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Culture Moments: Let’s Talk About Why Juneteenth Matters
Published on: June 29, 2022
Juneteenth is now a federal holiday and is being recognized more than ever across America. Yet, not everyone knows why we recognize this holiday, what happened on this day, and, most importantly, why it matters.
Culture Moments podcast host Larry Baker (he/him) is joined by Dr. Brandon Caffey (he/him), Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for Urbana School District #116 to discuss how to keep this meaning at the heart of this holiday and how you can keep this meaning infused within your workplace’s Juneteenth programing.
This Brave Conversation was originally a live stream discussion recorded on June 16th, 2022.
Larry Baker: Hello and welcome everyone to Brave Conversations Live with LCW. I’m your host, Larry Baker. And I use pronouns of he and him. And I am thrilled to welcome you to this special Juneteenth edition of our live stream series. Each month, we will be making space for some timely and important conversations that we hope will educate, generate discussion and help you to take actionable items back to your organizations and to your daily.
For those of you that are not familiar with LCW we are a global DEI training consulting and translation firm that partners with organizations to develop global mindsets and to help you develop your skills and systems to succeed in a culturally diverse world. Today, as I mentioned, we are talking about Juneteenth, what it is, why it matters and how you can help keep the meaning in your workplace programs each and every year.
I am joined today by with Dr. Brandon Caffey who is the Director of Diversity Equity and Inclusion for Urbana School District Number 116 here in Illinois. And he is here to share his unique perspectives on how to keep the meaning in Juneteenth as someone that is both an educator and a DEI practitioner. So Dr. Brandon Caffey, can you do a quick introduction of yourself before we get started?
Dr. Brandon Caffey: Absolutely. Thank you. And thank you for having me. So again, my name is Dr. Brandon Caffey. Uh, I just completed my 26 year in education. I began my career as, uh, a paraprofessional for three years in the Peoria school district here in Illinois.
Uh, after I became a certified teacher, I taught history before moving into the ranks of administration. I have served as an assistant principal, principal, and now serve as the director of diversity, equity and inclusion. And so throughout my I’ve been in three different school districts from Peoria to Bloomington Normal and now in Urbana.
I’ve studied extensively the Black experience in America, my dissertation, uh, was centered around the Black experience in terms of hip hop culture and how it impacts students in education. And so I, I am thrilled to be here today, and join you in this conversation about Juneteenth and the holiday itself and what it means, uh, celebrating.
Larry Baker: Awesome. Thank you so much, Dr. Caffey. So before we actually jump into the conversation, I wanted to let everyone know that after our discussion, we’re going to be answering some of the questions that you might have in regards to Juneteenth conversation. So as we dive in, please, don’t be afraid to ask your question in the chat and we will respond to it, um, at the end of our session.
So we’re gonna start off by talking about the basics, what is Juneteenth and why it is so important? And to help kick off this discussion. We have a video that we wanna show you that some of you may be familiar with.
Video Audio: I am a slave. Yes. I’m only a slave they’ll place my body in an unmarked grave. In these Confederate days. It’s kind of hard to lift every voice singing while worrying about how low the sweet cherry it’s a swinging. I could swing from a tree, bud. Hey. Oh, I hope and pray. They don’t kill me today. I still just a slave.
If the emancipation proclamation was passed in 1863, why weren’t you free until 1865?
Well, it took two years for the civil war to end.
Oh, so you were free when the war ended?
Nah, not for two more months because Texas landowners wanted another harvest.
That’s not cool.
Well, none of it was cool, but an army ship arrived on June 19th, 1865 and announced we were free. That’s why we celebrate Juneteenth.
Larry Baker: Okay, so that video gives us a little bit of insight to it, but Dr. Caffey, I’m gonna ask that you elaborate on this holiday and why it’s so important.
Dr. Brandon Caffey: Okay. Absolutely. So I’m not sure, uh, what the, um, listeners or the participants were able to see was a little bit choppy on my end, but in case. Others had had difficulty seeing the video.
Like I did, essentially the video was a parody of the old schoolhouse rock, um, episode, what is the bill? And so it was just kind of, uh, explaining the history behind Juneteenth. And so let’s go a little bit deeper into Juneteenth as a holiday it’s origins and, and, and it’s important. So Juneteenth is a commemoration holiday, uh, meant to celebrate the ending of chattel slavery in the United States of America.
And it’s important that we indicate the end of chattel slavery because we understand, and we know through history that. Slavery existed in America before 1619. 1619 was simply the first documented slave ships that arrived in America. But we know that Africans have been enslaved in the United States from as early as the mid 15 hundreds.
And so, um, it’s also important to understand. And when we celebrate Juneteenth, we’re talking about really the ending of chattel slavery in the Confederate states. The emancipation proclamation really targeted slavery in the Confederate states. We know that essentially Abraham Lincoln really did not have any power in the Confederate because they had succeeded from the union mm-hmm
And so with the emancipation proclamation, what Abraham Lincoln, you know, he set them free, but we know that he didn’t realistically have the power to do so. Essentially what he was saying is at the end of the civil war if the nation was going to be, reconsolidated and put back together at that point in time, slaves would be free.
He knew that no one was going to really follow that decree once he issued it, uh, which went into effect January 1st, 1863. Yeah. And so it’s even more important to understand. The reason why African Americans celebrate Juneteenth so much because you know, a lot of people have this critique that we should just simply celebrate July 4th, 1776.
That is independence day in America. But if you know your history, you know that on July 4th, 1776, African Americans had been enslaved for a period of 157 years. And it wasn’t until another 87 years that Abraham Lincoln would actually issue that emancipation proclamation decree, which we know still didn’t really go into effect until, uh, essentially came into an end on June 19th, 1860.
I highlight the Confederacy because even when that, when that ship and those union troops arrived in Texas on June 19th, 1865, slavery still existed in United States, legally in Delaware and Kentucky until the ratification of the 13th amendment. Yeah. But the emphasis being on, June 19th.
That is when those slaves in Texas received the word that they were free. And, um, the next day there was actually a celebration that occurred in Galveston, Texas in which they celebrated their freedom. And every year, since then, there has been a celebration originally called Jubilee day. And not only it has emerged into Juneteenth in which we celebrate the ending of child slavery in the United States.
Larry Baker: Yeah. So Dr. Caffey, you, you touched on something that was really interesting that originally it wasn’t even referred to as Juneteenth. Can you tell me about what, what, what were some of those differences that some people were calling it Juneteenth and some people were calling it Jubilee. And, and to be quite honest, I just became really familiar with the Juneteenth holiday, uh, maybe about five, seven years ago.
So can you elaborate a little bit more about the differences and how Juneteenth is actually sort of like the umbrella, uh, of the celebrations. So can you talk on that?
Dr. Brandon Caffey: Well, based on my understanding, uh, again, originally in Galveston, it was called Jubilee day. Uh, it was also known as Jubilee day in South Carolina.
When those slaves were, uh, became knowledgeable, that they were free, um, as different, um, free men and free women moved across the United States. They continued to celebrate Jubilee day. Okay. However, uh, in 1931, I believe is when Texas officially recognized Jubilee day. And I think that’s when you kinda started seeing the transition from Jubilee day to Juneteenth.
And so, I think Juneteenth has now become more of that, um, overarching, uh, umbrella of a celebration, but I think in a lot of, uh, African American communities, its origins still go back to that Jubilee day versus the terminology of Juneteenth.
Larry Baker: Okay, that’s a great point to clarify.
You also said something that I found extremely interesting. Uh, you made reference to the 4th of July, 1776, and from my knowledge of history, um, Frederick Douglas really encapsulated the, uh, the mood, if you will, for many enslaved, uh, um, Africans, when it came to. This celebration of July the fourth. As a matter of fact, he was asked to give a speech and because he was free, I think they thought that he was going to have more of a celebratory tone with his speech.
Um, but I wanted to just share, and I think we have a, a clip of the quote that he gave. And of course it was a longer speech, but to me, this quote really sums up what the 4th of July actually meant to those enslaved individuals, because he really came out and said to that enslaved person, this specific day reveals to them more than all other days of the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is a constant victim.
So to them, your celebration is a sham. So I think it’s really important to understand that while it is true, that we celebrate the 4th of July as a shared accomplishment in America, June Juneteenth is actually truly representing our freedom. If that makes sense.
Dr. Brandon Caffey: Correct. Okay. And so I think of, you know, if you study the history of Africans in America, you understand that we have this very unique love affair, if you will with disappointment at the same time with the country in which we live, because we have never really, truly felt like we’ve had true citizenship. A lot of the things that we’re indoctrinated with in school, in terms of singing, you know the national Anthem. And if you know the history behind that, you know, there there’s verses to that poem that, that we don’t recite.
We only sing the first verse, but if you know the history behind, uh, that poem that was essentially turned into a song, it talks about, you know the warning and the condition of this slave so different things in our, in our history, you know, as, as Black people in this country, we love America, but yet we also understand that a lot of things that we’re expected to celebrate don’t necessarily line up with our history and where we were at the time that some of these celebrations, you know, originated from.
And so in comparison, you’re absolutely correct. That Juneteenth feels more like our actual celebration, because that was our independence from, uh, a systemic system, uh, that was trying to, you know, beat us down and profit off of the, you know, the backs and the pain of Black folks.
Larry Baker: Yeah. It’s almost as if it represents the broken promises, that tend to be a common theme for the Black experience in America. And, when I’m talking about broken promises, this was originally signed January 1st, 1863, but the entire thing didn’t get passed down to everyone until 1865. So thank you so much for that.
Dr. Brandon Caffey: I wanna shift gears a little bit. I can, if I can just real quick, because you talk about broken promises and I think this is important as we talk about Juneteenth, for those who have not read, um, the decree that was actually read. In Galveston, Texas on June 19th, uh, 1863, uh, our 1865, rather go and read that because even as it declared slaves were free, it also encouraged slaves to stay on their plantations quietly.
Wow. And I, and I think that adjective is, is pretty powerful because it specifically say to quietly, remain on your plantations and continue to work. Where you are. Wow. So even though we were being declared free mm-hmm , it was almost like they were still trying to put us into a server two position yeah.
To where we could not, you know, strive for equality and, and especially not equity at that point in time.
Larry Baker: That that’s amazing. Point to bring out. Thank you so much for that insight. So we know Juneteenth, federal holiday, more people are starting to recognize it. What are. Some of the benefits and some of the drawbacks that come from this new attention that Juneteenth as a holiday has gained.
Dr. Brandon Caffey: Yeah. So, absolutely. So I think, you know, of course the, the benefits is that we get a chance to tell our history. We get a chance to tell our story. Um, We get a chance to make, you know, the younger generation to aware of what has, you know, happened in this country. Uh, we get a chance to engage in dialogue with individuals who may not come from our, uh, same background, our same walks of life and inform them.
Unfortunately, uh, the drawback is, is. The holiday and the culture is starting to be commercialized and people are continuously trying to profit again, off of the pain and off of the culture of, of Black people in this country. Um, everything is being commercialized now. Uh, it is cultural appropriation at its finest and, uh, it’s sad.
Larry Baker: Okay. I wanna make sure are we back, Dr. Caffey, can you hear me?
I think we lost our connection and hopefully we can get Dr. Can you hear me?
I hear you. I can hear that. Yeah, I can hear you now. Okay. Good. All right. Okay. We’re back.
I just wanted to dig into this point real quick about some of the drawbacks to it is because what I honestly believe is I think that we’re still having two different conversations.
Right? I think that as a culture, we are wanting focus and concentration on institutionalized racism and these inequitable educational opportunities and how redlining impacts our communities. And it seems that Congress, they chose this more passive and even a more performative approach by making Juneteenth a national holiday.
And it’s almost as if we’re still having two different conversations. Yes. Thank you holiday. I appreciate it. I understand it. But. It seems like we’re having two totally different conversations on what our community actually is looking for, um, to gain in this country. What are you some of your thoughts around that? Dr. Caffey?
Dr. Brandon Caffey: Yeah, I think that’s, uh, that’s pretty insightful because again, if you look at the history of Juneteenth, um, The day after. So essentially Juneteenth has been being celebrated since June 20th, 1865. Okay. In, in the Black community, in different aspects. And so here we are, it take, it took until 2021 for it to become a federal holiday.
Right. But the earliest, uh, recognition of it by a state government was in, in Texas in 1931. So if you just look from 1865 until 1931, the number of years then went by where it was being celebrated in the Black community. Right. Uh, to where there was really no attention. It was something that was very meaningful to the descendants of those former slaves.
Yeah. Then light other things in our country. As soon as, you know, it became more and more attention and more light was spread. Someone decided that there was an opportunity to benefit financially off of it. Right? Yeah. To where even for someone to, to, to put out the, the, the ice cream, they trade Juneteenth.
Yeah. Right. So, so here they are trying to capitalize on the culture where what Black folks really want in this country is. Yeah. And, and I say at a minimum equity, right? Yeah. Because what we’re really fighting for and what we really want is justice. And how do you make reparations to a people that you held in bondage for hundreds of years?
And we still are fighting, you know, uh, policies, uh, practices in different places and different spaces. Do not allow Black people to attain the same privileges that other folks have in this country. Yeah. So that’s good. We, we, we have to make sure that as, as we celebrate Juneteenth, we don’t lose the cultural meaning behind it.
Yes. And that we don’t, we didn’t, we never need it, uh, a federal holiday to recognize Juneteenth. We never needed that. It is good that you recognize it, but then look at what’s happening as a result of. Is that now was becoming commercialized. And, and as you know, more cultural appropriation day basis with the holiday to where I don’t want us to get blinded by the holiday and lose fact of what we’re still fighting for is justice.
Absolutely. Um, circumstantial freedom in 1865, but we still haven’t received justice in 2020.
Larry Baker: That’s a great point. That’s a great point. So, Dr. Caffey, I wanna talk about the role that you play, not only as an educator, but as a DEA and I practitioner for your school district. I wanna know what your take is on how we can meaningfully educate and recognize Juneteenth, uh, not only within our educational systems, but in the workplaces, uh, that you interact with as.
Dr. Brandon Caffey: Yeah. So for me as a, as an educator, first and foremost, uh, I’m always trying to, uh, educate students, educate the, the, the teachers that I work with on the history of Africans in America. Um, I mean, I think it really starts there because if you understand the history of what’s taking place in this country, I think everyone is more inspired to work to make sure that that DEI is something real and something substantial.
Right. However, uh, Even, even, even in educational space, things tend to get politicized. And so you have, you know, these conspiracy theorists and, and others who want to argue against things like, uh, critical race theory, mm-hmm right. It’s like, I don’t understand what, what the, what the issue is. Uh, so rather regardless of where you are on the fence, in terms of what critical race theory.
Do you even have a founding and an understanding of what it is first and foremost? And then you cannot read the history of the United States and tell me that this system has not been set up on the system of racism. Racism happens in our country. Even if you look and you study slavery and how racisms were made in this country, mm-hmm, the first terminology of using white and Black happen in Virginia.
A couple years after that first slave ship arrived in 1619 until then there wasn’t no white race in the United States. There was no Black race in the United States so our system in our country is very much set up on racism. Uh that’s how it was function. Yeah. But so in this space, I’m not trying to convince students of one thing or another, but we need to tell the history.
We need to tell the truth because that’s how we’re gonna actually move forward in terms of bringing, celebrating diversity, making sure that everyone has, you know, equal access and fairness to everything and making sure that all people feel included. Absolutely ultimate. Ultimately the D plus the E plus the, I have to equal to justice.
So we can talk about DEI, but if your mission is not to accomplish justice, whether you’re in an educational space, whether you’re in a professional space, then your efforts are really minimal.
Larry Baker: Yeah. Love that comment about it all has to lead to justice and you are absolutely right.
It is so important to gain that understanding of history. If we do not truly take a look at our history, the good and the bad we will struggle to move forward. And I think that’s such a great point that you, you brought out that, you know, all of this, however you fall on the scale of CRT and history.
That there’s a huge difference, right? Because if you’re not pursuing a law degree, you’re not learning CRT. This is an attack on history, correct. And the history is clear, the history is there. And it’s not to say, you know, we’re trying to teach people to hate this or hate that. It’s take a look at the history and then let’s have a critical conversation around that history.
So, absolutely appreciate, uh, you saying that. Uh, so I just wanted to make sure that I remind that our listen. That you can put your questions in the chat and we will, um, touch up on those, uh, questions as we move, um, throughout this conversation. Um, so Dr. Caffey, I do want to get some insight from you about practical advice that you might want to give to our listeners, because you know, you, you wear both hats, not only are you educator, but you’re actually a DEI practitioner.
How can they make sure that they help keep the meaning of the holiday to what it’s intended to be?
Dr. Brandon Caffey: Yeah. So again, to me, it is very simple. Again, it comes back to one reading and having a thorough understanding of how the holiday even, uh, began. Why it’s important, which means that you have to go back and then understand the history of slavery in America.
Yeah. Not only the history, but the impacts that slavery has had on our nation and minoritized people in this country. Yeah. We cannot. Say that we’re seeking to make our spaces more, you know, DEI, if you will, uh, without truly having the understanding. And so for those of us in this space, we know that, um, there’s a direct correlation between Juneteenth and, and what African Americans are exp you know, experiencing in educational spaces and in their workspaces to date.
Yeah. So it’s really about educating yourself so that you can be not only an ally, but a co-conspirator. To make sure that, you know, we’re bringing justice to all. Um, and it’s not, it’s not to make anyone intentionally uncomfortable, but at the same time, I’m very comfortable making people uncomfortable.
Yeah. If necessary, because sometimes that’s just what it takes in order for us to really grow and develop as a society.
Larry Baker: I echo that comment so deeply because you know, my primary role is to work in different workplaces. I believe that we have to move past these performative gestures, right? These things that make us feel good and we have to take those transform transformative actions that make people feel uncomfortable because I don’t know, in any aspect of life where you develop, where you grow and it’s not uncomfortable, right.
That uncomfortable feeling is a sign of your growth. So. For me. I agree with you a hundred percent. We, we have to get into those uncomfortable spaces if we are going to have any grown. Um, I did wanna mention one thing before I, uh, attack the question and answers is we absolutely can give you some more information about Juneteenth, uh, for free by accessing LCW, celebrating Juneteenth learning module.
Um, you can scan. If you, uh, have your phone, you can scan that QR code. If that doesn’t work for you, you can visit our website language and culture.com/the Juneteenth holiday. Um, so with that being said, I want to take this opportunity to, um, first of all give you a space, Dr. Caffey. Um, because I know that you and your brothers, you have a strong commitment to education.
And before I open it up to our Q&A, I’d like for you to talk about this initiative that you and your brothers have with our all no mater, our dear Illinois state university in normal Illinois. Can you talk a little bit about that commitment that you have in regards to that education?
Dr. Brandon Caffey: Yeah, absolutely.
So, uh, my brothers and I, uh, we, we had the, the blessed opportunity to be, to be raised by two former educators. So my father taught school for a short period of time, uh, before going into private industry, my mother is a retired educator. She taught for over 35 years in the Alton public school. But being raised by two educators, we were always taught the importance of education and the need for it, especially to uplift, uh, the African American race.
And so, um, you know, we, we weren’t privy to a, a, a ton of scholarships when we were going to school. My parents paid almost a hundred percent out of pocket. Um, and so just wanting to honor their commitment to us. And the fact that we are now all successful men, we wanted to make sure that we invested back into our, our college institution, uh, specifically in the, in the college of education to award scholarships, to individuals who wanted to go into this space of teaching.
Um, naturally, you know, it aligns with everything I believe in or aligns with everything that my family believes in. We know that we need. Uh, more teachers, more teachers of color specifically. Yeah. Even the scholarship is open to, to anyone who qualifies. But, uh, we, we are intentionally trying to bring more, uh, teachers of color into this space because we know that right now, African Americans represent less than 2% of, of teachers across the globe.
And so, um, the more voices that we have in this space, the more we can increase, uh, truth to power. Yeah. And, and, and have people at the table to say, you know what. There’s aspects of curriculum and aspects of, of culture inside the school settings that’s being overlooked. And we need to bring attention to that.
So this is just one, uh, way that we’re trying to invest back into, uh, our institution invest back into the Black community by making a pathway for people to be successful and graduate from college.
Larry Baker: And Dr. Caffey, one of the main reasons why I wanted you to talk about that is because this is an example of transformative action, right?
When, when we talk about. Or when I have conversations with organizations that say, what can we do? What can we do? These are the types of examples that I’m glad that I have at the ready to talk about because it’s addressing a need, right? It’s addressing a need in our community, but it’s also addressing a need that the school systems are having because they want diverse candidates.
And the biggest thing they say is we can’t find them. We can’t find them. So this, this act of creating scholarships is the exact type of transformative action that can help reduce that gap. So I’m glad that we had the opportunity to discuss that as well. So what I’d like to do now, if you are open to doing this, we have a couple of questions and I will see where they are going to come from.
We have our first question:
I am interested to hear what do reparations look like for you two?
Wow. Whew. I’ll let you start with that one, Dr. Caffey, because I definitely have some insights into that conversation, but what do reparations look like for us?
Dr. Brandon Caffey: That, that is, that is a very interesting question.
Absolutely. Is one that I. Honestly, I wrestle with, um, from, from year to year. Um, what I would say, number one, I would love for the United States of America to first just recognize, uh, the harm that it caused, you know, millions of, of Africans and African Americans in this country first and foremost.
Yeah. Once we recognize the harm, then we can start to have a conversation about how do we pair that harm because this, it is been many layers of harm that has, that has transpired. So you talk about psychological harm. You talk about the financial advantages that have been given to certain groups in this country, over Black people.
Um, So I think that that’s, that’s a very complex, um, question. Um, but what I would also say is that the United States has a history of making rep, uh, reparations to other groups. Absolutely. Absolutely. And so, you know, um, I, I don’t, I don’t have all of the, uh, the numbers in front of me, but you can go back, look at the different, um, reparations that have been paid financial and otherwise to different groups, but yet.
For Africans and African Americans, we have never received anything. We have never even received a formal apology. Yeah. For what has, what has happened in the trans genetics slave trade?
Larry Baker: Absolutely. And you know, for, for my take on reparations, of course it has to have some type of a financial reparation because the heart of the matter is work was done.
That wasn’t paid. That has to be paid. Right. I don’t know anyone that would work any job. For any length of time without pay. So there has to be some type of financial, um, piece to that. But to your point, there are so many different levels that need to be examined. So the first thing I think that has to happen is that we have to get an agreement that we’re going to engage in this conversation to break it down, but there has to.
Some type of financial piece to it, but there are multi-layers because, um, the impact that it’s had on, uh, the Black family and the impact that it’s had on education, um, even if we would’ve been given the, uh, original agreement of, and I know a lot of people make reference to this 40 acres in a mule, if we really think about what that agreement was, it was about.
Receiving 400,000 acres of land that stretched from South Carolina to Florida 30 miles or so in from the coast. Just the value on that promise alone today would be in the buildings, right? So we have to at least go back and acknowledge that there were attempts to have reparation, but every attempt that was made.
It was fought off. It was pushed back. So number one, it has to be a discussion. It has to be approved that we will discuss it. But in my opinion, it can’t start without first the apology. And then two, some type of financial compensation. What that is. I have no idea, but we have to be willing to engage in it.
And you’re exactly right. Reparations is part of the. because the former in, when they, when they release or when they freed the enslaved people, they paid their enslaves for their loss of their enslaved people. So it’s history. It’s not like this is something new it’s been done before.
Dr. Brandon Caffey: Yeah, I think that’s, um, that’s, that’s critical because, you know, again, if you understand the history of America, this, this country was founded on the premise of landowner.
Yes. And coming out of slavery and doing reconstruction as a lot of African Americans were able to either purchase their land, uh, coming out of slavery, they were able to purchase their own land or land that had been given to former slaves. A lot of that land was still taken over by, uh, systems of oppression in which they allowed, you know, uh, white land owners to take the.
From, from Blacks that could have generated, you know, generational wealth. Um, absolutely. So when we talk about reparations, I think looking at those, those land promises and what happened, uh, from 1865, even up through the civil rights movement, absolutely not be lost when we talk about reparations.
Larry Baker: Absolutely agree. Okay. We have a couple more questions, Dr. Caffey, that we want to get to. So let’s take a look at our second question:
Regarding benefits of Juneteenth… Do you think that the federal recognition of Juneteenth will bring more attention to legalized slavery in prison and contribute to modern abolition efforts?
Woo. So, wow. The, when we talk about this whole concept of, um, the prison system, in my opinion, that’s another illustration of a broken promise, right? Because yes, the 13th amendment technically end its slavery, but the convict clause that’s within it said that you could still have slaves if they’re convicted of a crime.
And we all know the brutal attack that led to Black life being extremely criminalized due to the Black codes. And essentially it turned these recently freed people back into slave. As a matter of fact, it’s often referred to as second slavery, which was worse than the first edition of slavery, but it still plays out today due to the prison industrial complex.
Right? So again, to your point, Dr. Caffey, we can have diversity equity inclusion without that justice piece, we have to look at the systems that have been set forth that take advantage of Black and brown bodies. Again, when you talk about reparation, that’s part of the conversation that needs to be had this vicious systemic attack on Black and brown life for the profit of others.
So I’ll let you, uh, touch on that question as well.
Dr. Brandon Caffey: Yeah. So I think the question simply posed do I think that the federal holiday is going to bring more exposure? Uh, no. Yeah.Yeah, no. Um, and I think to your point in what you just highlighted, uh, again, coming out of the civil war and coming into reconstruction and the, the ratification of 13th amendment and what you see is slavery by different names.
Absolutely. So you, you have, um, Oh, what was what’s the, the share cropping, uh, you have, uh, in the 13th amendment, you know, it specifically states that a condition and servant to is legal. As long as you know, you’ve committed a crime and you have other forms of slavery, you know, you have another system of indentured servitude that comes back into play in the United States.
And so, uh, the celebration of June. I don’t think it’s going to bring any more attention than, um, than what we already know is transpiring in this country in terms of what’s happening in, in prison systems. And even for me as an educator, you know, I’m, I’m very cognizantly aware of the fact that we have a school to prison pipeline.
You know, we’re pushing children out of school because we don’t educate them properly. We don’t recognize their culture. We don’t make inclusive spaces. And when you don’t celebrate, um, people of varying cultures, their intelligence inside of school systems that are very much Eurocentric, middle class monolingual spaces.
Then you push them out into streets and, and, and they find other ways to show their intelligence, which oftentimes will lead them into the prison system, which is a form of slavery. It is still in our constitution. That is a, a legalized form of slavery. Absolutely. Absolutely. But we gloss over it and so, no, I don’t think the federal holiday will change anything.
Larry Baker: Yeah. Thank you for that. Um, do we have another question? So we have one more question:
What are some recommendations you’d have to share for companies to celebrate the holiday with their employees without appropriating the culture?
Oh, wow. And you know, again, for me recognizing the holiday that that’s, that’s a tremendous first step, but again, I think that. We can do more. We can do some of those transformative actions where we are not just talking the talk, but we’re walking the walk, create those programs that look to address some of the issues that are impacting the Black community.
Because to me, that, that, that shows for a deeper understanding of our community. And I’ll give an example of an organization that I think is doing a great job. I read about. Kingsford charcoal. They have a program called, um, protect the pit. And if you know anything about our culture, barbecue and cookout, I, they go hand in hand and Kingsford is probably the charcoal that I know I use the most, but instead of looking at our community as just the dollars that we represent.
They went to create a program to invest in entrepreneurship. So they started out with the barbecue, uh, establishments in local neighborhoods and they provided them training and they provided them, uh, ways to write effective business plans. And it’s this whole program that the recognition that this community really values this particular tradition.
They use our product. Let’s invest in that community in a way that’s substantial as opposed to having events or days at the organization, let’s invest in the community. So I’ll let Dr. Caffey give his answer.
Dr. Brandon Caffey: Yeah. So I think first and foremost, I think. Number one, recognizing that you have individuals within your organization and that Juneteenth will mean something very symbolic for them, um, and engaging conversations with them, you know, and what, and what different ways that you can celebrate the holiday.
Without it being, you know, a form of cultural appropriation. Uh, I think it’s a good opportunity to look at your, your structure, your policies, your practices within your organization to say, is there anything that we’re doing systemically that is preventing, uh, a group of people from elevating. Um, you know, one of the things, you know, I talk about all the time is, do we have a pipeline for leadership, like in education?
You know, if someone’s a teacher or we specifically looking at Black and brown people who we believe could be good candidates for leadership to elevate them up, you know, before they apply, you know, maybe we have to go to them and ask them, like, even for me specifically, uh, before I even had the, um, the intentions of being a school administrator, I had a Black male who was a superintendent who came and visited my classroom and said, I’ve heard about the good work that you’re doing.
I’m gonna give you a chance to elevate, uh, because we need strong Black males in our organization. And I believe that you can be that individual. And so I think every organization has to take an assessment of itself to see what are you doing systemically to make your, your organization, your workplace better for people of color, uh, specifically for African Americans.
Larry Baker: Yeah, great insight. Uh, I wanna make sure that we are not leaving any questions on the table and I think so:
Do you have any examples of companies, groups, organizations that you think are celebrating Juneteenth well, honoring the history and the true meaning of the holiday?
So, uh, for this particular question, I think I touched upon it.
So, and, and again, they’re going beyond just the holiday. Because in reality, that’s what we need from organizations. It’s not just to make it a month focus. It’s not just to make it a day focus. We, we are looking for organizations to do, as Dr. Caffey said, look at your systemic structures. Are you creating barriers for your Black and Brown employees that you may need to address?
Are you willing to take transformative action that might make some people feel uncomfortable, but it’ll, it’ll go a long way for the greater good. If that makes sense, Dr. Caffey, did you have anything?
Dr. Brandon Caffey: No, absolutely. You know, for me in particular, I, I don’t do a lot of investigating into different companies in terms of what they’re doing.
You know, obviously I work in, in education. So, you know, my focus has always been to make sure that, you know, what we’re doing in this, uh, educational space is vocational space is, uh, is relevant and culturally responsive for, for all minorities and oppressed student. But, um, I like the different examples that you gave.
And I think as we enter into different spaces, different retail stores, and we are seeing things like napkins, t-shirts ice creams, we, we have a duty to investigate who these companies are. And then to ask those questions like, well, what are you doing with this money that you’re making offer this holiday?
Exactly. Investing it back into the Black community. What are you doing for the employees that work for you to, uh, ensure that they have opportunities to grow? Um, we can’t just use our, our purchasing power, um, carelessly without holding these companies accountable. Absolutely.
Larry Baker: Absolutely. I agree. A hundred percent.
Um, so, uh, I do believe that those are all of the questions that we had, uh, Dr. Caffey, that came in.
I did wanna make a reminder that you can get access to our free celebrating Juneteenth learning module. But the reality is that this has been an awesome conversation, but it just doesn’t stop here.
And, uh, we really encourage you to take advantage of this learning module that we have, because it’s a tool that you can actually bring back to your own workplace. And if you really want to partner with LCW to engage in these conversations or any of the other trainings, uh, that we have on the Black experience in the United States, then again, contact us.
We will hook you up to the right resources so that we can engage in this conversation and push it throughout your organization as well. So I wanna thank my very special guest Dr. Brandon Caffey. Always a pleasure. And an honor, when I get the opportunity to spend time talking to you, and this has been Brave Conversations with LCW Live.
Culture Moments: Let’s Talk About Gender Pronouns
Published on: June 15, 2022
What are gender pronouns and why do they matter in the LGBTQ+ community? What do you do when you misgender someone in the workplace? What’s it like to be misgendered?
Culture Moments podcast host Larry Baker (he/him) is joined by LCW Associate Consultant Ada Vargas (they/them) for a candid discussion on Ada’s experience joining LCW, how LCW upskilled staff on pronoun use in the workplace, and why you should be having these conversations within your own organization.
This Brave Conversation was originally a live stream discussion recorded on June 2nd 2022.
Larry Baker: Hello everyone and welcome to the culture moments podcast. I’m your host, Larry Baker. And I’m 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’s 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, he and him and I am thrilled to welcome you to our very first livestream conversation. Each month, we will be making space for timely and important conversations that we hope will help educate, generate discussion and help you take some actionable items back to your organization and your daily lives.
For those of you who are not familiar with LCW we are a global DEI training consulting and translation firm that partners with organizations to develop global mindsets and to help you develop your skills and systems to succeed in a culturally diverse world.
Today, we are talking about gender pronouns…what they are, how to use them, and how you can upskill those in your life. On this topic. I am joined today by my colleague, Ada Vargas, who is here to talk about what we all can do to create more inclusive spaces. So Ada take it away.
Ada Vargas: Absolutely. Larry, thank you so much for hosting this today and for kicking off pride in such an incredible way.
My name is Ada Vargas and my pronouns are they/them/theirs. And I’m really thrilled to be here with you all to have this conversations on pronouns and inclusive, um, being more inclusive towards the trans community during pride month, I am a subject matter expert on the LGBTQ plus community, and I am part of the community myself.
As a queer and non-binary trans person. So I’m very, very excited to be here and dive in because I love to share my knowledges and experiences in with LCW and then many other avenues within LCW to make workplaces more inclusive for people of all identities. So. Um, I’d love to just jump right in.
Larry Baker: Awesome. Thank you. But before we jump into that conversation, Ada, I want to let you all know that after our discussion, we’re going to answer all the questions that you have. So as we dive in, please, don’t be afraid to ask your questions in the chat. We have folks monitoring that, uh, the chat as well. So Ada let’s just begin with some of the basics.
Let’s talk about what are gender pronouns and why is it so important to the LGBTQ plus community?
Ada Vargas: Well, quite simply pronouns are words that we use to refer to someone in the third person without using their name. Right? Whether we realize it or not, people frequently use pronouns when speaking about us.
And this is something that we are very used to very intuitively and often when speaking about an individual. Third person pronouns can have gender implications. Like he, him implying a person is a man or a boy. And to her implying a person is a woman or a girl, and these implications can be deceiving.
And before I kind of dive into that a little further, the reason why this becomes really important for the LGBTQ plus community is because gender and sexual orientation are two things that are. Within the LGBTQ plus community and gender and language is something that we encounter in our day to day lives.
Right? So when we are beginning to pay attention to the conversation around gender pronouns, we are actually accessing one of the easiest places for inclusion for the community. This is of course the whole community is not a monolith, but it can be a huge signifier for people in the community that a space is safe to be themselves, whether they are trans or not.
If they’re seeing people introducing themselves with their pronouns, if they’re seeing inclusive language, that isn’t just very binary and exclusive. So those pieces are kind of messages for the LGBTQ plus community that people are safe and that they can, um, they can begin to really be themselves in those spaces.
Right. So, yeah, going back to kind of those implications and assumptions that can be. Because of the way that pronouns have gendered implications. When we assume what pronouns to use for someone, even when we get it right, it can reinforce ideas of gender norms and really send a message that people have to look a certain way to demonstrate the gender that they are, or they’re not right.
And when you share your pronouns, Again, you make space for people to share theirs that sends that signal to the community that you’re someone safe to be around, or that organization is someone safe to be around and not assuming people’s pronoun and using the correct ones is really as important as calling someone the correct name and using the correct pronunciation for their name.
Awesome aid. I’m glad that you pointed out the fact that, you know, we use pronouns normally. It’s just that. Now we are asked to be more conscious of how we actually use those pronouns when we are addressing individuals from the LGBTQ plus community, to make sure that we’re creating these environments where they feel comfortable.
So I absolutely appreciate that insight, um, on that conversation, but aid, I wanna ask you something more specific. Talk to me about what was your experience like coming into a new workplace as someone that uses they then pronoun specifically?
Ada Vargas: Yeah, absolutely. So I’ve actually had this experience a couple of times, so I’ll, I’ll share a broader experience.
Um, I have encountered some challenges in my experiences, joining new teams as a gender nonconforming person who uses data on pronoun. At a few employers. Now I have been the very first gender nonconforming, more non-binary employee that those teams have ever had. Right. And so there’s a bit of a dance to figure out of the people that I’m joining are already trans competent and to see how much self-advocacy, I’m gonna need to do in those spaces.
Right. This is like something that, um, People in the LGBTQ plus community at large, in particular, trans people have to constantly be assessing the spaces that they’re in and language around. Gender is something that comes into play. Like I mentioned in our day to day life at work because pronouns often have those gender implications, right?
So this can prove really tricky for trans people like myself to navigate because you’re left with. Couple of choices, right? You either have the choice of not educating your team and being constantly misgendered. If they’re not already upskilled in that way, or you have the choice of doing additional emotional and upskilling labor to like help your team become more trans competent, right.
At the very least with gender neutral pronoun. And I wanna say right here that these and other decisions made by trans people on how to engage in their workplace are all very valid, right? Like if somebody chooses not to do that education, not to do that labor, like to not be fully out, like that’s a valid choice for them and that’s entirely in their hands.
For myself, there are places in my life, for example, with extended family that I might see once or twice a year where I don’t bother to do that heavy lift of educating them and others and there’s places where I will pour a ton of myself to educate folks like at a workplace where I will interact with people daily.
Right? So there’s like cost benefits to, to where trans folks are gonna kind of be making those decisions. And it should never be a person from the trans or gender nonconforming population. to have to educate their peers, but that often does become our labor. Right. So there’s a lot of negotiation that I have to do with myself in entering a new workplace in that, in that way.
Larry Baker: Yeah. I absolutely resonate with that comment. Uh, that you mentioned about the cost benefit because in many scenarios being a black male on the team, feeling like we always have to be the one to explain the black experience to someone else. Right. So that always resonates with me when it comes to the cost benefit.
Is this worth my time to dig into this, to really break down those experiences. So I absolutely appreciate that insight. Ada, I’m gonna ask you to get far more transparent and really talk about us at LCW because I wanna know, what did you do as a result of your experience in your first few weeks working with us at LCW?
Ada Vargas: Absolutely. So, like I mentioned earlier, when I’ve entered new workplaces, gotta assess the situation. Right. And when I arrived at LCW I was misgendered quite a lot, um, like within the first two weeks, it happened more than had happened in years at my previous workplace. And that was pretty shocking to me.
And I realized that there was some upskilling to be done. LCW is really a culture of learning and of growth and of cultivating cultural competence. I feel, I felt like I was a project that I was willing to take on, especially because in joining the team I wanted to bring on, I wanted to bring on my skills and my experiences to kind of level us all up.
Right. And so I wanna take a moment to talk about what that word means, misgendering, uh, so that we are all on the same page, right? Misgendering is when someone uses incorrect language to refer to someone. Like pronouns or gendered greetings. Right? So if somebody at a restaurant welcomes me and a friend and says, hi ladies, that would be a misgender, uh, an essence of an instance of misgendering, or if somebody used, uh, pronouns, other than they, them, for me, that would be an instance of misgendering.
And this is a type of microaggression, like any other microaggression, right? They have a cumulative impact on a person and that can make them feel less included and have a greater impact on psychological and physical health in the long term. Right. I want to be clear that I don’t think all or any trans people should have to do this, this kind of work that I’m gonna talk about, which is why we are here.
We wanna share all this information here and assist you in your journey to be more trans-inclusive. So what I ended up doing at LCW. To get into it a little bit more said, I proposed a series of educational spaces where we would talk about like, what is gender? What is, what does it mean to be trans?
What does it mean to be gender nonconforming or non-binary or any of those other identities that fall under those umbrellas? And then, uh, with the help of our intern that summer, who was also, um, under the non-binary umbrella, um, they identified as agender. We built out a series of emails that we sent out every Thursday called They/Them Thursdays.
Uh, and we sent out information to people, resources and how they could practice working on pronouns that they hadn’t encountered before. Um, more experiences of other. Uh, trans and gender non-binary people so that people could begin to kind of soak up this content and make it and make it part of their, their learning journey.
And those emails kind of really cultivated people beginning to think about these things and, and. Sort of soak all of that up. Right. And folks at LCW from my perspective, and you can tell me your perspective, Larry, but it seemed like folks really appreciated the upskilling and it helped move them on that particular journey significantly.
Yeah. And I really appreciated the willingness that people had to, to do that. Of course people make mistakes and still do, but I also equip them with the knowledge of how to correct this, their mistakes, which we’ll talk about more, a little bit later.
Larry Baker: Absolutely. Absolutely. And I definitely know that you can put me in that category of making the mistakes, because I think for me, what was beneficial to They/Them Thursdays was it created that awareness for me. Um, because I being a member of an underrepresented group as well, I absolutely do not want to create spaces where, uh, there, uh, I am engaging in microaggressions. Right. So that was always extremely important to me. But the other part of that that really had me excited is because Ada, you had mentioned that I was part of that inspiration that allowed you to do that. And you reminded me of a conversation that we had way back, like within the first, I don’t even remember week that you had started with LCW and I was encouraging you.
To find your voice, find that thing at LCW that we can look to you to say, Ada, we really need you to guide us in this area. And, you know, I, I say so I have so many conversations with new folks as they onboard to the organization. When you brought that to my memory, and I was able to see that you took that to heart and you brought it to our organization.
I was extremely proud because I know that this is what we needed in the organization. And I’m super excited that you took that and ran with it. So that’s another part of they, them Thursdays that really resonated with me. So I absolutely appreciate. Um, you, you bringing that gift to our organization so that we can then share it with others and it’s absolutely needed and necessary.
So Ada, I do wanna jump into asking you a question, because like I said, in the beginning, I was probably one of the main folks to do misgendering and I always wanted to know, okay, so what should I do? What I mean, I absolutely understand that my impact was creating a microaggression. So I wanted to know what, what is it that I could do.
So I’d love to get that insight to share what can we do or what should we do when we misgender someone?
Ada Vargas: Yeah, absolutely. So there’s a couple of types of right. Misgendering. There’s the intentional misgendering, which is actively trying to invalidate a person, um, or there’s also the unintentional, which is what happens most often.
Right. And so what that’s, what we’ll touch on is the, when you unintentionally misgender someone, if you make a mistake and that is an, an honest mistake, it’s something that you’re working on, um, on upscaling, on what, um, What I really recommend that people do is very, very quick and simple. And it is of very often preferred by folks in the community.
Say, for example, you were, um, you were talking about me, uh, to somebody else and you used the incorrect set of pronouns and you realized it in the moment you would just say, oh, I’m sorry. They use the on pronoun. And then just continue onward. Right? You acknowledge the mistake. You fix the mistake. and you quickly move on, right?
Because often what can happen and you might have, uh, experienced this with microaggressions that you’ve experienced. Larry is that if people. Then stop and make it entirely about themselves. Oh, I’m so sorry. Yes. I feel so bad. I, I can’t believe I did that and they just kind of lavish onto it. Then it becomes your job as the person who just to make them the microaggression exactly.
To make them feel better. Right. And so when you do misgender, someone say you use a name that they don’t want no longer use, or you use the incorrect set of pronouns, just simply say, thank you for correcting me or correct yourself and quickly move. Because that shows that you’re being more self-aware and you’re not putting the onus on that person to then make you feel better.
Larry Baker: Absolutely. Absolutely. So I definitely appreciate that fact about keep it moving. Right. Let’s not then put the burden back on the person that actually was the, uh, the recipient of the microaggression acknowledge. Hey, this was on. and this is where I’m moving from it and let’s keep going. I actually think that’s some great.
Ada Vargas: And I’ll just add right. That mistakes will happen. Yes. This for many people, it’s the first time they’re going to really be deconstructing their ideas of gender and the gender binary and just like anything when you’re first learning, it takes effort to learn.
Uh, our colleague Tamara actually likens this early awareness of noting race in oneself, right? There was likely a time when you didn’t even think about race in particular, if you were in the majority group until you. And then you started to note the different levels of privilege and difference that come with that.
And so when we’re learning about gender in this way, that allows space for inclusion of trans folks, we’re likely to make mistakes. Yeah. And I love to share a quote, um, that we love here from Megan Carpenter, carpenter around making mistakes.
Larry Baker: Yes. Go ahead. Yeah. If we have it, there we go.
Ada Vargas: Awesome. Yeah. The, the quote that I, I just love and I wanna like really welcome folks to sit with this, the quote, read.
I want a bunch of people who are interested in becoming allies to me to get it wrong, because I promise you, you will get it wrong likely more than once, but please get it wrong for me. Be wrong on my behalf. Try stuff, learn stuff, make attempts, and fail. Embrace the discomfort of not knowing of not being certain of not understanding and then be motivated enough to learn and get better.
I will give you grace, if you give me effort.
Larry Baker: That that is amazing. That is absolutely a quote that resonates with me because I think that that’s really at the heart of all of our conversations in regards to being a part of underrepresented groups. If you give me effort, I will give you grace, regardless of all the things that happened in the past and the mistakes that have been made, if you give me that sincere effort to understand and to move forward, I’ve got the grace to engage in that conversation because that’s all that I’m looking for.
I don’t want you to turn it and make it all about me, that I have to feel like I have to make you comfortable in that mistake. So that, that, that’s an amazing, amazing quote. Um, I do believe Ada that we have a video that, that kinda. Bring some of this home. Is that something that you’d like to share as a learning opportunity?
Because I think it’s fantastic, but
Ada Vargas: yeah, absolutely. Uh, so there’s a really great video we’ll show you from indeed. And for those of you listening to this on the podcast later, where the video is going to be about some, uh, a non-binary person getting ready for a job interview. And so we’ll debrief the video a little bit after we watch it, but let’s go ahead and get that, um, Up on the screen for folks.
Larry Baker: I’ll leave it to you, Ada. Cause it, me, it just, it just resonated with so many things. In regards to setting the tone, setting the culture, creating that welcoming environment, you could almost see the relief in the interviewees face once that happened. So I will let you. Yeah..
Ada Vargas: Absolutely. And for those of you listening on the podcast, you could likely just hear, uh, at the very beginning of the video, uh, Taylor, who uses they, them pronouns is trying to get ready, trying to figure out how to show up at this, um, at this interview.
And when they finally get to the interview and the interviewer introduces himself and shares that shares his pronouns. and asks Taylor for their pronouns. You can hear, and you can see the relief in this person’s face in their body language, that they can really be who they are in that space. And kind of the, the takeaway from that video is that we can’t be, we can’t show what we can do unless we can show up as who we are.
Right. And I think that comes back to the conversation. You brought up Larry around how I felt like I could. Be, uh, be myself here and bring my full knowledge because even though people were making mistakes, people were willing to learn and I was willing to give them that grace and I was willing to show up with all of my, uh, with all of my talents and all of my skills to share that within the organization.
Right. And that’s really at the crux of why this conversation about gender pronouns matters. Yeah, because when you’re putting in that effort and you’re making people feel welcome and included, they can actually show up fully and, and present their full, their full talents and their full gifts to the organization they’re joining.
And that’s what we really want out of our talent. Is it not?
Larry Baker: Absolutely Ada and I, you know, I don’t speak on behalf of everyone at LCW but I am so excited. That environment was created for you, because it’s obvious that we benefit from you being able to show up as you’re true, authentic self, and it just shows in the work that you do and the passion that you have it’s obvious.
So we appreciate the fact that that environment has been created for you to show up as your full. Because we absolutely need it and we appreciate it. Um, I’m not sure, but I think we may have some questions in the chat. Ada, would you be willing to respond? Do we have a couple that we can? Uh, yes. Okay. So we do have a question and hopefully I am not butchering this name. Shana Atkinson. The question is if someone uses two pronouns – i.e. he, they – how do I know when to use each?
Ada Vargas: Great question. And actually, uh, Max who worked on this process project with me early in the, in last summer, uh, used he and they pronouns and really what, what he shared and what other people that I know, uh, and have come, come across that use multiple pronouns is that you should just ask people, uh, what their preference is, right?
Because they might have two sets of pronouns, uh, for a variety of reason. And some people might want you to use both interchangeably or some might prefer one over another. And so really like with anything, just ask simply as, Hey, I see you use two sets of pronouns. Do you have a preference with how I can use these?
I just wanna know how to best address you so I can be respectful. That’s really, really it. Just go ahead and ask because people have different reasons why they use two sets of pronouns.
Larry Baker: Yeah. I love how, how, when we. Have these conversations aid up. What we realize is that some of the, some of the things that we fear the most, it has a pretty simple resolution, right.
Because I used to have that question asked a lot. Do you prefer to be called black or African American? How do I know what to call you? Just ask mm-hmm it can be, we can complicate things so much because we’re so into our head. So I absolutely appreciate you making. Nice and simple. Uh, do we have another question?
Okay. This is from Carrie. And if I mispronounce your last name, please, I’m not trying to do this on purpose, Estrella. What about what has become socially neutral with masculine roots when referring to groups like, “hey, you guys” if in reference to multiple people of various genders.
Ada Vargas: Yeah, it’s a great question, Carrie. And I’m based in Chicago where “you guys” is a really common way to refer to a group of people. And there’s a variety of opinions on this. Largely. I think it matters with, again, the people that you’re surrounded by. So I try to pull language that I see anybody kind of bristle at, out of my, out of my vernacular, but I think that it becomes a really regional.
Regional piece. I know plenty of queer folks and trans folk who are in Chicago, who were like, oh, I really just think about that as, as gender neutral. But I think that if you are, when in doubt, um, just go ahead and try to find a, a different, uh, word that you can use. I use y’all many people have thought that I am from south because of how much I use the word y’all.
I’ve had colleagues, uh, really point out that sometimes I will use the word y’all three times in one sentence . And so that’s a favorite of mine to replace you guys, which was, uh, deeply ingrained in me as a Chicagoan.
Larry Baker: But yeah, I tend to use folks. I try to use folks or, you know, gang or something like that.
Ada Vargas: Friends, if you’re welcoming a group of people like hello, ladies and gentlemen, honored, honored guests, dear friends, uh, all of those pieces. So. It is highly contextual. Um, but I would say that you can find other alternatives that you can then yes. Make sure are being more inclusive already from the get go.
Larry Baker: Absolutely. Absolutely. So Ada, this has absolutely been an incredible conversation. And I I’m so excited that this was our first live session, uh, specifically because we are in pride month. This is fantastic. I absolutely, uh, appreciate this. And what I want our audience to know is that it doesn’t stop here because you absolutely can keep your learning going.
I would love for you to sign up, to receive They/Them Thursday emails every Thursday throughout June using the link that I believe, yes, we have it right there on the screen. And if you wanna partner in creating inclusive workspaces in your own workplace… just let us know, contact LCW at languageandculture.com.
Uh, and, and we will definitely be more than willing to engage you in this conversation. Once again. Thank you so much, Ada for being our very first guest on our live stream. And thank you all for listening. Be prepared for our next live stream session. It is going to be on June 16th and we’re gonna be talking about Juneteenth.
That is going to be another interesting conversation. So with that, this has been Brave Conversations with LCW live. My name is Larry Baker. Have a wonderful rest of your day. Thank you so much.
And to all of you that are listening, we want to 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.
Culture Moments: What Work From Home Has Meant for Workers with Disabilities
Published on: May 18, 2022
While the pandemic has led to the widespread acceptance of remote work and drawn increased attention to digital accessibility, in many cases, workers with a disability have not benefited from these advancements like their peers. In fact, a 2019 Rutgers study showed that among people who continued working during the pandemic, workers with disabilities were less likely than those without disabilities to be working from home and experienced heightened levels of joblessness.
In this Brave Conversation, Culture Moments podcast host Larry Baker is joined by guests Deb Dagit, the President and Founder of Deb Dagit Diversity LLC, and Tracy Lee Mitchelson, Director of Training, Disability, and Inclusion at GSK, to unpack these insights and more. Together they discuss what the impact of the pandemic has been on workers with a disability, what we have learned from this experience, and where we go from here.
Show Notes & Highlights
9:50: Tracy speaks on how the pandemic has fostered an acknowledgement of how many jobs can be done from the home and what that means for workers with disabilities
10:33: Deb highlights how the pandemic has increased focus on digital accessibility and, simultaneously, ableism
13:24: Larry draws attention to the contradictory fact that while acceptance of remote work has increased, studies show people with disabilities are less likely to be working remotely and asks our guests to make sense of this fact
14:35: Deb names the epidemic of under employment and part time employment that workers with disabilities face
25:05: Tracy calls out how managers can support their employees with disabilities
Larry Baker: Hello everyone and welcome to the culture moments podcast. I’m your host, Larry Baker. And I’m 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’s 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 rough 2020.
We’re going to do some things that are a little bit different from our normal introduction, simply because of the important topic that we are going to discuss today. Today, we’re going to be using something called audio descriptions, and we are modeling this behavior to simply help with the broadcast so that it can be more inclusive to our listeners that could be blind or with low vision.
So I’m going to start off with my own personal audio description, and then we will begin talking about our topic around disability. So I am Larry Baker. My pronouns are he and him. I’m an African-American male.
I am an avid glasses wearer because I’m starting to need to have some of that assistance with reading, especially on the fine print. I have a daughter that has been diagnosed with ADHD, so I understand some of those challenges and opportunities that she faces. And today we will actually be discussing what the widespread shift towards remote work has actually meant for workers with a disability.
First, let me give you a little context. Before the pandemic there was a 2019 study that showed that workers with a disability, they were more likely to be working remote than workers without a disability. Now you might think that the pandemic shift towards remote work would have actually increased the number of people with a disability working remotely. However, this was not the case.
As a matter of fact, among people who continued working during the pandemic, workers with disabilities were less likely than those without disabilities to be working from home and experience heightened levels of joblessness. As a recent Rutgers studies puts it, when the big shock of the pandemic hit, workers with disabilities were left behind in the rapid expansion of remote work. Because they were less likely to be in the types of jobs that could be actually done from home.
Before the pandemic about two fifths of workers without disabilities were in jobs that could be done entirely at home compared to only one third of workers with disabilities. So today we’re going to uncover: what does this all mean? What was the experience like for people living with a disability? How has the pandemic continue to impact their lives today? And where do we actually go from here?
Now I know that that’s a lot for us to unpack, but luckily we are joined today by two distinguished guests to help us make sense of all of this. Today we have Deb Dagit, who is the president and founder of Deb Dagit Diversity, LLC. And Tracy Lee Mitchelson, who is the director of training and disability inclusion at GSK.
Thank you both for being here today. And while I did give you an introduction, I do want to take this opportunity for you to provide our audience with your audio description. So I’m going to start with you, Deb, and then Tracy, you can follow. So Deb if you would give us a brief introduction of who you are and what you do.
Deb Dagit: Well, thanks so much, Larry. And I’m so happy to be here with you and the LCW team. So, my pronouns are she, her and hers. I’m a white female with short reddish brown hair. And like you, Larry, I depend heavily on my glasses that are rimless and I’m wearing a multicolored top. Professionally I was vice president and chief diversity officer in both the tech sector and pharmaceuticals for 22 years and was also responsible for many other corporate HR functions during that period of time. From talent acquisition to employee relations, learning and development, et cetera. And then about 10 years ago, I became a consultant with a focus on disability inclusion, but still doing general diversity and inclusion as well. And I have a lot of passion around intersectional identity. So both disability and other aspect of lived experience.
As part of my audio description, it’s important I feel for my audiences to know when I have a chance to get to know folks about my lived experience. I am four feet tall, so I identify as a little person. When I leave my home I use either a push wheelchair or a motorized scooter depending on the size of the venue. I’m hard of hearing and use hearing aids and I have a service dog to help with post-traumatic stress.
And, you know, in some cases in employment settings, we call that TMI or too much information, but that lived experience is as much of what I bring to today’s conversation as my professional background. And I’m really happy to be with you and Tracy Lee today. Thank you.
Larry Baker: Awesome. Thank you so much, Deb. Tracy now on to you, if you could give me your audio description and a brief introduction to who you are and what you do.
Tracy Lee Mitchelson: Thanks, Larry. And I’m really excited to join you, LCW, and Deb on this discussion. I think it’s really important to share. And so my audio description, well I’ll start with my pronouns. She, her, and hers. My audio description: white woman, curly reddish wavy hair. I have a blue top on, I also am a person with a disability that is not always evident.So it’s mostly invisible, which can lead to misunderstandings and misconceptions. So you know, not only am I a passionate advocate, I also have lived experience of disability as well.
So, as you talked about my job title, I’ve been with a global pharmaceutical company for over 20 years. And most of my career here has been in R and D, but I was able to transition into my current position focusing on an area that I feel passionately about, which is disability inclusion. I actually started our global disability competence network employee resource group about eight years ago and had become a consistent advocate subject matter expert and champion for disability inclusion.
And as I talked about as a person with a mostly non-visible disability, I wanted to ensure people with disabilities had a voice and advocate in a way to support the company to become disability competent. My focus includes strategic global efforts to drive accessibility process and policy enhancements needed to support people with disabilities.
As it relates to accommodations, resilience, flexible working, some of the new COVID related protocols, procurement technology, learning, and development to name a few. And I also provide disability education and awareness across my workplace as well as externally to external disability focused organizations.
Larry Baker: Awesome. So needless to say, Tracy, you’re pretty busy. I can imagine that that is definitely what’s going on in your life right now. So I want to just kick off the conversation and Tracy, I’ll ask you to feel this first part of the question. And then Deb, of course, I’d like you to respond as well.
Can you tell me what have you observed, whether it’s in your work life or your personal life to be some of the biggest impacts on the pandemic on people with disabilities?
Tracy Lee Mitchelson: Yeah, I think one of the biggest impacts to me is the acknowledgement that many jobs can be done at home. Before that you know, it was more difficult to do that.
And I think this opens up so many job opportunities for people with disabilities that may have had difficulty getting to an onsite location, or they may find an onsite location, not as accessible as they need.
Larry Baker: Great. Okay. Deb. How about your insight? What have you observed to be some of the biggest impacts on the pandemic, on people with disabilities?
And again, it could be work. It could be outside work.
Deb Dagit: Sure. There are two things that come to mind is predominant because there’s so much we can cover here, but, building on what Tracy already shared, I’ve seen a much greater focus on digital accessibility because we did all have to rely so much more for office space jobs on digital platforms, and it became much more evident to people that we needed platforms that worked better. Pending a sign language interpreter, or having captioning that was accurate. And to keep up with the person that was speaking. So I think that became a much greater focus. We saw a big difference between people, and rural communities and urban communities in terms of internet access. But also access to services that a person would need. Where I live there is no Instacart. And there’s almost no restaurants other than one kind of, not that great pizza place that delivers. So we became heavily dependent on a combination of Amazon and you know, who was going to go brave going to the store with the masks on and you know, the gloves and all that.
And then finally, and sadly, I would say that ableism reared it’s ugly head and this is still a problem. And what I mean by that is both for people who are older and people with disabilities that are either immune compromised or otherwise at a higher degree of risk, if they get COVID. This whole thing about not wanting to wear masks and not remembering or choosing not to focus on the fact that masks are as much or more to help people around you as they are to protect you yourself.
So I found it really disconcerting to experience a high degree of hostility when, you know, someone would come to our home and they wouldn’t want to wear a mask. Or we would be out in public and people would get right in your face and be angry with you because you have a mask on. And that would be enough to be viewed as a challenge to them.
So that was really an unfortunate part of this whole thing. And really, I think highlighted the divide between the disability community and people who, even if they have a disability, don’t like to think about that and the risk level.
Larry Baker: Yeah. Thank you so much for that insight, Deb, and you know, one of the things that really surprised me as I gathered research to prepare for this conversation that we’re going to have, was the conversation around so many companies being willing to offer remote work. But how it disproportionately impacted individuals with disabilities. So Deb, I’m going to ask you to start. How do you begin to reconcile the fact that while again, acceptance of remote work has increased, the likelihood of people with disabilities working from home has decreased? And touch up on that but also tell me a little bit about what are some of the lessons that we can take away from that seemingly contradictory trend.
Deb Dagit: Great question. And I think a couple aspects to this. First of all, while we talk about the very high unemployment rate of people with disabilities, we often don’t focus on the epidemic of under employment as well as part-time employment. And when there was a constriction in many businesses due to the pandemic and companies needing to, you know, really change how they conducted business, people who were in lower paying entry level jobs, you know that old saying, “last in, first out”. You know that was part of what caused that, you know, and so people weren’t getting these opportunities. And I gotta tell you, it’s pretty annoying when you spend, you know, decades trying to get remote work to be something that is accessible to people with disabilities, and you get a ton of pushback. But as soon as everybody needed it, “Hey, no problem!”
You know, but the other thing is I have three children with disabilities, like Tracy, they’re not always apparent, they’re situationally apparent and none of them were able to work remotely. And, it’s partly because they’re part of the ADA generation of people who grew up after the ADA. And they are at an age where they’re still very early career. They’re not at an advanced level in their career where they’re able to work remotely. They’re still in those entry level jobs. One of my kids works for Amazon and was making sure everyone got their packages and another one was in a healthcare setting that has to be delivered in person.
So yeah, I think that, I’m sure Tracy has some different and interesting insights, but those are the two observations I had about how it played out.
Larry Baker: Okay. So with that in mind, Tracy hop in there. Talk to me about how do you reconcile this contradiction, right. Remote work has increased, but individuals with disabilities working from home decrease. How do we reconcile that?
Tracy Lee Mitchelson: Yeah. And I think I’m just going to build on both what you end Deb said, something that you said earlier is that I think the trend is in part due to the types of jobs people with disabilities are being hired for. Such as the lower skill jobs with limited educational and experience requirements.
That may not allow for that flexibility to work from home. I think it just highlights the need to ensure that people with disabilities have the opportunities for advanced education, higher skill jobs. We really need to put that effort in there. And I think the amount of people that are now interested in remote work has also increased, right? So people are realizing, wow, I can do this. And I really love doing this. I hear it all the time from people that weren’t interested in it before, which then increases the competition for the available jobs that can be done remotely. Right? So we’ve increased the jobs, but now we’ve increased the pull on those jobs.
Larry Baker: So as we think about this whole work experience, and Tracy I’m going to start with you. as we think about this shift towards a hybrid or remote work, I know that there are some benefits to doing it from, you know, of course from my perspective, but share with me some insights that you might have in regards to the benefits for this hybrid remote work style for workers with disabilities.
I know that we talked about, you know, the opportunities, but like what are some real tangible benefits that we can point to. With the shift towards this hybrid or remote workstyle for staff or workers with disabilities. So, Tracy.
Tracy Lee Mitchelson: Yeah, absolutely. And what I’ve heard from, from other people with disabilities that I work with is it it’s actually leveled the playing field for them.
Right? So. You know, they may have had difficulties with transportation, or they may have found the office environment not as accessible as they needed. You know, when sometimes people with disabilities don’t feel comfortable asking for what they need and it may be for all sorts of different reasons, right?
So they may be, you know, don’t feel comfortable asking for it or don’t want to call attention to their disability. So maybe they don’t have what they need, but at home they have things set up. So for me, as a person with a disability, working from home has benefited me tremendously. And I don’t have the commute. I don’t have to carry my laptop and other work-related materials around and, you know, move from conference room to sit in another desk location to a conference room. Because I would come home exhausted and in pain after the day. Right. So you know, my life part out of work, here I am like just, you know, not feeling great.
Right. And now working from home has allowed me to be more productive and not have to deal with the physical discomfort that I was dealing with. Getting into the office.
Larry Baker: Yeah, that’s a great point. Deb hop in there. Talk to me a little bit about, from your perspective, what are the benefits with this shift towards hybrid and remote work for workers with disabilities and even a follow-up question to that?
How do we make sure we keep them, how do we make sure that they remain in.?
Deb Dagit: So just building on what Tracy said, as a consultant with clients all over the place geographically, I was traveling a lot, so not only what’s it like going back and forth to an office. But it was planes, trains, and automobiles, and traveling with my husband, who is my personal assistant when I travel, my dog, my wheelchair, all that.
And then dealing with, you know, all the accessibility issues and having your wheelchair your scooter still work once it arrives, because so often it’s damaged in transit. Trying to find accessible, you know, taxi or Uber, or Accessoride. Getting into the hotel and getting a room that’s going to work just like one long negotiation.
And you know, because I have post-traumatic stress there’s a lot associated with travel that’s very triggering. And I have PTS because I have brittle bones. So when you’re in situations where you feel like you’re at risk and you could get hurt, cause you’re in unfamiliar territory. For me, my clients being perfectly okay with me delivering a training or a seminar or a fireside chat or a keynote, or being their thinking partner, you know, in a more comfortable setting where I feel safe has allowed me to really perform much better.
I have a lot more energy to give, you know, it it’s productivity, but it’s also insight and wisdom that sometimes it’s hard to have access to when you’re stressed. But in terms of the second part of your question, I think that what we’re really going to need to focus on is managers dealing with burnout and people feeling like they live at work and not having boundaries between, you know, our home life and our work life.
And so people just really getting too stressed out from not having time to recharge their battery and focus on their health issues. I know for me, what’s been super important is, despite my disabilities, I consider myself very fit and much more so since the pandemic. Because I make sure that every single day I find a least two or three ways to carve out time to exercise, get some fresh air, eat the right things instead of going to the vending machine, you know. It’s just, it’s easier to maintain my physical, emotional, and mental health.
And I hope that’s something we get managers to do a better job of encouraging their employees to work on.
Larry Baker: Yeah. Thank you so much for that insight for both of you in regards to, you know, that whole work-life balance tying into wellness, which then ties into productivity because I echo some of those statements that you made Deb. When you travel so extensively, and, and in a week you may get to maybe one or two clients, but remote work allows you to get to I’ve up to 10 in one week, right. When that was like impossible to do. So I absolutely echo with those sentiments. So I want to ask another question. So we want to make sure that we give our listeners tangible things that they can do after they listened to the podcast, because that’s really one of my main focuses of having these podcasts. So I want to get insight from both of you in regards to what do you personally believe needs to happen from here? How do these workplaces use the pandemic to become more inclusive of workers with disabilities?
So, Tracy, I’m going to ask you to kick us off and then Deb, you can bring it home. But from your perspective, what do you think needs to happen from here? How do they take advantage of this pandemic to be more inclusive of workers with disabilities? So Tracey?
Tracy Lee Mitchelson: Yeah thanks, Larry. Great question. And I really think it starts with a dialogue directly with people with disabilities and making sure that managers and leaders focus on asking employees what they need and how they can help them get it versus why they need it.
You don’t need to know all the medical details of someone’s disability to be able to get them what they need and support them in that. So, you know, removing the barriers. So that’s part of that. That’s part of removing the barriers and trusting that the employee with a disability knows what they need to be successful.
And, and knowing that it takes a lot of courage, even to ask those questions as a person, with a disability to ask for what you need, it takes a whole lot of courage and understanding that you know, as a manager or a leader. It’s also about recognizing and interrupting potential bias that a manager or leader may have around managing people face to face versus remote, right?
Allowing people with disabilities to work in an environment that supports them. Versus requiring someone to be face to face when the job duties actually don’t require it. And making sure that you have those policies to support it. And the last piece is making sure that the managers have the skills needed to be able to effectively manage and support remote workers and making sure that the person at home has what they need.
You know, the ergonomic and, and maybe accommodations that they may need at home as well. Just so that everybody can feel included no matter if they’re there, you know, face-to-face or remote. And if you have like hybrid meetings, how can you make sure you include everybody have processes in place to do that and make sure that you, as Deb mentioned earlier, the digital accessibility. Are you using platforms that have captioning? And other accessibility tools that are already embedded?
Larry Baker: That’s great. That’s some fantastic insight. So Deb, your turn again, you probably talk about this all the time, but share with our listeners. What do you personally believe needs to happen from here and how do the workplaces really take advantage and use this pandemic to be more inclusive to workers with disabilities?
Deb Dagit: Well, with the Great Resignation and so many companies struggling for talent. The number one thing is hire people with disabilities. I am still baffled as to why we have disability hiring initiatives that are not being run by people with disabilities. If we were wanting to bring more women into the organization and make sure that they got into more senior level roles and looking at who is gonna figure out how we would be successful in that endeavor, we’d asked women.
So I just don’t get it, that we try to bootstrap ourselves, without actually integrating people into the work environment. Second. According to the center for talent innovation and a study they did in 2017, 30% of college educated office-based employees identify as living with a disability. That’s three, zero.
And so you already have a lot of people with disabilities. And if your self ID rates are at 3% instead of 30 or, you know, it’s great if you’re maybe at least getting 7% as in section 5 0 4, which is the aspirational goal for a federal contract. But if you have a low self ID rate and you’re not visibly and intentionally recruiting talent with disabilities, that would be absolutely a number one.
The second is really look at your reasonable accommodations process. How easy is it to figure out how to request an accommodation, how efficient and effective is it? It shouldn’t take more than four or five days for the lion share of accommodations to be received. Make sure there are people in the functional areas that need to support accommodations requests so that there’s not any long gated process because of a learning curve.
And then circle back to ask not only the employee how their accommodation is working for them from the satisfaction level, but also their manager. Also because of stigma employees with disabilities do not share that they need an accommodation until there’s a performance issue. And then the conversations kind of sideways with their manager.
They’re not in as good a place. So both parties need to say, you know what? This was a really good idea. And oh, by the way, you know what, what we did for this person, there are some aspects of this that might be good for everyone on the team. That’s how we ended up with stand, sit desks and other accommodations that are now no longer considered an accommodation, just like remote work.
People without disabilities are just as anxious to have these kinds of tools available to them as people with disabilities.
Larry Baker: Yeah that’s such a great point, Deb, that, you know, something may seem to be focused only on one group, but it actually benefits the whole organization. So I’m glad that you made that connection.
And, and before I go, I do want to give each of you an opportunity to maybe even share word of encouragement to employees with disabilities as we are dealing with not only the pandemic, but remote work. Maybe some words of encouragement, some things that, you know, in your experience you’ve done that has been successful for you.
So, Deb, I’m gonna start with you and then Tracy, I’ll give you an opportunity too. “Words of wisdom”, if you will, as we get ready to wrap up.
Deb Dagit: Well, I would say if you are in a company that you have some tenure with and some, you know, fairly high level, it’s a mid or senior level person, then please, please be out and proud with your disability and share your story. Because there’s a whole lot of people who are feeling more vulnerable either because the type of disability they have tends to be more stigmatized, like perhaps mental health. Perhaps they’re newer to the organization and they’re still feeling like they have to prove themselves. But you know, if we had a quote unquote epidemic of people in important level, important role jobs, being out and proud as individuals with disabilities, remembering that 75% of disabilities are non-appearance or only visible situationally, then we would see a workplace where people feel a lot safer sharing that part of their lived experience. And I think it would make the company. Stronger in terms of how they serve the marketplace, as well as a work environment where they’re more likely to see higher productivity, innovation, and lower turnover.
Larry Baker: That’s great. Thank you so much, Tracy. Same thing, words of inspiration.
Tracy Lee Mitchelson: Absolutely. I think a lot, you know, building on what Deb said, I think it’s, you know, organizations like, you know, we have a disability employee resource group. So looking for that, when you start with a company and see if they have something like that and, you know, seek out an advocate or an ally that can help, you know, that someone that you trust, that you can have conversations with.
And how do you have a discussion around disclosure? What, you know, what is the best way to handle that? You know, having. So many there to help you with that. There’s a lot of organizations that you can reach out to. And there’s a lot of support that is there. Just knowing where to look. And like I said, within the company, finding someone to, to help you and be your advocate and, you know, having that confidence in your abilities, you know, sometimes it’s hard, you know, you feel like people focus on the disability, but you know, we all have things we may require assistance in doing. Right? And, you know, understanding that and hopefully having that confidence in yourself and hopefully, you know, being part of an organization that has that confidence as well.
Larry Baker: Yeah. Awesome. Thank you so much. And you know, Deb, with that statistics 75% with disabilities that are situational. I think that that’s incredible to realize that, again, it just speaks to the fact that it’s not focusing on one group. To try to benefit one group, you will be surprised that how many individuals can absolutely benefit from those accommodations. So I just want to thank both of you for this engaging conversation.
Definitely enlightening, allowing us to jump into this conversation with some really good action items and takeaway points for the folks that are going to be joining us in our podcast. So once again, Deb, Tracy, thank you so much for your participation and your engagement in this particular podcast.
Tracy Lee Mitchelson: Thanks, Larry for having me.
Deb Dagit: My pleasure.
Larry Baker: And to all of you that are listening, we want to 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.
Culture Moments: Holistic Health During a Pandemic
Published on: April 13, 2022
According to a recent study by Qualtrics, 58% of employees report their job is the main source of their mental distress. The pandemic only exacerbated this trend – further blurring the lines between “home” and “work.” But how did this impact the inequities we know already existed in access to healthcare among BIPOC communities?
In this Brave Conversation, Culture Moments podcast host Larry Baker is joined by guests Ariel McGrew, Business Psychologist at Tactful Disruption, and Dr. Harry Petaway, Director of Business Development and Community Engagement for the Forum on Workplace Inclusion and Creator of The Equity Community of Practice.
Within their conversation, they dive into what holistic health is, how the pandemic has impacted holistic health particularly for BIPOC communities, and what employers can do to support their employees’ holistic health.
Show Notes & Highlights
6:02: Larry asks our guests to break down what we mean when we use the term “holistic health”
8:25: Ariel addresses how the pandemic changed family and worker dynamics and how that connects to their mental health
13:30: Ariel, Harry, and Larry discuss how the murder of George Floyd provided a platform to have conversations about holistic health
17:10: Harry tells us to start with the data when addressing inequities in the workplace
34:48: Ariel highlights the new ways we are approaching mental health care and how access to mental health resources has changed
44:14: Harry talks about how understanding your benefits package is an essential first step in addressing your holistic health
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.
Larry Baker: Hello and welcome. On today’s episode, we take a deep dive into holistic health in the workplace, and we know that a person’s job has long been associated with stress. According to a study completed just last month by Qualtrics, 58% of employees report that their job is the main source of their mental distress.
The pandemic surely only made this worse with almost 70% of employees saying that remote work actually blurred the lines between home and work. Add to that, the fact that the pandemic exacerbated inequities and access to healthcare for BIPOC communities, and then we’re left with. Did the pandemic produce even greater negative effects on BIPOC communities, holistic health. We’ll explore these topics and more during today’s discussion.
And there is so much to unpack here. Luckily, today I am joined by two thought leaders. To help us with these questions, please welcome my guests Ariel McGrew, she’s a business psychologist at tactful disruption, LLC, and Harry Pettaway. He is the director of business development and community engagement for the forum on workplace inclusion.
I like to extend a greeting to both of you and right off the top. I would love for each of you to give us a brief introduction to who you are, what you do and why holistic health matters to you. So I will start with Ariel.
Ariel McGrew: Thank you, Larry. Um, so I’m a girl from the south side of Chicago who seen it on all accounts, right?
I would say that why holistic health matters to me is because I have this personal mission to be the Nike of mental health. And to really help people understand that there are intersections that have to be addressed. And that the reality of it is people don’t have access to psychological equity.
And then when you can be on the same playing field mentally, you can start to expand a lot of different areas, emotionally, spiritually, financially.
That’s all I’m going to say for now.
Larry Baker: Okay. Thank you so much Ariel and Harry, please. Same thing. Introduce yourself. Tell me a little about what you do and why this whole concept of holistic health matters.
Dr. Harry Petaway: Yeah, thanks Larry. And thanks for having me. And I feel like right now, I’ve got to give a shout out to Cleveland where I’m originally from, even though I’m living in Michigan right now.
So what I do, you know, I call myself a health equity advocate, a social impact entrepreneur. I’m currently I’m working with the forum on workplace inclusion, but I also have a couple of volunteer roles. So I co-chair the advocacy committee for the society for diversity, as well as co-chair the American cancer society’s health equity initiative.
And you know, and like, like I said, all things, uh, health equity, and I, you know, my, my doctorate program is through public health. So I look at everything from a public health lense, and it’s like, Ari was talking about, there’s so many interconnections that relate to these outcomes and, you know, equity as an outcome of all things.
That’s really why it’s important in holistic health. I’m glad we’re talking about this today because it’s everything. A lot of times I spend a lot of time in the healthcare field and a lot of times we look at health is what was your A1C number, right? What is your BMI period? And we stop at those things, but those people aren’t really well, they’re just you know, scoring well on whatever that current measure is. So the conversation that we’re having today is really important. And I’m especially excited to talk to Ari, considering her understanding of the psychological nature of the mind and how that relates to what we’re talking about today.
Larry Baker: Absolutely. Thank you so much, Harry. Thank you so much Ariel. And I definitely agree with you that this is such a timely conversation to have, because there are so many, as you mentioned, Harry, so many different aspects to this concept on holistic health. So let’s take a step back if we will. We’re going to start with the basics.
So describe for us, or give to the listeners a definition in regards to what is holistic. And why is it important to think about it specifically during this cultural moment after living through basically two years of a pandemic. So Harry, I’ll ask you to give me your definition of it and why it’s so important.
And then Ariel, same question. So Harry, if you would.
Dr. Harry Petaway: Yeah, my, my definition and hopefully I don’t bounce back and forth between too many industries, but you know it’s similar to healthcare’s whole person health, but it encompasses, you know, mind, body spiritual. It’s actually the entire person. I would like to even go so far as to say, it’s like, it’s your entire existence, you know, how you feel as a human being. And making sure that I’m use the term safe that you feel well, which is kind of vague, but that you are doing well on all those pillars for the things that make you whole. And you know, again, the reason why that’s so important especially from the mental aspect of it, is you may look well, but you don’t feel well. And how we perceive our reality is really what our reality is. So that’s why I think that holistic health is really an important topic today. It’s not new. Even though we’re talking about it more and more today, but I’m glad that we are.
Larry Baker: Thank you so much for that. Ariel. You’re response.
Ariel McGrew: I’m going to go with the American Holistic Healthcare Associations definition in that it’s a holistic, well, it’s like a holistic health approach to life. And if we want to go into the psychology of that, that’s a little bit of that reality therapy choice theory at Leary. And like, what is the lifestyle?
How are you impacted by those things? And how do they show up in areas and ways that make you recognize something’s not quite right that supports me in what I got going on. And I need to figure out how I can make what I need to happen “happen,” while at the same time supporting the structures that actually support me in being able to do that.
If that make sense.
Larry Baker: Okay. Yes, it does. Thank you so much. So Harry you did touch upon this earlier that you said, you know what, this really isn’t a new concept, right? And the reality is, is that we know that even before the pandemic, there were vast inequities and access to healthcare and the pandemic only exacerbated those gaps.
So I’ll start with you Ariel. Tell me what obstacles, my employees of color in particular, face in addressing their holistic health.
Ariel McGrew: So I like this question because it’s really loaded, right? It depends on where you were situated. Were are you in an essential employee? Right? Were you doing the home healthcare nursing, or were you in the leadership position that required you to adapt to technology to recognize that the diversity equity inclusion justice meant?
Well, I’m going to have to recognize that some mental health stuff is at play right now. Right. And are you one of those individuals who was treading that fine line as being a single home provider and your kids having to be home as well? Because your kids don’t know what the demands of your workday are, but they know they’ve got things going on.
So suddenly you’re a math teacher, you’re a science educator. You’re doing all these different things. And I think that it shows up that way, it showed up that way in the workplace. And then I think too, the reality that a lot of people got to sit down and be with themselves. And when I say sit down and be with themselves, it wasn’t the hustle and bustle of trying to make the train schedules to make those commutes.
It was, “oh,” excuse my language, “Shit. I got problems. And I haven’t been able to address them for real.” And now that I’ve been sitting here and I realized that if I have more control over how I do output, like my productivity looks like this because there are other things that I want to do, I can get that done.
But that also meant that marijuana use went up. Alcohol dependence went up. You know there, and then it was just the reality of like, if there were difficult conversations already in play, the pandemic, especially at the beginning of the shelter in place, made it easy to detach. And so now when you come back into this hybrid work model it’s like, I don’t even know how to be, because I’m used to being in my energy now.
I don’t really want to interact with certain people.
Larry Baker: Right. Wow. Yeah, you really did take it to the different levels, things that I really didn’t even think of that we would go down that path with that particular question. But thank you so much for that insight. Harry, a little bit of pressure on you now but same question. So we’ll talk about some of those obstacles that, you know, employees of color might face in the workplace, specifically around this topic.
Dr. Harry Petaway: So I’ll go ahead here. And I really think I can only try to build on some of the things that are already said. I’m really glad that you brought up essential workers and not just essential workers in healthcare. But I think that if you look at the data, a lot of the people doing the cleaning and whatnot, a lot of those people were, you know, Black and Brown people.
So they didn’t get the, I’m going to go so far as to say it, the rest for the people that thought that the remote work was the rest. To be able to sit back and take in the pandemic, you know, see what was going on on YouTube and the internet and those types of things. You know, they really didn’t get that in the hours that they work, the pressures that they were under the stress, you know, am I going to get COVID, having to go back to their families?
You know that that’s tremendous. Let alone, if we talk about the preventative care and things that those people needed to be able to follow up with wasn’t really available. So for things like cancer screening, mental health was taxed out. You know, there weren’t enough mental health providers.
Now when we get back to a remote worker, even some of these essential workers, I love that you were talking about, you know, sitting with themselves. And so I say, like I had time to spend in my feelings, right. To be, you know, to get into my feelings. That’s tough. You know, under any circumstances for a lot of people, let alone the stigma associated with a lot of people of color as it relates to getting mental health or mental health help or even talking about it with their peers.
Another thing that I will talk about, and this is going to be a catch 22, because you know, it could also be a benefit, but in a remote environment, it’s difficult to navigate those situations, right? If you don’t have the network that some of your white counterparts have, you know, in-person initially during the pandemic that may have carried over into your remote space.
So you’re kind of on an island where that starts to become a problem or things like not understanding my benefits, my benefits package include the mental health or preventative health. You know, those types of things that are all of a sudden there. And you know, Ari really touched on it. The family environment changes, you know, your kids are there, your husband and your wife are there.
What are those pressures like? One more obstacle and I, I don’t know if it’s an obstacle, but it might be a little bit of fire to the flame has to do with, you know, from a remote work standpoint, to just see everything that was going on around you. Everything on LinkedIn.
I hate bringing up the, you know, the George Floyd, but you know, just all of that, just being able to consume that at once and having everyone contacting you, be like, “oh, I didn’t know. What can I do about it?” But those are, those are what I think some of the obstacles are. It’s just how to weed through that and access to care that you need
Ariel McGrew: Can I speak to the right quick?
Larry Baker: Absolutely.
Ariel McGrew: Harry, I heard you, when you say I hate bringing up the George Floyd thing, but it’s like, I’m glad that that happened at a place where everybody could see that this is a conversation we’re going to have to stop avoiding. And I think that, that, that presented a whole ‘nother, I mean, we’re talking about like in the, in, in the workplace, but that also forced people into entrepreneurship because just as much as we had essential employees and we had leaders trying to be more innovative, we had a lot of people who lost their jobs, who, who don’t have you know, they lost everything with that, right. Or, or people who had had their businesses for forever. And you’d have never known that they were struggling to make all those ends meets. Right? And so when you’re talking about holistic health care, that is stress management, financial management, it’s all of these things compounded into one and it’s like, but it took for this one conversation to make it clear that all these things are happening simultaneously.
And you have to figure out which part of this conversation you can effectively be a part of.
Dr. Harry Petaway: Absolutely. Can I tag onto that one? I don’t want to take us off track. So, and this is, this is why it’s interesting. You know, I have to watch my bias when we have conversations because I look at everything from a public health lens.
Right. And so, you know, we talk about the pandemic. Now, a lot of people immediately pandemic one. COVID right. Then you hear people say the double pandemic, the triple pandemic. So racism, pandemic, mental health problems, pandemic. So what’s been unique about this event is all of those things that compounded, which are not called the pandemic, and the George Floyd thing, you know, in the DEI space-wise why it’s interesting for us is that, um, that’s kind cool. For saying, you know, we say we were doing this work before the pandemic that’s code word for “before George Floyd”. Right. So that’s, that’s a safe way to kind of ease that conversation. But, but thanks for letting me add that in there.
Larry Baker: Yeah, no, that’s absolutely beneficial to the conversation because this point is something that I’ve always been excited about.
Right. Because I agree with Ariel it’s like, I was glad that it happened. Because I think that we were engaging in a false sense in this country that everything was fine. And it’s kind of similar to holistic health because if I’m not walking around with a physical disability, like you can’t see my arm in a sling, or you can’t see me using crutches, then you think everything is okay with me.
And it’s awesome for us to have that conversation that we need to make space for those folks who really aren’t okay. Mentally, financially, whatever the case may be. And those are the things that may not be as obvious to the naked eye. Same with the pandemic of, like you said Harry, racism, right? It wasn’t plain and clear to the naked eye until everyone’s stopped.
And you could not dispute the fact that this happened. So I think it’s a wonderful correlation in this conversation. So I’m glad that we went there. Now, the next thing I want to ask you. Is because one of the things that I love to do is to provide information for organizations to potentially provide solutions.
So I’m going to start with you, Harry, if I were to hire you as a CEO of a corporation, and I said, Harry, how do I begin to address those disparities in the workplace? What would your response be?
Dr. Harry Petaway: I mean, and I’m sure I will appreciate this as a doctoral student. The first thing is you need, you need the data.
You need to really understand what’s going on in your organization. A lot of times, especially since the George flood incident, everybody kind of jumped in, but not really. It’s, you know, it’s more performative to say these are the things that we’re doing. Look at us, you know, brown faces in spaces, you know, things, things like that as they, as they hire different people, but they really don’t understand, what their employees need.
So I think that’s the first thing and I don’t necessarily mean, you know, a typical engagement survey or anything like that. I mean, really get into who are your employees? Where do they live? What are some of the situations that they have? Another thing that I would really suggest is to assess your benefits package, right?
So there’s. There’s some great work out there by a woman by the name of Cassandra Rose, where she talks about benefits, equity. It’s not something that we talk about a lot, but if you don’t understand your benefits, you don’t have the right type of, of benefits. You know, you’re not able to do those things.
The next thing that I would do is that I would include the employees. So there’s this concept that when you say is a community-based participatory research, right? Fancy word, community design, or design principles, you know, that’s, that’s, that’s another way of putting it. But what that really means is working with the employees to find out what is it that you need? How do we address that? And then it’s a continuous iterative cycle of, is this working? Let’s assess it. What do we need to tweak and change? But coming in as a CEO in it, and I think this is a fault for a lot of organizations right now is that they look for what’s popular.
They kinda throw it out there. They put it on their web pages. They say, this is what we’re doing, but it really doesn’t have, have a lot of… yeah.
Larry Baker: That’s good because you you’re prescribing to something, but I’ll often say to clients when, you know, they, they ask us to put on different training programs.
Right? It’s all about that diagnosis, right? My statement is, hey, if you haven’t done any diagnosis and you throw out a prescription, that’s essentially malpractice. You would never just accept your doctor giving you a prescription without even asking you any questions. Right. Right. So it kind of speaks to that whole concept.
So I’m glad you went there, Harry. Thank you so much. So Ariel, same question to you. I hire you to come into my organization and I say, so how do we begin to address some of these disparities in the workplace to which your response would be…
Ariel McGrew: Let’s have a meeting in an hour, let’s all excess our ignorance.
Let’s find out what it is we don’t know because you’re asking me to come in with a solution set. And I first need you to tell me what you actually think the problem is. And once we’ve got a clear understanding of a defined problem in this particular organization, then we can realistically create a plan that is inclusive of everyone.
That could be executed in a timely manner, but until then, realistically, I need to understand what it is you understand about the problem you’re asking me to address. That’s honestly how I do that because you know, I’m one of those people, like, have you met me? Like, I don’t have a traditional approach to anything.
But I do understand the importance of recognizing that there are multiple competing perspectives and those do need to be laid out before we can just say, here’s why we’re going to go do X, Y, and Z, especially if they don’t include the voices you’re trying to serve.
Larry Baker: Yeah. Awesome. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So like, I want to, because we, we keep going back and forth around remote work and I think that that is something, in my opinion, that’s going to continue. And, and a question that I’ve often thought about is how can we prioritize all parts of our health and begin to look at the complete person as this phenomenon of remote work continues. So Ariel, I’ll ask you to start that, how do we prioritize our holistic health as this remote work continues?
Ariel McGrew: So I think it’s twofold, right? A lot of it is whatever organization you’re attached to, but then a lot of it is you as the individual, right? Like, so I’m in the United States military. I understand I have to get up and work out. I also have understands their trial and error, if I work out earlier in the day, I’m going to get a lot more accomplished on the back end versus if I do that in the middle of the day. So I understand structure and planning in fairness. It’s just kind of doing things on a whim. But I also am a spiritual practitioner. So a lot of me is spirituality and I work for myself.
So that makes a huge difference, right? Versus individuals who might now understand that they don’t respond well to autonomy, right? Remote work has made it very clear to some people autonomy is not the thing. And you mentioned earlier about like the invisible disabilities for some people it’s probably the first time they recognize they probably have a neurodivergent traits, ADHD symptoms. Some people work better in a team because those weaknesses can be covered by others versus when they’re working by themselves. And it’s like, “oh shit, I have difficulty concentrating.” Right. Right. Like, and because I have difficulty concentrating, I have to put in extra effort.
So I’m probably not going to meet the deadlines like I would have if I was on the team because I’m thriving off of that energy. And then I think you have an opportunity for those individuals who have more intensive characteristics and qualities to really rise to the occasion because they’re not competing with the louder voices sometimes. Right?
It’s like they can get things done and they can show up holistically the way, the reason that matters is because there’s a lot more ownership of how you get to show up, right? Like you get to do the thing for the organization, but you get to do the thing for self. And as long as you’re striking some level of balance, which is not realistic, right?
Like when you really want something you really have to put in the sweat, blood and tears for it. And that sometimes looks like, you know, early mornings, later nights because you want that thing. Right. And sometimes you’d have to be a little delusional. I’m not advocating for psychopathy by any means, but you have to be a little delusional to, to actualize certain dreams.
And, and that’s across the board, even if it’s not for an organization, even if it’s one you’re building, right. Yeah. Identifying what are, who are teased strategic partners, who are the perfect centers of influence? What makes the most sense to move in that direction? How do I sustain this at a time where it doesn’t even seem realistic to be like, I’m going to do this thing in the middle of the pandemic while all these people are losing jobs and no, I can’t afford to hire anybody, but at the same time I could afford to say, this is what I want and then generate an income for myself, right?
Like there’s, there’s a variety of things that pop up that way. And then you still have those who have the children. Right. You still have to consider, okay. A lot of babies are produced during the pandemic. I’m sure we’ve noticed that. Right. So, you know, like if you’re already not in that situation where you’re commanding the income you want, and now you have an additional, you know, Responsibility that requires a lot of money having to think about like what that means to, to prioritize taking care of your family.
Right. That self actualization is gonna look a lot different. So I wholeheartedly say that it is twofold. It’s just as much about the individual as it is about the organizations that they’re going to work with.
Larry Baker: Okay. Thank you, Harry. Your turn. How do we prioritize all parts of our health? You know as this complete person and being in this world of remote work. So what your, what are your thoughts about.
Dr. Harry Petaway: Yeah, I think, how we prioritize depends on how you prioritize the before as well. Right? So, so one of the things that you talked about in terms of, uh, health outcomes is that there were disparities before the pandemic.
So. Why this is interesting for me is that, you know, when you fill disclaimer, I’m a little biased on this. I’ve been in remote work since 2003. And so I had some frustration and I also classify myself as an introvert with an extroverted skillset. So as the rest of the world came into remote. I had to check my bias a little bit because I’d get frustrated when people would just get so stressed out or we have to have a happy hour because they’re trying to mimic, you know, this, this culture that they used to have before, uh, remote work.
But what I think is interesting is that I think that there’s some individuals that might have been more aligned with holistic health because they had the structure of going to work every day. I had to get up to go to the gym because I have to get my car, you know, to drive, to work, to do these things.
That structure was there. You mentioned it earlier though, is that those lines of work in life are blurred for a lot of people when they go into a remote environment. So I remember when I first started remote. I had to turn off, I was going crazy. I had to figure out how to turn off my phone. Cause I had never had a smartphone before.
It went off. Every single alert you can imagine nonstop all day long. And it took me a while to learn how to manage that. But what I think the most important thing that people can do to prioritize holistic health. And this goes back to when I said it is not, it’s not new. So if anybody familiar with Franklin Covey or any of those planners or anything, all those principles are built around, you know, those pillars, you know, mind spiritual, intellectual, those things.
And it’s an intentional effort to organize those in a way that works for you. The other piece for that though, is it all this work? Um, Requires practice. So practice and persistence. You try it, you try it. It doesn’t work. You have to keep trying. I also think in a virtual environment, something that’s new is something that we looked at from a public health standpoint is it especially for people of color or any group that is not the majority, the virtual environment has given us an opportunity to create community and connect with people that are not next to us. So if I have a challenge, I don’t have to worry about what Jan and the cube next to me is doing. I can connect with Ari, I saw her on LinkedIn.
You know, I can identify with some of the things that we’re talking about, you know, “how can you help me?” What are some of the things that we can work on together? So I think that the remote, um, environment, while it has some challenges, this shift to how we connect with each other, how we create community.
How we communicate is an opportunity for us to, um, enhance some of those areas, because now I can say, “Hey, Larry, you know, can we talk about spirituality? You know, can we, can we talk about this? Can we work on this? Can you give me some recommendations or I don’t know how to do it”, but you know, maybe Jake does, you know, that type of thing.
So I think there’s some opportunities there.
Larry Baker: Yeah. That’s a great point Harry. I mean, I have noticed that my net. Has expanded almost tenfold in the last couple of years, because now I, instead of spending a lot of time commuting to, and from the office, that’s given me two more hours that I didn’t have before.
So I definitely liked that aspect of, you know, the benefits to remote work. I think that some of that gets lost in the wash. I know that you have experience working with, uh, different organizations and maybe even individuals as well. So for me, I’d like to ask if you have some, what are some good examples or maybe even not so good examples of how organizations address employees mental health or holistic health that you can share.
So, Harry, I’ll ask you to go first.
Dr. Harry Petaway: I’m trying to stay on the positive.
Larry Baker: Say what’s on your mind.
Dr. Harry Petaway: So the reason, the reason why I’m say I’m just gonna tell you where my mind is going, because this is, this is interesting, you know, going back to when people try to recreate the in-person experience, right?
Me as an introvert would an extroverted skillset, this idea that after five o’clock we’re going to have a remote happy hour. We’re going to have a remote dinner. You need to be there now. So they don’t necessarily tell you that you have to be there, but if you’re not there, why aren’t you there? You know, the VP was there.
Whoever’s there. Now, your family has been around you all day. Your kids are there, your spouse is there. You know what I mean? Like you have been at work all day. And so the work, some of these things that we’ve done to try to help people. And again, as an introvert, when an extrovert is still said, I need time to recharge.
It’s difficult turning on you. Hold on. I’m gonna, I’m gonna try not to shift to top shifted too many topics. But this extension of the workday, with some of the happy hour things, good intentions. That’s great, but be mindful of what you’re asking people to do. And why it’s important. Another thing that’s been interesting is, and you’ve, you’ve seen some comments about it, the idea of turn on your camera, turn on your camera for connections and things like that.
Again, for a lot of people that’s intimidating. So instead of you being in your cube, you know, getting, getting your work done occasionally going into a meeting, you were literally, you know, at least top half camera ready all day long, all day long, you know? So, those are some challenges. Another one. And again, I’m sorry that I’m on some of the negatives, but you know, some of the employee resource groups that were created, so, employee resource groups that is a phrase that’s thrown around. ERG BRGs, employee driven teams, you know, every there’s some variation, um, for every organization, but some of them are really strong in terms of affinity groups. Right? So that’s, especially, you know, people of color coming together. Genders, orientations, whatever it is to address their specific needs to provide each other with the support that they need.
Right. Some of those were great, especially when they have executive sponsors that get behind them. Another trend, however, is that when some of these affinity groups are started and I’m going to call it diversity, diluting is when the organization comes in and says, no, we want to unite you with everyone else.
Right? So instead of divide and conquer, it’s unite in conquer. So instead of issues of me as a Black man talking about mentorship, mental health, and wellness, you know, having that type of conversation, it’s now me as a Black man, but now I have to include everyone. And instead of support, For the group, it becomes an awareness committee for whichever month it is.
So again, I didn’t mean to go to the negative because I think I’ve seen these things done well, you know, Microsoft does it well, Pinterest does it. Well, Reddit does it. Well, other organizations who I’m not gonna call out, don’t do it. Don’t do it so well. Right. But again for marketing performative, a lot of people call it, woke washing, you know, you, you and I, if we didn’t know who they were and we didn’t spend time in those organizations, you’re trying to work with them.
You know, we wouldn’t know any difference.
Larry Baker: Yeah, that’s a great point, Harry. I absolutely agree with that. So your turn Ari, I’ll tell me about some good examples or not. So good examples of how organizations are addressing employees, mental health, holistic health, uh, whichever you choose. So
Ariel McGrew: I agree with almost everything Harry said, I was just at a panel for Reddit about Black identity in the corporate space. And, um, I love that they didn’t record it. It was just their Black resource group. Um, and they got to have an honest conversation. But I would say the organizations that bring in outside resources to me, those are the ones that do it well. So I would say like, we don’t really look at universities, but like as a professor at Pepperdine, I know there’s always something available to the students.
And, and I think that when we have these conversations, it is limited to who gets to be a part of them. And it’s like, okay, we’re talking about all people. That means regardless of where they are in society right now, this is an issue they are still dealing with as well. So I would say organizations that I see do it well, just as a resource, the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, right.
They’ve got a peer recovery group for almost everything. Right. Um, I don’t think people often look at that as a non-traditional means to addressing mental health stuff. Right. Or even just providing the resources. I saw an uptick of mental health organizations come up, right? Like there’s, there’s apps now available for how you’re going to get the help talk space, better help.
I would even go so far as to say, before she quit, Netflix right? Like, I, I think that there was a lot that was going on across the board with organizations for how to have these conversations. And it had to do with like being in whatever niche they were. So it was, you know, recreating programming, how people will be entertained.
Uh, like I think the popular thing over the pandemic was, was at Bridgeton. I don’t know how to pronounce it. Right? Like, it’s like, that’s not the traditional way we see this. But that was like dialogue sparking for everyone. Like, damn, like, let me situate myself with how I actually understand what schema I want to be a part of.
Right. How I’m going to play up, play a role in this. And I think there’s a variety of different things. I mean, just from the world that I’m in Mental Health Association of America, the American Psychological Association finally has like, “oh, we apologize. We didn’t realize racism is a thing.” Oh no. Cause like all the founders of psychology are old white men from Europe
Yeah, I know you didn’t get it. Right. So there’s, there’s a variety of lenses to look at it from. So I can’t categorically say it’s this one group or that one group as much as it is across the board. When I think about the things that are most important, I think the education piece is always going to be there.
I think leadership and uncertainty is, is very real regardless of industry. And I think that that affects all of this. When we talk about holistic health.
Larry Baker: Awesome. Thank you.
Dr. Harry Petaway: You know, one of the, one of the things that Ari talked about had to do with those apps. So I, you know, some of the, it I’ve, I’ve worked with health information exchanges and all kinds of things, but I think those apps are really important, um, for, from, from two, two different aspects, one is Cerebral and another one of them, but one, it gives, um, Us as employees, individuals, and opportunity to seek care in ways that we may not have been able to get before.
You know, we talked before about, there’s a shortage of providers. You know, you get into rural communities and things like that. And there’s, I mean, it’s really a shortage in providers in terms of access, but these apps are very helpful, especially if the employer can support providing those apps for the employees.
So some type of financial assistance to actually get that. And another thing that I’ve seen employees taking responsibility themselves, but then again, the employer has to, the employer can help them achieve. This is creating virtual communities, which are a little bit different than employee resource groups.
It’s just a safe place to go and be. Period just to be, to be you, whoever you are, talk about, you know, whatever it is you saw on Netflix or what was on the news or in Ukraine, whatever, whatever it is, but just to have a safe place to go and talk to people and express yourself.
Larry Baker: Yeah, that’s great. So if I’m you know, this is just a lot of great conversation and I believe that, you know, there’s some things that we can do as action steps. So I am, let’s say that I’m an employee. I’m wanting to really look to take care of my health in this holistic manner, what are some action steps or best practices, if you will, that I can do to go on this journey of ensuring that my holistic health is a priority? So I’m going to ask Ariel, if you would start us off in that conversation and then Harry, give me some of your best practices.
And I know a lot of it depends on the individual, but I mean, in general, I have nowhere to start. What type of action steps would you recommend?
Ariel McGrew: I think Harry brought this up earlier about the benefits packages. You know, there are some organizations who have partnered with different gyms to get, you know, a percentage off of gym membership.
I believe that, you know, having some type of financial management course that they could go and participate in whenever they’re ready is, you know, a wise approach. I think in general, if you’re wanting to start your journey, stress management is the first place to start, right? Like if your job is stressful and you know that you probably want to identify what those high stressors are, and once you’ve identify those move in the direction towards resolving those personal discrepancies.
So, you know, if it’s recognizing that you, you need more social support. Finding out what’s available with the organization, as far as social support goes, like, are there company outings that you could participate in? Are there like camp, like, adventure trips or et cetera? Does the company even do like a yearly meetup retreat of some sort, right.
Would that be helpful to. Yeah. You know, I’ve, I’ve had the luxury of being able to work with organizations that do that every year. We, we all go to some off-site location and get to know the rest of the team, you know, and find out things about each other and, you know, you’re never solely, um, having to figure it all out by yourself, right?
There are other people who have resources. So simply making the ask. I think if, if you’re going to start the journey being realistic about like your level of comfort with vulnerability is, is a great place to start as well saying, like, “I need support in this area because here’s my current struggle.”
A lot of people don’t do that. Right. They’ll, they’ll talk around the subject, the issue, right? They’ll they’ll say it’s these things and really it’s these things. So that’s why I starting with those stressors are become really important. And then, you know, speaking to qualified experts. I want to say about this pandemic is I saw a whole bunch of people come to the surface and I was like, “please, somebody tell me why we just gave that man a platform.”
I need to understand this. Like, I think that’s important, right? Like talk to the right people, you know, not, not everybody that anybody can and not everybody in anybody’s quality of advice is helpful. So be mindful that you speak to the people who are going to assist you. In a way that you genuinely feel connected because holistic health is about like you genuinely wanting to show up for yourself, which means being very real with yourself.
What’s going on here.
Larry Baker: Yeah, that’s good. That’s good, Harry, your turn.
Dr. Harry Petaway: I’m still laughing. Cause I’m still laughing because I’m an aspiring creator, you know? So I’m like she talking about me. I don’t let him give the wrong advice. You know, there’s, there was a lot, a lot in there with what Ari said. So my, my advice would be you need to get to know yourself.
But the key of what Ari said for me is this it’s this vulnerability, right? So, in public health, we have this, a traditional model, the health belief model. Right? So the first part about the health belief model is it, you have to believe that holistic health is real. Right? Holistic health is something I might, you know, be able to get it and it’s worth my time and energy to go after it.
So the first part about that to me is to understand your world view. I, you know, I say things like recognize your bias. That’s a whole other conversation, but really understand who you are and where you fit in there. You probably need to go and really dig into what is holistic health. So, again, that kind of goes back to some of the, for me, it’s going back to some of the things that ours has be careful who you listen into, because there’s good.
Good and bad about what came out during the pandemic. You know, some of the good is that the internet has been flooded with content, you know, podcasts. Here we go. Experts, live streams, whatever, you know, that’s positive. But you, you might need to look beyond the production to make sure the person that’s talking knows what they’re talking about.
So, so, so be a little weary about, about what that is, but my suggestion is to get to know yourself where you’re at. Understand what your goals might be for holistic health. And it’s this one it’s going to sound, I don’t know how it’s going to sound, but I think that structuring your time and planning, whether you have to get on the internet and search Franklin Covey or buy a Franklin Covey planner or whatever, but find, something online that can give you some structure on how to manage your time, or manage your mind space on those different pillars as it relates to holistic health. I personally think that that would be one of the most beneficial things, because if you can manage your time in those buckets, it you’re visualizing it you’re understanding it. And you understand that you need to invest time and energy in those different areas. So, awareness, you know, get your Google on or whatever it is, you know, to get to understand yourself benefits, pay. For sure understand what’s in your benefits package. I mean, there’s things, gym memberships, like Ari said, what is your mental health and wellness benefit?
Employee assistance programs are something that I don’t think enough people tap into. And the benefit with employee assistance programs are that there’s no, co-pay. There, there’s literally, there’s a lot of people just waiting for you to call because you know, your, your employer bought a package that they don’t really understand, so they can’t explain it to you.
So they don’t know that you can talk to somebody about financial wellness. You know, my, my mother passed away earlier this year. I could have used some grief counseling, you know, those types of things. They provide things like, um, Couples counseling, dealing with your kids, you know, in a certain level of benefits before you have to get referred to, you know, into the network and actually playing.
Ariel McGrew: So for those. I know all about this employee systems program, showing sometimes people don’t realize that short solution-focused brief therapy here. You’re not going to get more than six sessions out of that. So would you, you’re telling them to go plan it’s it’s it’s like, as you said, like, really understand why that’s a short-term benefit and why you have to actually think about the continuity of care they’re after.
Dr. Harry Petaway: Absolutely. And you know that, so that goes back to the point about like understanding your benefits in general. Because we’re getting into this nuanced conversation about what type of benefit that is, how it works. Um, but what you need to be prepared for afterwards. So I, I appreciate you brought that up because me saying that out loud, I think you would have understood how, what the limits were, but whoever’s listening might understand, might not have gotten, okay, now it’s going to stop and then you’re going to go somewhere else.
Ariel McGrew: Yeah. Well , I think sometimes people don’t know models of therapy, right? We talk about holistic care as this all encompassing thing, but there are approaches that are more appropriate for some people than others. So the short-term solution focus is actually evidence-based approved to be most effective. I can tell you all my clinical clients are white all my mental health clients are Black and Hispanic. They don’t want to waste their time. They want to give me what I need to do. Help me understand this and this, because I have that very military approach. Like you don’t come to me with this BS, if you’re not going to change it, because at the end of the day, nothing changes until you can change.
So if we’re talking about holistic care and you’re saying you want all these things, you have to understand, you have to be willing to undergo change,
Larry Baker: Yeah, that’s a great point. And it, for the last part of the particular for this podcast, I was just going to give you an opportunity to say something that, you know, we may not have addressed.
So if you had a closing thought. That you wanted to share with my audience? What would that be? So, Ariel, I’m going to ask you to go first. Give me your closing thought when it comes to holistic health care and Harry, I’ll ask you to do the same thing in regard to your closing thoughts. So Ariel, if you would
Ariel McGrew: Sure.
I would say, do what makes the most sense for you, but be realistic about that? You know, so if you’re struggling financially, you can fix that. But if you’re lazy, that’s a whole ‘nother thing. You gotta be realistic about them. And if you’re going to go, because there are holistic practitioners out there, I would just caveat this.
And this is I stand by this. Not every therapist is a healer, not every healer is a clinician and not every clinician will minister to your soul. You have to understand what you need at that given point of time when you’re coming across people who you are enlisting to support you in your growth,
Dr. Harry Petaway: I want to, so, you know, one of the things that we didn’t talk about a lot is responsibility. And is it the employer’s responsibility? Or is it the employee or the individual responsibility? I’m going to say yes. Right? Just, just across the board. It’s yes. I think that employees should understand how their structures are set in how, what they do, what their culture is like, how that impacts their employees.
Holistic health, holistic health equity. I don’t know if anybody uses that, but it is an outcome of a lot of inputs. So I think we need to understand as an employer, what our role is into those things. Now that said, this is, you know, I’m gonna try not to get on my soap box, but as individuals, we need to own our stuff.
Right. We need to own the quality of our lives, not be victims, right. And take opportunities to make our lives better. Live the lives that we want to be. And if there’s something in your way of that, you find a way around it now. That’s, those are harsh words…
Ariel McGrew: Reality is not soft.
Yeah, and I, and I don’t mean it in a way, but what I, what I want people to understand employers, you absolutely have a role to play in this and don’t hide behind anything and say, you know, that’s, that’s not our issue, but as an individual, we can’t afford to have people do things for us all the time, because it may never happen.
It may not happen. Three years from now, right. You know, four years from now, we put together a program in place to help you. Well, I needed that help, you know, before all the rest of the bad stuff happened with me. So back to, you know, Educate yourself, understand your worldview, decide the type of life that you want to live.
And, you know, Ari set up said that the “V” word, you know, you need to be vulnerable, right? You need to admit to some of your shortcomings, but it’s okay. Wherever you are. When you do your self assessment about what you are right now, that’s who you are on your story. Go forward and try to make your life better.
You need to take responsibility for that.
Larry Baker: That’s great. Thank you both so much for this conversation. I think that you have shed some light on some topics that quite frankly, a lot of people have never really taken the time to stop and think about. So I appreciate each one of you and our conversation today, I’m going to give you an opportunity, Harry, if my listeners want to get in contact with you, give me a piece of your contact information that would be best.
Dr. Harry Petaway: And I think the best place to find me right now, I’m focused a lot of my energy on, on LinkedIn. I’m trying to put out some relevant content, a live stream. So reach out to me on LinkedIn. I’d love it. If you follow me I’m always looking for conversations like this. So if there’s anything we talk about that you want to just, even if it’s just one-on-one I want to take a deep dive, you know, just hit me up.
Larry Baker: Awesome. Ariel, same with you. How do I reach out to you?
Ariel McGrew: Tactfuldisruption.co. C O is not a type-o, there was no M. But if you want to find out like what, I’m about, I highly recommend going to our YouTube. Look at our tik toks before you decide to engage with me. Cause it’s not what you’re used to, but it’s definitely going to benefit you in the long run.
And our reviews are all over the internet. You can google us.
Larry Baker: Awesome. Thank you both so much for this enlightening conversation. And again, I truly think that there was some information shared that will allow folks to take charge of their own holistic health and their own wellbeing. So thank you so much for your time and your participation.
Culture Moments: What Mentorship Means
Published on: March 16, 2022
Mentorship. You know the term. You’re familiar with the concept. But what does it mean to truly foster a meaningful mentorship in the workplace?
In this Brave Conversation, Culture Moments podcast host Larry Baker is joined by guests Lisa Fain, CEO of The Center for Mentoring Excellence, Kamillah Knight, Senior Global Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Danaher Corporation, and LCW’s own Tamara Thorpe, Senior Consultant and the founder of Real Mentors Network.
Together, they explore what it means to form an authentic mentorship, why mentorship matters, the different forms mentorship can take, and what it looks like to put this conversation into action and pursue a mentorship in your own workplace.
Show Notes & Highlights
3:25: Lisa shares her belief that meaningful relationships are at the core of “moving the needle” in the workplace
10:15: Kamillah tells us what a reverse mentorship looks like and its benefits
12:05: Lisa calls out the beauty of co-creating relationships in a mentorship context
19:10: Tamara discusses what was lacking in the older, “traditional” model of mentorship
23:45: Tamara shares her insights on why cross-cultural mentorships might fail
38:45: Kamillah explains how sponsorship relationships go beyond a mentorship relationship
40:40: Larry asks each guest to share what steps can be taken to start your own mentorship in the workplace
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.
Mentorship. We all know the term and we might have our own ideas of what it means. What does mentorship look like in the workplace and how can we foster truly meaningful mentorships? In this episode, we’ll explore what it means to form an authentic mentorship by talking about why mentorship matters, what the benefits of mentorship are, and we’ll wrap our conversation up by discussing what it looks like to put this all into action.
Today. I am thrilled to be joined by three thought leaders in this space. I’m pleased to introduce Lisa Fain, who is the CEO of the Center for Mentoring Excellence, Kamillah Knight, the Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Danaher Corporation, and LCWs own Tamara Thorpe, a senior consultant and she’s also the founder of the Real Mentors Network.
But I am going to allow each one of them to just give us a brief introduction in regard to who you are, what you do and why mentorship matters to you. So, Lisa, if you could kick us off with that conversation.
Lisa Fain: Thanks. Larry. I’m so happy to be here and so honored to be on a panel with two esteemed colleagues.
Um, so I’m Lisa Fain, as you mentioned, CEO of Center for Mentoring Excellence based in Seattle, Washington and founded in 1992 by Lois J. Zachary who, in addition to being the author of many books on mentoring is also my mother and I came to mentoring really, very surreptitiously. I’m a former management side employment, lawyer, who fell into the world of diversity, equity and inclusion.
When I went in-house to a company that was a wonderful company, but had not, uh, had neither the representation or the inclusion that I had wanted to see and was given the opportunity to really lead that. And in the course of doing the work of diversity, equity and inclusion, I really began to believe, um, and Kamillah, I’m interested in your thoughts on this as well, but I really began to believe that where you start to see the needle move in the workplace is when there’s meaningful relationships across difference in the workplace.
You can have all the programs you want and the programs are important and they’re foundational, but until there’s action and there’s relationships, you really don’t see the needle move. And it wasn’t until our women’s group wanted a mentoring program that I actually called up my mom and said, what are we going to do?
And she came in and led the kickoff for the mentoring program. And I had this epiphany that the frustration that I had been seeing in leading DEI and moving the needle forward, and the belief that relationship was the solution and, uh, the depth of mentoring and the power of mentoring really could be synergistic.
It’s proven out in the data sense and the research sense, but also my own experience. So I moved into this role and really with an effort to help create a more inclusive work environments through mentoring.
Larry Baker: Awesome. Thank you so much for that. So since you kind of queued her up, I’m going to ask Kamillah to introduce herself and tell us why mentorship matters to you.
Kamillah Knight: Thanks, Larry. Um, so my name is Kamillah Knight and I’m currently the Global Director of Diversity and Inclusion for Danaher Corporation’s water quality platform. My D&I background spans across different corporations, including Unilever and Ferrero. I consider myself to be what I call a change superhero, working to change the way that people interact with their environment, whether that’s their physical environment or with other people.
And I put this purpose into place not only through my day job, but also through community outreach, championing DE&I education, as well as through coaching and consulting.
For me, mentorship is important because it allows people to actually build relationships which can help to guide one in their careers and their actions.
You can have a mentorship relationship, which is between someone who’s senior and someone who’s junior with a senior person might be the person that’s providing that insight, but you can also have a reverse mentorship relationship with a junior person is also helping to guide a senior person and providing insight on something like culture, for instance.
So mentorship is productive. For all parties involved.
Larry Baker: Awesome. Thank you so much for that excellent description and last but never least, Tamara. Please introduce yourself and tell us why mentorship matters to.
Tamara Thorpe: Thank you, Larry. And, as Lisa said, it’s great to be here with everyone. Um, my name is Tamara Thorpe and I am a senior consultant with LCW.
I come to my work at LCW with about 20 years experience in global leadership and diversity. And in that journey in my career as I was exploring how we develop. Culturally competent leaders I began to see the power of mentoring. And similarly, as Lisa said, I started to see these connections as somebody who, had incredible mentors growing up, completely shaped and informed my life and my career.
And as somebody who was very passionate about mentoring others, I started to recognize that mentoring wasn’t something that just happened informally, but it can happen formally. Then, the benefits that can come when we look at how do we navigate our differences within an organization.
And so for 10 years or so, I’ve been best known as the millennials mentor. And I’ve spent a lot of that time and work, helping organizations bridge the generational gap that we’ve seen grow over the last 10 years and seen within the work that I’ve done, that mentoring is a really powerful way to help bridge our differences.
And when we can create those kind of mutual mentoring relationships, where folks are learning from one another. It then becomes a really powerful tool, uh, for people to develop their cultural competence for organizations to share that institutional knowledge and wisdom and for organizations to be more sustainable, more inclusive.
And we know that the database backs all of that up. And so I have been a real champion for mentorship. And as you said, I am the founder of the Real Mentors Network, which is a web-based platform that provides an opportunity for people to be matched with mentors. I want to make sure that mentoring is as accessible as possible for individuals, for leaders in organizations.
And that’s just because I know that mentoring has played such a powerful role in my own work.
Larry Baker: Awesome. Thank you so much for that Tamara. And as you can see, we have three individuals that have very deep relationships in regards to this topic on mentorships. And I want us to take a step back and then dig a little bit deeper into this concept of mentorship.
So Kamillah, you mentioned different type of mentorship when you talked about reverse mentoring. So if you could elaborate on that and maybe give us a definition of what you consider to be mentorship, but really highlight that concept that you’ve mentioned on reverse mentoring.
Kamillah Knight: Absolutely. So for me, a mentorship relationship or a mentor really, is someone who is a coach to you, they make time for you.
They can help stiffen your backbone if you will. Um, and it’s also an ongoing and continuous relationship. They also are a sounding board in a sense, you know, they provide you with. And generally a mentorship relationship allows for information to flow, usually in one direction where one party is sharing some wisdom, sharing insights, sharing their experiences, and really helping the other person to build that level of competence in certain situations.
They also helped to, you know, and in my opinion, at least shape what that person’s perception and outlook might being going forward. And it’s really a person who can teach you and how to navigate certain situations, whether that’s in your organization or just a certain experience. And when I think about the different types of mentorship, for instance, as I mentioned earlier, and as you noted reverse mentorship is one of those.
Whereas when we generally think about mentorship, it’s that one-on-one mentorship relationship where you have a senior leader kind of guiding a junior employee, whereas you could have reverse mentorship where it can, like I said earlier, be something that’s cultural, where perhaps there’s a leader who wants to learn more about how to navigate relationships with a person of color.
So they might form a relationship with the person of color who then shares their experiences with them and kind of puts checks and balances that even in place of no, perhaps you should think about this this way, or perhaps you should go about this this way. To then help that senior leader be better, uh, when it comes to navigating that space.
And there’s so many other forms of mentorship, including group mentorship, where you can have several people listening to one person or even peer mentorship, where it can be two people who are junior coaching, one another on different situations and sharing your experiences. Um, so I really do see mentorship is kind of being multifaceted if you will, but really, and truly where, you know, one person or both people are sharing knowledge and helping each other, or one another, uh, navigate different situations.
Larry Baker: Thank you so much for that response Kamillah. And Lisa, I want to bring the discussion to you because you mentioned that you had an epiphany when you dug deep into this concept of mentorship. So question for you, what is mentorship to you? And then what are some of those benefits that can come from both the mentor and the mentor?
Lisa Fain: I love that question. So for me, mentoring is a reciprocal relationship where, it’s such a beautiful thing because where else in the workplace, when you have a pirate power distance, if you will, between two people, can you, co-create a relationship and have that kind of reciprocity, right?
It really doesn’t happen in the supervisory. Um, and so, um, real mentoring is about this co-creation. I think that there’s really three key characteristics to mentoring. There’s this idea of reciprocity where mentors give and mentors get and mentees give and mentees get there’s this idea of co-creation where both the mentor and the mentee.
Dig into the relationship and create something that I often tell people it’s, you know, the formula and mentoring is one plus one equals three. There’s the mentor, there’s the mentee. And there’s the mentoring relationship. Right? And then the most, I wouldn’t say the most important, but equally important is this idea of learning.
Ultimately, mentoring’s a learning relationship. That’s about the development, right? Unlike a supervisory relationship, which is about performance, how will you do your job? Mentoring really is about learning. So those are the three characteristics that I like to highlight the most. We’ve got the idea of reciprocity and co-creating.
And returning to your question, Larry about benefits is a really, really important one. And you know, if there’s mentees who are listening, I just want to acknowledge that one of the things that I hear and I’m sure the same is true of Kamillah and Tamara, which is, you know, I don’t want to burden my mentor.
I don’t want to take up their time. I’m afraid that I’m. You know, going to be a heavyweight for them. Um, you know, especially when a mentor, maybe somebody who is senior and have a lot of experience. And the truth is, um, when you think about reciprocity, it’s not just a, it’s not just a aspirational statement, it’s a factual statement and what the data shows.
Is that mentors really do gain a lot from the relationship they gain better leadership skills. They gain increased perspective, as Kamillah mentioned in a reverse mentoring context, but also in the regular mentoring context, there can be, um, enhanced perspectives, uh, about diversity, about cultural competency, about generational perspectives as well.
Um, and then there’s the satisfaction of giving back, right? A lot of people lead with the satisfaction of giving back. It’s great. Uh, and it’s true and it’s real, but there’s also a damp, a data piece, which I think is really important for mentees to keep in mind and for mentors to keep in mind as they think about investing time, because it really is an investment of time if you’re doing it right from aunties.
I mean, you know, we could all probably, you know, sit here and brainstorm, um, uh, or, or recite some of the benefits, but of course there’s, you know, enhanced career growth. You know, the data shows that mentoring is one of the most effective tools for creating an inclusive work environment and that as compared to non-mentored employees, uh, people of color and women in the workplace who are mentored have, have enhanced advancement, they have, uh, better performance.
They have better access and greater career satisfaction. And so I find that really, really exciting, um, because it truly is a win-win win, win for the mentor, win for the mentee and win for the Oregon.
Larry Baker: Awesome. Thank you so much for that, Lisa. And I think that it’s great that you pointed out that if you are a mentee, please do not think that you are a burden to your mentor because as you stated.
The mentors get so much out of this process as well. So Tamara I’m going to bring the same type of question to you where I want you to talk to me about what is mentorship to you, but you touched upon something that I really want you to dig into when you mentioned millennial mentoring, because I definitely feel like that’s a different type and I really want us to unpack that a little bit.
So. Tell us, what is mentorship to you and really focus in on that millennial content.
Tamara Thorpe: Uh, so I will say mentoring to me. I don’t think I have a very different definition than Lisa, because I will say that so much of my knowledge has come from, uh, Lisa and her, uh, her mother-in-law Dr. Zachary, who has been such a, uh, a force in the mentoring space.
And that for me, reciprocity is what is really fundamental in a mentoring relationship, because it is a learning relationship. And I think one of the. Interesting aspects of mentoring is that it can happen in so many different forms. Right? A lot of times when we think of mentoring relationships, we tend to think of them in terms of a formal, structured mentoring relationship that we might have in the workplace.
Or we might have an academic program, or we think of mentoring like a teacher or a coach or a parent. Um, but one of the, uh, interesting aspects of mentoring is mentoring can happen in a single conversation with another person you can have this very serendipitous exchange and you may never see that person again, or you may never have that kind of meaningful conversation.
Um, but in this, uh, very short exchange, uh, you can have a powerful mentoring relationship by hosting some virtual speed mentoring event and people always say, speed mentoring. What can you, what can really happen in a seven-minute interaction? And I, every time we do them, I’m blown away at how powerful those conversations are in a short period of time that the insights or wisdom or experience that people share.
And those rounds, uh, ended up being really powerful and I’ve had mentees leave those events saying my life has changed. I have a 35 minutes of mentoring. They feel like their life has been changed. And so it can be really, really powerful when we create that kind of learning relationships and have those learning conversations.
And to me, that’s really the essence of mentoring that we have an interaction with another person that elevates, uh, both of us. And that’s one of the reasons why the data that Lisa shared that mentoring has such a powerful impact on D&I strategy and creating, uh, cultures of belonging and inclusion for talent is because of, um, it gives people the opportunity to, to elevate and, and that’s feeling good about themselves having guidance, getting direction, finding really strategic ways to navigate situations.
And so when I started working with organizations around generational differences, what I noticed right. When we look at generational cohorts, um, that the traditional forms of mentoring right. Was a very one way. Right. So when we think back historically, uh, that there was sort of. You know, senior person, an elder person who held all the knowledge and then this younger, less experienced person would come and they’d get all this person’s knowledge kind of dumped into them.
Um, but in that model, that younger person has to be an empty vessel. Right. But that’s not the case, right. That, people who are younger or less experienced, still come as a whole person filled with, uh, their own lifetime of experiences and knowledge. And that’s something that folks can learn from.
And so I was working with organizations on navigating and bridging those generational differences. Um, it was about creating those mentoring relationships that was going to help one generation understand another in a deeper, more complex way because we know that bias exists and whether that bias exists around race or ethnicity, but it also exists around age, gender, et cetera.
And age-ism… I say all the time at age-ism is like this really like the last form of super acceptable bias. Right? That people can openly disregard and criticize an entire generation, right? Without anybody really feeling like anyone’s been slighted, but we know right from the research that, um, millennials leave organizations when they don’t feel a sense of belonging.
I have talked with millennials across the globe who have sat in meetings, listening to senior leaders, completely dismiss them and their entire generation and their value. Um, and so being able to, uh, create the opportunity for them to start having conversations on a deeper level, to understand one another in a more complex way has been really powerful tool for this.
Larry Baker: Awesome. Thank you so much for that Tamara. And I do believe that in all of your illustrations, you touched upon research that supports specifically for colleagues of color, Black employees, Hispanic, Latina, employees, or all employees of color that. Mentorship can be particularly important and beneficial.
As a matter of fact, you’ve touched upon and how mentoring… those programs tend to boost minority representation at the management level. And what I’d like for you to talk to me about is how have you advised organizations to engage. In those cross cultural cross racial, um, mentorship, uh, relationships, if you will, uh, tomorrow, I’m going to start with you this time.
So Tamara, just give me some insight in regards to, you know, talk about some of those benefits and how are you encouraging organizations to participate?
Tamara Thorpe: Yeah, I think Kamillah had touched on this earlier where, uh, she mentioned there is an opportunity in cross-cultural and cross-racial mentoring relationships for folks to learn about a culture and community that is different from their own.
And when we look at de biasing organizations and their decision-making processes, particularly around talent, acquisition and talent development when folks have a deeper understanding of somebody else’s lived experience somebody else’s cultural background of that becomes this really powerful mechanism to move people away from stereotypes, into having more complex understanding of other folks.
And so, when we’ve been doing work around cross-cultural, cross-racial mentoring, what we know is typically cross-racial mentoring relationships suffer, because of the lack of cultural competence that mentors have. And so, uh, really the council and Lisa’s done a great work on this is helping is providing mentors the opportunity to develop the cultural competence. They need to go into a cross-cultural cross-racial mentoring relationship with some fundamental skill sets that then allow them to deepen their and strengthen their cultural competence in that relationship.
Larry Baker: Okay. So you’ve just given me a nice segue into asking Lisa to hop in and join us in that conversation, because you mentioned it earlier, we know that there are benefits and it helps that representation for, uh, you know, your colleagues of color and women when they are allowed to be a part of these mentoring relationships.
So Lisa, talk to me a little bit more about how do you make that happen in organizations?
Lisa Fain: Yeah, I mean, I think I have sort of a heady answer to it and then a practical answer to it. And the heady answer really piggybacks off of what Tamara was saying, which is, you know, it’s about cultural competency.
It’s about how people make sense of difference. And it’s really helping people understand the concept that differences lie between us, not within us differences lie between us, not within us. So nobody is inherently different. We are different from one another. And when you start to, um, teach people that and have them create some self-awareness about their own identity, they understand that, um, Creating an inclusive environment, leveraging the diversity in your workforce.
Having cross-cultural relationships is an obligation and a responsibility of everybody, because I think one of my biggest frustrations, and maybe this is some of the, one of the lessons that I take from the days working as a DEI practice. Is DEI is not delegable.. delegable… delegatable whatever the word is is… that you one cannot delegate DEI right?
It’s your job Kamillah to manage and make sure that it happens, but it’s actually every leader’s job, every person’s job to create an inclusive work environment. So once you create that, self-awareness of like, wait a minute, I have attributes so that I own DEI. That’s the really key.
So that’s a heady answer, Larry. Um, and then there’s the practical answer, um, which is, um, you know, until cultural competency, creating an inclusive work environment, is a leadership expectation and something that leaders are accountable for in a measurable way, it can be, do you have a mentoring relationship or a sponsorship relationship? Those are two different things, a mentoring relationship or a sponsorship relationship with somebody who is an underrepresented population in the workforce, right. It can be, um, what are you doing on your team to hire inclusively, right? And to include, diverse populations within your workforce and make sure that you’re elevating them.
It can be when you do your performance reviews, look at that nine box and see what some of your biases are as everybody in the top box, have some homogeny. And then what’s about what’s about that. What’s that about? Right? I mean, there’s lots of different ways to create that accountability, but when you say, how do you make it happen?
It’s about measuring it and having really concrete actions that people leaders are held accountable to just like other performance metrics.
Larry Baker: Absolutely. I appreciate the passion because you are absolutely, engaging in a point that I am a firm believer that what gets repeated is what is what they get rewarded for.
Right. If you want for me to do this, you have to hold me accountable towards it. And then I have to see some type of rewards from that, because then I will repeat that behavior. So, uh, I’m a hundred percent in agreement with that.
Kamillah, I know that this is something that you have a deep passion about in regards to that mentoring relationship and how it benefits colleagues of color. So hop in here and give me some insights in regards to how do you encourage it? How do you ensure that data aside when this happens, our colleagues of color or underrepresented groups, they thrive. How do you go about that?
Kamillah Knight: Yeah. So, you know, without, uh, trying to repeat some of the things that both Tamara and Lisa said, because I think they hit it right on the nail head.
The one thing that I would really drive home that I think is most important when trying to facilitate these types of relationships and encourage leaders to engage in them is making sure they understand that this is not a means for them to say, okay, this one Black employee, let me ask you every question that I’ve ever wanted to know about Black people.
It’s not that it’s not meant to be that… while it is a learning situation in environment it’s not meant to single someone out and kind of make them your token person. So, I think that’s important always to acknowledge and highlight so that the, the person who’s involved, um, from the opposite side of the person of color, doesn’t feel that it’s that type of relationship and therefore feel that they have this obligation to show up this way and, or educate someone in this way.
Um, but also I think what’s important to highlight to Lisa’s point. You know, making sure that it is tied back to the business, helping people to understand why, why it’s not just also great for them as a leader and how to help them grow as a leader within the organization, but also helping them to grow as a person outside of the organization, just in their community.
And not only is it important for the person of color in helping them to feel better and to retain them as talent within the organization, but also how this can help the organization in general, when it comes to number one, retaining talent, number two, to creating more inclusive spaces for people overall.
And number three, to hitting the bottom line and helping the organization just to be more innovative and jail. So I think when you can do that and really harness that for leaders and for the people within the organization, that’s what really helps, you know, these types of programs to be extremely successful and what helps people to lean in.
Larry Baker: Yeah. I love that piece Kamillah in regards to how you say. Tie it to the business results, because I do believe in so many situations, this is viewed as something that’s a good, right? This isn’t something that gets results.
However, research shows and, and everyone can see that there is absolutely a proven business case for mentoring relationships, which brings me to another question because.
We’ve done studies and we’ve read about how 71% of the fortune 500 companies, they have mentoring programs. And with varying levels of success.
So if you could each talk to me and I’m going to ask Lisa to kick us off with this one, based upon some of the organizations that you have worked with, what are some of the more common obstacles that come in the way of creating these meaningful relationships?
And you can peel it down a layer and get specific if you like. Focusing out around these underrepresented groups. So we know that the organizations have them, but what are some of the common obstacles that come in the way of having these meaningful mentorship? So Lisa asked you to start with.
Lisa Fain: Uh, it’s interesting how each question really builds on each other on the, on the next Larry, because I think a lot, um, you know, I want to just piggyback, um, uh, on what Kamillah was saying is like the biggest obstacle is this tyranny of the urgent, right?
Meaning like people will say if DEI is not tied to performance metrics, right. I’ve got, we’ve got a business, you know, we’ve got this crisis, or we’ve got this particular thing, don’t have time for mentoring right now… Let’s push it off till next month. Right. And until they’re accountable for it, the tyranny of the urgent is always going to feel like, um, it’s going to overcome this important.
The, you know, what’s, what’s important, but doesn’t feel urgent, which is the next. Piece of it. The other obstacle is lack of competency building and lack of understanding about really what mentoring is. And it takes two forms. It either becomes kind of what I call parent and pray, which is okay. We have a mentoring program, let’s pair people and just kind of pray that it succeeds.
We leave them on their own. No accountability, no, um, uh, competency building, no understanding that mentoring is. Um, you know, this on the stage, which Tamara was talking about before, it is really about facilitating or being a guide on the side. And so you’d have to build the competency just because somebody is a great leader.
It doesn’t mean that they’re going to be a great mentor. It doesn’t mean that they’re going to understand how to mentor somebody. It doesn’t mean that they have a cultural competency and the curiosity to say, well, this is how it was for me. Let me share my experience. How might it be different for you?
Right. Yeah, because we’re not, as Tamara was saying, an empty vessel and mentees less so. So really an assumption… It’s interesting. I mean, I think that one of the gifts that millennials and the next generation gen Z bring is that they are full of a worldliness and an aunt and an ambition and Tamara you can check me on this if I’m, you’re the expert on generation, but they’re filled with this curiosity and this worldliness and the sense of connectedness that gen X and older wasn’t at their age.
Um, and it rings, um, sense of perspective and a sense of knowing about what possibility is that is often surprising to the older generations and just speaks to this point that there people come as full people. We can’t make assumptions based on age. I think I have digressed from what your question was, Larry, but I got very excited about the answer.
Um, so let me know if there’s anything else.
Larry Baker: No, no, that’s great because I think you just cued up Tamara because we do want to talk in regards to the obstacles, because we know that, you know, a majority of organizations are saying that they have them. What are we seeing in regard to results specifically around those underrepresented groups?
So Tamara hop in there for me and talk about what are some common obstacles that come in the way of having these meaningful mentorships, if you would.
Tamara Thorpe: Um, I think that, uh, Lisa was right, right? That in organizations, we have a tendency to believe that because someone is really good at their job or very knowledgeable that in their industry, that they are then qualified to lead and mentor.
The truth is that, uh, leadership requires its own set of skills. And I have been a firm believer that one of those skill sets is cultural competence. For years, really. I have never identified as a D&I consultant, I’ve always identified as a leadership consultant in believing that a core, uh, and essential skill of leadership is the ability to lead people who are different from ourselves.
Um, and with that, then comes that being a priority and expectation of what my skillset is as a leader. That then is reflected in my ability to mentor and promote and ensure a successful mentoring relationships within an organization. And so I do think that organizations make assumptions about what mentoring is and that mentoring relationships will be successful because two people have been matched and set meetings and that successful learning relationships require, some structure, some guidance and one of the things just recently that we spent a lot of time talking about, the last time I was on a panel about mentoring was about knowing how to end a mentoring relationship when it’s not working. And too often, because either a mentoring pair or the organization hasn’t prepared for when relationships are not successful unsuccessful relationships, either end up with the mentoring relationship and experience never really fulfilling either a person, which then makes both of those folks uninterested in the mentoring ever again. Right?
And so we need to put as much energy into the development of a mentoring relationship and the evaluation of a mentoring ship, as much as that goes into the matching piece.
Right? It has to be a complete experience so folks have really clear expectations in the, in the beginning. Um, those, uh, expectations become milestones that measure the success of the mentoring relationship and that there’s a process for when to folks say this relationship’s not working, they have the ability to break up, so to speak, um, and, and establish a new mentoring relations.
Larry Baker: That’s great. I appreciate that reality that if something’s not going the way that it’s mutually beneficial, then we have the right to say, “hey, let’s step back and reevaluate this and maybe, uh, go our separate ways.” I appreciate that part of mentoring as well Tamara.
And Kamillah. Obstacles. I know that you have come across it. I know that you understand it, but what are some of the more common obstacles that in your experience come in the way of having these meaningful mentorship?
Kamillah Knight: Yeah. So, I mean, I agree wholeheartedly with everything that both Tamara and Lisa mentioned. I think the one thing that I would hone in on that I see as one of the biggest obstacles to a mentorship relationship is it doesn’t necessarily put the onus on the mentor themselves to be willing to put themselves out on the line for the mentee.
So while they’re serving as a coach and a sounding board and sharing insight, they’re not necessarily willing to, to go on for the mentee themselves when it comes to their actual progression career progression, and the effort in my opinion, and the work is still being placed on the mentee themselves.
So, you know, I think the next level to it is really looking at something like sponsorship. And I think Lisa mentioned this earlier on the difference between mentorship and sponsorship. And to me, a sponsor is really someone who, as I mentioned, is willing to advocate for you. They’re willing to be your voice in a room when you’re not.
They’re willing to put their reputation, even on the line for the growth of, you know, the sponsee or the protege, rather because otherwise, what, what I think mentorship relationships fall short of, especially when we think of POC communities, where employees is that it still puts them at a disadvantage because they’re only getting part of the way there.
They still aren’t necessarily having certain doors opened up for them, which has been this obstacle for them, which is why they sought out the mentorship relationship in the first place. Whereas when you start to transition to something more of a sponsorship relationship, that’s when those doors start to get open.
That’s when people really are putting them out there and saying, hey, I think they are, they’re good for this. Let them give them a chance. Whereas the mentorship relationship, in my opinion, doesn’t necessarily do that or get them their own.
Larry Baker: Yeah, that is such a key insight in regards to upfront identifying what type of relationship do we have? Is it a mentorship relationship or is it a sponsorship relationship? And if it’s not a sponsorship relationship, how do we build towards that?
So, to touch on Tamara’s point of defining expectations and milestones, you know, that could be an extremely critical step in this process. So I appreciate you highlighting the differences between mentorship and sponsorship.
So as we get ready to close our conversation today, which has been absolutely incredible, and I appreciate each one of you…
If I’m someone that’s listening to this podcast, and I really want to know how I can engage in a mentorship relationship and put this into practice, what would you recommend as a good first step?
Kamillah, I’m going to ask that you kick us off, then Lisa then Tamara.
Kamillah Knight: I think a lot of these things we’ve talked about a bit, but I think if you’re a person who’s looking for a mentor, one of the best things you can do is to look for someone who emulates a behavior or a leadership style that you aspire to have and, or career path even, um, that you think is attractive or you desire.
I think it’s also important that you look to attend meetings and events where you can naturally meet people, um, and therefore learn about them so that a mentorship relationship can organically happen.
And then I think I would also say that, you know, once you find a mentor, similar to what Tamara mentioned before, it’s important to, like you mentioned, you know, be clear on what it is that you’re looking for, how you desire for them to help you and understand what exactly they can even do for you and understanding if that’s a right fit for where you’re trying to go.
Larry Baker: Awesome. Lisa please…
Lisa Fain: Yeah, I mean Kamillah said it very, very well. Um, so I don’t want to duplicate what she said. What I’ll add to it is to think first about what you want to learn. Right, because remember that mentoring is a learning relationship. So I often tell people who are looking for mentors outside of a formal mentoring relationship to think about the, what, before they think about the who.
And, um, you know, what is it I want to learn? You don’t have to know your goals… I mean, it can be very intimidating as a mentor. To say, you need me to know exactly where you want to go. I’m not suggesting that, but generally, what is it you want to learn? And what are the qualities that you want in a mentor?
You may not know the person. You may not even meet the person in a event. You, but it’s like a little bit like dating, right? You might know somebody who knows somebody. And, you know, I have had periods in my life where I’ve been looking for mentors for different purposes and somebody will say, Hey, how are you doing?
I’m say, great. I’m looking for a mentor to help me with thought leadership. Oh my gosh. I might know of somebody. So really? Yeah. The other piece is also like dating. Don’t ask somebody to mentor you on the first date because mentoring really is an investment of a relationship. And this is where it’s different with an, when you are in a formal mentoring program, obviously there’s that structure.
But if you want to take ownership and agency and start to find somebody who can, who will invest any. As a mentor, start with a little learning goal. It might be something like, oh wow, Kamillah, you know, I’m really interested. You know, I know, you know, Tamara says great things about you. And I know that you’re really great at building community in the workplace.
It’s something I’m really interested in. Can we have a quick conversation where I can learn a little bit more from you? And then I can see if Kamillah and I have a chemistry. I can understand whether or not just as she had the willingness, but does she have the time in the interim? In me. Um, and you know, is she going to be able to help teach me what it is I want to learn?
And I may, I am I willing to invest in giving back to her? Right. So I think, you know, there’s baby steps, as opposed to saying, will you marry me or will you mentor me? Is let’s start with, can I, can we learn from each other? Can we have a quick conversation? And then later on, I might be able to say, wow, that was a great conversation. I’m actually looking for a mentor. And I’m wondering if that’s something that you might be. To invest in and what that might look like for you. So the intimidation factor is often I’ve got to meet somebody. I’ve got to ask them to be my mentor. And then when we move in together and have babies, it’s, it’s, it’s not quite that big a leap.
Larry Baker: I love that analogy by the way, Lisa.
So Tamara, please hop in there, give me some advice. I’m really wanting to start a mentoring relationship. What are some really good first steps?
Tamara Thorpe: So, both Kamillah and Lisa have shared what I think are some really key, great first steps. And so I don’t want to duplicate that, but I will do one to say that we, we know that, um, um, from some of the most recent research.
Um, and sorry, I’m huge research nerd. And, to the point that Lisa made organizations sometimes see the stuff is extra, right? And so the research really helps us, uh, with people really understanding the impact and benefits. So I will say that, um, what they have found for research is that most mentoring relationships happen organically and people struggle to find a mentor.
Uh, and so what I know from the work that I have done in building a network of mentors is that people love to mentor. There are no shortage of people who. Want to mentor who wants to share their experiences, um, and leave a legacy, uh, by, uh, mentoring. So I think that for folks who are looking for mentors, uh, as was mentioned, there can be this intimidation factor, but no, People love to mentor.
Now that also means that not everybody has the time for a long-term mentoring relationship. And so one of my first tips would be one, let mentoring look different, be willing to have different types of mentoring experiences so that you might just have a conversation with one person one time.
And that’s what that person has to offer. And I guarantee you, you are going to get something from that conversation. Um, and then potentially having a more formal, um, mentoring relationship potentially in the workplace, but a more, or a less formal, but regular, maybe there’s someone who, uh, you know, you have coffee with quarterly that doesn’t work with you, but.
You know, um, uh, with an area of expertise or insights that are going to be valuable to you. So, um, be willing and open for the mentoring relationships to look different and for them to be come in a variety and having a network of people that you might reach out to for mentoring, um, and, uh, Uh, and I always tell folks, right, like proximity is really key, right.
People kind of have a tendency to think that they’ve got to go find this person that’s not already within their circles. So I always tell folks, look in your inner circle first. Um, who do you already have? Access to that then can be, you know, somebody, you start with a single mentoring conversation or directs you to the right mentor.
Um, and one of the reasons that I have built the Real Mentors Network is because I have so believed in using technology to connect with people that you might not otherwise have access to. Right. Uh, and so while we have mentors that may be within our sphere, Uh, you know, how is there, how do we access it?
Somebody that seems way out of our league. I have a practice back in the old days when we used to go to conferences in person with lots of people in buildings, I always had a strategy of talking to. The most famous person at the conference. Right? So whenever you go to a conference, there’s somebody who has a lot of buzz around them.
Oh my God. So-and-so is going to be the keynote so-and-so’s here, but nobody ever talks to those people because they’re so intimidated. So I always had a strategy. It was like, who’s going to be, who’s a famous person and talk to them as much as I can. And that gives me access to this really key person.
And I believe doing the same thing with technology. So no matter what platforms you are using, you can now have access to people, uh, that you would not have had access to. And I reach out to people virtually all the time who are like, yeah, hit me up, let’s have a conversation. Um, and so, uh, we really do have such an advantage with technology.
Uh, and I think that there’s a way for us to leverage that, to have access to people, um, that we can have a mentoring moment, a mentoring conversation, or a long-term mentoring relationship with.
Larry Baker: Yeah, Tamara. That is such an excellent point in regards to how technology has absolutely expanded our ideas in regards to who do I look for to be my mentor. That that’s a fantastic concept. So I thank you so much for sharing that insight.
And I just want to thank each of you. This, this has been such an enlightening conversation. We have really cracked the code, if you will, in regards to mentorship, why it matters, talking about some of those benefits, and the importance to the business.
And we’ve also touched upon how it can benefit our colleagues of color or individuals from underrepresented groups. So thank you all so much. I appreciate your insight to this conversation, Lisa, Kamillah and Tamara, thank you so much for this engaging conversation.
And to all of you that are listening, we want to know what were your biggest takeaways from this conversation? Please share them with us on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn at Language & Culture Worldwide or LCW. Once again, thank you for joining us.
Culture Moments: What the “Great Resignation” Means for BIPOC Workers
Published on: February 3, 2022
The great resignation… the great reshuffle… the great realignment… whatever you call it, this period of flux, characterized by high rates of workers leaving jobs for better or more flexible opportunities, doesn’t seem to be going anywhere and no organization is immune.
In this episode of the Culture Moments podcast, host Larry Baker has a Brave Conversation about the Great Resignation’s impacts on businesses and the BIPOC community. Larry is joined by guests Michael Johnson (Managing Director, HR Capital Group) and Kenneth Peck (SVP of Operations, Valor Intelligent Processing). Together, they explore what this moment means for businesses, how BIPOC workers might be affected, and what organizations can do to promote a sense of belonging amongst their entire workforce.
Show Notes & Highlights
6:15: Kenneth notes that he’s seeing a trend in workers seeking instant gratification and education in their jobs
10:15: Michael shares what BIPOC workers can be doing to strengthen their position in the job market right now, regardless of whether they plan on joining the Great Resignation
14:15: Larry asks how an organization can promote a sense of belonging
19:00: Michael tells us why its crucial for leaders to get a better understanding for who their individual employees are within the first 90 days of employment
21:50: Kenneth outlines the importance of finding new hires’ purpose behind their work and helping them work towards their personal goals
25:00: Kenneth’s advice for BIPOC workers: “Know your worth. Know what you bring to the table…”
25:55: Michael’s advice for BIPOC workers: “Your career is not determined by your manager. You determine your career…”
28:15: Larry on growing from adversity: “I either win or I learn… I never lose.”
Larry Baker: Hello everyone. And welcome to the Culture Moments podcast. I’m your host, Larry Baker. And I’m 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 year, we’ll hear about their own experiences as well as their insights on what’s 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 year and a half. And for many of us, we’re still in recovery from a very rough 2020.
So welcome to another podcast with LCW. My name is Larry Baker and I will be your host. And today we will be diving into the topic, focusing on the great resignation, or the great reshuffle, or the great realignment. It really doesn’t matter what you call it. In 2021, we all know that that was a time of opportunity for job seekers and a turbulent fight to retain and attract talent for those in human resources and recruiting. And 2020, it shows no signs of this trend stopping.
As a matter of fact, in November of 2021, 3% of the entire workforce quit their jobs, which is the highest rate of turnover since September of 2021. And with this reshuffling of the workforce, we’ve seen opportunity for some people to be able to better align their jobs with their personal needs or interests.
But what has this meant for the BIPOC community? And when I talk about BIPOC, I’m talking about black, indigenous, people of color. So that’s what we’re going to talk about in this episode. We’ll explore the great resignation, how it’s changed, how folks retain and recruit individuals, what this specifically means for BIPOC workers and the importance of creating a work culture that creates a sense of belonging for all employees.
And I’m super excited to introduce two individuals that will help me to discuss this topic. I have Michael Johnson and Ken Peck, and I’m going to let them introduce themselves, but I did want to formally thank each one of you for being here today. And Michael, I’m going to go ahead and let you give us a brief introduction of who you are and what you do.
Michael Johnson: Thank you Larry for an opportunity to participate in this conversation today. My name is Michael L. Johnson and I am the owner and managing director of HR capital. HR Capital Group is a career coaching and human resource management consulting firm, which provides clients with human resources management, executive level, career coaching, and business and leadership development.
I started HR Capital Group to help my client understand the unwritten rules of career success in corporate America and to help small and not for profit organizations set up their HR shops right. I achieved the success by using my over 22 plus years of corporate HR and leadership experience having worked for several fortune 500 companies and industries throughout my career. At HR Capital Group, we’ve worked with each of our clients to help them develop actionable plans to achieve their desired results.
Thank you so much for allowing me to participate today.
Larry Baker: Awesome. Thank you so much, Mike. It’s a pleasure to have you join us. next. I have Ken Peck
Kenneth Peck: Thank you for inviting me again. As you said, my name is Ken Peck. I have a little bit over 24 years experience in the credit collections in call center industry on the first and third party side.
My direct knowledge in that field is kind of managing municipal debt, public sector debt, utilities, medical, student loans, cable, telco. And in the short term, literally if it’s a debt, I probably managed it. And so that’s my job. But what my purpose, my passion, and what I do outside of here; is I speak at different conferences. I do a lot of motivational speaking. What my purpose is really developing both men and women to become not just professionals, but future leaders within the industry. That’s what I enjoy doing. So again, thank you for inviting me.
Larry Baker: You are more than welcome. Thank you both for being here. So because of your direct involvement in some form or fashion in regards to the hiring process, the recruitment process, the retention process. I am definitely looking forward to your insights. So the first question I’m going to start with you Ken. I want you to tell me what trends are you noticing during that recruiting process with potential candidates. And then if you could expound on what are most people actually looking for in an organization?
Kenneth Peck: So some of the trends that that I’m seeing is, again, the first thing is people want instant gratification. But with the instant gratification, when you actually sit down with them, they also want education. And a lot of times we’re quick and I’m saying where a lot of companies are quick just to throw the carrot before the horse, and again, you’re throwing the carrot without education. You’re going to get a bad product. So one of the things that I focus on is when I’m sitting in the interview, and I’ve really just started to get in the weeds with interviewing not only agents but managers, is what is their purpose? What are their goals?
Because at the end of the day, what I’ve found is people talk about money and they want to go find the money, but most people don’t leave their company because of money. I haven’t talked to one person that said, you know, “I found a job that’s paying me 50 cents more”. They typically leave for not being treated right by their direct manager. If they’re not getting a coach and they’re not getting that training, they’re not getting that development, why do I want to stay? I can tell you, and we don’t pay a high rate, but one thing that my agents and what people were going to get from me is that I’m going to make sure that their skill set is transferable. So if they do decide to leave here, they’ve learned more than what they are capable of, but what I know that they can do.
Larry Baker: Awesome. Thank you so much for that. Ken. Michael, can you chime in for me? What trends are you noticing and what are most people looking for in an organization?
Michael Johnson: And, you know, I absolutely agree with Ken’s statement. You know, most people leave organizations because of their leadership, as well as because of the culture, the type of environment that they are working in. And, you know, it’s very important as organizations start to manage the great resignation, but they’re taking a step back and really looking at their culture.
Yes, compensation is one of the things that is rising across all industries, but the reality is: Even getting higher compensation doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to retain that individual. And so you want to be able to create, not only look for talent that is diverse. Look for talent. Who has a proven work history that can do the job that you ultimately need done, and their ability to really think strategically. To produce that overall result. I think in doing that, I think that can help. As BIPOC candidates look for opportunities, think about how you can provide greater value to the organization and that can lead to greater success in your career.
Larry Baker: Yeah that’s a great point Mike. I’m glad you kind of touched upon that culture piece because that is absolutely one of the driving factors that I believe help people realize that you know what? This is a great opportunity for me to reassess my goals, my purpose. And does this organization properly align with those things? So with that in mind, Mike, I wanna kick this question to you to start off. And then of course, Ken, I’m going to come to you as well. Tell me, have you noticed a change in regards to who holds the power so to speak, I mean during the hiring process? Who do you believe holds the power? And then after you respond to that, how do you think that those changing dynamics benefit or do they hinder the BIPOC worker?
So, Mike, first of all, tell me who do you think holds the power, and then how does that benefit or hinder BIPOC employees?
Michael Johnson: So I think the old adage of it’s not who knows you, but who you know, is really still prevalent in the great resignation. You as a BIPOC candidate need to be building your network. Making sure that you are updating your resume and your LinkedIn profiles. And making sure that you are as marketable out there, so when the people who have the power see you as a candidate for an opportunity, that you are top of the list.
Larry Baker: Okay.
Michael Johnson: So often we sometimes forget those basic things like resume writing and just all of the skills and benefits that you’ve done in your career that we sometimes just don’t make sure that it’s a priority, if you’re looking to join the great resignation. If you are not joining the great resignation, or you’re kind of on the fence trying to decide should I join should I not, right now is a great time to really gain those skill sets you need to make you more marketable for that next opportunity. And so if you’re looking at, you know, I’m seeing a lot of people leaving, right?
We know over 34.5 million people since the pandemic started have joined the great resignation. That is great. Is that really the most important thing in terms of just jumping into the great resignation and looking for another opportunity? When you do that, you want to make sure that it’s a strategic move to get to ultimately where you want to be.
So the power right now has kind of shifted a little bit. Now the candidate has the power in terms of selecting, who they want to go, what type of culture they want to work in? Do they want to work remote? Do they want to work hybrid? Do they want to work in the office? They have a lot of control, but with that control comes some responsibility.
Larry Baker: Absolutely. Thank you so much for that. Okay. Ken your turn.
Kenneth Peck: So one of the things that I always train in and that I just spoke to a newer class the other day, is they don’t work for me. I work for them. But for them to understand that they have to understand what their value and what their worth is.
So they have to be coached, trained, and developed to understand that because it’s way more of them than it is of me. So, but until they understand that and they’re educated, again, it’s always going to be the sense of them not having the confidence when they’re rolling into the interview. As he touched on, in regards to making sure your resume is updated, well, when you walk into the interview you should already know exactly, “you need me. And let me tell you why you should pick me”.
But that has to be then what I pride myself on, that coaching and training. So they understand that confidence when they go in there, it’s not being the cocky, but it’s being the confident that I am, the person you’d need. So that’s kind of the sense that I get.
Larry Baker: Okay. So when it comes to this concept of culture and environment, you both touched up on that earlier in some of your comments. And I want us to go back and revisit that. Because when it comes to BIPOC employees, there is a tendency for them to, in many cases, not all, but in many cases, for them to walk into a culture where they are part of an underrepresented group. Right?
So my question to you Ken, and I want you to kick it off, is how do you ensure that new hires are joining an environment that promote a sense of belonging.
Kenneth Peck: Well one of the first things is before they get there, find out what are they looking for? Because I think that’s the other thing too.
It is that I’m not the be all end all when I’m hiring. I want my management team to be a part of that decision too, because I need to make sure that that piece of the puzzle fits. That they are a part of the structure that’s needed to help continue to grow. And again, it’s making sure that we we’re with them all the way from the beginning to the end. That we’re holding their hand
until they’re ready to fly on their own. So when they hit that floor, when they’re walking, it’s not that we talk the talk: we walk the walk. We literally were there from the beginning to the end. The agents are literally helping celebrate their success and helping them with their failures. So it’s a combined effort from not just the leaders, but also with the agents. Because the agents are also knowing that hey it’s cool to have one star shine in the sky. But what they are taught and what they learned is that, man, it is great to have 15, 20 stars, shining in the sky. Because it makes the sky that much brighter.
Larry Baker: Absolutely! Thank you. Mike, your turn. Talk to me about. How do you ensure those new hires are joining an environment that promotes that sense of belonging?
Michael Johnson: So I think it goes back to kind of two things. One, it goes back to the BIPOC candidate, as they’re looking to enter into a new organization, doing their research. Really understanding that, you know, most BIPOC candidates know, “I might be the only one in the room”. Right? As I joined an organization or a team, but also look at the organization in its totality to understand what are they doing as it relates to helping to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion within the organization.
Are you seeing tangible things out within the community that says I want to align, and their values aligned with who I am as an individual, where I feel that I can be supported if I joined that overall organization. I think that’s the one part that the candidate can do. I think internally within the organization we have to really hold ourselves to what we say and the commitments we say we’re going to do. So a lot of organizations are out here making commitments associated with diversity, equity, inclusion. They’re signing on to big, you know, initiatives to support that. It’s great to support it, but what are you doing from an actionable perspective to really evaluate your BIPOC candidates that are currently employees of the organization to see how they are moving within progression within your organization?
So are we selecting candidates as we’re bringing them in for interviews for leadership positions? Are we creating and collaborating with our employee resources group to be able to ensure that they are not just a group where people get together to talk about things, but that they’re actually impacting the culture of the organization?
I think if organizations continue to do that under the umbrella of diversity, equity, inclusion, I think you have a better kind of incubator to help grow the right type of culture that is more diverse. Because research has shown a diverse group can definitely produce way more than a non-diverse group. But if you don’t make it an intentional purpose to do that, you’ll get the same results that you’ve always gotten.
Larry Baker: Yeah that’s a great point, Mike, because, you know you’re preaching to the choir on that one. We absolutely are strong proponents in, regards to, diverse groups do produce better ideas. They’re more creative they have better collaboration. But I’m so glad that you mentioned the piece that as a candidate you have a certain responsibility in this process as well.
And that’s so important to understand that. It’s not all on the employer to create this environment. You have to have this strong sense of how do I personally align with this organization so that I can let them know that I’m all in. So I definitely appreciate you elaborating on that piece. So I’m going to ask you to kick off this question for me. And this question focuses on you personally, right? So as Michael Johnson, what do you personally do to create belonging for a new hire? And the flip side to that is what challenges do you face when you are trying to create the sense of belonging.
Michael Johnson: So as a leader within an organization, I am very intentional as I bring in new employees to start the overall relationship building with an employee through communication.
I think communication is the key to creating that type of environment where the associate feels that they have a place of belonging. And what I mean by communication is the first time I meet with you should not be about, “okay, here’s all the work that I need you to do”. It should be about, “tell me about yourself”. “Let’s understand what kind of motivates you. What are some of those drivers for you? What are areas of development that you may want to work on while you come into this organization?”
I think leaders getting a better understanding of who the actual individual is, allows them to be more strategic as we are in more higher level leadership meetings. The projects are being assigned to say, “I have a candidate who may be able to join that team to provide a different diverse, maybe perspective than what we would have gotten historically from our current team.” I think the first 90 days of an employment is very critical, to help make sure that you are providing mentors, engaging the new associates in their overall onboarding within the organization.
What research shows is that people do leave organizations within either that first 90 days, or within that first five years. So you’ve got a very short window of time to get the employee to understand kind of the rules of engagement, how to be successful within the organization and to develop them so that they feel that they are at a place of belonging.
And then I think lastly, you got to celebrate the small wins. You know, everything doesn’t have to be this massive project that, you know, transforms the organization. Every day there are opportunities, as the leaders, to celebrate all of your employees, specifically your diverse employees. Just going by and saying the simple “thank you” sometimes could be a motivator to make people feel like they’re in a place of belonging for an organization.
Larry Baker: Yeah that’s a huge point because we tend to get so caught up in the day to day that ordinary things we tend to just overlook them, right? Because they’re expected. And who knows how far that thank you, or that recognition will go to let that individual know that they truly do belong at this organization.
So I do appreciate you reminding us that that’s important to celebrate those small successes. Okay Ken, it’s your turn.
Kenneth Peck: Again, he touched on it. A majority of it I’m scratching out so I don’t remix what he said, but Mike touched on it. The first thing that I do when I sit down with a new hire is I want to know what their purpose is.
Because, again, I always tell them that it’s not a mistake that they’re sitting where they’re sitting, everything is aligned. Everything happens for a reason. So I need to make sure that what I’m giving you is helping to align what is needed for their ultimate goal. So I need to understand what is their purpose. And it’s surprising that the majority of them, when you ask them that, they don’t know. And again, because they haven’t taken the time to think about it. And then as I tell everyone, especially when I’m out speaking at different events, everyone was born with a purpose. We all have that seed that was placed inside of us where it made it very easy for you to find it. But you have to be the one that developed it.
So I try to make sure that I understand what that purpose is and until they don’t, if they don’t understand it, I always tell them we going to ride together. And I’m a believe in you until you believe in yourself. And they have to know that you’re going to be in the trenches with them. They have to know that hey, again, because I always tell people leadership, my position, that that title doesn’t mean anything. It’s about action. It is what you bring on the floor. It’s what you show as a person. That’s what to me makes a leader. And that’s why I, you know, I always say true leaders. Don’t seek followers, followers seek true leaders.
So it’s really, when you get into the weeds with the individuals, you’re understanding their pain points, you’re understanding what they’re trying to accomplish, or you’re helping them get to that place to help them accomplish their purpose. And you will see them create a leader within themselves to be able to go on to now create that tree that can bear fruit for the next person.
Larry Baker: Yeah. I really appreciate that whole concept of continuing to develop people until they are at that position where they then can instill that in other people. And that leading by example is such a critical piece. So I thank you for providing that piece of insight Ken. So as we get ready to wrap up this session, and I absolutely have enjoyed the conversation in the engagement, but the perspective that I want you to take with this last word of advice, I want you to put on the reality that you both are successful black men in a corporate environment. So what advice would you give colleagues of color in regards to, how do we take advantage and position ourselves for this great resignation or great re-evaluation or whatever it is that we choose to call it?
What piece of advice would you provide? And Ken, I’ll start with you. And then Mike, if you could hop in with your piece of advice.
Kenneth Peck: So the first advice that was given, know your words. Know exactly what you bring to the table. Know that the environment that you’re in, again, I’m in the field that I know that I’m the minority in that field.
So I make sure that I master what it is to know to be able to deliver it. But the main thing that I do is I’m very confident in what I’m doing. It may not always end in the result that I want, but my belief and my faith of believing that I can, and I will, it’s going to out shine any and everybody.
So the first thing I’m going to tell anybody is that you have to know your worth. You have to know what you are bringing to the table, and that confidence is going to take you a long way.
Larry Baker: That’s great. I love it! Michael, your turn.
Michael Johnson: So what I normally tell my clients is this: your career is not determined by your manager,
you determine your career. And I think as BIPOC candidates we have to ram around our career, and decide what we truly want out of our career. And in doing that, I think you have to do kind of two things. You’ve got to educate yourself right? Over, what does diversity mean for, for me, for an organization?
How can I help to provide diversity to an organization? But ultimately you gotta communicate. You got to build those networks. You have to tell people, “Hey, I’m looking for an opportunity. How can you help me?” A lot of times people get jobs because they know somebody and someone knows that they may be looking.
Sometimes, we as BIPOC employees, sometimes are scared to what we would say, “air dirty laundry”. We don’t want to talk about kind of what’s going on, or we’re not really happy in our current environment. And sometimes we suffer because of that. We have to get out of that shell and really say, okay, what do I want out of my career? And what things do I need to do to position myself for ultimate success within my career? And so if I have one thing to tell everybody, it’s really manage your career now with this great resignation, it is the most important time for you to manage your career and get truly what you want. Because the door’s wide open!
Larry Baker: Wow, that those points, those two points were.
Kenneth Peck: And Larry and I, I just want to add to, so one of the things, you know, but that I just spoke to, and also, I would always tell them that your adversity, as I spoke and I, and my title was let your adversity be your universe. So that let that adversity be that fuel that’s getting you to where it is you’re trying to go. Because whatever tests that you’re actually entering, always tell you, if you take the time to study it, it’s going to turn into a testimony. But you have to be able to be willing to go through that adversity to get to where it is you’re trying to go, because I think that adversity is the greatest teacher that any of us can have.
Larry Baker: Yeah. Yeah, that reminds me of a saying that I heard a while back it’s I either win or I learn. Right? I’ll never lose, right. I either win or I learn. And that last part really echoes that statement for me to a T. So first and foremost, I just want to thank each one of you for your insights around this conversation.
I think that the reality is that we are in this place of the great resignation or whatever you want to call it. It’s here to stay for the foreseeable future. And I think that BIPOC workers, they might have more power and maybe even more safety in quitting jobs or quitting workplaces where they don’t feel that sense of belonging. Where they don’t feel celebrated for their achievements. And they’re not really given the opportunities that they deserve.
So I really appreciate both of you making statements in regards to owning your own career, right? You know, being prepared, making sure that resume is up to date, knowing your worth. I mean, these were such golden nuggets throughout this session, and I cannot tell you how valuable this time has been for me.
But what you also emphasize is that businesses need to consider this an imperative, right? That these workplaces are intentionally creating those opportunities and fostering a workplace where BIPOC workers can feel that sense of belonging. So, yes, it’s a great opportunity for BIPOC employees to potentially move out of situations where they don’t have that sense of belonging, but understanding that as a workplace, as an organization, you have a tremendous opportunity to receive some of those BIPOC workers.
If you do the work, like you said Ken, you’re walking the walk that you’re talking by creating that sense of belonging. So I absolutely thank each one of you for that insight and that intellect in regards to this topic. So thank you so much.
And to all of you that are listening, we want to 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. Once again, thank you for joining us in courageous conversations with LCW .
Culture Moments: Parenting During the Pandemic
Published on: January 20, 2022
In this special edition of our Brave Conversations series, host Larry Baker is joined by LCW colleagues José Guardado (Principal Consultant), Melissa Neu (Business Development Consultant), and Rebecca Parrilla (Director of Content & Research) to discuss a shared experience many people have lived through: parenting during the pandemic.
This unique episode features Language & Culture Worldwide team voices, as they reflect on the past two years of working together while parenting. Together they explore: the challenges of parenting and caregiving during the pandemic, how this experience changed their values, what privileges they might have had that helped them get through it all, and what the pandemic has taught us about work culture moving forward from here.
Show Notes & Highlights
13:45: Melissa discusses how the pandemic altered her family’s lives and the inequities she noticed in school districts’ abilities to provide resources for students’ at home learning
23:07: José names the importance of being present for one another throughout the pandemic
24:57: Melissa on how the past two years have allowed her to spend quality time with her children
28:47: Rebecca shares how she saw and told her kids how brave they were each and every day by persevering through this moment
30:27: Melissa shares how she had been conditioned not to talk about family in the workplace and how the pandemic helped change that
33:59: Rebecca highlights the power of being vulnerable in the workplace and how supporting one another as human beings was crucial
40:00: José tells us about balancing work with the personal challenges of having family members diagnosed with COVID and losing power for one week
48:20: “Permission to recognize that life outside of work affects how we are at work and it makes us human.” – Rebecca
49:21: José introduces his mantra of “have a day” and the value of recognizing the many emotions that each day might bring
Larry Baker: Hello everyone. And welcome to the Culture Moments podcast. I’m your host, Larry Baker. And I’m 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 year, we’ll hear about their own experiences as well as their insights on what’s 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 year and a half. And for many of us, we’re still in recovery from a very rough 2020.
Hello, and welcome to our podcast. Today. I am very excited to be joined by my fellow Language & Culture Worldwide colleagues, to discuss an experience that we have all been a part of these last past two years, which of course is parenting during the pandemic. And for many of us, the pandemic meant that we were taking care of our children. Some of us were actually taking care of family members while simultaneously we’ve been working from home.
And this is a challenge that doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. As a matter of fact, there was a article that I read that said that Gallup’s is anticipating that there will be 37% fewer in office days for employees in 2022.
And that’s primarily driven by the fact that 44% of U.S. workers prefer to work remote. But as we know, the pandemic has had a largely disparate impact on workers and, while challenging in many cases, working from home was actually a privilege that not a lot of individuals were afforded to do… specifically essential workers. Which we understand and we’ve heard that that is creating some racial disparities as well. As a matter of fact, taking a look at some of the numbers. In the United States, 31% of Hispanic workers and 33% of Black workers were in what was qualified as essential jobs that primarily requires them to work in person and close to other people.
So in this episode, what we’re going to try to do is… We’re going to do our very best to share with you our very own experiences. We’re going to look to name some of the privileges that we have working for the same organization. And then begin to explore, “what was the effect that the pandemic had on us as working parents?” How do we manage it? And then what lessons can we take from this experience to continue to support working parents, once we do return back to the office?
So, I have for you today, three of my esteemed colleagues that I’m going to be asking them to introduce themselves. I have Rebecca Parrilla, José Guardado, and Melissa Neu.
So, I will ask Rebecca, can you do me the privilege of introducing yourself and giving us a little bit of background of who you are?
Rebecca Parrilla: Hey, Larry. The privilege is all mine. So, yeah, my name’s Rebecca Parrilla. I am a Director of Content and Research at LCW. I have been with LCW for 15 years, the vast majority of that, in consulting and training and facilitation and coaching.
And I’ve not been a mother for 15 years. I became a mother in 2010. I have two grade schoolers. They’re in fifth and third right now – when the pandemic hit, they were in third and first. And, uh, I’m Puerto Rican. I grew up in Puerto Rico, moved to the U.S. for college. And then I stayed, lived in Chicago for many, many years and had a whole other career before LCW in commercial banking.
But I’ve been doing this for a while now, as I said. And, yeah, lots to talk about today and I’m really excited to learn more from my colleagues about their experiences.
Larry Baker: Awesome. Thank you so much, Rebecca. José you’re up next.
José Guardado: Alright, thanks. Thanks Larry. And thanks for setting the tone, Rebecca, a hard act to follow, but I will fill in with, with my narrative, right?
My story. So I’m José Guardado, I’m a Principal Consultant. Lucky to be doing this work here at Language & Culture Worldwide for over a year now. I’ve been in the field for many years. So, that’s my professional story. And it’ll relate to today’s topic because there are a lot of elements of how the work environment is changing and how it changed for me. Right? And kind of how it impacted, all the folks in my family, folks that are here in my home and folks that I also have across the United States.
But just to kind of give you some insight into, my family structure, I have two children, Sofia and Daisy – twins. So I became a parent in 2006. If you do the math very quickly, they are now freshmen, or first year in high school, and the pandemic, and I look forward to today’s conversation cause it definitely crossed over from middle school and transition to high school. A lot of factors, a lot of stories.
My household also includes, uh, I’m also a spouse, right? So that’s part of the conversation. I’m also someone’s child and my family lives in Chicago. So there are some elements of today’s story that might be helpful to unpack here on this call today with you.
And, then, in my household, pets are very important. So we have a lot of pets. We also foster dogs, on occasion for the last couple of years. So we have three dogs, five chickens, a bunny and recently have brought home a squirrel to a rescue and then release back into its natural habitat.
Larry Baker: Wow. So you have a full house and definitely, I echo with you in the experience of having a freshmen in high school that spent the majority of their final junior high years, if you will, during this pandemic situation. So we can definitely relate in regards to that José. So thank you so much. Last, but definitely not least, Melissa. Can you please introduce yourself to the audience today?
Melissa Neu: Yes, of course my name’s Melissa Neu, and I’m a Business Development Consultant here at LCW.
I’ve been here about a year now. I’ve spent most of my career in global sales and my background’s in Intercultural Communications and I’m working on my doctorate at Regent University in Global Leadership.
Most importantly, and perhaps the reason I’m on the call is that my family is quite large. My husband and I have a blended family with six children. And so, we have kids that are in third grade, sixth grade, and then the other four are in college, or have just graduated from college. We have two freshmen in college, a senior in college, and a son who recently graduated.
So we went from a really large household for a very short period of time to a small household because kids went away to college and then the pandemic hit and they came back home for a bit. And so our house is never, never, never quiet. I apologize in advance, if you hear voices or giggles or fighting outside the door, it never fails that someone’s going to practice the tramp trombone when I’m on a zoom call, but that that’s who I am. That’s our wildlife.
Larry Baker: I definitely hope it happens, Melissa, because again, we’re talking about real life situations. Right? So thank you so much for that introduction. And we’re going to go ahead and jump right into our conversation.
Now, the reality is we are all colleagues, and we have a knowledge of each other, but I do want us to dig deeper and potentially pull out some things that we may not have known about each other, but more importantly, we all have different experiences, right? We have different backgrounds. And I think that that is going to be crucial in this conversation. So we’re going to kick it right off and I’m going to start asking the first question of Rebecca.
So we all understand that working and parenting in normal times, if you have a definition of what normal looks like, we all know that that can be challenging. But when we add into the mix, this pandemic, we’re looking at some more, extremely difficult challenges for ourselves.
So let me just throw it out…What were some of your biggest challenges that you faced being a working parent during the pandemic? And then, what did you learn from it? So, Rebecca, if you could start us off.
Rebecca Parrilla: Sure. Uh, wow. So you just, Larry, you just took me back to when it first started and I just kind of realized that, you know, there’s different, the stages of this.
And I could maybe answer the question depending on what stage of the pandemic it was. But I know that, you know, when this first came out in March of 2020, I had a first grader and a third grader, and obviously it went right to remote and it was super, super stressful. It was very difficult. Obviously those were the days where people didn’t know what was allowed and the rules kept changing.
I also failed to mention during my introduction that me and my ex are divorced. And so, being a parent, working with no other adults in here and a first and third grader, trying to somehow ensure that they stay in front of a screen and listen to what the teacher is saying and make sure they’re doing what they’re doing. And at the same time do my work was one of the most stressful experiences of my life. And so that’s the first one, but, I’ll let some of my colleagues jump into that too.
Larry Baker: So José, Melissa, talk about a bit about some of your biggest challenges that you face being a working parent.
José Guardado: Yes. And I love that we started with when it first hit, because that was my first thought. Right. Overwhelming, what’s happening, concern, you know, you’re not really knowing what the next day would bring. And then what my work would look like and what my children’s schoolwork would look like.
And, you know, it was just all these things. And not being able to, you know, go out to places that we would usually go out to on a regular basis. So all of these things were kind of impacting it. So kind of going back to the first time this hit, that’s really everything we started thinking about is all of a sudden, you look around and everyone is in the same place. Your children. And I also have, you know, status where it’s, two homes. So, the girls you know my children have two places, right? So they were here with us during that time. They had to be with us for about six months because of the quarantine. Right? They couldn’t go to their mother’s house. So that was an interesting dynamic that we have to learn some things from.
Um, and I think as I thought about this question, and as I thought about what helped us as a family get through from that point to where we are today, and it hasn’t been easy, right? It’s, you know, definitely ups and downs, ebbs and flows… it was the thinking of the idea of a routine and getting all the basics in place and then really understanding that we had to give each other grace because we were all figuring this out in our own ways.
Me as a working parent, my children as students that were faced with not being able to see their friends in the ways that they were used to. So just all those things kind of kicked in. And I think having a routine for us really was the first lesson. And I can give you more examples later in the conversation, but I think having the routine was really what has helped us and what we learned through this experience.
Larry Baker: Yep. Awesome. Thank you, Melissa.
Melissa Neu: You know, the pandemic now that we’re two years in, I think a lot of us have forgotten how it was when it started, but for many of us, many of us suffered economically through layoffs and furloughs. And my family was certainly hard hit. My husband, lost his job and had to relocate to another state for work, which left me at home with all those children.
And at the time we lived in a town that did not have the economic resources in the schools that a lot of my peers’ school systems, or we don’t know where my peers have their kids in schools did. For example, in some suburbs they would get Chromebooks and be able to do virtual school, like Rebecca just mentioned, but the kids, all four kids were given paper packets to fill out each week and did not have the ability to have even Zoom calls with their teachers.
Which really put the burden of teaching on me to ensure that they finish that school year. And of course I was at that point by myself at home. So I want to name that because I think that it, to me, that it speaks to the greater issue that we have with access and privilege and economic disparity and equal access to opportunity and education in this country.
And certainly in hindsight, I am incredibly grateful that I did work in an environment where I was able to be at home with my children and to have those long nights and to take my lunch hour and to do the work with them, because I don’t believe that all children, certainly not in our community at the time had the benefit of having a parent who was able to do that work with them at home. So many folks were still being called out essential workers and such. So some it’s hard to find words. I don’t know that I’ve really ever talked about it, but it was, it was a bit of a traumatic experience. And yet as the mom of a child who has an autoimmune disease, I cannot begin to express how grateful I was that I was at home and able to protect my kids.
That’s something that we sort of went into lockdown mode and we knew what we had to do. But again, I think that it was an opportunity that was afforded to us because of, because of the privilege of my workplace at the time of the inflection.
Larry Baker: So Melissa, I’m so glad that you touched blind this topic of privilege.
Because when I think back to the beginning of the pandemic, the reality is my privilege was that we were used to it. And what I mean by that is my daughter, because she had immune issues as well. She was homeschooled. Right? So she had been homeschooled for about probably three or four years before she was able to be released to go to school.
So she spent her entire sixth grade year as a totally new experience of going to school because the three years prior, because of her conditions, she couldn’t go to school. Right? So for us, the privilege was we already knew what it took. The challenge was for my wife to get back into the fold of, wait a second, I just had an entire year off of educating my daughter. And now this cruel world has played this trick on me that I have to go back and do it again. So the biggest challenge for me was to say, Hey babe, you have to go back into that world and do that again, which in her mind she had moved from that. Right?
So that was the challenge that we had to kind of reshape those roles like José said, and come back up with routines where my spouse and again, part of my privilege is, her degree is in elementary education. So for those of you that were struggling, like, man, I had to do my job and teach another privilege that I had was that I married a teacher.
Who was being at home in the first place. It was just having that conversation to say, okay, we’ve got to go back into that mindset. So that was one of the interesting challenges that I faced in my household, but it was like, but we’ve been out of this. And I’m not really ready to do this again. So it’s a unique perspective in regards to what we consider our challenges are.
It really, wasn’t a challenge for my daughter to get reacclimated. It was more of a challenge to get my wife to say, hey, um, how much longer do I have to do this? Right? So it’s so interesting about where we are in regards to what we consider our challenges during this pandemic. And I’m so glad that you all are very transparent in sharing the different experiences that you’ve had.
And I’m pretty sure that a lot of people can relate to that. So I thank you so much, but before I go on, is there anything else that anybody wanted to add before we dig into talking about priorities?
Rebecca Parrilla: I mean, one thing that we haven’t talked about that I’m sure that, you know, everybody in this call can relate to is just the idea…I mean, I know personally I felt panicked – and I still kind of do – that your kids are falling behind in terms of education as compared to if there weren’t a pandemic or, you know, older kids who’ve already gone through primary school and middle school or whatever. But, you know, my kids were young and, you know, that’s your formative years where you learn not just the basics around reading and writing and math, but you also start learning about friendships and socialization and how to manage your emotions.
And so, I felt that that was like yet another layer. That was that constant buzz of stress in the background and you know, it got better for sure, but, you know, what are you going to do? Everyone’s on the same boat, but it’s definitely something that’s on my mind.
Larry Baker: Absolutely. And I definitely appreciate that because, you know, we are always trying to be on top of our games in our professions. Right? So now let’s throw on top of it, now I need to be on top of my game to prepare my child for their future. Right? As if I’m not driven enough, I’m now trying to make sure that they have everything they need to be successful in the future. Absolutely appreciate that.
José, you wanted to…
José Guardado: Oh, sure, sure. Yeah, just real quickly. Cause there are a lot of things that connected for, you know, our family as well with just the change in how, our children learned. And I am definitely not someone that had the elementary education background. Right? So I had to learn some new things.
Uh, math for instance, was one thing that was a big topic for folks. It’s the new math and it’s not the way I used to do it, so, wow. What a learning curve that was. And then, just the learning curve on the educational side of things. I started to sense that the schools were really trying to figure this out.
They were really kind of getting to this up to speed. The first year from middle school, To the first year in high school was different because that first year it was a struggle, it was clunky, it was awkward, it was difficult. And then things were figured out.
And, I think that kind of helped make us a little more resilient as a family as well, because, you know, to the thinking of what we had access to… we had access to the internet in my home. We also had the availability to pick up Chromebooks, right? But that wasn’t always the case for some of the other families in our community. So I appreciate that. Melissa, and you brought that up as well because that echoed for us as well. But yeah, just a big learning curve and being the teacher, being a father, being a spouse, and these were definitely, fun and transformative times.
Larry Baker: Yeah, I absolutely agree with that in regards to jumping in to help with the homework, right? Even on a deeper level, right? That was part of the deal that I had to strike with my spouse, you know, I will dig in more to help with homework.
Now I did kind of stray away from the math because I did want my daughter to ultimately understand math. So we worked out something with the tutor to log in with her. So yeah, I know my limitations, right? But when we think about that topic of changing our values… because the pandemic really did force many people to reevaluate their priorities and their values.
So I want to know, for you personally, what values has parenting through the pandemic brought forward in your life, or maybe even forced you to reconsider?
So, José, I want you to kick start us off with that conversation. What do you think brought forward to you? And if it did, what did it force you to reconsider?
José Guardado: Yeah, no, thanks Larry. And that’s a really good one because that’s, you know, now that we’re thinking about it, where we are now as a family, where my children are, really the value of being there for each other… being present for one another really understanding the dynamics of our relationships.
You know, as challenging as this has been, I also am grateful for the fact that I have come to learn more about my children I think then I would have had the opportunity had this not happened. Right? So that’s that side of the equation for me. And that side of the story. I’m sure they’ve learned many things about me… the good, the bad, and the ugly, right?
Because we’re all in the same situation, experiencing it through our own lenses. So I think, you know, the value of being present for me was definitely something that, that I’m grateful for the fact that, um, I am working with a company and with colleagues that really support wellness, right? Our wellness, your mental health and all of those kinds of things. Cause those are definitely things that have played out for us in our family as well, illness. Right? So just kind of having the core value of being present, being in the moment, the minimizing distractions, a really trying to understand where people are coming from and what we can do to support each other… I think has really helped us. So when you, when you asked that question, Larry, the thing that kept coming up was just being present. Yeah.
Larry Baker: Yeah, that’s awesome. Thank you so much.
Melissa, how do you think that your values as parenting through this pandemic, it made you have a different understanding or just reinforced something that you always knew?
Melissa Neu: Oh, it goes very fast. Time speeds up once you have those babies. And it’s amazing how, when you’re in the moment, you’re so busy, you don’t realize, even though they’re like, this physical representation of how fast time is going. You don’t realize it. And I have heard a lot of parents complaining about, they can’t wait to get the kids back in school and they were having a really difficult time having them at home.
And I will look back at the last two years. I’m not going to cry. And think it was one of the greatest times of my life, because there were six and now there’s just two at home. And I got to have more quality conversation and time with them. And as an ambitious person, who’s been called a workaholic at life I have not always taken those moments and been intentional about living in them. And, it’s certainly permeated outside of the immediate little family or not little family, but our immediate family. And we ended up relocating back to my hometown, which I haven’t lived here in 20 years, but it’s caused me to reevaluate and remember how incredibly value valuable my relationships with my family and my grandma and my sister. All of it is so important. And time again, it goes so fast. So we’re, we’re all here now and, and definitely approaching every day differently.
Larry Baker: Yeah, that is awesome. It, that strikes such a chord with me about, you know, how out of control it seemed that the virus was, right? That when you’ve heard that someone in your family, or you, may have had it, you really didn’t know how this was going to end up. Right? So it’s almost ironic that it took this virus to get us to slow down, to realize that very thing that you said Melissa time goes by so fast.
But when we are so caught up in the hustle and the bustle of spending that eight hours at work. And then, I don’t know if you all had commuting time. It would add on another two to four hours to my day. So 12 hours out of my day, I was gone and I really didn’t have that time to invest in my children at that point.
But then when it happened, now we have all this time to talk and I don’t care if it was something as silly as playing Uno, right? I found out my daughter is really good at it though. Like she cheats, but she’s really good at Uno. So it gave me that time to really find out what’s really important.
So Rebecca, I don’t want to forget about you. Talk to me about what perspective did it give you? What, what did it make you reconsider?
Rebecca Parrilla: I mean, you all are bringing all these new things. I mean, when I got this question, I was thinking I have the same thoughts as José in terms of being in the moment. So just appreciating the moments you are in.
And not that, I mean, family has always been number one for me, but this has even accelerated that feeling, as compared to everything else. But you know, you all, like what you said, Melissa brought back, especially the first, I don’t know, year of the pandemic I found myself telling my kids, every now and then, you guys are so brave.
And now I’m not going to cry, but, because it’s something that your kids are going through that you yourself never went through. And it felt weird in that way. It was different in that way. In that very fundamental, almost scary way. And so what do you tell your kids? And, I would just always say, you know, you’re so brave. Mama never had to go through something like this. And when you have kids, you’re going to be able to tell them about this and you know, and then, you know, we just did things together. We, we filmed videos together. We went on, walks at a park that’s right by my house together. And those are the kinds of things that we wouldn’t nearly have done as often had this whole thing not happened.
Larry Baker: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. I definitely appreciate that. So the reality is we kicked off this call and we told everyone that we’re all coworkers, right? So we all have a working relationship and we all have similar experiences within our organization, but I really do believe that our organization has done some pretty cool things to provide us support during this pandemic.
So, Melissa, I’m gonna start with you because I think you are the newest to the organization. So I’m just gonna start off with you asking this question.
What were some of the ways that you think that our organization supported you during the pandemic? Whether it’s the organization as a whole, or us as colleagues, if you could share with me some of that insight.
Melissa Neu: Well, I will have to call out Rebecca for this one. I’m from Generation X and I worked primarily in an industry where you never were able to talk about your children and it could really hurt you to admit as a woman publicly that you were a mom. And so I really been conditioned or trained throughout my career to never publicly acknowledge, unless I knew the person that really, really well, that I was a mom at all. And, I had some things happen around me. You know, I got laid off once when I was eight months pregnant. There were a lot of different things that happened that sort of made that happen.
And so when the pandemic hit, there was a lot of me still trying to sort of shush the children and make sure that they weren’t visible in my home work environment, but Rebecca, my very first meeting with her when I very first speaking employee, she didn’t want to talk to me about what my, background was. She didn’t want to talk to me about my resume. She wanted to know about my family.
And since that time I’ve heard Rebecca and you, Larry and José, all very publicly talk about what it is like to live in this new reality with your children at home, with you, and in so many ways, just that public acknowledgement, just that grace, that I can be on the phone with Larry and admit that I’ve locked my children out of the house and I have to go downstairs to go and get them… and that that’s okay. And that’s been tremendous.
And then of course, unfortunately, my family all had COVID two months ago. And even during that time, there wasn’t even a question. I had so many folks on the team, just pick it up and say, what do you need? I got a wonderful delivered package of chicken soup, just all sorts of little things that made the experience easier.
And I knew when I came back into work, that it was all, it was all okay. And that means the world to me.
Larry Baker: Yeah, absolutely. And I think, you know, echoing in on that, I think one of the things that I’ve never held back is my purpose for being a father, right? Regardless of where I’ve been within an organization. I will agree with you, Melissa, that it is refreshing to know the level of not only acceptance, but legitimate care about what’s going on with family that we experienced through this.
And what was cool about it was it happened before the pandemic – because I was here before the pandemic, of course – and it happened before the pandemic. So it just, grew to a different level once the pandemic hit, because I really did feel that urge, that sense of, “hey, how’s everything going with you and your family?”
Not about work, because we know that we get the job done. Right? That’s just who we are. But it’s that concern about outside of the work, that’s always been prevalent and RP I know you’ve been here for gosh, 15 years… so you’ve been basically, you grew up in this culture. So talk to us a little bit about how, how as an organization you’ve received that support through the pandemic.
Rebecca Parrilla: Well, I mean, I remember, you know, towards the beginning and I remember, you know, one of the partners being on a call with all of us and you could just hear the emotion coming out. And it was, it was shocking. And I also felt relief, you know, that she is a human being, and I knew that, but, at that point showing that vulnerability, I think probably made all of us feel better and closer.
And then just throughout, at LCW, I feel like the culture is we have each other’s backs and do what you need to do with you, your family… the work will get done. This type of flexibility and understanding and seeing each other as human beings. And just you know, the fact that we take care of each other, not just, you know, top down, although, you know, the culture here is such that flexibility has always been valued even before the pandemic, but when the pandemic hit that’s when you could really feel it.
Right? So yeah.
Larry Baker: Yeah. And again, that touches on our privilege, right? That’s a privilege that we have. And when folks say to you, “hey, do what you need to do. The work will get done.” That’s a top down cultural value, right? So it’s not something that has to be put on a, a bulletin board, if you will. We know that that will be a part of our culture.
Rebecca Parrilla: And you know, that you cover for someone else, you know, that other people are covering for you. You don’t have any doubt about that.
Larry Baker: Absolutely. José, your turn.
José Guardado: All right. So, two examples, which I think brings this whole conversation to life for me, is that during this whole thing, two things have happened to my family that are significant, um, in terms of the work that I’m able to do, right?
Just at that level, in Portland, which is where I live now, Portland, Oregon, I moved here because I thought the snow and ice was too extreme in the Midwest. That’s where I was born and raised in Chicago. So I moved here. Yeah. So unknown to me, there are ice storms that hit here that are getting pretty challenging from year to year, this year happened to be the one that killed the power in large sections of the city, including my home for 10 days. This had an impact on having people’s back. And I had to buy a generator, so all kinds of fun stuff going on with all of this other things, all these other things going on, but to speak to the culture of, LCW and the organization really, I felt that what we talk about, right, that we put on paper that we talk about… that we’ll support you was actually brought to life. So I had the support. I had the concern, the care from, teammates, all across LCW, you know, from partners all the way through everyone in every single team, was really reaching out to help and pitch in. So I really felt that I was in a good place. So really kind of, understanding us as complete people really kind of came to life.
And then the second one, which was in regards to COVID is my, my father and mother both had COVID there in Chicago. I was not as available for work for about two to three weeks. But then, you know, the culture of really supporting and the systems that are in place to really help us work remotely, to be able to communicate with each other and collaborate and still service our clients, really was something that I felt good about. And I wouldn’t be able to say this about other companies that I may have worked for in the past.
So the evolution of kind of what we’ve built here has really come to fruition for me and just real life examples. Those are the two that I can think of right now. And they have, really been, been meaningful to my family.
Larry Baker: Yeah. And, you know, there were a lot of those things that, you know, we just, and, you know, some people may say, well, a lot of those things are because you’re a smaller organization, right? Your culture is your culture. And I think that if you have people that truly believe that they are there for one another, it doesn’t matter if your company is 20 people or 20,000, if it’s a part of your culture, it’s a part of who you are. And I truly do feel that we walk that talk every day.
And there’s not an associate, it’s not an individual on this within this organization that does not have that type of perspective. And it’s definitely, again, it’s a privilege and we are acknowledging the fact that we have this as a privilege, but the reality is you can make that a part of your culture and it can, and it can permeate through all of your employees. So awesome that we’re able to bring that out as well.
So I know we’ve been talking about some heavy things and I know some of us are holding back tears and, you know, it’s just the reality of this world that we’ve been in. But I am pretty sure knowing you people the way that I do, there have been some funny things that have happened to you during this pandemic.
So I’m going to be asking for a little bit of transparency and I just want you to talk to me about what’s a funny experience or a good memory, if you will. If you don’t have anything funny, give me a good memory that you have with your children, over these last two and a half years. And José, I’m going to have you go first because I know with all of these animals and all of the stuff you’ve got going on, something has had to of happened.
José Guardado: All right. So, yeah, I so many stories I could tell Larry. But I think I’ll start with one. That’s just happened recently to our family. Um, because we have built such a resilient system and we’re like that place that people can come to and we’re like, anything is possible. We now have a squirrel in our home.
And we are nursing this squirrel back to health, so we can release the squirrel back into the wild. We had some friends that reached out to us through social media because they knew that we had, we had a farm, even though I don’t live on a farm, and now we have this squirrel that may not be released.
And I mean, we will, of course, but now my children are so enamored with… the squirrels name is Hobi… and they really, they put it on there on their list this year, Christmas list. You know, I want this technology, I need a smartphone, I need some clothes. And we also like to keep Hobi, right.
Rebecca Parrilla: Well, and the cool thing is we got pictures of them at work, you know? I mean, every couple of weeks we get a great one.
José Guardado: Yeah. So, so that, yeah, that is definitely something that has, uh, that wouldn’t be considered. Uh, but definitely normal for us and how we’re dealing with everything that’s going on around us.
Larry Baker: Hilarious. When I heard this story about the squirrel at first I thought, wait, is he serious until you really did start sending pictures. So I absolutely know that this is a 100% true story. That is awesome.
Melissa, something funny, or a good, shared memory that you have over these past two and a half.
Melissa Neu: Similar to José. We have a zoo here and I’ve been interrupted on more than one call because the little boys go out and get animals outside. And then sometimes they escape inside, which is pretty horrifying for me because I don’t really, I don’t really want to pick up lizards, nothing against lizzards, but I don’t, I don’t want them in the house.
And so I think more than anything, it’s been, um, the amount of animals that have come to live with us and also the ones that have been in the house. Like they’ve come to me with mice before, which is great that they don’t hurt them, but I don’t wanna, I don’t want him in my office space and I don’t want to be on camera with a lizard.
Larry Baker: Right? Or the reaction to them bringing in a lizard. I understand. I absolutely understand.
Rebecca Parrilla: Right. And what happens when a lizard meets a mouse? I don’t know. Hopefully I’ll never find out!
Melissa Neu: Hopefully I won’t. I do have several cats though. One of which was recently found and brought home. Those two cats capture quite a bit.
José Guardado: Yeah. Oh, wonderful.
Larry Baker: Okay, Rebecca, you’re up. Give me, give me something funny or…
Rebecca Parrilla: Well, I’ll give you something sentimental and something… it’s not going to be as funny as, you know, José and Melissa… but so very shortly after the pandemic started, I actually taught Matty how to ride a bike. And so we went next door and that’s the kind of thing that I just don’t like doing and always procrastinating, but we had so much time.
I mean, they learned how to ride a bike within, I would say 15 minutes. And that’s like one of the videos now that I cherish the most, because it reminds me of the beginning of the pandemic and the joy on their face in finally getting it.
But then the other fun thing that we did, we did two videos. We did one called six feet apart, which was to the tune of YMCA and maybe, you know, I could give it to the editors to like, you know, edit into this podcast somehow.
And then we did another one, a few months later called put on a mask to the tune of we are the world. And that was really funny and fun to do. We just collaborated on the lyrics.
Larry Baker: That definitely sounds like something I could see you doing RP, that is totally right up your alley. And I think one of the funniest things that happened with us is it’s the same type of deal, with tik-tok right?
So that’s the huge rage for the kids of this era, I guess. And I was determined to do something to embarrass my daughter. So we tried to do a tic-tac dance and let’s just say it will never see the light of day because I have told her if it ever leaks out there will be some consequences in regards to that leaking.
No, I’m a facilitator, not a dancer.
If you get that, there’s going to be some repercussions.
But you know, of course we got together for a face-to-face retreat. And I think that was another funny experience for me that because of the pandemic lifestyle things weren’t kept up the way they should have been. So getting prepared for that, all of those things that I used to think would be appropriate to where I had to come out and like buy new stuff.
Larry, you can’t wear sweatpants to our public retreat. I was like, oh yeah, I might want to figure out what slacks feel like again,
And then it’s the other dynamic. So again, there’s some, just some interesting things that happened during the pandemic that I’m like, oh yeah, we need to try and figure out a way to keep, you know, a workout type of atmosphere, as opposed to just being here, sitting in this room all the time.
So I absolutely do want to thank each one of you for your participation. And as we get ready to close, I just want you to give me a final thought in regards to this experience of parenting during a pandemic. And just, just share with me an overarching theme that you’d like to share with some of our listeners.
So I’m going to go ahead and ask Melissa to kick us off and just, you know, just give me your overall impression of parenting during the pandemic.
Melissa Neu: Well, I’ll say that I have a greater appreciation now for anyone who is a teacher or is, you know, really dedicated to growing children into the remarkable folks that they are.
I have tremendous new respect for all of those people who have had a hand in who my kids have become. And I am just, just very, very, very grateful. I’ve been lucky because my great mom has been here while the children were homeschooled to help. And I’ve been just so moved by how many folks are putting themselves out there in different ways to make sure that at least my kids are still getting.
And new experience, maybe not the same experience that they had in the regular classroom, but something new. And, and I am hopeful that that generosity and caring will permeate throughout our communities as we move forward.
Larry Baker: Melissa, thank you so much for sharing that insight. Let’s go to you, Rebecca. Just give me an overview, your final thoughts.
Rebecca Parrilla: Yeah. What Melissa just said about the teachers really resonates with me as well. Another thought I had is, you know, I think that because of this pandemic, this experience, I think has given a lot of workplaces, a lot of employers and leaders. Kind of a permission to recognize that life outside of work affects how we are at work and it makes us human.
And I think some employers were better than others about that before COVID, but I think this has been, you know, a reckoning around that, if you will. And you know, as Melissa said earlier, I think more people are open to talking about family. Just it’s just brought our humanity to the forefront and spilled into our work lives, which I think is amazing because we’re still who we are when we’re at work.
And so I think employers are respecting it more kind of elevating our human needs and hopefully, my hope is that it remains, and it just becomes a new normal because of all the positive aspects.
Larry Baker: Yeah, absolutely. Right. We don’t drop it at the door when we sign in. That’s a great point. José…
José Guardado: All right. So I will share three words and this is why: Have. A. Day.
That has helped my family because, you know, traditionally… have a wonderful day… have a good day at work… have been enjoyable day.
Too many qualifiers… and we’ve learned that limiting ourselves to one set of emotions or one set of feelings really kind of takes away the human part of this.
Right? We’ll have successes. We’ll have wins. We’ll have heartbreak. And simply using those three words for my family. And I like when I dropped them off at school, now that they’re going face-to-face, uh, you know, they have their own challenges for the school day. So I don’t tell them to have a wonderful day because I really don’t know.
I want them to understand that the day is what they make of it and how it’s created. So have a day is something that I usually think about for myself as well, because there are challenges coming my way, but just for me, it’s just, I wake up and I’m going to have a day and I know everything that I need to do, but keeping it simple has really helped us stayed centered and present for each other and really helped me kind of keep this blend of work and home life in a place that’s comfortable. Right? Not always. Perfect.
Larry Baker: Great. Have a day.
José Guardado: Have a day! Borrow it.
Larry Baker: Yeah, yeah, yeah. For me. What I think for me… what I’m so appreciative of with this conversation is that it emphasizes something that I’ve thought about and I’ve heard other people say… That, you know, there really isn’t a blueprint to parent during these times. The reality as a parent is we always try to do the best that we can. Right? And we, we try to add our individual situations into it, but there really isn’t a blueprint for how this is supposed to get done.
So the way that you do it in your house for Rebecca and José and Melissa, that’s your blueprint. No one can tell you, oh, you know, you really should give them this. Yeah. That’s not your blueprint. So I think that one of the things that I hope people get out of this session is that there really isn’t a100% defined right way to do this. You have to have your own individual pieces added to it. And I think each one of you through your perspective on today, that just emphasizes the fact that, hey, there’s no blueprint, so thank you.
And to all of you that are listening, we want to 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. Once again, thank you for joining us in Courageous Conversations with LCW.
Culture Moments: A Year After George Floyd: What’s Next?
Published on: January 5, 2022
LCW Consultant and host Larry Baker continues our Brave Conversation series with a discussion on the Black community’s experience in the time since the murder of George Floyd, what this moment has meant in the context of the Black experience in America, and what can continue to be done to move towards a more equitable society.
Larry is joined by guests, Bernard C. Coleman III (Chief Diversity and Engagement Officer, Gusto), Judith Harrison (Executive Vice President, Global Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Weber Shandwick), and Amberley Smith (Diversity and Inclusion Program Lead, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation) for a rich conversation reflecting on their personal, professional, and societal experiences and insights.
Show Notes & Highlights
9:32: Bernard speaks on the unique societal moment that surrounded the murder of George Floyd
13:27: Amberley discusses the dual identities she balances as both a DEI practitioner and a Black woman
23:57: Judith names the power in letting others know it’s okay not to be okay
18:35: Bernard reflects on how the pendulum of history has swayed over time
21:31: Judith discusses why society is primed in this moment to move the “arc of the moral universe” towards justice
33:21: Amberley talks about what it means to foster connection across communities
40:00: Judith speaks on the duality of optimism and hopelessness that is felt in this moment
42:30: Bernard tells us what it means to provide grace and space
44:10: Amberley explains how DEI work necessitates a top-down approach
Larry Baker: Hello everyone. And welcome to the Culture Moments podcast. I’m your host, Larry Baker. And I’m 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 year, we’ll hear about their own experiences as well as their insights on what’s 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 year and a half. And for many of us, we’re still in recovery from a very rough 2020.
We have a special session today that includes a panel of guests. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get everyone together, but in the age of COVID, everyone must learn to adapt, to accommodate each other. Nevertheless, we are fortunate to have two excellent guests, Judith Harrison, and Bernard Coleman on the call together.
Our team at LCW has conducted a separate interview with Amberly Smith, and we will add her thoughts into this conversation to provide us with better insights into the following questions: What’s changed since the murder of George Floyd and the conviction of Derrick Chauvin? And then we’ll dig into what the Black community believes needs to change to make sure that true justice happens.
Judith. I will begin with you.
Judith Harrison: Thank you so much, Larry. I am delighted to be here. I’m Judith Harrison, Executive Vice President of Global Diversity Equity and Inclusion at Weber Shandwick, which is a leading communications firm. I have been there for 16 years or so, and our mission at the firm at this point and going forward is to become the most anti-racist and inclusive agency in our industry.
And in the broader marketing communications industry as a whole. And so everything that I do in terms of my work with employees in terms of our reputation management, as we do it with DE&I is all about trying to reach those goals so that we really can be the organization that we aspire to be.
Larry Baker: Awesome. Thank you so much for that Judith and Bernard, you have the floor.
Bernard C. Coleman III: Thanks, Larry. I’m glad to be here with you all today. My name is Bernard Coleman. I’m the chief diversity and engagement officer at Gusto. Gusto is a – basically, we’re here to empower a better life. And what we mean by that is helping small business and medium medium-sized businesses win by providing payroll services, HR services, and connecting small businesses with the things they need to be successful. So that way they can focus on building their business.
I’ve been at Gusto about almost two years. And part of my role is employee engagement and thinking about the full entire employee life cycle. That’s – how do we invite someone attracted to our organization, onboard them, engage them, help them progress in, and hopefully have an enhanced experience while they’re at Gusto.
And the way we look at us through this, what would we call the RISE perspective. And that stands for representation, inclusion, social impact. And I think that touches on every part of the employee life cycle. Impact the totality of that experience inside and out. So I’m glad to be here with you all
Larry Baker: And last, but certainly not least, Amberley, please introduce you.
Amberley Smith: Thank you so much, Larry. My name is Amberley Smith. I was born and raised in Huntsville, Alabama. Its nick named the rocket city. I moved to New York about 10 years ago to pursue my childhood dream of working in the fashion industry. I worked in the fashion industry for about seven years, doing a myriad of different things, including sales to licensing to PR.
And then I finally settled with doing production. I worked in fashion jewelry production for about five years. And then after that, I decided that I really wanted to devote the next chapter in my life to helping people and trying to make a difference in the world. So then I decided to pursue a career in diversity and inclusion, and I’ve been loving it ever since.
Larry Baker: Awesome. Well, thank you so much for that introduction, Amberley. And where do you work at again, if you want to share with the audience, let them know that as well.
Amberley Smith: Sure thing. I am the Diversity and Inclusion program lead at Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation.
Larry Baker: That is a mouthful. I just wanted to sure I didn’t have to say that.I wanted to make sure that I passed that over to you. So thank you so much for doing that.
Let’s get to the heart of the matter. My first question to you is, and you could take it from a personal perspective, and then maybe if you want to transition it into your work environment, that is absolutely fine as well.
But I want to know, what is the past year been like for you?
Judith Harrison: It has deep sigh. It has been a rollercoaster emotionally to be quite honest. You know, the murder of the George Floyd was something that I think was particularly difficult because we saw someone being lynched in front of our eyes. That is exactly what it was for nine and a half minutes. I have never, in my life seen that level of cruelty.
I’ve read about things, but to see it struck me in a way that nothing has before. And it struck my entire organization in that same way. There was a shock and a heaviness that came about because of that. And in the wake of that murder, which as you recall, closely followed the murders of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.
And there were so many in the news at roughly that same time that it was that sort of cumulative impact that really got us. And so in the wake of that, that particular murder, I did a series of 21 town hall meetings with Weber Shandwick folks, mostly in North America, but I did Amia as well because I wanted to see how people were processing, what had happened and what we could do to support them, because I knew it was incredibly difficult.
And I will tell you one of the things that came out of that, that was so hopeful as far as I was concerned… and that is that people started to share things that were incredibly personal, that I did not anticipate sharing their experiences, their fears, and that started to create an incredibly connected community – the likes of which I had not seen and certainly had not anticipated.
So in that way, there was this horrific horrific piece of news that was the kernal of the beginning of a transformation for us. So from that perspective, it was something that we could build on, but horrifying, nonetheless.
I will also say that one of the things that came out of it was that I wanted to be really sure that we were taking care of our Black employees in particular at that time, because I felt that people were suffering from collective trauma because there was no way not to. So I created, a series of EAP sessions specifically for Black employees, with EAP specialists who were trained in dealing with collective trauma, because I wanted to make that available to people so that they could really not only express themselves, but figure out how to sort of grow and to get to a better state mentally than they might have been at. So I think that that was really helpful also. And that was just the beginning.
Larry Baker: Thank you so much for that Judith. So Bernard, I’m going to give you the opportunity to respond to the same question. Tell me what’s the past year been like for you.
Bernard C. Coleman III: My sentiment is going to sound very much the same. It has been a roller coaster. I think what’s been difficult is when you are of a historically excluded group, there’s the personal impact, but then you have to have the professionalism to show up at work.
And I always find that having to carry those two could be difficult, particularly, as Judith pointed out, seeing George Floyd murdered, I’ve never seen anything like that either. And, you know, you might, you almost lose hope and you’re like, I can’t believe this is happening for the world to see.
But I think from that moment, and because of COVID, we’re locked in our houses for quarantining, we’re doing all these things. You couldn’t turn away like you could before, where you could be… well, I’m going to go on vacation and not have to look at that. And I think it may be. The us the world look and see what was actually going on and focus for once.
And so of that terrible moment and of all the Black murders of last year that it continued to happen, there was a moment for us to truly reflect. And I, as a practitioner, this is the first time I think I’ve ever seen this level of conversation. And I think to that point, it allowed us for a moment of opportunity at Gusto.
I mentioned earlier that we, we operate on the what we call RISE – representation, inclusion, social impact, and equity. That conversation began in earnest in 2019. And by having that conversation, I think we were better equipped to grapple with what we saw, as opposed to you know we saw lots of organizations – and I’m not naming and blaming anyone, everyone processes things differently – but you know, you saw performative actions.
You saw organizations take a lot of actions, but were they the meaningful ones? It allowed us to, because our leaders are further along and we’d already talked about RISE and then we have something called the rise and shine learning journeys, where we have them read certain books, like say, you want to talk about race and mental hearts the memo… We had read these books first. And so they were further along, which made it easier when we had the larger conversation as a leadership team about what are, what are we going to do and organize and much, like you said, like we did, you know, we did put out the EAPs, we use a vendor called modern health that has helped people through those sessions.
We increased the amount of our sessions because we realized people were dealing with emotional trauma and just seeing so much in grappling with so much. And along with the courageous conversations. Now we, along that line of thinking, we create a subject called RISE Conversations. Actually, they’re called RISE Bites.
So we have four different journeys for our RISE journeys. So, you know, like this more intensive three-month journey where we talk and read the books, we have a lighter weight version, which is like you’re doing one each month. And then you have RISE circles where you can self-study that the RISE bites.
We’ve been instrumental in some programing we’re running still today. So every Tuesday we have a conversation on things related to the spectrum of DE&I. And what we’ve found is it creates greater community and connection and greater conversation on the things that we just didn’t learn about, we didn’t talk about and we’re actually bringing to the forefront at work.
And I think it’s our way of creating more education and awareness for our staff. I think has been incredibly important in terms of acknowledging what happens outside your doors will naturally come inside. You just can’t expect like, you know, if I were walking outside and my shoes are dirty, that I’m not going to track that into my house and the way we’ve approached this as having these deeper conversations.
And I think that the response that we’ve heard from our staff is like, I’ve never talked about this at work. I think that makes people feel more connected. And I think when you’re working in a remote fashion, that community connection is incredibly important that people are going to feel that bond to that organization.
So on the personal level was, it was painful, but on the larger level, it was a teaching moment of epic proportion.
Larry Baker: Amberly, can you share your thoughts next?
Amberley Smith: That’s a really good question, Larry. And it’s a little hard for me to answer just because I always consider the both, the two hats. On one hand, I am a DE&I practitioner working to make sustainable changes in my company.
And then on the other hand, I am a Black woman experiencing some of the things that I’m working hard to change. So whenever questions. Yes. So, you know, whenever questions like these come up, I like to try to answer with both sides. I like to think of it as kind of like my left brain and my right brain are having a debate with each other in real time.
So I’ll say on the Black woman side, last year, you know, we saw a lot of Black IG squares. There were a lot of protests. There were a lot of promises being made by a lot of different companies and I’m not sure if they followed up on it as aggressively as they spoke out about it last year. And so, you know, I feel like on that side, there’s a little bit of skepticism, because you know, with the Black community, we’ve been given a lot of promises that have not… they’ve been pretty fruitless in a sense.
But then on the D&I side, I have to say I also understand the protocol that you have to follow when you’re trying to implement change. And there’s so many different things to consider. And you know, there’s a lot of kind of legal red tape, because a lot of HR things that you have to think about. And then on top of that, we’re basically trying to undo something that has been ingrained into a system.
So that’s something that just takes so long. And when I try to give people an example, I think of you know, growing up being right-handed your whole. And then all of a sudden, someone tells you, okay, now are you have to start using your left hand. And you know, that’s going to take a lot of time and a lot of effort and work in order to change and a lot of, you know, concerted effort to change.
So that’s just something that’s very difficult. So now that I am on the other side of really trying to work to make a change, I understand how much patience you have to have and how you are not going to have overnight success. Right? So I would have to say like, you know, as a full answer, I don’t see tangible change just yet, but I do see a lot of concerted effort.
I do consider that to be at least progress where people are really trying. So, you know, I’m just trying to make sure that I maintain my patience with that as well as do the work on my side.
Larry Baker: So I want to stick with a thing that you talked about towards the end, when you were specifically talking about the role that you play as a DE&I practitioner, and you were talking about companies.
So let’s expound on that a little bit. We know that many companies, they have made these promises towards greater racial equity last year. And you touched upon something that was going towards some of the tangible changes that you’ve observed, but I want to get, from your opinion, what do you really think needs to be done, from your perspective?
Amberley Smith: From my perspective? Well, I will say that I do have to kind of go back and say that I have seen some tangible changes such as even though I don’t work in the fashion industry anymore. I do tend to still keep tabs on it. And as we know, you know, the fashion industry has had some of the biggest mishaps when it comes to D&I.
But, one thing that I’ve seen lately is a designer named Aurora James created an organization called the 15% Pledge. And since Black people make up about 15% of the U S population, her organization is calling on retailers to commit to at least 15% of shelf space for Black owned businesses.
And so, you know, I think that that is something that is really great and something that is tangible and something that can continue because you know, it kind of holds companies accountable for the things that they promise. So I do feel like that is something that is really good.
As far as other things that companies can do…I think that companies just really need to work on learning from other’s mistakes. Sometimes when I look at some of the things that companies do, it’s basically a broken record of something that some other company did. So, you know, I’m just kind of looking at it, like, why didn’t you learn from, from their mistakes?
You know, why weren’t you paying attention? And I feel like sometimes when that happens, it can come off as you just, you were careless. You weren’t really that committed to this because you allowed that to happen, even though this happened before. So, I definitely think that that’s something that companies need to start working on a little better.
Larry Baker: I’ll toss it over to you. Bernard. What do you have to say about this same time?
Bernard C. Coleman III: Yeah, that’s a great question. I mean, that pendulum definitely does swing. You know, we saw that after the civil war there’s reconstruction and Jim Crow, and that was a long, a long period of time. Now we’re at an interesting point where we’ve already talked about how this has been the greatest inflection point that I’ve ever seen in my years of people actually having a real conversation about what’s going on and not kicking the can or sweeping it under the rug.
So I’m hopeful in the sense that we can keep and sustain this level of conversation. Some of the structural constraints that we have before as Black folks, aren’t there. Like we have greater opportunity to express and share so people can see.
Before, a camera man or something had to capture that a moment to even prove that that was true. So the evidence is there and you could say, you know, that’s not real that and that argument doesn’t fly anymore. So I think we have greater tools to be advocates for ourselves and for others.
Also I think, you know there’s that Martin Luther king Jr. quote… in the arc of history and the arc of time, we are arguably in a better place, have worked 50 years ago. And I’m going to assume we’re going to be in a better place 50 years from this point, it’s just managing our expectations. That change does not happen quickly.
So what I see is by having this level of conversation, I would think that a younger generation that was coming up are having these conversations, having these realities versus flattening out, perhaps in college or when they get to the workforce, but I would argue it’s too late.
By having those conversations earlier, we can have more honest conversations. And I think that allows us not to waste the time that we lose. And we pretend that this does not happen. So I’m hopeful because I think that you can’t unsee what you’ve seen.
And I think about my three daughters, they’re going to be better equipped to deal with it. They’re gonna be better equipped to advocate for themselves and be better equipped to advocate for others. And that would help that I would see that in the workplace and that we would see positive movement.
And even though that pendulum will try to swing back the other way, I don’t think it will be as severe as it has been in the past because we have better tools, better conversation. We’re better equipped to handle these conversations in the future. So I’m hopeful for my kids. I don’t think that I’ll see it immediately, but I’m glad that I can play a part in trying to influence a better.
Larry Baker: Absolutely. Judith, same question to you.
And, you know, I interact with you almost on a weekly basis, so I know that you have that hope and that inspiration. So I’m going to give you an opportunity. What hope or what insights can you offer about the future?
Judith Harrison: I want to build on something that Bernard said that I think is so true and, and sort of add something to it.
Martin Luther King said something like the arc of the moral universe bends towards justice. Absolutely true. But we have to work day and night to push that arc, to bend the little faster than it would ordinarily. And I think that we are in a moment right now where people are primed to do that more than ever before.
So I find that, I find that extraordinarily hopeful in this time. Going back to the conversations that I’ve had with people, and I’m talking about group conversations with 200 and 300 people at a time where, you know, they are just crying and talking about these things that are so difficult. They’re forging bonds that would never have happened before.
We have had DEI committees in our organization, in every office, in North America, for years. I can’t even remember how many, but that is spreading worldwide because, people around the world saw what happened with George Ford and so interest in making sure that there was justice for people of color, Black people in many places, people of color generally around the world has definitely ticked up.
The problem or the watch out I see, is that we cannot allow this to be just a moment in time. You know, where everybody puts a little square on Instagram and says, wallah, my work is done. It is not done. You know, this is it’s going to take more than conversations. It’s going to take, making sure that we are doing what has to be done to diversify our workforce. To measure what we’re doing, because if we don’t measure, we’re not going to move forward. And to make sure that we are building environments that are not only inclusive, but go to the next level, which is making sure that people feel a sense of belonging, which is sort of past inclusion. And then that means that people will be able to bring their, their authentic selves to work. Right?
And they will be able to feel more at home in who they are – everywhere they are. And that enables, uh, a better life in every single way. And it improves one’s personal life and improves contributions at work as well. And I also want to go back to something that you said Larry, and that was about Black people being so incredibly resilient.
We’re sort of going… the arc of history has been sort of moving back and forth and back and forth for years, but you know, always going for… I think one of the most important things that has come out of this is the admission for Black people to understand that we don’t have to be breathtakingly strong every minute of every day. Because we are human.
And so we are allowed to not be strong. Sometimes we are allowed to not be okay. And I think that taking that pressure off of ourselves to always be strong, to always be resilient, to always be perfect… That is one of the most important things that we can do, you know? And so I have had countless conversations with our BRGs, our business resource groups, and with groups in general, saying that it is okay to not be okay, you know, and we will support you in that. So not to worry.
So that to me is another positive thing that has, has come out of it is changed the way we walk in the world, you know, and I think that that has to continue to progress.
Larry Baker: Yeah, I thank you so much for that add Judith because you know, there is an aspect to this Black experience that for many people has been pretty traumatic, right.
And always being expected to be strong and continue to keep on keeping on that is such a wonderful release. To allow us to say no, it’s okay to not to be okay. It’s okay that you feel that this burden is a little bit too heavy to carry today, this week, this month. And we’re going to allow you to have space to process that.
So, absolutely appreciate that add. And it was extremely timely.
So back to that comment that you made Judith about adding on the fact that it’s okay not to be okay. I really do appreciate how. That has been incorporated into the conversation within the Black experience, but it also leads me to one more question that I want to ask each of you. And because of your unique positions within your organization, and you have the ability to ensure that this isn’t a moment in time… I imagine that there are some specific asks that you would have as DE&I leaders and practitioners of your organization.
So, Judith, I’m going to ask that you kick us off. What is, what are those specific asks that you have in your wish list, if you will, that you would like for not only your organization to do for our non-Black colleagues and peers. What, what is a specific ask that you might have with them?
Judith Harrison: I have a couple of asks. One is don’t be afraid to make people accountable. Meaning that I don’t want any organization to feel that D&I is an HR initiative and those folks over there we’ll take care of it while I go ahead and do the work that is important.
DEI is not something that is off to the side. It is embedded in the business. It has to be embedded into the business, which means then that expectations about behavior and learning has to be built into every level of the organization and at a certain level, there needs to be some sort of tie between people’s compensation and how they are doing in terms of meeting certain inclusion goals.
So people need to.. it needs to be an organization wide initiative for everyone, to make sure that managers are managing inclusively leaders, understand how to lead inclusively, that that knowledge and that sort of ethos goes everywhere from the top to the bottom and the bottom up, you know, people learn a lot from the entry-level and the junior folks because they have different experiences and expectations coming into the organization.
So I would say don’t be afraid to make people accountable. And listen to your people. That is extraordinarily important because that’s how you find out what they need, more than anything, you know? Those decisions can’t just be from, the C-suite deciding what everybody needs. There has to be some sort of input from folks about that as well.
Oh, and my third ask. Is, about differentiated development, which I believe in very strongly. And that is simply that when you look at talent development, you know, the average talent development program just kind of is very general, right? It is for a kind of a mass market. The fact of the matter is that Black people and other people of color face sort of headwinds based on diversity, right, in their careers that other people do not face.
And so I think it’s important for organizations to recognize that and do what they can to create development programs or work with partners to create development programs that help people of color, in general, to face those headwinds and advance and be the best that they can be and go into the world with as much confidence as they can.
So those are some of the important things to me.
Larry Baker: Thank you Judith.
Same to you Bernard, you know, being able to influence the initiatives the way that you can within your position in your organization… What are some specific asks that you have for your colleagues, other leaders in your organization?
Bernard C. Coleman III: Yeah, that’s a great question.
Very similar goals. We have aspirational goals that are our Gusto leaders have that way it’s actionable because we know that if you don’t measure it, it does not get done as we already said. And so we have aspirational goals for across the dimensions of hiring progression, engagement, and retention.
So that’s really important so that when people don’t look into the hiring trap, because I think a lot of times people just focus on hiring in isolation as if it’s going to fix everything. So that’s why it’s been hiring progression, engagement, retention, and getting them to ask why.
So forget about almost the hiring piece. Why are certain people not progressing? Because we are all human beings… we should be moving at the same clip. Right? So, you know, why aren’t people being engaged the same, they should be having a similar experience. And why is a certain group leaving faster than other? It shouldn’t be one group leaving in droves and when the other group is thriving.
So it’s really thinking about not only the goals, but why. What drives those goals? I think that would be my first thing, in terms of accountability.
The second thing would be finding your why, and trying. As Judith pointed out, people are engaged and they’re ready to have a conversation. A lot of times they don’t know where to start. So I always say start with yourself. Find your why. Like what, what gets you going on this work? Because otherwise it can look like the cheesecake menu where you’re like at cheesecake factory in many ways – a million things. And I don’t know what to eat.
Pick the one thing and start there. And then once you do that well, then starting something else. So I think it’s really about finding your why, and then continuously finding your why.
And I think the third call to action is education and awareness. That’s the most important thing. It requires the most time.
But I think it’s the most enriching and most fruitful is when I’m more educated and I understand I become more empathetic. I become more goals driven and trying to be that champion and advocate for others and really taking ownership as opposed to do a performance things, but not understanding what the impact could be.
So it’s really education and awareness. It’s realizing it never stops and having that growth mindset. So, I think when you do those three things well, the pendulum keeps moving in your favor for longer.
Larry Baker: Being in the work that we’re in, this whole diversity equity and inclusion umbrella, over the past year, year and a half or so many of our Latinx and Asian friends, as well as women’s groups, the LGBTQ plus community and people with disabilities, they’ve shown a lot of solidarity with a focus on BLM and the need to actually address racial inequities… specifically for Black people. So my question to you is this, what do you think we can do to avoid falling into this trap of competing with one another.
Amberley Smith: So that is a great question. And I think that there are a couple of different components that can be very helpful with that. And I think some of those components are education, empathy, and collaboration.
So starting off with education, I’d like to give a little shameless plug to LCW. At my company, we hired LCW to facilitate a course called the Black cultural immersion experience. And the reason why I really enjoyed this course is because it touches on so many of the things that have been such hurdles for the Black community throughout history, starting with slavery.
So, we hired LCW to do that, and we had an illustrious facilitator named Larry Baker, who was amazing…
But I would have to say that, you know, one thing that we did is we made a concerted effort to make sure that we invited, people of all backgrounds. So we had women, men, we had people of all ages, all different backgrounds, people from all over the world, all over the country.
And we also had different ranks. So we had people at the top and we had you know, assistants and associates. So because of that, we made sure that we picked a very diverse group to come and learn about the Black cultural immersion experience. And after a lot of the sessions that we had, we would have people who, you know, maybe grew up in Korea and had never actually met a Black person, but with so many of the things that they learned about the history of Black people in this country.
They were able to relate in some ways, because there were things that happened in Korea that, you know, maybe it happened to this subset of people here in Korea. So they were able to connect at least, you know, so by giving them that education, they were able to see, okay, we actually have a little more in common than we initially thought.
And, just to give another example of that. You know, I’m from Huntsville, Alabama, and I moved to New York. And for a lot of people, I am the first person that they’ve ever met from Alabama. Now, you know, we think of some of the stereotypes of Alabama, you know, I might not be the first thing that comes to mind, you know?
I mean, I’m, I’m beautiful and brilliant, and I’m basically a genius and clearly I’m very modest and humble as well.
But, you know, because I’m the first person that they’re meeting I challenged a lot of those stereotypes that they had. So I liked the fact that because of who I am, I can open their minds and to thinking like, oh, well, you know, if I was wrong about who she might’ve been, then what else could I be wrong about, let me go do some research on that.
And then also can go back to the connection point, you know, with me coming from Alabama and, you know, connecting with people all over the world here in NYC, I also see that there are so many similarities that we have, even though we grew up in different places. We have different cultures. There are so many ways to connect.
So I think that could go back to your question. I think that the best thing that we can all do as a group is understand that we are all connected in some ways. That we have a lot of similarities and that we’re fighting a lot of similar fights. And I think that we have to understand the strength in numbers and what we can do to help each other and collaborate. You know, in my company, we’re always trying to implement D&I into every single thing every single day.
So when I think of all these groups and you know, how we can work together and make sure we don’t compete, let’s think of what we often do to help each other. Like if I get this thing, I want to make sure you get this thing too. If you get this thing, come back and make sure that I have it too. So I don’t think that that’s something that we could definitely do.
Larry Baker: Absolutely. I love that whole statement about the connectivity and finding this common agenda because it’s just like you said, we all being these underrepresented groups in this particular country, we all have a responsibility if you will, to find what our role is as people of color to dismantle the bias systems that hold all of us back. Right?
So when you start with understanding our struggle, and the fact that as a Black community, we were the ones who really paved the way for a lot of these opportunities that the other groups are able to enjoy. So it’s never a thing about us not willing to share the spotlight. I think it’s just that we wanted to make sure that the emphasis was placed upon the culture or the community that actually started the fight. Right?
So I appreciate how your organization specifically decided to take on the Black experience first and then brought it out to potentially all of the other groups as well.
And, I will close our session, but I did want to give you a moment to, maybe if you had any closing thoughts that you wanted to share about, you know, how things are looking within our community.
And again, I know that we are not a monolith and there are so many different aspects to this Black experience, but maybe a word, in regards to, you know, your outlook, your perspective.
Judith Harrison: I can start. I think, I think it is a very complex time in which there is so much energy on the side of right, the side of optimism, the side of moving forward. But I think that people are fighting a sense of hopelessness as well. Right?
And so, you know, there is that, that sense that yes, this could be a really good time. It’s an inflection point and we want to move forward, but I’m also hearing disappointment in what is going on in our civic life. I am hearing disappointment in the fact that, that there was a very great moment, last year, you know, for that inflection point we talked about, but some of the attention has died down. So some people are feeling a little bit cynical about how real the commitment is.
So it’s a sort of, it’s very much a two-sided coin that I am hearing. I am hearing different ideas and interpretations of what justice means and what it will take for us to get that, because that of course was the big conversation right after George Floyd. And to the point that you made earlier on, Larry, after the, well, nobody expected the Derrick children verdict, to be quite honest, I don’t know a single person who expected that verdict to come out the way it did.
And the thing that is so interesting about it is that even when it happened, it was great, but there was still tremendous sadness because of the reason for the trial and because of the outlook for this being able to happen again. So I think we’re, we’re in a time that is emotionally complex and I don’t see sort of one path to justice and one sort of way that people are feeling it’s just such a wide range.
And to me, the most important thing is to be able to listen empathetically and to really try and help people to move toward that. The more hopeful, optimistic side, because that is where the work gets done. The work doesn’t get done when we’re hopeless. The work gets done when we feel that there’s a purpose and a reason, and that it’s going to do that.
Larry Baker: Absolutely. So Bernard again, a closing thought that inspiration, adoration, whatever you want, I’m going to give you that space to express yourself. Go ahead.
Bernard C. Coleman III: Yeah, the closing thought would be something we say Gusto is giving grace and space. Recognizing that people are carrying a lot of the COVID… you had this COVID whiplash where like, things are looking better then things are looking worse and all the things we’re struggling personally. And recognizing that things aren’t feeling like they are moving fast enough for some folks. Some people want the easy button and change now and not recognizing this as a marathon instead of this is a marathon as opposed to a sprint.
So I really think it’s about giving people the grace in space to reconcile all their feelings and emotions and really trying to meet people where they are. So that when they are ready to show back up, step up for the space and not being too harsh on them when they maybe can’t carry so much.
And I think that goes to this greater community and connection, making sure people feel that sharedsense of purpose, but also know that they can count on one another to take a step back for a minute. And then I think also as the mental health piece. I think a lot of people are hitting a wall encouraging mental health, telling people that mental health is important. Encourage to them to talk to somebody.
I think that’s really important for our Black community in particular, just because I think sometimes it’s not as welcomed, but I think if you go and put your oxygen mask on, you get right back in the game and continue to fight as opposed to wearing ourselves out so we’re not as impactful as we want to be.
So I think it’s given each giving people grace and space, but also ourselves. So that way we can do those things and make those commitments and show up the way we want to show up
Larry Baker: Amberley, what do you think about all of this?
Amberley Smith: Sure thing. So I think that the best question to ask yourself as the leader, if you’re looking to see how we can expand racial equity globally is what are you doing locally? You know, the very, the very first day of my career in DE&I, I heard, and I’ve heard this endlessly, that diversity and inclusion starts from the top down.
The executive board sets the tone. What diversity inclusion is going to be, how it’s going to be implemented, how aggressive it’s going to be and how fruitful it will be. So as an executive, you have to make sure that you’re really working to impact change in that space by holding yourselves accountable.
And I have to say that at our company, you know, we’re very fortunate to have a CEO who has a weekly newsletter and every week he sends messages to that aligned to D&I and his consistency, you know, it sends a very powerful message that, that he cares and that he’s paying attention and that he is serious about this.
And that’s something that is extremely important to have. So, you know, for leaders, I think that the best thing you can do is to really check on, on what, on what your organization is doing locally. And I think that, you know, you really need to pay attention to everyone at every level. You know, what are the people who are at the lowest level thing about your diversity and inclusion initiatives?
When you have interns coming in, can they see it themselves? You know, they’re coming in for the first time to a lot of companies. Is it kind of visible to them and are people in the company, do they feel comfortable with even speaking out on if they don’t see it. You know, so, I think that the best thing to do first is to really evaluate yourself and to be very honest about where you are, because that’s the only way that you can move forward.
And if you really get to a point where everyone in the organization feels really good about the things that you’ve done. And you can get them on your side and get them ready to help it, you know, help spread racial equity globally. Then you have a team, you know, you have a network, you have a unit who’s ready to work with you.
And that spreads volumes.
Larry Baker: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, so much for your engagement and your participation on this subject that is timely and needed. I love the grace and space. Have a wonderful rest of your day. Thank you.
Judith Harrison: Thanks so much, Larry.
Larry Baker: And to all of you that are listening, we want to 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. Once again, thank you for joining us in Courageous Conversations with LCW.
Culture Moments Podcast: What about the Latinx Community?
Published on: December 8, 2021
In this episode of the Culture Moments podcast, LCW Consultant and host Larry Baker has a brave conversation about the challenges the Latinx community faced during the pandemic and the obstacles this community continues to face in the workplace today.
Guests Daisy Auger-Dominguez (Chief People Officer, VICE Media) and Carlos Herrera (Inclusive Diversity Lead Consultant, Allstate) explore timely and crucial topics including how the pandemic has most affected the Latinx community, why some companies find it difficult to support the Latinx community after Hispanic Heritage Month, and what it means to go beyond performative allyship.
Show Notes & Highlights
5:08: Carlos shares how the beginning of the pandemic began for him and examines the effect of the pandemic on his family and the Latinx community
9:02: Daisy describes how, in some ways, the pandemic has opened a window of opportunity for younger generations
15:11: Daisy talks about how it can be difficult for some organizations and leaders to understand the Latinx community, causing them to look away and the privilege that comes with being able to do so
23:38: Carlos offers his own definition of true allyship
21:30: Carlos suggests what work must be done in one’s own community before partnering with other communities
29:16: Larry articulates how “stereotype threat” can permeate workplaces
32:32: Daisy explains how the possibility of change continues to motivate her work
Larry Baker: Hello everyone. And welcome to the Culture Moments podcast. I’m your host, Larry Baker. And I’m 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 year, we’ll hear about their own experiences as well as their insights on what’s changed and, more importantly, what needs to change to move equity forward.
And today we are going to be having a brave conversation of what that recovery looks like specifically for the Latinx community. I am thrilled and excited to have with me for my two guests, Daisy Dominguez and Carlos Herrera. And I will give you the opportunity to introduce yourselves. So Daisy, I’ll start with you. Give us an introduction of who you are and what you do.
Daisy Auger-Dominguez: Thank you so much, Larry. Hi everyone. Daisy Auger-Dominguez. I am the Chief People Officer at Vice Media Group. That means that I’m responsible for our people, our culture, our social impact initiatives for a global workforce of over 2000 employees and nearly 20 plus countries.
I have a long history of being a diversity equity and inclusion practitioner. I have worked at Moody’s Investor Service, Time Warner, Disney, Google, Viacom. I have also launched my own consultancy on workplace culture and my mission is to make workplaces equitable and inclusive.
Larry Baker: Awesome. Thank you so much for that intro Daisy. Carlos…
Carlos Herrera: Absolutely. Hi. Hi Daisy and Larry and hello everyone. My parents named me Carlos Herrera. I also welcome Carlos Herrera because not everyone can roll the r’s like I do.
Larry Baker: That’s right.
Carlos Herrera: My pronouns are he, him, and his. Located in Chicago. I have about 22 years of experience doing like talent acquisition work, campus recruiting work, and diversity, equity, and inclusion work.
I’ve been in good hands at Allstate for about 13 years. I’m part of the inclusive diversity and equity team. We have about 8 or 9 people on our team. I’ve been involved with a lot of different things. Employee resource, group programs, training diversity recruiting. Right now I do a lot of partnering with the external organizations we partner with. Working with our inclusive diversity and equity councils and moving forward at disability inclusion work. Personally family background is from Mexico..
And I will neither confirm nor deny how my parents got to Chicago, but they got there. And that’s where they met and they had me and my three brothers were born there. So that’s me.
Larry Baker: Awesome. Thank you so much for that insight, Carlos. So based upon this wealth of knowledge, and I’m going to excuse the pun, Carlos, I am sure we are in good hands today with our conversation. So I appreciate that. And Carlos, I’m actually going to kick off our session with you because I want you to give me some of your personal thoughts, some stories, some reactions that have occurred in the Latinx community from the beginning of COVID to the current moment.
And if you could talk to me about some of the challenges that have surfaced. And as a extra bonus, talk about how maybe some organizations and society can work together to try to alleviate those. So I know that’s a lot, but I offered it that you are capable.
Carlos Herrera: Yeah. I know. It definitely is a lot. When I think about the last 18 months, there’s a lot of things I think about. I think about immigration. I think about the review of DACA and about what’s happening at the border. I think about unemployment. The racial injustice. The elections that took place. But I think COVID is the one that, that really still sticks every day to a lot of people. It’s all over the place and a lot of people are affected by it. And in all different means, it’s just such a heavy and a real topic.
When all this kind of started, I was actually in Mexico with my mom and we were there visiting family. And then we were hearing all this stuff was happening and how they were going to shut down travel. And me and my mom started really getting worried. And one of the things we thought about well, if we get sick, do we want to be in Mexico or do we want to go back to the United States? So we found a ticket and we went back to United States.
But what was most chilling though is, you know, we flew into O’Hare, O’Hare Airport, one of the biggest busiest airports in the nation. And it was just silent. There was no one there. Usually the lines from immigration is take a long time. It took five minutes. You know, we go outside we get the taxi and got a taxi right away.
And no one was on the road. This was like in the afternoon when we got home. No one was on the road. So it was really chilling. And it just it just came to the fact of what’s going on and what do we do? And I live by myself and I’m able to, I think take care of myself but my dad passed away about three years ago, so my mom’s on her own.
My concern came to my mom. And when we think about our culture, like our family is so important to us. And so I was really thinking about, how’s my mom going to get through this what does she need to survive? So we had to get educated on all that stuff. So I think one of the things that I think a lot of people in a lot of organizations did was helping each other and understanding what situation we’re in and how we can get through it. And at the time we didn’t know when it was going to end, it’s still not ending and there’s still more to learn. But really relying on each other to be able to support each other in this time. And, when you think about family, you don’t think about immediate family in our culture.
It’s like, our aunts, our uncles, or nephews, our cousins, our, you know, our, our nieces, our abuelitas. You know, I still have my abuelita, thank God. And, in thinking her, like, how’s this impacting her being so much older too. And then I also think about too, during this time, like things had to get cleaned, right?
Who are the workers that are doing all the cleaning? Who are all the essential workers? A lot of them came from our community and just think about the risk that they were putting themselves in for us. And really made me think about us. Like us as a community, where we’re at and where we need to go.
And that has been a constant message, I think about all the time. Where are we at as a community and where do we want to go and not go separately, but together. I think that’s where we’re really going to be able to make some difference on things.
Larry Baker: Yeah, Carlos, I can’t help, but compare the parallels between that connection that you’ve made about well, who are the essential workers, who are those individuals that are risking their safety for us? And I think about the parallel that just like in your community, in the Black community, a lot of our people were considered those essential workers too. So there’s this connection that we have within our communities and you touch a point so beautifully… How do we come together to bring about a resolution? Carlos, I appreciate that connectivity.
So Daisy, same question to you. Give me some of your personal thoughts, stories, reactions of the impact that COVID has had upon the Latinx community. And then of course, some challenges that may have surfaced and more importantly, how do you think organizations and our society can work towards alleviating those.
Daisy Auger-Dominguez: I don’t have a whole lot more to add then what Carlos has shared, because I do think, and I think Larry you hit the nail right on the head there. Something that’s happened in the past year is that for those of us who thought we were separated, we realized that we actually are not.
And particularly for communities of color, there’s a spiritual kinship that we have. A solidarity in a connection that your experience is not that different from mine. Yes, there are racialized tensions that impact all of us differently, but fundamentally there is a kinship there and an opportunity to lift each other up.
And I talk about this in my work, even when I speak about gender and I speak about the fact that white women have to use their privilege and power and influence to help chart and create a path for all women to advance, not just white women. And that means Latinas. And that means women of color. And in this past year we’ve been forced to reckon with that in a really unique way.
And so what I’ll add to what Carlos has said is that the Latin X community, again, it’s not a monolithic. It is a very complex and nuanced community, 26 nationalities, generational differences, language differences, cultural differences, if you will. And what I found was that this past year and a half of lockdown and pandemic has created an even bigger window for our Latinx, Gen Z-ers and millennials to do what they do really well, which is to, to identify problems and to try to dismantle that. And it brought an energy to those of us who frankly in the early parts of our careers, didn’t have the same hutzpah if you will and courage that these young people have.
And, in many ways, what I always, what I tell a lot of younger people is you’re able to do what you’re able to do because I swallowed my pride for so many years and I was able to build these structures and I was able to do what I was able to because of the daily indignities that our ancestors had to face every day to create open spots and opportunities for us to enter these workplaces.
You know, so, I think that there’s been a moment of connection and awareness and perhaps a little bit more shared understanding. I won’t say that it’s fully of our common experiences. But I’ll tell you this, cause I live in the world of work and everyone has a relationship to work.
It is how we get paid and are able to put food in our children’s bellies. And for the Latinx community, no matter where you come from and for the Black community as well, family is everything to us. We work so that we can take care of our families.
We work so that we can create opportunities for our families. And some people experience the workplace as it should be… challenging, because it’s work. But for others, if they’re lucky, they think, they consider work to be rewarding for others. And that’s Latinx and Black and BIPOC and people of color that same workplace is overlaid with microaggressions, gender violence, systemic racism, outright discrimination.
And sometimes that nagging feeling that you just don’t belong in these places because they were never designed with you in mind. And this past year and a half, we have had employees say no more. And we have seen. Employees rise and say, I don’t want virtue signaling. I don’t want performative allyship.
I want you to make workplaces more inclusive and equitable for people that look like me. To these Latinx professionals and women in particular are far better educated and prepare to advance in their careers than ever before, but they’re still facing the same obstacles and challenges to advancement and growth in organizations.
And what we’re seeing is Latinx employees acknowledging that, trying to solve for that, and recognizing that if you want to now during this moment of the great resignation, which is what we’re all living. If you want to keep me in this workplace, you have to understand me. You have to value me. You have to see me and you have to create opportunities for my growth.
And that I think is a unique aspect of this past year and a half.
Larry Baker: Of course, Daisy, again you resonate with that comment about kinship. And I think that within our two communities, the experiences are so similar and we have to find a way to understand that we’re in this together and yes, this event of George Floyd’s murder took precedence in society’s eyes, but we have to understand we’re fighting the same fight. So those same comments that you’re talking about the Latinx community stepping up, I see the same thing in my community with my younger Black people that I talked to. They are ready. They are coming to the battle and they’re coming to the battle wiser.
And they have these techniques and they have this ability to speak in a way that, like you said, in my generation, we learn to bear it because that’s what we were taught from our previous generation. We were taught to bear it. They’re not bearing. They are looking at this opportunity as a moment to raise their voices and they are not afraid to do that.
So I love how you talked about that kinship because most organizations want to pit us against each other. But as long as we continue to remember, no, we are fighting the same fight. We have this undeniable thread that connects us together of being a part of the underrepresented. And I hope that we continue to keep that as our focus as we move forward. So I thank you for so eloquently putting that in motion that we can have that conversation.
So I’m not going to stop. I think that we’re on a roll and I want to talk about, and Daisy you’re in a unique position as being the chief people person in your organization.
I just want to ask you. And again, just flat out just let me know how much progress do you think companies have actually made to expand true inclusion and belonging of the Latinx community? Especially from that intersectional lens that you mentioned earlier. So speak to that point for me, if you will.
Daisy Auger-Dominguez: Clearly not enough. I just relaunched an article that I wrote two years ago about Hispanic Heritage Month. And it’s like, if I had written it yesterday, it’s the same challenges that exist in organizations. It’s a community that is still very much sidelined and the marginalized. It’s a community that many people just don’t understand.
And so they just, it’s too hard. It’s too complex. Wait, you speak Spanish, but you don’t speak the same Spanish that this person does? By the way, we all speak the same Spanish, but we have different accents. But we, you’re a Black Latino or you’re a white Latino?
I was born in New York city and raised in the Dominican Republic and then came back to the US when I was 16. People that didn’t know what to do with me, because I spoke English fluently because I went to an international school, but I came from a working class family and I had an experience of what the Latino community is outside of the US and within the US so I had to find my way of defining what it was for me to be back then, Hispanic, eventually Latina now, Latinx. And they’re like, wait, you use three different terms. What does that mean? What does that look like? The complexity of that, I think scares too many people away.
But what I always tell leaders is, privilege is the ability to be able to look away and you can’t look away. You have to look at us, you have to understand your workforce. You can’t keep on commenting of the fact that this is the largest growing, and still growing, underrepresented community, in the US. We’re no longer underrepresented. We’re 18% of this minority, really majority, minority culture in the US and not create retention programs, advancement programs, and not incorporate into your work opportunities that go beyond Hispanic Heritage Month… that are all year long.
We still are operating in companies that believe we put a nice little gift for September 15th through October 15th and at the end, we’re done. You know what, when I worked, when I worked at Disney, I remember when I joined the first thing that they asked me to do was to… and I was the head of diversity and inclusion and talent acquisition… but they asked me to look at a campaign that they were going to be launching for Hispanic Heritage Month.
And I looked at it and it was lovely. And I said in what markets is this going to play? And they said this is a national plan. Really, this is, you’re talking about tamales. You’re talking about, an experience that is going to play really well in the Southwest. It’s going to play well on the west.
It’s not going to play as well on the east coast where you have more Caribbean Latinos that are eating arroz con pollo every day. We will appreciate it. We will love it. But if you want to really reach us then create another spot that speaks to that segment and that speaks more broadly to this community.
And then I reminded them and just by the way, and this was for TV… just like Black people don’t only watch TV during Black History Month… Latinos don’t only watch TV between September 15th and October 15th. We consume this content all year long. So what are you doing to draw us in all year long? And what are you doing to bring in the talent behind the camera and in front of the camera to create the content that everybody else wants to consume.
And so we’re still having those conversations in companies. We’re still pushing for it. And it is until we, I fundamentally believe, until we see a critical mass, not just of talent at the junior levels, but at the mid and senior levels of organizations, will we be able to have these conversations in both the comfort and discomfort that comes from it.
Larry Baker: Yeah. And Daisy, we have a program that talks about, it’s a cultural immersion about the Latinx experience. And we talk about a lot of those concepts about, it’s not just September 15th through October 15th. It’s great that you have this awareness, but what is the action that comes from that awareness?
Because if you simply rely on the fact that, oh, now I’m aware of the Latinx culture, and you do nothing about it, you’ve literally wasted our time. So our program is really designed to give that historical perspective, and it talks about all of those different dynamics, but it encourages action, which is the main piece to that puzzle.
And, Carlos. I have not forgotten about you, my friend, because I want to know, talk to me. I mean, we have done work together with your organization in the past. How much progress do you think companies have actually made to expand that true inclusion for your Latinx community?
Carlos Herrera: Yeah. No there’s definitely an opportunity. And I agree with a lot of what Daisy, share those same thoughts. I do think the George Floyd murder did provide and surface an opportunity for people to really think about what are you going to do? Not only people individually, but also the communities that you’re in and as well as the companies, that you’re part of. What are you going to do?
And it’s those, what your actions based on what you’re going to do is going to dictate. Who are you going to be involved with? And who’s going to join you in what you’re trying to do. Right now, though, the world is changing for so many different reasons, for our demographics, for technology, for all these issues that come up and people need to come together for it.
So people are going to join forces. People are going to want to join companies that are aligned to how they’re thinking and how they’re feeling. And I think more so now than before. What employees think and feel is going to be so important. And employers, the more that they open up their eyes and their ears the more they’ll be able to do to be successful.
Cause employers need, companies need to listen to employees. You know, I’m actually very thankful we have our employee resource groups because we actually lean on them a lot. When we think about George Floyd, and when we think about the murders that happened in the AAPI community, when you think about everything recently with the veterans in Afghanistan… our employee resource groups, we lean on them to really help us understand what direction do we need to go. Give us guidance. Help us support the rest of our company and employees.
Cause if we don’t provide tools and resources to those groups, we’re never going to move anything ever. So I’m very happy actually that our company decided that, well, what’s the next level of these ERG? What’s version 3.0? We can’t be talking about 1.0, because then you’re way behind.
And I want you to come up, but come up quick because we need to really come together because these ERGs, when you think about intersectionality and we think about allyship, like this is where the goal is, and really changing where we’re at as people, as communities, as companies. And again, we just gotta listen more and have more faith and trust in these groups while making big company decisions.
So I do think that yeah, the more we come together, the better off we are. But I will say one other thing though. Specifically to our community. Our community needs to be better with ourselves. We have so much issue within our own community. And I get it from LCW. The great partner that you all are. You need to figure out your diversity space before you start helping out everyone else with their diversity space. Like I think with our community we need to figure out us.
Our Brown community. We need to figure out us, before we start joining all these other communities, and partnering with all these other communities, because yes, Black and Brown coming together is going to make it stronger. But Brown, you got to get your stuff together with ourselves and supporting ourselves.
Don’t be so negative with each other. And to Daisy’s point, there’s a lot of us. And the more that a lot of us can come together and put all of our challenges and talk about them and be able to resolve or put them to the side. As soon as we’re able to come together, then that’s a strong community that the other committees are going to want to partner with.
Larry Baker: I agree, Carlos. I echo that statement. Of course, I’m focusing on the Black community because I know I’ve said this before about this particular program, but even within that Latinx experience, we talk about some of the intercultural complexities of being within that community. Because again, part of that awareness is not only for non people of color.
We’re asking from our own group. Hey, you know, we’ve got some skeletons in our closet too, that we probably want to arrange in a nice little way before we can ask other people to join into that fight as well. So I absolutely respect, appreciate, head nods, you’re getting an amen from the congregation, that there’s work to be done within our own community.
So I appreciate that transparency that you relayed. So Carlos you’re on a roll. So I’m going to lead asking you the next question, because now I want to focus on leaders. You mentioned something that I hope you tap into, but I want you to tell me what’s your one ask for leaders beyond Hispanic Heritage Month. What should be their next step in that allyship journey?
Carlos Herrera: Yeah. Yeah. When you think about that question, I think about like the journey, everyone has their journey in this DEI space, right? And what is your journey?
Where are you at in this DEI space? That’s important to understand, but what’s also important on. Where do you want to go? You might know where you’re at and don’t want to go anywhere. You know that’s not going to help the cause. If you want to go someplace, I want to be able to support you where you want to go with it.
And also let’s be real, right? When I’m thinking about leaders, like you’ll get the org chart. I mean, that’s a lot of white males, we’re actually, thinking about. And really allyship right now is probably so important. And it’s really that white male, right. that ally that’s really going to help us move this needle forward because we can continue doing as part of the community and saying our words and doing our actions and having our behaviors. But it’s the people that haven’t been part of it in the past that can be part of it moving forward, which is how change is actually going to happen.
And as you’re an ally too, listen, learn and act. And one of the things I like telling people all the time is that like, you can’t really call yourself an ally, the community you’re supporting, they’re the ones that confirm you’re being an ally or not. You come in there with some totally wrong, different direction. That’s not what the community wants. Listen to the community. Learn from the community. And then you can act and partner with the community to be able to do what you want.
But allyship is so important to make. Things happen in the future.
Larry Baker: Yeah. Carlos, again, I just appreciate the comment that you made and it really rings true to some, a point that I try to get across when I am facilitating with audiences that are primarily white audiences. I really try to get them to remove themselves from the past and things that they had no control over.
What I want you to do is to take that awareness that you have and move forward. What do you do from, today on? Not blaming, not trying to make you feel bad about the past, because there’s nothing you can do about that. I’m concerned about you making an impact on the future. For, not just for me, but for my children and my children’s children.
Those are the things that I’m more interested in then bringing up the past and trying to rehash that. So I’m glad that you said that. Okay, Daisy. I know we are right in your wheel house when we talk about this whole concept of allyship and moving beyond Hispanic Heritage Month. Just give me some insights on the things that you are asking of leaders to do beyond October 15.
Daisy Auger-Dominguez: Well, I’m asking them to be better allies. I’m asking leaders to really get to know their teams, to stop just sort of jumping to being a performative ally and to recognize that, with allyship comes action and responsibility. And it means that you’re not just going to call yourself an ally and call it a day.
You know, Latinx employees are still in many ways, trying to navigate workplaces that were not created with them in mind. And that means that leaders and managers, your allies need to ensure that Latinx employees genuinely believe that they have a successful career at their organization. And, instead of making grand gestures about why diversity is important, they need to really focus on supporting and nurturing their employees, understanding what trips them up in the organization. What other unique advantages? How do you reduce the obstacles to their success? How do you do that? How do you do that in a way that makes it more constructive and more equity driven? Versus just saying that you’re an ally.
There’s a research piece that came out several years ago. And like I said earlier, while dated, it’s still very relevant. And it’s by Coqual, which is formerly The Center for Talent and Innovation. And it’s called “Latinos at work” and in it I’m going to forget some of the stats, but it was about over 40% of Latinx women felt the need to compromise their authenticity to conform to leadership presence standards at their company. It was about 30 plus percent for men, you know, a good 70% or so felt that they had to cover, and that they had to tone down their appearance, their accents, their emotions. All so, they could survive in the workplace. That’s exhausting. And it’s a waste for organizations that say that they want to support their Latinx talent.
So what I tell leaders to do is to stop that. To understand that their employees are not just doing their jobs, which is what you hired them for, what’s in the job description, but they’re having to do extra labor on top of that to just simply survive.
And in order to do that, they have to change leadership norms. They have to be intentional about using their power and their influence to remove barriers and to clear the advancement path for all employees. And sometimes that means calling out discriminatory or microaggressive language in a meeting. Sometimes it means stopping a decision before someone’s getting hired and saying, wait a second. Did we consider all the factors here? Could bias be a decision in why we’re choosing a white person over a person of color?
That’s what true allyship looks like. And the only way to dismantle workplace barriers that limit the full inclusion and success of Latinx employees is to call that out and to understand what they need and to be willing to shape new leadership norms.
Larry Baker: And Daisy, you talk about this concept and it really mirrors what we refer to or what we’ve known in the industry is something called stereotype threat.
And it’s experienced by a lot of people of color where it’s almost as if you are functioning with two brains at all times. So not only are you doing the work that they hired you to do, you’re fighting against the stereotypes that they’re holding against you. And you’re constantly trying to make everyone comfortable when it is absolutely draining everything out of you that most people don’t even have to consider.
So again, You’re touching up on some things that just echo a lot of the work that we’re trying to get out to let people understand that for our Black and Brown communities, in order to be inclusive, you have to remove those barriers in a place that like you said, it’s never been designed for us. So, whatever it used to be, it has to be totally transformed so that we can feel like we can be our authentic selves and give you the best product, because we don’t want to be walking around thinking about are they thinking about that I’m too ethnic or did I have too much of an accent or do they think I’m too aggressive? Do they think I’m too…? You know, you know, all of the words that we hear about us. Angry and just hard to get along with.
So I appreciate those comments that we continue to push and we continue to challenge leaders to really reconsider their entire evaluation process.
Carlos Herrera: You know, If I can just, if I need to share something, it makes me think about like… As you probably can hear, see, I get very excited and passionate, like right away. Like I got a lot of energy. But what I’ve kind of realized is to the points that are being made, that I have to warn people sometimes that they don’t interpret that as me being angry or mad.
And I had to do that a couple of times the meetings. There’s someone who I work with and we always talk about this all the time. And she’s a Black woman and she’s always like, sometimes I can’t say that because I’m a Black woman and their going to interpret it wrong. And in this just, it’s just such a, more of a layer you’re putting on people and then people are going to definitely be reserved to themselves.
And then like we’re missing out on the goodness of people. They’re thinking about that instead of the things that we should be thinking about, it’s just a layer that I wish that, that, that would just go away somehow. Even with the LGBTQ+ community. Like they have to think about that and see feeling accepted and we’re missing out on their greatness because they’re thinking about other things.
Let’s let people be people and let’s just do the good things we’re trying to do as who we are… not, as who we are not.
Larry Baker: Yeah. Try to assimilate as opposed to be who I naturally am on an everyday basis. Carlos, thank you so much for that. Daisy. I’m going to give you an opportunity. Just give me some closing thoughts.
Some things that maybe keep you up at night or what gives you encouragement? What are you excited about? Because we could tell Carlos he’s excited. Which is a great thing, but what makes Daisy excited?
Daisy Auger-Dominguez: I mean, What excites me is the possibility of change.
And this is why I do what I do every day. My team knows that my job is to help create conditions for them to succeed so that all of our employees can succeed. And we do that with a radically inclusive, radically equitable mindset. Every single day I get up and that’s what I think about how do I help people get out of their way so that they can build, nurture and create the workplaces that you know, that, that work for everyone.
So what excites me is knowing that I’m not the only one! And you know that there are, that there are Carlos’s is out there. You know, Danielle’s and Megan’s and Heni’s. These are my team members who I just met with right before I had this conversation and we spent two hours ideating on the future of our strategies and our work and what we do and how we should do it.
That’s what gives me hope. That’s what gives me energy. It’s little actions every day and it’s millions of people doing millions of things every day towards the change that we want to see and knowing that is happening. And that, that will happen because I have a 13 year old daughter and my greatest dream for her is that she can walk anywhere on this earth and feel seen, valued, and respected. And that in turn she does that for others as well. And she gives me hope. Everybody who gives me hope, the people, the young people at Vice that I work with gives me hope that is possible.
Larry Baker: Yeah. Daisy, I think that is a perfect spot for us to close our conversation and with all sincerity, I absolutely thank each one of you for your engagement, for your transparency in letting us in on understanding your community.
Because again, I think that we have so many parallels that it’s essential, that we continue to find those things that we can work together on, that we can partner with. Because not only can, I sense the excitement that radiates from you and from Carlos, I hope that you can sense that this isn’t just a job for me either.
This is a passion that I have, and I think in order for it to be successful, you can’t go at it any other way. That passion has to come across for other people to get them passionate about it and joining in on that cause. So with my sincerest, thank you, I appreciate this conversation. It has been so necessary.
Larry Baker, Daisy Dominguez, Carlos Herrera. I’m trying Carlos.
Carlos Herrera: I love the try. The try is what I care about. So I appreciate that.
Larry Baker: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for your participation and your engagement.
Carlos Herrera: Thank you. Appreciate it.
Larry Baker: All right. And so all of you that are listening, we want to know what were your biggest takeaways from this conversation?
Please share them with us on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn at Language & Culture Worldwide or LCW. Once again, thank you for joining us in Courageous Conversations with LCW.