Karen Francis Recognized for Her Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the American Institutes for Research

Karen Francis, vice president at the American Institutes for Research (AIR), is being recognized by Diversity MBA as a pioneer and change maker in the area of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Francis, AIR’s Chief DEI Officer, is being awarded one of the publication’s Top 25 Outstanding Leadership and Diversity Impact Awards.

Image of Karen Francis

“I am grateful to receive this recognition from Diversity MBA and I share it with my colleagues who have helped grow DEI at AIR and understand the importance of diversity, inclusion, and cultural competence in achieving our mission,” Francis said.

Francis, a medical sociologist by training, joined AIR in 2004 as a researcher and project leader and became involved in AIR’s DEI effort early in its development. In 2018, she began leading AIR’s DEI initiatives and was promoted to vice president and chief DEI officer in 2022.

Under her leadership, AIR has developed and grown a DEI strategy that is based on four pillars—fostering a positive workforce and work environment; increasing cultural competence; aligning work and organizational identity and reputation; and supporting sustainability and growth. These pillars are fully integrated into AIR’s broader organizational strategy, its approach to research and evaluation, and its delivery of training and technical assistance. In addition to her work at AIR, Francis is a frequent speaker and presenter on DEI and cultural competence around the world.

“AIR has been on a DEI journey for 15 years and Karen Francis has been involved from day one,” said Jessica Heppen, AIR president and CEO. “Thanks in great part to Karen’s leadership, DEI is at the foundation of everything we do at AIR as we seek to create a better, more equitable world.”

Diversity MBA selected the 25 honorees based upon their extended tenure, community involvement, leadership acumen, and commitment to the core values of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Francis and the other award winners will be honored at Diversity MBA's National Leadership Development & Recognition Conference in October. They will receive custom awards, profiles in Diversity MBA’s Top 25 Leaders of Impact publication, and opportunities to share their experiences with emerging leaders.

About AIR  
Established in 1946, the American Institutes for Research (AIR) is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit institution that conducts behavioral and social science research and delivers technical assistance both domestically and internationally in the areas of health, education, and the workforce. AIR's work is driven by its mission to generate and use rigorous evidence that contributes to a better, more equitable world. With headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, AIR has offices across the U.S. and abroad. For more information, visit www.air.org.

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