have vulnerable conversations around Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, convene to learn together and encourage others to assess where they are. We plan to launch an Equity & Inclusion Assessment with our member organizations and across the veteran-services ecosystem to benchmark where we are as a sector. Again, what is measured is managed.  We will continue to add to the Combined Arms Institute’s DEI resources.

So we ask again, “Are you diversity-friendly or diversity-ready?”  We need to take action today to fundamentally change the way we operate tomorrow. Let’s embrace this journey together. 

You can start by joining us as we kick off our 2022 DEI Calendar of Events with a Black History Month Panel: Voices of Black Veteran Leaders on January 26th and watch the video from this panel discussion.

Don’t miss this important conversation on the authentic experiences of black veterans and leaders in the veterans services sector. The answer is “NO” it should not and will not take us 95 years. That is unacceptable. 







See you there! 


Kelly Finn Störmer

Executive Director, Combined Arms Institute