Jefferson Lab’s new diversity and inclusion program lead aims to win hearts and minds while growing diversity and inclusion
NEWPORT NEWS, VA – The Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility is pleased to announce the creation of a new position dedicated to diversity and inclusion. New Program Lead Steven Uwajeh will spearhead efforts throughout the laboratory to enhance employee experience by facilitating a more diverse and inclusive workforce.
Uwajeh, an alumnus of Columbia University, New York, joins the lab after spending about a decade leading employee experience and organizational performance programs across four international regions with Shell and as a consultant at KPMG. Uwajeh plans to continue his legacy of using diversity and inclusion to impact scientific outcomes in his new position at the lab.
“Why does diversity and inclusion matter in science?” he asks. “There are enough studies that show that if a minority group represents about thirty percent of the organization, it increases creativity. If you have a diverse group of scientists and engineers, then you have people thinking differently, more creatively, and those perspectives will positively impact the outcome of the research we do here.”
Uwajeh joined the lab because he recognized that the lab was making a concerted effort to have its team more accurately reflect a broader population.
“I was impressed with the lab’s commitment to building a world-class inclusive culture and based on data and measurable goals,” he says. “The lab was already publishing that data, and not every organization does. The diversity numbers given the uniqueness of this institution are encouraging, yet there’s room to improve; we are not hiding that. We are publicly stating where we are now and affirming that we want to do more. We want a workforce that is more representative and welcoming of different perspectives. Achieving these goals will further Jefferson Lab’s reputation as a hub for creativity and as an employer of choice.”
To achieve a long-term impact of enhanced scientific and engineering creativity at the lab, Uwajeh recognizes that he must begin his efforts by appealing to the hearts and minds of each teammate and then taking steps to ensure the workplace culture achieves the shifts necessary to improve scientific outcomes.
“We know that more engaged teammates deliver better performance,” he says. “So, first, to create a more inclusive workplace, we need to really understand the people and culture. There’s a culture that’s written down, and there’s the culture that’s practiced. When you observe and listen to people extensively, you see and hear the true culture of the organization. These insights don’t exist in any dataset. I first need to know the people before we can start to understand where we are and what needs to be done.”
Uwajeh recognizes that his open-mindedness has likely been a character trait passed down through many generations of his family. Having split his youth between his home country of Nigeria and the East Coast of the U.S., Uwajeh grew up enmeshed in two entirely different cultures that influenced his appreciation for the value of different ways of thought.
“There are a lot of learnings from deeply experiencing another culture,” he says. “I have a lot of love for the world. There are things you learn from every place you live or visit.”
Uwajeh’s next move will be to the Hampton Roads area so that he can work on-site with the team at the lab. “I believe in face time with people and physical discussion. That’s more powerful than any data,” he says.
Contact: Kandice Carter, Jefferson Lab Communications Office, 757-269-7263, firstname.lastname@example.org