Advancing DEI in the Tech Sector with Bo Young Lee

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Bo Young Lee
About The Episode Transcript

In our latest episode, we speak with Bo Young Lee, President and Chief Impact Officer of, discussing her expertise in diversity, equity, and inclusion. Bo's experience at Uber and other major organizations highlights her impact in driving meaningful, positive change. Our conversation covers Bo's origin story, DEI backlash, supporting underrepresented people in the workplace, and insights on the tech industry. Don't miss out on the valuable resources available at to learn more about mitigating bias in various settings.

[00:02:14] Women in tech spaces shutting down.

[00:06:50] The changing tech industry landscape.

[00:08:05] Interview with Bo starts.

[00:08:52] Origin story and resilience.

[00:11:51] Embracing cultural identity in leadership.

[00:16:33] Anita Borg's Impact and Evolution.

[00:19:29] Challenges at Grace Hopper.

[00:24:27] Scarcity mindset in tech companies.

[00:27:15] Ethical considerations in tech industry.

[00:32:36] Leadership and tech ethics.

[00:36:29] Evolution of DEI initiatives.

[00:37:11] Diversity and inclusion initiatives.

[00:41:16] Embracing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

[00:47:20] Diversity and Perception.

[00:48:45] Diversity and Inclusion

[00:54:05] Organizations in DEI space landscape.

[00:57:43] Creating an alternative version of capitalism.

[00:58:59] Privacy and social media boundaries.


(00:06 - 00:15) Felicia Jadczak: place.  I'm  Felicia. (00:15 - 01:12) Rachel Murray: And I am Rachel. And this week, we chat with Bo Young Lee, President of, Advisory and Interim Chief Impact Officer. Bo is a globally renowned expert in human capital, diversity, equity and inclusion, as well as ESG. She has over two decades of experience driving transformational change across major organizations. Bo recently served as Uber's first Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer, leading the company to become an award-winning leader in DEI. Under her tenure, the representation of underrepresented minorities and women in leadership roles significantly increased. Prior to Uber, Bo held leadership roles at companies such as Marsh McLennan, Aon Hewitt, and Ernst & Young. She's a busy, busy lady. She's an influential voice frequently quoted in major publications and has advised numerous Fortune 500 companies on achieving their DEI goals. Also, she's just a delightful human. 

(01:12 - 01:32) Felicia Jadczak: Indeed. We talked about a lot, including Bo's origin story and superhero origins are not around that. We talked about the DEI backlash, how to support underrepresented folks in workplaces. We talked about the tech industry and spaces like the Grace Hopper Celebration for Women in Computing and much, much more.

(01:33 - 02:03) Rachel Murray: But before we get on to that, the pre-pre before we get on to that, I wanted to make sure that you know that we have a ton of resources available online and you can check them out at If you want to learn more about ways to mitigate bias in the workplace and the world, we've got you covered. Sign up for our mailing list at forward slash podcast for free access to our mini course on women at work, creating a gender inclusive workplace and learn more about what else we have to offer.

(02:03 - 02:06) Felicia Jadczak: All right, let's get into it before we get into it.

(02:08 - 02:14) Rachel Murray: Well, and it'll all be related because we wanted to chat this time about women in tech spaces and why they're shutting down.

(02:14 - 02:40) Felicia Jadczak: Yeah. So, you know, for anyone who's listening who doesn't know, we started off life as a community for women in tech and tech adjacent roles. And, you know, our communities had a lot of challenges over the last few years, especially, but we've also noticed that in the last couple of years, a lot of these specific women in tech spaces have shut down. And I know, Rachel, you just wrote a whole blog post about the latest one. Do you want to tell us a little bit more about that?

(02:42 - 03:18) Rachel Murray: Yeah, so it's very sadly, Women Who Code, which is a nonprofit that's been around for decades, really kind of suddenly shut down. And that was a real bummer and not the only one. Portland Women in Technology also shut down and another organization called SheGeek shut down. And we certainly had our own challenges in 2020 and beyond for our own reasons. Yeah, yeah. I think we ended up talking about it with Beau, but we can share a little bit about our experience.

(03:19 - 05:14) Felicia Jadczak: Yeah. I mean, I think so again, just to kind of put everything into context. So leading up to 2020 to really February, March, 2020, we really sort of had, we called it the two sides of the house. And so we had a very active community of women and other marginalized genders. And again, in tech and tech adjacent roles. And we were running events in Boston, the New York area and the San Francisco Bay area. So multiple events a month in each of those locations. Then we had our DEI training and the workshops, training, consulting, and all the work that we are still doing. Again, we had these two separate but related parts of what we were doing. Then when the pandemic hit, it really put a kibosh on that because it was so hard to have in-person events. We tried doing these virtual events. The one event that I will always remember is the one that Facebook had hosted us. It was supposed to be in person, and then we made the very quick switch to have it be virtual. It was a great event. They sent out cookies and wine and all these people. Really, kudos to you, Rachel, because you really leaped into action. I think it was that first week in March, or whatever it was, the second week in March, first or second week, whenever it was that we knew that things were happening and we weren't really sure what was going on, you, I think, on that Tuesday, I want to say, had already leaped into action. You found these different platforms. I'm pretty sure if I go back to the calendar, I can find Tuesday. I want to say it was Tuesday. where you were like, let's, you know, do a trial run of this platform that I found. And you really just were all over that. So we're like using these cool platforms where we could like interact with people. But it just was really hard to keep going because everyone was online and remote all of a sudden. And Zoom fatigue, Zoom fatigue was real.

(05:15 - 06:29) Rachel Murray: Absolutely. And and then we thought we'd be able to sort of bring it back last year. And we did. We had a couple of really lovely, successful events. But we found that the sponsors that we had prior to the pandemic weren't sponsoring and just there wasn't budget for it was something that was cut. So there just wasn't that interest in it. And then on the community side, you know, we thought about it. We're asking folks to potentially a lot of them leave their homes and their comfortable clothing to go out to an office to network and then go back. Before this, it was very easy for people. A lot of them were already at the office and they would sort of swing by a networking event on their way home. So there's just that inertia factor, the friction was a little bit higher. So I think on both sides, it just made the in-person events really tricky. So, you know, it's kudos to Anita B for still creating incredible spaces, as well as some of the other organizations that are still there, Lesbian 2 Tech, Girl Geek Acts, who are really there to just show up for this community that is, there's still a lot of work that needs to be done. And I will include a link to our blog post so people can read more about it.

(06:29 - 07:53) Felicia Jadczak: Yeah, there's so much more info and data in that post. I think also everyone's shifted, right? The world has shifted. We're all in different spaces right now. It doesn't mean that we don't still need spaces like this, but the way that we are interacting and how we show up and what we're looking for has definitely changed. Another thought that we kind of get a little bit into with Beau as a sort of sneak peek is we talk about especially in the tech industry, the downsizing. And as Bo puts it, the resizing. The rightsizing. The rightsizing. Yes. Thank you. I was like, it was an R. What was it? The rightsizing of companies. And we really thought, and when was this? Gosh. 2021, 2022, there was the Great Resignation. It was like, oh, the powers with the people and everyone was changing jobs and companies, I think, were really scrambling to catch up. I really think that if we had tried to revisit in-person events at that point, it might have been a little bit different. Shocker, that Great Resignation didn't last very long. And I think that's another dynamic, too, where we are seeing that the value proposition for companies is just really different. The need for people to have community is still absolutely very, very critical, and I think even more critical nowadays. But how we do that, it's just a really tough nut to crack.

(07:53 - 08:02) Rachel Murray: Yeah, yeah. But we have some thoughts. Stay tuned for future episodes for our future plans. And OK, well, let's get on to our discussion with Bo.

(08:05 - 08:12) Felicia Jadczak: Right. Hi, Rachel. Hey, Felicia. We are so excited to say hello to Beau today. Hi, Beau.

(08:12 - 08:14) Bo Young Lee: Hey, Felicia. Hey, Rachel.

(08:14 - 08:34) Felicia Jadczak: Great to be here. Yes, we are already getting into some convos off the record, so now we're on the record. So before we get into anything else, let's just start with the beginning. So can you talk a little bit about your origin story and your current role at Anita Borg and, you know, just anything else on that front that you'd like to share with us. Let's get into it.

(08:34 - 08:48) Bo Young Lee: Sure. Sure. I love that fact that you call it the origin story because that's actually an exercise I do with some of my coaching clients where I'm, I said, how do super superheroes get their power? They have an origin story, right? That explains their superpower.

(08:48 - 08:52) Felicia Jadczak: Yes, we definitely take the superhero lens. I love that you do as well.

(08:52 - 14:56) Bo Young Lee: Yeah. Origin story. I'll try to say it as quickly quickly as possible, although it's a little bit like it's a winding road. So I am a first generation immigrant. I came to the United States as a child. That's really a big part of my own personal narrative, but part of being an immigrant and specifically a Korean immigrant is that my parents, my father was a North Korean refugee. He grew up in refugee camps in South Korea for much of his adolescence. My mother was actually orphaned during the Korean War, so she lost both of her parents by the age of seven. And you can imagine that those experiences craft a certain worldview and a certain world lens. For me, I think they were very resilient people, obviously, but also they had this incredible life experience of deep poverty, deep inequity. And so growing up, my parents, I think there's a lot of narratives about what the stereotypical Asian immigrant parent is like. My parents obviously had some of those attributes, like they focused on education, they focused on working hard, but my parents were also very different in that they were very free thinkers. My father in particular, he was a feminist before it was cool for men to be feminists, and he had four daughters. And he also, one of the byproducts of him growing up in refugee camps that were largely run by UN and US forces post-Korean War, is that he what he got to witness as a child, the segregation, the US Army was still segregated at that point in time, particularly on the eastern front, so he got to witness the segregation of the American forces of the black. you know, army and military, you know, stayed here. The whites stayed here. They never intermingled with each other. And so when I came to the United States and when we came to the United States, my father was very, very adamant that we were aware of that racism and that those various different systems of hierarchy that American culture was predicated on. And so He just wanted us to make sure as minorities, as women, we understood how the systems worked and I think that that was very those left lasting impression for me and like for example, from a very young age my dad would say things like, you can try to act like them look like them talk like them. walk like them, dress like them, inherit all of their cultural attributes. And he goes, but the thing is, is that when the shit hits the fan and it always does, he's like, the first thing that they're going to judge you on is this. And, and he was so Christian because if you look back to what happened during COVID and the all the rise of the anti-Asian hate, I think a lot of Asian Americans, especially East Asian Americans, were caught off guard by just the level and the fierceness of that hate. But that was exactly what my dad was talking about, right? He was like, it doesn't matter how much you try to be white adjacent, Or, you know, if you try to internalize toxic masculinity at the end of the day, you are different. They're going to treat you differently. So don't try to be like them. Be very independent. And I think I've always had that very independent streak. My sisters have as well. And I didn't set off 20 some odd years ago to have a career in DEI, but I started off like any kid who did really well in school, who didn't know what they wanted to do. I became a management consultant. That's what I always called management consulting. The refuge, it's a smart and aimless, right? If you don't know what you want to do, you want to make some money, go here for a while. And I did that. And then I went to business school. And it was really in business school where, and this was back in 2000, 2001, I recognized that nothing about the way in which business was constructed, nothing about the way that we think about leadership is built on a leader looking like me, a leader having my attributes as a woman, immigrant, Korean-American, eventually the mother, demisexual, queer person, disabled. I was like, nothing I'm learning here actually helps me. Nothing here actually helps me, with all my various different attributes, become a leader. And that's really where I began my DEI journey. And so for 20 years, 20 plus years, I think I was at a pivot point and about a year ago, and Brenda Darden Wilkerson and I, who are very close friends, she reached out to me and she's just like, hey, I think mission driven organizations like ours need to start really rethinking how we fulfill our mission, right? We're too dependent on corporations. We're too dependent on people giving us money, seeing our value and giving us money based on the value they perceive. We have to come in and build, start creating our own value. And she's like, will you come and help me create that? the different modalities of operation and I said, I love it right Anita B has been around for so many decades, it has really one could argue, it has defined what the narrative is in the tech space. And now it's trying to redefine even what that looks like. And it was just a very exciting business proposition for me. So I've been here for a little under a year, and it's been such a wild journey, especially now. I think when I joined a year ago, when I started talking with Brenda, I knew that there was a DEI backlash, but it wasn't even at the stage that it is now. It has escalated so much in the last six months and I feel like everything happens for a reason and I could not be at a more important place to be navigating those choppy waters right now. So yeah, that's a little bit of my origin story and kind of how I got here to Anita B.

(14:56 - 16:11) Felicia Jadczak: Love that. Thank you for sharing. I know we're going to get deeper into a lot of what you touched on already, but as you were sharing just now, I was on mute, but just sort of making and nodding along because a lot of what you share resonates. And I just wanted to say really quickly, it's so great to be able to chat with you directly because my background and Rachel's is as well, we're both come from the tech space and we were talking before we started recording around tech and tech-adjacent and those dynamics. We've certainly both played in that space. But I remember when I was working for VMware, which was my job right before coming or starting SGO with Rachel, that's how I actually started to know of Anita Borg. Now I need to be, of course. I was one of those companies submitting our data, getting value from that interaction, working with you all, and thinking about spaces like Grace Hopper. What I wanted to say was, even in the brief time that you've been at the helm, it's been such a dynamic shift. And how the organization is interacting with people I think a large part and do to you in that role so it's just been really refreshing to see so just wanted to share that personal experience.

(16:11 - 18:39) Bo Young Lee: Before we get further into you more yeah and I appreciate that, and I would really say like Brenda I think. She joined at such a pivotal point right she what became president in 2017 first black female president and CEO of Anita B and I think, at the time like I remember so I was working at that time I was working at Marsh McLennan companies as their chief diversity officer. I remember, so I was, I'd been in the field for a really long time and I knew the reputation for Anita B and, you know, Anita B had done such amazing work but I think it also had the reputation like a lot of organizations do that are in the DEI space and specifically focused on women that it was explicitly about white women. Right. And I remember when Brenda wasn't appointed at that point in time I didn't know her I was like, oh my god, how's this going to work out right how is this going to work out with a black female CEO coming into the organization that has a reputation for being focused mostly on white women, which is ironic because the tech, if you look at the tech women and non-binary landscape. It's really the women landscape. It is actually majority Asian, yet he was an organization that was focused on what was a minority. And so I kind of wondered, how is this going to work? Like, how is this like, how is this woman going to lead this? And I think she was very brave in taking the role, but she has, while she has kept true to the mission and the vision that Tully Whitney and Anita Borg had set off to create, which is like, that there's power in number, that there's power in women coming together and celebrating each other. She's also expanded that remit to really identify, like, what does it mean to even be a woman? Like, what are the boundaries of it? That's why, you know, the mission was expanded to non-binary technologists, because we know that within that non-binary space, there are a lot of people who are femme identified and they're not, there's no space for them. And I think a lot of that change that you're seeing is, you know, while I appreciate the love, and I certainly feel like I am adding value to the organization and helping it navigate a very, very difficult period of time, I think, you know, the mission, the intersectional lens that Brenda brought in, you know, X number of years ago that she has been very slowly but very persistently pushing is also helping us navigate. If she hadn't come in in 2017, if she hadn't said, hey, let's expand our definition of what women are and how we view them and how we support the community, I don't know that we'd be prepared right now in this time. So I just wanted to also add that to the story as well.

(18:39 - 18:41) Felicia Jadczak: No, I love that. Thank you.

(18:41 - 18:45) Rachel Murray: Yeah. And look, we're just we're going to fangirl like that's just for you.

(18:45 - 18:50) Bo Young Lee: So just accept the love. I will. I will. I will. I will accept it. Thank you.

(18:50 - 19:29) Rachel Murray: Good. Good. I wanted to also just talk a little bit more about Grace Hopper, too. And the with Grace Hopper recently, there was a there was a whole big curve, I forgot about it, I shouldn't include this question, with men coming in to this women non-binary space and just wanted to say that I watched your video and thought you handled it beautifully. But just to talk a little bit about some of those challenges as we're seeing these backlashes into these spaces that are supposed to be safer for women non-binary folks, how was that experience?

(19:29 - 26:09) Bo Young Lee: Yeah. No, I mean, I had been to many Grace Hoppers before 2023, never as part of the staff, but always there. And I knew how, you know, I don't think it's an understatement to say, like, the space is kind of sacred, right? A lot of women who go for the very first time would have told you it was life-changing, it was perception-changing, just coming and seeing that many women all being together, supporting each other. And that was shattered last year. And the crazy thing is we've always had men participate, right? We've always invited them. We've never tried to filter them out. We've never had a test to say, are you the right kind of man to be here? And so we actually went in and we'd never really had issues with safety or security before last year. And so last year really caught us off guard. I mean, we have been putting on GHC for 26 years. And not once in the history have we had that. And it was profoundly eye opening for us and we were doing a lot in the moment to try to navigate all of this kind of stuff. That really difficult week. And it's interesting because I should say like it was very much a tale of two stories. If you had, if you were there for the sessions right if you're there to learn and develop and grow and network. And if you didn't go to into the career expo hall, you were kind of find you had a great bridge to the same beautiful GHC experience that anyone else had. But if you were there explicitly for the career fair, and unfortunately, a lot of people were there for the career fair because there, you know, a lot of companies last year and continue into this year, as we see, have been cutting back, right? They've been, and I've been, I've been using the language, I'm very intentional in the language that I use. Companies have not been, you know, downsizing, they've been rightsizing. We know that the last few, several, probably past five years, companies, tech companies in particular, have been growing with very little, in adding headcount, with very little thought to like, is this a sustainable level of growth? And I can say that with real experience, because, you know, I was at Uber for the last five years, and the CEO of Uber, Dara, whom I know very well and consider him, you know, somebody that, you know, I have a very good relationship with, he was very explicit during that same period of time, because he was trying to grow Uber sustainably. We're not going to bloat like the rest of the tech companies are. We're going to be very, very thoughtful in how we grow. And I do my due diligence when I join any organization. So I remember when Uber approached me in late 2017 to join as their first chief diversity officer, I did some research. I saw that Uber at that point in time was about 18,000 people. And I noticed that Facebook meta was about double that size, kind of like mid-30, like high 20s, mid-30,000 people or so. So Uber was 18,000, meta had about double the headcount. By the time 2017, I mean, not 2017, by the time 2022 had come around, Uber had grown to about 22,000. So we'd added about 4,000. Meta was, I think, close to 100,000. That's the headcount growth from that same period of time. So Uber added 4,000. Meta added almost tripled in size. So there was this incredible growth over that, late teens to early 20s period for a lot of tech companies and they got really bloated. And then they suddenly realized this is not right. This is we're too big. And so they started cutting headcount, but they're not they weren't cutting headcount because they were unprofitable. We know that their profits were just fine. They were right sizing from their own poor decision making. So that then created the scarcity where companies were not doing a lot of hiring that had reverberating impact on campuses. It created a scarcity mindset. We know that Grace Hopper, one of the things that we always say is, Grace Hopper, you can get a job at Grace Hopper. And that is true. So what resulted was this huge influx of men coming onto, like we had the highest percentage of men ever coming to Grace Hopper. And they were there not as allies, as most men in the past have been. They were not there as champions of DEI. They could care less about DEI, as we saw. And they came in and they felt this, like, I have to be aggressive. I have to do all this thing. And the crazy thing is, when women are feeling safe, we live up to our highest potential, which is we are generous and we are kind and we are and we are communitarian and we build each other up. But the thing is, like these men came into the space, they became aggressive because they had scarcity mindset. And then the women, rather than going, this is not OK, they're like, I have to become aggressive. I have to start. And then they start engaging in the same kind of toxic, masculine, individualistic behavior. that they saw the men engaging in, and it just became this incredibly desperate period of time. And on top of that, afterwards, we also had to do some research. We realized also that we were targeted as well, because what we saw is that other other organizations in our same mission group, like SWE, they had the exact same problem like two months later. We know that NSBE, National Society of Black Engineers, they also had a similar dynamic as well, where these interlopers started instigating more aggression, more violent. And we believe that that's a part of the anti-DEI backlash. And so this year, while we are going in and we're going to celebrate, right, it's the Grace Hopper celebration. It's not the Grace Hopper conference, right? It's a celebration. We're going to go in. We're going to celebrate. We're going to support women. We're going to celebrate women and non-binary technologists. We're going to learn. We're going to network. We're going to grow. But we're going to all do it with a little bit wiser. There's that saying, fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. We don't want to shame on us, so we are taking appropriate measures to make sure that while, again, we're creating a welcoming space for everybody, and we are, again, welcoming men into this space, we are not going to discriminate against them in any way, shape, or form. We're being much, much smarter about how we're moving forward. And I can't share the details about how we're going to do that because, obviously, those are part of the magic, but we learned a lot from that experience.

(26:10 - 26:16) Felicia Jadczak: Thank you so much for digging into that. Rachel, anything else you wanted to add before I jump back in? Go ahead.

(26:16 - 26:17) Rachel Murray: That was really helpful.

(26:17 - 27:14) Felicia Jadczak: So insightful. And as someone who's attended many Grace Hoppers in the past, I was actually at the 2014 Grace Hopper celebration, which I don't know if you were there, but that was when it was the sort of infamous male allies panel with the head of GoDaddy, where there was a big kerfuffle around that. It's not a new problem, of course, but it's really helpful to hear some of the newer dynamics that are leading to some of these issues that are popping up. With all that in mind, I'd love to actually have you talk a little bit more about what you see as maybe the most stubborn or persisting obstacles and biases that still hold those who do have marginalized identities hold folks back in tech, especially given this dynamic of the scarcity mindset. Companies are rightsizing, in your words. Is that the biggest obstacle or do you see that there's still other factors at play?

(27:15 - 32:25) Bo Young Lee: Well, so that's a great question. You know, a little personal information. So I'm in the process right now of applying for a master's. And I always tell people, like, you know, I'm 48 years old, but you're never too old to grow and learn and evolve. So I'm in the process right now of applying for a part time master's in AI ethics at Cambridge. And I'm hoping that I get in. Sending out. big energy if I get in. But part of the reason why I want to retrain as an ethicist is because I actually think the broader issue within the tech industry is that it is fundamentally a question of ethics. And the thing that I really learned having been tech adjacent for the vast majority of my career is that the tech industry as a whole, it's not that the tech industry is particularly immoral. It's not like they go around and they're all like saying, how can I do the worst possible thing in the world? Some people are probably thinking that, but the vast majority aren't. But I think the thing about the tech industry is people are fundamentally trained to believe that their decisions and the things that they build are amoral, meaning it is without moral context. And we know that that's fundamentally not true, right? Everything that is done has a moral ethical consequence, whether we think about it or not. And I think, and so that's what, and how does that apply to then DEI, right? It applies to DEI because again, like the decisions we make about who we hire, who we promote, who we take under our wing, while we're doing it really based for most people, they're not saying, okay, I'm gonna, mentor this person, or I'm going to champion this person because they're white like me. They're not thinking that. They're thinking, this person reminds me of a young version of me, and so I'm going to take them under my wing. But if you just make decisions based on what feels validating to you without any thought about the larger systemic impact, you end up with these deeply inequitable, deeply racist, or deeply sexist environments without even recognizing it. And I think a lot of decisions are made that way, whether it's from a DEI lens or another lens, they make these decisions without thinking about the moral and ethical consequences. And so I think AI is a perfect example of that right now. We know that there's been a lot of very rapid AI advancement. And these companies are trying to one-up each other. So every time they make an advancement, they just kind of launch it into the greater populace without any thought to like, hmm, should we actually be Should we be allowing people in mass scale to be utilizing a tech where if you have the photo of somebody and you have one flip it of their voice, you can make a deep fake of them saying anything you want, which we know that like several of the organizations, I won't name them, but we all know who they are, are releasing to the public. And I'm just like, we already have a problem with deep fakes and you're just making it easier to create a deep fake without any guardrails. That's, I think, the release of a lot of these AI, you know, tools right now is so deeply unethical. And I'm like, what's going on here? So I think the bigger issue is that like, people aren't thinking about the the impact that their products and tools are having in the broader sense, right? So I, you know, I joined Uber, you know, as their first chief diversity officer in a very pivotal point in time in their history, and I was there for about five and a half years. And one of the questions that I would get from so many people are, how could you know, now that you're there, Why do you think they made such bad choices? Why do you think that they didn't invest early on in safety and security? Why don't we think about it? And I go back to this conversation, this theory that I have, that they were not thinking about the long-term implications of what they were building. They were just building it because they could. They're like, we can build a whole network where people use their own cars to pick other people up and take them and at the touch of a button. How cool is that? And not thinking about, hmm, women, trans people, non-binary people, people with disabilities, so many other communities. Safety is such a fundamental part of how any of us navigate the world. And you have a bunch of dudes in a room going, hey, we can build this. And you're like, Have you asked a woman, would you get into a stranger's car? Right? Like, would you get into a stranger's car? What would it take you to get into a stranger's car? Like, did you ever think of asking that question? And they would have been like, no, why would we ask that question? Right? But that, and they didn't build an unsafe platform originally because they wanted to build an unsafe platform. They just weren't thinking about the consequences. And so I think that the biggest hurdle is like, there is a much broader conversation about like technical ethics that needs to take place. And except for a few minority voices, nobody's having that question at the at the table.

(32:25 - 33:03) Rachel Murray: Yeah. And and I would say, too, that it's so much about leadership, because I would say that there are people that are saying, hey, what about us? And they're not literally not even being heard or just being ignored because ultimately profit is the big motivator. And we got to ship. We got to ship out. We got to get it. We got to make the most profit. We got to make the most dollars. And when you have leadership at the top, I will say that Travis is not one of my favorite people for the Uber founder, which I'm sure is probably the same.

(33:05 - 33:10) Bo Young Lee: Yeah, I think that's not an unpopular opinion.

(33:10 - 33:20) Rachel Murray: I will say, Beau, we typically, unfortunately, shit on at least one major tech. It's usually Elon Musk that we usually get through.

(33:20 - 33:51) Bo Young Lee: I mean, he's such an easy target, right? I know. Sometimes I wonder, like, I really sometimes wonder, I'm like, does he do these things intentionally? Because he's such a, you know, he's such He regales in people disliking him. So to a certain extent, I wonder, but then again, that's giving him too much credit to that, right? That's a kind of a strategic thing to get people to dislike him. And then I'm like, I don't know. Yes. Yes to all of the advice.

(33:51 - 34:32) Rachel Murray: I'm glad that your voice is in the conversation and that you are thinking about it and that you are someone in a position of power that can do that. So kudos to you. We're talking a lot about DEI. We're seeing a lot of the backlash, as we're all very aware of. And lately, you know, Women Who Code has just ended and, you know, we've just seen a lot of women in tech groups really suffer. But there are still companies and organizations that get it and see that that is really important. I'm just wondering, from your perspective, what do you make of these sort of two contradictory sort of spaces, these two contradictory currents? I'll pause there. I've got a few more related questions.

(34:32 - 42:39) Bo Young Lee: Yeah, of course. You've probably already picked up that I tend to be a little long winded and how I say things. So I'm going to try to give you a fulsome view of what I believe is going on. And I've written a lot about this. I'm a big thinker and a big writer. So I've been writing a little bit more on these various different topics. So first and foremost, Despite what everybody is concerned about from a DEI perspective, and a lot of the new interlopers who have an opinion about it, I don't think DEI will ever go away. And this is the reason why I think DEI will never go away. Because it's fundamentally an evolutionary and adaptive field. So I've been one of the longest tenured people currently. I don't think of myself as being tremendously old, but I started working in this field at quite a young age, and I've gotten to see it evolve over. I'm now in my third decade of doing this work. Where we are now as a field is so fundamentally different from where I started. When I started doing this work, companies cared about two things. They cared about women. binary gender women, and how do we hire more of them? How do we get more of them into the field? And they kind of cared about people of color, black, Latino, Asian, not Asian, no one's really cared about Asians in the history of DEI. They care about women, binary, and they cared about people of color, sort of, kind of. And then about five to six years sort of moving into the later aughts, you know, people started going, oh, they're gay people, too. We should care about them. And I always like to remind people that the last anti-sodomy law on the books in the United States existed until 2003. It wasn't until a Supreme Court case that outlawed the last sodomy law. So, like, it was still technically illegal to sleep with a man, sleep with another man in Texas in 2002. It was still technically illegal. So, you know, it wasn't really until maybe the late aughts that companies started going, oh, we have gay people too. We have LGBTQ people here. And I remember I was at Ernst & Young at the time and there was a person in our workforce who was transgender and they had been living in secret for a very long time and they came to me and they were like, I want to transition in the workplace. How do I do it? And I was like, that's a really good question. I've never supported anybody who has transitioned into the workplace. Let me do some research. And at that point in time, back in 2006, there were no transgender transition guideline templates. There were no policies. So I remember sitting there with this employee going, OK, and HR going, how are we going to make this happen? And we literally sat down in a conference room and worked out, we think this is the steps. Because we were like, OK, what has to change? Everything in the system, computer systems has to change. How many systems do we have? What has to change? How do we do it on the team basis? How do we communicate it? Blah, blah, blah. So we went through all of that. And by the end of it, we had a transgender transition guideline. And that was the very first that had ever been, I think, developed at Ernst & Young, certainly. And I know that eventually, like, Other organizations picked up on all of this, but it was new at that time and no one cared about it. And then as the years passed, you saw organizations caring about other dimensions of diversity as well, right? So it started off as gender, people of color, LGBTQ, people with disabilities. religion, that status, all the other caregiver status, right? Nobody was thinking about caregiver inclusion. And then caregiver inclusion was singularly the biggest issue during COVID. Right. And now we have religion becoming a massive issue in corporations, not in small part because of the events that we've been seeing since since the Hamas terrorist attack last year. We are seeing socioeconomic diversity becoming a huge issue because it is it is a big issue and it should be a big issue in companies. So there's a constant evolution. Right. And I don't think that that evolution is going to ever change about what we deem as important dimensions of diversity. And so DEI is going to always be there. There always has to be somebody who can help corporations and organizations in general and society navigate that. So that's one side of the equation. And granted, I'm very much an optimist, but I have a pretty intuitive sense of what I think is important and what people should pay attention to. And typically, what I see as important early on is usually everybody else catches up to. I've been very fortunate. That's why I've been so successful. I'm like, this is important. Everyone's like, nah, it's not that important. And I'm like, no, this is really important. And people are like, no, it's not really important. And eventually then it becomes very important. People are like, how did you know? And I'm like, right. And I think part of the reason why I'm very good at seeing that is because I have so many attributes of my own identity that are marginalized and therefore give me a point of view that other people might not have. So that's one side of the equation. That's why I'm so optimistic that DEI is not going away. On the other hand, we are seeing this like hyper-polarization of the world, right? And we are seeing marginalized, like I shouldn't say marginalized, but I should say like voices that would pre-internet would have just kind of died away, right? Like, you know, like somebody like a Trump, for example, he could say all the racist, sexist things he wants, and he wouldn't have a platform before Twitter or X, before any of that. But that's the one thing that we don't really talk about. Everybody talks, of course, about the implications of social media on how society has evolved, but I feel like what a lot of people outside of the academic space don't talk about is how it has manifest and magnified minority voices and minority points of view that maybe should stay minority points of view. And I think what we're seeing right now is that upsurge of these minority voices that kind of twist what DEI is and twist what we're trying to do here and attack it. But I think that this is like I almost I keep telling people, I think these attacks are like last ditch efforts to start something that's not going to stop. Right. Like I always remind people, people who are like DEI is bad. And DEI is prioritizing one group of another. And I said, so you don't think veterans should be in the workplace? And they're like, no, I think veterans should be in the workplace. And I go, oh, so you don't think people with disabilities should be in the workplace? And they're like, no, I think people with disabilities should be in the workplace. And I go, oh, then you don't think parents should be in the workplace? And they're like, no, what's wrong with you? Why do you keep saying this? I'm like, all of that is DEI. All of it is DEI. And I think it's just like, you know, you have to, rather than trying to change the language, like I'm very opposed to losing, like, there's been a dialogue around saying, oh, maybe we should just change the language of DEI because people are weaponizing. I'm like, I'm like, shit, no, I'm never going to stop using that word. I'm like, what? So if they suddenly say that the word gay is terrible, you should stop calling yourself gay. Or if they say disabled, you should stop saying disabled. I'm like, no, I'm disabled. I have a disability. I'm going to say that I'm disabled. Don't let them steal the language. Language is power. And I'm going to say DEI, I'm going to, you know, you're going to have to rip DEI from my full dead hand in order to get me to stop saying it. So, yeah, that's how I feel.

(42:39 - 44:18) Felicia Jadczak: Yeah. I love that point because I do think that, you know, a lot of this discourse around language, especially it's conceding power to groups that don't necessarily need to have us concede that power to them in terms of what we call and how we talk about these topics. And like you said, this has been around, DEI has been around forever. And it has evolved and the language we use to describe it has also evolved. So it's not going to go away overnight. It's just going to continue to, you know, morph into to meet the needs in the moment of, you know, the moment that we're in. I really appreciate the story you shared around your your person at Ernst & Young, who was going through the transition in the workplace. And that made me think of our next question, which is, you know, there's so many challenges for folks even today still in the workplace, especially folks with marginalized identities. And, you know, we know that there's a lot of folks in positions of power, whether that's, you know, there are people managers, there are leaders or folks like you who want to do the right thing and who want to support others and help them come up and create these safe spaces for them. Right. And so your example was one way that you were able to help in that work. And, you know, it obviously speaks to the safety that this person felt with you to even come to you when there was nothing in place before this. With that in mind, what are some other ways that you think that people managers, HR folks, leaders could continue to support folks who are still in these marginalized groups so that they don't get squeezed out? Especially in the tech industry, there are so many shifts happening and there is a lot of back and forth in terms of who's getting hired, who's staying, all that.

(44:19 - 52:26) Bo Young Lee: Yeah, I think one thing that I always say as a mantra is DEI is like fundamentally DEI is a journey of deep curiosity. It is a deep, it's a journey of deep curiosity of oneself, but then also of others. And to be an inclusive leader, to be a great champion, there are multiple different skill sets and capabilities that are required, but the two most are, do you, like, the first is, I always say, like, if you're somebody in a position of power or influence or in a position where you can get things done, right, do you understand who you are, what shapes the world that you're, the way that you engage with the world, and how does that then bias what you deem as good or bad? So that's skill set number one, that curiosity of self. And then the second is curiosity of the other. And I'll break that down a little bit more. And I like to use stories as illustrations of what I'm talking about, because I think they're just easier to grasp. So I had this very senior leader. He was the president of US Canada for Marsh. So it was that Marsh & McClennan companies. He was a really great guy. He was a Brit by national ethnic origin, but he was born in Tanzania as a child of a very upper class family. And then, of course, his family had to leave when the British returned Tanzania to its people. He's an older gentleman. British, born in Tanzania, grew up in England, went to private school, upper class, you know, the whole private school thing, the whole Cambridge, Oxbridge thing, went into the insurance industry and was very, very, very successful. But he was also the father of three girls and had one that was very special needs. And one day I was chatting with him. So he was a reliable champion for me. And one day he was I was chatting with him. And I was at the time, just to give you context, I was 41 years old and very heavily pregnant with my second daughter. I think that's like eight months pregnant or something like that when I was chatting with him. So basically like sitting there very, very uncomfortable, like heaving, sweating, you know, the whole like eight months pregnant thing. And we're having this chat and he goes, you know, I'm going to be very, very vulnerable for a moment. And I was like, absolutely, go for it. He goes, I'd love to be a better champion for DEI than even I am right now. But he goes, the struggle I have is that I'm not a particularly very diverse person. And I looked at him and I was like, you'll figure out that I'm very cheeky. I'm very comfortable. I'm very comfortable with power. I'm also very comfortable around power. I've never been intimidated by hierarchy. So I'm like sitting there with him and he says like, but I'm not a very diverse person. And I look at him and then I finally go, get out of town. You're also a 41 year old pregnant Korean American immigrant. And he looks at me and he's like, what? He doesn't get it. And he didn't get it. And he's so confused. And I'm like, here's the thing. You don't see yourself as very diverse because you navigate a world that is designed to validate everything about you as a white man, as a British man, as literally a colonizer. I call them a colonizer. I'm like, as literally a colonizer. But the thing is, like, to me, you are so diverse and different from me. You're not 41 years old. You're not pregnant. You're not female. You're not Korean. You're not the things that I am. And so to me, you are very different. Right. And I don't understand you in the same way that you don't understand me, but I am reminded every day that the world is not created for me. You are never reminded that the world is not created for you. And I said, that's why you don't think of yourself as diverse, but trust me, you are very, very, very diverse. And those aspects of you, like you have to think about like, what does it mean that I grew up literally as a colonizer, right? He was literally born in Tanzania in the ruling class and then eventually left. I said, what does it mean that you went to, like, eaten in all the fancy schools? What does it mean that, like, you have an accent that the entire world validates and thinks is lovely and posh and all this kind of stuff? Like, how does it shape your biases? And he just sat and then I said, what I want you to start to think is that not, and I say this, if you spend enough time with me and hear me repeat this ad nauseum, I tend to repeat myself a lot. I said to him, I said, I need you to stop thinking of yourself as the norm and everybody being a deviation from your norm. I said, I need you to start thinking of yourself as a deviation from everybody else's normal. And he was like, huh. That's really, really thoughtful. And he, from that point, became a better champion because he realized that he can't assume that everybody, he's the default. So that's skill number one. I want people to stop thinking of themselves as a default, particularly when they're in leadership, and really start to challenge themselves, going, what shaped who I am and the things that I see as right and wrong? And maybe it's not that clear. So that's one. And then the second thing really comes to curiosity of others. Somebody wants to ask me, hey, I am inheriting, this was at Uber, I was doing a Q&A for a department, and somebody said, hey, I just inherited this new team literally a week ago. It's 20 people. I'm really wanting to make sure that I am conscious of who they are and being inclusive and all this kind of stuff. They go, but I don't know how to do that. Right. And I go, just do it. And again, it's really cheeky. And I said, did you when you sat down with the team for the very first time or sat in one on one with all 20 members, did you ask them, for example, hey, how do you like to communicate? Are you indirect are you direct. Hey, what is, you know, is there anything in your work life balance that you think I should know about so that I'm keeping it in mind, and you don't have to ask people, do you have kids. Do you, are you a caregiver. Do you have dogs at home. Do you have a disability? You don't have to ask those direct, sometimes invasive questions. All you have to do is say, is there anything from a work-life balance goals perspective that I need to be aware of? That opens the door for someone to say, actually, yes, I coach my kid's soccer team, and every Wednesday I have to leave at 3.30. Or I have elderly parents, and one of them has dementia, and I have to flex to take them to doctor's meetings or something like that. And so I said, like, be intentional, be curious, like, go in and ask them questions. And then actually, when they respond, take note of what their responses are. And then you'll know, okay, like, I always say the onus of flexing, first and foremost, is on the leader. So it's not like a lot of leaders go in thinking, oh, you have to flex to me, right? it's actually the reverse. I have to flex to you. So if you know, I'm a direct communicator, I'm a New Yorker, I'm a Korean, where those students combine when they clash into each other, it creates the most direct human being on the face of this planet, which is me. I know that not everybody interprets my directness in the same sort of way, and I have to be willing to engage in a slightly less aggressively direct way. approach sometimes. So it's about that, you know, it's those two things. It's not like some, I always tell people, it's not some grand gesture. You don't have to become the executive sponsor for an ERG, although if you want to, that's beautiful and fabulous. You don't have to go in and advocate for a new policy, but if you want to, you can do that. It's simply about ensuring that the spaces that you're creating, you're aware of the biases you bring in, and you're aware of who's actually in the space that you have to adapt to.

(52:26 - 52:40) Rachel Murray: That was fantastic. You answered three of our other questions, which was absolutely fantastic. So I'm going to switch gears a bit. That was so helpful. What does the future look like for you? Hopes, dreams?

(52:41 - 57:42) Bo Young Lee: Yeah, you know, I, my hopes and dreams. So again, I'm super fortunate where I've been very, very, very successful in my career, in large part, because I, it's kind of like, you know, you, it's all about timing, I entered DEI in a really big growth period of time, and I've been deeply successful in my career. And I'm at the pivot point in my career where I can kind of do anything I want to do. And I've made the very deliberate choice to be with Anita B. Anita B has some really fantastic goals. And one of those goals, as I mentioned before, is like, I think for a very long time, Anita B has been this intermediary between the individuals who are part of the ecosystem, but maybe not have a foothold in the ecosystem, right? So they have the individuals and then you have the companies. And we've been kind of this intermediary in between the two, like trying to create more connection points rather than one stream, multiple connection points. We've always been an intermediary. And one of the big, really exciting conversations that we're having in a need to be is, it's not that we don't, we still want to be that intermediary, but we exist in an ecosystem that is being defined by the companies, right? And we recognize that for a sustainability perspective. And as you mentioned, I think Rachel, you were the one who mentioned, or maybe it was you, Felicia, A lot of organizations like ours are struggling, right? We saw the news about Women Who Code, which is absolutely tragic because they're a fantastic partner in this ecosystem. There was actually a women's network in Oregon that shut down at the end of last year. And we reached out to them and basically said, hey, do you want to become part of our network? And we absorbed all of their people. We gave them memberships to our network. so that they could thrive. And we're in talks with other organizations that are also struggling as well. And we're very fortunate. We're financially very, very healthy. I do think in the short term, what's going to happen is we're going to see probably a couple of other organizations, not just in our field, but like in the whole DEI space, probably close down the ones that are the strongest, whether it's us, HRC, Out and Equal, you know, catalyst, we're going to be fine, we'll continue. But I think what Anita B is trying to say is, like, we can't just continue to operate in an ecosystem dictated by the corporations. We have to create our own ecosystem. If, you know, if we're really going to support women and non-binding technologists, like, what does that look like in terms of us creating that ecosystem. So we're working much more in the entrepreneurial space. We want to build some parts of our business that are where we can directly fund entrepreneurs. You know, so whether it's like, you know, five years from now, there might be in a need to be venture capital, who knows, you know, there might be a, like, you know, maybe we'll be like, Y Combinator women version, right? Like, who knows? But that's the conversations we're talking about right now in Anita B. And that's why I'm here. This is why I'm here. This is what I want to do. I want to not just prop up and make the existing better I want to like I so what I always used to say, and I'm not used to, but I still say it. I say it's not that we're trying to grow the pie. It's not that we're trying to make the pie better. We're actually baking our own pie. And I want us to bake our own pie and make it like I see I'm a capitalist. I have an MBA. I believe like I know there's a lot of backlash against capitalism within some social justice spaces, but I'm just like, show me a system that, you know, works better. show me like the socialism actually work better. Socialism only works in homogenous, small homogenous groups. It does not actually work outside of small homogenous groups. Is communism better? Probably not. Like show me a system that is better. I mean, there's so much broken with capitalism and I'm the first person to admit it, but like I do support capitalism in its purest form. And I'm like, but we can create an alternative version of capitalism. Like we don't have to accept this U.S. American definition of capitalism that is built on slave labor. I mean, American capitalism, which is the most common form of capitalism that we see around the US, I mean, around the world, is built on a concept of exploitation, first and foremost. And then that, so that's why we see so much exploitation in capitalism. That is not actually the purest definition of capitalism. Like when you study economics, when you study and get your MBA, like I have, I have a degree in economics and and have my MBA, you realize that we can do a different version of it. We just have to do it. And that's kind of what I want to build. So yeah, I think that that's kind of where I'm going to spend the next chapter of my career is how do we build that.

(57:43 - 58:03) Rachel Murray: Oh, I am like busting at the seams right now because you are speaking my language. You're in my brain. Felicia knows this. When you started talking about pie, I have been saying this. I'm like, we want, we're just going to create more pie. There's going to be more pie for everybody. We will create the pies.

(58:03 - 58:10) Bo Young Lee: And it's going to be like an intersectional feminist. Yes. You know, it's going to be such a tasty pie.

(58:10 - 58:30) Rachel Murray: It's going to be the most delicious pie. And I am with you too on capitalism. I think it's like saying what they say here. It's like, well, the education system is broken. The government is broken. The health care system is broken. Yeah, it's broken. It doesn't mean you get rid of it. It means you make it better. You make it work for everybody.

(58:30 - 58:31) Bo Young Lee: Right. No, I'm with you.

(58:31 - 58:36) Rachel Murray: Sorry. I feel like I need to have a whole other conversation about all of this. I'm just going to say yes.

(58:36 - 58:42) Bo Young Lee: Yes. All of it. People are just like, we need to get rid of capitals. And I'm like, and replace it with what? I know. I know.

(58:42 - 58:59) Felicia Jadczak: And that is the argument in a lot of like more activist spaces. I'm right with you. I also see it. Yes. We are so unfortunately at time, but like, I want to keep talking about this with you. Is there anywhere that people can find more about you or any place that you'd like to direct folks who are listening to this episode if they want to follow up or learn?

(58:59 - 59:29) Bo Young Lee: Yeah. So I I'm pretty private as a person. So like I I'm not on many social media platforms publicly. The one public platform I am on is LinkedIn. I do a lot of posting there. I actually write really long-winded posts there all the time. So if people want to just kind of get into my head a little bit, like if you find me on LinkedIn, you can, there aren't many Bowie analysts in the world, I'm really easy to find on LinkedIn. You just put in the name as you see here and you'll find it. Wonderful.

(59:29 - 59:32) Felicia Jadczak: Thank you so much, Bow. It's been such a pleasure.

(59:32 - 59:34) Bo Young Lee: Thank you. Absolutely. Thank you.

(59:36 - 59:44) Felicia Jadczak: All right, we hope you enjoyed listening to the interview with Bo as much as we enjoyed the conversation. We always say this, but we definitely could have kept talking for a lot longer.

(59:44 - 01:00:10) Rachel Murray: Yeah. Wow. We really, really could have. That felt very short. And she had so many great stories to share with us, too, which is wonderful. Thank you so much for listening. Please don't forget to rate, share and subscribe. It makes a massive difference in the reach of this podcast and by extension this work. Visit us on YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn, and to stay updated on all things SGO.

(01:00:10 - 01:00:17) Felicia Jadczak: Do you want to learn more? Make sure you sign up for our mailing list and don't forget to grab that free code for one of our many courses. See you next time. Bye.