Episode: How to Create More Just and Equitable Workplaces (Part 1)
Megan Hyatt Miller: Hi, I’m Megan Hyatt Miller, and this is Lead to Win, our weekly podcast to help you win at work and succeed at life. A few weeks ago, we initiated a conversation on race here on our podcast, and then we promised you we were going to return to the topic and do a little more work once we’d educated ourselves and had internal conversations and things like that. Well, today, we’re going to go further in this conversation by talking about how to create more just and equitable workplaces. As leaders, I believe there’s a moral case for this and also a business case, and we’re going to get into that in our conversation.
This is actually going to be part one of a two-part conversation, because, quite frankly, we feel like this is a big topic and it’s going to take two episodes to really get into. I’m so excited to be joined by two guests. You know we don’t have guests very often on Lead to Win, but I get to have two guests today. Our first guest is Danielle Rodgers, who is our HR director here at Michael Hyatt & Company. Hey, Danielle.
Danielle Rodgers: Hey there, everybody. It’s good to be here.
Megan: I’m so glad you’re joining us today. And also my friend Anthony Hendricks, who is the director of the Center for Biblical Unity at Williamson College and also the area manager for logistics at Amazon here locally. He’s also the cofounder of The Public, which is a conversation on race here in the Nashville area. You’ve heard me talk about my involvement, with Joel, in that group. We’re kind of helping with that. Anthony is one of the cofounders. I’m so excited to have him here, because he is also passionate about this topic. Welcome, Anthony.
Anthony Hendricks: Thank you. Pleasure being here. I’m looking forward to this conversation.
Megan: All right. In part one of this conversation, we’re going to talk about some of the key issues that surround justice and equity in the workplace, but we want to gain some insight on the primary issues we’re facing before we jump into the practical, you know, how you can start to change things in your own company or your own team, if that’s something you’re concerned about, like we are. We’re going to give some context and backstory for this so we can all be kind of singing from the same song because we’re talking about these important issues.
I wanted to jump in, first of all, guys, by talking about some statistics. I think it helps to frame our conversation to understand exactly what the lay of the land looks like right now. I guess the first question I would ask… And I have some statistics to share too, but what is the reality of racial diversity in the workforce, both from your personal experience and also if you have any statistics to share? If not, I can share mine too.
Danielle: Absolutely. I’ll jump right in. That’s a great question about racial diversity in the workplace. There is a lot of diversity in the workforce, broadly speaking, but the higher you get into management…more professional jobs, mid-level management, executive positions, corporate positions…there’s less and less diversity ethnicity-wise and in terms of gender.
I know, for me, I’m our director of human resources here at Michael Hyatt & Company, but I’m also a black woman, and when I walk into a lot of these professional spaces, the expectation for me is that it’s quite possible I will be the only one or one of two or three who are represented.
The fact of the matter is that in terms of racial equality, there are no inherent differences, no quantifiable or relevant differences between the different races, and it is oftentimes disheartening to see that there is not representation in places where there should be representation. When there are competent staff and people who can fill those roles, they’re just not there because of the lack of access or opportunity, which we’ll talk about more as we dig into it.
The interesting thing about this is that our world is becoming increasingly more and more diverse. Even Millennials… I consider myself to be a Millennial. I’m a grandma Millennial. I’m on the older end of the spectrum, in my mid-30s. For Millennials, we are the most diverse workforce, the most diverse generation that has come up, so to speak, and we are used to experiencing diversity in our school systems and in our workplaces.
It’s not only something that employers should be thinking about or wondering about, but it’s something this new workforce will expect and will require of their employer, that diversity is important and that they’re able to model it in the day to day with how they interact with and include their entire workforce.
Megan: That’s great. Anthony, I want to share some statistics and then have you react to those if you will. This is from the Chicago School of Business. They said that only 8 percent of professional positions are held by African-Americans. Of those, 3.2 percent are senior management positions. Only 0.8 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are African-American, and that’s despite the fact that 10 percent of college graduates are African-American. In other words, we would expect to see at least 10 percent representation in the professional world, but that’s not what’s happening.
Anthony: Yeah. I agree with Danielle. I’ve been in both the corporate space and in the religious space, for lack of a better term. In both, the situation is very similar, unfortunately. The higher up on the corporate ladder you go, the less and less diversity you see. That is in spite of the fact that there are many people of color who are educated, who are extremely gifted in their area or their focus of either business or ministry, yet we still see these disparities the higher up the ladder you go. There are many explanations for that, I believe. We’re probably going to get into them as we get further into this discussion. It’s hard to hear those numbers, but it’s even harder to experience those numbers.
Megan: Will you say more about that? I’d love a little bit of information on your personal experience.
Anthony: As a senior executive with MCI Communications back in the day… If you’re 35, 40, and older you probably know who MCI Communications is. Almost every business meeting I entered (and that’s either as a sales representative or just as a representative of MCI Communications), as Danielle has already mentioned, I was either the only or one of the only people of color in that room. I’m talking probably 25 years ago now.
Since then, there has been an explosion of diversity in our country, and if organizations and companies don’t get this diversity thing right, then they’re going to suffer, I believe. I think this conversation is extremely important, and it’s a conversation that needs to happen in this time, not just because of all of the racial stuff going on. Since the early 2000s, we have been increasing in diversity in our country, yet those statistics you just read off remain kind of stable. That’s an issue. That’s a problem. I hope to get into some of those issues and problems further on in our discussion.
Megan: Yeah, we will. I think it creates… This is sort of a little preview of what we’ll talk about in a few minutes. It kind of creates a certain scarcity and even a poverty of talent. When we look at statistics… Like, of LinkedIn’s employee base, 5 percent are Latino and 3 percent are black. Google is very similar: 3 percent Latino, 2 percent black. Intel: 8 percent Latino, 4 percent black. That does not reflect the reality of the demographics of the United States, for example. That’s a problem for many reasons, which, again, we’re going to get into in a little while.
I’d like to talk about the inequality there, because when we say that, what we’re really talking about is that if you’re kind of philosophically coming from the perspective that there is no difference between the intellectual and professional abilities and capabilities of someone who’s white versus someone who’s African-American or Latino, yet there are these incredible disparities when we look at the demographics, then we have to ask ourselves, “Why are there inequities that are present in such dramatic ways as they are?” I’d love to hear both of you share your perspective on some of the reasons for that.
Danielle: I think one of the biggest reasons is there is an unacknowledged racial bias in hiring. That is easy to say, but it’s another thing to look within yourself and figure out how you have been complicit or been a part of that problem becoming a cycle that perpetuates itself. A lot of it has to do with realizing our own unintended and hidden biases and taking some inventory, developing our own emotional intelligence through this.
What I mean by that is when you go through and look at applications and screen résumés, there are often names that appear to be more ethnic, more traditional African-American names that are there when you’re looking through a candidate pool. We know that, statistically speaking, African-Americans are 50 percent less likely to get a call back, especially those who have African-American-sounding names, as a result of a job interview or screening their résumés. A lot of that has to do with the bias we have inside without even realizing it.
The case in point, when it comes to looking at how our brains function, I find it to be very interesting that with emotional intelligence, our thoughts or ideas first go through the limbic system, which is where we process how we feel. That happens first before we even get to the rational part of our brains. So just naturally speaking, our emotions and things like that are coming in faster than they can get to the rational part of our brains.
So, it takes some time for us to pause and recognize what we are feeling as a result of the stimulus we see…you know, a name that’s more ethnic or experience that’s not exactly aligned to what you thought you needed for that role…taking some time to realize that potential hidden bias you have there and allowing the rational part of your brain to be able to have some time to weigh in. I think that is one of the big drivers of inequality.
Another fear is just a fear of diversity overall. It’s the fear of the unknown. For a lot of people, we have grown up in largely de facto segregated environments, where there wasn’t mandated segregation or there isn’t anymore, but we grew up within communities where a lot of people looked like us, thought like us, and there’s a fear of the unknown, fear of that uncertainty that’s there.
Then I think there also is a misplaced fear of hiring to meet a quota and not hiring the best talent. We will dispel that belief thoroughly by the end of this podcast, but there is a misperception that by hiring a diversity candidate you are somehow hiring someone who is not to the same quality of their white counterpart, which is not true. We’re looking to hire diversity candidates who are also equally competent and qualified for these roles.
Another big driver of the inequality here is access and opportunity. I’ve seen so many smart African-American people go to school, get educated, and then come back to their own communities just to find out that they don’t have, they haven’t established, the same access and opportunity their white counterparts, for instance, may have been born into, where they’re more likely to have organic circles of people who are executives, who are CEOs, who are senior leaders who can help them understand where their place may be with their career.
They may help them to be able to do job shadowing. They may help them to be able to see a little bit of themselves in that executive and in that leader at an earlier age, which then correlates also to their success.
Anthony: Great points. It’s so funny, because as she was speaking, I’m writing these words down, and she pretty much mentioned every one of them. There are three things when we start talking about disparity in our country that I think about. First, implicit and unrecognized biases. Second, they come from a racialized society. People don’t understand that we have all been raised in a racialized society. I’ll explain what I mean by that.
Then the third thing, which Danielle mentioned, is we’ve been raised in a segregated society. Not governmental regulated segregation, but because of the implicit biases we’re talking about, because of continued racism in our country, we are still segregated, and there are a number of reasons why that has happened. Maybe we’ll get into them. I’m not sure.
But until we get to a place where we are, as a people group, whether that’s in the corporate space, the private sector, or whatever… Until we begin to deal with the fact that we all have these implicit and, many times, unrecognized biases as we’re making decisions, as we’re looking at résumés, as we are trying to diversify our companies…
I was presenting to this company probably about seven or eight years ago. This was in Little Rock, Arkansas, and I was talking to them about how, as an organization, if you want to begin to diversify, you have to go to different places to begin to develop that pipeline of people of color. I said, “First, there are a number of HBCUs (historically black colleges and universities) in this area that you can go to and set up your booth, just like you do at white colleges in the area.”
There was a gentleman sitting in the room, and he said, “Why must I lower my standards to hire people of color?” I said, “It’s interesting that you said that, sir, because I never said anything about lowering your standards. I just said, ‘Go to HBCUs.’” So, even in that statement, there is an implicit bias that when you’re hiring people of color, you’re hiring somewhat of a lesser candidate.
Those are some of the things we have to deal with as leaders, to allow folks to understand that, no, we’re not saying hire just to have a person of color in your organization. What we’re saying is you have very high and qualified people of color in this country who are looked over simply because of some of the things Danielle has said, and I say, primarily because of these implicit biases.
Until we begin to deal with those, this issue will continue. Even though the country is getting diverse, until you get people in your space, at the tables of leadership, who are actually willing and able to engage conversations like this, nobody is going to even understand that “Man, that decision I just made was predicated on something that I believe that has been ingrained in me through the racialization in our society.”
Danielle: That’s so good. To put some personal skin on this in terms of a personal story, when I was early on in my career… I was a human resources manager before I came to Michael Hyatt & Company. I’m now the director of human resources. I was interacting with a client who I interacted with initially via email and over the phone.
Oddly enough, when I went to greet them, their implicit bias became something they verbalized when they were very visually surprised at my appearance and made a comment. They made the assumption that I was a person of a different color, not a person of color, because of how professional I was, because of how I spoke, because of how I communicated. It’s those kinds of things that typically are not said. That person showed their hand there in the moment.
But those are the kinds of implicit biases that exist within a lot of us if we just pause long enough to realize how our society, how we were raised, how those things have influenced us. It doesn’t make us bad people that we have those initial thoughts, but it’s very important for us to hold ourselves accountable to changing that trajectory of those thoughts and how that plays out in the workplace and amongst the people we interact with on a regular basis.
Megan: Well, a couple of things that stood out in what you guys just shared… First, as leaders and employers, we’re missing out… Again, we’re going to talk more about the business case for it later, but we are missing out on amazing talent because, frankly, our perspective is narrow and we have these implicit biases that are at work in the background of our minds that we’re not even aware of. That hurts our businesses, ultimately. It’s very morally problematic too. That, I hope, goes without saying. I think beyond that, it’s really crippling our businesses because we don’t have access to all the talent that’s available as our world becomes more diverse.
The other thing, though… When both of you were talking, I thought to myself, one of the things we talk about a lot on Lead to Win as a prerequisite for effective leadership is self-awareness. If you’re going to lead people well, the first thing you have to do is lead yourself well and be aware of your impact in the world. You can’t become more effective unless that’s in place.
I think this idea that there is a racialized socialization that has happened in our world since the beginning of our country, and even before that, that’s just kind of woven into the fabric of our DNA as humans, especially if we’re white, to kind of accept that that is reality… I think the more reading you do on this, the clearer it is. The statistics are there. There’s so much that has been done on this topic. We spend a lot of time, especially if you’re hiring people regularly, doing things like saying, “Oh, I’m not racist. I would never do that.”
Honestly, I have felt so freed (Anthony, we’ve talked a lot about this in our work in The Public) just to say, “Actually, I have a lot of racist tendencies.” That’s the water I have been swimming in since the day I was born, and all of the people who came before me. My job is to become aware of it so I can choose something different, not to spend a whole lot of time trying to deny it. It’s just part of how we think.
That’s why we wanted to bring this conversation to you. We felt like this is an invitation to self-awareness in the context of leadership that has potentially huge implications, not just for your own business or your team, but also for the world at large. I think this is one of the most important ways these things get changed, and systemically get changed: when leaders make decisions to create more diverse workplaces and really deal with their own implicit biases and those that are kind of baked into their culture that they may be unaware of.
Danielle: Megan, I think you freed up a whole lot of people’s minds just by saying that, being able to have the freedom to realize we’re not perfect. There are implicit biases we do have, and we need to now be responsible for working through them.
Anthony: Robin DiAngelo in her book White Fragility brings up this whole concept of this good/bad binary that people get stuck in. Because people think “If I’m racist, then I’m a bad person,” that immediately pulls them away from the discussion, because they don’t want to be bad people. What she says in her book is it’s not a good/bad thing; it’s a function of the country we have all been raised in.
We all have racism and racist tendencies we are wrestling with or are part of. Until we begin to wrestle with them, understanding that it’s not that I’m a bad person; it’s just that these things are implicitly in me, and until I begin to deal with them, I’ll never get beyond where I am and begin to see others as necessary additions to our organization to make us better.
Back in the early 2000s, the Harvard Business Review released a document that basically said diversity creates better companies, better organizations. It’s because you have all of these different perspectives at the table helping you make decisions, helping you reach your client or customer demographic…all of those things that diversity brings to the table that you don’t have when you have one specific people group with one thought process sitting at the table making decisions.
Megan: That’s right. Any more than you want all accountants or all idea people. We all know diversity is beneficial when you’re looking for solutions. That is the perfect transition for us to talk about the moral case and the business case for diversity. We’ve talked a lot about what it is and why it happens, but let’s get down to it and talk about why we should prioritize diversity. If we’re in positions of leadership, if we’re business owners or employers in any capacity, why should this be something we do? Anthony, why don’t you answer first on that one.
Anthony: I want to say McDonald’s does a great job with this. It is obvious that McDonald’s has people of color sitting at their marketing table as they are producing commercials, or what have you, who are lending their perspectives to how they produce these commercials and how they reach a different demographic, depending on where they are in our country. That is the beauty of diversity, and not just in commercials but also in business decisions that are being made.
I want all thought processes at the table with me. I don’t want everybody who’s just going to agree with whatever point I come up with. I want people who are going to push back. I need people who are going to think a little differently than I do so that once that conversation is engaged, then we now have a collective thought process we’re lending into whatever it is we’re trying to do. I think it’s extremely important to bring differences of opinion, differences of perspective, differences of experience to the table in whatever decision you’re trying to make. I just thought about McDonald’s when you said that as we’re leaning into this conversation.
Megan: That’s great. Danielle, what about you?
Danielle: Diversity is something that is hugely important. We touched on this a little bit in the beginning of the podcast. The case for diversity is not just a moral one, which should be compelling enough. It’s the right thing to do. We have an opportunity to be able to effect change in our organizations and to be able to help people who have previously hit a ceiling and been up against odds that have not been in their favor to be able to right those wrongs.
Beyond that, the reasons we need to pursue diversity are it makes sense in terms of profitability and it helps us as organizations to make sure we are able to foresee blind spots. I cannot even count how many blind spots organizations have had in their marketing, their customer service, their products that have been created, blunders that could have been prevented if there was a more diverse think tank they were working with internally to try to foresee what different values people have based upon what people group they’re from.
There are people of different backgrounds who value family, who value relationships, honor, and all of those things, very differently than other groups do, and that influences how we come up with products, how we market to them, and how we foresee being able to address the felt needs our customer bases have. Also, when you look at the workforce and what the workforce demands, we know that 83 percent of all Millennials are more likely to be actively engaged only if they believe their company stimulates a diverse and inclusive culture.
So, again, it’s not just something that is recommended or a suggestion. This is literally what your workforce is requiring of you to continue to be relevant as an organization for them. We also know that 80 percent of people value diversity in the workplace across all people groups and ethnicities, but then also, 57 percent of employees want to see their company increase and prioritize diversity. We’ll talk about this in just a minute on the podcast.
How you prioritize not only diversity in terms of recruiting efforts… That’s one thing, but then creating a work environment that’s conducive for people of color to want to stay and learn and grow and prosper long term is something entirely different. We have to think about that in terms of the benefits we are creating.
Are they benefits that allow people of diverse backgrounds to continue to grow; to learn how to develop further their own leadership skills, their emotional intelligence, their communication ability; to have the chance to cross-train in areas of passion and proficiency that are sometimes aligned with their current job and sometimes not? Sometimes there are new areas they will develop and grow as a result of proficiencies they’re gaining along the way. The case for diversity helps to make sure companies out there are sustainable and have the longevity to be able to grow over time and to meet the needs of today’s marketplace and tomorrow’s.
Megan: That’s really good, Danielle. We’ve had a lot of conversations at Michael Hyatt & Company about this. It’s interesting, because I suspect that what has happened within our company has been happening in many, many, many companies across the country in the last several months. After George Floyd was murdered, we had many people on our team asking, “What’s our response to this? Where do we stand? What’s our plan for the future? How are we going to be part of the solution?”
I’ve heard anecdotally from other friends or, certainly, reading in papers and the news that this is a conversation that’s happening across the board, particularly among younger workers. As we’re thinking about the future of our company, as we’re thinking about talent acquisition and retention, not just for people of color but for our entire workforce, where we stand on these issues and being forward-thinking on this is really, really important. Being on the right side of history is really important to our teams. It does not go unnoticed which end of the spectrum you fall on. So I think that’s important and a big point you’re making.
The other thing, of course, is that the United States…really everywhere…is becoming more diverse all the time. Diversity is happening with or without you. It’s kind of like, “Get on board or get left behind,” because this is where our culture is moving. It doesn’t help to stick our heads in the sand, figuratively speaking, and think that this isn’t an issue, because this is going to be the world we live in. If we don’t want to be irrelevant and not understand our constituency, then this is really critical.
One of the things I want to dig into just for a second is why this is good for companies. We’ve talked about this a little bit, but this is really critical. If you’re a leader or business owner and you’re leading a team, I want you to perk your ears up at this. This is where the rubber meets the road. For example, there’s a book called The Diversity Bonus. The author is Scott Page, who says that diversity provides access to more talent by widening the pool; better solutions to challenges by gaining cognitive diversity, people who think differently and in different patterns; and that it’s better for your business, because there is a phenomenon in which the sum is greater than the parts.
Our world is moving at an unprecedented speed, and the need for innovation and innovative thinking and diverse thinking and solutions has never been more important. I mean, in 2020, I feel like, that has even been taken up to another level. Everything has been accelerated. So, the more different ways of thinking we can get around the table, which come from different life experiences and different perspectives, the better off we are. It’s like more tools in our toolbox. Anthony, what are your thoughts on that?
Anthony: You know, it’s funny. When you were saying that, my immediate thought went to the biases again. I think most of your listeners would probably be shaking their heads, like we were. Like, “Yeah, man. That is absolutely what needs to happen.” But then to actually go in and begin to make those decisions… I think a lot of our leaders today are going to have to fight against their own implicit biases as they’re trying to develop these teams of diversity.
Again, I want your listeners to understand I am not calling you a bad person. What I am saying is these things exist in all of us, and until we begin to push against that internal feeling, that internal thought process we have as we’re looking at résumés or as we’re looking at potential employees… You have to deal with that in some way, shape, form, or fashion before you move forward, because if not, all of your decisions are going to be predicated on that internal bias.
This is a great point Danielle made. I just need to make it again. Once you get people into your organization, that’s when the hard work starts, because you now have to create an environment where they want to stay. I’ve talked to many people who have gotten into organizations and/or churches, and because there is not a continuous plan developed to make sure your people of color are engaged and included, what happens is they just end up leaving, and then what happens is…
Normally, people say, “Well, we gave them an opportunity. They just didn’t want to stay.” There is one thing to get people into your organization. There is another thing to create real inclusiveness, I guess is what I’m saying, to where that person really feels like they are a part of the organization and they feel welcomed in every aspect of the organization and/or church.
Danielle: I think the other thing that’s really important… People can leave…we know that…if they don’t feel included and a part and seen and heard, but they can also become silent, which we don’t want either. We don’t want diverse people to come to our organizations and then be silent and not speak up in moments when we value their opinions, we value their professional expertise, we value their unique perspective.
As an organization, it behooves all of us… We do this intentionally from the very first interview with Michael Hyatt & Company. It’s important that we develop a sense of trust and a place of safety for our employees or prospective employees, because if we have people sitting around the table and they don’t feel confident enough, they don’t feel okay and safe enough to speak up and challenge an idea from our COO or senior manager, or whoever it may be, and say, “You know what? This is how I would look at it” or “This is my experience” or “Have we considered doing this or doing that?”
When you look at the book The Diversity Bonus, it talks specifically about how important it is to develop trust within those teams first before you have the expectation for you to be able to leverage that diversity bonus. That bonus is essentially canceled out if you can’t create a safe environment for your employees to be able to speak up and to be heard.
One of the simple ways to do that is even just in the interviewing process, taking some time to listen very closely to the felt needs, the concerns, the interests, the life experience of whoever you are preparing to hire to make sure you are aware of them and are figuring out ways, on a regular basis, to meet those needs.
They help to inform your benefits. They help to inform your policies that hopefully make your organization a great place to work. Without that constantly being on your mind… As a leader of an organization, you have to pursue it intentionally. If you don’t, then those people will either leave or become silent, and we don’t want either of those things to happen.
Megan: That’s really good. Danielle, you have been an amazing leader in this and visionary, really, at Michael Hyatt & Company. At so many levels, you have pioneered our hiring process and our culture cultivation, for lack of a better way to say it, you know, how we take care of our team members. You’ve done a phenomenal job of that, and we’ll talk a little bit more about that in the next episode.
I’m struggling, because I want to just keep going, keep going, keep going, because there are so many questions I know our listeners have and that I have for the two of you, but I think we’re going to start winding it down here so we can transition to the how-to part in our next episode. But I want to ask you this. As we’re thinking about digesting all this information and what we do with it, what does it mean to create a company culture that is truly anti-racist?
By that I mean, in case that’s a new term for those of you listening, it’s not enough to just be not racist, like, the absence of racism. We want to be, as leaders, actively for justice and equity and opportunity and all kinds of things. So that’s what I mean when I say anti-racist. What does it mean to each of you to create a company culture that is truly anti-racist?
Danielle: That’s good. The first thing that comes to mind for me is that policies and work environments can’t really be neutral. They either continue to uphold racist ideals and systems or they deconstruct them. When you look at it from that vantage point, you have to ask yourself, as an organizational leader, “Okay. What are some things I can do to not just not be racist but really be anti-racist?”
That includes inviting people of color, women, and diverse groups into think tanks when you’re considering different products your company is wanting to create, whether they’re part of that particular department that would typically be creating the content for those products or creating the actual product itself…inviting them in to be a part of evaluating the efficacy of the plan you have that you’re considering putting in place; inviting those individuals in to look at your benefits and policy changes and things you’re considering changing to positively, or so you think, impact an organization.
It includes just taking some time every six months or so to make sure you are in touch with the needs of your team and figuring out new ways you can be anti-racist. One of the great examples I have personally loved… I just came back from maternity leave with Michael Hyatt & Company not long ago, but when I came back to work, one of the first things I was greeted with was a personal message, a direct message, from our CEO about the recent racial events that have been taking place (or that have been highlighted, because they’ve always been taking place) in our country.
He was expressing his concern. He was expressing his commitment to help prevent these things from happening in the future, and really, above all else, checking to see if I was okay. He did this for each and every one of the black employees we have here at Michael Hyatt & Company. That’s a way where he’s really being a proponent of anti-racism.
It would have been perfectly fine or okay to just make a public stance on social media or on our company website about our stance, but when you don’t make it personal… That just makes all the difference, when you take the time to interact with people individually and show that you are an ally, that you are trying to be anti-racist with how you are approaching your professional relationships, your policies, your benefits, and the impact you’re making to your community.
Anthony: Awesome points, Danielle. I would add to that two words: courage and intentionality. When you begin to speak out on issues of race and inequality, you will see people come out of the woodwork who you didn’t know had specific ideas or ideologies around this particular topic. It is a hot-button topic, and it has always been in our country. So, as a leader, it’s going to take some courage to stand up and really be anti-racist. It’s one thing to say, “I’m not a racist,” and we’ve touched on that a little bit, but it’s going to take a lot of courage, as a leader, to lead your organization in a way that is anti-racist.
The second thing is intentionality. Danielle’s story about how her CEO called her… That’s an intentional step toward allowing their employees to understand and know that “Listen. I see you.” As African-Americans, a lot of times we feel invisible, so to specifically take some time to either send an email or pick up… I work for Amazon. Amazon has no bones about it. They have supported the African-American community during this whole thing. I got a personal email from Jeff Bezos (I guess it went out to all of his African-American employees) to specifically say, “I stand with you. Let me know if there’s anything we can do.”
Of course, they are for all kinds of inclusion and diversity, but it’s an intentionality that Bezos and every other leader within Amazon understands. That was a courageous thing to do. You have some companies that kind of stepped back a little bit during all of this tension of race in our country, but then you had other organizations that stepped up and said, “Listen. This is who we are. We have employees. We stand with those employees.” So, courage and intentionality are the two things that, in my opinion, are necessary, from a leadership perspective, in order for companies to be anti-racist.
Megan: I couldn’t say it better than that. That is so great, guys. Thank you for that. It really inspires me as a leader. I hope those of you listening feel the same way. This is a hard topic. This is intentionally confrontational with our own leadership. We need to embrace the confrontation we feel when this topic comes up because this is so important. There’s so much at stake.
Personally, as a leader, the position I want to have is one of constant learning, of humility, and, Anthony, as you said, courage and intentionality. I think that’s a great place to wrap up for today. Thank you, guys, for joining me, for your time, for your vulnerability, for your courage in sharing your own stories. I really, really appreciate it.
Anthony: My pleasure.
Danielle: Thank you for having me.
Megan: Thank you. And thank you all for joining us today. We’re going to see you right here next time for part 2 of this conversation, where we’re going to dig into some practical solutions for business owners and leaders for creating a more just and equitable workplace. Until then, lead to win.