Following the industry’s boom during the pandemic, the tech sector faces extensive layoffs and a looming recession. Growing employee unease makes intentionally inclusive engagement the number one priority, but what does DEI look like in tech?

Join Culture Moments Host Larry Baker (he/him) and Gusto’s Chief Diversity and Engagement Officer Bernard Coleman (he/him) for a discussion about the cultural implications of tech layoffs and creating proactive strategies for engaging and retaining top talent.

After tuning in to the conversation, we encourage you to share your takeaways on FacebookTwitter, or LinkedIn.

Show Notes & Highlights

4:37  Bernard explains the current biggest DEI challenges in tech

14:57  Bernard shares tips for DEI practitioners working in the tech sector

21:02  Bernard discusses keeping DEI a priority with tightening budgets

24:09  Bernard connects the concept of “Trusted Few” to barriers facing Black and Brown folks

28:45  Bernard reflects on how the tech industry has changed over 20 years

32:33  Larry explains how current events have led to new platforms for change

35:24  Bernard considers the effect of the recession on our progress toward equity

Show Transcript

Larry Baker: Hello everyone, and welcome to the Culture Moments podcast. I’m your host, Larry Baker, and I am thrilled to have you join us for our second season called “Brave Conversations with LCW.” In these episodes, you’ll hear from a panel of guests from specific communities offering a range of perspectives on the past two years. We’ll hear about their own experiences as well as their insights on what has changed and, more importantly, what needs to change to move equity forward. As we all know, so much has shifted and changed over the past two years. And for many of us, we’re still in recovery from a very difficult 24 months.

So hello, everyone, and welcome to Brave Conversations Live with LCW. I am your host, Larry Baker. I use the pronouns of he and him, and I am thrilled to welcome you to this episode of our live stream series. Each month, we will be making space for timely and important conversations that we hope will educate, generate discussion, and help you to take some actionable items back to your organization and your daily lives. For those of you who may not be familiar with LCW, we are a global diversity, equity, and inclusion training, consulting, and translation firm that partners with organizations to help develop global mindsets and help you develop the skills and systems to succeed in a culturally diverse world.

Today I am super excited to have this conversation around events that you’ve probably heard about over the last few months all over the news, which are about layoffs in the tech sector. We’ll be diving into what impacts these layoffs are having, how to bring up questions around equity, and what we can expect from here.

I am being joined by Bernard Coleman, who is Gusto’s Chief Diversity and Engagement Officer, and I’m going to be asking Bernard to introduce himself in a moment. But before we jump into our conversation, I wanted to make sure that I let each and every one of you know that after our discussion, we’re going to answer some of the questions that you all might have for Bernard or myself in these conversations. So as we dive in, please don’t be afraid to ask your questions in the chat and we will get to them as soon as we are done with our portion. With that being said, I would like to invite Bernard Coleman to give an introduction of himself before we kick off the session. So, Bernard, welcome, and please introduce yourself.

Bernard Coleman: Thank you Larry. Thank you, LCW, for having me here today. I think this is a very timely conversation. I’m Bernard Coleman. I’m the Chief Diversity and Engagement Officer at Gusto. Gusto, for those who don’t know, is a people platform. Basically, we help small and medium-sized businesses empower a better life through payroll, 401K benefits… helping you run your business and hopefully simplifying your life in the process. I’ve been there about three years. This is the work that I love to do, and I’m looking forward to this conversation.

Larry Baker: Great, thank you so much, Bernard. So to get us started, I know—and hopefully our audience will understand this as soon as we get through our conversation—that you’re not only immersed within the tech world as you just mentioned, but you’re thinking about that space specifically with a DE&I lens. Can you give us some background in regards to what are the tech spaces greatest challenges when we think about diversity, equity, inclusion specifically during this time?

Bernard Coleman: I think tech is grappling with a lot of changes. I think when you’re looking at… we’re still in the throes of a pandemic. Though it feels like it’s closer to the end, we’re still in a pandemic. The macroeconomic trends are telling us a recession is coming—nobody knows when. And that’s backed against last year was a wild year. It was a year of growth. A lot of tech companies were booming, and so we’re just feeling a 180 degrees difference from last year to this year. So there’s a lot of adjustment and whiplash. And I think when you take that whole environment—the pandemic, the looming macroeconomic trends—I think companies are maybe right-sizing for the moment they think they’re entering, then also trying to keep equity at the center, and then also trying to grow your business at the same time.

I think there’s a lot of ambiguity in the water as people are trying to grapple with what’s next, and I think the biggest challenge is how do you operate within this environment and doing it in an equitable way, so that way—whether you’re doing adjustments or not to your staff and the size and makeup of your staff— that you’re also thinking about the morale and the people that are left behind and understanding the successful path forward.

So I think that there’s a lot of challenges there, but I think it’s really like how do you manage your workforce through… I’m gonna say crisis. How do you manage through and make sure that everyone has perspective and that we can see, hopefully, there’s a light at the end of this?

Larry Baker: Okay, so that kind of shapes where I want to go with my next question because you talked about these changes that are happening in the workforce. Specifically, what types of conversations are you having with your organizational leadership around equity when it comes to this decision-making process

Bernard Coleman: Yeah, I think Gusto and others really had me think about when is the process itself efficient. And a lot of times I think in boom, years, sometimes you get less efficient, right? You have to think about what are the efficiencies: what should we be doing to make sure that we are always maximizing our economies of scale and really thinking through what’s that process look like?

And when we’re talking about it, you have to look at the entire employee life cycle. How do you invite people? How do you onboard them? How do you hire them? How do you engage with them? How do you progress them? How do you develop them up until someone graduates? But you have to look the entire employee life cycle to understand what’s going on with equity and how’s that look for each person, whatever the demographic is. What does that experience look like: is it equitable, is it fair? And then that’s when you should be focusing on those efficiencies I mentioned, to get those economies of scale. So that way, no matter where you’re on the process, people know it’s a fair process, and you’re always keeping that top of mind.

And also not fall into your base selves. I think in times of crisis, process can go out the window. Efficiencies can go out the window because people are in a panic state. But it’s really being thoughtful and thinking about what’s needed for not only the organization but what’s needed for your people to get through this period of time. Cuz it’s just: that a period of time. We know there’s bull markets and there’s bear markets, and we happen to be heading into a bear market. And this is just adjustments you have to make.

I think it’s really helping people have that perspective. The way we frame it is we look also to history. We look to the late nineties, early two thousands; there was the .com bubble bursting. If you look at how recessions go, this is very similar. There’s nothing gonna be exactly the same, but it allows you to understand what happened then, how did people respond, what could we be doing now to then make sure the severity is in what it was back then 20 some years ago. So I think it’s also being students of history and providing that perspective cuz a lot of folks—I think if you have earlier career staff—we have never been through a recession. They might have been around for only a bull market and they don’t have perspective, and so this might feel like a very scary time. This could feel like a time of our knees, but I think by looking at the past, you can be more thoughtful about the approach to the future. So I think that’s why you have to think about equity, cuz I think back then that was unknown for folks. I think some people saw a lot of companies not do as well because they weren’t so circumspect or thinking about or have a historical point to look back to, to think about how they could go forward.

Larry Baker: Yeah. That’s such an awesome mindset, Bernard, to actually make people look at the past. To see some of those mistakes that were made so that we are not condemned to repeat them. I think that’s an excellent point of reference that would not just be applicable in the tech sector, but in all employment sectors, right? Because I know that there’s that duality that you talked about that you’re looking at it from a diversity, equity, and inclusion perspective, but you’re looking at that whole life cycle of the employees. So I appreciate you sharing that insight about taking a look at the history. That’s an excellent point.

So when we think about that… because you talk about where we’re in this moment where we’re on the edge of this recession, and specifically let’s talk about the impact of the tech world. What are you seeing happening in this space right now, and why do you think it’s happening?

Bernard Coleman: Yeah, I think honestly last year we were overheated, and I think people overhired. I think efficiencies go out the window when at almost a sugar high, if you will, and so it’s interesting to see all those cycles. We saw last year was a great resignation or the great realignment. Now we’re talking about the great breakup.

You look at the McKinsey numbers—in terms of the McKinsey-LeanIn studies—showing that people are breaking up with organizations, and still we’re seeing the Department of Labor saying there’s two roles for every applicant. So even despite looming recession, there’s still a war for talent. We are getting a lot of mixed signals, but I think companies need to be thinking again about those efficiencies, like re-thinking org design: what does your org look like, what does it need to go to this next level, are you assigning talent to task and making sure you have the right people in the right places to run your business? Cause a lot of times goal posts move. You need to move your team to align to where the goal posts are now, so that way you can be successful.

I think that’s super important. When think about your headcount planning, do you still need those same folks? I think it’s really investing in your people—and back to that equity piece—equitably, so that way there might not be the same outcomes, but people should have the same opportunities to get invested in. I think as you move in realigning your team to those tasks, [it’s] really understanding how that should be configured for you to be successful, right? I think the other parts are still focusing on the culture, making sure people understand the mission and the purpose, and that’s why we’re here.

Then being really transparent in that communication and conveying to people, as soon as you know it, this is what’s going on. Sharing it with your team, sharing it with your leaders, so that way you’re bringing everyone in the journey. When you can do that really well, I think you settle the waters. You’re allowing people to see their role in the larger, bigger ecosystem of what it will take for us to be successful, to get out of this place and to the next thing.

I think we’re seeing that across tech companies. Certain companies were more reserved, and maybe they didn’t hire so many people. Certain companies–and I don’t wanna call any of them out–but they hired a great deal of people and they’re now having to make these adjustments. I think it’s everyone really right-sizing or making sure that we are right-sized for what’s coming. Cuz again, the recession, at least according to the Fed, is not yet here. So it’s making sure that you are getting more efficient and thinking about these things, and you really need to be thinking about it from an equitable lens.

Larry Baker: Yeah, thank you so much for that, Bernard. I’m really drawn to the piece where you’re talking about organizations sharing that transparency because it not only reveals the true intentions behind what’s going on during this time period, but it also lets people know that you’re doing this in a manner that’s, uh, respectful for who they are as an individual. Because even though we think about, how traumatic these layoffs can be for those individuals that may have to endure them, being transparent, being open, letting people feel like “Okay, even though this is something that could be viewed as something negative that’s happening to me, at least I know what’s going on every step of the way.” I appreciate that whole concept of transparency and how it’s not just applicable in the tough times. Having that transparency during the good times as well is super important. So thank you for that insight as well.

When we think about our organization at LCW, we absolutely have the privilege of working with a number of clients that work in the tech sector. I’m wondering, are there personal lessons that you’d like to share with our community of DE&I practitioners who are working in the tech sector based upon some things that you’ve gone through? And it doesn’t have to be specific to Gusto, of course. I mean, you have years of experience with multiple organizations, so some ideas. You know, “Here’s some lessons that I’ve learned that I’d like to share with you as a DE&I practitioner to help through these situations.” So from that perspective, what kind of lessons learned can you share with us, Bernard?

Bernard Coleman: There’s lots of lessons, that’s for sure. I think the first one is putting equity at the center. First it is sharing the perspective, but sometimes people can seem like numbers. We get too far away from the actual people who are doing the work, the jobs. The impact of this is having on them as they see… you know, I go on LinkedIn and you can see on the right-hand scroll, this company’s doing layoffs, that company’s doing layoffs. It could be anxiety-inducing. I think it’s important to understand, again, how people are feeling where they are and they aren’t numbers. They are indeed people with families, and they’re doing important work. Even though they might still be safe, like let’s say they are the ones who also survive a layoff, you have to also think about how those folks are coping. There’s feelings of loss, saying goodbye to people. I’ve been through that. Before I was working in technology I worked on campaigns, and it was fairly cyclical: you’d see friends, make ’em, and then their jobs would come to end. And you felt this emotional loss because your buddy or buddies may not make it.

I think it’s giving people a lot of grace; no matter what’s going on, is giving people grace during this process. No matter what side of a yard. That’s the first piece. I think second is being transparent and communicating what you know when you know. Treating people like adults so that way they can plan and make decisions. I think having a plan makes you feel more assured, not that it changes anything, but I think giving people that semblance of peace of mind is critically important. But I think it’s also important to understand—now, this is the larger lesson and why this work is so important when you think about diversity, equity, inclusion—is when you see these layoffs happening and you hear that old adage “last hire, first fire,” now you have to think, “How do we get to this place?“ And when I think about any company, when you form a company, build a company, you’re probably pulling from your social circles. If your social circles homogenous, it’s a lot of like for like. And so the company is growing, growing, growing, those are the core roles, the core parts of the business are being built out. They’re definitely the first hire. But when you actually get to a large and larger organization, that’s when you might be more flushed like last year. You might invite others in who might not be part of your immediate social circle. When you think about this, this is why it’s so important to keep DEI top of mind and making it core to your business so that way when—and heaven forbid someone has to do a tech layoff or any type of layoff for that matter—it was more representative to begin with. So therefore it is more fair and equitable because the demography of your company was more representative of wherever your company’s operating.

I think when you look that way, it makes it very, very difficult—that when you get to that terrible position of having to make those tough cuts, and then the thawing on the historically excluded—that’s why we do this work: getting to the root of that and understanding it started then. If a company’s been around 20, 30 years, there’s a lot to it. There’s layers.

I think the important thing is this work is continuous. It’s a journey, and you have to kind of remind people and bring them along. Help them understand there’s so many layers to it, and that you should be thinking about DEI the entire time, not just in the boom years, but also right now when we’re talking about efficiencies. How are you looking at it through the DEI lens to make sure that you can’t get those economies at scale, even on the DEI side? Cuz it should be integrated into everything that you do I think that’s being the student of history, understanding those trends and how we got here.

Larry Baker: Yeah. I think that’s such an excellent point that because these systems have been prevalent throughout the organization’s makeup, having those conversations in regards to, “Well, how do we adjust that? How do we move forward?” We can’t change the past, right? We can look at the past to get an idea of where we want to go in the future, but what do we do in the here and now?

I really appreciate you talking about that these conversations are even more essential when you go through these periods where “Oh my gosh, do we revert back to what we’ve always done? Or do we really make those tough decisions that no, we’re gonna forge ahead in a new way? And we’re going to look at these decisions that we’re making with that DE&I lens top of mind so that when we come out of this, it will now become a part of our new culture that we’re trying to establish.” I absolutely appreciate you providing that insight, so thank you so much for that, Bernard.

What I’d like to do—Bernard, if you’re okay with this—let’s see if we have a few questions from our audience. I’m gonna check our chat and see if we have a few questions… Oh, here we go. I hope that I do not mispronounce your name: Shanna Atkinson. And if I did mispronounce your name, I apologize. Her question is, “Hello. I wanted to ask: how can we make sure DE&I remains a priority even as budgets may tighten?” That is probably along that whole concept that you mentioned, Bernard: first hired, first fired. The first thing that usually goes is the DE&I initiative, so I’m gonna let you dig into that one, Bernard. How do we make sure that it remains a priority?

Bernard Coleman: It’s a great question, and thank you for that one. I’m sure that’s the million-dollar question. Maybe it’s the billion-dollar question. So how do we make sure that DEI remains a priority, even as budgets tighten? I think it’s tying it back to values, to the mission, to the purpose and reminding people that it is part of that journey, or it should be. Cuz I know the talent and the existing employees care about it.

There’s a stat—I always like to try it out—from the Edelman Public Trust; they say people believe more in employers and businesses as opposed to the government. So there is an expectation that companies are having to do more, need to do more, need to do better because that is where the trust is with: with our employers, right? So if you’re a company, and even though you might say, “Well, we’re just doing this temporarily,” people will remember and have long memories. This word-of-mouth DEI is what people ask about when talent goes to join a company. This is part of their assessment on their rubric, of why they joined the company and why they leave. Cuz the other side of the coin is right now, there’s two jobs for every applicant. Folks are gonna leave if they don’t think that commitment’s there.

And so DEI is at the center of it all cuz everyone says—almost anybody I interview says—this is important, and then this is why they’re assessing. They’re thinking about DEI, they’re thinking about culture, they’re thinking about values, but those values, they’re all interrelated. So I think it’s also reminding leaders or those who might have forgotten, there is an inherent value in DEI to nearly everyone in the company. They should be incentivized to make sure that doesn’t go away when they’re tightening budgets, that at least if you are tightening budgets that it’s equitably applied. If everybody has to take a cut, everybody takes a cut. But if it’s just you’re calling out your DEI department, you’re not holding true to those values, to the mission, to the purpose, and you’re probably killing your brand because then people… they’ll speak. They’ll go on Glassdoor, talk to one another. Comparably, Blind, whatever the system they use, people are talking.

We talked about this being a potential bear market. We will come out of this and it’s gonna be a bull market, and then you might not be an employer of choice if you choose to let go of this. So I think you have to remind people… I don’t wanna say make the business case, but I will say remind them of the metrics that matter. It costs a lot more to rehire, to hire, than it is to retain, so you wanna keep that employee brand strong at all times. No matter recession or a boom year.

Larry Baker: Yeah, that’s a great point. I mean, that will be something that you will be measured on in regards to how did you respond in the tough times, right? When you had to make those tough decisions, were you committed to the values of the culture of your organization or did you say, “Yeah, this is too tough. We’re just gonna go back to the old standard way of things.” So that’s fantastic. Thank you so much for that question. Let’s see if we have any other questions…

Perfect. Thank you, Jacob. “Why does it seem that the tech sector faces added barriers for Black and Brown employees in particular, and how can organizations take a first step to address these?” So Bernard, again, in that role because you have that DE&I lens, gimme some insights on this as well.

Bernard Coleman: I think again, it goes back to—another great question—inherently how some tech organizations and companies were built. So pull from my group of friends… there’s this exercise we do in the DEI space where you—there’s a lot of different names for it—but you write a list of the 10 closest people to go to for advice outside of your parents.

Larry Baker: Your trusted few. Yeah, I know exactly what you’re talking about.

Bernard Coleman: And you take a look at that list and then, for many people who participate in that, it’s eye-opening when you realize that your trusted few looks a lot like you. So if you apply that to how your company’s built, you go to your trusted few cuz you of course wanna trust the people you’re building this new enterprise with. And as it grows and scales, your trusted few is pulling from their trusted few. And those referrals are becoming their trusted few referrals. Next thing you know, your company’s extremely homogenous.

And then you realize diversity and inclusion’s important cuz you saw the Edelman Public Trust stats, and data that says this should be important to me, so then you try to hire Black and Brown folks that you didn’t actually know at all. It becomes more and more difficult as you scale and get bigger. Then also when things. get to crisis mode, self-preservation comes about, and you save yourself and your friends. I hate to be so blunt about it, but that’s how people operate. That’s why DEI has to sit at the center of this cuz when you’re making your list of who you might consider and might need to leave the company, if it’s all Black and Brown that’s a problem.

This is where biases come into play, other institutional factors where this is a foregone conclusion. Of course they’re gonna be the ones who go because they were never in your trusted few. People have to really take stock of that and understand, “Am I perpetuating this?” Take a look at those lists, do better, try again, and make sure it is equitable. Because if the list ends up that way, it’s statistically improbable when you look across all these companies that they’re always the same groups of people. From my experience, that just means a lot of self-protection’s going on, whether that’s intentional or by accident, but we do need to get behind it because it shouldn’t end up that way, not if you’re doing this with care and diligence. It should not end up that way. Yeah.

Larry Baker: Yeah. The example of trusted few, it really resonates with me because you’re right, when we use that in some of the work that we do, a lot of people are surprised when they evaluate that trusted few and how homogeneous that group actually is. And it’s not just to the dominant culture, it’s to some of the underrepresented cultures as well. It speaks to that point of, “Well, if I don’t know you that well, then when it comes time to making those cuts I really don’t see you as part of that trusted few.”

It’s like you said: for lack of a better term, it may be easier for me to make the cut to you because we’re not really that close. I really don’t understand your situation and your makeup and how it will actually impact you. I definitely appreciate you going into that part of the conversation as well.

When we think about any other insights—because I think that, Bernard, you’ve touched upon so many crucial topics and so many crucial perspectives—I think we have one more question in the chat. Hold on for a second… I think someone just shot me a message, so let’s take a look at another question. I believe I’m being cued from the chat, so you can go ahead and share that question as well. I love the tech. Okay, so Bernard, and this is specific to you… Someone sent this to the chat: “You talked about that this tech boom and recession are reminiscent of something that happened in the early nineties and 2000s. What does this say about continuing business practices, and has anything really changed?”

Bernard Coleman: I think to a degree, yes. I think it depends on the age of your company and if you have leaders who perhaps were there and around or who were students of history who can remember how that went and then say, “Well, let’s not do that again. What can we do that’s different here?” But I also say this, like the emphasis of diversity, equity, and inclusion wasn’t a thing in the early 2000s. This field is really relatively new, was more so affirmative action to the law. Diversity, equity, and inclusion really comes down to motivation, help people gain perspective as to why this is important. It’s a different angle in terms of which we operate. I would say that didn’t exist before, not as it does as a discipline. So that’s changed. There’s a lot of awareness. I would say about five or six years ago, when people started putting out diversity reports in terms of that awareness, you’d share your business practices in terms of how you’re doing in terms of representation, having to explain why attrition was so high. The level of transparency is much greater than it was, 20-some odd years ago. I think companies are gonna have to come to task on that and really be honest about where they are and where they aren’t and be more thoughtful and actually revisit those lists if they’re thinking about layoffs or part of those layoffs.

I do think it also depends on the age of your company, but in terms of business practices, I do think people are more diligent and think about that risk when your lists look too much like one group. So I do think the practices have changed. Their awareness has changed. The conversation and tone and tenor have changed since then where I don’t think people are just so easily cast away in that sense. But we still have a long way to go. We still have a long way to go, but I think that the transparency is a good… what’s the best word I’m looking for? Kind of check to the system. I see what’s going on, and that you’re gonna be effectively taking a task on that if you are one of those companies who maybe using a 22-, 23-year-old dated model in terms of how you’re approaching this. I do think things have improved, but I think for the smaller companies, the younger companies who might not know any better, they might still be on the exact same things and history might be repeating itself. I think very much depends on who you have there in terms of your leadership team.

The other thing I’ll say is the HR function since that time I think has more clout. And what I mean by that is I’ve noticed in the pandemic that HR professionals, DEI professionals, have been in high demand. I say this is the moment where preparation means opportunity, where folks who weren’t necessarily at the table are considered table-ready, are now here contributing to the conversation. And I think we’re seeing better outcomes as a result of the elevation of the role and how they’re able to insert themselves in the conversation for better outcomes.

Larry Baker: Yeah. That last piece really resonates with me is because I do also feel like one of the biggest things that has changed is that the underrepresented groups, they are more vocal and more willing to hold these organizations more accountable than maybe they were in the past. Because I do feel like that culture shift, the environment not only with the pandemic but the social unrest that has been happening, has added a higher organizational responsibility that we haven’t seen in… honestly ever. So those voices feeling like it’s more acceptable to engage in these conversations, I think that’s a big change that has come about as well during this time period. I definitely agree that yeah, this is a different ballgame that we’re in than 20-some odd years ago. Absolutely I can see that.

So Bernard, I absolutely appreciate the insight that you’ve provided, and I know that you have so many different ways that people can engage with you, and they can hear more from you on this topic and others. I wanna give you an opportunity to kinda share how folks can reach out to hear some of the things or some of the insights that you’re sharing in the work that you do. Can you give us some idea of how can we get in touch with Bernard after.

Bernard Coleman: Sure, and thank you for that. I write a column for Inc called “The Culture Code.” I write about a lot of different things that I see going on. I try to make sure it’s timely, and usually what I’m writing about are things that I’m working through, how we can apply it at work, or things that I think I’m seeing in the landscape that I think if I’m thinking about it, I bet others are too and are looking to engage in some type of conversation. And maybe I can add to the conversation as we think about what’s next. We’re all trying to predict the future, but I want to be additive and helpful cuz I know when things like this hit recessions, downturns, things come from left field. You’re always looking for resources. I know how I felt when I was looking for answers or trying to make my decisions more informed. I just fully just wanna be, be helpful. I’d encourage folks to check that out if they like.

Larry Baker: That’s great, thank you so much. So much so that somebody else said, “Wait, before we leave, Bernard, I wanna ask one more question!” I think I just got a response, so here we go. “Do you think this layoff or recession environment will lead to a loss of equity in pay? Whatever gains have happened over the years for Black and Brown folks in tech, how best can we combat that?” Wow. Powerful question.

Bernard Coleman: Yes and no. That’s a very complicated answer. It depends on… we’re speaking of Black and Brown folks. What’s interesting, Black and Brown folks are unicorns, but also at the same time you might the castaways depending on what role you’re in. I think if you’re a unicorn in a role that’s highly sought-after, you can probably make incredible gains. But if you are in a role that maybe has less barriers of entry, therefore easier to cut, it could be catastrophic.

I also am seeing people talk about pay in different ways. Like now a lot of people, at least in the tech sector, can work remotely. Localized pay…. is it cost of labor versus um, Uh, you know, COLA, right? Cost of…

Larry Baker: Living adjustments? Yeah.

Bernard Coleman: Yeah. All those different things impact how somebody’s gonna do, right? I think it’s a very complicated question. I think it’s probably leaning more towards yes, I do think it will impact Black and Brown folks’ equity and pay, and then the lucky few, like “I’m an engineer who does AI. Of course I’m doing the extreme. I would no matter what.”

I think the best way to combat that is to look at the equity in and of itself and to make sure we’re being equitable fair if we are gonna do layoffs. Larry, you talked about being vocal: people need to remind people of how does that look. “How is this even possible that this size is all this group?” Then probe and ask, “Why is it this way? Why is it that way? How is that even happening?” Really just using your voice. I think that’s the one thing, the Great Resignation and whatever “great” we’re in right now, is leveraging your voice to elevate these things and making people aware. A lot of the data that we see, at least the latest thing that I was looking at was the McKinsey Lean In Report, but it talks about women of color leaving the workforce at large. It’s especially exacerbated for Black and Brown women, right? Different pockets are getting hit differently from this. I think it’s gonna be very dependent on what your discipline is, what your company is, and then what your gender is. It’s gonna be very different depending on what seat you’re in.

I think the best way to combat it is… companies themselves should be thinking about this all the time and making sure it’s equitable. If they ever have to do a layoff, looking back in an equitable fashion, I would expect you to have a good employment council or one on dial to look and talk about that and not just go with list of your team made up cuz otherwise it’s gonna skew. The second thing—and not that I’m providing like legal advice, it’s just looking over my career—you have to have some quality control and list manager to make sure that one group isn’t getting slighted or disproportionately being impacted. In other words—“adverse impact” would be the legal-use term—someone needs to be looking at those lists. I think the other thing that’s can be added is making sure that you just keep an eye on your demographics. In Gusto we look at it monthly: we report it internally, so everyone kind of see how we’re doing. I think it’s excellent best practice. That’s part of the transparency, is letting people know this is how we’re doing day in and day out, but anything you can do to elevate it and keep that topic of conversation I think helps one group or two groups getting adversely impacted.

Larry Baker: Yeah, I love that. And I’m gonna steal this phrase, “our unicorns and castaways.” Do we have too many people in a certain group in our castaways or do we have too few of people in our unicorns? I love that phrase and absolutely that is key to that whole conversation around equity. So I appreciate you putting that out into the atmosphere, and I’m gonna keep that term perpetuating through all of my conversations with clients and look at those unicorns and look at those castaways.

Thank you so much, Bernard, because this has been such a great conversation, and the reality is it doesn’t stop here. We hope that you take this advice and the questions that were asked back into your own workplaces, and specifically if you want a partner in having these conversations, let us know. You can contact LCW at We would be more than happy to help assist your organization in having these conversations in the future.

Thank you so much, Bernard, for taking your time and sharing with us your expertise. I absolutely appreciate that. I will give you an opportunity to have any closing thoughts if you’d like to share with the audience before we adjourn our session.

Bernard Coleman: Yeah, I think the closing thoughts would be be students of history. It can help inform the future. Recognize that a lot of folks have a voice that didn’t exist before, and you really have to elevate the conversation to drive accountability. I think if you could do those things well, it doesn’t have to be like it was in the past. And this is to Larry’s point, this is a journey that we’re all on. It’s on all of us to keep doing our part in the journey to make sure it is a more equitable future.

Larry Baker: Absolutely. Thank you so much for that, Bernard. Excellent words. I really do hope that folks take a lot of this action-planning to heart and implement these back in your workplaces because all of this is extremely important. It has to have a different future moving forward.

Thank you so much for joining us, Bernard. Thank you so much to everyone who has joined in on this call. This has been Brave Conversations with LCW Live. Thank you so much. Have a wonderful rest of your day.

Bernard Coleman: Thank you.

Larry Baker: And to all of you that are listening, we wanna know what were your biggest takeaways from this conversation? Please share them with us on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn at Language and Culture Worldwide or LCW.

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