Founder and President of Inclusiva.
Following the tragic death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May, Uva Coles found herself at her tipping point. Long focused on diversity and inclusion, she felt compelled to extend that work to the community at large.
Leaving behind the corporate world and higher education, the HBCU Claflin University grad launched Inclusiva this past August. “It’s focused on workforce strategies,” she says of her consulting firm.
More specifically, Coles is helping businesses with their diversity strategies. “[There’s] an openness to doing this work in a really pronounced way,” she says. “A year ago, that may not have been the case.”
Coles’ clients include SEPTA, the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians and Philadelphia Works, among others. “For the first time in business, we’re having explicit conversations where we can talk about identity, race, age, gender, ability and everything in between as part of what we do,” says Coles. “Before, we tried to put a lid on that and pretend it wasn’t there.”
Coles furthers her work through the City of Philadelphia’s Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council, which engages with the police commissioner, examines practices surrounding COVID-19, participates in workforce development and deals with various socioeconomic challenges. “We look at policies, practices and work that’s being done throughout the city,” says Coles, who was appointed by Mayor Jim Kenney.
Born and raised in Panama, Coles leans on personal experience, too, noting that there were internal barriers she had to overcome. “[I used to be] careful with my words, my voice, my work,” Coles says. “You become hypersensitive to your identity and recognize that there are some constraints on how you show up.”
Now, she’s a voice for change.