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Updated: November 22, 2021 outside the box

Show me the money!

A picture of Bonnie J. Walker Image | Courtesy of Bonnie J. Walker Bonnie J. Walker
Check out Bonnie J. Walker's other Outside the Box columns, through the links at the bottom of this page.
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Money talks! “Show me the money!”

This is a timeless line from the 1996 film “Jerry Maguire” spoken by Cuba Gooding Jr.’s professional football star character, Rodney, who pushed his agent Jerry Maguire, played by Tom Cruise, to repeat the line several times in a row, in order to plant it as a reminder of what Rodney values most in his football deals.

How we spend our money shows what we value and what our priorities are in business.

Rodney was not wooed by deals simply elevating his name, sparkling with prestige, or anything else only ego-stroking; Rodney wanted to get paid!

How we spend our money tells a lot about who we are and what we care about, as individuals and as business professionals.

In October, I received a community email from President David Fithian, from my alma mater, Clark University in Worcester.

The subject line read, “Investing in Clark for a Strong Future.” I greatly respect his commitment to a vision for the institution articulated through action: Securing $100 million in new financing to fund future strategic investments.

The business of any organization is dependent on its financial investments.

Show me where your organization is spending money, and I’ll tell you what your organization is committed to!

I have come to clearly understand the heart of every organization is its mission: What the people therein believe to be the “why” for the organization. Mission is aligned with core values and elevated and lived (or not) through organizational culture and community engagement.

In order to foster positive culture and community engagement, institutions must lay a foundation centering on belonging, which is secured through a baseline of work focused on diversity, equity & inclusion.

All of these things cannot be aligned without focused funding to support them.

To this point, President Fithian committed $1 million to DEI initiatives, nearly a year before securing the $100 million for future strategic investments, and in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Why? Because committing to DEI is an investment; it lays the foundation for building up!

President Fithian believes in Clark’s mission and vision for an extraordinary student experience where, “Students will find a Clark education rigorous and empowering, and use it to change the world, and that our staff are admirably and unselfishly devoted to making everything we do successful – compel us to invest in our remarkable and distinctive institution.”

When it comes to supporting organizational diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, many things can be done to show a commitment to it, including an equity and inclusion audit, publishing a public equity and inclusion statement, achieving progressive hiring data and low discrimination reporting and stats, having equitable salary tables, high retention numbers, equitable policies, and outward facing messaging about these initiatives.

This noted, the commitment to these initiatives must be fortified with funding. Without it, the initiatives are, or become only performative, or never get off the ground to make real impact and create positive change for the organization.

Are you tired of performative allyship in your organization, where grand initiatives are talked about, but no action is taken, and certainly none with money behind them?

Audit your business spending to realize what your actual commitment is to diversity, equity, and inclusion work, structures, and initiatives, and then reevaluate your spending, if necessary.

Bonnie J. Walker is the director of equity and inclusion at Worcester Academy, plying this arena in education in Mass. for 16 years. Contact her at

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