HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — When you look at their list of clients, it’s hard to believe Strategic Consulting Partners is a small business. They work with everything from large federal agencies to small non-profit organizations. And yet —

“Our business is actually in our home,” Monica Gould, the company’s founder and president, said. “And we employ 12 people full time, and we also have a staff of about 25 consultants that support our business.”

Gould founded Strategic Consulting in 1994 — a new start in what was already a long journey.

“We immigrated to the United States when I was just one year old, and I became a naturalized citizen in 1974 when I was just eleven. Our family were legal immigrants, my parents worked very hard to provide a good education for all of us, and to ground us in good Christian values, and we all have excelled, and worked hard. But it was not for the faint of heart. My parents struggled, it was not an easy thing for them to come to the United States, and they came with virtually nothing in their pockets. And just a lot of hard work, a strong work ethic, and good values, that helped us all. Prosper and work hard and learned all those things from my parents.”

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Gould racked up experience in her field before striking out on her own.

“I started the business after being an executive with MCI Telecommunications Corporation, where I was traveling across the country, supporting training, and human resources and operations, and I was the mother of two young children.”

“I felt that there were opportunities for me, as a small business owner, that didn’t exist in the corporate world at that time. The flexibility for women in business, especially in the executive realm, wasn’t available the way it is today. So I decided to start the company and parley my experience from my operations background into my own company, 27 years ago. “

Strategic Consulting Partners does not advise their clients on building their buildings or arranging production lines. They help organizations build healthy social structures. Much of their work can be summed up in the well-known acronym DEI: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Plus, she notes, people now are adding another letter.

“A, for accessibility. Ensuring that people that have disabilities and have accessibility challenges can be able to work in the workplace in an inclusive manner.”

“Our focus is really on celebrating the differences that people have, it’s really about developing systems within companies that can support the differences, and also building a culture of inclusion where people who are different than ourselves can feel included, and belonging with the organization.”

Gould says businesses can’t afford to think of employees as expendable. “We’re in an environment now that workers are being very discerning about where they work. They want to work in places where they feel comfortable, where they feel valued, where there’s a work-life balance. There’s caring about them as individuals. And so this work has become even more important because, as we look at our workforce challenges that we have in our communities, embracing diversity and being a place where people want to work is now a competitive advantage.”

“We only have one workforce, and if we start segregating our talent, and start saying only these people can work here, only those people can work there, we start to dilute our ability to capture the talent that’s in the workplace.

“And we know statistically that companies that embrace diversity and are inclusive in their behavior, and their culture is one where people belong and feel comfortable, there’s less turnover. We see higher productive teams, the innovation happening.”

Gould says both the protests after the death of George Floyd, and the forced isolation of the pandemic, drove home to organizations the importance of changing workplace cultures.

“I think what we didn’t recognize and understand fully during the pandemic is that people had the opportunity to really soul search, and determine what they wanted to do with their lives.”

“Creating a workplace that people want to come to work, and want to be a part of, flexibility in terms of hybrid workplaces, those kinds of things, are going to be the difference between where someone works, and someone saying ‘I’m not going to go back there. I don’t want to work in that sort of factory environment where I have to grind every day, sit in traffic for hours to get to work and sit at a cubicle when I can do some of this work at home.”

Gould’s advice for women thinking of starting their own businesses?

“I think it is a good time for women to start businesses. I think they are being thought about as a force in our economy in ways they weren’t considered perhaps 20 years ago.”

But she also says, keep in mind, some of the old challenges have not gone away.

“When you first start, people don’t necessarily see you as credible. They don’t recognize the skills that you bring to the table, and so you have to keep proving yourself. And I think for women in America and in the world we have to continue to prove ourselves in order to be seen as credible. And that’s just the story of where we are.”

“And I hope one day, as my daughters decide to start their own businesses, or my grandchildren when they come, they’ll have the opportunities that I didn’t have, that I had to fight for.”

To read a transcript of our interview with Monica Gould, click here.