You can also listen on iTunes, Stitcher, and Google Play.
This episode was originally recorded as a LinkedIn Live event, and features a conversation between Jennifer and author, speaker, facilitator and coach, Ray Arata, as they discuss the importance of male allyship in the workplace. Discover how men can effectively show up for their non-male colleagues, employees, and family members. You’ll also hear about how to meet men where they are and how leaders can set a tone of support and accountability.
Listen in now, or read on for the transcript of our conversation:
JENNIFER BROWN: Hello to my Will To Change audience. It’s Jennifer here and I wanted to announce that our next cohort for the DEI Foundations program is beginning April 11th. I wanted to say a little bit about why this program is so effective and so accessible. If you’ve looked into it or you don’t know anything about it, regardless, I think it’s worth a look and it’s a wonderful and robust investment in your inclusive leadership journey. A little bit about why I believe this is an important investment in you and your leadership. Of course inclusive leadership is a skillset every leader must have in 2022, and of course beyond, if they want to keep pace with rapidly diversifying markets, customers, ideas and talent. You can think of something like this as an investment in the next step of your inclusive leader journey and we’d love to be a part of it.
A little bit about the program, we created it as a six week foundations level program, and it’s designed to equip you with the knowledge you need to meet the challenges of this changing world of work and begin to dismantle systems of inequity that have permeated society, communities, and workplaces for far too long. Coming out of the program, you’ll better understand what it means to be an inclusive leader, learning how unconscious biases impact your interactions with others, and you’ll be able to speak more eloquently about the value of DEI in a way that engages others around you. You’ll have opportunities to learn from subject matter experts, as well as your peers and uncover the power of your own diversity story so that you can talk about DEI in a way that connects and resonates with others.
If you’d like to visit us at jenniferbrownconsulting.com, you can look under courses at the top of the page and use coupon code podcast for 20% off. Again, that’s the code podcast for 20% off. As I mentioned, the next cohort kicks off on April 11th, please consider joining us.
RAY ARATA: My white male fragility has me stuck in fear. Fear of… And I’m just talking as a cisgendered white guy. If I choose to step in and point out behavior, what might happen to me? I could be ostracized, I could be ridiculed. I could be kicked out of the boys’ club, same thing as being ostracized. But even inherent when I talk to white men about this, the risk I face because of my white male privilege is very different than somebody of color, or a woman, or anybody else for that matter, who already is struggling and putting forth a ton of effort just to be who they are inside an organization.
DOUG FORESTA: The Will To Change is hosted by Jennifer Brown. Jennifer is an award-winning entrepreneur, dynamic speaker, bestselling author and leadership expert on how organizations must evolve their cultures towards a new, more inclusive workplace reality. She’s a passionate inclusion and equity advocate, committed to helping leaders foster healthier and therefore more productive workplaces, ultimately driving innovation and business results. Informed by nearly two decades of consulting to Fortune 500 companies, she and her team advise top companies on building cultures of belonging in times of great upheaval and uncertainty. And now, onto the episode.
Hello and welcome back to the Will To Change, this is Doug Foresta. This episode was originally recorded as a LinkedIn Live and features a conversation between Jennifer and Ray Arata, speaker, facilitator, coach, and author of the new book, Showing Up: How Men Can Become Effective Allies in the Workplace. In the conversation, Ray discusses how men can effectively show up for their non-male colleagues, employees, and family members. You’ll also hear about how to meet men where they are, how leaders can set a tone of support and accountability. If you are a fan of the show, you have undoubtedly heard Ray before on the program, he is always fantastic, this time is no exception. And now, onto the episode.
JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah, Ray. I just want to celebrate you. I know you and we’ve had lots of about the way you’ve stepped to the front and how reluctant you’ve been to do that. I experienced the same thing when I started writing books, I had a huge attack of imposter syndrome, debilitating to the point where… And this still happens sometimes, it’s not just the first book, where I almost say to the team, “Can we delay the launch? I don’t know if I’m ready for this to be out there.” It is so vulnerable to write a book and then to put it out there with the confidence that we’re supposed to put it out there because we’re authors, right?
RAY ARATA: Yeah.
JENNIFER BROWN: Right? And we invested so much, but it doesn’t mean though, that we don’t doubt ourselves every step of the way. I want to know, what was this process like to write this? And how did you grow through it? What was uncomfortable, and if you’re in the middle of discomfort, tell us about that. What does that feel like?
RAY ARATA: There’s a lot of questions in there and I’ll do my best to answer all of them. But I think around this whole imposter syndrome thing and writing a book, I first want to own my gobs of privileges, and the reason why I want to do that is because it’s going to support my answer. I’m a white, cisgendered, heterosexual, economically privileged, tall guy privileged, I’m six, three and a half, able bodied, a whole host more, and with that comes a responsibility. For me on my my own DEI journey, I’ve had to keep my ego in check, because there’s a part of me that loves to be out in front. However, people that are closest to me, including some of my advisors, have said, “Ray, you can ride this wave as long as you want, as long as you remember, it’s not about you.”
I had to go through some discomfort to really understand what that meant, so that now as a white, cisgendered, heterosexual man, I look at this from an accountability perspective. I did a keynote on one of the Better Man Conferences and I came up with this notion of the dynamic duo of allyship, superpowers of privilege and accountability, and putting those together. I share that because, given I have a platform, given that I’m a white guy, if I decenter myself so much to the point where I’m not being responsible, or bringing what I’m bringing, or not modeling for other white male leaders, then I’m doing a disservice to the community, to the world.
I share that now with respect to writing a book, I write a book when there’s so much up here that I got to get it out and it comes from a place of service. And so when I wrote my first book, I was challenged by a guy who said, “Ray, you’re playing a one-to-one game. You need to play a one-to-many game and you need to write this book.” So I wrote, Wake Up, Man Up, Step Up for men, not in corporate, to go on a journey of emotional healing. When I came to write this book, after I founded the Better Man Conference, I had no idea how steep of a learning curve I put myself on.
When the time was right and men kept asking me, “Ray, what do I do?” “Ray, what do I do?” And DEI practitioners were asking me, “How do I engage the men?” “How do I engage the men?” And then everybody else who didn’t identify like me, are like, “How can we support? How can you support us?” That’s when I wrote the book, so it was a long, involved process, but the blessing of COVID was that I just put myself in my office and I wrote it, and when I was too tweaked, I rode my bike, and then the next day was a new day.
JENNIFER BROWN: That’s so good. Thank God for the outside and exercise and anything that breaks us from our habit and routine, or our spiral if we’re in one of those. I mean, it just hits the reset button, yeah. You just said, oh so many things, Ray. I want to pick up on one, the privilege and accountability and knowing when to step in and when to step aside, and when to step back.
RAY ARATA: Yes.
JENNIFER BROWN: That comes from experience of when am I needed? When am I needed? When can I do something unique or contribute something that only I can contribute in this moment? Then the question becomes who else and contribute and can I work from behind to line those things up, maybe? Which is one way that we use what we have access to. So we are not always the problem solver, right? The generosity of the team approach to say, “I am one, I’m not necessarily a hub. Sometimes I’m a spoke, sometimes I’m a hub. I’m moving from the outside to the inside of these concentric circles in terms of how I’m thinking about the problem that I’m witnessing, the opportunity that I’m witnessing, the person that I want to support.”
But step forward, step in, step aside, step back, that’s tricky. I mean, I wonder if you think of yourself in terms of where are you developing those nuances in terms of how and when you make your contribution, or whether you make your contribution, or how have you been developing that? Because I think it’s such a confusing point for our male allies in training, because we like to say we’re only an ally when someone in an affected community calls us an ally. It’s not for us to say, it is for us to aspire to but it’s not a label we can give ourselves. So how do you think about, I might ask you, your evolution? Was it a step back first and now it’s a step in? And is it feeling awkward and self conscious, but exciting? And sort of, what is your next stage of development, do you think, in terms of broadening out your capacity as a voice like this?
RAY ARATA: What comes to mind and is your allyship continuum and how in the beginning, what I learned to do and what I’d offered to the men, and this also applies to anybody wanting to be an ally to anybody, is to step back. Step back, and step inside, to become introspective and aware of your language, your behaviors, and how they can impact other people. Because unless I, as an ally in training, start to do that, I’m going to myopically and unconsciously be impacting other people, and that’s not what I want, so that first step of awareness is critical. Once I start developing that muscle, there might be a step in.
Now this is nuanced so it’s macro and micro. In one-on-one behaviors, if the psychological safety of another person is threatened, I might have to step in and literally intervene, right? I might have to step aside and pull a man, saying, “Hey, I’ve got some feedback for you. Do you have a minute?” Presuming the answers is yes, “I want to bring to your attention what you said and did, and the impact,” and then pose a question to him. Now the evolution continues because one of the things I learned with the Better Man Conference, right out of the gates, was having an intersectional intention of bringing different voices and perspective to the stage.
I knew I had my place, but I learned lessons along the way that sometimes I decentered myself so much, I got feedback, Ray, where were you?” Right? So here I am, 2022, with the perfect storm of Time’s Up, Me Too, Black Lives Matter movement, COVID, the great resignation and the spotlight is on the majority, which is men. When I see that, and I understand that a minority of men have been controlling the narrative, I sit there and go, “Okay, I got to go out there and be the white male leader, and if I have to be vulnerable and go first, call in some of these guys, lovingly challenge them, then that’s my responsibility.” There’s that dynamic duo of accountability and privilege, so I have to use both of those. 2022 and beyond, for me, it’s showing up, the pun of my book, stepping up and bringing up, bringing up everybody else.
JENNIFER BROWN: I love that, beautiful. You said majority, it’s so interesting that I heard a new term I’m going to share with everybody yesterday BIPGM, black and indigenous people of the global majority. Think about this for a moment. When we use majority minority language, we have to qualify it and define it, and this is why I’ve never liked the word minority. But people of the global majority caught me, because we are a minority majority nation, world now, right? Our demographics have shifted and yet we don’t see that reflected in leadership.
So Ray, what I think you’re saying is you just said a minority of men have been controlling the narrative, and I also hear in that, that there’s a style of male leadership that has also been normed and rewarded. We need to bust out of that also because the minority that has the majority power, is what I’d probably say to be very specific, within that there is a total straight jacket that’s limiting in terms of our ability to show up as full humans and exhibit some of the things you write about in the book. Even for leaders and perhaps especially for the leaders that dominate organizations, there is a liberation that has to happen on a personal level.
And that’s huge to you, I know, and to me too. How would you characterize the mix that’s happening at that level and what’s the opportunity?
RAY ARATA: Well, the opportunity in the mix has me want to… This is a Better Man Conference plug, but the themes this year are patriarchy power and privilege, and so that minority style leadership slots right under patriarchal leadership. So to dismantle or reconstruct what that could mean, to change our relationship with power and to use our privilege to support other people, to me is the way forward. In order to do that, us guys and everybody else… We talked about the man box a lot, those unwritten rules of what it means to be a man, that lie in the darkness, that, if we don’t step back and become introspective, they’ll run our language and they’ll run our behaviors. I choose to shine a light on them for a moment or three, and then shift over to healthy masculinity as a cornerstone or a way forward, so that men and everybody who doesn’t identify like them, can collaborate.
JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah. We all need the psychological safety and the real safety to break out of the box that we’re in. I wonder many days, if the organizations are ready to have that kind of courage, to redefine leadership and what’s rewarded, what’s measured, what’s supported, what’s rewarded, what’s lauded, what’s celebrated? We all know there’s a wholesale change that we want to see and that’s needed in order to take organizations into the future, but there’s still so much fear of breaking out of that man box that you just shared. I encourage everybody, by the way, if you’re curious about man box and you haven’t heard the TED Talks on it, et cetera, Ray, where would you point folks to get a primer on that?
RAY ARATA: Tony Porter, A Call to Men. He does a phenomenal TED Talk, it’s widely viewed. Tony’s been on our Better Man stage, he’s a friend, supporter, I support him. They do great work so that would be the place I would look to, for sure.
JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah. And you’re getting a lot of claps for Tony Porter in the chat. Somebody asked what about the risk that some of us have to undertake when we point out what our leaders don’t perceive, we take that risk of being dismissed, ostracized. You would argue even those within that inner circle, take the risk of being ostracized, et cetera, but it’s a different kind of risk, I think-
RAY ARATA: That’s right.
JENNIFER BROWN: … than for some of us to speak up. Can you say a little bit more about that?
RAY ARATA: Yeah. What that brings to mind and heart, and I’ve talked about this as well, is my decision to be at the affect of my white male fragility, or to step into my white male ability. My white male fragility has me stuck in fear. Fear of… And I’m just talking as a cisgendered white guy, but if I choose to step in and point out behavior, what might happen to me? I could be ostracized, I could be ridiculed. I could be kicked out of the boys club, same thing as being ostracized, but even inherent when I talk to white men about this, the risk I face because of my white male privilege is very different than somebody of color, or a woman, or anybody else for that matter, who already is struggling and putting forth a ton of effort just to be who they are inside an organization.
So my encouragement… And I have to do this myself. I have to be willing to be unpopular. I have to be willing to be canceled. I’ve had to confront these issues, like would my wife still love me? Would my kids still love me? Would I still be able to ride my bike? I mean, yeah, it’s just like there’s a part of me that says, “Breathe into the fear and move forward and stay committed,” right? It comes down to relationships. If you have a relationship with somebody, and if I heard your question right, it’s like, what if somebody above you with a more senior leadership position, is doing this? Well, nobody likes to be told what to do, and one of the things about feedback, because this can be couched as feedback is say, “I want to get to know you a little bit better. Are you open for me giving you some feedback because I’m at the affect of it?”
Now they might say no, but if you don’t ask, you don’t get. So this is very nuanced stuff but I just want to do my best to answer that question for you because I just want to acknowledge that I’m not inside an organization. It’s easy for me out here, I have the, I’m not in an organization privilege, right? Just as I think about that, so yeah.
JENNIFER BROWN: I do too, all the time, Ray. Risk for us is, what is it? I mean, we get to be the truth tellers, the agitators in a very different way. For those of you who are outside organizations, you know what we mean. We don’t necessarily have to be the diplomats, we can go straight to it and be perhaps listened to differently. That is the definition, right?
RAY ARATA: I just said, consultant privilege, I like that one.
JENNIFER BROWN: I’m adding that to my list. Ray, you just role modeled and shared the language of the invitation for feedback. It reminds me of where and how we approach these really important conversations that could be a big aha for somebody, is so important. We talk a lot about the call in, perhaps in addition to the technique of call out, we talk about the call in, the invitation to learning. And the nuance of how we get feedbacks has so much to do with how we can hear the feedback. And maybe who we get the feedback from can also be.
But you’ve got a lot of folks who are afraid of the ripple effect and the punishment, for example, that could happen from calling in a leader, particularly somebody who’s more senior than we are, but that we really want to invest in their leadership journey, their learning journey, point out things that maybe they don’t perceive about themselves. But approaching this feels so delicate and so risky, so I just wondered if there’s anything more you want to say about that and-
RAY ARATA: Yeah, absolutely.
JENNIFER BROWN: … certainly invite folks in chat, if you have some good techniques for how to do this, we all know it’s important, right? It’s critical because the emperor has no clothes. Leaders are isolated, they have no idea. They are a different generation, they’re a different demographic and sometimes it’s like, how could they not know this? But they don’t know, and so I sit with that and say, “So what is the call in to that person and who makes it?” And if we all did that and we all shored up some others in this way, I think we would be able to accelerate others’ journeys. But if it’s so fraught, we’re not going to do it.
RAY ARATA: A couple things. One, this notion of calling in and feedback, I hold that feedback must come from a place of love. I have the six heart based leadership principles of emotional literacy, vulnerability, authenticity, accountability, inclusivity, and love. If a leader can do a reset with everybody, because he or she has, assuming they identify as binary, has the ability set a tone of support accountability. Meaning I’m going to invite everybody in advance of how we’re moving through this thing called life at work, to give everyone permission to, when someone goes unconscious and says something impactful, to have permission to go up and say, “Hey, are you open? I want to point out something because we’re all in this space of growth.”
Now that might be a big ask, but if you started on the front end and you create an environment where someone’s going to point out my gaps and I’ve asked ahead of time, and even though someone gives me feedback… Because I had to learn how to do this when I was working my way through leadership in the ManKind Project, someone taught me a long time ago that 70% of feedback to you is someone else’s projection. But the stuff that you want to defend, that you don’t want to pay attention to, that’s the stuff you pay attention to and you say, “Thank you for the feedback,” you go talk to somebody else and you learn and you work things through.
Now that requires a lot of setup by a leader who has that position, but imagine what might be possible if we were all in this together? Knowing we’re human, knowing that we go unconscious sometimes, but we’ve got our friends and our colleagues to help us stay awake. [inaudible 00:25:26] a different world.
JENNIFER BROWN: It would be a different world. It can be-
RAY ARATA: Different world.
JENNIFER BROWN: You all probably hear me say this a lot if you’re on our list and my calls, but if you’re not uncomfortable, you’re not leading. What we sign up for when we lead is to grow, and we cannot grow without the stretch, the discomfort, having a mirror held up, examining our lenses and recognizing the limitations of those lenses. I think there’s some questions in chat, Ray, about methods and approaches with this. Somebody says, “Is there a way to get somebody to see that this is a way for the leader to become more effective and gain more power?” Yes. I mean, I definitely have tried to share language and rationale with my executive audiences to say, this is nothing less than the tools of transformation and relevance for you as a leader, as a human. Because, by the way, you will be challenged with these issues in your family, in your community.
The world is changing and a lot of us feel, gosh, I’m not sure I’m equipped right now and this is unfamiliar, and I’m in new territory and what got me here won’t get me there, to quote Marshall Goldsmith. I say to leaders like, “This is not eating your spinach. This is not sure, this is wrapped up in and very cool core to our evolution to meet this moment and every moment that’s ahead, effectively. Meet it and maximize it.” If we know how to do this well, we’re going to retain people. We’re going to create more innovation out of our teams. We’re going to stay on the right side of social change and social justice issues and be able to be nimble and respond in an authentic and informed way, and not be caught off guard and fuss around and create more damage because we’re just so out of… Like you said, I think you used the word unawake. Nobody can afford to be unawake. It’s just not…
So what I think we need to then catch up on though then, is okay, what gets measured gets done in organizations. I mean, my question always is, okay, so what is this competency and how will we then define it and measure it? And it’s never been taken seriously. Frustrating.
RAY ARATA: The presumption that we can build off of, is that these leaders, if asked the question, how is it that you want to be experienced by others? You got to be Socratic to a degree, and everything we do, our four steps of the ally’s journey, acknowledge our stuff is the first one. That’s be aware of my bias, my privilege, my emotions in the man box. But the second one, listen with empathy and compassion, is a gateway to understanding the lived experience of other people. And inherent in that becomes, how do I want to be experienced by them? Do I want to be the inclusive, relatable, vulnerable, authentic, powerful, but a different kind of powerful? Powerful in my own vulnerability, that other people, as a result of me being that way, feel called forward to contribute their whole self?
It’s a whole different conversation. In the work you do, Jennifer, and the work I do, I always ask that question, how do you want to be experienced? Are you even interested? Because if not, it’s over before it started. But I have yet to hear anybody say no, so that’s the inroads right there. In terms of what’s measured, it’s so early in the game around engaging men, I want to see more and more, and more, and more, and more men putting themselves on the path of being an ally. I talk about in my book, the five states of men and how each of the… I share these five states of men, because it helps men understand where they are, it helps organizations understand that these states of men exist in their company, that might require slightly different nuanced approach. But it also helps people that don’t identify as men to understand what’s lurking in their companies. Those five states of men, if you want me to speak to them real quick-
JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah, that’d be great.
RAY ARATA: … then we can riff on that a little bit. There’s a state of men, there’s a group that feel threatened by DEI initiatives because it threatens their job, underscore their, which is an indicia of their unexamined privilege. Our friend Michael Kimmel said privilege is invisible to those who have it. Even those guys, they’re in fear, they feel threatened. It’s about humanizing the privilege as opposed to demonizing privilege and seeing if they’re open to being educated. Longer conversation, but that’s the first state.
Then there’s the second state of men who don’t feel included. They’re the ones that voice, “Oh, there’s an ERG for women, LGBTQIA+ and et cetera,” and they’re like, “Well, what about us?” With that group, it’s like, okay, sounds like they want to be involved. Maybe we can point out their feeling of exclusion so they can start practicing their empathy muscle and then have them pivot, right? The third group is the biggest one, those guys that are afraid to say or do the wrong thing so they do nothing, which makes them complicit. That’s a huge faction of men inside orgs. And cancel culture, all that does is inflame them. They’re like, “What do I do? What do I do?”
The fourth group is they want to do something, they just don’t know what to do. I love those guys. The fifth group are the few, the proud, the advocates, and those are the ones that we have to leverage. Whenever I talk to an organization, I used to never do this, but I’m like, “I need to talk to your CEO.” They’re like, “Why?” I said, “Because I need to understand why this is important to them and what their level of commitment is.” Because for so long, they would punt these issues down to the DEI department, hamstring them with a small budget and sign some pledge, and think that they’re doing the work, and that’s not how it works. Things are changing in a good way. I keep seeing more and more organizations open to this. I just have to decide how big of a hammer do I use.
JENNIFER BROWN: Oh Ray, every day.
RAY ARATA: I mean, I’m going to swing it from a place of love, of course, right? But that’s what has to happen.
JENNIFER BROWN: That’s right. It strikes me, we talked about this with, maybe 200 male leaders used to show up to the physical Better Man Conference, and realizing everybody’s at a different place and wrestling with a different belief system, and assumptions, and readiness to change. And capturing that, because meeting the learner where they’re at is so critical, otherwise you’re just literally spitting into the wind, so to speak, because it’s not going to land. Right? So the question and this challenge you and I always have, as we talk about, when you gather, what does the learning process look like? Segmenting people out, and again, I’ll put a little asterisk, it might be like a self-report situation where we may be patting ourselves on the back as being further along than others might, too, so there’s that, so other fly in the ointment.
It’s like as a strategist around learning and creating aha moments, and moving people forward, it feels… I’m so glad you segment out where the learners are in a continuum of… It’s a continuum of comfort and skill, and you all know I have a podcast called the Will To Change, it’s a will continuum. That will is where it really gets juicy, Ray, with the like, why do people awaken? How do we keep people awake and doing… Right? Beyond that first aha to the next aha, to the… It gets truly to this deep conversation about our human, why do we do the things we do? Why do we care about the things we care about? How can I invite or create a circumstance where people begin to care, where people begin to move through the learning journey? Where people begin to put more time and energy towards it, or seek more support, or start to go to the Better Man and just investigate? And then the self accountability of this is something I’m going to assign to myself, is this development, is this evolution.
Anyway, I know that everybody’s at a different place. It can feel a little bit hard to know what’s most… You just alluded to where most people are on the five, in the five. I wonder then, with let’s just assume limited resources, although I don’t think that’s true. I think the resources will show up for the best work that has to happen, but where do we put our energy, do you think?
RAY ARATA: A couple things I’ve learned over the years, with respect to men, and again, that’s the lane I try and stay in, but it applies to anybody. But these two words, shame and blame are huge words that we want to acknowledge so that when we seek to meet men where they are… That’s another phrase, meeting them where they are is critical, devoid of shame or blame. While you and I are pretty learned in this space, it seems without fail that right before a Better Man Conference, I make a mistake that I end up owning on stage. The notion of being forever an ally in training is safe, I’ll never be too big for my britches. And staying in the beginner’s mind, always willing to learn, enables me to, once again use my privilege, be vulnerable, tell on myself to make it possible for other men to do the same thing.
Whenever we do a conference or a training, I’ll talk to somebody in the DEI department. I’m like, “All right, who’s your most human, senior male leader, that’s willing to tell on himself?” They’re like, “Why are you asking that?” I’m like, “Well, if he gets up there and talks about his journey of becoming an ally and an inclusive leader, and he tells on himself, makes a mistake, he says maybe he’s afraid, he does these things, it’s going to make it possible for all the other men to step up, if you will. It’s really, really important,” you know?
I say that because if we’re going to create the change that we all want to be part of, more and more and more men are going to have to take a breath and step off of the sidelines. The whole point of me creating the name Better Man for the Better Man Conference, is that it’s aspirational. I believe that there’s a lot more good men out there, they just need some guidance and some encouragement. And most of the time it needs to come from guys that look like them so that we don’t put the burden on marginalized folks, the right M word.
JENNIFER BROWN: That’s the right M word. I like that. Indeed, indeed. The emotional labor that a lot of us have been putting in for a long time to bring the word, to deliver the message, to put our shoulder to the wheel. And then the sense that so many others are sitting on the sidelines, not knowing whether to engage, how to engage, or perhaps feeling excluded from the work. There’s a really interesting question in the chat, I just have to read it because I’m thinking about it. Thanks so much.
I don’t know who asked this, but the very language of engaging men puts the burden on others to do the work, to get them involved, to make a good enough case for them to extend energy. Ooh, that hurts but it really hits. Welcome to my world. I call this, twisting myself up into pretzels to try to create or affect a change, or create an aha moment. Or convince, or show 15 different statistics that somehow still don’t convince, right? At some point, you’re like the resistance is intrinsic in others, it is not for me to solve. Right? I really appreciate this question. How do we change the language to the assumption of engagement and the decision they make to disengage?
RAY ARATA: If I look at what’s current and you have an awakening group of men, and there’s a huge group of men that have the blinders on because they’re not feeling the pain of exclusion, then the responsibility does rest with men in organizations to shine the light on the opportunity and the responsibility for these men to be better allies and better leaders. I really appreciate what that person said about the very notion of engaging men. The temptation is to put the burden on marginalized folk, when in reality it’s us, it’s us guys, which is why I’ve been banging the drum for so long, doing a conference. I could not have done it without people that don’t look like me, so I’ve put myself forward to be an ally, to those people that don’t look like me, to support them in their roles, right?
One of the things I learned to do a while ago, when I’d be talking to a person of color, or a woman in a DEI role, I’d say to them, “This heavy lift shouldn’t be on you. Is there one white guy that you know that you have a relationship, that you could have a heart-to-heart conversation and ask for his help?” I said, “Good guys. If you ask them for their support, they’re going to say, ‘Well, yeah, what would that look like?'” Now, they’re going to come up but they have to go through their own stuff. Oh my God, if I say that and do this, but that’s how I try and shift things so that people in those roles, in diversity, equity and inclusion departments, experience me as an ally externally, and I’ll give them some guidance so it doesn’t need to fall on them. Because it’s our turn. Us guys, we need to step up.
JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah. Love it, love it, Ray, thank you. This is such good language. I hope everybody goes back and listens to this because sometimes people need a nudge and where they’re stuck is language. I don’t think we should be cheap about helping with that, I think we should be generous because we’re all learning a new language. I’m learning a new language about gender pronouns and I’m LGBTQ+ and I’ve been out for 25 years and I’m learning a new language. If nobody stopped me and said, “Here’s what we say now. Here’s, Jennifer, what I think you might want to position differently,” I’d be horrified not to know that. So help me help you, help us help each other. I don’t think it’s time to not be generous with our lived experience. And language is changing so quickly that I think it’s really unrealistic to expect anyone to know the absolute latest about every single community of identity, particularly those that they don’t have the lived experience of. So I appreciate the point you just made.
RAY ARATA: There’s something I want to say real quick because I hear this a lot from my not so aware friends, but it always comes in the form of, they make a statement like, “I don’t want to say anything. I’m being totally scrutinized,” and they punched, pardon the sports metaphor, the responsibility of being awake. There’s a way that all of us, regardless of how we identify, can continue to move forward and that is, we have to remember that we’re human and that we’re going to make a mistake.
You can’t undo what you said or didn’t say, or did or didn’t do, but when it’s pointed out to you, you have a phenomenal opportunity to own what you did, how it landed on the other person, and a resolve to commit to learn more. Our third step of the allies journey is take responsibility for the unintended impact, and when necessary, clean it up. I have a fail safe… And then commit to new behaviors, which is the fourth step. I have a fail safe method that says, “Okay Ray, come from your heart. You might screw up. You might say the wrong thing, even though you’re trying to stay awake, but don’t worry, keep going. If you mess up, fess up, clean it up, and get up, and show up and keep going,” right?
JENNIFER BROWN: That’s awesome. That’s a gold, what page is that in the book? I missed that. That’s good.
RAY ARATA: It’s a meme. It’s a meme. Maybe it’s in the next book, I don’t know.
JENNIFER BROWN: You talk about pushing through fragility to ability, I hope everybody heard that neat turn of phrase that Ray has been using, and it really sticks with me. The fragility, boy, do we go into the shame, the embarrassment, the I’m going to take my marbles and go home, because that didn’t go well. Boy, do we… And that is the ego, the ego has been bruised. That’s what happens, let’s just be honest about it. And the ego might be, I thought I was a good leader, I thought I was great. I didn’t realize this. And really good, inclusive leaders remember that moment when they were faced with the truth that didn’t reconcile with what they believed to be true. It can be really hard, but I think we just have to manage this ego and this fragility so carefully.
RAY ARATA: My friends of color, my FOCs have pointed out to me and helped me understand that this fear, that me as a white guy has, it points back to privilege. It’s like a slap awake, like, “Dude, okay, I get that you’re afraid, but your life’s not on the line.” I was at a sisterhood event in Oakland a couple of years ago, and the whole point, it was white women and black women reaching across the aisle and getting to know each other. There was a hundred plus people there, six men, I didn’t even realize I was the only white guy there. I was watching these conversations, heartfelt, difficult conversations occurring.
And this one woman, this black woman who sat in front of me, responded and said, “I’m so committed to this work. I’m willing to take the hits for as long as it takes.” When she said that, I was like, “Oh my God,” and the woman facilitator looks over and she looks over at me and she goes, “Did you want to ask a question?” I said, “Actually, what I want to say is, I’m sad, I’m angry. I’m afraid that this wonderful woman in front of me, said that. What it makes me realize is that people like me have to be willing to take the hits, and that’s a hit of a different variety.”
Now I have to be frigging courageous to do that, and I’m not going to put that on anybody. At the same time I’m going to invite as many white men as possible to give a think to be a courageous leader, to get out there in front, because that’s what it’s going to take to shift the paradigm. Just personal opinion. I’ll just never forget that, so the whole fragility thing, I have a healthy impatience around it, and again, I know I’m speaking from my white male privilege, but I’m speaking to other white men that, join me, be courageous. Let’s get her done and let’s step aside.
JENNIFER BROWN: Ray, it just feels so good. When I envision you being in solidarity with me, it’s such a sadly unusual feeling. I don’t know if everybody else is hearing this and imagining what would it feel like to know somebody’s standing by, not are just ready and willing to take the hits, but actually stepping in to take them. Ray, if that’s the kind of support that I needed and wanted from you, it’s such a foreign feeling to feel supported in that way. From my own identities, I’m seeing you and I’m hearing it and I’m just remarking on how incredible it would feel to know that that was the ecosystem around me, and that you would…
I know you, Ray, we talk about the need for aspiring allies to check in and say, “What is needed here?” And not be the problem solver, the knight in shining armor, full of our own enthusiasm and our new knowledge, and then misapplying it everywhere and not letting our actions and support be guided and defined by those that we hope to support. I wondered if there’s a story of how you learn that really important lesson in not making the assumptions about what support looks like.
RAY ARATA: Have I ever learned it? There’s too many times. I first want to just say this to acknowledge my emotion right now because it just was present, that just a huge amount of sadness came up. I can be the loud, white guy, but underneath that, I’m sad. I’m sad that all this stuff’s going on, and then I can move out of the sadness and do what needs to be done. To your question, there’s too many instances of that, and it’s because I have good people that love me, that remind me and keep me honest and mindful, so that when I slip up, I’ll clean it up, and I’ll step up, and I’ll do what needs to be done.
JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah. And for those on the call, my advice would be, in our zeal to make a difference, that we pause and we check in and we calibrate. I just want to share a quick story. Some of you may know I’m working on my second edition of How to Be an Inclusive Leader, which was my second book that I wrote, and I’m going to share this story in there. It was simply, it was during the Stop Asian Hate, the height of that conversation. Organizational leaders in one organization were writing checks, supporting advocacy organizations. Without checking with the Asian American ERG in the company, what is the remedy in this moment? What does support look like? What does it need to sound like and feel like? What is it, instead of us assuming?
So this ERG leader was sharing this story and she said, “If you’d asked us, maybe it would be a check, but what it would really be, was, are you outraged? Are you outraged? We want to feel what you’re feeling. Is this okay with you, personally and as a leadership, and as a company? I want to feel that outrage.” It just hit me so hard that the old remedies and the assumptions that we may make in our lack of that lens of identity, about what the solution is, can be misguided or not enough, or beside the point, or unexpected, just… I think I just loved that and I’ll never forget that story because it reminds me also of my favorite phrase, of nothing about us, without us.
RAY ARATA: Yeah. As I hear you language some of the questions, I ask those questions, but there’s a context that I would offer all of us and that’s to hold space. It’s not about doing anything or saying anything, because if I’m a human being and I am, and I’m feeling some pain, I just need someone to hold that space. If they come from a place of curiosity, which is why that person said, “Aren’t you outraged?” It might possibly be, if I sink into that I am, but now I’m also going, “Okay, what am I going to do with that outrage? How am I going to channel it? Towards what end?”
Maybe you may not be me or Jennifer that you have a big old platform, but you can have an affect. In a series of one-on-one relationships, you could teach your kids. There’s so many things you can do, so you have to take that fuel of those emotions and channel them and move forward, and rhetorically ask yourself, “What can I do?” Maybe it’s a big thing, maybe it’s not. But that’s the thing, that’s what I’m presenting for 2022, channeling those emotions into action, because I’ve got the platform and the accountability and a whole host of privileges to do so. I don’t want to look in the mirror and go, “Why didn’t you? You could have,” right?
JENNIFER BROWN: Everything we possess, the ingredients of us, we are given them for a reason. I thought my battle was the battle for marginalized voices. For many, many years, I was not in tune with the privileges that I have, so that shaped me and my advocacy in the way that I use my voice and who I use my voice alongside, and with. But then the dawning recognition of the last three or four years of the role of those of us who are not taking the risk every day, to live our full selves and our authentic selves, in some respects, and utilizing what we have access to is our job. That is our job, that is our responsibility and that is why we were given the things that we were given.
But little do we understand this is not just an exercise and it shouldn’t be something that’s required in your performance review. It is something that is fundamental to our evolution and our development and our own transformation. We are transformed. I have been transformed, Ray, in my explorations of the… I think of it like the Rubik’s Cube of my identity, how do I bring this more into alignment and show it every day? Show all of it every day? How do I do that? How do I talk about it so that others feel safe talking about theirs too? This is slowly how we shift the ocean liner of company culture, spin the wheel and 20 minutes later it’s just a very gradual turning that starts to happen.
But it begins, Ray, with books like yours, voices like yours, and those of us paving a way, showing how it sounds, what it looks like in practice. Demystifying the whole, “Oh, this is too risky.” Because I really love you made that point, and I agree. I say to people, “I really don’t want to hear about the risk that you think accompanies this, because I know what real risk is and looks like, and that’s not it. If you’re not uncomfortable, you’re not leading, so next question.” That’s me when I lose my cool and I’m like, “Come on, just get on the train. Even if you’re hanging on the caboose by a finger, get on and then I’ll help you. But you need to get on the caboose and I will reach an arm out. I will absolutely make sure you get on and you don’t fall off.”
That’s what you’re doing with this book, Ray. What are your thoughts for this audience? How can we support getting this book into the right hands? What is your hope for it? Anything we can do to support you and the work?
RAY ARATA: The financial disclaimer is, I think I make a $1.60 on the book, so this is not about money. I have this vision, I’ve had this vision from day one. I didn’t try to get on any best seller list, but to envision the possibilities of getting this book in as many men’s hands as possible. Everyone else’s hands, but one of the things I learned in men’s work is a guy might not be ready for a big men’s weekend, he might not be ready to join a men’s group, but when no one’s looking, he can start reading the book and he can start thinking, so it’s a crawl, walk, run.
If they go to showingupbook.com, we’ve created the ability for organizations to get the books in the hands of men at discounted virtual keynotes. They can go to the Better Man Conference that you and I are going to be having fun doing in New York, in June. You all can go to bettermanconference.com to sign up for the newsletter, but Jennifer will be broadcasting this out as well to keep you informed. That’s the vision, turning the ocean liner and getting more and more, and more, and more men, to self initiate on the path of becoming an ally. That’s the vision. At the end of the day, if I’m talking to groups of people about the importance of heart based leadership in the context of being an ally, it’s all good stuff.
JENNIFER BROWN: Hi, this is Jennifer. Did you know that we offer a full transcript of every podcast episode on my website over at jenniferbrownspeaks.com? You can also subscribe so that you get notified every time a new episode goes live. Head over there now to read my latest thoughts on diversity, inclusion and the future of work, and discover how we can all be champions of change by bringing our collective voices together and standing up for ourselves and each other.
DOUG FORESTA: You’ve been listening to The Will To Change: Uncovering True Stories of Diversity & Inclusion with Jennifer Brown. If you’ve enjoyed the episode, please subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. To learn more about Jennifer Brown, visit jenniferbrownspeaks.com. Thank you for listening and we’ll be back next time with a new episode.
- Understanding our Evolution: Why an Adult Development Lens is Critical to Inclusivity, with co-authors Christopher McCormick and Aman Gohal
- Second Chance Hiring with Fifth Third Bank’s Chief Economist, Jeff Korzenik
- Speaking from Lived and Learned Experiences: Insights on DEI Storytelling with Carin Taylor
- The Legacy of Belonging: Jennifer Joins the BE the CHANGE Podcast
- Activating Our Allyship Meter: A Senior Leader's Journey Towards Advancing LGBTQ Equality with Erik Day