Zaire Overton is the special projects administrative assistant within RAND’s Office of the President, supporting the RAND Center to Advance Racial Equity Policy, director Rhianna Rogers, and other special events and initiatives.
Jul 27, 2023
Q&A with Giovanna Brasfield
Giovanna Brasfield is chair of the RAND Center to Advance Racial Equity Policy Steering Committee. Brasfield, who is known as “Dr. G,” is CEO and principal consultant for Brasfield & Associates, LLC, and an accomplished diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) advocate with more than 18 years of experience in construction.
Can you explain your role within the center and your background in DEI?
As chair of the steering committee, my job is to help identify potential funding opportunities, recommend research questions that may align with the center’s equity research emphasis and policy analysis, and help co-organize steering committee members around strategic areas of racial equity work.
I started consulting in DEI in 2004 but transitioned to work directly for large civil and commercial contractors within construction to gain a deeper understanding of executive leadership, as well as industry needs. I relaunched my consulting firm in 2021 to assist and enhance DEI programs for organizations across construction. I have led trainings and Employee Resource Groups (ERG) and worked within organizations on systems design, organizational change, allyship, and leadership development.
Why should organizations and public policy researchers care about this space?
We are truly at a pivotal point across the country where, more than ever, research and policies are essential for equitable impact. Without reliable research, analysis, and collaboration with policy experts, organizations navigate these complexities in isolation. This hesitancy, coupled with concerns about a lack of long-term commitment to DEI, highlights the necessity for data-driven policy and practice development.
What has the Center to Advance Racial Equity Policy been doing on infrastructure equity?
We’ve been able to focus on many of the pressing challenges associated with community and infrastructure development. This has ranged from participating in the Engineering News Record Groundbreaking Women In Construction Conference in 2021 to speaking at the National Association of Minority Contractors – Southern California Chapter. We’ve also been engaged in issues of equity around development for the 2028 Olympics and Paralympic Games, through the RAND-initiated, National Coalition of Equity Impact’s four-part discussion series, which explores economic impact, design, and building resilient communities through equity-centered contributions. I look forward to the center’s future work on equity and infrastructure policy.
How can people support to this work?
Infrastructure equity is often missing from policy development. In construction, topics such as environmental justice and equal access to transportation, green spaces, clean water, economic development, and more have emerged as key elements of policy infrastructure plans. Many discussions have centered around the historical injustices to communities of color through infrastructure, resulting in a reassessment to include stakeholders and ensure social, economic, and environmental well-being of affected communities.