Dr. Cheryl Hall-Russell is Fighting for Equity in Pittsburgh


( ENSPIRE She Did That ) Introducing Guidelines to End Discrimination

ENSPIRE Contributor: Logan Floyd

Dr. Cheryl Hall-Russell is working to improve minority representation in corporations and nonprofits in Pittsburgh. The doctoral graduate of Point Park University has started her own organization, BW3, with the goal of helping Pittsburgh’s companies introduce new guidelines that will put a stop to discriminatory practices and diversify the workplace. Although it has often been an uphill battle, Dr. Hall-Russell has made an impressive effort so far to bring about positive change.

BW3 stands for Black Women Wise Women, a name meant to reflect Dr. Hall-Russell’s desire to build a partnership with other black women as well as her belief that wisdom is an even more important quality than strength. BW3’s goal is to make companies wiser about their own internal culture so that they might make the changes necessary to increase DEI: diversity, equity, and inclusion.

“My practice here at Black Women Wise Women, LLC focuses on helping organizations create the cultural changes needed to center equity in their work,” Dr. Hall-Russell said.

In aiding a company, BW3 will perform a deep analysis of the company’s practices, attitudes, and messaging to better understand how they do business. They will make suggestions about HR practices and give them a qualitative analysis of how their employees are experiencing the organization, revealing whatever disparities exist between workers of different demographics. BW3 will then follow that up with customized training and metrics for long-term achievement, helping fix whatever inequities they find.

Dr. Hall-Russell is a firm proponent of greater DEI in the workplace, having experienced the all-too-familiar hallmarks of racism in her own journey to success. Despite having gained her doctorate in sociology, Dr. Hall-Russell still found and continues to find resentment and adversity in the companies who hire her.

“My journey has mirrored many of my sisters’ journeys,” Dr. Hall-Russell said. “Underutilized, underestimated, overburdened with being the bearer of constant racial oppression, and underfunded for work on community and social services and community development. Our strategies are always questioned, capacity doubted and basically we spend a lot of time not being trusted.”

Yet despite remaining uncertain about the future, Dr. Hall-Russell finds some reasons to remain hopeful. Much of her motivation comes from trying to create a better world for her daughter, who herself has started to take an interest in her mother’s activism. In addition to sitting in on her mother’s meetings, Dr. Hall-Russell’s daughter has also attended protests, events, and art exhibits with her mother while learning more about her African-American roots and what can be done to bring about a better tomorrow for Black Americans.

“I am raising a confident young woman,” Dr. Hall-Russell said, “and like so many in her generation, they will help lead us out of this mess but we have a lot of cleaning up to do ourselves. I believe in intergenerational work!”

Even though the present day has seen plenty of worry and unrest over the status of minorities in America, individuals like Dr. Hall-Russell are working hard to change things for underrepresented groups. Pittsburgh may still have a ways to go in terms of reaching complete racial equity, but with people like Dr. Hall-Russell leading the charge, the obstacles that stand in the way of achieving this goal may yet be surmounted.