F&F Grants 2023 | Shanelle Haile

Aug 15, 2023 3:35:50 PM Viva Wittman

Meet Shanelle Haile, an F&F Entrepreneurship Grant recipient working to create strategies for improving diversity, equity, and inclusion within companies. Shanelle launched SC Consulting in 2020 as a PhD candidate at Brown University, researching race, gender, and intersectionality. When the pandemic put her field study on hold, she took a job drafting a diversity strategy for an outside organization. Unsurprisingly, she rocked it. “I decided to bet on myself and start an LLC to build my reputation and brand as a researcher in the equity space,” she wrote in her application.

We got to sit down with Shanelle recently, and, first of all: She’s real cool. She has this invigorating energy and charisma—and she speaks eloquently, even on the most complex of issues. We knew going into meeting her that she’d be super smart, but the way she translated her ideas and findings was so thoughtful, fascinating, and digestible. (Companies, hire her!!)

As an ivy-league academic, Shanelle has some pretty impressive credentials. But part of what makes her stand out in her field is the distinctive lens she views it through. The need for widespread policy change is one that is deeply personal to her. Again, she put it well in her application: “The challenges I face as a woman, mother, and minority have always shaped my approach to my professional research and work.”

For instance, when Shanelle noticed that she and her fellow parent grad students were facing unique academic and personal stressors during the pandemic, she conducted a needs assessment to help Brown address those struggles. 

Shanelle has two young kids who are, of course, a big part of her life. But she told us that when she started her doctorate, she tried to hide that fact in order to keep the focus on her professional achievements. It’s a societal pressure many experience, “particularly mothers” Shanelle added, since most institutions of higher education aren’t exactly set up for parents to thrive in. Eventually, though, Shanelle found it empowering to tell people about her kids. “As I become more transparent about my needs and who I am in this space, and I bring my whole self… I think people are so welcoming of that. People identify with it and it resonates with them,” she told us when we visited her at Brown University.

On an even more personal level, Shanelle shared that, while giving birth to her daughter, she received a misdiagnosis followed by hours of neglect—resulting in a critical medical condition that could have been prevented with attentive care. She later learned that black birthing parents are far more likely to experience this kind of medical neglect than white birthing parents in the U.S. 

Giving birth is vulnerable work, and not being taken seriously can be fatal. Shanelle recognized the need for birthing parents to get greater access to advocacy, so she took her experience in policy and applied it to the issue at hand. Through collecting and presenting testimony to the RI State Senate, she helped pass a new bill making doula services eligible for reimbursement through private insurance plans. Of course this is just one step in the process of addressing the systemic racism in our hospitals, but we can all agree we need more people like Shanelle on the case.

We asked what she had planned for her business this year, and she answered that she was focusing on forging connections with colleges and universities seeking to improve their diversity outcomes. We’re major fans of increasing educational accessibility for students from underrepresented communities—yes to uplifting our youth!

For Shanelle, the grant money will go toward data analysis software and marketing materials so she can expand her business’ outreach. Look out for more from SC Consulting, LLC, because this won’t be the last time you’ll hear about it.

She said people often ask her how she stays motivated to get her doctorate and her business while mothering two (we also wondered). Her answer was simple: “My passion is to just leave this world better, and that’s what drives me.”

Before meeting her at Brown, we told her she was a finalist when really we'd already selected her as a winner. We surprised her with a giant check for five thousand dollars, and caught her reaction on camera.