As the first Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for the San Francisco 49ers, Christina Jefferson has hit the ground running. In a candid conversation with Nadia Anderson, SVLG’s Racial Justice & Equity Lead, Jefferson discussed some of the challenges and opportunities associated with being a DEI Director in turbulent times.
“Every day I come in thinking about how I can continue to bring the culture that I know is inside this organization, bring it forth and add more equity into it,” Jefferson said.
Whether she is working on employee resource groups, collaborating with the marketing team, or working on supplier diversity, she’s found a helpful mantra inspired by Bruce Lee: “Be like water.” Rather than staying in a silo, as Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Jefferson is involved in multiple parts of the 49ers organization, her efforts flowing to where they are needed the most.
“You need to be flexible. You need to understand that when you pull that one lever, it might not be the right lever at that moment. So maybe you need to look at something else,” she said.
A longtime fan of the football team, Jefferson joined the 49ers organization in April 2021 following six years with Sephora, where she led a company-wide diversity and inclusion initiative. Jefferson took the job with the 49ers because was confident that she would have the support needed to do her best work and bring equity to the forefront.
“I realized that they were checking the boxes I needed them to check in order for me to come into this organization and do a good job, and do the job that I knew needed to happen,” she said.
As a sponsor of SVLG’s Pledge 25x25 initiative, which will have a direct impact on diversity in leadership roles of major Bay Area organizations, the 49ers are spearheading the movement toward greater equity in the region. Diversity in corporate leadership is essential to ensuring that organizations are making decisions that are in the best interest of the people they serve, Jefferson said.
“We want to represent our fans. And so if we are not representing our fans in those leadership circles, then how are we speaking for those people?”
Jefferson noted that she now sits on three boards, whereas five years ago she sat on none, adding that she brings an entirely unique perspective to the table.
“I think that I bring something that a lot of other people don't bring because I bring experiences of being a woman of color, being a queer woman of color, and being someone who also brings my Jewishness to the to the conversation,” she said. “I just see things in different ways.”