DEI Year in Review with the JBC Team

Jennifer Brown | | , ,

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This episode was originally recorded as a DEI Community Call and features a year-end conversation between Jennifer Brown and JBC Consultants La Mikia Castillo, Elfi Martinez and Gearah Goldstein, for a panel conversation about top diversity, equity, and inclusion trends from 2021 and what we can expect in 2022.

Listen in now, or read on for the transcript of our conversation:

SPEAKER 1: We got to keep our foot in the door. Don’t let up. Don’t let things go back to the way they were. I think we still have some ways to go, to get to a place where we are dreaming. Not only dreaming, but actually have come with a new vision and are living into that new vision. In this what I like to call the caterpillars that have gone into a cocoon. Because we have no idea what’s going to come out on the other side. But I began to feel hope when I saw people rising up in the streets and saying, we want something different. And the data is showing that people are demanding something different. We still don’t know what that beautiful butterfly is on the other side, but I think it’s possible if we dream together and have that vision together and then make it happen.

DOUG FORESTA: Everyone has a diversity story. Even those you don’t expect. Get ready to hear from leading CEOs, bestselling authors and entrepreneurs, as we uncover their true stories of diversity and inclusion. And now onto the episode. Hello and welcome back to The Will to Change. This is Doug Foresta. This episode was originally recorded as a DEI community call and features a discussion between Jennifer Brown and three JBC consultants, La Mikia Castillo, Elfi Martinez, and Gearah Goldstein, as they discuss the top diversity equity and inclusion trends from 2021 and what we can expect in 2022. And now onto the conversation.

JENNIFER BROWN: I’ll kick it off to the panel. And I want everybody to know these. We have such a dream team at JBC. These are just a few individuals of an incredible group of people that I’ve raved about. And I’m so excited to have you all meet. If you’ve never heard from our consultants before we have three on with us today, Elfi Martinez, Gearah Goldstein, La Mikia Castillo. So let’s move into the conversation. And everybody, again, pointing you to the Google form for your questions, or if you’d like to use chat in that way, we will catch them either way. But please, please, I don’t think you can stump this group. So give us your toughest stuff. I’m going to sign you all up for that. I see Elfi smiling. He’s like, bring it on. So let me start with you Elfi, why don’t I do that? Why don’t you say hello to everybody? And I’d love to know what my opening remarks kind of led you to think about reflect on and whatever you’d like to share.

ELFI MARTINEZ: Absolutely. Well, hello, everyone. Good to see you. And I’m just really excited to see so many familiar faces on this line, old friends and new. So, hello to everyone today. And yeah, I think what really kind of jumped out at me from what you said, Jennifer, something I talk about all the time when we have these conversation, especially with executives, right? This idea that allyship is active. You have to do something. It cannot be just that siren song of awareness. People just want to stay there forever and read another book and watch another webinar and do another course. And it just goes on and on and on. And what I really challenge people on is like, if you want to be an active leader, it has to show up in your behavior. If you stay in awareness forever, you are not a leader, you are a bystander and it’s not the same thing.

So that challenge oftentimes gets people a little squirmy and uncomfortable, but it is the reality of the situation. At some point you have to convert intention into action and it’s behaviors that other people pay attention to. And it’s what they see. It’s what they resonate with. It’s what they feel. So you’ve got to do something. Wven if you don’t know exactly what it is, right, because we don’t have all the answers, but it’s the practice that makes you better. This is a skill. And like any other skill, you’ve got to practice to get better. Anything in your life, you were good at, you were not good at the first time that you tried. So practice and you will get better. But you have to do something. It has to be behavior.

JENNIFER BROWN: That’s right. Elfi, thank you. And let’s not make perfect the enemy of the good. I think we all, a lot of us struggle mightily with perfectionism, myself included. And if we wait to be perfect, we’re going to be waiting a long time and the need is so urgent. The world and the work cannot wait for us to be perfect. It just can’t wait. It’s too urgent. So the choice we have is to show up imperfectly, embrace it, talk about it, admit it. Don’t try to hide it, because by the way, you’re not succeeding and hiding it from anybody. And I think to visualize the showing up with that is I think what I really want to see more of and making it safe to do that, because by the way, we can’t judge each other so harshly that we expect perfection right? When we see it happening. Right. Thank you Elfi. Gearah, I may go to you.

GEARAH GOLDSTEIN: Hi. Hello everyone. My name’s Gearah. I use she /her pronouns. I’m so grateful to be here. Listening to Elfi and Jennifer, what really resonates with me around that conversation are really two things. First it’s being transparent. I think that is in the work that we do so incredibly important. And the second being constantly learning and listening and as subject matter experts, many times we’re called upon to share our expertise. But at the same time, we’re always actively learning. And I think that listening and learning are really the keys to allyship action is of course required.

But in order to get to the actionable step, it first takes listening. And I often tell people, listen, listen, and then listen, and then listen and then take action. So, many of us are so action oriented, something must get done right now. And when you go at the work with that mindset, many times you might be falling short because you’re not absorbing the entire scope of work that is required. So listen, listen, listen, and listen again, is my advice based on what we’re talking about here with Jennifer the opener. So thank you again so much.

JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah. I love that. Go slow to go fast, right?

GEARAH GOLDSTEIN: Yeah, for sure.

JENNIFER BROWN: And I think maybe some of our performative actions are not deep, right? They’re superficial. They’re at box checking exercise or there to get something done. And unfortunately the business world believes what gets measured gets done. And so we are pushed relentlessly to accomplish. But I really take your point that I think of it like digesting a meal, you cannot force the process of digestion.

GEARAH GOLDSTEIN: Yeah, for sure. And I guess one of the tools to add to that, that I use personally is zooming out. And when I think about listening, I think about zooming up. So I listen, I process and I think, okay, how can I step back and look at this even more and step back further and step back further. And the further out that I can force myself to see situations sometimes allows me to bring a more impactful action to, to what’s required.

JENNIFER BROWN: Thank you. Thanks Gearah. La Mikia, let me welcome you.

LA MIKIA CASTILLO: Thank you. And good morning for those of you who are on the west coast. Good afternoon for those of you who are not, my name is La Mikia Castillo. My pronouns are she, her [inaudible 00:08:05]. It’s an honor to be here with all of you. Thank you, Jennifer for the invitation. So answering your question, Jennifer, the first thing that actually came to mind for me is what am I doing? How am I constantly showing up as an ally and what ways into which groups? And so the first thing I want to say is I am based in Los Angeles, which is the Homeland of the Tampa and Shemesh people which can feel performative, but I deeply connect to and want to be able to deeply connect to and support my indigenous family members and friends. And so I named that out loud to recognize right, that as an ally to the indigenous community, that erasure is real and their stories matter.

And that this is not only ancestral Homeland. There are people who are still in this land, who are, they are the offspring, the generations that have come after attempted efforts of genocide. I also think about, you know Jennifer, you’ve heard me say this many times and including in one of these community calls that for myself as a black woman, as a Latino woman, I’m constantly looking for allies to support my person, and our play in the struggles that we face on a regular basis. And I’m pushing myself to grow and learn. Like you said, about how I can be a better ally to folks who have different struggles than I do, but are just as important. Right? And so standing in solidarity with our transgender community, with gender non-conforming gender non-binary folks with the LGBTQ community, because I identify as a cisgender heterosexual woman.

And I know that gives me even some level of power or like, authority in a sense that folks who are part of the LGBTQ community, gender nonconforming, or non-binary don’t have. And so, what does it look like for me to, like Gearah said, learn and listen and listen, and listen, and then learn by doing the research for myself and not expecting the folks who I’m trying to come alongside and support to tell, to give me all the answers right. Or to teach me because the information is out there. So I think being an ally means that I’m doing that research and finding that information and not putting the burden on other groups to be able to support me and my own learning growth and development, unless they want to. And unless they are like in our capacity as consultants who say, yes, you’re paying me to do this.

I will gladly do it. But it’s a big burden to carry, right. And so I think about what it means for me to be an ally in that regard. And then also to dream with the folks who I am trying to be an ally with, right. That is not just about coming and doing things and taking actions, but actually working together to come up with a plan for change together that is going to move us off forward together. Right. So how do I dream with my friends and the LGBTQ community, how do I come alongside as a thought partner, listening and learning, and then hearing from them where I could best support and how we can work together to move all of our issues forward. So that’s what came to mind for me.

JENNIFER BROWN: That’s so beautiful dream with. I love that La Mikia. That’s so beautiful because we need to create a different reality. And we all want to participate if we can. And in the appropriate way, in the shaping of that, in the dreaming of it into, and then we need to help to bring it into reality in with all of our respective toolkits, wherever we sit, either in the ally identity or the affected identity. And that was just beautiful. I love that. One thing that came to mind is A C L U you all probably follow Amber hikes, but they called black history month, last year, black futures’ month. And the whole point was to dream about the whole point was to say, yes, the history, yes, we’ve done this, but what is possible? What can we celebrate?

What do we want to reinforce? What do we want to present as that exciting vision for ourselves? Not just others to learn about the experience, but for ourselves too, it was really captured me because I thought, we all do these cultural celebrations and monthly, we commemorate these, but I do wonder into next year, will there be more reinvention of the way that we speak about these things? Even the words we choose are so powerful, sort of summon in a different energy. Wonderful. Thank you so much. So Elfi, I mean, I know that each of you has sort of that like one or two stories from this past year that just really hit you, or you saw a leader or go through something extremely difficult and come out the other side, some kind of something that impacted you and kind of reminded you about where we are and where we aren’t in terms of the work that needs to be done. But Elfi, I remember you shared a little story about it exactly with me. Do you want to share that?

ELFI MARTINEZ: I’ve got a couple of stories.

JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah. I know, I know. Pick one.

ELFI MARTINEZ: With exact spot, I do think that, something that’s always stood out for me is the importance of understanding and being able to communicate why you care about this work. Because it’s always something that people want to know, especially from their leaders, right? Is this something that you care about because your boss is telling you, the CEO is telling you to do this thing, or is this something that you care about because it impacts your life in some kind of way. And I remember we were… I was once working with the CEO who was having a really hard time connecting beyond the very superficial language of diversity equity inclusion, and finding a personal connection to why this worth matters. And it was showing up and how he was communicating with the folks around him, how they felt about him. There was a lot of distance, there was lots of distrusts, lots of feelings, folks feeling unsafe.

And it was really hard for this person to kind of break through that prison, that he had built around himself, this idea that to be a leader, you have to be the stow authority figure. The 1950s definition of leadership, which is somehow still taught and practiced today. And it wasn’t until we had some conversations about life and identity and what matters to you that he shared a story about being the son of a single mom and how that impacted him growing up, he was a free lunch kid and how he was always embarrassed about going to school every day and having to show his little card to get his free lunch. And so, as he told this story, you could just see the authenticity. You can see the emotion, you can see the passion.

I was like, this is a story you need to tell people, because this is what they want to see. They want to see you as a human. A lot of times leaders think we want to see the finished product, them as polished and having all the answers. People cannot relate to that. They want to know the struggles along the way. It’s great that you have reached this pinnacle success. But what I want to know is how did you get from here to there? What are the struggles? What are the things that hold you back? What are the things that you’re afraid of? Because those are the things that we connect with. So when this leader finally kind of found his entry point into these conversations, which is talking about his relationship with his mom, growing up with a single mom, it changed everything. And it really started to impact his ability to talk to other people and for them to see him in many cases, the real him in many cases for the first time.

JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah. Any comments on that? I see you shaking your head.

GEARAH GOLDSTEIN: Yeah. I think it’s incredibly common in the work that we do. I probably say at least once a week to my clients, that I wish your employees were on this call right now, listening to you speak because their authenticity, when they feel safe, comes out in the conversations doing the work we’re doing. Yet, for some reason the people who actually need to hear those messages have never heard them before. And if we could just create those spaces so that leadership feels comfortable being vulnerable and that they feel comfortable helping their employees feel vulnerable, that it’s not going to in any way, take away their ability to succeed at that company.

But encourage it as a learning tool. Then I think, we can all move forward, but it happens to me so incredibly often, and it really stands out. So this year, that to me is sort of my pinnacle of saying to my clients, my goodness, if your employers could only hear how much you care about this in the way that you’re telling it to me, your problem is already solved. And so that’s the work that I find the most interesting. Just helping lift people up so that they can be authentic and as vulnerable. Right. Let people see your struggles because in those struggles is where our experiences more easily connect.

JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah. Yeah. La Mikia, comments?

LA MIKIA CASTILLO: Yeah. I was actually looking at the comments in the chat and nodding an agreement with what Gearah was saying and what others are saying, because I think that this requires us to really re envision reimagine and redefine leadership in a big way. I think that it does a disservice to everybody, including leaders who are, have been taught and believe that in order to lead, you have to be what Elfi described as the stoic. I have everything together. I don’t make mistakes. There’s nothing wrong. I’m perfect. And like, I’m impenetrable in terms of like, this is not going to move me. And I think because we have defined leadership as such, we leave room, we leave very little room for diversity in the types of leadership that can exist, right. That this is why we get the sexes is sexist and sexism comments around women being too emotional.

Can a woman being leadership, she’s too emotional. It’s like, well, what is wrong with being emotional in the sense that you can relate to your people, you have empathy, you are able to shed every now and again, because that’s okay. It’s a part of being human and to the points that Gearah and Elfi made, if we don’t show that human side of who we are, then our employees, the people who really need to see that don’t trust our leadership. But somehow we think that that is leadership, right. To not show those aspects of who we are that human side.

And so I think, especially given the pandemic and how folks have we got the great resignation. I know these are all things that we’re probably going to talk about in this conversation, but people are moving away from that type of leadership that Elfi described. And I think we have a really unique opportunity to create something beautiful and different, and to say, this is a type of leader we want, and that old 1950s model leadership is just not going to cut it anymore, especially not if you care about diversity, equity, inclusion, and making sure that your employees feel valued here at your organization.

ELFI MARTINEZ: And I’ll just add Jen something. I think that’s really important about this conversation is that we are at an inflection point. The reality is that with younger workers, that’s stoic model [inaudible 00:19:51] to have all the answers, it does not resonate. They don’t like it. They don’t want to stay, they don’t want to work for it. And considering that by 2025, 3 quarters of the American workforce is going to be millennials and younger, there has got to be a fundamental shift in what leadership means, right? There’s that old model of I’m the boss versus a newer model of I’m the leader. And they’re not the same thing. So this evolution from boss to leader is something I’m especially excited about. And I think we have to thank younger workers, especially for pushing it because they just cannot stand the… I know the man behind the yellow curtain bullshit. They can’t take it.

JENNIFER BROWN: Thank goodness. And I mean, I even think, if knowledge is power and experience is power. The power that lives, it’s very concentrated in the emerging workforce. You know there is a lot there that could, we could stand to have some reverse mentoring going on, speaking about, what does belonging mean? And not according to the executive because, that guess what, that’s not going to matter. What’s going to matter is that leader’s understanding of what the wants and needs are to? What will resonate with our future workforce and leadership. And so we should be spending a lot of time, listen, listen, listen, listen to Gearah’s point and really signing up to be mentored. And I just think too, we just need to revisit how we’ve always thought where knowledge lives in the organizational hierarchy. I mean, we have an opportunity to bring the voice forward and to center the stories and identities and the wisdom because they have the most wisdom about belonging. At least in my definition, like of what it’s going to mean in the future.

That’s what we have to get our hands around. And we haven’t done. We haven’t been successful in it. I mean, I think that if I think of my generation gen X, there’s so much we haven’t known. There’s so much diversity that we’ve lacked, it particularly in leadership roles. So we lack the lived experience. We lack the exposure. We were raised to lead in a certain way and be judged in a certain way. And all of that is being questioned. So it’s a very… It depends on your personality. It’s a very destabilizing time. People are feeling very unmoored because what got them here, won’t get them there to quote Marshall Goldsmith, that it’s like, I don’t have the things that I normally lean on don’t work anymore. And so how are we soft that? How are we in conversation with leaders about, well, so what has been underdeveloped in you?

What have you never been encouraged or supported to bring. Like your story Elfi, like what’s under your water line of the iceberg and then how might you utilize that and bring it to the fore and story tell from it and roll model it so that others will look at you and hear you and say, wow, like that’s okay to lead that way. We need to see it and hear it in action. And we need to hear it from certain people because those people set a tone for thousands and thousands of people often. And so that work is just, I agree with all of you. And I know we do a lot of executive work and Gearah, we are privy to these conversations and these very real moments and these really vulnerable moments. And it’s almost like how the sausage is being made.

How is a leader made? What makes a leader now? Not just what you’ve learned and been rewarded for, but what is it going to look like in the future? And if that means sort of a wholesale, like, look at ourselves and a reevaluation of like, what am I bringing every day? And it’s going to be uncomfortable and awkward. Yes. Like all of it, but I’m here for it. I’m so… I’ve been waiting for this moment for a really long time. I mean, the workplace, the McKinsey research talks about like the toxicity of the workplace, right?

And the reasons why so many of us don’t want to return to a place that where we were not treated well, we were not seen, heard valued. We were subjected to microaggressions and so much unconscious bias every single day. And this is a real wake up call. We are in a moment and we got to keep our foot propped in the door for change. We cannot let that door close and go back to whatever was because it was so harmful. And so many of us couldn’t do our best work under those circumstances. So it’s very urgent, but we can’t go back to sleep and we can’t let our stakeholders go back to sleep. La Mikia, what would you like to add?

LA MIKIA CASTILLO: As you said that Jen, I was just thinking about the fact that we can’t go back and for some of us we’re still kind of stuck there, right? I think about the data that… So for those who, I haven’t had a chance to meet that haven’t had a chance to meet many of you. A lot of my work focuses around racial equity within the space of diversity equity inclusion. And when I look at the data, even from this year, right, we have Gallup polls that came out earlier this year that showed up to 25% of black and Latinx employees have experience and continue to experience racism in the workplace. Right. When we talk about who, how a leader is defined, we’re told our whole lives, that meritocracy matters, right? If you work hard, you go to school, get those degrees that you’re going to be at the top.

Well, data over and over again, continue to show us that black women like myself are highly educated, multiple degrees, top universities, and still are underpaid compared to white male counterparts and even white women in the workplace and are given less opportunities. Right? And there’s new data that aligns with that data that came up this year. Right? And so while there are lots of changes that have happened over the past year, I think with a big awakening, especially after George Floyd’s murder last year around issues of racial equity and injustice. And then when we also think about our AAPI community that suffered so much through a lot of hate and anti-Asian racism, right? Like these issues have come to the forefront in conversations. And I think it has increased awareness, like Elfi said, right? When you think about the JBC leadership continuum, people’s awareness has increased.

But what I’m seeing is that still some leaders are reluctant or hesitant to actually go there to lean into the discomfort of naming racism as a real issue in the workplace. Despite the fact that the data continues to show that people of color BIPOC quotes are most impacted by poor, like what I call poor leadership, bad leadership, which is that historic model of leadership that is not giving the space for vulnerability, empathy, or an understanding of where people come from. Or what they have to offer, or the fact that you can be a leader. Even if you are a mom, a single mom, right. Even if you are someone who had a nontraditional education route and didn’t get a graduate degree. And, but you have X plus years, number of experience, and have so much to offer from that experience.

Like you said, Jennifer, that lived experience. And so that’s what’s coming to mind for me. As you mentioned, we got to keep our foot in the door. Don’t let up. Don’t let things go back to the way they were. I think we still have some ways to go, to get to a place where we are dreaming, not only dreaming, but actually have come with a new vision in our living into that new vision. In this what I like to call the… I talked about the pandemic at least last year. I’m like, so over it, I was over it then too. But as kind of being caterpillars that have gone into a cocoon because we have no idea what’s going to come out on the other side, but I began to feel hope when I saw people rising up in the streets and saying, we want something different. If data is showing that people are demanding something different, we still don’t know what that beautiful butterfly is on the other side, but I think it’s possible if we dream together and have that vision together and then make it happen.

JENNIFER BROWN: Cocooning, I love that image too. One of the questions we got La Mikia, on that is, the return to the want and the human nature to return to the easier to return to business as usual. For a while, there were like headlines, like over and over and stories happening and harm being caused and sort of the reaction. How do we though, how do we keep the energy and the commitment and the urgency up? Just because it’s not a headline does not mean that it’s not a crisis and it’s an ongoing crisis, but how do we do that? And then I guess the organizational pushback could be, we’re fatigued from kind of this constant vigilance. And then we who do the work are constantly fatigued to be, because we feel like we’re pushing the urgency, that this is not just a one time or two time or one event or something that makes the news.

This is a reality, like you just laid out, it’s a systemic issue that we need to fix. So there’s a couple questions on burnout and I know, we should get to that. But also for our organizational leaders, like, how can we communicate? How can we… I don’t even know, like, how do we describe this as ongoing? I mean, I see it as hygiene. I see this as organizational practices like equity is that lens through which we need to see every policy practice procedure. It is not just once a year that we do pride and it’s also by the way, every, every cultural celebrations intersectional. So I think too that every single one of these things needs to be maybe re imagined and to be more inclusive also, but a sense that with this comes organizational fatigue.

And also, I worry about us as practitioners kind of keeping that pressure on because no matter what we feel it. We’re the ones that know, and then we get frustrated and disappointed and we have to then come back again and again and again, and we’re met with the fatigue of leaders as well to say, can’t we just move on or how can we attend to all of this? We don’t have the bandwidth, the resources, the energy, you know that so I think fatigue is real at all around right now coming into this next year. But the risk of giving into that is so like intolerable to me and to all of us. So how do you… What do you recommend? And then also just get to the personal fatigue for practitioners, if you all would too. Who would like to take that?

ELFI MARTINEZ: I’ll start. I think this is a really big [inaudible 00:30:32] part of this work. It is the thought that, oh, we’re all tired, we’re all fatigued, but we’re tired for different reasons. And I think a lot of times we need, we don’t all out what people are really tired of. So for folks that do this work and are passionate about this, and actually want to see a more progressive society, we are tired of meaningless gestures that don’t lead to anything, right. The 1990s playbook of something bad happened, you write a check to Al sharp [inaudible 00:31:02] energetic Jackson, and then you go back to business as usual, that does not work anymore. Right? And so people are wanting to have something different. And then for folks that are tired in the other side, it’s because I’m tired because I think the symbols are the point, right?

I said, this was bad. I said, this is a sad thing. Now let’s move on to something else. And I think that’s really where the real work lies is that this has to be converted into real action in the workplace. So for instance, if you want to talk about the dilemma, all organizations face, they’re super diverse at the bottom. And then every level that goes up, spy by diversity, right? By the time you get to the top, it’s just a big pyramid. And when we talk, well, how do we change that? Well, you got to take a look at who you coach, who you mentor and who you sponsor. Because those folks are being groomed, whether it’s formal or informal it’s happening right now. And if you want to see a lot of organizations freak out, ask them to show the demographics of their hypo list. It looks just like the guy demographics of the existing leaders.

And so these are the things that need to be different for this to be real right. And so what this measure gets done, so we need to start measuring these things so that they get done. Because if the only time you talk about diversity, equity and inclusion is at the town hall or twice a year, then guess what? It’s not a priority. And people, especially managers are going to do the four things. They can compensated, rewarded and recognized for. And unless diversity conclusions, one of those four things, it goes in the nice to do pile and I’ll get to it someday. And that someday never comes out.

LA MIKIA CASTILLO: I was like, mic drop Elfi. I don’t even know what else to say after that. Right. Obviously always dropping the mic in case y’all don’t know. But some things that came to mind for me is data is our friend when it comes to this. Right? Because I think part of the reason like I get tired is because I feel like I’m the only person sometimes in a space constantly pushing for the change. But then when you collect the data, which is one of the things that we do at JBC all the time, right? We all, we start with data collection, how is everybody feeling? Then it becomes very clear that it’s not just the DI lead, who is feeling this way. It’s actually everybody or most people, but the leadership just thought it was the nagging, we hired you to do this DI work, just go do your job.

Sometimes. That’s what it could feel like I’ve heard that from DI leaders, right? So I think data is our friend, whether that be qualitative, quantitative or anything else. And then I think it’s really important for us to take that time for self care. Things are hard. Right. I remember after George Floyd was murdered, I was in tears again because another black person was murdered needlessly. And I have to go to work as a person who supports organizations with figuring out how to make diversity, equity, inclusion, a priority. And I’m faced with some leaders who are saying, yeah, but all lives matter, right? I’m like, I’m a black woman who’s trying to support your organization. I cannot. I can’t take this right now. And so I talked to Jennifer and Rob and I was like, I just need some time.

Like I’m putting on my out of office and I’m making it very clear of my out of office. I am hurting. Communities are hurting. I need to take some time for healing for myself, as much as like we are here to support and I will continue to support, but I need some space. And I encourage you all to do the same thing. It’s hard to take a step back, but it’s beyond burnout. I think we have to be mindful of our mental health, right. And how that impacts our physical health and how that impacts our relationships with our family members and our loved ones when we are constantly doing this work and not taking the time to really… Again, take that mental health break and find support where we need it. And so I really, really, yes, I love what Amy Louis Goldberg just said, put on your own oxygen mask first.

I love that. Right. I haven’t flown in a long time because of the pandemic, but that image of the flight attendant telling us to put before you put on somebody else’s mask put yours on, because you need to be able to breathe. That’s exactly what needs to happen. And I don’t think we do that enough. And then when we do that, to be honest with everybody else, if that’s what we’re doing, so I call up our team members or send them a message to say that verdict just came out and I am not in a good mental space today. And I need y’all to know that I just need some space.

And some other team members are in the same space. They’re like, I’m taking time too. And others are like, I’m with you. And I can be step into support in this moment because it’s hitting me differently than it’s hitting you as a person who this is so much closer to home for. So I think that, again, we don’t do that enough and I would encourage folks to figure out how to do that and then to say it out loud so that other people understand why we’re taking that time. And then you can go back into the fight stronger.

JENNIFER BROWN: I mean, that’s allyship. What you just described is stepping in and saying, is there something I can support and knowing when to do that? Having the relationships and trust, or you can do that to say, you might be hurting and let me take this one, let me run with the Baton for a while. That is to me, is that, and are you ready to grab that Baton and run with it? So that we don’t leave the change work to those of us that have been doing a lot of pushing. It’s been years and years and years of that. And I think it’s accumulated for us and yeah.

And it is retried by things that are happening as well. So just having the kind of relationships with each other, where you can say that and say, Hey, what might I… How might I support right now? Because I might have extra bandwidth or extra… I’m not feeling this in the same way that you are. That’s an enormous offer. And just to have the sensitivity and the empathy and the awareness to know to do that is I think, where we’re trying to get to. Right. And to make that conversation, not a scary one, but actually one of love and kindness and empathy. And I also want to make a point that sometimes when organizations complain about fatigue, it’s a smoke screen. So, right. I know, like we know this as consultants, like okay.

So, but what does that really mean that you don’t want to actually take a hard look at some stuff that’s going to make you uncomfortable. And perhaps be a poor reflection on the fact that you’re behind, that you haven’t remedied these things that are causing harm that you haven’t taken the hard steps that put some power at risk to reinvent something. So I think we got to also watch out for that and kind of get underneath that because it can be, what we call a red herring, right. It’s a false and it can be an excuse. And so we need to be gently and graciously pushed through that and challenge it. So Gearah, I just wanted to make those two points, but let me hand over to you.

GEARAH GOLDSTEIN: Yeah. I mean, I love this conversation that we can actually share here, and I completely agree and see how we all bring our own experiences to these issues. I had a mentor that had mentioned to me that those of us that are in this work in order to do the work, we’re always one day away from being let’s go because we are tackling the hardest issues within these companies, right? We’re the ones who are hired to facilitate the change that’s required. But then when the company pushes back against what’s required, we’re the first to be let go, right? So it’s this constant cycle of yeah, we need to do something. Let’s hire someone to do something, oh, we can’t do that. Let’s hire someone else to do something. And we keep coming in with the same solutions and companies are not prepared, not all, but are not prepared to make the types of changes that we need.

I think that as La Mikia saying, people are bringing their own life experience, but they’re also bringing generations of experience, right. And literally centuries of experience when it comes to the stories of inequality for black people in this country. I mean, it is not an issue just today, but decades and centuries that have not been addressed. And we struggle with allowing people to bring not only the way they feel today, but all of this history of their life experience that creates this dynamic of difficulty in these conversations. Right? So when we look at people in the workplace, I think it’s important to realize that we are looking at their generational life experiences, right? It’s not just today, but how did they get to where they are? And so I think there’s just so much celebration and beauty in those experiences, right? Being able to lift up those that need it.

And it’s not hard. I think every single person on this call knows somebody at work or knows somebody today that would benefit from after this call, if you just reached out to them and said, how are you doing? How can I help? And if any of us do that after this call, and that’s kind of my hope that’s what happens today, that people will hang up and call on someone and ask how they’re doing and what we can do to help. And that’s really… I’m kind of rambling, but that’s where my mind is at right now. Like there’s so much hurt. And those of us in this position, and I would say yes, self care, but sometimes caring for others is a great path towards your own self care. Right. And I know it sounds strange, but I personally feel good when I’m helping other people. And so that’s how I get the strength to keep doing this work, because I know that there are those that are truly being lifted up by the work we’re all doing.

JENNIFER BROWN: I agree, Gearah.

ELFI MARTINEZ: I think Jennifer, a big part of this is that we have to just remember what these things really are. Empathy and sympathy are not the same thing, right? Being kind and being nice are not the same thing. I think a lot of times people confuse these terms as if they were the same thing. Empathy requires connection. Empathy requires effort. Empathy requires you to listen and understand someone who is different than you are. And a lot of times that’s where we have a lot of the issues that we have with folks in organizations is they want to say the words, but not do the things that make the words count.

And that’s where the work really is. Because sometimes La Mikia and I have worked together and we’ve known this happened to be true. Sometimes folks like us are hired to provide an illusion of progress, right? We’re there to say, look at the brochure, right? This is something that we’re doing now, but it doesn’t actually convert into actions that people can see and people can feel. And so I think those are the things that we really need to challenge folks on is that if you want to get better, then you have to do the work. There’s no… You don’t learn anything in your comfort zone. That’s what makes it comfortable. So what are you doing to actually get some place that’s different from where you were yesterday?

GEARAH GOLDSTEIN: Yeah. Elfi, I agree. You know Jena, I know you’ve heard me say this before. And I think for leaders, many times, they work really hard to try and understand something before they can just accept it, at accepting someone’s life experience. And I know you’ve heard me say that acceptance does not come from understanding, right? Acceptance comes from empathy or kindness, just allowing someone’s life experience to be enough without you having to understand it. The analogy that I use is like, you’re saying, it’s been a long time since I’ve gotten on an airplane.

But I get on an airplane and I accept that it’s going to take me from one place to another, without having to understand all of the aerospace engineering that goes into allowing me to hurdle at 30,000 feet and sit in a chair and read a book. It’s like, what? So I don’t understand it, but I accept it. And I think that that approach for so many experiences is that when someone tells you, this is my experience, why do we struggle to accept it? And it’s because we have to like somehow understand it. You are not going to understand someone else’s life experience. You have to trust and accept what they’re telling you is real. And that’s that.

JENNIFER BROWN: Oh, so good. La Mikia, I’ll give you the last word. We’re almost out of time, but oh, I’m just… I’m madly scribbling notes here.

LA MIKIA CASTILLO: I don’t even have it a last word. Because I thought to myself was amen and [inaudible 00:45:14] Usha to what courage just said, that’s it? I agree 100%. And I love that last part, Gearah, what you said about, you don’t have to understand to accept. There’s a lot that I don’t understand. Right. But that doesn’t mean that people’s experiences are not real or not true. That they’re not being in impacted in deeply personal ways that show up in the workplace. And we have a responsibility as leaders to make sure that we are accepting of those narratives and not only accepting of them working to change the conditions in which people are working so that’s not the narrative anymore on the parts that we can control. So amen and Usha. That’s my word.

JENNIFER BROWN: And thank you, everyone have a wonderful, safe holiday season, get some rest and I appreciate you all team members. I just… what an honor to be with you every day. Thank you for sharing today. And everybody stay safe. I’m going to let us go on time today. Woohoo. But thank you. And stay in touch with each other. LinkedIn to each other. Keep networking. There’s tons of DNI jobs happening out there, I’m glad to say. And the last of shifts, a lot of promotions. So if that’s an indicator of where we’re going this coming year, I am excited because to me that means there’s ongoing energy and there’s building energy and we’re still sort of moving up in momentum. So I’m really happy to see that. And you all have been a huge part of creating that. So I just want to say we thank you and we appreciate each of you.

Thank you. All right, everybody stay safe. Lots of love, big virtual hugs. Hi, this is Jennifer. Did you know that we offer a full transcript of every podcast episode on my website 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 in iTunes to learn more about Jennifer Brown. Visit Jennifer Brown Thank you for listening. And we’ll be back next time with a new episode.