This episode features a conversation between Jennifer and JBC Vice-President Adrienne Lawrence about redefining privilege. Discover some of the most common misconceptions about privilege and how we can use our privilege to help others. You'll also hear about the importance of excavating your own authentic story and a broader definition of diversity. Remember to sign up for the virtual book launch for the launch of the 2nd edition of How to Be an Inclusive Leader. To register, visit https://jenniferbrownconsulting.com/second-edition-virtual-book-launch
Listen in now, or read on for the transcript of our conversation:
JENNIFER BROWN: My LGBTQ or gender nonbinary friends, you know, and loved ones where I can, with permission, of course, you know, elevate that lived experience to people's attention. And I'm not nonbinary, but me speaking about it is a choice that I make extremely intentionally and strategically so that it can be heard, it can be socialized with people, it can be... the seed can be planted, you know. So I think that I'm always kind of noticing all the roles that I might play and what I might contribute, both from my own lived experience, but also what I've learned and, and gleaned from, you know, so many folks who I've listened deeply to, and wanna make sure if I'm the only one in that room, that I'm the one that's raising it. Whatever is missing, you know, I am addressing that.
DOUG FORESTA: Addressing systemic inequities has become a defining challenge of our times. Leaders' understanding of their role and responsibility to others and to society is being questioned. On October 4th, Jennifer Brown will release the second edition of her bestselling book, How to Be an Inclusive Leader. She will share insights from over 20 years of experience working with organizations to create workplaces where everyone thrives and belongs. Her widely-acclaimed Inclusive Leader Continuum provides a framework to lead individuals through the personal learning journey they undertake to become inclusive leaders.
News stories, strategies, and discussion guides equip leaders at any level to take action and step into their role in affecting change. Whether you're already a fan of the book, a reader who considers themselves an advocate for equity and inclusion, or just starting to understand how uneven the playing field is, this book is a must-read and essential tool for leading into the future. Visit jenniferbrownspeaks.com to pre-order your own copy, or access special bulk rates.
The Will to Change is hosted by Jennifer Brown. Jennifer is an award-winning entrepreneur, dynamic speaker, bestselling author, and leadership expert on how organizations must evolve their cultures towards a new, more inclusive workplace reality. She's a passionate inclusion and equity advocate, committed to helping leaders foster healthier, and therefore more productive workplaces, ultimately driving innovation and business results. Informed by nearly two decades of consulting to Fortune 500 companies, she and her team advise top companies on building cultures of belonging in times of great upheaval and uncertainty. And now, on to the episode.
Hello, and welcome back to The Will to Change. This is Doug Foresta. Today's minisode features a conversation between Jennifer and JBC Vice President, Adrienne Lawrence, as they talk about redefining privilege. And I wanna make sure you don't miss out on the virtual launch for the second edition of How to Be an Inclusive Leader, uh, which drops on October 4th. In the show notes, you will see a link to access the virtual launch on October 4th at 12:00 p.m. Eastern time. So make sure to go ahead and click on that link to register. And now, on to the conversation.
ADRIENNE LAWRENCE: Welcome to The Will to Change. It is Adrienne Lawrence. And I'm excited to be doing this take-over for Ms. Jennifer Brown. And, you know, there have been various consultants and voices joining her in conversation in anticipation of her October 4th launch of the second edition of her book, How to Be an Inclusive Leader: Your Role in Creating Cultures of Belonging Where Everyone Can Thrive. And we've been discussing various topics that have been featured in the second edition of How to Be an Inclusive Leader. Today, we are tackling privilege. Well, come in, Jennifer Brown.
JENNIFER BROWN: Thank you, Adrienne Lawrence. I'm so happy to do this with you as one of my favorite, favorite conversation partners. (laughs)
ADRIENNE LAWRENCE: Absolutely, as well as one of the topics that I love to chat about with you, in part because a lot of people seem to have a misconception about what privilege is. It's gotten this negative stigma a lot in our society, when people really don't necessarily fully embrace the topic. And so I would love to just kinda kick things off by asking you, why do you think privilege is such a loaded topic?
JENNIFER BROWN: Oh, my goodness. Well, it's been so derogatory, hasn't it? I mean, it's really been, uh, used as a way to maybe dismiss people's lived experience and what they can contribute to change, right, which I think is a huge missed opportunity. And, um, it's also been assumed to be held by certain people and not by others. Um, and I, I think while it's fair to say that some of us have relatively a lot of kinds of privilege in the system that we're in, the ecosystem, the society that we're in, the workplaces we're in, because of certain parts of our identity, it's not the whole story about somebody.
And yet, uh, the way it's been used and wielded has had the unfortunate effect of having some people, and unfortunately, a lot of those folks have people, are people with power and influence that we need in the change equation, the impact has been to feel almost dismissed as, as not being helpful to the work. So what I'm trying to do these days is speak about my privileges, number one, um, and challenge people to hold many truths to be true about themselves, like many aspects of our identity, both whether they are marginalized identities we carry or privileged aspects of who we are, to hold that together, to hold it at the same time that we can be many things, both visible and invisible.
And, um, but also to use those. So it's, it's one thing to be given things or to have earned them. It's another, to me, to be using them. And using them for the purposes of equity is really what the opportunity is. And I think that, honestly, is something that is, um, I think, a very accessible conversation, not one that puts people into a corner that makes them feel defensive and shut down and want to kind of take their marbles and go home. But rather, rather is very, I think, practical, uh, and an invitation to use what we already have access to. It's actually not even a skill that has to be developed. It is literally something that is within your wheelhouse already, because all of us carry it, right? The question is, how do we utilize it, um, for equities purposes?
Adrienne, I wanna know how you, how you see this topic, 'cause I, you know, it has been evolving. And I think we're getting to a more helpful place with the concept because we need it to be activated. But I wonder what, you know, what you would say about where we are in that journey.
ADRIENNE LAWRENCE: Yeah. I think that privilege came on the scene largely in the whole thought of white privilege, um, whether it's, you know, big books with that title or conversations around that. And so I think a lot of people got defensive 'cause they're not ready to have certain conversations about inequities in our society. And so I think that that unfortunate, um, aspect of our reality, that that really set the tone for a lot of people when they think about privilege. They automatically go to white privilege. And then people will feel defensive, uh, also, too, because there is that, um, that blatantly false thought that it means that you have no problems and everything is hunky-dory. And that is so incredibly far from true.
And so one of the things that I love talking about when it comes to privilege is recognizing that we all have privilege, that some, as you mentioned, are unearned, some are earned, uh, and some are situational, some are circumstantial. And these are things that I'd love to talk to clients about because it helps them expand their mind to realize the, the power that they have and the opportunity that they have to make change, especially if people say they're allies and advocates and that they want to see greater equities.
Uh, I'd like to think in part that that is, uh, that's a big aspect of how are you using your privileges, the things that are afforded to you. Uh, 'cause the reality is that we all are different, we all are unique. And there might be circumstances or situations, uh, or just structures in our society that gives some of us a leg up over others. And so helping people to come to terms with that, to identify what those strengths and opportunities are, and how they can use them, that's a really rewarding thing. Absolutely.
JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah.
ADRIENNE LAWRENCE: Yeah. And are you finding the same in terms of your conversations with people and helping them lighten them to the thought that there's so much more privilege out there, uh, beyond just this idea of white privilege?
JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah. And, and really defining it, not just from identity, but from the position we hold in a given system. So, you know, thinking about social or professional capital, capital with a small c, meaning that's not monetary, although sometimes it is. But it's often our influence, it's our access, it's our permission to speak. It is, um, you know, perhaps our seniority or our expertise. Uh, you know, it, it's wherever we can get into a room and get into a conversation and be heard differently or more, perhaps, with more automatic credibility.
And, you know, just beginning to step outside of that, and notice it, and then realize that there's power in that interaction, there's power in the choice that we might make, once we see where we are in the system. And, uh, and I always think, you know, insiders and outsiders are needed to influence the system. And if you're an insider in any respect, you get to influence things from the inside. And when we do that, we have this degree of power, authority, credibility because of that insider status, right?
But, but it's not, it just doesn't just come down to, you know, skin color, ethnicity, gender. Yes, those are real and they, they are real and they, they are substantial, you know, in most of our systems, but, but there can be other ways. And I tell younger talent this, too, that I say you could be utilizing and activating things that you are sitting on today that will be so valuable to others. Um, you know, and, and yet you might be sort of really over identifying with the marginalized parts of who you are and thinking like, "That's the only way that I can use my voice."
But you could actually also be activating wherever you're an insider. And I think that, you know, that all of us have some kind of insider status. So, you know, mixing it up and kinda keeping others on their toes and, and, you know, I think utilizing our, our voice to agitate from wherever we are. We have to know where we are first-
ADRIENNE LAWRENCE: Yeah.
JENNIFER BROWN: ... in order to understand like, "Okay, what levers do I pull for change? Am I inside? Am I outside? Am I using this part of me? Am I using that part of me?" But all of it is really good, and all of it matters and can really make a difference.
ADRIENNE LAWRENCE: Absolutely. And kinda to give the listeners another example of potential privileges is I'm 5'8". And that's tall for a woman 'cause the average man in the United States is 5'9". So when I go into the grocery store, I don't have to ask for help to reach something at the top, uh, to be able to get things. And also, there is some, you know, social capital to being taller than most people, being able to look over them. Also, the thought of authority. Also, it generally attaches to people who have greater stature, um, physically. And so these are privileges that I often have in our society, and it's completely unearned, something I got from my mother's side ‘cause she happens to be tall as well, but these little things are privileges and they can help me navigate society and they can also help me open doors for others and make their lives a little bit easier by using one of those privileges. And I know that in your book, Jennifer, you talk about how your own personal struggle has been with the concept of privilege. Can you expound upon that?
JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah. I mean, so we, we know you and I, Adrian, that storytelling is so, so much a part of influencing DEI and, and caught... and creating progress. Uh, I, I think for many years of my life, I have identified with the, the marginalized parts of who I am and kind of formed my, my stance, if you will, and my approach from those places. So it was always sort of feeling like the outsider, trying to influence, you know, from that place. And um, and really avoiding discussion about the other parts of how I was raised and, and, you know, my socioeconomic background for example or how, you know, I, you know, putting the pieces together that like how my marginalized identities are experienced in this... in the world is still colored and influenced by my other identities and perhaps made easier.
So coming out when I, you know, when I was 22 as a member of the LGBTQ community, I'm still white. I'm still cisgender. I'm still, you know, I don't... I'm not a person with disability. So... And I'm still from a socioeconomic background that I think all of those things come with certain protections. And so recognizing, you know, this is very nuanced and I think it's something you come to over many years of kind of digging in your story and trying to understand, you know, why was I given certain things, why did that come my way, and what am I supposed to do with it. Um, now, I storytell around the privileges that, that I have. Earned or unearned, it doesn't matter, but I have them. What am I doing with them?
And I think, uh, that's something I'm trying to bring on to stages, I'm trying to bring audiences because they don't... nobody wants to talk about this. And they certainly, many leaders, Adrian, you know this, they'll say, they'll sort of throw up their hands and say, “Well, I don't know anything about diversity.” Or, “I'm not... I'm not diverse.” You know? And so my struggle so often is, how do I give... how do I guide people to what they can use, you know, to be in this conversation? What could they... what could they talk about that they know that's not artificial, that's not, uh, made up, or that's not, “Oh, I'm trying to, you know, um, sort of equal my oppression with someone else's”? Because I think people get really stuck there.
And I, I do think that I try a role model what it sounds like to speak organically and vulnerably and admit like how I was raised, what I wasn't exposed to, where I was protected, um, what I didn't understand and now I do, how do I use it, what do I do with it. And I know this is a leap and to me this is a bit of an advanced competency I think for a lot of the leaders we try to support. But, but can you imagine, you know, for people that never... that assume they have nothing to say, we've gotta help people have something to say, we have to help people have something to input. And it doesn't help any of us to have people feel fearful and withholding and sort of not involved because they as- they make that assumption in the old definition of diversity, “I'm not diverse.” You know, i- i- that's the wrong question (laughs).
Um, the right question is, you know, what do I have of value that I can contribute? A- and, you know, what can I... what can I claim that is something that I know, that is part of my lived experience, that in communicating it, it is authentic, it is true? And if it's brave to admit it, even better, even better because the bravery is what we need. We need people to be unpacking, you know, who they are and, and be sort of illustrating I think all the... all the pieces of the system that we're in, and privilege is a big part of the system.
So it... it's almost like we've been having half the conversation and not the other half for a while and, um, I don't know, I think this would be... If we could kind of leave the bread crumbs for this and role model it, maybe there would be more leaders that would feel comfortable, at least I have something and it may be embarrassing, it maybe... I get a lot of, “I'm embarrassed, I'm ashamed. This is something I don't want to talk about.” I understand that. Um, but I, I, for me, I'm trying to do it. I'm trying to figure out how to do it so that other people can maybe go on the same road that I've gone and really discover that actually this is going to be helpful, um, to so many people that I think can't see themselves in the current dialogue and are lacking that role model to follow.
Um, we want to put... we want to hold that up, um, so that all of us can get involve obviously because we need what everybody's capable of doing and contributing. We need that desperately because, you know, just a group of us can't create the enough change. It's going to take all of us to be contributing to it. What would you add? (laughs).
ADRIENNE LAWRENCE: Oh, well, um, you know, I, I think you, you, you hit the nail on the head on so many of those things without a doubt. It seems that with individuals who are operating under this, um, outdated kind of definition or thought about diversity is...
JENNIFER BROWN: Mm.
ADRIENNE LAWRENCE: ... that they are not necessarily fully appreciating their uniqueness and all of the aspects of them. And so when we have these conversations with our clients, I absolutely love when people are able to walk from... walk away from the table and to see their own individual aspects that make them different than the person sitting next to them. That help people understand not just what's on the surface, it's... that ain't it. There's so much more, and it really truly contributes to who you are and how you show up and interact with this world. And, and hopes, uh, that that person fully appreciates their own diversity and uniqueness, that they can also start seeing it in others.
And I know that that is a very, very big, uh, ask sometimes, but I think that that can be the starting point in a way so people don't just simplify it to what's on the surface and what they can see, as opposed to taking the time to get to know people and not necessarily making snap judgments about who they must be just because of what, you know, is visible, uh, on the outside. And I know that we all have so many different aspects of ourselves, but also it can be somewhat conflicting when it comes to our identity. And so I'm wondering, how have you reconciled kind of the different aspects of your identity?
JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah. I mean, the... I, I guess the reconciliation is that continued excavation of the parts of, of my story and really bringing those to the surface, beginning to storytell around them. And, um, like you said, like Adrian, it's, it's signaling to others that they are not alone in their identities. I think that's another really important goal that we should bear in mind, which is, um, A, we all know something about diversity. So whether or not you're ready to articulate that publicly. We do our iceberg activity, right? Where people identify what's not visible or what they choose not to show because they believe it's going to, uh, pe- you know, penalize them, like in the world or in the... their careers.
Um, so I, I think that the safer space we can create to begin that excavation and the bringing to the surface and then I hope the realization that these pieces are powerful with which to lead. I mean, they are... they enable not just someone to feel seen, heard, you know, for more of who they are, but it also shines the light that others... it's okay for others to do the same. And they can step forward and, you know, maybe, maybe do that and have it be... have a powerful impact. And it's not around the things that we normally think of. You know, it's... We, we have spoken about diversity and taught around diversity along a very few identities and a few aspects of, of many.
Um, you know, now, I, I really try to broaden... You know, as an aspiring ally, I think part of my role is to raise different identities I don't carry and make sure I'm always doing that around me in every situation. So the examples I use, the stories I tell might be around, you know, my friends and loved one who are, are neurodiverse. You know, my, um, the, the, the, my LGBTQ or, or gender non-binary friends, you know, and loved ones where I can, with permission of course, you know, elevate that lived experience to people's attention. And I'm not non-binary, but me speaking about it is a choice that I make extremely intentionally and strategically so that it can heard, it can be socialized with people, it can be... The seed can be planted, you know?
So I think that I'm always kind of noticing all the roles that I might play and what I might contribute both for my own lived experience, but also what I've learned and, and gleaned from, you know, so many folks who I've listened deeply to and, um, wanna make sure if I'm the only one in that room, that I'm the one that's raising it. Whatever is missing, you know, I'm redressing that. And that's what really inclusive leaders do, is they sort of are constantly scanning that environment, understanding what's missing, what is not being voiced, what is perhaps controversial that needs to be said. Um, you know, what does that accountability look like amongst in rooms full of, of, of, you know, who is traditionally over-represented in our leadership, you know, in most organizations, which is largely white, largely male, largely straight, heterosexual or at least cisgender.
You know, there's, there's a lot of identities that are missing in, you know, that top of the house, as we say. And that grou- that group is so important though to diversify, and yet really I think struggle so much to see themselves, um, as, as a, as a, as a group that needs to learn a whole lot and hold themselves accountable. So, you know, Adrian, um, we spend a lot of our time in conversations with, with that room in particular, and I wonder if it feels the same for you to draw on different parts of who you are. And, and if you're always like still discovering ways to bring things to the surface in you and how you teach from those pieces as well.
ADRIENNE LAWRENCE: I find that, um, generally when I have conversations with people, it's kind of what, um, in terms of discussing DEI and also helping them on their journey. I find that just whatever comes naturally in terms of my identity or aspect of myself, uh, to give people examples, to show them that there are things that they can't see that are huge driver in terms of who I am. Whether it's being a lawyer or, um, being on the spectrum or being a Californian, these things are, they're, they're big for me. And so they really do shape how I interact with this world and how I show up. And so having people understand that and kind of, uh, grasp that a little more, it kind of challenges them. Especially, I would say, particularly, um, being on the spectrum, a lot of people have an idea in their mind of what someone on the autism spectrum should look like. And that really shows you, you know, how bias plays out and limited knowledge and whatnot. And so when people hear that, it generally makes it, they're taken aback a bit, and it proves the exact point that I'm generally talking about.
Uh, the thought that we should not, uh, come to conclusions about people based on what we see on the surface. But we should get to know them more, understand a little bit more about their journey, and what's important to them, the key aspects of their identity. And, uh, you know, in, in doing so, we learn a little bit about ourselves, and hopefully, we're able to come to grasps with our own privileges in our society and figuring out how we can use those for the betterment of all. And I know that in the second edition of how to be an inclusive leader, you really dive in about the need to reframe privilege as a call in versus a call out.
JENNIFER BROWN: Mm-hmm.
ADRIENNE LAWRENCE: And why do you think that that is so incredibly important?
JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah, and thank you for sharing, you know, what's not visible about you, Adrian. I, I think just to build on that, it's the reason I share my pronouns, which are she/her/hers. As somebody who identifies as cisgender, it's less risky for me and very important for me not to assume that I know how people identify because there is so little we can pick up on, visually. And, you know, you add the hybrid workplace to that, or virtual workplace, and it's extremely difficult. We don't have those casual conversations where these kinds of things are disclosed. We can't, you know, um, pick up on the cues like we used to be able to.
So, um, I think that part of privilege can be when you are in the majority, in a given system, stepping outside of that and saying, you know, what assumptions am I making about how people identify and knowing I cannot possibly be accurate? And remembering that, um, I'll give you a statistic, one out of five people under the age of 35 is not straight and not cisgender. One out of five, under the age of 35. So when you look out, you know, in a, at a team or a new project, um, group, or, you know, you're starting a new role, you know, anytime new client, you are probably wrong about a lot of things.
And, to me, that's a way of checking myself to say, "What am I assuming about how people identify? Have I asked? Have I created enough space for people to feel safe enough, you know, enough psychological safety to volunteer that?" And that is precisely why we share our pronouns because of creating that space and not making the assumption. And, for me, as a cisgender woman, it is so easy for me to share my pronouns. This is not risky for me because I'm in the majority group. So anytime you're in the majority group, when you take action, you sh-, you're the one that should be taking action. You're the one that should be speaking out and putting yourself out there because you have relatively more safety in a system.
That is the incumbent, I mean, it's allyship, right? It- it's part of the definition of that word, which is I am in, I am noticing who's not here or not being spoke, not being... what's not being spoken, who's not being considered, who is being micro-aggressed. And I'm addressing it because I'm the one that can. And, you know, I think this is the, the joining of the work and the, the, the sort of carrying of the water, the shared carrying of the water for change, not leaving all of the advocacy to those of us who have been most impacted in a system and most marginalized in the system.
So, anyway, but back to your question, the call in and the call out is, um, I, I, I get excited about this concept. I mean, stylistically, I am a call in kind of person. Um, you know, I, I enjoy the challenge of inviting someone to reconsider a comment, a joke, uh, receive, inviting someone to get feedback from me and be able to take that in and roll with it and incorporate it. And not with fragility, but with resilience kind of pivot, you know, into the next step, carrying that feedback forward. So what a call in sounds like is, "Hey, heard, you know, heard you tell that story or use that terminology or that vocabulary. I just wanted to let you know it's not, it's not, um, something...
The, the language has evolved and here's a suggestion that I might say instead or here's an im- impact that your language might have that wasn't, I think, your intent. And I believe, Adrian, that I don't know if you agree, most people, not everybody, um, responds well. You know, it may not, maybe well is too strong of a word, none of us likes to get feedback (laughs) and get it wrong. However, the call in is, I think, it takes into account that we're all learners at some point. We all have somebody made space for us when we got it not right. And they, maybe they did so with a generous call in, which was gracious and spacious, and maybe we got called out and it really hurt, and maybe it was not necessary.
Sometimes call outs are very necessary, they're public, they're, they're hard. They're like, "You know what, I've called in and called in and called in and no one, no things working, and now we need to escalate to a more public call out, right?" So I think of Me Too as an example of something that needed to get to move into the call out world. But I think, but I think as, as so many people awakened in the last couple of years, I, I think there's a hunger to learn and to understand what do I not know that I am doing that perpetuates, that causes a microaggression, that causes harm? I think people are in a vacuum about wh- what that impact is? And so if you are witnessing it, if you're a part of it, we check in, we say what's needed here? Is my voice needed here? Do I, do I need to do a call in? Or maybe does someone else want to handle something themselves?
So I don't wanna make an assumption that I'm, you know, the rescuer or the savior. We wanna watch out for that. But I do think that, that call-in is the, the, in, the gracious invitation, the assumption of positive intent and the, um, the calibration in, calibration of impact that I think a lot of us, I think, deeply want to know so that we can get better. Not always, but often. So I wonder if you agree with that, and if you would, you know, add anything to your def-, how you define these two words, Adrian?
ADRIENNE LAWRENCE: Oh, without a doubt, I completely agree with you.
JENNIFER BROWN: Mm-hmm.
ADRIENNE LAWRENCE: Uh, sometimes you, uh, call someone in, um, calling out, I can end up having adverse consequences. Some people will shut down, they'll stonewall even harder. Um, you know, and, and the thing is you can't necessarily, um, you can't necessarily change how people process things and the situation 'cause you don't know the kind of home they grew up in. If, um, you know, they had a parent who be- berated them and made them feel little. And so they are extremely sensitive to criticism.
JENNIFER BROWN: Mm-hmm.
ADRIENNE LAWRENCE: Or whether they're completely and totally receptive to it because they want to make sure that they get it right. Um, you know, and sometimes people will just center themselves-
JENNIFER BROWN: Mm-hmm.
ADRIENNE LAWRENCE: ... uh, and it can be a very difficult exercise. I recall just the other day where I was speaking with a, a woman called me, two white women, in particular, uh, about an issue that involves a Black woman, uh, because they want to get justice for her. And I love what these women do and I love how much they are diving in deep and they wanna fight to ensure that this woman, uh, who was murdered gets the justice that she deserves. And so they had the best of hearts, and one of them, uh, she, she repeated a racist trope. The thing is, it was completely and totally clear to me that she didn't understand that it was a trope. She had no idea. Without a doubt, I have no doubt in my mind. She had no idea whatsoever.
And, um, and so, you know, I took it upon myself to explain to her, um, "Hey, yo, just so you know, um..." Because I knew that she's gonna go out into this world trying to get justice, and if she repeats that, a lot of doors will be slammed in her face. And she thanked me up and down for sharing that knowledge with her because, hey, you know, she hasn't necessarily done much of the research because she's just passionate about knowing what happened to that woman was wrong, and she's there to fight it. And so I want to uplift her and I, I connected her with a number of other media voices that could help uplift her. At the same time, I realized s- she's probably gonna step in it a few more times and that's okay because she's receptive of change and you can tell she's coming from a good place and she's not going to make that mistake again.
JENNIFER BROWN: Mm-hmm.
ADRIENNE LAWRENCE: And so I think that's how we can all work together as allies to understand that we do have different identities, different vantage points, to the point where we may not necessarily have had the knowledge, uh, to understand that certain things are problematic. But when we do, and someone comes to us to share it, how do we respond to it? Are we gonna take it as an opportunity to learn, to reinforce equitable principles and use our newfound knowledge? Or are we going to center ourselves and make it about us and bring in childhood trauma or things that are not necessarily productive and do not align with our thoughts of what allyship is and what we say we stand for?
And so it, it can be a very tricky position, but the thing is, is that I think individuals like, like yourself and like myself, we're always willing to show up and share the knowledge that we have because we do want people to be fully empowered and, um, to be able to represent and to stand up. Especially, as they are working hard every day to be the best ally that they can be using their privilege to uplift people where they can.
JENNIFER BROWN: Mm-hmm.
ADRIENNE LAWRENCE: And so I know with identities, it can be, it can be, uh, a journey, but you know, when they have people out there who are working toward equity and toward helping individuals who are fighting to be allies, it's so incredibly powerful. And I know that when it comes to understanding identity, that it's something that's incredibly important, particularly, in a conversation about equity. And I'd love to hear why you find it to be so incredibly just important and pivotal?
JENNIFER BROWN: Hmm, well, equity is the pursuit of equitable systems, right? They're fair, they, uh, they are honest about what is inequitable (laughs), right? I think that's a number one step, which is hard and causes a lot of that reaction, right? That protection that you were just talking about, right? The emotional response of, "Well, I'm not a bad person. Well, what do you mean? Like, whatever, I built this. It can't possibly have, you know, be biased." I think that looking very clear eye at things that we have participated in that we've never looked at through this lens before, and the invitation to look at it critically. Uh, even just objectively, I think. You know, putting yourself on the outside of something you used to be on the inside of and saying, "Huh. I'm looking at this differently. I'm seeing... I'm seeing, now, you know, what others see." And I, and, and, so I do think those of different identities are going to look at systems differently and be critical of systems, and see different things than some of us are capable of seeing. So identity is... If, if we can get those lenses around a table, so to speak, and, and really examine the things that have been built in our world, which typically have not been built by a representative samp... representative sampling of identities, right?
We were not... Adrian, you and I, maybe I, not you, but you and I in some respects, were not at the table when things were built and constructed to work for, you know, uh, a few of us, not all of us, to take us into account, right? To be designed in a way that, you know, corresponded with our needs. And, so we've had a workplace that has caused harm for so many decades, because of these, this inability or unwillingness to see how incomplete these systems have been and how harmful they've been. So, when I think of identity and equity, I think of all the identities that have been missing historically, that need to be now gathered and giving input and being consulted. You know, what is missing? What would be better? What does better look like? What is our goal? What are the gaps? What are we trying to address?
And I'm, I am not going to be as practiced, or even knowledgeable, because I'm in the beginning part of my journey, about some identities, but Adrian, you're going to pick up on different things than I do, and I think if we sort of insist on a full complement of identities to investigate equity, and what is equity, what does it look like in practice, um, you know, then I think we have a better shot. And it's still going to be really hard to influence systems to be more equitable, to be heard, to gather that diversity around that table, and then to create enough inclusion so that the, the power of that diversity is really unleashed from a design perspective.
That's going to be hard, because a lot of us are still covering in the workplace. A lot of us, I think, are still afraid to use our full voice, and bring our, the wisdom of our lived experience, and then a lot of the people on the other side of a table from all of us are completely unaware of their biases, as well. So, so there's, there's forces that conspire against what I just described, that is where the work lives, and it, it is at a, it is a, it is a mutual endeavor, to, I think, architect, uh, a better, a healthier workplace, a more equitable workplace. But all of our identities need to be not only represented in the process, but heard, acknowledged, included, sought.
I mean, I don't even like these passive words. I'm not just going to, like, oh, listen to you and when you're at the table. I'm actually going to heed what you're going to say. I'm going to take it and incorporate it. Like, that, we have to go all the way with this, because, I, what we have had has been a, um, a bastion of suffering, I would say. I mean, based on the data we collect, I mean, Adrian, we know, you know? Uh, every com, every company we enter, you know, there's a lot of trauma going on, and there's trauma from past roles, for sure, past companies, I get it, but there's, there's no system that is not kind of propagating the trauma, and letting it continue, because it's hard work. It, it, the work exists in every organization, whoever you are, however, you know, far you are along, you know? It's still there.
And so the good news and the bad news is the opportunity is there for us. But we have to insist on it. We have to construct, you know, the, the most representative tables, you know? Pull up that folding chair. But we also can't leave it to people to pull up their own chair. The those of us, we need to construct it differently, so it's not so difficult to come to that table, to be heard, to be heeded, to be consulted, you know? And to have our expertise, which comes not just from what we know, but who we are, which is a form of wisdom that is incredibly important. You know, we need to be welcomed in in that energy, and I think then we would, we would uh... I think we'll be building with much better tools. But um, what would you say about identity and equity? It's such an interesting like to, to relate these two things together. It's fun to kind of kick it around (laughs).
ADRIENNE LAWRENCE: Yeah. I would definitely, I agree with everything you said. It's so incredibly important that, if we are going to achieve equity, that we embrace individuals' identities. We don't want people to be covering, or feel they need to hide who they are, uh, because they do not feel they can be in a work environment and be themselves. We don't want people to feel psychologically unsafe, uh, so they think that they can contribute, um, or microaggress. There are so many things that keep people from bringing their whole selves to work. And also, being an included part of the team, and uh, organizations, businesses lose out on the potential innovation, the opportunity, the growth. And so, it, it's, if it's not just a matter of doing right when it comes to DEI, there is a business imperative to it too. And so getting people to fully appreciate that, and really seize it, uh, it can be a challenge.
But I know that with resources out there, like how to be an inclusive leader, that there are so many incredible options, and avenues, and tools right at individuals' fingertips, and I hope that those out there listening, that they jump on it in terms of pre-ordering now. You want to get your copy before it's sold out. That's the second edition of How to Be an Inclusive Leader. It happened to be trending number one on Amazon, in two categories, uh, in consulting, and also knowledge capital. And so that's incredibly huge. I know you are looking forward to October 4th, Jennifer, right?
JENNIFER BROWN: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. The whole team is. I think we'll be very relieved (laughs). Um, it's a lot of work, Adrian, as you know well, but um, I just hope, you know, everybody listening, uh, gets excited too, about our amazing team of consultants, of which Adrian is a main one, um, to bring this, this way of thinking, this approach, this knowledge and expertise that we have as an, as an extended team, in, you know, and begin the work in your organization. So if you're listening to this, you know, it's not just, you know, myself. I would love to speak, you know, as often as I can, and if that's what interests you for your organization, you think that's what needed, but, you know, Adrian, you have a deep knowledge of the, like the, the changing the system over time, and how to structure that. And that's such a specialty of our team as well. Um, and so it's this perfect marriage between like, like us speaking, and kind of getting things started, and also, us doing like the blocking, and tackling, and strategy, and execution of change, over a period of time.
And so, um, I love partnering with you on that stuff Adrian, because it's neat to be able to see... You know, you and I are both speakers, but we're also consultants. We think through, you know, how do we take this idea all the way through to execution, and, and anchoring it in a structure, in a culture, in a company, in a, in the processes, et cetera? And that's really that last mile, you know? These ideas are wonderful, but they also have to be embedded. And, um, so you know, my team and I, including you, Adrian, we, you know, we know how to do that. We do it all the time, and it's... It's just very gratifying for me, to be reminded how deep our expertise runs, and um, yes, October 4th. Check out the book. Put your order in. We might sell out. Um, we, we're already at thousands of copies, at thousands of pre-orders, actually, at this moment, and it's not even on sale yet.
So, I think we've really struck a chord, and um, but Adrian, I'm honored to do the work with you every day, and I love, uh, bringing your voice to our audience, and I hope all of you listening get to know Adrian in some context, and follow her work. But um, thank you for being in conversation with me today.
ADRIENNE LAWRENCE: No, thank you. And I want to thank everyone who's been listening to this conversation on privilege, with the wonderful Jennifer Brown, in anticipation of her October 4th launch of the second edition of her book, How to Be an Inclusive Leader: Your Role in Creating Cultures of Belonging Where Everyone Can Thrive. Definitely please pick it up on pre-order, and thank you again for listening to this edition of The Will to Change.
JENNIFER BROWN: Hi, this is Jennifer. Did you know that we offer a full transcript of every podcast episode on my website, over at jenniferbrownspeaks.com? You can also subscribe, so that you get notified every time a new episode goes live. Head over there now to read my latest thoughts on diversity, inclusion, and the future of work, and discover how we can all be champions of change by bringing our collective voices together, and standing up for ourselves and each other.
DOUG FORESTA: You've been listening to The Will to Change, uncovering true stories of diversity and inclusion with Jennifer Brown. If you've enjoyed the episode, please subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. To learn more about Jennifer Brown, visit jenniferbrownspeaks.com. Thank you for listening, and we'll be back next time with a new episode.
- Understanding our Evolution: Why an Adult Development Lens is Critical to Inclusivity, with co-authors Christopher McCormick and Aman Gohal
- Second Chance Hiring with Fifth Third Bank’s Chief Economist, Jeff Korzenik
- Speaking from Lived and Learned Experiences: Insights on DEI Storytelling with Carin Taylor
- The Legacy of Belonging: Jennifer Joins the BE the CHANGE Podcast
- Activating Our Allyship Meter: A Senior Leader's Journey Towards Advancing LGBTQ Equality with Erik Day