Speaking from Lived and Learned Experiences: Insights on DEI Storytelling with Carin Taylor

Jennifer Brown | | , , , , ,

This episode was originally recorded as a DEI Community Call and features a conversation with Carin Taylor, Chief Diversity Officer at Workday, about the transformative power of witnessing others' stories for advancing DEI efforts. Drawing from her extensive professional experience and personal journey, Carin shares insights on how the simple yet courageous act of storytelling can profoundly impact workplace cultures when those stories are held with compassion. Discover how we can lift all voices through storytelling and discuss why this matters now more than ever in these challenging times.


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Carin Taylor:

I think where we're going to go is I think the evolution that we're on exists, and that is we went from identifying people from a single source, right? A single source, like I'm only going to identify you as a Black person. Now we're talking about intersectionality. Now we're bringing in my race, my gender, my disability to make up who I am.

I think that because of the multitude of complexities of who we are, I think where we're going is getting rid of actually identifying people and measuring them based on those single elements. I think that we're already starting to see these trends as we work globally because everyone doesn't identify people the way that we do here in North America.

I think that that is starting to even shift how we're thinking about race versus nationality or ethnicity as an example. And so I think all those things are going to start to play a part, but eventually I think the whole notion of how we identify you from one or two places is actually going to go away.

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 DEI community call and features a conversation with Carin Taylor, Chief Diversity Officer at Workday about the transformative power of witnessing other stories for advancing DEI efforts, and you'll discover how we can lift all voices through storytelling and discover why this matters more than ever in these challenging times. And now onto the conversation.

Jennifer Brown:

Maybe we can start here, Carin, but I do want to hear a little more personal context of you. And once we do that, I would like to begin to unpack this moment that we find ourselves in with you and your insights. Why are we experiencing 2023 and the particular difficulties of this year?

But before we do that though, I just want you to be able to say hello and give us context about who you are, how you identify your life, your work, your life, whatever you'd like to share with us so that folks can get to know you.

Carin Taylor:

Awesome. Thank you so much. Well, first of all, thank you for actually having me in this conversation today. I'm super thrilled to be here. As you mentioned, I've been doing this work for what feels like a long time, and so having seen the evolution of where I first started doing this work actually at Cisco to having now doing it now just to see the evolution is actually pretty phenomenal.

And going from where we were only focused on women to really thinking about so many things, being a part of the DEI journey now, right? Regardless of if it's entertainment, sports, wars that are happening around the world, natural disasters, it's all becoming a part of the DEI conversation. And I love that, and that's also scary. So I know we'll unpack that a little bit as well. But let me tell you a little bit about myself.

So I've been doing this work for about 25 years, predominantly here within the Bay Area. I live in California. I was born and raised in California. I've spent a number of years traveling, a ton of years traveling. I lived in Australia. I have a couple of children, one named Sydney, one named Raquel. Raquel was actually born in Sydney. So we have a really close connection to that region as well.

But one of the things that I like to talk about a lot, and I'll share with you, one of the things that we drive here around our belonging and diversity strategy here at Workday is something that we call VIBE, value, inclusion, belonging, and equity for all. But what I want to share with you, and happy to take some questions about that, but what I wanted to share with you is just a little bit about how I got to VIBE because my journey there became really important.

And one of the things is this important story that I'll tell you really quickly. I was at a conference one day, there were about 300 people in the room, and I was about one of 10 women. I was one of two African-Americans, and I was the only Black woman in the room that day. And the topic of conversation was diversity.

Now, mind you, this was before I actually started doing diversity work. But I remembered sitting at this conference, sitting in the front row listening to this typical looking White male leader talk about diversity. And I was having a visceral reaction to this person talking to me in this skin talking about diversity. And so I am a really curious person. And so I walked up to this gentleman during a break and I said his name was Mike. I said, "Mike, look, I'm really sorry, but I can't receive your message."

And he said, "Why not?" And I said, "Because of what you look like." And he said, "I'm gay." And it was the first time that unconscious bias really hit me upside the head. But I'll tell you that I didn't really understand the impact of that story until I got home later on that evening.

I was about to sit down and have dinner, and I burst into tears because what I realized at that very moment, what I had done to Mike that day, people had been doing to me my entire life. They had been judging me simply by what I looked like, and I in turn had started doing it to other people. It literally was that day that I said to myself, "I will never make another person feel undervalued simply by what they look like." And I share this story with you because I carry this along with me with this notion of VIBE.

And I'm going to repeat it again, value, inclusion, belonging, and equity for all. And so I put that for all on there because it's not only about what we want to happen within our workforce, it's also about how we want our workforce to treat each other as well. And so it's a VIBE for all, but it's VIBE by all as well.

And so that just gives you a little bit about how I think about this work. I think about it very broadly. Another way that I'll share with you that I think about diversity is I think about defining diversity simply as difference. What makes diversity, diversity or what makes someone diverse is their difference from someone else.

It's not my Black skin, it's not my femininity. It's that those things are different from other people. And those experiences that I bring along with me in this skin makes me who I am. And so I like to talk about the fact that everybody is diverse, which means that this conversation really is about all of us.

Jennifer Brown:

Beautiful. Love it. I like that. And you're getting some good, good, good vibes. Love that. I love that, Carin. I know you're going to join me for some storytelling, role modeling at the conference next week. So you just shared a little bit about your philosophy. And how do you utilize your own identity and journey as part of how you compel people?

You just gave us one story. Are there others that you'd like to share? And particularly, I love this theme of assumptions people make. I had the same thing happen when I'm the DEI speaker and somebody says to me afterwards, "I didn't want to like you. I just didn't. You walked on stage. And I thought, oh, again, this company makes this kind of decision and chooses this person." And I was so glad that she told me that. And she said, "But it ended up being wonderful, and I appreciate you being here and thank you for your vulnerability."

And I particularly talked about privilege within the first five minutes I was on that stage, I said, very important for me to let the audience know that this is something I think about, something I work on, something that I activate, something that I'm aware of and something I believe that we all carry too, by the way.

So it's not an us and them paradigm. These are simply the ingredients. I love what you just said. It's the ingredients of who we are. And that includes not just perhaps identities have been marginalized, but identities that enable us to be an insider in a given system. So anyway, I really related to what you said, but what else would you add and what are your most powerful stories about you?

Carin Taylor:

I think, look, I step into the world in a very unique place. I step into the world in this Black skin. I step in as a female. I step in as a member of the LGBTQ plus community. I step in as someone who's been partnered with people who are outside of my race. I have two biracial children. It goes on and on and on and on and on.

And for me, traveling around the world has opened up insights into how people become really curious about who I am in this skin as well. Interestingly enough, I can be in different Asian countries as an example and get very different reactions as to who I am as an African-American woman. But for me, what becomes strong in my conviction for what I've learned and who I am and how I sit in this body is how I use those experiences to actually advocate for others.

How can I not just leverage my lived experiences, but my learned experiences as well and the things that I've learned from others to really understand and be able to advocate for multiple points of views and multiple perspectives. And for me, when you have someone like myself and you, Jennifer, who's been doing this work for a long time, it opens up that opportunity for us to always be in learning mode.

And it's one of the valuable things about this work, because the more you learn, the more you can stay in it. When we cut ourselves off to seeing different perspectives, we cut ourselves off to learning. And so for me, it really is being able to get those experiences, and then apply them with empathy and compassion as you're experiencing, as you're seeing other people experience things in life.

And so for me, it's important to not only just use your own lived experiences, but you're learned experiences have to be a part. Because I only have so many lived experiences, most of what we know and most of what we understand has actually been through the lens of other people. And so we need to make sure that we're keeping that wide open lens so that we can continue to have that growth and learning mindset.

Jennifer Brown:

That message is going to really resonate well at Better Together. Because the stance is getting in touch with your lived experience and your learned experiences, but then making room so much room for others and really becoming a student of other's path. Because in order to be an inclusive leader, it is so much about what you don't know and what is your plan to gather what you need to know so that if you are the only one in the room and somebody isn't represented in that room, how are you ready to bring that forward?

How are you on the lookout for bias and microaggressions both when they come out of your own mouth and also others? So I like that, that it's almost like an 80, 20. You've got the 20% of, okay, this is my life and the things that I've been privy to, but then there's 80% that I need to be a steward of that. And particularly if you're in a dominant group, the onus is on you in a particular way to be other focused and become not an expert, but become knowledgeable enough so that you can be on the lookout, advocate, hold yourself accountable, hold others accountable, et cetera. Really. I like that.

Carin Taylor:

Yeah, I think one of the things that you said that was really important, Jennifer, is that you can only advocate so much for each other, but you can't walk in someone else's shoes. And so one of the things that I see a lot is people who are super passionate wanting to advocate and be allies for each other, but trying to do it in the best way, but not doing it in the best way because they don't necessarily understand what it's like to walk in that person's shoes.

And so a lot of times people come with all this conviction, but it may not be the conviction that the group wants you to be communicating if you don't truly understand it. And so for me, one of the things that I love to encourage folks who are early in this journey around DEI is take the time to learn those other experiences from other people.

Because as you're passionate, even though your passion comes out really strongly, you have to bring the knowledge, you have to bring the knowledge along with that. So I just caution people to, even as passionate as we are about this work, keep doing it, but do your own work to make sure that you understand where you're coming from, why you're coming from those places as you are advocating for others who are not like you.

Jennifer Brown:

That's so powerful. One phrase I like to think about is speaking from the scar and not the wound. So when we talk about storytelling as our tool, it's this interesting blend of having it be as raw and honest and almost present as if it had happened yesterday as if it's still very alive. But when you speak from the scar, you have control over it and it's a teaching tool.

But it's this interesting balance of, I don't totally agree with it, but I love the image of it and just it's food for thought. When we are holding space for others to learn and we're having our own experience every day and we're leading the work, that's a lot of hats that somebody like you wears.

And I know it's a lot to balance, and I'm sure some days it's really, in some years it's harder, easier than others. But how is this year finding you as a practitioner, what is it juggling all of those hats? What is easy, what is hard? Is it different than maybe what it was last year even? How would you characterize that?

Carin Taylor:

Yeah, I might go back and start maybe a couple years back because I think it's important to acknowledge what was happening before the murder of George Floyd and what has transpired after. The folks like us, we've been doing this work a long time, so we've seen things like George Floyd happen before.

So that wasn't surprising to us. It was a surprising to a lot of other folks who did not have insight into that. And so what we ended up seeing was a lot of change and shifting in how companies were actually thinking about DEI and we saw an enormous amount of people jumping in and really wanting to lean in to this work. If I were to fast-forward to today, we've seen an enormous amount of change in reference to how we are doing this work and how we're approaching it maybe just a little bit differently.

Over the last few years, we saw that there was a lot around, particularly in North America, a lot around race and what we really needed to do around race. And now we're starting to feel like there's a little bit of a slowing down of the work as well, where there are practitioners like us who are also saying, "Oh, no, now is not the time to slow down. Now is time to press forward because we cannot slow down and we cannot let what we're seeing transpire continue to transpire without trying to step in."

And so I think right now for the transition that's happened, not only do we have to be aware of the impacts to us as individual groups. I think what's really coming to light for me now is the similarities that we have and how we need to address some of our problems together. Look, we're going to continue to have disparities across all communities until we get to a point, frankly, to where we flip our system around.

But until that point, it's going to be a slow role for us to always address what's happening with the black community and then the L-G-B-T-Q community and then the disability community, and then the global community. That slow role where we're all trying to get to a point of humanity is not going to work. And so I think that the change that needs to happen is how do we come together moving forward together with our commonalities while not ignoring the disparities that really exist for other communities.

As an African-American woman, I have to work for people... I have to work for my entire workforce, and it's important that I work for people who don't look like me, but it's equally as important that I do the work for people who do look like me. And so it's not just about them or us, it's about the collective and the progress that we need to make.

Jennifer Brown:

That's good. Yeah, it's a theme of Better Together, we go further together. But it can feel really hard because things have gotten so polarized. And I love your message, which is what do we share? What do we commonly believe or experience differently through our lenses of identity? But there is so much in common.

These days, I talk about this all the time, but I'm discovering so many struggles around caregiving and mental health and parenting that really are shared across so many dimensions of diversity and identity and are things we can work on together. There are things that bring us a lot of challenge. There are things that are very stigmatized still in the workplace.

They are things that are leading to a lot of bias and are not supported and resourced adequately, I think, by our employers. So there's a lot of these, I call them frontier identities that haven't been the focus explicitly and yet are beginning to come to the fore and actually dominate some of the conversations about belonging and wellbeing, I'm finding anyway, which is a real shift. Carin, we've been in this a long time. We remember when some companies only had a women's network.

Carin Taylor:

That's right.

Jennifer Brown:

They had the women's network and the Black network it, that's it. And then they were scared to do the L-G-B-T-Q network because they're like, "Well, we're not ready for that."

Carin Taylor:

Right. Or the religious community or it just goes on. But one of the things that you touched on I think that's really important is those commonalities that I was talking about, Jen, the pain, the trauma, the belonging, those are the big rocks that I'm talking about. We are all feeling these things in a very similar way, and it doesn't matter where that pain and that trauma is coming from.

The deep-seated pain and trauma that we are feeling is very similar for all of us. And so that's where I'm saying when we can get to the heart of addressing those commonalities, we really get to the heart of what I think is actually wrong with the world today.

Jennifer Brown:

I love that. And seeing that in people, back to your first story, pausing our own biases when we see someone and really investigating and saying, there's so much we don't see. That's why I love anonymous polling of course, because all that comes out, and from a room full that may look a certain way, but under that waterline of the iceberg, there's all kinds of things going on that are not being articulated, that are leading people to feel distracted or demoralized or not valued.

They're breaking belonging, they're breaking the trust. That really is the fuel of getting things done in the business world. It's trust, it's safety, it's feeling like you have a strong foundation with other people and that you feel seen and heard. But we cannot be productive and create, let alone creative if we're sort of on a constant basis feeling like that foundation is jeopardized. It reminds me a lot of the Maslow hierarchy.

Those basic needs that we need as humans, when an organization or an environment doesn't answer those, it's impossible to move up the model to self-actualization, affiliation, community. I would argue joy, those basic needs that need to be met. And this is why I think we're having such a tussle. Part of the reason why we're tussling so much about return to office with employers who definitely want it, and employees who say, this environment was toxic for me. It's not a place that I'm eager to come back to. I didn't have the respect, I didn't have the accommodations I needed.

I couldn't figure out caregiving situation with... So many wonderful and valid reasons why it's not really going as employers have planned. And so I don't know if you want to step into that whole return to office topic, but I'd love to know how it's going.

Carin Taylor:

Look, we've gotten to a point to where we've been trying to do this, do it right for the last two and a half years, once we started maybe two years. And so we've made progress. We've gone from asking our employees to come in about 50% of the time and maybe 10%, 15% of employees doing it to now close to 80% of employees.

So I think over time, but I think what's actually what is shifting is that balance, there is a part of what my needs are as I've gone through the pandemic and I understand that I have more needs and the polarization. But there's also the realization that connection is important and connection matters. And in-person connection matters. And so I think the companies who are looking at this hybrid model, some on some off, are probably going to figure out the right balance.

But look, the other thing is I also think it's culture specific, right? Some companies in your company can run perfectly with 100% remote work environment and then others just don't. And so I just think that your company culture has to balance what that looks like. But here's the other thing that I was going to say. The other thing about trying to come back to work is there's still this notion around career and career development and how you get that career development and how you do that movement.

Part of that means that you have to engage with other people. So as much as some of us are saying, Ooh, I'm experiencing all these challenges coming back to the office, I think we also have to be realistic about not holding ourselves back by leveraging and sticking behind those challenges too much and just figuring out where we balance just a little bit more on both sides.

Jennifer Brown:

It's such a good point. Visibility has been such a challenge for some communities in the workplace. That's been the problem. Even when we were in the office, I do worry about, I love the virtualization and I worry about those chance encounters that have been the fuel of opportunity and sort of proximity to power, which is fundamentally where we've been challenged in furthering our careers and getting those unofficial or informal opportunities that really make a difference, the serendipity, if you will, that's created.

So I think that's what you're talking about, that there are pluses and minuses to this. And interestingly, I think studies show that younger cohorts really want to return, interestingly, perhaps because the hunger for the career development and the exposure and the visibility is understood. But yeah, it's in a messy place right now. I don't know which way it's going, but...

Carin Taylor:

I don't either, but I'm sure we're going to get there. One thing I do know is I think that the younger generations are challenging us in a very positive way to look at things differently.

Jennifer Brown:

Isn't that great.

Carin Taylor:

They're bringing their experiences in. They're helping us understand that as young adults, they're really thinking about social and connection and engagement and purpose very differently than what we did. It's become more important to us now, but it's starting very early in their lives around what purpose means to them. And I think they're going to continue to challenge us and hopefully change the world a little bit.

Jennifer Brown:

They better because we are a little tired.

Carin Taylor:


Jennifer Brown:

So your kiddos, are there moments when you've got kids in Gen Z when they challenge you and it changes the way you think about something particularly professionally as you're implementing programs at Workday? I am curious if there are moments you think about revelations, share stories being called in or called out by your kids?

Carin Taylor:

Yeah, I'll tell you, my kids are interesting. So my kids, like I said, they're biracial women. One identifies is still questioning, one identifies as they. And so we've had these conversations and having a mom who's been doing diversity for a long time, they've been engaged with this conversation with me for a while.

But I'll tell you one thing that they used to share with me when they were both in high school, and they're 21 and 26 now, but they stopped me from describing their friends by their race and by their physical characteristics. And so it became, "Oh, no, don't call Maria my Latina friend, find something else to describe her, the one with the beautiful smile, the one that wears the glass... something other than their race or their gender."

And that became really important because of the identification. I think that part of that is because so many of them were still trying to discover what that identification was, and they didn't want to be pigeonholed in any number and anywhere when it came to their personal elements of how they identify.

And so my kids continue to push me from that perspective and challenge me around my old thinking around DEI and how do I merge that greatness with what they're experiencing in this new world. And that's why I'm super excited about frankly, AI and what's to come with AI because even though we haven't touched on how AI is going to change us from an emotional and a spiritual point of view where and how it's going to touch DEI, it's going to.

And I think we have to be prepared for that. And for me, I think that there are new ways of how we're going to start thinking about this work specifically for the new thinking that we're getting from the younger generations and because of technology.

Jennifer Brown:

I want two questions. First, give us a taste of one big idea relating to AI and how it's going to impact DEI? Just give us something, a glimmer of something or something that's already going on that you are excited about or terrified by.

Carin Taylor:

I think right now I'm probably more terrified than have really great ideas, but here's... there's something in it for me, Jennifer. I just don't know what it is yet because for me, AI is a lot around the data and the content, and I can clearly see, I asked for a report today that may take me two days to get, I asked for the same report in Gen AI today and I can get it in a matter of 20 seconds.

That part, I already see how that I'm talking about the emotional, the structural, the social aspects of what we do and how technology and AI are going to change that part. That's what I'm curious to explore. And I don't have any answers as to big ideas, but there's something out there.

Jennifer Brown:

That's for sure. And the other thing that you made me think about is this younger generation saying, I love that story about how do people want to be described? How should we be thinking about identity? What is that going to mean for corporate strategies that have been so aligned by the visible differences by race, by ethnicity, I mean when everything is getting so scrambled and so combined and so multifaceted from an identity perspective, I just don't know if... there's going to be a wholesale change coming because our younger talent, it's just not going to resonate.

It's not what they need. I might argue even what kinds of safety or safe spaces do they need? Are they the same ones that we needed? I know that they're not because the world has just been so different that they've grown up in, and yet sometimes I have this feeling that our structures, whether it's affinity groups or however we've gotten the work done has been defined by the past and it's not being defined by the future and what that's going to look like.

Carin Taylor:

It's such a great question. Here's what I think is going to happen, and I don't know if it is because I don't have a crystal ball, but I think where we're going to go is I think the evolution that we're on exists, and that is we went from identifying people from a single source, a single source. I'm only going to identify you as a black person.

Now we're talking about intersectionality. Now we're bringing in my race, my gender, my disability to make up who I am. I think that because of the multitude of complexities of who we are, I think where we're going is getting rid of actually identifying people and measuring them based on those single elements.

I think that we're already starting to see these trends as we work globally because everyone doesn't identify people the way that we do here in North America. I think that that is starting to even shift how we're thinking about race versus nationality or ethnicity as an example. And so I think all those things are going to start to play a part, but eventually I think the whole notion of how we identify you from one or two places is actually going to go away. I think the millennials are going to push us to do that because they don't look at the world that way.

Jennifer Brown:

Oh boy, get ready, fasten our seat belts. Self-identification is going to be even harder because then we have the other side of the coin, which is so many people are still hiding, forget not wanting to be identified. Maybe that's true, but also what can get counted gets acted upon. And that seems to be that mentality that drives budget, that drives attention, that drives all these things from people who can allocate those resources. So it's really an interesting conundrum because you want to be counted and we struggle to count some of us.

Carin Taylor:


Jennifer Brown:

But at the same time, we've got these massive changes going on where people don't want to be counted or don't even want to be labeled.

Carin Taylor:

That's right. That's right. But then you also have the notion that when we start talking about something like mental health, mental health is indifferent for us if you're Black, White, male, female. Mental health is mental health and the stigma around mental health, there's another issue. If we don't start figuring out how to address the stigma, we're all going continue to have that as a challenge in our lives.

And those are the big rocks that I'm talking about, Jennifer, that we need to come together to address. It's the mental health. It's those big rocks that we're talking about, not our individual identities.

Jennifer Brown:

Which is strangely what we're getting a lot of the resistance about right now, which is the programs that are tightly focused on, for example, development for certain identity groups, which I've always been a huge believer in because for all the reasons they're wonderful and replenish, those of us who've been really struggling in these systems.

But what you're saying is an interesting way to sort of point our compass in a different direction or a modified direction to say, Hey, what if we began to do development through a different lens? What if we began to open the aperture of the dimensions that we're paying attention to? And then to build on what you said, mental health is a reality across every identity, but it's also experienced differently because the stigmas are different community to community.

So that's where it gets really interesting too, to look at mental health through an intersectional lens. That would be so fascinating to me. And then tackling the stigma that exists within the community towards that, whether it's disclosure or seeking support or role models, people who are in the public eye from that community who openly talk about that struggle.

We have so far to go yet to be there, but I think we're going to be there. I see that day. I see a day when we have more executives, not just out executives and more executives of color, but executives who are talking about struggling with depression, they are neurodiverse, et cetera. I'm so excited for that day.

I know that it's coming, that we can be more than a single story, and I think that's going to open up, by the way, white straight men to share and explore something that heretofore has not really been explored and better together is going to focus a lot on this next week, which is everybody knows something about diversity and something about exclusion, something about stigma.

And can we story tell around it? Is it okay to do that? Is it also okay to talk about things I'm embarrassed to share privileges that have been tailwinds in my life? Yes. There are ways to do this, but in order to sit and say, I'm this and I'm this and I'm this and this is visible and this isn't visible, I'm all of these things, and it depends on which system I'm in at any given moment.

My privilege comes from the system I happen to find myself in at that moment. Carin, you and I have privilege in certain respects, in certain rooms.

Carin Taylor:

That's right.

Jennifer Brown:

We're going to be on the front, we're going to be on the stage. People are going to be able to speak to us.

Carin Taylor:

It's funny because we talk about privilege as if everyone doesn't have it, right? Everyone has most, I'm not going to say everyone, I'm going to say most people have privilege. Everyone on this call as an example. As an example, you get a paycheck every one or two weeks or month or whatever. We have privilege. Most of us have a home. Most of us know where our next meal is coming from.

And there are a lot of people who do not. Sitting in an executive chair, of course, I have privilege being at a certain level. And so I think we also have to even break down things like that to make more progress together. You can say the word privilege, and a lot of people think that privilege is still only for White people. Well, white people have White privilege, but not all White people have privilege in other areas as well. And so how do we break down some of these things so that we can better understand them and they are not so polarizing and really drawing lines of demarcation between us that don't need to be there?

Jennifer Brown:

Absolutely. I don't think we have time to waste and being against is not as productive as sort of figuring it out together. But in order to do that, we have a section on day two at Better Together on witnessing. So witnessing others' stories and others' truths.

And I'm so glad we added that because it's a two-way interaction. It is the disclosure and the bravery and courage that it takes to explore and divulge and trust somebody enough with your story. But then this other side of the coin of it is the listening, the witnessing, the holding, the not judging, the listening not to agree or disagree, but just to acknowledge the listening to learn, the listening to be curious.

And I think that that goes always, that's something that we can all practice, but I don't think it's taught very, very much. So we're going to endeavor to put folks in the beloved breakout rooms, fair warning, and have some prompts and come back and talk about what it was like to feel heard and what it was like to have somebody hold what you just shared and the risk that you take to do that on all sides of identity.

And I'm just really excited to see how that goes.

Carin Taylor:

That's fantastic. It reminds me of what we call a little bit about what we call the VIBE mindset here. And the VIBE mindset is based on three things, curiosity, compassion, and courage. Literally the curiosity to your point, it helps us to ask those questions and be curious about the person that's sitting across from us where we don't have the information that we need. And so that becomes really...

The compassion, if we haven't learned anything about compassion the last couple of years, we have to lead with compassion. We've got to understand and be empathetic to people on the other side. And then the courage piece is sometime these decisions are really hard to make. You think you want to lean into making the right decision, and it's not. And so how do you recover sometimes also is your being courageous. Let me share a quick story with you.

For me, an example of this is how we have leaders who have not been used to leading with vulnerability. Now today we're talking all the time, lead with vulnerability, let people see who you are. And if as a leader you step into that and you don't get the reception that you were expecting from your vulnerability, what does that do to your psyche as a leader? And how vulnerable do you want to be the next time?

And we're still saying, push on that. Push on that authenticity, be vulnerable. And it's hard to do if it's not received well. So lots of opportunity for us to all continue to learn and grow.

Jennifer Brown:

Exactly. And if I could just build on that, there's an art to the real apology that we all need to practice owning it and quickly, but we need to give the apologizer the space and accept the apology too. And it's an imperfect dialogue that we have with each other. But that call in versus call out, I love that invitation to learn and to invitation to receive feedback, the graciousness that we can show to each other as we're learning. And it's a skill though. I was called in by a friend. I used the word paralyzed in a webinar that I was speaking about leaders feeling paralyzed and unable to move on their inclusive leadership journey because of fear.

And my friend with limb paralysis and who's a disabilities activist and an amazing consultant said, "Jennifer, I would love to give you another word to use in that space because as somebody in this community, that's a word that's very important to me, very personal to me, has a certain connotation."

And she just beautifully just redirected and sort of ushered me into my own learning and did that in front of a lot of people. And I didn't feel shamed. I felt very invited, and I completely have been changed by it. And in so many ways when our language, we've gotten feedback about our language. But that's a skill. And to back to our earlier point, when you're speaking from the wound and not the scar, it's very difficult to react in that way because A, you're up here, right? You're just like, your cup is sort of overflowing and you're like, I can't take it anymore.

I'm going to lash out, and I'm not in control of the outcome that I really want. The outcome I think you want is more allyship from someone. The outcome you want is for them to learn and you want them to then own and be accountable for the change that you're inviting them to make. But it can be so hard to hold that in the moment, and that takes a lot of practice.

Carin, I know you're probably amazing at it. You wouldn't be doing what you do because you just have to have not only tough skin, but also be able to bend and be flexible and bear in mind that we're all learning. We cannot be on our eye horse in one moment and then be in another moment and not know anything and expect to be given the grace and not give the grace at the same time.

Carin Taylor:

I agree with you, but another part of giving grace is actually giving grace to yourself. We always talk about giving grace to others, but in order for me to not be stuck in that place where I made a mistake as well, I have to give grace to myself. And so as a reminder of that is when you're thinking about compassion, be compassionate to yourself as well, not just others. We already give so much of ourselves. We deserve some of that back.

Jennifer Brown:

I love it. Yes, you're absolutely right. Practice that. Well, I wonder if anybody has any questions for Carin on the call? Rocki, you've been so active. I'd love you to come off mute.

Carin Taylor:

Yes, we do

Jennifer Brown:

Say hello. Do you know Carin? Do you two know each other?

Carin Taylor:

No, but I would love to get to know Rocki.

Jennifer Brown:

Yes, Rocki Howard.

Rocki Howard:

I hadn't had a chance to get to know you, but I love Carrie, Kylie and the team over at Workday and Carrie's like you guys need to meet. And now I know why. JB, you're one of my favorite people in the whole wide world, and every time we show up, I show up, I learn something. And so I think when we think about how we move forward, and I'm listening to the conversations today, I wonder how we think about adopting the conversation a bit more around the people who still need to understand why this work is important.

I think you were spot on today when you talked about this battle about people feeling excluded and this thing about privilege. And now that we see the erosion of resources and people kind of shrinking back, and quite honestly what I perceive to be a fear for companies who were authentically trying to move forward, and now they're hearing all the things in the news and they're seeing Attorney General sending letters to their companies.

And so we seem to be in this moment where, look, the people who were performative, they're going to be performative. I'm not going to worry about them. We're not going to convince them what's going to be is going to be. But what I'm really concerned about are the companies who have authentically been wanting to move forward and build more equitable inclusive environments where people belong that are diverse, and now they're just frozen because of the fear of everything that they've seen.

And so for me, I know how I'm kind of approaching that and walking through it, but as a practitioner, I'd love to hear any thoughts, Carin, you might have.

Carin Taylor:

Yeah, it's such a good question, Rocki. And look, I do think that there are a lot of people who are fearful and who are frozen, but I also think that that is where we have to continue to make the most progress because we've got to be able to talk to those people and help them understand that if you lead with courage as opposed to fear, you'll break through the fear.

And that's part of the thing with fear and paralysis is you get stuck and you don't know how to move forward. I think part of that also gets back to this conversation of grace. People are afraid because they're afraid to say the wrong thing, do the wrong thing. And even more fearful of that is them not being able to recover from that thing. And people saying, oh, well because you said this, you are a this, and then that becomes your reputation.

And so people are so afraid of that. I think the more... We've got to keep talking about it, we can't let this slow down. We have to keep people understanding that there are disparities in the world that we have to continue to address. And I think it's the only way. But I also think that we can't be fearful because now there are even a lot of chief diversity officers who are questioning, should I be doing this work?

Very similar to chief people officers and CEOs who are saying, should we be doing this work in our company? And so I think we just have to continue with educating people and helping them understand that there is a purpose and the reason why this is so important and why we have to continue to make progress.

And I think people logically will understand. I think sometimes you have to go that extra step to make sure that people, that you can also connect to people's heart and emotionally around why they should care about something. And that's where we go like, oh, if we can't do it with the data, we get stuck and we go, oh, the data didn't work. So now we have to, and I think we have to keep pushing with the qualitative and the quantitative to really help people understand, but we can't give up.

Rocki Howard:

I love that you said that. I have a fundamental belief that this work comes from, it has to be tied to business imperatives and human imperatives. And where we see struggles is when we haven't connected them to both. So I love that. I love that. Thank you.

Carin Taylor:

You're welcome. Thank you.

Jennifer Brown:

Thank you, Rocki. Yeah, I'm disillusioned about the business case, Carin, you just said it didn't work. I'm finding... I don't know, that was my whole premise and selling point to convince and cajole people over the years and was told that that would be the thing that would win the day and it has not. And we have to go a different way with how we teach it and what the urgency is of it.

And I agree with you that we really only have a couple choices. We can go that way with the data, but the human storytelling and the courage and bravery, I think attracts change to it. It changes people. It changes us when we share it, and then it changes the listener and the witnesses of it. And that's perhaps more lasting change to... it's cognitive and heart.

It's this head and heart balance that we have. And different learners learn different in different ways too. We probably have to really be creative in presenting all kinds of different rationales and tools at the same time, so we can capture as many people as possible. But it has been really dispiriting for me to sort of realize that data only goes so far. And then how do you scale empathy? How do you scale the ability then to learn from each other's lived experience in a global company?

How do you structure that and how do you get those stories out, particularly when we're also afraid to share them then. And so that's to me, the sweet spot. If we can release that and kind of get it out into the air, into the culture, those stories will travel. They will create change. They will create ripples. They will change the zeitgeist. But it's so intangible that I think it's hard for our stakeholders to really hold onto something like that and measure it. And yet those of us on this call know there's such magic in it.

Carin Taylor:

Yeah, I agree with you 100%. Well, I think part of what we have to continue to do is creating the environments where that safety exists, right? Where that psychological safety exists in order for you to be able to have those deep conversations and understand to the heart of where people are coming from. One of the things, and I did a quick TED talk on this and I'll just share it really briefly, but one of the things out of this TED Talk was me trying to discover what belonging was for the entire world.

And one of the things I quickly discovered was that I can't determine what belonging is for the entire world because belonging is different for each and every one of us. But what I did do, and I will share this really quickly with you with the last couple of minutes that we did, was I did come up with a way to think about how do I think about belonging for myself, and it's through this notion of peace, P-E-A-C-E.

So the P is for psychological safety, the E is for empathy, the A is for acceptance, the C is for connection, and the last E is for embrace. And what that meant for me was that I had to have that psychologically safe environment because when there's not psychological safety, there's psychological harm and trauma.

The empathy and compassion we have to lead with, the acceptance of who I am in this body is who I am as an executive, whether or not I want to share my tattoo or whether or not I want to come in with this hair or my natural hair the next day. The connection to both people and purpose. And connection for me is also about people wanting me at the table, not just, oh, let me just let you through the door.

You need to want me there. And then the last one is around embracing that notion of how you feel accepted and appreciated, but looking through this notion of, for me, of peace, connecting that to how I get to belonging was really an important message for myself. I'd encourage you all to maybe just search on the TED talk and take a look at it because it might highlight a few things for you that might be helpful.

Jennifer Brown:

Thank you. That is so beautiful. Maybe somebody in the meeting can share the link in chat. I didn't know that you'd given that talk. Carin, were you excited, terrified? Was it hard? No? All of it.

Carin Taylor:

All of the above. All of the above. If you've ever prepared for a TED Talk, which I believe you have, it's a daunting experience, but the outcome is beautiful, as you know.

Jennifer Brown:

It certainly is. It's such a formative experience to, I think it's a creativity exercise in and of itself to figure out what am I going to say in this short amount of time that's going to have the broadest impact and appeal. I love the format of it. I think it's good for us actually to simplify down to that. It's a good exercise because what we look at all day long is so much complexity in this work, but if we can get one message that really resonates like that into people's heads and hearts, anything is possible. So this has just been great. Thank you so much, Carin.

Carin Taylor:

Thank you. This has been fantastic.

Jennifer Brown:

Can people follow you and where can they find you? Tell us.

Carin Taylor:

Yeah, you can definitely find me on LinkedIn. It's probably the easiest place to find me. Please connect with me. I'm going to quickly drop my email in the chat because you cannot connect with me if you don't have my email address. I would love to hear from you, would love to hear some thoughts on the conversation. I'm always happy to engage in any way. So I appreciate you all for listening, and thank you, Jennifer, for having me today as well.

Jennifer Brown:

Thank you. Oh, I'm so honored. I'm so excited for next week. So Better Together everybody. Jennifer Brown Consulting, under events, go check it out. There is a discount code for today that we showed on the slides much earlier. I wonder we might be able to flash that up or put it in the chat too.

But it is for a small discount on the registration fee, but it's two days virtual. We encourage both days, but worst case, you come to the first, we would love to have you, but I promise it will be really robust conversations. Really interesting, amazing panelists. And there will be a focus, by the way, on a Cisco program actually called Men for Inclusion.

Carin, I'm sure you were a part of it or remember it. I was a part of creating it years ago, the very first one, and it was my first brush with what this kind of community affinity effort, for lack of a better word, would look like in an organization.

And it was just the beginnings of this work that I still care so much about. To see these male identified leaders show up and say, "I want to learn. I want to be a part of this. I want to stand up and be counted. I want to be part of the solution." It was incredible.

And to know that it's still continuing on and flourishing is incredible, and there's other companies that have these kinds of groups as well or efforts going. So we're going to talk a little bit about that on day one in the afternoon and hear more about that story. So if that interests anybody that's listening to this and you feel that your organization could potentially build something like this, or you're ready, or you are building something, but you want to mature it and make sure that it's set up for success, I would absolutely not miss day one.

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.

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You've been listening to The Will To Change, Uncovering True Stories of Diversity and Inclusion with Jennifer Brown. If you've enjoyed the episode, please subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. To learn more about Jennifer Brown, visit jenniferbrownspeaks.com. Thank you for listening, and we'll be back next time with a new episode.