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The Dangers of Perfectionism in the Workplace

SGO Podcast Season 2 Episode 8: Dismantling Oppression Through Policy

This week, we’re diving into policies. Policies are where the rubber meets the road for company culture. If you’re not intentional about building equity and inclusivity into your policies, you can end up actively harming folks with marginalized identities. We spoke with leaders from various organizations about what it looks like to create new policies regarding board involvement, improvements in paid leave policies, and the challenges for small businesses and startups.

Contributors to this episode are:


Welcome to She+ Geeks Out, the podcast bringing you the voices of women+ from all walks of life to share with you what they geek out about– their passions, talents, struggles, and successes. In each episode, hosts Rachel Murray and Felicia Jadczak will feature different guests and discussions about topics including health, psychology, art, music, learning, and more. Episodes are fun, engaging, and provide some nuggets of information that you can take away. Oh, and yeah, they might be awkward sometimes. That’s just how we roll.

In this episode, we dive into policies. As one looks for guidance on handling DEI issues in the workplace, policy is where the rubber hits the road. If we are not intentional about building inclusivity into our policies, we are actively harming folks with marginalized identities. Today, we focus on new policies involving board involvement, improvements in paid lease policies, and the challenges for small business and startups. 

We begin with David Tadeshi, Consultant for the World Banks Group, discussing discriminatory laws which have been challenged all around the world. While discrimination in the U.S. is much more insidious, historic oppressive laws in other countries clearly discriminate. David goes after this low-hanging fruit and helps countries remove laws which need to be removed, add additional laws, and change others. These include laws which limit women in the workplace and allow for gender discrimination. While there has been a shift, a lot of organizations still resist. David explains that the data speaks well for success and that it is in the best interest of your pocket book to change. Listen as he explains his own experience in countries and with organizations who have invited his help. David explains the difference between equal pay for equal work and equal pay for equal value. He is encouraged as every country has shown some improvement. 

Reflections on the global landscape are offered. Any and every place should be inclusive. Every aspect of an organization should be examined through the lens of DEI. This means policy. Policies on hiring, how people are treated, and equitable pay are among many policies to consider. Why care? People are actually impacted by policy. An employee handbook is given as an example. While often implemented by an owner and adopted from other organizations, this handbooks has real life implications on employees. While founders of businesses may not be as impacted, they should care about these things. Listen as SGO discovers that their own employee handbook is not as inclusive as they want to be and as they begin to rethink its language.

Anna Whitlock, Director of People Strategy and Culture at LabCentral, chimes in on the conversation. LabCentral is a launching point for organizations. She has discovered how important their own policies are as their start ups come to them for advice. Naomi Seddon is an International Lawyer, and Non-Exectutive Director of Megaport Ltd, Endometriosis Australia and Surrogacy Australia. She is also the author of Milk and Margaritas. She imagines policies which include paid leave for miscarriages, changes in laws around menopause, and governments shifts. Naomi also highlights the positive change companies see with diverse teams as they outperform others. In business, everything is supply and demand. Naomi argues that the changes will be driven by demand. Reem Papageorgiou, Cofounder and Chief Talent Officer at MomUp is asked: “Where does this change come from? From companies or policies?” She articulates the necessity for companies to wake up to the changes which are needed. Where does it begin? It begins with being human. Reem says we need to realize people are human and discover what they need and what works for them. Charis Loveland, Global Program Manager of the Digital Innovation team at Amazon, says organizations are waking up to the reality that we do our best work when given the flexibility to do so. Charis remembers how she had a hard time maintaining a full-time job while her daughter was young. She paid the bills and focused on her daughter through picking up freelance gigs and writing newsletters. Charis maintains the fact that flexibility is a must and people do their best work when given the flexibility to do so. Rhonda Vonshay Sharpe from WISER adds that the biggest challenge is to think about intersectionality. More than the simple terms of one’s race and gender, we must consider additional factors. Listen as she explains how a focus on mothers is not the same thing as a focus on women and as she addresses stereotypes against native-born blacks. 

As the episode closes, SGO’s Fatima Dainkeh hits on avoiding traps when creating inclusive policies. She explores the importance of policies regarding holidays, grief and bereavement, parental leave, and harassment discrimination. Finally, Grey Elam and C.A. Webb offer closing thoughts on expanding representation on boards. Learn how boards which embody the communities they serve bring real opportunities for change. Grey Elam works with New York City Programs Institute for Urban Parks at Central Park Conservancy and C.A. Webb is the Former President of the Kendall Square Association.

Thanks so much for listening. Please don’t forget to rate, share, subscribe and tune in next week when we talk about DEI and the future of work.


Timestamps: 

1:40 – Introduction to a conversation on policies.

2:15 – David Tadeshu on reshaping laws and policies around the world. 

16:00 – SGO is rethinking their employee handbook and their own policies.

23:40 – Anna Whitlock on giving advice to startups. 

25:15 – Naomi Seddon on positive change and why it matters.

29:25 – Reem Papageorgiou says change begins through being human.

33:40 – Charis Loveland changed her work when her daughter was young.

35:40 – Rhonda Vonshay Sharpe on intersectionality.

38:45 – Fatima Dainkeh on avoiding traps when creating inclusive policies.

45:00 – Grey Elam and C.A. Webb and their experiences with diverse boards.

FULL TRANSCRIPT:

David Tedeschi (00:00:02):
This is good for everybody, right? It’s not like men are giving up something to give women something else, and it’s a zero sum game. You’re trying to say, “If you make it a fair playing field, then you’re more efficiently using your workforce and you’ll have a better economy. You’ll have better companies that run more efficiently.”

Fatima Dainkeh (00:00:20):
Policies only serve a purpose when the culture is able to meet the policy.

Naomi Seddon (00:00:27):
The research shows us, time and again, that diverse teams outperform and that there are real tangible benefits to finding better ways to support your employees.

Reem Papageorgiou (00:00:38):
It sounds so simple, but I think, if you’re a small business owner, so maybe you can’t financially offer a ton, but you can say, “What do you need? What do you need this month? What do you need long-term? What works for you?”

CA Webb (00:00:52):
Rules can be broken. Governance can be adjusted. You can rethink things.

Felicia Jadczak (00:01:05):
Hi, everybody. I’m Felicia.

Rachel Murray (00:01:06):
And I’m Rachel. And welcome to the SGO podcast, the She+ Geeks Out podcast.

Felicia Jadczak (00:01:11):
This season is unlike any that we put out so far. What does the future of work look like when we’re thinking about diversity and inclusivity and equity? And, what does it look like for different groups of people?

Rachel Murray (00:01:21):
We got to interview so many incredible people.

Felicia Jadczak (00:01:23):
You’ll also be hearing some little snippets and interjections from our facilitation team.

Rachel Murray (00:01:28):
You’ll get their perspectives on what DEI really looks like in the workplace from a practical, actionable standpoint. So let’s go.

Rachel Murray (00:01:38):
This week, we’re putting all those uncomfortable conversations and work into practice by diving into policies. The Society of Human Resources Management says, “Company policies are created to establish expectations and to provide guidance on how to consistently handle workplace situations.” In short, policies are where the rubber meets the road for company culture. If you’re not intentional about building inclusivity into your policies, you can end up actively harming folks with marginalized identities.

Rachel Murray (00:02:02):
Today, we’re talking to leaders about creating new policies regarding board involvement, improvements in paid leave policies, and the challenges for small businesses and startups.

Rachel Murray (00:02:16):
To get started, we’re joined by David Tedeschi, a consultant for the World Bank Group’s Women, Business and the Law advisory group, to talk about how discriminatory laws have been challenged all over the world, and the interesting ways that can mimic what happens in companies.

Rachel Murray (00:02:28):
I would just love to hear really how you approach the topic of gender bias and inequality at a legal and country level.

David Tedeschi (00:02:37):
It’s difficult, right? Because we are trained, in the States, to see gender discrimination and gender bias in a much more insidious form, where no one’s breaking a law so much as treating all women slightly differently. But, a lot of what I do is kind of the low hanging fruit, where countries have these historic oppressive laws that clearly discriminate, and so we can go and kind of pluck those laws now.

David Tedeschi (00:03:04):
So, we look at two things. There are some laws that are clearly discriminatory that we just ask them to remove. And then there are some laws that are missing that we ask them to implement. So, you might have a case where countries say, “If you are married, you can’t sign a contract if you’re a woman, because you’re not the head of the household and you can’t financially bind the household,” which means that any married woman can’t sign a lease or get a loan, sign an employment contract. They have to rely on their husbands who might have nothing to do with the business that they started, which obviously has a negative pressure on female entrepreneurship. So we would ask to get rid of that law.

David Tedeschi (00:03:41):
There are a lot of residual laws from kind of colonial times, so ex-British colonies, that say women can’t work at night, or they can’t work in factories, or they can’t work in mines. The World Bank has an enormous store of information and data to show that those have negative impacts on female labor force participation, which has negative impacts on GDP. We can identify those laws, but we can also identify holes in the statutory schemes, where, if you don’t have a sexual harassment law, if you don’t have a means by which people can complain about sexual harassment in the workplace, with commensurate either criminal or civil penalties, then you have the same negative effects because of a lack of legislation.

David Tedeschi (00:04:18):
If you don’t guarantee equal pay for work of equal value, then you have a lack in the statutory schema. If you don’t have a law that says you cannot take gender into account when determining credit worthiness, then even if you have something else in your constitution that says you can’t discriminate based on gender, the banks can say, “We’re not discriminating based on gender, we’re discriminating based on risk profile, and women are more likely to default if they’re of childbearing age when they get the loan,” or whatever they’re going to say.

David Tedeschi (00:04:48):
What I do is, again, the low hanging fruit, in one sense, because it’s relatively easy to identify where laws exist or where they are missing. The difficult portion of my job is convincing the legislatures of the countries that this is something that they want to do or should do. And even if you get someone who really wants to pass this law, it is just difficult in any situation to get a law passed.

Rachel Murray (00:05:12):
It’s such an amazing parallel between what you’re saying as far as making that case. We talk about it, making the business case for this work, just in companies, and you’re talking about it on a country level, on a global level. It’s just incredible.

David Tedeschi (00:05:25):
Right. Because you want to say, this is good for everybody. It’s not like men are giving up something to give women something else, and it’s a zero sum game. You’re trying to say, “If you make it a fair playing field, then you’re more efficiently using your workforce and you’ll have a better economy. You’ll have better companies that run more efficiently.”

Felicia Jadczak (00:05:43):
I was about to say, I feel like I need to just take that audio clip with me and have it on my phone, and just literally press play at all times in my life. Because, we work with so many different companies, and while there’s been such a huge shift, especially over the last couple of years, where I think overall, a lot of corporations and organizations are now like, “Yes, we’re beyond the business case for diversity and gender equality and all that stuff,” there are still a lot of organizations out there that are not yet convinced. And I’m like, I got to just pull up the World Bank and be like, “Listen. They’ve got all this data. You got to get on board at this point.”

David Tedeschi (00:06:18):
Yeah. It’s smart from a persuasive perception or angle, when you’re trying to convince somebody who may not be on board as an ally towards the actual normative values of equality. But when you can say, “It’s also in the best interest of your pocketbook,” it does seem to get somewhat of a better response.

Felicia Jadczak (00:06:38):
I mean, listen, let’s be real. There are certain people who, that’s all they care about, but talk a lot in our work about, how do we meet people where they’re at, and then get them to come along with you. And so sometimes, that is the step that’s needed to just get people at least willing to listen to you.

Felicia Jadczak (00:06:53):
I’m really curious to go back to the work around the country level, as you and Rachel were talking about just now. Just out of curiosity, I guess, how do you and your team/the World Bank prioritize which countries you’re focusing on or targeting, I guess, if that’s the right word to use? Is there like a priority list, or does it just depend? How does that kind of play out?

David Tedeschi (00:07:14):
We actually have to be invited in the countries. The World Bank and the UN are very much connected. They’re part of the same set of treaties. And so, because we have some of kind of the heft of the United Nations and the World Bank’s own reputation, there is a World Bank office in every region of the world and in most countries of the world, and they’re constantly doing something because there’s a finance arm of the World Bank. So, it’s very possible that if you’re in Ghana, there is a dam project that’s going to produce electricity that’s being funded by the World Bank.

David Tedeschi (00:07:45):
And along with those interactions, we have the capacity to provide assistance in any number of areas, from trades and exports, to small business administration, to bankruptcy laws, to gender issues. And so there’s an entire gender column at the World Bank that deals with everything from perceptions of gender in different countries, to what I’m doing, which is gender discrimination that is legally founded, I mean found in the law, not justified by the law.

David Tedeschi (00:08:16):
And so, we can ask countries, “You’re already doing this with trade, would you like help with gender initiatives? Because it also bears on your economy, and it also bears on your small businesses. So if you’re doing small business reform, it would be very helpful to know that you should change the laws so that women can get credit.” We can try to insert ourselves that way, although, my bosses wouldn’t like the idea of us inserting ourselves.

David Tedeschi (00:08:41):
Usually, what happens is, the Women, Business and the Law Report gets published, and it has some kind of a name and shame effect, where you can see you ranked from 100 to 190, every country in the world, and you can go and find yourself and you can see that… I was in Kuwait in 2020, right before the pandemic hit. And, one of the things I brought up was that, they’re at a 180 in the world, but at least they used to be ahead of Saudi Arabia, which was 190 in the world. But now, Saudi Arabia’s 60th in the world because of all the reforms that they did in 2018.

David Tedeschi (00:09:13):
And so, part of the initiation was, we want you to come in because we want to get better, sometimes because our neighbors got better and we’re competitive with them, sometimes because they actually really want to get better, and sometimes for whatever other reason that they might have. We don’t go there and say, “We’re coming. We’re sending a team.” It’s almost always them inviting us. There has to be a groundswell of… I found that there are a lot of headwinds to changing any legislation, that anybody who is in charge doesn’t want the responsibility of being the champion to change some, especially if it’s something that could be seen as a cultural norm or cultural heritage, which is now changing in some way. And, that headwind can only be countered if the politicians believe that they have a groundswell of support from their constituents.

David Tedeschi (00:09:59):
So, if any of the people listening to this podcast are in countries where they want reform, they can go to the Women, Business and the Law website, which is easy to find. If you just put Women, Business and the Law in any Google search, it will immediately pop up. You can search by country. You can search by indicator. You can search by anything you want. You can download all of the data for 50 years. And you can say, “How can we still be in a country where a woman needs her husband’s permission to get a passport? That should be an easy thing to change. Why do we still…” And, if there’s a groundswell of support, then that puts some pressure on the legislators and they some cover when they decide to back a legislation that would change these laws.

David Tedeschi (00:10:40):
But it’s hard. In the States, it’s hard because we actually… Our laws have progressed to the point where it is very difficult to point to a law and say, “That has discriminatory intent.” You can point to laws and say they have discriminatory impact, but it’s hard to point to a law and say, “This has discriminatory intent.” Now, I don’t know every law in every state by any stretch of the imagination. I’m a Massachusetts-barred lawyer, and Massachusetts tends to be one of the most progressive states, so maybe there is plenty of laws in other jurisdictions.

David Tedeschi (00:11:12):
As we began to talk about, at the very beginning, discrimination cases here in Massachusetts, and I’ve done some work with MCAD, tend to be that the environment as a whole, the system as a whole, discourages the promotion of women or discourages women from speaking up, or allows men to take credit for the work of women. It’s much more kind of insidious in that it’s harder to identify, articulate, and then expunge. But you can look at the impacts and say, “It’s obvious that you know the numbers a lot better than me. But, if you look at the C-suite ratio of men to women, you can see that there’s a problem.”

Rachel Murray (00:11:49):
Yeah. I’m really glad that you said that, because I think it’s so easy for us to say, when we see the news, “Oh my gosh, Saudi Arabia women can actually drive.” Well, for the first time, that was illegal. We in America are so fortunate. But I think that you hit on just that as the insidious nature of the systems that are here that make it harder to root out, because we don’t have those very obvious laws in place. So, thank you for bringing that up.

David Tedeschi (00:12:18):
If a country passes every law that we recommend, they’ll then get to the position where they have the insidious gender discrimination that is still in the system that has to be expunged. And my department does not have anything to do with anything other than the black letter law, like you have this, you don’t have this. Although some of the things that we recommend passing include a blanket ban on discrimination in the workplace based upon sex, which would give a cause of action. Same thing for credit, same thing for work.

David Tedeschi (00:12:49):
The ILO has a convention, I think it’s number 100 or 110, that calls for equal pay for work of equal value. And that is different than equal pay for equal work, because it is a fact, it is society, and I don’t mean to expostulate on things that I don’t know what I’m talking about, but it’s clear that there are, say, more women in certain fields than in other fields, in those fields themselves get paid less. And so-

Felicia Jadczak (00:13:17):
Oh yeah, we can talk all day about that for sure.

David Tedeschi (00:13:20):
And, that ILO convention says that you don’t pay all nurses the same. You pay value. You can actually have means by which you measure value, whether it’s hours spent or maybe the degrees needed to get to a certain place. And that way, you don’t go and say that this group of people that you pay equally and you give them a cause of action where they can sue for work of equal value, not just equal pay for equal work.

David Tedeschi (00:13:51):
So, it’s one thing to say that two nurses, one man and one woman, one’s getting paid 100 grand and one’s getting paid 80 grand. It’s another thing to say math teachers get paid 100 grand and English teachers get paid 70 grand. And then it’s not… Or, I guess, in a corporation, you could say, a corporate secretary and a HR assistant, there might be a ratio issue with men to women in those two professions, but they probably contribute the exact same to the benefit of the company. And so you should get paid equally. And with this comes information, where you can see every single salary, and transparency allows for… If salaries are hidden, it becomes very difficult to know whether there’s bias going on.

David Tedeschi (00:14:35):
I would say that progress is being made if you, and it’s kind of organic, even… Nothing that my team did. If you look at the countries on the 100-point index that the World Bank created, 50 years ago, there were numerous countries in the teens and the highest country was at 70, which mean women only had less about two-thirds of the rights of men, at the best country. And then, without any of us advisory committee, without any naming and shaming, without any active consultancy, in 2021, the lowest country was at 26, which is still only a quarter of their rights, but it is significantly greater than 16 or 15 where the low was before. And 10 countries have reached 100. Not the United States, but 10 countries have reached a point where we can say there are at least no legal prohibitions on equality.

David Tedeschi (00:15:26):
So there’s some hope there that, over 50 years, organically, every country in the world has improved their scores somehow, and the average for the world has gone significantly up. And so progress is being made. It’s just, anything we can do to speed that progress up is a worthwhile endeavor.

Rachel Murray (00:15:51):
What an awesome conversation. If you want to check out our full interview with David, make sure to join our community for bonus episodes. Check it out at shegeeksout.com/community.

Felicia Jadczak (00:16:00):
So when we’re talking about inclusive policies, I think any and every policy should be inclusive to start off with. So, I’ll just start there because, again, my belief is that, every aspect of your organization can be looked at through a lens of DEI or a lens of inclusivity.

Felicia Jadczak (00:16:20):
Now, having said that, I recognize that people will still be asking themselves, “Okay, but give me an example, because I want to know what that looks like and I totally hear that because I am the same way. I want to know, what does that actually mean?” So, an example of an inclusive policy that comes to mind, I think, again, hiring and people policies are a great way to start thinking about it, because those are very immediate for a lot of organizations. So thinking about, for example, do you have an equitable policy where you’re treating your candidates in the same way? Or, would you maybe allow someone to skip the process if they’re a friend of a senior leader, for example? That’s not really equitable per se, but again, that may or may not fit into your policy.

Felicia Jadczak (00:17:05):
Another example of an inclusive policy could be around pay, and so making sure that we’re paying people equitably. And that, again, looks like having pay ranges, being really explicit about what does it take to get a promotion, for example, which isn’t, of course, pay, but it’s related in a lot of senses, and just being really clear about it. And, again, you want to make sure that you’re not treating people differently, but that the difference, if there is any difference in treatment, is because it’s in order to be more equitable, as opposed to giving someone a leg up or an advantage that’s unearned.

Felicia Jadczak (00:17:41):
So, when we’re thinking about why do we even care about inclusive policies, the reason is because, not every single person who’s part of an organization has a say when it comes to the systems and structures and policies that make up that organization. So there’s always going to be some kind of inherent power imbalance there, because the people who are making the policies may not be the people who are impacted by those policies.

Felicia Jadczak (00:18:04):
So when I think about inclusive policy making, I’m thinking about it from a couple of different levels. So first, I want to think about just, are we being inclusive writ large? And are there best practices in terms of things like naming or language usage or how we’re writing a policy? But then I’m also thinking about who is being impacted by this policy and how does that play into whether or not we’re enacting the policy, or how we’re rolling it out or how we’re communicating it, or even how we’re writing it, so, things like, if you look at an employee handbook, for example.

Felicia Jadczak (00:18:37):
I look at a handbook and I think, okay, a lot of this stuff in an employee handbook doesn’t relate to me personally because I am an owner of this company, and so I am not impacted in the same way by some of these policies that are outlined in the handbook than, say, someone who’s reporting to me. But I really want to think about how is that person being impacted because the things that I put in writing, or that I put down as part of a policy, will have real life consequences for somebody else.

Felicia Jadczak (00:19:06):
And so, if I’m not thinking about that inclusively, then it may not make any difference to my employees, but it could. And so, I really want to be thinking from that standpoint. So, how can I be as inclusive as possible? How can I put myself in someone else’s shoes, in order to get to that goal? And, are there tweaks or changes that I can make, in order to make sure that I am avoiding exclusion, discrimination, things like that, as much as possible?

Felicia Jadczak (00:19:33):
I think that a lot of times, when we create policies, especially, it depends on a lot of factors such as, how big is your organization? How old is your organization? What industry are you coming from? Are you a startup? Are you very established? So, there’s going to be all different ways that you’re going to be entering into this kind of discussion. But, for a lot of organizations, we tend to do things in a sense of, “Oh, we’re going to copy and paste this other policy that someone else gave us,” or, “We’re looking to put in place some language, and we’re going to take some legalese that our lawyer gave us.” And so, what ends up happening a lot of times is, organizations kind of cobble together policies from all different sources, from all different timeframes. And so, we don’t even think about what it is that we have in place, until something happens.

Felicia Jadczak (00:20:18):
And so, I mentioned the handbook, and I think that’s a really great example, because even within SGO, I’m actually in the process of looking at our own handbook right now. Because when we started our company, our lawyer, I think, gave us a copy of a typical handbook, and we updated some language here and there, but we just basically took it and we put that in place. Now that we’re seven, eight years later, and we’re really thinking, “Okay, well, is this language actually inclusive? Does it actually get at what we want it to get at?” And, the answer in some cases is yes. And the answer in some cases is no.

Felicia Jadczak (00:20:53):
And so, for me, what I’ve been doing lately is looking at this language and this handbook with my 2022 lens and the DEI inclusivity lens that I try to apply to everything that I do. And I’m saying, “Are we using accurate pronouns?”, for example. So if there’s he/she language, I’m updating things like that to make it more gender neutral. If there is language in there that is actually exclusionary, or there’s policies that are exclusionary, around things like time off, or one great example that I’ve been really thinking about a lot with regards to handbooks lately is, how do we define who an immediate family member is? Because in today’s day and age, there are a lot of policies that impact directly what employees can do when it comes to taking time off from work, to be a caregiver, to have a child, if there are sickness. There’s all sorts of different policies that govern how we do that, how long we have, what that looks like, what the process is.

Felicia Jadczak (00:21:51):
But, if we look at the language of who we’re allowed to do some of these things for, some of the times, we start to realize, well, actually there’s a use case that isn’t covered in this language. And what happens when that comes up? Now, for smaller organizations, sometimes it’s not a big deal because, there might be an issue, and the manager or the leader might say, “Well, don’t worry about it because, whatever. I know you and it’s fine. Go forth and do what you need to do.” But, for larger organizations or organizations that work in a more traditional industry, for example, where the rules are more rigid and you have to really abide by what’s written in this policy, that can be a big problem.

Felicia Jadczak (00:22:27):
For example, if in your policy, immediate family member is very narrowly and specifically defined, then what happens when something comes up with somebody who might be part of your family but doesn’t fall under that definition? Can you take time off? Can you not? It’s sometimes a very gray area. And so that’s an example where, it’s not something that maybe the original writer intended to be exclusionary, but because it exists and because we didn’t revise that policy or that paragraph or that language to be truly inclusive, or even to match the needs of today, that might be a hidden pitfall that we don’t even want to be there, but it exists anyway.

Felicia Jadczak (00:23:07):
So again, just really thinking about, does our policy match where we’re at today? Does it match with our intentions, and does it match with what our hoped for outcomes are? Because a lot of times, the intent and impact don’t always align, and that’s where the policies can be really helpful, in terms of us revising them. They don’t have to be set in stone. They can be living breathing documents that are updated, to reflect the times that we live in.

Rachel Murray (00:23:38):
Here’s Anna Whitlock, director of People Strategy and Culture at LabCentral.

Anna Whitlock (00:23:41):
The position that LabCentral has as an organization is really impactful because we are a launching point for a lot of organizations. And so, oftentimes, our startups look to us as, people come to me and be like, “How do you do this when you’re hiring?” Or, “What’s your vacation policy?” And they use us as an established, somewhat, organization to build their own policies, procedures and approaches. And so, where that maybe differs from some of the other organizations out there that are also doing really great work is that, we are kind of embedded within this community where people are already looking at us to set the bar or set the expectation.

Anna Whitlock (00:24:23):
And so I think, it maybe is heard a little bit differently from our resident communities or some of our partners and sponsors when we say, “Is that degree requirement really needed? Let’s distill down what these jobs are, and let’s be a little bit more open minded about where we’re sourcing candidates from and what the skills that we actually need. And let’s give this person an opportunity who’s maybe going to need some more coaching,” because they’re looking at us and seeing that LabCentral is doing that and not just kind of saying, “You all should do this, but in fact this is part of our value system.” And then they are able to emulate that and build off of that because they see us as a testing ground that’s been successful with whatever it is that we’re doing.

Anna Whitlock (00:25:04):
And so I think that’s a little bit of the speculation on how it might have a different impact and affect access a little bit differently as well.

Naomi Seddon (00:25:14):
Three years ago, nobody was talking about women’s health in the workplace and I really believe that it directly relates to gender equality in the workplace and the gender pay gap. And why? Because women end up having to take more time off work. They end up retiring with a lot less money because they’ve had to take time off work because they’ve had to take career breaks to have families. And so, there are many facets to this issue, but I really believe it directly ties into gender equality in the workplace.

Naomi Seddon (00:25:46):
We’re three years down the track and I feel like, every single day now, I’m seeing updates and articles and events around the world talking about some aspect of women’s health, endometriosis. Menopause is being talked about a lot more. We’ve got the UK government that are now looking at this issue and looking to implement more laws around menopause, because they recognize that we are entering a phase where we are going to have more women of older ages in the workforce. So, I think it’s really exciting that we are starting to see this more. I think, we’re definitely starting to see a lot more change in this area.

Naomi Seddon (00:26:27):
And, I have to say, a couple of things happened last year that were absolutely amazing. In Australia and New Zealand, we saw new laws introduced, where women are now entitled to paid leave for miscarriage, and that’s miscarriage from day one of pregnancy right up through to term. So, we’re starting to see some changes in this space. So, I think there are some things to be really positive about in this space. And, what we tend to see, the law often takes a long time to catch up, but when we start to see change within governments, within particular countries, very slowly, we often will see change within other countries. So we’re starting finally to talk about paid parental leave in the US which is amazing. I do think that it’s going to take some time, but I do think that we will start seeing some change in this space.

Naomi Seddon (00:27:23):
But I think the key to change in any area is better advocacy. We need more people talking out about their experiences and supporting these issues. And I think we also need more leaders within organizations to not just sit back and wait for legal change to happen, but actually start implementing, proactively implementing, some change within organizations. And I do think we are seeing that on a global scale. We’re definitely seeing companies within the US, within Australia, even within countries such as India, starting to look at some of these issues, not just because it is the right thing to do, because it’s a good thing to do for your people, but also because there literally is a business case for this.

Naomi Seddon (00:28:11):
The research shows us, time and again, that diverse teams outperform and that there are real tangible benefits to finding better ways to support your employees. So, I think we are starting to see some really good change in this area, and I think that we will continue to do so. And one of the reasons why we will continue to do so is because, employees are standing up and demanding more. Employees are still withdrawing from the workforce. Employees are actively seeking out companies that have better policies, better benefits programs to support them and their family. And so, change is going to be driven by demand. Supply and demand, it’s basic economics. But, we all have a role to play in this, because we all need to be demanding more of organizations to really start affecting change on a global scale.

Rachel Murray (00:29:14):
That was Naomi Seddon, international lawyer, non-executive director of Megaport Limited, Endometriosis Australia and Surrogacy Australia, and the author of Milk and Margaritas.

Rachel Murray (00:29:24):
Next we speak with Reem Papageorgiou, co-founder and chief talent officer at MomUp.

Felicia Jadczak (00:29:28):
A lot of times, when we’re talking about societal and systemic changes, it comes from different areas. So it can come from people. It can come from parents. It can come from moms, whoever, people who work for companies like MomUp. And, in your opinion, do you think that pushing this, I guess, the edge on this front, in terms of how we support women and parents and all this stuff that you’ve just been talking about, should that come more from a policy standpoint, like a government standpoint? Or, do you think it’s more likely that that change can come directly from companies themselves? Who has the power to, who’s doing it, and who’s not doing it who should be doing it?

Reem Papageorgiou (00:30:11):
Right. So, before I answer that, let me talk about the demographic I work with. I work with phenomenal women. I mean, as we grow, I don’t want to let go of that piece, because I get to talk to women in all industries, all the time, who are rock stars. But what I can tell you is, these are the issues they are facing. And, I just want to say, to the companies in general, “Wake up, because you’re missing out on some fantastic talent.”

Reem Papageorgiou (00:30:49):
And so, whose responsibility is it? I would say both. So, I think companies often think about their product and being the top. Let’s say it’s a product company and their top product and how to market that product and how to stand out, yes, that brings the money in. But guess what? What if you’re top parental support company as well? That’s going to affect the sales of your product. That’s going to affect your team. So I think there are things companies can do, if you will, but I do think there is a bigger need from the government, because it takes money and it takes support.

Reem Papageorgiou (00:31:22):
And I don’t think people take advantage. There’s always going to be those people. But I’ve also worked in that world, and the issues are real, and the disparities are real, and the inequities are real, so we need to address them.

Rachel Murray (00:31:38):
Okay, so that was fantastic also. I want to play flip side to that. So, business owner, small business owner, you have resources but you don’t have endless resources, and you’re worried and you have these anxieties, but you want to be fair and equitable, and you want to make sure that you’re treating everyone fairly. We’re not talking about companies that have all the millions of dollars. Shame on them for those big old CEOs that have all those profits and aren’t sharing it. But, for those that are smaller, trying to figure it out how to be fair, what would you say to folks like that? And do you have clients like that? Or, are they the bigger ones that need to just, period, wake up?

Reem Papageorgiou (00:32:20):
I love it. We have clients that run across the board, so we work with a lot of startups. We also work with a lot of small business owners. And then we do have some big accounts with kind of your more kind of corporate setup.

Reem Papageorgiou (00:32:31):
To speak to the smaller or the lean startup, I would say, “Go back to being human. There are so many other ways, without all of this in place. Go back to being human. Go back to trust.” I mean, I will never forget feeling like I arrived in my career, when I didn’t have to ask to go to my doctor’s appointment. I didn’t have to check. And that sounds so simple, but I was more driven to my company and to my responsibilities, I will never forget that day, where I just walked out and then I came back, and no one had to know and I didn’t have to ask anyone.

Reem Papageorgiou (00:33:09):
The trust, and this sounds so simple, but I think… If you’re a small business owner, so maybe you can’t financially offer a ton, but you can say, “What do you need? What do you need this month? What do you need long term? What works for you? What’s not working for you? How can we work around this?” I mean, there’s so many creative ways. And obviously, if the work’s not getting done, that’s another issue. That’s not just based on helping provide for your employee. So I think it’s simple, but sometimes I think we have to go back to simple.

Rachel Murray (00:33:41):
Next, we have Charis Loveland, global program manager of the digital innovation team responsible for scaling emotional intelligence and success across Amazon.

Charis Loveland (00:33:49):
Corporations are waking up to this realization that we’re really effective and efficient and can do our best work when given the flexibility to do so. And that’s been a resounding theme of my career. I remember when I went on my maternity leave and kind of negotiating for enough weeks home with my daughter, and my boss asking me point blank if I was going to quit if I didn’t get some flexibility and the ability to work from home a couple of days. And I said, “Well, I don’t plan to, but I really think that I can be just as effective working from home a couple of days,” and was able to prove that I was.

Charis Loveland (00:34:26):
It also is a great way to encourage these diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives because, at least for me, I had a period of my career where I was having a really hard time maintaining a full-time role while being a single mom. My daughter was in about third grade, and I was really responsible, the sole person responsible, for driving her to and from school, participating in after school activity. So I made a very conscious decision to freelance for a couple of years, so that my daughter could be my focus. And so, I took a real break from corporate. I did some freelance gigs. I did some kind of temporary assignments, a lot of consulting work, a lot of writing of newsletters.

Charis Loveland (00:35:10):
And, I’m really glad that I did that, because that flexibility allowed me to both pay my bills and really emphasized my daughter. So I’m hoping that this type of remote first work can really introduce more folks who feel like they don’t have the bandwidth to do a full-time job, and allow them to engage more in the workforce. Because we need those voices. That’s how we’re going to continue to get the diverse voices to bring to the table.

Rachel Murray (00:35:37):
Here’s Rhonda Vonshay Sharpe from WISER.

Rhonda Vonshay Sharpe (00:35:40):
What I would say is, the biggest challenge is just to really get people to think about intersectionality, period, beyond, again, what I like to think is in the banal way. People will do Black women, but they don’t necessarily think about, it’s not just being a Black woman or an Asian woman, it is, okay, I’m an Asian woman in hemages.

Rhonda Vonshay Sharpe (00:36:03):
WISER Wednesday this week was about, I’m an Asian woman and I live in rural America. That’s a very different person than the Asian woman who lives in New York. It is about thinking about me as a Black woman and, am I married? Am I not married? Am I educated? Am I not educated? Do I have children? Do I not have children? Those, I think, are the intersections that people aren’t thinking about. And we, at WISER, part of the reason we advocate for disaggregating data is, we believe that it changes the ways in which you can see the nuances and outcomes. And so, we ask people to disaggregate data by the characteristics believed to influence an outcome.

Rhonda Vonshay Sharpe (00:36:44):
So, if you think about this whole wealth inequality conversation, that’s an aggregate conversation. It is Black, white. Or, if you think about even something like STEM, people will talk about the representation of women in STEM, women in tech. But when you drill down on that, and you start thinking about who those women are, it matters. In econ, there’s conversation about diversity in econ. I can tell you that women are 32% of the degrees at the PhD level. But when you drill down on that, if you are American-born or you are a permanent resident, yeah, you are not getting the degree. International women get more PhDs in economics than white men who are permanent residents or native born. That intersection is not just a race intersection. It is to begin to think about, what is your family structure? What is your educational attainment? What is your nativity? Because all of those things, I think, really influence the ways in which diversity happens.

Rhonda Vonshay Sharpe (00:37:51):
And for certain issues around policy, I think, and especially in the DEI space, if you’re not thinking about nativity, you can have some problems. Within the Black community, there’s word that says, native born Blacks do worse than immigrant Blacks. And I think what people forget is… And there’s a researcher out of Princeton who’s done some work and she’s like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s not the comparison. The comparison should be, Blacks who migrated to the north for economic opportunities.” Because if you’re leaving a space for economic opportunities, you understand that wherever you are in life is not going to be the best place for you or your family. That’s the comparison, not Black in the aggregates.

Rhonda Vonshay Sharpe (00:38:30):
So, for us, the problem with intersection, I haven’t seen to be generational as much as I have seen that, again, people want to talk about folks in the aggregate. As a Black woman who doesn’t have children, I don’t have the same experience as many Black women who have kids, whether they’re married or not. But I also like to say, in this conversation about women back to work, to remind people that they’re not talking about women, they’re talking about moms. And so if you invite me to panel to talk about women coming back to work, I want it to be a conversation about women. Stop valuing me by what my womb has produced.

Rhonda Vonshay Sharpe (00:39:06):
And that, to me, is another conversation in this DEI space. We don’t want to separate moms or parents, however that’s defined, from those who don’t necessarily have children. And then we don’t think about the biases at workplaces for those who have kids. And academia is notorious for that. Some institutions give you money for your child to go to school. But if you don’t have kids, you don’t get that money. Can I get a bump in my salary? Can I pick a niece or nephew, a friend to get that free tuition? When you’re talking about bias, we tend to think gender, race. We don’t think family structure.

Rachel Murray (00:39:42):
Here’s SGO’s own, Fatima Dainkeh, giving us her thoughts on avoiding traps when creating inclusive policies.

Fatima Dainkeh (00:39:48):
I know folks are out there who love policies, right? It’s like, we’re asking, what are the policies that exist? How can we make them inclusive? And how can we make sure that we’re not running into any traps?

Fatima Dainkeh (00:40:01):
Policies only serve a purpose when the culture is able to meet the policies. Why? That’s because you cannot legislate behaviors or love. And I’m using the term love because, as I think about my journey as a DEI practitioner, and I think about historical events in the US, whether it’s the Women’s Rights Movement, Civil Rights Movement and so forth, we’ve had so many laws and policies that have been put in place, but we are still struggling with the same things, because the truth is, something that’s written on paper does not directly influence my unconscious beliefs and biases. I have to do that internal work, right? So if you are creating policies, that’s awesome, but make sure you got some culture work change happening as well.

Fatima Dainkeh (00:40:50):
So with that said, with inclusive policies, you really want to take your time and think about who’s missing in the whole process, from beginning to end. And when I say the process, I’m thinking, before you even decide to create policies, ask yourself, what policies do we need within this workplace or organization, that will literally have a DEI, AADEI, BDEI, J, whatever acronym folks are using, lens, to make sure that when folks enter this workplace, when they’re working here, they have clear guidelines of what we stand for? They also understand any consequence that might come into play if those guidelines are breached.

Fatima Dainkeh (00:41:35):
So, I often think about a few policies when I think about inclusive policies. I think about, what does work life integration look like? Do we have a policy for how much time people can take off? Is it unlimited vacation? Do you have paid time off? Are there holidays that you have on your calendar that are not representative of holidays that some of your employees celebrate? Is it mostly white and Christian holidays that you give the okay for to take off? Or do you have a diverse pool of holidays and other types of dates that are important for your employees to take off?

Fatima Dainkeh (00:42:18):
I also think about grief and bereavement policies, especially most recently, because of the fact that the past couple of years we’ve been going through collective grief as a society, but then also, that collective grief, whether it’s because of COVID or pandemic, or because of police brutality or because of transphobia or because of xenophobia, the list goes on. I also recognize that some of the grief that’s happening isn’t on a personal level per se. I might need a day off, even if no one in my family was affected, because the community or the shooting that just happened impacted someone who looks like me, and I know that they were shot because of an identity that we both share.

Fatima Dainkeh (00:43:06):
I might also be grieving for another group of identities that I don’t share, but I know what it means to lose somebody on a personal level. And so, how our workplace is thinking about policies as it relates to making sure that people have what they need, making sure that people are supported, making sure that you have things like wellness stipend, or whatever the case may be, that people need to be able to show up at work.

Fatima Dainkeh (00:43:34):
I also think about parental leave. First of all, how are we calling it? I said parental leave, but some of the workplaces still have language like maternal or paternal leave. Our language is gendered. And so, inclusion comes into play when we think about the language that’s within our policies. Not everyone identifies as within the binary male or female, or mom and dad. How are we making sure that those policies are inclusive, but then also that the language that we’re using to describe the folks who could benefit from those policies are also inclusive?

Fatima Dainkeh (00:44:09):
And then the last one that comes to mind is just thinking about harassment and discrimination. Not just, this isn’t allowed here at this workplace, but what happens if something harmful occurs? What’s the resolution policy? A lot of times, organizations don’t have a transparent or clear process, so folks don’t even know, “What happens if I report this to HR? Who’s going to be negatively impacted? Will I lose my job?” People need that clear understanding of what are the things that might happen, so that they can make the conscious decision of doing or saying whatever they need to do, to make sure that they feel included in the workplace.

Fatima Dainkeh (00:44:51):
Obviously, there are hosts of other policies that are under the inclusive branch, but those are a handful that I can name right now.

Rachel Murray (00:44:59):
Next up, we talked to Grey Elam from the Central Park Conservancy, and CA Webb, former president of the Kendall Square Association, about their experiences working to expand representation on boards.

Grey Elam (00:45:10):
2022 has been our year of community engagement projects. And, I think, a number of projects, a number of organizations have applied that either want to establish or adapt existing advisory structures, so that they better represent their surrounding communities. And what’s been really interesting for Sarah and I is trying to unpack what people mean when they say community engagement.

Grey Elam (00:45:31):
We find that, you need to step back and look at what the desired outcome is. So, some organizations actually, when they say community engagement, they’re looking to foster stewardship, or they’re looking to increase donations, or they want to build up their government relations, so they just want to be in dialogue. And all of these things are good, there’s really no good or bad here, and they’re all necessary, frankly, to have a thriving non-profit. But it is important to get clear on what success is going to look like for them in one or five or 10 years, so that we can begin building up different strategies.

Grey Elam (00:46:04):
What does inclusivity mean in a public space or in a park? I think for us, one of the first things we tried to do is really grounded in, each conservancy is park users and their constituency. So for example, we had an organization come to us last year that wanted to diversify their board. And, the executive director was, as Sarah was saying, was really feeling the weight of this, the need to diversify the board, “Why hasn’t it happened already? How do I get there?” But she just wasn’t sure how to move the dial forward. Like many boards, recruitment is a kind of occurring through existing board members’ personal networks.

Grey Elam (00:46:41):
So for her and their board, Dan, there is no Dan but just bear with me, Dan might ask his friend Joel, who he plays golf with, to join the board because Joel’s a great guy and they get on well, and he has the capacity to meet the give get, which is really just a fancy way of saying the financial donation that board members are expected to give. And that’s great. That’s great. Joel is a great candidate, because we want board members to leverage their personal networks. But left unchecked, that personal network can really lead to this echo chamber over time.

Grey Elam (00:47:15):
And so, really, the first question that we asked was, how does the organization define diversity in relation to their park users? And that kind of comes back to the idea of, what does inclusivity look like? We’re looking at the demographics of their constituency, in relation to their core board through what’s referred to as a board matrix. Board matrices are really only as good as the information that you’re inventorying. And, I think that was a lesson learned for me last year as well. We are not experts. We are just kind of fumbling along like everybody else, but we have the world’s best intentions. And so, we often call on experts to help assist as needed. But a lot of it is kind of getting in the weeds and figuring it out. So, these board matrices, many organizations use them, but again, the success of the tool really depends on what type of information’s being inventoried.

Grey Elam (00:48:02):
There’s a multitude of really nuanced, expansive qualities that the communities that you serve embody. And, it’s important to consider that really expansive set of qualities, rather than just the top hits of race and age and gender, because I think that’s where organizations will fall into that tokenism trap. With that information in hand, we were then able to go to the board, because ultimately, board recruitment lives with the board. And, we were able to ask them what characteristics were really well represented based on those findings, what was not, where were the gaps. And we asked them to prioritize those gaps.

Grey Elam (00:48:38):
And, what came from this process was this very nuanced roadmap of characteristics that the board could then reference and continuously update, rather than relying on their personal networks or their hunches about what a diverse board looks like. They have this ever evolving kind of consensus based tool that they can roll it over time. And, it was really interesting working on this project last year, because there was this noticeable shift at the beginning of the project where the organization was really focused on diversifying their board, to the end of the project where they were more focused on building an inclusive board. And that really opened up the conversation for us to talk more about organizational culture, and not just bringing on the right people, but retaining who you have or how we talk to each other and whose voices are heard within a board.

Felicia Jadczak (00:49:29):
I feel like for a lot of folks, whether you’re on a board or if you’re familiar with boards, there’s this, I think, it’s an underlying assumption in reality that, it is, in a lot of ways, like a pay to play approach. There’s a financial aspect that’s expected of board members, a commitment that can vary, of course, depending on the organization. And I’m really curious if that has come up for you all in your work, especially with the partnerships lab, around this idea of, okay, we want to be more inclusive. We want to be more equitable. We want to reflect the populations that our organizations are serving. But, that might mean having to revise or dismantle or really fundamentally rethink what a board member, who a board member is, what they look like, how they even get into this space.

Felicia Jadczak (00:50:18):
And, I’m wondering if you could maybe speak to that a little bit more, because I think that is a really interesting space, where there’s still such a gatekeeping hurdle to get over for a lot of folks when they’re thinking about that role.

Grey Elam (00:50:29):
Boards play such a huge role for an organization, and it’s just really interesting to see and understand, and it’s a privilege to be able to look within an organization and see how they’re making decisions.

Grey Elam (00:50:40):
The give get, it is two-sided. It provides critical funds for the park. It is necessary. It helps organizations stay resilient in times of crisis. But it also can make recruitment really challenging, and it can make representation really challenging on a board. The organization that I spoke about a little bit earlier, where we developed that board matrix, we figured out, what are the characteristics that we want to… What is the full comprehensive, holistic range of characteristics that we want to recruit for, not just based on age, class and gender, but all of the many things that comprise their park constituency? We then used the findings from that matrix to come up with a strategy for recruitment to try to work around the obstacles of the give get. And so, we ended up coming up with this strategy of corporate sponsorship, in which a board could sponsor a seat, creating an opportunity for one of their employees to sit on the board.

Grey Elam (00:51:39):
And here’s the catch, the employee needs to align with those priorities for recruitment. They’re not an exception to it. They need to align with the findings of the matrix and what the board has determined is their plan for growth. And, what’s so great about that is it really relieves that individual to have the personal wealth or the network that allows them to meet that give get. And so you can get different perspectives. You can recruit from around the city in a way that you otherwise might not be able to.

Grey Elam (00:52:11):
The other thing we’ve seen some organizations do to address this issue of equity in the give get is to invite advisory board members, so folks who do not need to meet the give get but are still able to participate in the committee work. It looks different in each organization. There’s different needs for each organization. But the idea is, we need to broaden perspectives in how we get there.

CA Webb (00:52:34):
It’s hard to do this work with such a lean organization, where there are so few people to carry the work. We were always very leanly staffed. My team would probably always tell you, we were always understaffed and we were always trying to do too much with too little. And so as a leader, I was always really attuned to… We had hired people who were really committed to building an anti-racist organization, and culturally furthering an anti-racist Kendall Square. And yet, as the leader, I always felt a healthy tension around how much I expected them to add in to their work alongside everything else. So we were always looking for opportunities for integration.

CA Webb (00:53:20):
And what I found is, the team, over time, really consistently brought an anti-racist lens to literally everything we did. They started looking differently at our members and who was in the membership and who wasn’t. They started looking really critically, certainly at our own recruiting practices, ensuring that we had consistency around how we recruited, the kinds of interview questions we were asking, the kinds of assumptions we were bringing into the room around things like time or things like dress or people’s backgrounds or any number of things. We had really thoughtful team conversations. And then certainly, a lot of conversations about our board composition.

CA Webb (00:54:06):
And, it was during that time that I was charged, as the president of the organization, with helping the board chair and the chair of the nominating committee run an annual nominating committee process. And, it was the year that I was an IDI that I ran a different process. I recognized that just surfacing for the group that we were overly represented in terms of white men, and we were underrepresented in these other places really wasn’t enough. And I actually, finally just pulled all the metrics together and shared some benchmarks and created a lot of space to have conversations about those things.

CA Webb (00:54:48):
And it was through doing that that the group, the nominating committee as a group, really arrived at a shared commitment to bringing in a much more diverse slate of board directors than we ever had. And anyway, I could share more about that process, but it was pretty amazing. That year alone, we jumped something like 25 points in gender parity and, gosh, 15 or 18 points in racial diversity. And, as a leader, it just helped me, again, recognize spaces and places where I’d had privilege, I’d had awareness, but I frankly just hadn’t spent enough social capital to sustain a conversation and build enough collective buy-in to drive the change that was really needed.

Rachel Murray (00:55:40):
So, I would love to hear about how you went about diversifying your board, because I do think that that comes up quite a bit.

CA Webb (00:55:48):
Yeah, absolutely. So I think, our board of directors, when I joined, was disproportionately white men, many who’d been there for quite a while. So my first couple of cycles facilitating the nominating committee, I surfaced that. You both know me, I’m not shy. And so that was something I named when others didn’t. I put the idea on the table. It sparked conversation. There was always receptivity to it. But somehow, we did successfully add in some more white women. But we somehow never successfully, when it came time for the final slate to be named and voted, we kept not adding people of color. And, I stepped back the third time I was running this process and thought, “Okay, I cannot go back in and then do this again, and have a lot of willingness, but then a failure to get this willingness activated.”

CA Webb (00:56:48):
So the first thing I did was actually just, even though, I mean it’s a board of 30, you can visually scan a spreadsheet. You know everyone around the table. Everyone on the nominating committee had been a board director for a while. But I just said, “Okay, we’ve got to take a more metric-driven approach.” So we actually categorized each person by their industry. So we were able to look at industry mix, and have a point of view on that, seniority, by gender and by race. And, it was by having those absolute numbers, those ratios, and then committing a couple of meetings to just parsing those, just the group sitting with that information, asking questions, people wanted to know things like, “Well, how does this stack up against the population in Massachusetts or industry?” And then that prompted other people to say, “Does that matter? So what if the non-white population in Massachusetts is 15%?” It was that kind of thing where there just was a healthy tension in the room, where people said, “Is that the standard we want to cue to? What standard matters here?”

CA Webb (00:58:05):
And, it was really having a number of very, very open, honest conversations, that were sometimes uncomfortable or awkward, that got everyone to a place of real commitment to very dramatically diversifying the board. And, in that conversation, there was also the recognition that, if we’re an innovation community, we need to reflect true innovation mindset. We need many, many points of view to converge, to push our thinking about who we are now and who we want to grow up to be. So, it was that year that we shifted from, I think it was about 25% women to about 45% women, and then from 9% people of color to about 23%. And, it was wildly exciting. I mean, the slate we brought in that year, it was seven new directors, culturally transformed that board. They all came in with just amazing energy and incredible ideas. And, they were bold thinkers and they pushed us.

CA Webb (00:59:16):
And, it’s early days. This is all relatively recent. This was only a year and a half ago. But, it’s really, really exciting to see, I think, what this group will do. And, if there’s any takeaway for this podcast that I would hope everyone listening would consider is just, start now. Even if you don’t have seven open seats, you can start with one or two. And also, rules can be broken. Governance can be adjusted. You can add seats. You can rethink things. When I ran the New England Venture Capital Association, our board, when I arrived, was all VCs. And, one way we diversified that board was to say, “Okay, well, venture community is almost entirely white men.” It has improved some since I started that work 10 years ago. “If we really want diverse voices and perspectives on this board, what if we included founders on the board?”

CA Webb (01:00:13):
And, when we brought those entrepreneurs into the board experience, that also transformed that organization. It brought a really important mindset that hadn’t been there prior. And we had our best years as an organization after that governance change was made. So, there are a lot of ways to lead transformation, and often, we get in our own way because we get stuck in how we’ve done it before. And I was in danger of doing that myself of, again, for the third time around, doing it the way I had done it. I’m really grateful for the DEI journey I’ve been on as a leader, and the work we’ve done together in Inclusion Drives Innovation, because it helped me get unstuck.

Rachel Murray (01:01:02):
Thanks so much for listening. Please don’t forget to rate, share and subscribe. It makes a huge difference in the reach of this podcast and, by extension, this work. Make sure to tune in next week when we talk about DEI in the future of work.

Rachel Murray (01:01:13):
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Rachel Murray (01:01:34):
This episode was written, produced and edited by Vienna DiGiacomo, hosted by Felicia Jadczak and Rachel Murray. The guests featured in this episode where David Tedeschi, Anna Whitlock, Rhonda Vonshay Sharpe, Naomi Seddon, Reem Papageorgiou, Charis Loveland, Grey Elam and CA Webb. Our facilitators were Fatima Dainkeh and Felicia Jadczak. See you next time.