Tonya Jackman Hampton faces racism, promotes inclusiveness
By Elizabeth Ellis
This past September, HealthPartners appointed Tonya Jackman Hampton the organization’s new senior director of diversity, inclusion and engagement. Hampton has worked for multiple Fortune 500 companies. A Minnesota native and mother of a 17-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son, she graduated from Clark Atlanta University and has an MBA from the University of St. Thomas.
Prior to her position at HealthParnters she was the human resources director for global inclusion, engagement and diversity at Medtronic. She has also been an adjunct professor at St. Catherine University.
Jackman Hampton (TJH) is the current president of the Association of African American in Human Resouces, is board chair of Minnesota Organization Development Network and is currently working on her doctorate in organization development at the University of St. Thomas.
The MSR spoke with her about the influences that led to her current position.
MSR: Did you have any little girl dreams of what you would like to be when you grew up?
TJH: When I was in high school I thought I wanted to be an attorney. My mother says I used to sing into the hose of the vacuum cleaner as a little girl, so I guess I wanted to get on stage or present myself. I do that now as a public speaker. And I enjoy that, so I guess my dream came true.
I am also a teacher. Organization development is my focus.
MSR: What have been your impediments along the way, both as a child and as an adult?
TJH: As a kid, it was getting others to accept my difference. At Bloomington Kennedy High School, there were only a dozen kids of color. School was not fun. There was racism in high school. I was frustrated. There is still racism. Being called n**ger, that experience got in the way…
I might get comments, “the Black woman,” but I have never encountered challenges strictly because I was a woman. I remember only one instance where someone was not comfortable taking direction from me. As an adult I’ve had reactions to me as Black, but not as a woman. Not ever have I received direct inappropriate comments.
MSR: Were you coached on dealing with racism? Could you identify your mentors, heroes, heroines?
TJH: I didn’t bring up those topics to my mentors, but my first and foremost mentor would be my grandmother, Launa Newman.
The second would be my mother who was the strong woman in my life. I never saw her cry, which for me was a show of strength.
My career was helped along by one of the first persons I worked with, a woman who gave me perspective. The next woman was a catalyst in my career move, and after her others proved to be leaders and helped form my views of work.
My father was in many ways my champion, my biggest fan. He is very proud of the things I’ve done. I was the first and only college kid in my family, but everyone in my family was treated equally.
MSR: Do you have siblings?
TJH: I have a sister and two brothers. I am the youngest. I learned from my sister. Our friendship has become closer as we’ve gotten older.
MSR: Has the church been an active part of your life?
TJH: God has always been present in my life. I am Baptist by birth and by practice. I’ve tried different religious paths, but I’m more spiritual than religious. I believe God exists in the church, in the home, in my being.
MSR: What advice would you give or tell young girls coming up to reach the pinnacles you’ve reached?
TJH: Life is about choices. Your environments might not offer the choices I had, or maybe you didn’t have access to the things that I did, but life is about altering whatever choices you have and taking the good out of the circumstances you are surrounded by.
I would tell kids to look to the positive things folks have done for them to keep them strong. I know kids can be frightened, scared. Look to the good, to the-glass-is-half-full theory. Look inside and outside the family. Recognize the hand that presents gifts to you.
MSR: What business-related obstacles have you faced? And how will you accomplish your mission to achieve diversity inclusion?
TJH: Diverse inclusion drives organizational effectiveness. Effectiveness achieves business outcomes. These are specific components of the organizational development lens.
We have meetings, discussions. We are pro-active. We present issues, intervention — preventive care as opposed to reactive. We have systems in place for complaints. People know the process; it is visible and accessible.
By being intentional versus accidental in our efforts, we will have an impact. We know how to create change, for sharing, for identifying opportunities for change.
MSR: What advice would you give a little girl who sees you achieving your MBA, what she might see for herself as a large upward struggle?
TJH: I’m proud of the things I’ve done on my journey as a leader. When my husband achieved his MBA, I said, “He did it. Why not [me]?” It felt like the thing to do.
I feel grounded, but I’m still growing. I get energized to create change, to being a leader, to providing for others, to helping others achieve their outcomes. These are my parameters, [my] platforms for successes. As a leader I helped develop plans for others to succeed and was acknowledged for the work in organizational development to make these things happen.
When my kids ask me what I need for birthday or Christmas gifts, I always and repeatedly tell them, “I don’t need anything. I need good kids that do good things.”
Elizabeth Ellis welcomes reader response to [email protected]