Join Jennifer Brown and her co-author Rohit Bhargava as they take you on a behind-the-scenes conversation about their new book Beyond Diversity: 12 Non-Obvious Ways to Build a More Inclusive World. Discover why Jennifer and Rohit decided to write this book, what differentiates it from other books on diversity and inclusion, their vision for the book, and more!
To join the Beyond Diversity Book Insider Family and get early access to exclusive updates and invitations to launch events, visit https://beta.hashe.com/beyond-diversity/.
Listen in now, or read on for the transcript of our conversation:
Doug Foresta: Hello, and welcome to The Will To Change, this is Doug Foresta. In a moment, you’re going to hear a conversation between Jennifer Brown and Rohit Bhargava, her co-author about their new book Beyond Diversity. Before we do that though, I do want to let you know that there is a new cohort for the DEI Foundations, six week online course for inclusive leaders. To learn more and enroll today, text DEI Foundations, all one word DEIFoundations to 5, 5, 4, 4, 4, and use the coupon code Podcast for 20% off.
Rohit Bhargava: I was coming at this topic of diversity from my 10 years of work, trying to convince people that the world needs more non-obvious thinking, and that was my big thing. And the big thing was essentially that I wanted to teach people how to see what others miss, and that was my kind of mission. And I never really thought about until we started collaborating, just how much that had to do with diversity and inclusion. I mean, how much easier is it as a team to see what no one else sees, when you have people from multiple perspectives as part of the team.
And if everyone looks the same, and grew up the same, and has the same ethnic background, and has the same experiences, it’s really hard to see what no one else sees because you all see the same thing. And I didn’t really connect that mission, which I had always put in terms of innovation and creativity as a diversity, equity and inclusion message, but it really is. I mean, it’s that message at the heart of why we should offer these opportunities and get ROI from them in the business context, right?
When somebody says, okay, what’s the reason why I should care about this? Of course, we should because it’s the right thing to do and there’s a moral argument. But also from a business perspective, if you have a diverse and inclusive team, your ideas are better, you come up with better products, you make more money and everyone’s more successful.
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. In this episode, you will hear a conversation between Jennifer Brown and her co-author Rohit Bhargava, as they discuss their new book Beyond Diversity, 12 Non-Obvious Ways To Build A More Inclusive World.
To join the Beyond Diversity book insider family, to get early access to exclusive updates, and invitations to launch events it’s really easy. Go to jenniferbrownspeaks.com, that’s jenniferbrownspeaks.com at the top you’ll see, one of the tabs is books, click on books and go to Beyond Diversity. And you’ll see the page there to register and again, to get early access to exclusive updates and invitations to launch events. So don’t forget to do that.
And in this episode, you’ll hear from Jennifer and Rohit, as they reveal what the impetus was to write this book in the first place, some of the structure of how they put the book together, what they hope to get out of the book, their vision for it. And really, they kind of take you behind the scenes, to let you in on what this process was like, for them to write this book together. And what it’s been like for them to work together, and why they thought about working together in the first place.
So I know you’ll enjoy this, it’s a great background before you read the book, to understand a little bit more about the thinking and process that went into this. And again, I want to remind you go to jenniferbrownspeaks.com, click on the top where it says books, and find the Beyond Diversity tab. And that will take you right to where you need to go for the landing page, to join the Beyond Diversity book insider family, and now onto the conversation. Rohit, Jennifer, welcome to The Will To Change, thanks so much for letting me turn the tables a little bit today, Jennifer as well.
Jennifer Brown: Thank you. Thanks, Doug.
Rohit Bhargava: Yeah. Thank you.
Doug Foresta: Thanks. So yeah, I think where I want to start, you’ve both co-written a book together Beyond Diversity. I want to do a little bit deeper dive about that process is like, what that connection between the two of you is like, and maybe we could just start there. Rohit, how did you and Jennifer first meet?
Rohit Bhargava: We met through the summit, the virtual summit that we did together. And the first time we talked, it was sort of this, I figured wow, I’ve got a lot to learn about this topic and that was my first reaction to chatting with Jennifer. And I think the idea to do the book together was not a oh, right from the beginning let’s do this. It was more of a, who would I want to do something like this with? And Jennifer really stood out for that, for me at least so that was kind of where the conversation started. And then we just talked about, what would it take, and we went from there.
Jennifer Brown: That’s right. Yeah, Rohit, that’s so true. I mean, I felt an immediate connection and the fact that you had… My first introduction to you was embarking on this massive summit, with so many different voices included, and just such an ambitious undertaking and such a big idea, what is beyond diversity? So I think you had the vision for that, but I think it’s something we both really deeply want to explore for our own personal evolution, and also as it pertains to our work in the world.
And we can get into that a little bit, what does it mean to us? But I think we really also connected around this want for going beyond conversation, beyond stereotypes, beyond limitations, beyond maybe the limitations of language that we’re finding ourselves struggling with right in this moment. So your energy for that really appealed to me, and yeah, I’m just so thrilled that we cross paths. I feel very energized about it every day.
Doug Foresta: Well, it’s really interesting. I mean, I know you said you came together around this topic, but we meet people all the time and sometimes it connects, and sometimes it doesn’t. I guess for both of you, I want to ask you sort of the human question about, maybe Rohit I’ll start with you. What was it about Jennifer and about what she does that sort of made you think, oh, there’s more here, this is the person I want to collaborate with. Even if you know you have a topic, you still have to think about who do I want to collaborate with?
Rohit Bhargava: Yeah. I think if I could sort of explain what I liked about Jennifer’s perspective, was that I think we have very similar temperaments in the sense that, we both believe that this fight for more diversity and inclusion in the world doesn’t mean that we have to be angry all the time at someone. And it doesn’t mean that we have to be negative about the world all the time, and I think that a lot of times you can meet someone who, rightfully based on their experience, wears their outrage on their sleeve all the time. And it’s an exhausting way to live, I mean, and we’ve all probably been outraged by something at some point it’s a normal human emotion.
But what I liked about Jennifer’s perspective and what I’ve often tried to do myself is, not get so caught up in my perspective of what I should be angry about that I failed to see how anyone else could think anything else. And what I found when I talked to Jennifer was that she is high empathy, and we both are. And what that meant for us, I think is that we’re not quick to judge, we are not really screamer type personalities, and I think that it helps in this space. Because you do need people who can sort of serve as those translators, and be the ones that approach a really sensitive topic that is really ease to get super angry about, with a perspective that says we can change things, and we can shift people’s perception, and it doesn’t have to require us to yell.
Jennifer Brown: Thank you, Rohit.
Doug Foresta: Jennifer, I want to hear your… It’s funny because I think about it, I’ve never heard Jennifer yelling and screaming, and you talk a lot about calling in versus calling out.
Jennifer Brown: That’s right. Yes, I love that concept. Yeah, Rohit, thank you, first of all, and you’re right, that we would not be able to survive or sustain the energy for what needs to happen in the world. I think if we live in the place that you’re describing, but the sort of objective lens, and honestly the loving, and kind, and generous lens that I first and continue to see in the way that you look at this opportunity. Is you like me, we don’t think our narrative is the most important thing, we don’t need to center our stories. And in fact, I just want to share, in the writing of the book, it was never an issue between you and I how much of our voice, or patting ourselves on the back.
If that’s even something that ever crossed our minds, which I honestly don’t think it is, it didn’t come up because the book was about all of us and all these amazing people, and so was the summit. And so I think that it’s not something to take for granted, that I guess we both share how our role in change. The way that we see the role that we have to play is as conveners, is as curators, is as commentators, dot connectors if I can continue along with alliteration. It is to provide something like show, don’t tell you talk about the book is just this demonstration of all these lived experiences.
That I think you and I would agree just inspire us every day, and kind of take us to the next level. So the role of us in a book was not to demonstrate our expertise, but it was to create a container for others to shine, their lived experiences, to do the teaching and to speak through. If we’re the mechanism through which that needs to be said, and that ultimately to me feels, so that is the way that I want to create change in the world. Because I know on this complex topic, I can’t possibly have all the answers and that humility, I think is something that I really appreciate in you Rohit, and that I try to strive for every day.
Doug Foresta: I’m curious if there are maybe surprising things that you learned about each other in this process, or that you learned in general from each other?
Rohit Bhargava: Yeah. I think for sure, there’s probably many. I mean yes, through my interaction with Jennifer, but also just with many of our other contributors and with the other people and other voices that were featured in the book. I was exposed to lots of situations that were just unfamiliar to me. I mean, lots of industries that were unfamiliar to me in terms of, what people had to deal with, what racism or discrimination against them looked like based on where they worked, and how they worked.
I mean, I worked for most of my career in the marketing and advertising industry, and in that industry there is discrimination for sure. But there’s also this kind of prevailing sense of where ideas come from and this concept that we’ve got to respect the idea. And the problem in advertising and marketing in particular, was that the people who would have the really diverse and inclusive ideas were never in the room. So I did not come from an industry where I saw the discrimination directly against people because they weren’t in the room, which is a different form of, lack of inclusion. So that was the challenge in my industry.
And in other industries, I would hear these experiences of people who were sitting right in the room and being ignored, which was a different experience, right? If you think about entertainment or the experience of a marginalized screenwriter who is coming up with all these ideas in the room and being dismissed for it. So for me, it was just this interesting awareness that there are so many different ways that someone can be marginalized or discriminated against. Both from being in the room or never being invited in the room.
Jennifer Brown: That’s such an amazing point. Yeah, Rohit, I would say my answer would be, I have so many learnings. The inclusivity reader process that we went through, I would love to elaborate a bit on that, and Rohit also hear from you what that process was like for you. But to the point of not knowing what we don’t know, to enlist a handful of inclusivity readers, also called sensitivity readers, to help Rohit and me as the curators, understand what were we missing. Which kinds of storytellers were we missing, were we being as inclusive as possible?
And you only have so many ages to work with in a book, of course, and there’s so many stories to be told, so we did our best, but I think the review by those readers and their different particular lenses of identity and specializations that they brought. They might be reading heavily for disabilities and LGBTQ issues, for example. So they are helping educate us about language, about terminology, and sometimes things were evolving, and sometimes things were contested too. And so we had to make these calls about, what to capitalize in and what not to capitalize.
And so we weren’t able to share this backstory in the book, but there was such learning for us in terms of making some hard decisions and then explaining those decisions. Which I think also was something I advocate in my work with inclusive leadership is to say, we didn’t have all the answers. Here’s the call we made, here’s why we made it, here’s the homework we did. We’re not sure what is the right answer, is there a right or wrong answer, perhaps this is not a binary. But we wanted to be transparent about our process.
And I think at some point that’s all you can do with such a dynamic topic, but I love kind of figuring how to walk that line. I mean, it sounds like torture but it actually is such an amazing exercise to balance everything, at a time when there’s so many questions about identities not being heard, and represented, and respected, and treated equitably. It was very important to both of us, and Rohit I’d love to hear what you thought about that process for yourself, and how you would describe that, do you feel good about what we undertook and how we did it, and the result?
Rohit Bhargava: Absolutely. I mean, you called out the sensitivity reader, which was an amazing process, I mean, we brought in 10 people with different experiences who lived across the world. And we essentially gave them parts of the book and said, hey, what do you think? Are we getting this right? And what do you suggest? And they raised all sorts of really interesting things. I mean, I remember at one point we were writing about cross-cultural thinking, and one of the examples we used was of an Austrian billionaire, was the inventor.
And he came up with it because he found this drink in Thailand, that truck drivers would use to stay awake because it had so much caffeine in it. And so in the story that we told, we name the Austrian billionaire, but we didn’t name the original Thai inventor of the drink. And one of our sensitivity readers came back and they said, well, why are you naming the Austrian billionaire who basically took the idea and bought it, but not the original creator of the idea, you should name both of them or none of them. And it’s such a logical point to make, but we just didn’t do it and we finished obviously. And so in the book, both are named, but it was one of those things where once somebody points it out, you’re like, yeah we should name both of those individuals.
Why are we just naming one of them, right? And we do this all the time in the way that we think, or the way that we write or the stories that we tell. And it’s not because we’re bad people or because we’re intentionally trying to discriminate, it’s because sometimes we just don’t think of it. And the process of bringing those readers in too forced us to think about it, I think, made the book better.
Doug Foresta: I think that’s so cool. And I guess that’s a question for you Rohit about, I guess I could think of so much you would’ve lost, but what would you have lost if you just wrote this book yourself?
Rohit Bhargava: I mean, well, we would’ve lost readers. Yeah. I think we would’ve lost readers because they would’ve looked at my background as an innovation and marketing specialist and said, well, why are you qualified to write this book? What is your perspective on this book? And even if Jennifer and I alone were to have gone written this book, I mean, we definitely would’ve had more street cred. Because Jennifer has a lot of street cred in this space, but it still would’ve just been our two perspectives. But as anybody can see, if you look at the cover of the book and especially the back cover, I mean, it was the two of us plus six contributors.
And by doing the book in that way, and by crediting the authorship in that way, we’re hoping to send a really powerful message about the way that this book came together. It was not my perspective that Jennifer added a couple chapters to, it wasn’t her perspective that I added a few little things to. It was multiple perspectives and multiple people and lots of different themes, and that was really important for us to relay through the way that we talked about the book. And through the way that we talked about the authorship of the book too.
Doug Foresta: It’s interesting too, because you both come from such different worlds, but at the same time I’m really curious about that. About how your different backgrounds like I said, you come from such different worlds, although Jennifer, I know you said to me in another life you could have seen yourself perhaps in Rohit’s world, right?
Rohit Bhargava: Yes.
Doug Foresta: So talk about that, the ways in that you’re similar and dissimilar backgrounds kind of helped out.
Rohit Bhargava: Yeah. Well, I think Rohit and I between us, cover a bunch of different puzzle pieces of identity. Parent of human children, not parent of furry children, ethnicity difference, cultural identity differences, gender identity differences. I don’t know, Rohit and I are still actually, we just met in person for the first time. So there’s a lot, I think I’m still learning about you Rohit, about the way that you grew up, and things like socioeconomic background. Things like how perhaps disabilities has ever touched your lives, or your loved one’s lives.
Being myself LGBTQ as everybody that listens to my podcast knows well, and having Rohit identify as cisgender, heterosexual individual. So there’s beautiful, immediate though understanding across difference between us, and I do think Rohit, you spent a lot of years in the advertising world. And for me as a young person, before I ever discovered what I do now, I wanted to be desperately in a creative role of some kind. I definitely knew I wanted to perform, but anything creative or in the arts fascinated me, and business actually fascinated me too, even though I was a performing artist, I kept my eye on the world that Rohit it ends up was in at that time.
And I’ve always thought about innovation, I’ve always thought about creativity. When I used to do leadership training before I had Jennifer Brown consulting, I taught classes on creativity and innovation. And even though I had never been in a creative role, I was still delivering training and teaching this because, if you’re a facilitator, sometimes you have to teach things that you don’t have a mastery in. But the goal is to facilitate others through a process. And I just always loved the topic, and now I understand how diversity and inclusion informs creativity, informs innovation, informs actually belonging.
I mean, if we feel a sense of belonging, we then can therefore be creative with each other. We can come up with that next great idea, but I believe that belonging has to be there as a foundation piece. And this is how I argue the business case in a lot of my work with clients, so Rohit came my way and his focus and deep expertise on creativity. I think there’s this connection the world needs to have made, and I think we are kind of here to help make it Rohit. Which is that connection between I feel psychologically safe, I trust those around me, I feel I belong here, and welcomed, valued, respect, and heard, and therefore I’m willing and able to create.
And ultimately to me, that’s the secret sauce of business, I mean, and of the world really. But when we focus in on the workplace, as I do to me, this is this equation. And if we could only explain it in a certain way, that would create that aha moment and that light bulb going off for our dear readers and audiences. I think that we could maybe get somewhere and make some progress, and get unstuck in this really difficult topic, right. Which ends up paralyzing people or making them feel that I can’t say the right thing, and I don’t know what this has to do with me, and all the ways that people are not involved and are holding back from being involved.
So I think that there’s something in the combination of Rohit’s expertise, my expertise, the dots that we’re going to connect, and the ways that we’re going to sort of be physically the manifestation of that sort of whole brain, if you will. Looking at these two huge opportunities, not just for the workplace, but for society. I get just really energized about that, and I just can’t wait to dive into that and see, Rohit and I are already getting really excited about keynotes.
Because we imagine putting this together in this unique way that nobody’s ever seen before, and then we just… I know Rohit, and don’t want to speak for you, but just living for that audience reaction, living for that moment of impact when people are like, oh, I get it, I can do this. So, and I’m just so excited for that moment a and it’s coming.
Rohit Bhargava: Yeah. And I mean, we’ve already done a couple of experiences like that, and it’s been so different from, I mean, you’ve done a ton of keynote talks, I’ve done a ton of keynotes solo. But doing it together has been so interesting because, one of the things I was just thinking about as you were talking, which is so funny is. You know me, I’m a big analogy and storyteller guy, and one of the things I was thinking about was we used the analogy of a camera quite a bit inside of the book, and how a lot of times the topic of diversity and inclusion is only looked at through a zoom lens.
And the zoom lens focuses on one aspect of it, whether it’s gender pay equity or racial discrimination or ageism at work, or equal rights for people with disabilities, or neuro diversity. I mean, each one of these is a different zoom lens, and one of the big ambitions of this book was to put a wide angle lens on the topic and try and bring all of these things together. And if anybody’s done any photography and I’m going to test this one out, Jennifer, and then you tell me if you think it’s bad and then we’ll never use it again. But one of the things that I would use often when I was doing photography was a tool called a circular polarizer.
And what that is, is you basically put it on the lens, and when you turn it, it changes where the shadows appear on like a reflection off of a glass, off of a mirror, or off of a car window. And by having the same thing and you just turn it all of a sudden, the shadows totally change where they are. And I kind of felt like that when you and I were on this book, because I was coming at this topic of diversity from my 10 years of work, trying to convince people that the world needs more non-obvious thinking, and that was my big thing. And the big thing was essentially that I wanted to teach people how to see what others miss and that was my kind of mission.
And I never really thought about until we started collaborating just how much that had to do with diversity and inclusion. I mean, how much easier is it as a team to see what no one else sees when you have people from multiple perspectives as part of the team. And if everyone looks the same, and grew up the same, and has the same ethnic background, and has the same experiences, it’s really hard to see what no one else sees because you all see the same thing. And I didn’t really connect that mission, which I had always put in terms of innovation and creativity as a diversity equity and inclusion message, but it really is. I mean, it’s that message at the heart of why we should offer these opportunities and get ROI from them in the business context, right?
When somebody says, okay, what’s the reason why I should care about this? Of course, we should because it’s the right thing to do, and there’s a moral argument. But also from a business perspective, if you have a diverse and inclusive team, your ideas are better, you come up with better products, you make more money and everyone’s more successful, and those are all things that we want.
Jennifer Brown: That’s right.
Rohit Bhargava: And putting it in those terms I think is really powerful because it takes it out of this silo that sometimes DEI gets put into, where it’s the job of one person who is activated with a nice title, but doesn’t actually get any real power to do anything with it. And it makes it something that becomes important for the success and future of an organization, and that’s where I think we both feel like it should be.
Jennifer Brown: Yeah. And yeah, Rohit I love that. The non-obvious piece, is another piece that really drew me to you honestly, because I felt you were speaking my language, and you didn’t probably even know that you were. In terms of your focus on the unexpected, the unknown, the invisible, the thing that maybe somebody is afraid to disclose, and that’s where I live, right. Is the question of why do we hide? Why don’t we value certain aspects of our story and celebrate those? And then, what are we missing when we lack that creative abrasion around a team or a creative process, because I’m so afraid of making the non-obvious, obvious, I guess.
So even before I knew you, I clued into that and I actually recognized that you weren’t in my space, but sometimes you have these moments of realizing that we actually are all having this universal conversation. And that some of us are bridge builders and we love kind of charting the path from domain to domain, Lily padding around and saying, whether it’s diversity and corporate social responsibility. Whether it’s in our case, Rohit, diversity and innovation and the connection between the two.
That’s so fun, it’s so mind expanding, heart expanding, but you’re non-obvious whether you knew it or not, the whole concept of having a brand that is dedicated to revealing what is not seeable or easily discernible, or is being hidden. For a variety of reasons is completely central to the question of diversity, equity and inclusion.
Doug Foresta: Hello, Will To Change listeners, want to join the Beyond Diversity book insider family? It’s easy to do visit jenniferbrownspeaks.com, and go to the tab that says books, click on that you’ll see a dropdown for Beyond Diversity. That will take you to the landing page, where you can enter your details to join the book insider family, and get early access to exclusive updates and invitations to launch events. Again that’s jenniferbrownspeaks.com go to the tab that says books and the drop down that says, Beyond Diversity to sign up prior to the books launch on November 9th, 2021.
And I wonder as you’re saying that, because the question I was thinking about is, if all companies, right. It’s in their own best interest to get the most out of their employees. And so why aren’t they doing this? I guess the question is, do you think that non-obvious piece is part of the reason why organizations so often are not incorporating. I mean, this is for both of you I’m just curious about your thoughts about, if this is so powerful and so important, what’s getting in the way?
Rohit Bhargava: Well, from what I can see and I’m sure Jennifer has a much more intelligent answer to this but what I can see in terms of what’s getting in the way is that people just don’t know exactly how to do it because it’s not easy for them to do so let me give you an example. Right? So a lot of times, this was probably in past years when I was looking at bringing on a team for anything. If I was going to hire a freelancer, or if I was going to bring somebody into my network, to hire them for some work, I would put out an ask to my community, or I would think about who I already know.
And if that group of people was not particularly diverse, it didn’t really matter because I needed to bring on somebody that I already knew so that it would be easier for me to build my team. And what ended up happening, was I would turn to the same people who all knew the same people and someone who wasn’t part of that network would never get an opportunity to be considered. And over the last several years, I started to change that. And the only way I could find to change it, because your network is your network, you kind of know who you know.
The only way I could find to change it was to go outside of my network, which is a scary thing to do. If you think about it from a hiring perspective, because now you’re going into the wild west, right? You’re trying, you’re considering hiring someone who, no one in your network already knows no one’s vouching for. And so you have to evaluate them based on what you can hear from when you talk to them and what you can see from the work that they’ve done. And then you have to take a risk, and when it comes to hiring and bringing people into a team, people are very risk averse.
It’s very difficult to bring someone on who you don’t have that connection to, but if you just stick to people who are already part of the, “Club.” That’s how you end up with teams that all look like one another and don’t have any diverse team members. And so I think that we all really have to force ourselves when we’re in that hiring situation to go outside of the network we might already have and expand it outwards. And when we do that, we might end up finding some amazing candidates that just need a shot to get in. Because they don’t have the same network or access or connection to you than that somebody else already does.
Jennifer Brown: Yeah, I think Rohit is so, right. I guess the obvious has powered business for a really long time, right? It’s the low hanging fruit, it’s the quick answer or problem solver. But the speed is unfortunately an enabler of bias that we have to. And I’m not talking about like slowing way down, but I do advocate that we really pay attention to and develop the muscle to see what we don’t see. And I mean, see in quotes because so much of identity is hidden and not visually apparent. And even if it is visually apparent, we may be completely wrong about what we think we see.
So and this is just such a fascinating question to me because for me, it’s very personal that I can pass through the world. I can do what’s called straight passing, meaning if I don’t disclose my sexual orientation as being a member of the LGBTQ plus community. I can just let that assumption ride about how I identify and who I am. And perhaps, because certain identities are more favored than others or more dangerous or more safe, that might mean greater safety for me, right. And then, that makes total sense for so many of us. And we’re never, ever going to comment on what is the right, way to disclose and what feels safe and what doesn’t, right.
But I’ve always thought about the invisible aspects of diversity as being so critical. We use this graphic that looks like an iceberg in our teaching, and 10% is visible above the waterline. 90% is under the waterline lurking there not visible and yet extremely important. I think we could all agree in the case of real icebergs, but just as a metaphor. What you don’t see can hurt you, can hurt your organizational culture, can hurt your society. What is not brought above the water line of the iceberg and really looked at and really evaluated fully, with full curiosity, with full openness, with full kind of generosity and a lack of bias.
Which is really hard because if you’re human, you’re biased. But the world that I envision is one in which the invisible becomes visible and becomes celebrated, becomes normalized. Or I prefer the word usualised becomes usualised in our systems. Because what we are not seeing is continuing to perpetuate the harm, the lack of resources, the lack of empathy, the lack of urgency. When your identity is not visible, you don’t get as many resources financially, the economic hardships, the biases that go unchecked. And I can say this, there’s a whole body of research occurring now around LGBTQ plus women.
Who’ve been understudied, like not at all understood, and therefore we can’t even see ourselves as a community, let alone how we want to be seen in the world, how we want to be treated equitably, et cetera. And that’s just one identity, but of the so many in the book that, Rohit and I had the privilege of elevating. We are in the age of intersectionality and intersectionality, to me is the big learning of it is to see difference, to see the nuances to name the differences that exist in one person, both visible and invisible, right? “The obvious,” Which I might argue the obvious can be deceptive, but the non-obvious too. And then to build enough trust that people will say, here’s all of who I am.
Here’s how I can thrive, here’s what I need, here’s how I want to be seen and here’s how I identify in my terms, like not in the world’s terms. So in this moment of seeing, like opening our eyes and it’s been so transformative. So I think this book like literally drops into that place and gives people a ton of examples of what that means, why it matters. And then at the end of each chapter, we actually give concrete things that you can do in your day to day life. To demystify this, to not make this, like this overwhelming task that’s heavy. But that actually feels joyful, right? That feels like you are doing your part to unleash the human spirit because effectively that is what we’re going after.
Doug Foresta: That’s a good segue in a way you talked about the doable actions, right. So this might be putting you on the spot a little bit, but I’m curious to know obviously we want as many people as possible to be reading this book. And like you said, there’s actionable things here. You mentioned for example, that, doing keynotes together, but can you talk about some of like, the things that you’ve talked about doing, with Beyond Diversity as sort of the brand and the extension of how you see sort of working with people? Again, obviously the book is the first step, but I’m just curious about, going out and doing keynotes together. Have you talked about or thought about what else you’d like to do as an extension of this?
Rohit Bhargava: Yeah. There’s, how long do you have?
Doug Foresta: About 30 minutes.
Rohit Bhargava: Yeah. Okay, perfect, that’s all we need. I mean, we’ve talked a lot about the workplace and certainly there’re opportunities there and doing these sorts of trainings and keynotes and things can open the door there. But we also talk a lot about education and how this conversation around diversity is something that a lot of universities in higher education are starting to have. They want to have, and sometimes they need frameworks to be able to have it. And by the way, a conversation about diversity cannot be an equal sign to a conversation about race or racism. That is one aspect of diversity, but we also have to talk about ageism, we also have to talk about people with disabilities.
We actually have to talk about what does it take to respect people, whatever their identity is. Of course racism is an important topic, and we’re certainly seeing that talked about quite a lot in many higher education institutions, and that’s great. What we tried to do with the book was give a framework for people to ask big questions and to have discussions about that, but also about all of these other aspects of diversity that are often treated as separate and isolated things, instead of part of overall topic, which is how do we create a more inclusive world where everyone is respected for who they are and not judged or put into categories or groups or othered in some way.
Jennifer Brown: Yeah, I think that audience that Rohit is talking about, beyond the workplace to education, to the younger generation, even too. I think this book, it feels like it needed to be written because it was missing in the library of resources. Meaning there was a whole, we were sort of fast forwarding to, I think in many cases, a very advanced conversation about race and racism very quickly. And I know my observation is, I’m not sure the foundation was there for the 3.0 conversation about it. But that we’ve got to meet people where they’re at and start the engine. And I think this book is this foundation piece in many ways underneath or pre sort of pre the books that I’ve written.
For example, on leadership behaviors, because I think we’ve got to open the aperture to continue the camera metaphors to show the pervasiveness of opportunities when it comes to this. So that none of us is missed in this, it’s pervasive, it touches each domain of life that we may or may not likely not have thought about it, playing a role in. And that’s why I love the organization of the book that it goes through media, education, the future, culture and technology. So these big domains that we want to get people’s engines started and almost introduce a different way of thinking, a different way of noticing, a different way of being in your world.
Where you’re more discerning about the voices you’re hearing and the choices that are being made and the equity issues and the who’s in the room and who’s not, or whose voice is celebrated and who’s not, or I mean, there’s so much to notice. Having co-written this book has made me realize I was kind of jumping ahead with a certain audience. I think a lot of us might agree that things have gotten gone so quickly, but we cannot leave folks behind. And we cannot achieve what we want to achieve, if we don’t almost go back to the universal and the pieces of this that touch all of our lives. And inevitably we all know something about diversity.
So each one of us, if we really look at the iceberg that constitutes who we are, right. Each one of us can fill things in terms of stigmatized identities, terms of experiences of exclusion in terms of not seeing ourselves represented in media, for example. And each one of us can locate that, and I guess everything has gone so quickly in the last year and a half. And part of me feels this need to go back and make sure that we’re reminded. This isn’t just an exercise, and like, Rohit, you just said, this is not just about race and racism. Differences have made a difference since the beginning of time, stigma has been with all of us.
Exclusion has been with all of us, we’ve all wrestled in different ways. And I like to say, Doug, I say this all the time, I quote Kenji Yoshino. And I say, it’s not the pain Olympics. If we get caught up in somebody’s diversity story matters more than somebody else’s ultimately it kind of just spirals to nowhere. But the honoring of all of our identities, the seeing the disclosure, the safety that’s needed for disclosure, that to me is the bigger opportunity in front of us. This book fills in a piece that I almost feel like I didn’t know was missing. But I think it’s going to capture a massive audience much bigger than Rohit, or I, I think have ever touched with our previous work.
Doug Foresta: Yeah. Just an observation or reflection as you’re both speaking, I was thinking about this moment, right. The quote that’s often attributed to Albert Einstein about, you can’t solve problems with the same level of thinking that got you there. I don’t actually know if Albert Einstein said that or not, but could just be a meme on Instagram, but it is a good saying. And I just think about this moment, right? I mean, in the workforce, we have an unbelievable talent shortage. But you look at everything, right? I mean, everything from climate change to the political issues that we’re facing. COVID obviously it just seems to me, as you were saying, this book really is a great response to the challenges of this moment. I’d love to get just any thoughts about that.
Rohit Bhargava: Yeah. I mean, one of the questions that I think we always want to be able to answer anytime someone asks an author about any book is why now? Why didn’t you write this two years ago? Why wouldn’t you have written it two years from now? And for us, the timing of this book is very intentional because we’ve seen a huge explosion of conversation about diversity. And we’re at this point where it is such a common topic for people to be talking about in the corporate world, but also in higher education and in just normal conversations amongst people. But a lot of times those conversations are very one-dimensional. And that was something that we really wanted to try and tackle head on with a lot of candid with a lot of candor.
And I think when we did that in the book, what we discovered is, there were these connections between people fighting these individual fights that were easy to see why they would be connected, but nobody had made the connection before. And what we found over and over, and this was actually one of the things that came out of the summit was, once we introduced these people who were off doing all of these things that they were doing. Once each individual met someone else who was doing some similar work, but with a different group or for a different cause all of a sudden the perspective started opening up. And they found, wow, we’re both working on similar issues, we should be talking to one another, and as soon as they did, you saw these unusual conversations.
You saw people focused on shared parenting and equity for both or multiple parents, talking to people who were fighting for more people with neuro diversity hired in the workplace. And once they started finding connections with one another, they started talking and in the year, since the summit, we just heard so many examples of people who said, oh, I met this person at the summit and we started collaborating. And since then we’ve been collaborating. And that is the DEI equivalent of introducing two people who eventually end up together. I think, because you get this like magical moment where you’re like, wow, these people have connected with one another. And the summit was the starting point for that, and that’s a beautiful thing.
Jennifer Brown: It’s like you and me Rohit. I mean, it’s like literally an example of that. And I would say that the traditional categories of identity have always just been a shorthand. They haven’t actually been terribly accurate, I mean, when you think about the variety, the diversity within the diversity, right? The variety of identities within each “Diverse group.” And I know sidebar, we struggled with saying the word diverse in this book, was one of those things we kept coming back to. And trying to figure out, like language kind of failed us in moments I think to kind of capture things. But I wanted to say that thinking about how identity we’ve organized, our strategies around identity and I think of them as vertical identities. I don’t know why, but it’s LGBTQ, it’s women, it’s black and black folks, It’s Latin.x folks, it’s disabilities, it’s veterans.
It’s generations, we are creatures of binaries and also we are creatures, I think of the shorthand and the sort of reduction of the complexity into something that’s a mishmash where we lose some really important differences. And so the organization of the book by themes instead of by identities, I think is very powerful. When I get asked, where are we going to be 10 years from now with groups that are grouped by identity. And sometimes I answer that the younger generation come into the workplace, which is what I focus on is, they’re the ones that say I’m this and I’m that, and I’m that, and I’m that. And I can’t be put into a box or a single identity, and I’m comfortable with all of that. And versus some of us in other generations, we’re just happy to find our own identity and some place to belong.
Because that was in short supply, and I know, when I came out finding that there was such a thing as an LGBTQ group in my company, it didn’t matter to me that identities were missing from that community. I was just so thrilled to find it, but now I think the 2.0 and the 3.0, version of all this is the horizontal, right? The shared identities that move across all these different diversity dimensions. And it starts to get really complex in a beautiful way, I think. And it’s pushing us to go beyond the categories, it’s pushing us to go beyond the acronym. And I really, I want that because I think that specific language is important because specific language about identity enables person to feel seen in the most precise way.
And so this is why things like pronouns are really important that is somebody’s whole world to be referred to with the correct pronoun. Now it might take years for them to get the courage to say, hey, actually, I’d like this pronoun to be used for me. Yes. But that truth, that really deep truth and that full, like deep being seen is so fundamental to our experience. So it’s just this interesting pivot time we’re in right now, Doug, where we’re getting extremely specific about identity. And yet we’re realizing what single identity stories have prevented us from recognizing which is the complexity of identity and the things that we share instead of dividing us, what brings us together to Rohit’s point
Doug Foresta: It’s kind of a paradox, isn’t it? It’s an interesting-
Jennifer Brown: Yes, it is. That’s why we love because it just never lets up. I mean, the challenge of trying to figure it out. And then how to explain it maybe, and then how to help, encourage and enable a different way of thinking is something I enjoy every single day. I mean, I can’t imagine doing anything else but this, because it’s this evolving discipline and it’s just this endlessly, you are constantly being shown new elements because identity is constantly evolving, which is so cool.
Doug Foresta: In a moment. The book is called Beyond Diversity: 12 Non-Obvious Ways To Build A More Inclusive World. In a moment, I want to talk about, when the book comes out and how people can get it. But before I do that, I want to give you each just final thoughts for our listeners. Anything that you’d like to share, I just want to open that up.
Rohit Bhargava: Yeah. I mean, I would say my final thought is probably a hope and my hope for the book and for anyone who reads it. Is they find an unusual story of someone who is doing something amazing that they wish they knew about before. And that now that they do know about, they will celebrate it. Because one of the big ambitions of this book beyond shifting people’s perspective is to celebrate all of these amazing voices and individuals who we had at our summit, our amazing contributors and all the people who we featured in the book who are entrepreneurs, who are speakers, who are just doing these amazing, amazing things, because they have brilliant products, they have great expertise, they are amazing on stage and they should be hired.
They should be supported by more people and hopefully this book will be a convincing argument for people who pick it up to do exactly that. Because I think that we approach this as storytellers and we approached it as two authors who have a platform that we can use to elevate other people. And so this book is not about elevating us, it’s about offering a perspective of the world that we think is important and about celebrating the people and the stories who we share inside of it. So my hope would be that people do exactly that after they read the book.
Doug Foresta: Beautiful. Thank you. How about you, Jennifer?
Jennifer Brown: Yeah, my hope Doug is I think to lessen the tension and the heaviness and raise the joy, it’s a joyful book. I mean, the pages are full of energy and possibility and creativity in action and heard in action and courage in action. So I felt kind of picked up, in the process of it and I think we’ve had, just such a hard time. So many of us it’s just gotten, this past era that we’ve all gone through. I really wanted a tool that would inspire people to keep going, but in a different way, with lightness, with inspiration, with what’s possible with how this pertains to me and what I can contribute in the world like Rohit said, supporting others differently, that can be an extremely transformational undertaking for us.
And it is, I think a big part of the growth that we need to undertake with our next steps. As humanity honestly, is putting empathy at the center, caring about each other. Making sure that fair acknowledgement and celebration and recognition is given generously. And that we all have this role to play and sometimes we’re in the front and sometimes we’re in the back, sometimes we’re in between, but being completely humble to sort of moving around to where we need to be. That is, something equality, that we have the opportunity to develop. And so if I could put this and as we will put this in thousands of hands, I would love to feel that, and get messages that say, I saw myself for the first time.
I felt I understood this for the first time, I felt my defensiveness lesson, I felt more positive and were hopeful. That I think is so important to Rohit and me and I know to you too, Doug because without that, we can’t really sustain our forward movement. We’re human creatures, and I believe we need to come from a place of joy, we need to find that and wake up with that. I hope and my dream is we all get to work from that place. My goodness wouldn’t that be incredible, to feel that about what we contribute every day.
Whether that’s our professional world or what we contribute as a volunteer, as an advocate, I’m always fine. I’m telling people keep going because there’s something really amazing and rich on the other side of this. And I know that, I acknowledge that the initial steps can be uncomfortable and awkward and I’m not sure where I fit. And if this enables people to feel that they have a place and a voice and a role to me that is more than enough impact for me.
Doug Foresta: Rohit and Jennifer, you know the image that comes to mind when I think of the two of you, is that old commercial with the Reese’s peanut butter cups. The chocolate and the peanut butter. So I don’t know which one is eighties of you obviously. Yeah. I’m really glad the two of you connected and what an amazing process and collaboration this is. So go ahead everyone, check out the book, make sure. And also as Rohit was saying there’s lots of great stuff that you can get before November 9th. So Rohit, Jennifer, thank you so much. Thanks for sharing your words of wisdom. And we’d love to do this again in the future.
Jennifer Brown: Thank thanks Doug. Hi, this is Jennifer. Did you know that we offer a full transcript of every podcast episode on my website email@example.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 in 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.
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