An Agenda for Change: Creating More Inclusive Organizations Through Diversity Coaching | Lifestyles
Since 2008, when Dr. Towanna Burrous founded Towanna Freeman & Associates, a Haymarket-based management consultancy that offered executive coaching as an additional service, she has evolved her business and focused on meeting the changing needs of the times.
In 2011, when she recognized an increased demand for diverse coaches and no professional network in which to find them, she created one – the Black Life Coaches Network.
Then, in 2015, she renamed the company CoachDiversity Institute. The company offers various training and education programs for executive coaches.
“Coaching is an essential skill that 21st century leaders need to unlock the potential and performance of their people,” she says. “CoachDiversity attracts forward-thinking leaders from around the world who want to change organizational culture to increase employee engagement and performance.”
Making it his mission to diversify the coaching industry to provide his clients with credentialed coaching professionals who were not only racially and ethnically diverse, but also of different ages, abilities, genders and religions was just the first step. There was still work to do.
“I realized that the International Coaching Federation didn’t offer a program that taught coaches to coach across various lines,” says Dr. Burrous. “I wrote the first-ever coaching program grounded in diversity, equity, and inclusion.”
Dr. Burrous also concluded that not all coaches are trained equally. Some of them needed to improve their coaching skills because their clients came to them with many different challenges that were specific to people of color and people with different sexual orientations.
“Now we are a training school,” she says. “People come to us to learn how to coach in various lines.”
Students include people who want to start their own business and want to be an internal coach within their organization, or who want to be leaders in their organizations that they would like to see become more inclusive.
“Since 2015, we have graduated over 700 coaching professionals,” says Dr. Burrous. “That includes people who identify as white and want to work with people who are different from them.”
CoachDiversity Institute offers three courses that build on each other and provide students with certification in coaching.
“There is an associate level, a certified professional level and an advanced level,” she explains, “and each program takes between four and six months. Our students are executives, senior consultants, helping professionals, diversity practitioners from Fortune 500 companies, the federal government, and large nonprofit organizations. Many of them are making significant changes within their organizations.
CoachDiversity Institute’s growth has been phenomenal since adding this new offering to its portfolio. In 2021, it ranked number 524 on Inc. magazine’s list of the 5,000 fastest growing private companies in the United States and number one in Prince William County.
“While we were thrilled to join this prestigious list, it was also a moment of reflection as Black women-owned businesses have the immense challenge of being underpaid, underfunded and underfunded,” says Dr. Burrous.
Running a successful business owned by a black woman while being a single mother of two makes her especially proud.
“My oldest is 25 and she works for CoachDiversity, but she’s also in the Army National Guard,” she says. “My son is in 6th grade. For me, being an active and present mom has helped me build an agile business that has been successful even during COVID.
Her children are also the reason why she is so focused on creating better corporate atmospheres.
“I ask myself, ‘What kind of corporate culture would best suit the needs of my children and their peers?’ says Dr. Burrous. “My mission is to teach change agents how to create a culture that pushes an organization forward, not backward.”
To learn more about the CoachDiversity Institute, visit coachdiversity.com.
This feature appears in the April 2022 issue of Haymarket-Gainesville Lifestyle. To pick up a copy, visit these locations.