Q&A: Leslie Campbell Gray, SVP, People & Equity, on ‘Helping People Show Up as Their Authentic Selves’

The Jed Foundation (JED) is pleased to welcome Leslie Campbell Gray to the team as Senior Vice President of People & Equity. Leslie brings over 25 years of experience to her new role, having worked at a number of mission-driven organizations, including nonprofits and higher education institutions. 

Prior to joining JED in December, Leslie was the Chief of People, Equity, and Operations at Code for America, a national organization that partners with community organizations and government to build digital tools and services, change policies, and improve programs. She previously served as Vice President of People Operations at Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and as the Vice President of Human Resources for the California College of the Arts.

Leslie’s passion for helping others and advocating for equity has led her to pursue social justice efforts in her spare time, as well. She is a co-founder of the Piedmont Racial Equity Campaign, which aims to establish racial equity in local systems, schools, and housing. She is also an advocate for her son and other children with special needs. 

Hear from Leslie to learn more about her role and what she hopes to bring to JED. 

Q: What attracted you to The Jed Foundation? 

A: The focus on youth was a key interest. I’ve worked in both K-12 and higher education, and so my experiences in human resources, operations, and Title IX equity work lend themselves well to JED’s focus. I also have a teenage son with special needs. As a parent, I’ve had to learn how to advocate within the special education system. 

Mental health has always been a focus of my role in human resources, but that focus faces outward to supporting staff members. Over the past year, I’ve also had my own personal experiences with mental health.  I was carrying so much anxiety in a way that I didn’t realize until my body said, “Well, it’s time to pause for a moment.” When you get to a place where you realize you need to ask for help, you develop a whole different level of appreciation and perspective on mental health. So JED’s mission really spoke to me when they expressed interest. 

Q: What inspired you to work at the intersection of equity and human resources? 

A: I got into HR through my background in industrial organizational psychology. When I was doing my master’s work, I came across a consulting firm. There, I got to explore organizational development, including leadership, competency-based performance, and how to leverage core competencies for assessment and also for development. That’s where I got my legs, so to speak. 

The HR side is just something that always spoke to me. I’m a problem-solver and I like helping people. Even in the most difficult circumstances, I feel like our job is to take care of employees during their journey with us–as they come in and as they depart. Additionally, being a Black female, equity has always been important to me. It’s been a part of my struggle as an employee myself, and it’s something that I’ve been interested in supporting people through. Part of that means figuring out what it really means to walk the talk, especially in organizations like ours, which have equity as a core value. So we have to look at how to care for each other the best we can internally, in addition to taking care of those we support. 

Q: What are you hoping to bring to JED? 

A: My professional mission has been to help people show up as their authentic selves. Whatever I can do to promote equitable practices, fair practices, transparency and engagement is really what appeals to me. 

I would also like to bring restorative practices to human resources. Traditional systemic structures oftentimes focus on the legality of things, as opposed to whether we are fostering an environment of respect, care, equity and inclusion. The standards we establish should encourage  us to consider such questions as, “Are we taking care of each other the way that we should be? Are we creating a respectful environment?” If we’re doing these things well, then hopefully concerns about legality are less of an issue because we’re doing right by each other. 

Q: Why is it important to put equity at the forefront of our work in protecting youth mental health? 

A: I think equity work is important because you do have to understand the ways in which systemic structures affect our psyche, our perspectives about ourselves, and our ability to interact and relate to each other. Factors that drive equity can also influence community access to services. I’m glad that JED recognizes the important role that equity plays in our services and organization. 

Q: What are some goals you have for your first year at JED? 

A: The first six months are full for the People & Equity. We’re in the process of rolling out a compensation initiative, which is a key part of promoting  consistent and equitable practices. We’ll also be kicking off our performance review process to help ensure staff receive the feedback they need to be effective in their jobs, and to collectively align our individual work to our organizational mission. 

We also hope to deliver JED’s annual engagement survey to help assess how people are doing and how we can improve as an organization that continues to experience tremendous growth and change over the past few years. Among all of our priorities, I will also work to ensure the department is appropriately resourced to support our people and the needs of our growing organization. There’s a lot to do, and I’m honored to be a part of this work.


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