Putting Action into DEI: TaChelle Lawson

Episode 31 September 17, 2021 00:39:02
Putting
The Edge: A Skillsoft Podcast
Putting Action into DEI: TaChelle Lawson
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Hosted By

Michelle Boockoff-Bajdek

Show Notes

On this two-part episode, we discuss a movement that’s been at the forefront over the past year: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). While 2020 brought an influx of knowledge and awareness to DEI, this is only the first step. So where do we go from here? To help answer this question, we invite two individuals who recently shared their stories to make Skillsoft’s new DEI courses so personal and powerful. The views expressed by guests are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of Skillsoft. 

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Episode Transcript

Speaker 1 00:00:07 Welcome to the edge, a Skillsoft podcast for learners and leaders alike. You know this in every episode we engage in candid thought provoking conversations on the topic of learning and growth in the workplace. I'm Michelle Beebe, your host, my pronouns are she her and hers on today's episode, we're going to be discussing a topic. And actually it's, it's so much more than that. It's a movement and it has been at the forefront for so many of us this past year, diversity, equity and inclusion. I think you'll agree. It's been a year and a half of massive change and disruption. And I would argue that the point at which we find ourselves now is beyond anything. We have a playbook for, we've been living through what could be called a perfect storm of change. Three seismic shifts have convened to disrupt business as usual, a global health crisis in COVID-19. Speaker 1 00:01:02 And with that worldwide economic uncertainty, and then a widespread social justice movement that has in turn forced many companies to look at their DEI policies as they seek to advance meaningful change within the workplace. And today we are here to talk about that last point. Building a diverse workforce is not only the right thing to do, but it makes good business sense. And that building a culture of allyship and leading inclusively can help companies innovate while engaging and retaining their employees. And in fact, the data suggests that creating a diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace is critical to attracting skilled individuals who can contribute to a company's success. But we also know that there are many companies that aren't where they want to be from a DEI perspective, aligning policies to the needs of employees and their changing views, and then updating those policies regularly. Well, it will engender trust and employee wellbeing. Speaker 1 00:02:03 And so we must focus on it now, now at Skillsoft, we'd offered diversity equity and inclusion training for years, but last year in the face of a growing social justice movement, we knew that we needed to reevaluate and take a more impactful approach for our customers and our own team members alike. And so we worked quickly across disciplines, creating a series of live leader camps, featuring respected diversity experts who provided insight and actionable advice, but we didn't stop there. Skillsoft recently launched a new DEI curriculum, entitled diversity equity and inclusion in action. The five powerful courses approach DEI with a new level of authenticity. They revolve around real life interviews with individuals who share their personal stories and their experiences round table discussions, feature open dialogue that shows how people across a spectrum of backgrounds and identities and experiences and perspectives all see the same issues. These powerful courses educate and inspire today. I am so pleased that our guests are two of the individuals who recently shared their stories and help to make Skillsoft's new DEI courses. So personal and so powerful. Please join me in welcoming to shell Lawson, founder, and president of fig strategy and consulting. Welcome, and thank you for joining us on the edge to shell. It's great to have you here. Speaker 2 00:03:36 Thank you so much for having me. I'm really looking forward to today's discussion. Speaker 1 00:03:41 I am too. I am too. And by the way, I should tell you to shell and I are having this conversation and what's so wonderful is that I get to see her. Unfortunately you don't, but, but you're going to go watch the courses and you will then, but I'm looking into her room and she's got this amazing artwork. I just, you have to tell me a little bit about the artist because I'm so drawn to the beautiful images behind you are these Speaker 2 00:04:02 It's gorgeous, gorgeous. So I wish I had a more impressive story behind this artwork, but I don't. I actually was in a Ross store of all places and was looking for knickknack stuff for my offices, for my employees. And I'm walking through the store and suddenly I'm stopped in my tracks because I see this beautiful piece of art in Ross. Oh my God, are you kidding me? So I have actually been digging, trying to find out who this artist is, and I have no idea, but it almost brought me to tears. It was so stunning. And then I happened to find the other one at a TJ max. So I, again, I wish I could tell you more about this incredible artist, but I just got really lucky and it really spoke to where I was with my own journey in embracing my, my natural beauty and embracing my blackness, so to speak. So I had to have it, it's funny, this piece of art, which you would think costs hundreds of dollars was $40 inside of Ross and everyone that walks by my office says, where did, where did you get this and same reaction? Tell me more about this piece of art. Speaker 1 00:05:12 Yeah, it's stunning. So here's the thing we are gonna, we're gonna take pictures, we'll post them. Cause you have to, you have to see these and then anybody who can figure out more about this artist, you gotta let us know. Cause these are amazing. So, so, okay, well we'll now move into the topic, but I just I'm struck by that. So to shell, I look, we're going to talk about your role in the videos and we'll talk about that experience because I imagined that it was a really interesting and illuminating experience, but first we want to get to know you a little bit better. So, so tell us a little bit more about yourself and your professional background. Speaker 2 00:05:47 Okay. So I am not as interesting as I sound I'll preface with that. Um, I love being introduced. I love being introduced because I'm like, wow, they make me sound a lot more impressive than I am like. Um, so I just, obviously I have a really big personality and my background is primarily in the hospitality world. I've been in hospitality for over 20 years, more than 20, but we don't need to go into specifics. So then I start aging and that's not important. So my focus, my love, my passion has always been in the food and beverage industry. I was born and raised in Las Vegas, grew up in, in a food culture. And that is essentially who, I don't want to say who I am. It's what I love. So I've worked with some of the most incredible, amazing large brands that you can imagine. Speaker 2 00:06:34 Mercedes-Benz I believe the time red bull Huntington and the thing that I loved about each one of them was their commitment to brand and how important they took that promise to their customers and to the experience. And that's where I live in, in this really odd, unique space of hospitality, food and beverage is what's, what's your promise? Like, what are you, what are you telling people they're going to get? And how are you delivering on that? What's interesting is that in every role I've ever had, I've always been the only black executive, which it's hard enough being a woman, right. Um, you know, that Michelle, it's hard enough being a woman, especially in a leadership or an executive role, but out on top of that being the only black woman, that's definitely been, been a game changer in terms of identifying what some of those really unnecessary challenges are in terms of corporate identity, more importantly, just navigating through this world. Speaker 2 00:07:39 So how does Michelle make this mark when I'm feeling this need of constantly defending myself, right? Like how do I actually be seen as a true professional and taken seriously as an executive when I'm actually spending just as much of my time defending who I am as a person. So what I do now in, in fig strategy and consulting has helped organizations one identify the power of diversity. It's we can look at each other and see that. Yeah, we're both women, we're both very different, but we also have a lot of similarities and those differences really work to our advantage, right? The fact that I grew up in a predominantly black and Hispanic neighborhood that was both drug and gang infested, my ability to shift and maneuver comes really naturally just based on my experience. Right. And so how do I use that experience to help Michelle and the team grow, right? Speaker 2 00:08:36 Like why does that have to be negative instead? It's a, it's a matter of, Hey, we think very differently. Gen-Z is our customers think very differently. So what I do now is help organizations. First of all, acknowledge that diversity is powerful. Having people that come from different backgrounds, different education levels, just different experiences works to your advantage, right? Like just by acknowledging that everyone is different. And then taking that a step further, how do you communicate with these diverse audiences authentically? How do we remove the tokenism? How do we remove the, oh yeah, let's just, you know, throw another black person into an ad campaign and call this diversity. How do you actually start creating intentional messages? So, Speaker 1 00:09:20 So I love this because we're talking about a certified minority, black owned and woman owned strategy firm, which I think is tremendous. And there's a lot that you are doing for a very diverse portfolio of clients. But I also know that that's not the only thing that you are invested in and that you've got this wonderful organization called SAS mouth. Can you tell us a little bit more about that? Speaker 2 00:09:48 I can, and I'm going to preface this Michelle with, if I get emotional, just bear with me. Cause SAS, SAS, SAS is definitely an emotional one for me. So in December of 2018, there was a young man by the name of Andrew Johnson, drew Johnson, who was a forced to cut his dreadlocks off in order to compete in a wrestling match. I'm not sure if you've heard that story, but I came across the story in the spring of 2019 and watching that clip brought up so many emotions for me, I was literally in tears because it was so clueless. And so thoughtless what they were doing to this young man without understanding very much about black culture and the connection to hair. The referee actually referred to this young man's hair as unnatural, which is insane. So I had also just began my own natural journey and I'll get into that in a second, but I'm watching this and I'm getting incredibly upset. Speaker 2 00:10:55 I'm very emotional. And the only thing I was focused on was the woman that was cutting his hair and the satisfaction she had on his space. And I remember thinking, I certainly hope his mom is nothing like my mom, because my mom would have raised holy hell, that you cut her child's hair without picking up the phone to call them. They actually made this young man choose between his hair and something else you love, which was wrestling. So he was, he was not going to be able to participate in this match. He was 16. What would you have done? So I followed the story and I'm watching a news anchor cover it. And it was very tone deaf. I sh this, this was someone that did not understand why this was a big deal. Like why, why are we making such a big deal about this boy's hair? Speaker 2 00:11:50 And it was, it came across very, very cold and that was, it was frustrating and hurtful as well. And at some point I could only focus on this woman's lips and how fake they were. They were so full of him, of college. And so injected, actually obnoxious and offensive to me. And I remember thinking, how can this young man's hair that is natural. It's also a big part of a spiritual journey in the black community. It's not just hair. How could that be unnatural and need to be removed? But I actually am looking at this woman with these incredibly unnatural lips that look very much like mine and it set a whole movement in place for me personally, because it took me back to being this young girl that lived in an environment where we were constantly as, as young black girls constantly reminded of all the things that were too much about us. Speaker 2 00:12:52 Our lips are too big. Our noses are too wide. Our skin is too dark. Everything was just too much, but how could that be true? When we see women that don't look like us tanning their skin to be darker and calling it confidence. And then we see, we see women that are injecting their lips and being named top model of the year and the most beautiful one. It doesn't make sense. And the impact that it has on young black girls is huge. So, so we actually grow up needing to fit in. So I would spend thousands of dollars, Michelle, thousands of dollars on hair extensions to fit into this Euro style of beauty. That was my hair will never look like that. It'll never grow that way, but I was so much more excepted. Would that look? And so when I started fig, I was in business for maybe nine months and I decided that it was time for me to, first of all, I just started a business. Speaker 2 00:13:56 I need to start saving money. So it was the craziest thing, Michelle, I did this style, it's called Mambo twists. And it's just these long, big twist of hair. My hair is really thick. It's, it's really kinky. It's curly. It's it's wild. I have this big hair. It's absolutely gorgeous. And so I finally had had enough of trying to fit into this, this different ideal of beauty. And that was also my commitment to drew Johnson, who I don't know, but to stand in solidarity with him about how serious this hair situation is and how beautiful it is. And no one has the right to make it any less than that. And so I'm wearing these long twists and I kid you not within the first week, I tell my sister, I don't know what the hell is going on. Maybe I have like more pheromones, who's an off of me or whatever, but everywhere I went, someone stopped me and said, oh my gosh, your hair is beautiful. Speaker 2 00:14:55 You have the most beautiful eyes you have. I actually felt and make no mistakes. Confidence is not something I suffer. Like I have no lack of confidence, but something shifted. I now felt my most beautiful. I now felt my most natural self because I was just embracing who I really am and what I really look like. And that journey has just evolved. So when I started SAS, now, it was designed to say, look, girl, if you want to wear the extensions, go for it. If you want to wear your hair, natural, go for it. But what you don't need to do is adhere to someone else's standard of beauty anymore. And we know that you're beautiful, so beautiful that there is a tanning salon and like per every three miles in Las Vegas, right? I'm not going to a tanning salon. Women are injecting their lips on a regular basis. That look the way that mine look naturally. I have nothing to feel too much about or inadequate about I'm beautiful and black women are beautiful. And it's time to acknowledge that a lot of the features that we are born with are literally borrowed by other cultures and never acknowledged that black women are beautiful. And so that's what sass mouth is about is about reinforcing our natural beauty, taking complete ownership of it. That's SAS. I love that. Speaker 1 00:16:20 I love that this idea of commanding respect, where it's deserved and then also not being silenced by others, right? It really is your ability to be who you are, the way you are and the way you want to be, and also to serve as a role model to others, which I just adore. So thank you so much to shell for sharing that. I want to switch gears just a little bit. I think we have to acknowledge, you know, when I opened this podcast, I talked a little bit about the year that it's been and it's been, whoa, it's been it's more than a year. It's been a year and a half of, wow. We've seen a lot of change in this past year. How has it impacted in your, from your perspective, the perception of the commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in the organizations with which you work and along with that is how has it changed the way you're leading this work on behalf of some of these companies? Speaker 2 00:17:17 Such a great question. And it's crazy to think that it's been 18 months now, right? W we actually look back and we're like, wait, no, it's, it's been awhile. Yeah. So couple of things, we all saw the enormous wave of press releases and public commitments and big statements from corporations that I say twofold. But those, those commitments were twofold. There were organizations that truly got it and said, okay, we need, we need to do better. And then there were that jumped on the bandwagon and had no intentions of really following through. And then somewhere in the middle, there's a group that wants to do better, but really doesn't know what to do. And so they kind of just pass the buck where, where I stand is accountability. Okay. That's my position to Shell's position, fixed position, sass mouth's position is accountability. This is, this has gone on long enough for everyone to acknowledge. Speaker 2 00:18:20 Yes, we need to do better. But what does that actually look like in terms of action? So we've had enough, enough promises. Now we need processes, right? So now where are we in terms of next steps? So what I do primarily with leadership is starting with the basics. What exactly do you expect for diversity equity and inclusion to do for your organization? The flip side of that coin is what happens to your organization without a diversity equity and inclusion strategy. It really is about acknowledging you only have two choices. There, there is no middle here. And luckily I have worked with some smaller, medium sized organizations that the leadership who for the most part are white men say, I want to be inclusive. I want employees to feel welcomed, but I don't know what I'm doing. And that I think is the most honest, right? Speaker 2 00:19:21 It is. It's honestly how we move forward by saying, look, I want to do better, but I don't know what it is that I'm doing. I've had organizations say to me, well, I mean, we could just do this work ourselves. And I'm like, right. So I'm assuming that you're also a certified by Cornell university in diversity, equity and inclusion. And you can go and speak to this work intelligently. Probably not. So it's not about being dismissive and we're going to just do this work ourselves, by hiring more people of color. It is about developing a strategy and understanding what those experiences are, what equity truly means and how it's defined within your organization, what you do need to do in order to create an inclusive environment and culture. That's where I think we are right now is, is the accountability portion. We've got the promise. Now I want to see your process. Speaker 1 00:20:10 I think that's fascinating. My guess would be that it's those organizations that are holding themselves accountable, whether it's through impact reporting or, or something of that ilk and acknowledging where they still have to go, are the, you know, they're the ones that are successful, but where companies falling short, is it when, to your point they don't acknowledge that they need external help or is it that what they're doing is still in the realm of performative or it's still that, well, we have a diversity equity inclusion program training, and every year you have to take it again. So it's, you know, we're doing our job kind of status quo or Speaker 2 00:20:53 All the above. It's all of the above. I truly believe that in order for us to move forward and make major, major strides, diversity actually needs to be tied to performance, right? And it has to be tied to performance and leadership. It needs to be tied to your bonus. There needs to be some sort of real action that is going to motivate this individual, this leader, to, to take this serious because essentially what we, what we're seeing is that, Hey, we have a diversity equity and inclusion department. Okay, great. You're one of those companies that pledged to a total of $50 billion in diversity equity and inclusion commitments last year, yet only 250 million has actually been spent. That's less than one half of 1%. So what's the plan for your diversity equity and inclusion department, because if it is the same old, same old training that you go through to your point once a year, if it is saying, Hey, we need to make sure that we have, you know, 12% minorities, but 10% of them are represented in labor positions or entry-level positions. Speaker 2 00:22:04 They're not represented in leadership or councils or board positions. Then how effective is, is that truly, if we are saying, look, this is a matter of, we're going to create this internal board and we're going to get together and we're going to talk about diversity. Okay, great. Again, where's the process. What happens after you have that conversation? Where does diversity make the most sense within your organization? That's number one, where is the equity, the lowest in your organization, right? Where, where does that equity investment need to really be made within your organization? That would be number two and then inclusion. What we're also seeing, or what I'm also seeing is, you know, we have some organizations, one that I'm currently working with that has focused so much on trying to make their employees of color, feel included, that they're now excluding their employees that are not a color, that's not inclusion, right? So you can't include to shell at the expense of Michelle. That's not how this works. So there needs to be a process. There needs to be strategy. There needs to be goals that organizations need to actually adhere to and understand that this is not a sprint. This is not a sprint. We are not going to reach this in a year. We're not going to reach this in two years. This is long term investment. Speaker 1 00:23:28 I think your point about organizations pledging billions of dollars to DEI, not knowing necessarily what to do with that, how to spend it, how to make the most of it. Does it signal to shell that we have so much work yet to do. We've only just begun. And so with that, we have the awareness. I think, I think we're at the awareness stage. And I think we all acknowledge that it's real, that it's important that we need to commit, but where do we go from here? How do we signal change? Okay. Speaker 2 00:24:05 So it's such, it's such a big question. No, I'm sorry. No, no, it's fine because it's such a big question. I think that you're right. We are in the awareness phase, the challenge is the awareness phase is probably longer and it will be longer than most of us realize, right? Because it's, it's a lot of work where we are literally not just saying, Hey, we recognize that there is a problem. We also have to undo bad behavior. We also have to undo biased thinking. And that's where I feel those financial commitments should be spent on the training and the education of understanding what we've been doing, why it's not working and what we need to do in order to, to change that behavior. Right. Because that's the biggest thing. It's like, I use the text and drive analogy all the time. How many times have we seen the don't text and don't drive Michelle, but we still text and drive, even though we know the impact. Speaker 2 00:25:06 So we need to truly get into this habit of acknowledging that the awareness phase is we know, but then there's like an awareness point, like 2 0 1, the 2 0 1 is we need to start acknowledging that, Hey, I do have unconscious bias. And instead of me trying to defend and explain to you that I don't have it, it's about taking ownership and saying, okay, how do I make sure that, that doesn't show up in the workplace? How do I make sure that I am giving a fair shot to Michelle? How do I make sure that my challenges, my issues, that I am keeping those in check, that's the next step? Right? So this, this awareness is huge. And it's a matter of acknowledging, not just that. It's a leadership responsibility, diversity, equity, and inclusion. Isn't everyone responsibility. This is an everyone problem. When you hear someone like that, coach referred to that young man's hair is unnatural. Speaker 2 00:26:02 That shouldn't just upset a black woman that should have set anyone who hears it because it's obnoxious, it's rude, it's unacceptable. It's completely unacceptable. And anyone can actually say, Hey, that's not acceptable. Here's why, but until we get into this mindset of acknowledging that it's not just about black or white, this is about acknowledging that we want to be in a better place. We want to live in a place where it's fair, it's equitable. And my goal, my big, big, big goal is that one day we don't need diversity and equity inclusion departments. It becomes normal. We don't need to have someone's focusing on making sure equity is taking place. It becomes the norm. I love that. Speaker 1 00:26:44 And until then, I think it's absolutely critical that we invest heavily in these areas because it's going to take a while. And I think we recognize that, but I do believe, and this is just sort of, maybe I'm the optimist, but I do believe that there are a lot of people who are willing to put in the hard work, because that's what it is. It is a lot of hard work. And you know, the, the thing to, to Sean, I'm interested in your take on this, but maybe it's because we've all been sort of housebound and there's not been, you know, only recently have we sort of, you know, seen, I think the start of, of perhaps what a newer normal, a different normal will be like, but look, you know, we have this dialogue around diversity equity inclusion. I feel like it's broadened in the past year and a half. I feel like the pandemic has tested us. I feel like it's challenged us and it's not just here in the United States, but all around the world. And you know, I talk about this all the time, but man, have I learned a lot about myself during this pandemic? And so I'd love to ask you what, what have you learned this year? I mean, is it a single thing? Is it a collection of things that you've learned and what are you inspired to do as a result? Speaker 2 00:28:02 Gosh, I have learned so much as well, Michelle and I think one of the hardest lessons I learned, which has also been a big part of my inspiration is that I was a little bit complicit in a lot of the situations because I didn't want to rock the boat necessarily and call out the fact that I had been treated differently or the fact that there was a different experience in the companies that I worked for for my counterparts and myself. And so now that has motivated me to speak up and to also share that experience with both leadership and just organizations in general, I'm now using my experience to help organizations be better because you are absolutely right. There are plenty out there that are truly, truly committed. They just don't know where to go. They also don't know what some of these experiences look like. Speaker 2 00:28:57 Microaggressions are no joke, right? They come across very innocent tone. Policing comes across as no big deal, but without knowing how those can actually show up, they continue to create very toxic, very unhealthy work environments. And so what's inspired me has been the fact that there are so many organizations, there are so many leaders that have said, okay, I don't know, but I want to, I don't know how to fix this. I need help. And I'm committed one of my clients who one of the first things I ask is, you know, what does diversity look like for you? What would success be? His response was, I want to be one of the top 100 companies to work for. And I am only going to achieve that by taking diversity, equity and inclusion serious. And it's leaders like that, that I think get it. And so I'm incredibly motivated. Speaker 2 00:29:50 I'm incredibly inspired by that. And you know, I go really hard on the corporations that are not making good on their promises. And often I'm not as good about giving kudos to the ones that are, but here's why, because growing up, my grandmother would always say, you don't get high fives for doing what you're supposed to do. You're doing the right thing. You don't get high fives for that. You do it because it's right. And that's how I feel about this. It's this isn't a high five or a pat on the back. This is like, good. That's what you should be doing. But for the ones that are not here, here's how we're going to help you. We're holding you accountable. And to me, that's no different than anyone that I know that is committed to success, right? So you were my friend, Michelle and I am falling short. My expectation of you is to tell me the truth, not tell me all the things that I'm doing. Great. Hey Michelle, you're awesome. You know, I love you, but dot.dot that to me is, is the commitment here is holding, holding each other accountable that doesn't necessarily have to be about. Speaker 1 00:30:55 I love that. And thank you for that. I mean, look, I think that you've offered incredible insight here on the podcast, but also in listening to your story as part of this new course in this new curriculum, it was really amazing. And I have to ask you as one of the participants, what was it like not only sharing your story, but hearing the stories of other people, how did that experience change your perspective? I have Speaker 2 00:31:22 Always been non-emotional in the workplace. My first mentor at 20 years old told me as a woman, you can't afford to be. So you keep everything about what is factual, because that's the easiest way for a man to discredit you, right. Is bringing your emotion to the table. And so that was something that has stayed with me my entire career. This was the exact opposite. It was impossible not to share that experience without the emotion. And I think that's why for so long, I really did it. So being able to talk about my experiences and not be worried about the fact that I was crying, the fact that I was literally taking myself back into these experiences and sitting across from this woman who was constantly, constantly creating tension and negativity and putting me down and the fact that I had no one that had my back in this environment that was clearly wrong. Speaker 2 00:32:27 Yeah. That's incredibly hard. It's very emotional hearing the stories of others. It's very emotional because it makes it so much more real. When we talk about diversity and inclusion. When we talk about training, when we talk about education, that's one thing to hear it from someone's experience to know that someone has gone through this makes that very, very real. And now you can actually see what microaggressions look like in terms of someone's experience. You understand what isolation does the damage of labeling of tone policing intersection out. Like when you actually hear someone explain how that terminology has affected them personally, that's a game changer. And I think it's honestly the most effective way to learn. I had no idea it was going to come out as great as it did watching the clip made me very emotional again, because you're talking about something that is happening to people, for reasons beyond their control. Speaker 2 00:33:30 You didn't do anything to be born a white woman any more than I did anything to be born a black woman. So why are our experiences so vastly different simply based on things that neither of us had any control over, it makes no sense. So yeah, I get emotional thinking about it now and what I will say. And I will think Skillsoft and I will think fire started for as well is I'm now not afraid to have that emotion come up. I'm not concerned with not being taken seriously as, as a leader and as an executive, by being emotional about something that was very hurtful. That is very hurtful. Speaker 1 00:34:07 Look, I watched it. It was hard not to get emotional and it wasn't my experience, but, but here's the thing that I think that amazing course has done. It has helped us all reflect on a shared experience on others' experiences, no matter which side we were on, because let's face it. There are people who have bias, who are utilizing microaggressions and they may not even know it, or they may not understand the impact. And perhaps in some way, we've been able to help by bringing this course to bear for so many people. And so I really want to thank you for not only participating, but being so vulnerable and for sharing all that you did and look, you know, so much of effective and meaningful DEI learning revolves around listening. And so it's been great to hear you today, share with us to continue this theme. Speaker 1 00:35:01 I have one final question for you and it's something. Look, I asked all our guests, since I started the edge, this was my means of coping at the beginning of the pandemic and spending because it's a three-part, but you already answered part one. So it starting with you it's, you know, what have you learned about yourself through the pandemic? I love this. Be better, speak up, share your experiences. But I guess the thing that I would then go on, because it's, again, three part or the second part is how are you applying what you've learned in the flow of your work in life. And then that third part is what advice would you give to others based on what you've been, what you've learned and what you've applied. So again, it's, it's what have you learned about yourself? And, and you were kind enough to share that with us, but how are you applying and what advice would you give to others right now? I'm Speaker 2 00:35:50 DEI. I am applying this to my life. Look, I believe that we all have different things that affect us differently. So right now of the DEI, I am more focused on inclusion. Like that is, that is where my focus is and how I do that is one by showing up and making sure that one, my team knows that no matter what happens, my door is open that I celebrate the fact that they all come from different areas. I have an employee who's turning 75 next, next month. And I have an employee who just turned 21 and everything in between there. Right? So you can imagine what these, what these meetings are like. And it is important for me that we all respect each other's experience, each other's journey, and that we learned from one another. So how I'm applying it is through action. It's through making sure that my team knows that I see them, that I respect them, that I care about them beyond what they do for me at fake beyond what they do for me. Speaker 2 00:36:53 It's that's. And the second part of that is also making sure that my clients making sure that they know, and this is going to sound really tough, but that's who I am. You don't hire me because I'm a black woman. You hire me because I am the best at helping you solve this problem. That's inclusion. And so that's why I'm applying it to my life right now. And my advice for anyone would be diversity, equity and inclusion has it has changed business. It really has. And I think the most solid piece of advice is understanding which part speaks the most to you. Is it digging into diversity and understanding that more? Or is it the equity part or the inclusion part? Because trying to take it all at one time can be very overwhelming. So focusing on what actually speaks and connects with you the most right now, and invest in educating yourself, ask questions, read books, join webinars, listened to podcasts. Don't try to take it all on at one time. It's too deep, right? So set yourself up and just pay attention to what's currently speaking to you the most, you know, for the logs of diversity has become a major part of what I do with fate, right? We are a diversity strategy firm, but inclusion is the area that I feel the most passionate about. And so that would be my advice. Speaker 1 00:38:18 But Michelle, thank you so much. What an incredible, powerful, and, and frankly, enlightening conversation I just had with Michelle. And, and I want to pause here for a moment because there is much more to come as we pick up next time when I'll be speaking with Stephanie Wade, a political organizer, transgender advocate, educator speaker, and former field representative, and veterans liaison to us, congressmen, Gilbert, our Cisneros Jr. I'm Michelle BB. This is the edge. And until next time be well.

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