How Oracle made DE&I a ‘natural part’ of its company DNA

Traci Wade has spent more than 17 years at Oracle, nearly all of which she’s focused on diversity, equity and inclusion. It’s a tenure that has tracked right alongside the growth and development of the software company’s DE&I strategy. From the creation of the firm’s first DE&I team back in 2009 up to the launch of the Executive Diversity Council last year, Wade has been a key contributor to the depth and breadth of Oracle’s DE&I programs.

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Now, as vice president of global diversity and inclusion, Wade is tasked with helming the continued evolution of that work—which she sees as integral to the company culture and overarching business strategy. A passionate advocate for social justice herself, Wade recently spoke with HRE about her own inspiration and how she envisions the future of DE&I at Oracle.

HRE: How did your family’s involvement in civil rights activism influence your desire to pursue a career in DE&I? And how did it affect how you approach this work?

Oracle Traci Wade
Traci Wade

Wade: My family has a long history of being community activists, especially during the civil rights movements. I see myself incorporating that rich legacy and commitment into my role as a diversity and inclusion leader. I am inspired by those who came before me to continue to do the work I lead in corporate America and nurture a culture of inclusion, where differences are embraced and seen as our superpower.

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HRE: You joined Oracle nearly two decades ago; how different is the organization’s approach to DE&I today than it was at that time?

Wade: Oracle D&I efforts have evolved over the years, but we have been working on diversity and inclusion, recognizing people of all backgrounds, perspectives and abilities for decades. Over 20 years ago, our current CEO initiated and led our partnership with the United Negro College Fund, where we have provided over $12 million in scholarship and internships.

We founded our first D&I team more than a decade ago with the belief that innovation starts with diversity of thought and the inclusion of all voices. I had the privilege to be part of that team and strategic company vision to create a workforce where all kinds of people can do their best work.

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We also started Oracle Women’s Leadership back in 2006 to support our employee women with greater opportunities to enhance skills and develop leadership opportunities. We now reach 30,000-plus employees through our programs and across 100 communities globally.

Today, inclusive leaders at Oracle come together every month as part of our Executive Diversity Council, led by our CEO. We develop strategies and solutions that address important D&I issues within our company—and the greater tech industry. The passionate and committed engagement of our executive leaders to accelerate diversity and inclusion at Oracle is energizing.

We also recognize that creating a truly inclusive culture will be an ongoing journey, not a one-off destination. We’re always learning how to be more inclusive, which means there’s always more work to be done. Every day we’re making our workforce more representative of the world around us.

HRE: You helped Oracle stand up its first DE&I team in 2009; what were the initial challenges getting that off the ground, and what was most helpful in overcoming them?

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Wade: When our founding D&I team launched, we had to educate on our role within the organization and how it intersected with business. Since we are data to the core, I was able to share market data with executive leadership showing the impact D&I can have on talent, hiring and customer engagement. Spotlighting the numbers—the data—helped open the door to a truly cross-functional D&I strategy and global effort.

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HRE: What have been some of the most immediate impacts of the Executive Diversity Council’s work?

Wade: The Executive Diversity Council has signaled Oracle’s commitment to D&I as a business imperative. The council started in 2021 as a way to talk about challenges and find solutions to pressing D&I issues. Our CEO serves as executive sponsor and is an active member. Her leadership has helped launch initiatives that move the needle quickly.

HRE: What role does cross-functional collaboration have on Oracle’s DE&I work?

Wade: Our D&I organization partners across many functions at Oracle, spanning Corporate Citizenship, Oracle Academy, Oracle Volunteers and Oracle Giving. Through these cross-functional collaborations, we can have greater impact and reach with our underrepresented communities and investments to encourage young girls and minorities to go into STEM fields. We also partner with our lines of business on their D&I initiatives and goals. We are always identifying opportunities to thread D&I throughout Oracle; it has become a natural part of our DNA.

HRE: How do you think the pandemic will ultimately inform the future of DE&I?

Wade: One of the things we’ve learned from the pandemic is that our diverse communities and women are struggling the most. The lockdowns raised global awareness to racial and gender inequalities—prompting momentum for movements like Black Lives Matter, Me Too and Stop Asian Hate.

In the future, we will likely see a rise of Employee Resource Groups giving voice to diverse communities and a chance for everyone to be part of something bigger—and feel like they belong. A greater focus on accountability will also be critical, since it is essential to making progress on D&I goals. We’ll also see greater buy-in and participation by the C-suite to push initiatives and drive change from the top.

Diversity and inclusion can no longer sit on the periphery as a well-intentioned aspiration. Now more than ever before, it must be a top priority and business imperative of a company.

HRE: If you hadn’t pursued your current career path, where do you think your career would have taken you?

Wade: If not D&I, I would have explored a career in my second love: fashion.

HRE: Outside of work, what energizes you?

Wade: Family and traveling across the world to learn and experience new things.

Jen Colletta
Jen Colletta is managing editor at HRE. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in writing from La Salle University in Philadelphia and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining HRE. She can be reached at hreletters@lrp.com.

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