Reimagining Inclusion with Mita Mallick

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Podcast episode header Reimagining Inclusion with Mita Mallick, including a headshot of Mita
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
About The Episode Transcript

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Ever wondered why inclusion matters in the workplace? Get ready for a transformative ride as we unleash a brand new season of She+ Geeks Out with Mita Mallick, Head of Inclusion, Equity, and Impact at CARTA and author of the new book Reimagining Inclusion! We unpack Mita's journey from feeling excluded during her formative years to becoming an influential leader, debunking prevalent myths that inhibit progress in creating a more inclusive workspace. Mita offers practical tips for creating a more inclusive workplace and debunks prevalent myths that stand in the way of progress. Listen in as we discuss everything from the complexities of allyship and the importance of sponsorship, to the potential of hybrid work driving inclusion, and the power of authentic apologies.

Episode Breakdown:

(0:00:07) - Season 4 Welcome and Introduction We discuss goals to make the world brighter, YouTube, darkness and pain, and self-care for balance.

(0:03:34) - Inclusion and Leadership Mita Mallick shares her journey from exclusion to inclusion, offering practical tips and her book's success in the Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestseller lists.

(0:11:27) - Navigating Discomfort and Inclusion in Conversations Mita shares experiences of exclusion, challenges to traditional leadership, and navigating conversations without answers.

(0:18:09) - Navigating Allyship and Inclusion in Crisis We discuss allyship complexities, tangible receipts, individual conversations, and joy to counter grief.

(0:28:06) - Busting Myths and Reimagining Inclusion We bust meritocracy myths, explore remote-first companies, and discuss complexities of allyship.

(0:35:16) - Hybrid Work and Importance of Sponsorship Mita breaks down how hybrid work drives inclusion and why sponsorship is so important.

(0:47:56) - Authentic Apologies and the State of DEI Apologizing, admitting mistakes, allyship, DEI, and hybrid work discussed to drive inclusion.

0:00:07 - Rachel Murray And we're back Brand new season, oh right. Welcome listeners. This is Rachel Murray pronoun she her one of the co-founders and co-host of she Geeks Out podcast and company and this is Felicia, she her pronouns as well.

0:00:23 - Felicia Jadczak The other co-host, co-founder, all the things, all the co-things.

0:00:27 - Rachel Murray All the co-things. Yeah, we're so excited to be back. We have so many exciting guests that we're going to be speaking with and we're going to continue on our wonderful journey of sharing some insights about the kind of work that we do. And, you know, our goal is to make the world a little bit brighter and maybe a little more awkward while we're doing it.

0:00:47 - Felicia Jadczak So I mean, I think we've definitely achieved that goal already. I mean, every day. Folks didn't know that about us already. But yeah, you know we both love doing this podcast so much. This is season four of doing it. It's just for us a way to not only continue the conversation around these really important topics, highlight really amazing people who are doing awesome things and important work in the world, but also a way to balance out the heaviness that can come along with this work. So we hope that you are along for the ride with us, because that's what we're all about here.

0:01:21 - Rachel Murray That's true, and this season is going to be very exciting. We're going to attempt to place ourselves on the YouTubes, despite all of our interest in being on video. We are going to do it. We're giving the people what they want. We're just feeding the content machine. Let's be real.

0:01:37 - Felicia Jadczak I did put myself together today, but for viewers I suppose don't expect this level for all the upcoming I mean I expect it, I expect it.

0:01:48 - Rachel Murray Well, I hope your expectations are lowered a little bit, because, yeah, we'll see but well, before we get on to it to today's first guest, I want to just say a few words about what is happening in the world today. We're recording this on Friday, october 13th, and the reality is there's just a ton of darkness and pain in the world right now, and we have a lot of thoughts which we have certainly shared with each other, and we're thinking a lot about it. There's no easy answers to anything that's happening right now. There's just all what we know is there's a lot of pain and death and sadness, and the reality is is that one of the reasons why we love doing this podcast is because we really do genuinely believe that this is an opportunity to brighten up the world, which is really kind of wild right now. So, yeah, so there will always be a little bit of giggles and laughter. We'll try to make that happen in every single episode.

0:02:54 - Felicia Jadczak Yeah, well said, Rachel, Well said. You know we were just talking and you'll hear about this in the upcoming conversation, but it's really important for balance. So you know, please know, that we are not unaware of things that are going on in the larger world, or you know, closer to home, whatever might be happening in this wild world that we live in, but at the same time, it's impossible to be completely overwhelmed because you have to balance it out. So hopefully this will be some balance for you all too.

0:03:21 - Rachel Murray That's true. We do hope that you are all taking care of yourselves in whatever way you feel is most beneficial and that you're staying safe and that you're doing okay, so yeah, so onto our guest Felicia. Would you like me to introduce, or would you like to introduce?

0:03:37 - Felicia Jadczak Why don't you introduce Because, I'll be honest, you actually kind of helped set this up, so I'm no longer the ride, but why don't you kick us off?

0:03:45 - Rachel Murray Yeah so Meena Malik is our first guest of the season. She's absolutely incredible. She has a huge resume, so I will just talk about a few of the things that she's doing. So she's the head of inclusion, equity and impact at CARTA. She's also a contributing writer to Harvard Business Review Adweek and Entrepreneur Magazine. She's a top voice on LinkedIn. She's also a fellow podcaster at the wonderful round table talk podcast, which I highly recommend you listen to. And she's also maybe not most exciting most exciting to me probably to her as well, I'm guessing a brand new author to the book Reimagined Inclusion debunking 13 myths to transform your workplace. She is an incredibly busy woman and we had some great conversation about how inclusion is critical for the workplace and what that looks like in practical terms. So you'll get some real practical tips on what inclusion really looks like when it comes to making the workplace better and more inclusive. Yeah so, listen on.

Meena, hello Hi. I'm so excited to see you here, hello, hello.

0:04:54 - Felicia Jadczak We're excited to have you here in our virtual space.

0:04:57 - Mita Mallick Yes, yes.

0:04:59 - Rachel Murray Welcome to our pod, our little pod home, we are looking forward to this conversation. Same and I just want to do this. I did this earlier. I'm going to do it again. Oh my God.

0:05:10 - Mita Mallick I have mine too, love it.

0:05:11 - Rachel Murray I love it. I love it, I love it Wow.

0:05:16 - Felicia Jadczak Anyone who is like what is even happening right now? Both Rachel and Meena are holding up Meena's book and I'm like I don't have it.

0:05:22 - Rachel Murray If you watch this on video, you'll be able to see it.

0:05:25 - Felicia Jadczak But I do want to know I'm color coordinated with the book, with my jacket.

0:05:31 - Mita Mallick I need that jacket, I need that jacket. Oh 100%.

0:05:34 - Rachel Murray Well, I know what our time is limited together so I want to honor that. So I just want to get into it and just start off by just hearing a little bit about your journey. You've done so much, you're doing so much, so if you could just give a little bit of context on, yeah, how you've gotten to where you are today, that would be fantastic.

0:05:52 - Mita Mallick Well, it starts with my origin story for anyone who's a Marvel fan. I am not a Marvel fan, but I'm going to steal this. Someone mentioned this to me the other day. What is your origin story, and I thought that was a really interesting way of talking about one's journey.

So I'm the proud daughter of Indian immigrant parents. My younger brother and I were born and raised in the US. I always say I grew up in a time and a place where it was not cool to be Indian. I was the funny looking, dark-skinned girl with a long, funny looking braid whose parents spoke funny English until that wasn't funny anymore. I was bullied a lot, both verbally and physically, by peers. Growing up, I never really felt included in my community and I think, as I talk about and reimagine inclusion my new book that's out is that we can all identify with the feeling of being excluded, whether as a child or an adult or even recently in our workplaces.

And I've been chasing inclusion my whole life, whether that was from the schoolyards and classrooms into corporate America. I didn't ever think that that feeling of not being included would follow me into corporate America, but that's where my story starts, because I was painfully shy and introverted, which I think are two different things. I read a lot and wrote a lot and didn't have many friends, and so I was always passionate about storytelling and really interested in who holds the pen and who has the power to tell stories and why don't more people who look like me like why aren't they in film or books or on packages? And so I have had a long career as a storyteller, as a marketer and the consumer product's good industry. I'm really passionate about beauty, and then I ended up transitioning into the Chief Diversity Officer work and I've always believed inclusion is a driver of the business always, and so now I'm getting to put that work and that idea, I suppose, into use and convince more people of it.

0:07:48 - Felicia Jadczak Thanks for starting us off with that origin story, and I just wanted to note too that I am also the daughter of not both but one Indian immigrant, and so can definitely relate to a lot of what you just shared. For sure, in terms of that is not always feeling included, always left out, that sense of looking in on in from the outside. But we're going to dig into your book and then, before we start getting into some specific questions, you shared some news with us at the top of this podcast and I'd love to invite you to share it again now that we're officially recording.

0:08:20 - Mita Mallick Yes. Well, I want to say this I started writing this book four years ago. I couldn't find any gatekeepers at the time that wanted it. It didn't seem like any of the agents or publishers wanted it, and I was lucky to find an agent my agent, Josh Getzler, and Wiley who ended up taking the book on, and here I sit today. The book is now number four on the Wall Street Journal bestseller list and it is in the top 25 of USA Today bestseller list.

It's a little bit of a surreal moment, but a friend of mine said to me, I hope, all those individuals who passed on the book are looking at the list.

0:08:59 - Felicia Jadczak They're recording it now, yeah.

0:09:02 - Mita Mallick I was like wow, wow, and you are the first individuals I'm telling live on a podcast, and so that's been really surreal. I haven't said it out loud Like I've texted people and told my family, but yeah, I'm still trying to process it.

0:09:18 - Rachel Murray It's like oh, how much breath work do you need to take all? That in it's huge Congratulations.

0:09:24 - Felicia Jadczak Virtual high fives. Thank you and well deserved.

0:09:28 - Mita Mallick And kids keep you real humble. There's still missing socks and a sweatshirt I was blamed for and all of that. So that's what kids keep you grounded real quick, which is important in life. Love it.

0:09:39 - Felicia Jadczak I love it. Important indeed. Well, let's get into it. So you talk about all sorts of stuff, including intent versus impact, in that chapter that focuses specifically on inclusive leadership, so could you talk a little bit more about what that means and why it's particularly relevant for leaders?

0:09:58 - Mita Mallick So I believe that when we think of the equation intent versus impact, many of us are caught up in our good intentions. I certainly have been guilty of this and continue to work on this is that I'm so focused on making sure I have positive intent toward my colleague, toward my family member, toward my friend, that I don't actually stop to take the next step, to think through okay, I want to do this thing for them, to them, with them, but I don't stop to think okay, what's the impact? How is that actually going to make them feel? And sometimes, when we miss that piece, the intent doesn't match the impact. And I think and I know this happens so often in our workplaces and it's like the intent, the I, I was very wrapped up in the I, I am going to do this, I am going to say this versus like, okay, but how is the other person going to feel about it? And so that's what I want people to really think about who are listening is the equation of intent versus impact and the balance of those two things.

0:11:03 - Rachel Murray I love that. I think that makes a ton of sense, so thank you so much for sharing. We talk a lot about that work as well in what we do. It's such an important concept, so I wanted to make sure that it was highlighted. And I also love that you highlighted that inclusion isn't synonymous with comfort, and I was hoping that you could speak more to this and why it's such an important point for us to remember. And, relatedly, can you also share how discomfort and saying the wrong thing can lead us toward less inclusive outcomes?

0:11:37 - Mita Mallick You have some questions Very powerful. Well, I let me just say this as a woman of color who has been surviving and thriving and surviving and thriving in her corporate career, I was taught and trained to put others comfort before my own, so I never really felt like I had the privilege or ability to express my discomfort, which might have been all the things that many of you who are following me and following my podcast with DC Marshall Brown Table Talk will have heard my name is being mispronounced, I'm being mistaken for the other brown woman, I'm being asked how I got rid of my accent. How do you speak English so well? You're taking up too much space, not enough space, and not feeling like I had the accountability, responsibility or power to say that's not okay and this is hurtful or harmful, and so inclusion is not synonymous with comfort, especially for those of us who are on an ally to be a journey for someone else that you are going to hear about lived experiences that aren't your own. You're going to hear about things that make you feel incredibly uncomfortable and you don't know what to do or say, particularly as we think about, as we're recording this podcast, the war and the crisis that's unfolding and the loss of human life, and it's like what do I say and what do I do? Because it's uncomfortable. And so if you can just think, okay, if I'm feeling uncomfortable, it's nothing compared to what the other person might be feeling in terms of loss of life, grief, pain, harm, and so we have to work through that discomfort and that's what's really difficult and that's why oftentimes people will not start these conversations, and I'll add this and then pause and turn it back over to both of you.

And my theory on this is that the old school way of thinking about leadership, which the pandemic certainly broke, was that we, all leaders, have the answers. It's the triangle, the pyramid. I said at the top. I'm supposed to be in control, I'm supposed to problem solve, I'm supposed to know what to do next. And so what if you come to me and you express something that's happened in the workplace where you've been hurt or harmed, and I like don't know what to do because I can't problem solve it? And so I'd rather just not enter the conversation, I'd rather just if you're watching the video, you see me push my arm away. I'd rather just push it away. Yeah, push it away as far as possible, because it's it's uncomfortable for me.

0:14:24 - Rachel Murray Yeah, that's really powerful. I don't know if you have anything to add, but I think that it's such an important point to really highlight the fact that, yeah, leaders don't have the answer, and I love that you're like, yes, the veil has been lifted. I think a lot about you know, I think with the pandemic, I think a lot of that shift in understanding that you know the sort of the odds behind the curtain that has been sort of lifted.

You know it's like oh right, everyone's human and fallible and makes mistakes and is awkward and we've goodness knows what. I've been saying this for so many years, so excited that that, that you brought that up.

0:15:07 - Felicia Jadczak Yeah, just to add into, you know, echoing and plus wanting everything Rachel said. I think this is where transparency is so powerful and it's something we talked a lot about over the last couple years with COVID first, around that power of vulnerability and you know you're exactly right me to like there's sort of story, you know, that's myth of the leader that's been built up over generations and decades and decades of people putting people at the top, and I think this is a moment where it can be so important to say I actually don't know what's happening, I don't know what to do, I don't know how to handle it, and acknowledging that but then not just sitting in that state of not knowing, but figuring out like what are the things you can do? And you know, as a practitioner, in addition to running as Joe with Rachel, I talk a lot about holding space and I think that's where that kind of concept becomes so important. You know, even this this past week, I felt very, very trapped in what, what do I say? How do I handle what's going on in the global world, because I actually don't know how I feel.

I think we talked about this before in the last couple years to where I think part of the taking on that role of being a leader includes needing to figure out your own feelings and sometimes putting it in a compartment to the side while you also figure out what's going on in the community.

And I think the other piece of whether it's leadership or DEI work or both or other things is acknowledging that this work is messy and people make mistakes and no one gets it right, like no one gets it completely perfect right. And I think, especially with what's going on right now, we're seeing a lot of that messiness uncovered and that's making people angry, scared, frustrated, hurt and it's, you know, it goes back to what we started off with with the intent and impact, and you know we do. I always say like we need to recognize the intent because people can have bad intentions, but we address the impact and I think this I've really felt it this week of like that, you know, paradox of holding multiple truths at the same time, and I think, as a leader, that just becomes much more put into focus because people are not going to be able to go into the conversation with you for for some kind of take or leadership in the situation.

0:17:17 - Mita Mallick Absolutely, and it's hard because I was sharing with someone this week that I will be wrong more than I am right, because there's no such world as there's no such world where there's experts anymore. The world is moving too quickly. We just have deep expertise that we continue to build, and so would you rather have someone try and then not try it all, to reach out and have the conversation even if they do it messy and say I don't mean to, and apologize and try to rewind and start over.

And then there's also like we're up against cancel culture, we're up against a huge back glass, particularly in the US, when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion. So all these things are colliding together and sometimes we're just stuck in our fear and not sure what to do or say and sometimes.

I loved this quote that somebody had on social media. Not everybody is healing publicly or showcasing their trauma publicly, nor should they feel like they have to or are forced to. And the same thing. I'm on a journey to be an ally to the Jewish community. I say journey because there's no destination and the only people who can tell you if I'm an ally for for that community is the people I'm trying to show up for. They're the only ones Right. So when I talk about allyship for men, they can't say, oh, I'm an ally for me to, but I can say, yes, yes, chuck, yes Steve, yes Jamal, yes, all these amazing men who have showed up for me in my career and my book. I can say, yes, yes, you are an ally for me, and I have the receipts. I have the receipts, love it. Receipts to pull and show. I love it. The receipts.

0:19:26 - Felicia Jadczak The receipts are so important.

0:19:27 - Rachel Murray They're so clutch.

0:19:30 - Felicia Jadczak I have a quick follow up question. I know we have more stuff. I want to get back to the book and I know Rachel wants to too, but I have a quick follow up question, if it's okay or I don't even know if it's a question but to kind of double click on something you just mentioned. It's something I've been thinking a lot about, which is that public sort of internal, external, public, private dynamic of a lot of this stuff, whether it's allyship or statements or what have you, and I think that's where I'm not sure what the answer is.

But I think that's also something that's really been top of mind for me, because when, when is it okay to say, well, I've been doing internal work or I've been doing stuff that's not out there, and when is it performative, like putting that black square on Instagram? Or, you know, knee jerk, copy pasting something and posting it on social media? You know, I think for me, part of the what I've been struggling with, especially this last week, is I'm like, I know I'm not an expert in any of this stuff, so for me to come out and put a statement out that relates to, you know, generations and history and nuance that I know I don't have. That's very tricky. So then it's like well, how does that public, private interplay? And I think for you, you know you have the book, which is obviously a public expression of stuff that may have been more internal through, you know, through your own journey. But it's just, I guess it's not even a question, it's just sort of a commentary.

0:20:52 - Mita Mallick I mean, I mean, I appreciate what you're saying and I think we're all processing and thinking through this, but for me, how I show up as an individual for a community and how a company shows up, I think you're getting diversity. For communities, it all starts with those individual conversations. So if you are quick to post a public campaign, shout out during black history month on Instagram, on social media channels, and you don't stop to think, how would our black colleagues and friends think about this? How would they think about what we are sharing? Probably I talked to too many employees and companies that are like we had no idea this was happening. Actually, my cousin sent it to me and said oh, I didn't know you all were doing this campaign and you're like what? They didn't tell the employees, they didn't tell the employees of the communities they're trying to serve, and so that's what I think is important, because it will all fall apart, because people will come back to okay, what's really happening here?

0:21:57 - Rachel Murray Are you?

0:21:57 - Mita Mallick really doing the work and it's a balance. Especially for corporations you have to be doing both at the same time and for individuals, as you're saying, it's similar, get different, because it's in one individual versus a corporation which might have much more power and privilege that they can use. It depends, yeah.

0:22:22 - Felicia Jadczak The answer for everything it depends it, depends it's so true, it depends.

0:22:27 - Mita Mallick I mean it depends Literally context.

0:22:31 - Rachel Murray Felicia really says this more than I do. It's that you know. It's like if we had all the answers we'd write a book.

0:22:36 - Felicia Jadczak Yes, I don't even say that, I'm like I think we would just give them to you. Yeah, why would we?

0:22:42 - Rachel Murray hide them.

0:22:43 - Mita Mallick Yeah, and there's no one single answer for every single thing, like it's Well, that's why this work is difficult, it's emotional, it's painful, it's heartbreaking, it's uplifting, it's all of those things.

0:22:53 - Rachel Murray Because humans are messy.

0:22:55 - Mita Mallick And I even, as I said, I'm like sharing about my book and I'm like, wow, how can joy and grief coexist? We were talking about this earlier.

0:23:02 - Rachel Murray Yeah, how can that coexist? How can that coexist? And they do, and they do, absolutely.

0:23:08 - Mita Mallick And I think that, like as I'm celebrating things, there are people dying, Yep. And that will unfortunately always be true, right In any scenario.

0:23:17 - Felicia Jadczak Yeah, I was about to say that will always be true, and I think that's what's so hard is holding holding space for all of that, and you know we need the joy to counteract the grief, right? Yep, you can't sit in just one space completely.

0:23:29 - Rachel Murray Yes, I have nothing else to add to it, because I just agree with all of this, I'm like how do we segue back to the book? Well, I mean, I know it's hard and I really appreciate this conversation too, especially given what's happening in the world. I mean it's just been really tough.

There's just so much more awareness of so much pain and heartache and I think it's just so right about that need for both, and it's really funny that you say that, because this is literally going to be the first episode of our newest season, and one of the things that we say in our intro which PS behind the scenes how the sausage gets made hasn't actually been recorded yet, but it will be shortly. But it is actually about that is that you know, one of the reasons why we're doing this is because we want to provide a pocket of joy in a world that is suffering so much, and so we want to. We want to have this be not just all serious and everything. We also want to. It's both and and everyone listening.

0:24:31 - Mita Mallick This is like group therapy right now.

0:24:32 - Rachel Murray I mean healing.

0:24:33 - Mita Mallick But what I would say is here's what I think is interesting I think there has always been suffering, we just didn't always know about it, correct, and I think social media has, like, changed the world forever over the last 10 years. And so what is our job on our journey to be more inclusive leaders is I want people in our workplaces to just continue to strive to show up with more empathy and kindness. Empathy and kindness, yes, and we can do that for each other, because there are so many other things in the world that are happening that I am just not aware of. Yes, and I'm trying to educate myself on. And the worst feeling in the world is when someone doesn't feel seen.

I think everyone can agree with that. When we go back to like, what does inclusion mean in our workplaces and why does this tie to what's happening Crisis and human just you know, human loss of life and disasters occurring around the world and then people are also grieving and coming into work with this. And, yes, inclusion is really about the fact that I work for you and I feel valued, seen, recognized. My contribution matters, my voice matters. I feel like I belong and when I'm struggling with things, either my, from my community, personally, that people are there to support me and show up with empathy, and when that doesn't happen, that's when we feel we're just not seen, no one values us, we're invisible, you don't care if I work here.

You don't care if I work on your team, right, right, my community is facing devastation, loss and grief and you don't. You don't care at all. You want me to just continue to sit through these meetings and type away, and this happens all the time. And so it's like if you actually know your people and get to know your people, you will know what matters to them. Because if you're waiting for the note from the CEO and I'm not saying that's not important, but if that's what you're waiting for, stop, don't wait for that to check in, to see how people are doing and just to be human. Like I don't have the words, I keep saying this. I don't have the words. It's devastating and heartbreaking. I'm here, I'm thinking of you. If I can do anything, you want to sit in silence and have a meal, I can get on a zoom, like. Whatever I can do, I will try to do personally for you as an individual, and I just wish that more leaders. It goes back to the discomfort, right? Because?

you don't know what to say, because we're supposed to have the perfect message crafted.

0:26:57 - Rachel Murray We don't, we don't, yep, yep, I agree and I'm going to, I'm going to switch it up a little bit. Yes, let's do that. Obviously it's all related, but I wanted to hone in on the pipeline myth Sure, and can you tell our lovely, brilliant audience what, what that is and how it relates to affirmative action, especially given the Supreme Court recent ruling on affirmative action?

0:27:28 - Mita Mallick Well, I'll start with the myth in the book, which is I'm all for diverse talent as long as they're good. I'll say that again I'm all for diverse talent as long as they're good. I can't tell you how many times I've heard that in my career, how many times I've been called a diversity hire.

0:27:41 - Rachel Murray I'm on a diversity hire.

0:27:42 - Mita Mallick I earned the seat, I earned the privilege to be on your podcast. I earned it. And would we ever say I'm all for non diverse talent as long as they're good? I was asked. People think of the opposite, like have you ever heard anyone say that I'm all, I'm all for non diverse talent as long as they're good? I've never heard that in my career and maybe a listener will reach out and say, yes, I've heard that, but that's really interesting to think about.

So one of the stories because I'm passionate about storytelling and I think stories inspire change and vulnerability and healing and I'll never forget working with a leader years ago in the state of Vermont and in the US it is statistically one of the whitest states from a demographic, demographic perspective. So pipeline myth is there's not enough diverse talent out there, there's not enough qualified individuals from historically marginalized communities who can do this job, and so when I'm working with this leader hiring for a senior role and the intent was good I want to have diversity representation on my team, particularly thinking about how to attract and develop more black talent. And yet at the end of the day, this individual did not want to pay what I would consider a competitive salary versus the market. They did not want to consider any remote applicants, wanted to source candidates in state, I believe. Currently the statistic is 3% people of color reside in the state of Vermont and that's people of color as a whole. That's not even breaking down how people identify within the umbrella of people of color. And so what happened? They ended up hiring a white leader because recruiting couldn't find them. There's no pipeline, doesn't exist, couldn't find the talent, and I'm thinking myself you just created the pipeline myth, you just created all these obstacles and barriers to create the pipeline myth, and we do that so often.

And it's also tied to this idea of meritocracy, which I talk about like meritocracy, thank you. It's all about merit based right? That's all it's about. Anyone can become the VP or the CEO. It's just about how good you are and how good you are. There's so much bias in that and there's a famous term that was coined which is it's not meritocracies, it's meritocracies, because it mirrors what I think good looks like and excellence looks like, and meritocracy. What do I end up? Do I end up creating a mini team of meet-ups which no one wants? I end up just hiring people who are like me, me, me, me me. That is busting the pipeline myth. I think there's actually no excuse anymore, given what happened with the global pandemic, even now how we're doing this podcast. The world has changed so much. Half of my interactions are virtual during the day. That's the power that you can be accessing talent from anywhere and no longer has to be in this one geographic region. That's what I want leaders to think about.

0:31:08 - Rachel Murray Despite this incredible push toward everyone going, sort of returning back to the office.

0:31:14 - Mita Mallick The pendulum's swing.

0:31:15 - Rachel Murray Yes, Well, real estate rules. We got to make sure that the stocks for the real estate commercial real estate.

0:31:22 - Mita Mallick That was one of the conspiracy theories I was reading that it's really all about the real estate and who runs real estate? Wow, hold on.

0:31:29 - Rachel Murray I didn't know. I had a tin hat.

0:31:30 - Mita Mallick What's going to happen to the office buildings across the country that are vacant if people don't use them?

0:31:37 - Rachel Murray What will happen? Maybe unhoused will get housed Wild thought. Oh, there is enough money to do it. Oh, wait a minute. That's not true. Sorry, I'm going to put the tin hat away, busting more myths.

0:31:48 - Mita Mallick There, you're busting more myths. Yes, I'm going to put the tin hat away.

0:31:51 - Rachel Murray Putting it away. I'm going to move myself.

0:31:54 - Felicia Jadczak It's real, though right. We used to be based in Boston and it was like it was very difficult to think about even hiring someone remotely. We were like they have to be here. Then that was completely flipped on its head. Now we're a remote first company and we have people all over the US which is amazing you evolve and change.

0:32:15 - Mita Mallick The technology evolves and changes what enabled us to do that Absolutely.

0:32:21 - Felicia Jadczak It's also an interesting commentary on to your point around people's identities, and are they diverse or non-diverse? Heavy quotes being used there I always think about. I don't think this really happens in practice, but theoretically in a remote first company you could have somebody be working for the company and no one would ever know what they look like.

I know there's reporting and there's especially in the US there's things like demographics and data collection and all that. I think it's really opened up a door in that space around. What does it mean and how do people show up? I was just at a client earlier this week where they were meeting for the first time in person since March 2020. They were joking quite a bit about they're like oh, we've learned so much. We've learned that this person is short and this person is tall. The things that you don't get from the Zoom window or whatever it is you're using to access. The other thing you don't get is, again, it's an interesting. In some senses, we're being more exposed to each other as individuals because you're able to see inside my house right now or before you weren't able to do that.

In other senses there's more separation from that.

0:33:41 - Mita Mallick One of the things, as you both know, I talk about in Reimagine Inclusion. One of the myths is the future of work is inclusive now because we can all work from home. It's inclusive, it's been declared and we all fell into this way of working. Most companies haven't figured out what it means to unlock the potential of either a remote first company or, I hope, most people are still leaning into hybrid work. One of the things I say is that I laughed when you talked about the height, because I'm five one and a half. Yes, the half's important to me. Same. First of all Same.

The half.

0:34:16 - Felicia Jadczak It's very important.

0:34:17 - Mita Mallick I'll never forget. I don't think anyone meant this, but I went to a leadership offsite. I had been working during the pandemic and had met a lot of my colleagues, and people were so floored as to how short I was. You've such a tall zoom personality, oh my God. And it was funny.

And then it wasn't, because, imagine, one of the things that I talk about is what's so freeing, personally, for me to be able to work in a hybrid setting is that in this square, I own my space and I own my presence and I own the volume and I own my height.

Versus in person, I didn't realize you were so short.

You're really soft spoken and all the things that I might have to encounter during the day, as I was telling you all earlier, that don't allow me to work at 100%. I'm at 50%. If people are asking why my lunch is so smelly, or they're making comments about my hair, my appearance, my clothing, I mean, I could go on and on and so really thinking about how hybrid work is helping to drive inclusion in an important way and that's not to say that people don't want to get together and collaborate, that's not what I'm saying at all but I think that the world is forever shifted and so, as you both were saying, is it five days a week in the office, is it fully remote? And that's just going to be the forever debate. It depends on where the power is. As soon as the power is back in the hands of employees, which there are many industries hiring right now, in pockets, people are going to say five days, forget it. Four days, forget it. I'm working here because of their flexibility and how I make impact.

0:36:06 - Felicia Jadczak Yeah, I think it was. I want to say it was Adam Grant who put out some research in the last couple of months where he basically was talking about how, for folks who are earlier stage in their career, being in the office is so critical for network development and access to mentorship and learning and even just learning how to be in an office space and work and collaborate and then, for folks who are middle to late stage in their career, being remote is actually much more helpful and supportive for them. So it's this really tricky dynamic, because what works for one group requires something that doesn't work for the other group and vice versa, and so that's again going back to this like how do we hold space for these things that are completely opposite? So I'm thinking a lot about that as well, because I personally think hybrid is the way to go, but again we're going to mess it up and figure it out and all that stuff as we get into it.

You had talked a little bit. You made sort of a comment around this being a little bit like group therapy, which I appreciate, and I want to talk a little bit more about therapy in the workplace, because at one point in the book you recommend mandating therapy instead of coaching for toxic leaders, and I'd love for you to maybe talk a bit more about that and your thoughts on that.

0:37:17 - Mita Mallick So I have witnessed too many organizations during the course of my career hold on to toxic leaders who continue to cause so much hurt and harm. I've been on the receiving end of this for many moments in my career and it's like what is it about Meeta that makes her so indispensable that she's the only person who can run the business and will hold on to her? She continues to cause hurt and harm to others. We had five women of color lever team within nine days. There's plenty of whispers in the exit interview data. If we actually look at it, there's enough smoke where there's fire and I will see CEOs and leaders bosses stake their own personal reputation and the companies and listen.

We've seen all of these in the press, whether it's Harvey Weinstein or Les Munes and Matt Lauer. You read these things afterwards You're like, wow, and how many people knew and enabled and or pretended they didn't see and looked away. And so one of the things I talk about and I'm not an attorney, I work with legal quite a bit but I see executive coaching being weaponized a lot. So Meeta has non-inclusive behaviors. Actually, she's causing hurt and harm and you're just going to assign her an executive coach and you're like, no, this person actually needs therapy, because hurt people hurt people. When people lash out at me, especially in my role as this chief diversity officer, I try to think, okay, is this really about me or is it about them? Because there's something going on that's causing them to lash out in an unexpected way and sometimes lash out and I haven't actually done anything. So there's cases where I've caused harm and the other person gets upset and causes harm back, and there's power dynamics where I have a toxic boss who is consistently lashing out, and so in those cases it is not the executive coaching. Right, it could be a part of it, but it is therapy.

Some people need therapy to heal themselves and sometimes you can't heal in the place that you're hurting people. I know you can't. I know for me it's been true. I can't heal in the place I've been hurt, and sometimes it's true as well If I've been causing so much hurt and harm in your organization, Can I actually heal there and are people ready to then receive me in a different way? Perhaps there's too much damage that's been done that I just can't heal and show up and lead there again, Because I need to move on and seek redemption somewhere else and start again, but maybe not starting again in the organization where I cause toxicity.

0:40:07 - Rachel Murray Yeah, thank you so much for sharing that. I think this is an important point, and I certainly have had my own experiences, too, with toxic not just leaders, but colleagues, as well. And you know they stay on because of all of the reasons that people like to give, but I think it's almost generous to say to offer them more support. I think the other option is literally just to let them go Absolutely and it depends we go back it depends.

It depends, and I wonder how much of it is gender based. How much more likely are we to let a woman go than a man?

0:40:43 - Mita Mallick I love that Different expectations for different people right.

0:40:47 - Rachel Murray Yeah.

0:40:47 - Mita Mallick And you will let the toxic boss, who's a man, stay on and on and on, but a woman, who should not be a toxic leader. I'm not advocating for that either.

0:40:56 - Rachel Murray Right.

0:40:56 - Mita Mallick But all of a sudden the timeline is much shorter, yeah, like there's no, there's no opportunity no opportunity for learning or growing and understanding what you did wrong. It's like you've got to go.

0:41:12 - Rachel Murray Well, because women should be perfect right out of the game. So, anyway, that's a whole other conversation that I'll put to the side, because I know I'm like, oh my gosh, we have to. We have 14 minutes. Felicia, do you want to tackle the next question?

0:41:27 - Felicia Jadczak Sure, yeah, I've also just been reflecting, as you've both been talking about, you know, sort of again the dilemma of like, at what point is it too much into your point Mita about? Is the place where someone's committed harm the place for them to heal from that and address it? I think there's room for that, but it's also very complicated as we've all said so, you've also talked a bit about mentorship, sponsorship.

Could you talk about the difference between mentorship and sponsorship? I feel like it's the age old question, but it still comes up because it's still complicated. And why can sponsorship be so much more effective for inclusion?

0:42:06 - Mita Mallick I now boldly and unapologetically say I have been over mentored and under sponsored in my career Preach.

0:42:13 - Felicia Jadczak Yes, Over mentored under sponsored in my career yes, you can come after me on social media and it's fine.

0:42:18 - Mita Mallick Listen. What I say is mentorship has been very important to me in my career. I'm not here on this podcast with you all without mentorship. I'm not discounting the value of mentorship, but mentorship and sponsorship are very different. After our conversation, we could stay in touch and we could become mentors for each other. But you're not my career sponsor. And here's why Because typically in my journey, I have found that career sponsors are two levels above you. They have big PNL budget, big team, political capital, social capital in the organization and here's the key thing they are in the room when the doors are closed and decisions are being made about your career. And yes, that's happening. I was so naive when I entered corporate America. I was like what this happens? They have like an all day town review and there's a slide about me and they're talking about me.

0:43:06 - Felicia Jadczak Oh, my God, it's the same.

0:43:07 - Mita Mallick Yes, and so the question is do you know who's sitting at that table? Because sometimes it's not your boss, it's your boss's boss, and let me tell you, your boss should be a sponsor of your career. And guess what? I've had a lot of great bosses and a lot of not so great bosses. That's not always the case, so my other big piece of advice is don't tie your fortunes to the one boss Can't do that. Don't tie your fortunes to that one boss, no matter how much you love them, and not to say that they're not going to help you, but that can't be the only person you depend upon. And so creating a sponsorship relationship is not like being at a Taylor Swift concert where you're exchanging friendship bracelets. I don't go up to someone I'm like will you be my sponsor? No, here's how it works. I am. You might be in a large organization if I'm working with you as a Chief Diversity Officer. I've done this in my past, where I'm actually piloting and doing the art and science of matching sponsors and rising stars.

But people are always like how do I find a sponsor? This is how you find a sponsor, and here's an example I have when I was a senior marketing manager and I include this example and re-imagined inclusion my boss had said, hey, look at the media investments that we've made in this division over the last year. Like, how do we do? Let's get some analysis and put a deck together. And I thought to myself because my amazing Indian immigrant parents gave me so many gifts, but one of the gifts my dad would always tell me, dad, rest in peace. Like, keep your head down, work hard, stay out of trouble and you'll be recognized. And that is actually the opposite of what happens in corporate America. So I would do all this analysis and I'd be like this, looking down. I wouldn't ever be looking up and around. And so that was one of the moments where I actually found someone in finance. And I talk about this it's like who else would be interested in your work other than you and your boss? Most companies you're not doing work alone. And so it's like, wow, someone in the finance office is going to want to know what happened with those media investments and how much money they gave you. And so that's an example of like, hey, maybe you meet with the CFO or the director of finance, depending on the size of your company. You don't meet with them for coffee to say tell me about your career. You meet with them to say I'm putting together a post mortem on last year and recommendations of how we could invest better next year in media Love. 15 minutes, 20 minutes with you. You go with work.

Now, let's say it's Rachel. Rachel is going to be like oh, this is really interesting. Here's like four other questions I have for you. So I go away and do it. I come back to her in three weeks and then she's like wow, this is great.

I have a team meeting next week. Could you come and present? Do you see how I'm making her feel like she co-owns the work? Because you shine, I shine. And then you better believe next time when I'm in the room, when I'm not in the room, my slide is in the room, they're talking about me and I'm up for promotion or consideration.

My boss might present me, others might say something, but Rachel is going to be there to say, yeah, she should be promoted. And here's why. Not because I like her, not because we both played lacrosse at Stanford, not because we both summer in the same time. No, it's because, hey, listen, I've seen this work and I believe in it, and so that's how you think about sponsorship and how to find yourself a sponsor. Also, if you are listening and you are in a leadership position, you should absolutely be sponsoring and think about who you are sponsoring and who you're not sponsoring and why, and the bias we might have there. And then, finally, don't go find 10 sponsors. That's not what I'm telling you to do. You got to find like one or two career sponsors, that's it.

0:46:39 - Rachel Murray Fantastic. We got the clip already in my brain. That was so good. And also thank you for like choosing me as the example, because I would like to think that I honor people and their hard work.

0:46:53 - Mita Mallick Yes.

0:46:53 - Rachel Murray Thank you. And now, whether we play lacrosse together, which I literally don't even know how that?

0:46:57 - Felicia Jadczak works. I'm like I literally played lacrosse in high school.

0:47:00 - Mita Mallick Well, I'm glad I didn't choose you, didn't glad I didn't choose you. I just looked left versus right on the screen and then I'm like I think there's a stick away.

0:47:11 - Rachel Murray Anyway, who would have known?

0:47:13 - Mita Mallick Oh my gosh, I love it.

0:47:14 - Rachel Murray I love it. That was really really great. Okay, another really important question that I have that I think would be really helpful for listeners to talk about the art of the apology and why it's important, and then if you could just break down what a really solid apology looks like and what some of the key components are, that would be great.

0:47:31 - Mita Mallick Well, this is what a non solid apology looks like, and maybe my husband will listen to this. I'm not sure. I'm sorry. I made you feel that way. I'm sorry, I made you feel that way, and I use the personal example because, yeah, that happens, and I'm sure I said that to him as well, because I'm right and you're wrong. Right, and that's the dynamics of relationships and families in our homes. But what happens in the workplace?

When I have caused someone harm and I talk about how many of us are arrogant, how many of us feel like we don't want to admit that we were wrong we don't know how to apologize. We actually don't think we did anything wrong. I've had people ask me if I would apologize on their behalf. I mean, I've seen all sorts of things and you're like. You know I'm sorry is a full sentence. I apologize yesterday to somebody at work Not above me. I make mistakes, I'm human, I'm sorry and it's a full sentence.

And then to get into, what can I do for you? Here's what I understand I did wrong. How can I show up differently? Now, the how can I show up differently is also on you. It's not the other person's burden to tell you how to show up differently, but you can ask, like anything I can do to support you. And so the apology on an individual and company level matters a lot the genuineness, the authenticness, the admitting to what happened and the promise and commitment that you will show up to do better and be better. But here's the thing the apology absolutely falls apart if you don't show up and do better and be better and show that you're making strides to do that. And oh, by the way, if I cause hurt and harm again, then no one's gonna believe me. It's the boy who cried wolf, right, it's again and again and again. It's like well, no, you keep doing it and you keep saying you're sorry, but you're not sorry, you're not learning from this.

0:49:28 - Felicia Jadczak Wonderful. I think it's so hard for people to say just those two words and I appreciate it is a full sentence, because it is and it is, and I see this in my work all the time. It's so difficult, and I experienced this personally as well, to just say I'm sorry, because we immediately default back to that I'm right, right, and so you know. I think it's um, it takes time and practice for sure.

But, yeah, thanks for breaking out those elements of it, cause I think it's a skill that all of us need to lean into more, because you know we save this all the time at SGO. Like this work, like we're human beings, and to be human is to mess up and make a mistake. So if we know that's going to happen, we have to figure out how do we address the other side of that mistake.

0:50:14 - Mita Mallick Absolutely, absolutely.

0:50:16 - Felicia Jadczak Whew, we are coming up to the close of our time with you. I have one more question for you. I know it's a big one, so feel free to like take as much or as little of this you want to answer. But, um, I'd love to just maybe start to wrap by asking you your thoughts on the current state of DEI. So you're really you know you're in this work. We're seeing so many trends on our end all over the place budgets being cut, people getting laid off, people are still committing to this work. So what are your thoughts on kind of where the state of the union is the industry? Is it backed by that lip service? Is it dependent? Does it depend? Um, are there any patterns that you're seeing? Just would love to get some thoughts on that from you.

0:50:58 - Mita Mallick I'm sad. I'm really sad to see what's been happening over the last few years. So I'll start with that. But I'm optimistic and I'm a half-classful person. I want the world of work to be different for my children, so I'm going to continue to do the work.

There's so many things that are colliding at once, particularly if you look at the statistics. In the US alone, over 40% of individuals identify as non-white. That will change, and so you think about the talent you're attracting and bringing in to organizations and what inclusion and belonging as we talked about looks like for individuals from many different communities and however they're identifying. Procter Gamble tells us over $5 trillion of spending power with the multicultural consumer. That doesn't include individuals with disabilities, veterans, the LGBTQ plus community. So all these things are colliding at once, and then the power is shifting Right, and so all of that is whoof Shutting people down. Here's what I say.

Leaders will often ask me. We'll often say this is just too political. I don't want to talk about this. This is woke, anti-woke, political, apolitically. So all these, all these words and buzzwords, and I say to them and to anyone listening well, isn't it through the lens of privilege that I can say something's political? Isn't it? Through the lens of privilege? And so what do I mean by that? Black lives matter, islamophobia, anti-semitism, anti-islamicism, anti-lgbtq legislation, anti-asian hate crime? I can go on and on and on about all the hurt and harm that communities are facing today. So isn't it easy for me to just deem it as that, versus going back to inclusion and humanity, to say this is about the loss of life and these are human rights issues, and people are fearing for their lives and fearing for the lives of the loved ones, and there's hurt and harm that's being repeatedly caused. So that's sort of the setting and how I'm feeling and the role that the role will evolve of the Chief Diversity Officer.

One of my hypotheses is it was never set up for success to begin with, and so there wasn't enough budget, wasn't enough resources. You hire someone to come in and fix it with a magic wand. I'm not here to fix anything. I'm here to be a catalyst for change. The infrastructure isn't there.

And as soon as you start to see people taking not just workforce, because the who you're retaining and who you're retracting is important, but also like, are your people processes, inclusive, right? Like the way in which you bring in talent, a value of talent. Are those processes inclusive? How are your products and services showing up in the marketplace? Who are you ignoring and why? Supplier diversity I've worked for many Fortune 10 company. You write the same checks to the same people and then we started at the beginning. Values you can say you believe in something, but how are you going to stand up in those moments that matter? And so, as soon as you can see really people understanding that a chief diversity officer needs a seat at the table for all of those things, an inclusion is a driver of the business. That's when it's less likely that people will just, oh, take it off the budget. Not doing that this year. Put her on the list. Yes, I see you both holding your breath, I know.

0:54:21 - Felicia Jadczak Yeah, we're like there's so much more to get into and we don't have the time I know.

0:54:26 - Mita Mallick Part two we would love that.

0:54:30 - Rachel Murray And like literally when you started out, whoof, Like that's just something that Felicia and I basically say on almost a daily basis. So, yes, and thank you for still being an optimist in this space as well. I think it's really it's critical to find that those silver linings as well. But I know we have like 30 seconds basically, so I want to make sure that everyone knows where. Well, of course, put it in the show notes about where people can find you. You know about your podcast and the book. Tell us all the things. Sure, Reimagined inclusion debunking 13,.

0:55:01 - Mita Mallick Mr Transform your workplace. Now a Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestseller. You can find it on Amazon, retailers or independent bookstore. Please take a read and give it to someone else who needs help and support on their journey to be a more inclusive leader. You can find me on LinkedIn and my podcast with DC Marshall Ground Table Talk, wherever you listen to your podcast. Thank you both so much for having me. I'm really excited and delighted.

0:55:27 - Felicia Jadczak Oh, thank you for chatting with us and, yes, we'll definitely have to have more conversations. Thank you. All right, we will definitely have to do a part two with Mita, because we just didn't even scratch the surface with that conversation. But what a deep discussion around not just practical tips but, as she put it, group therapy, unpacking the complication of this work. So it was really great to hear from her and talk with her Plus one.

So we got some other stuff coming up that we want to let you know about, especially for those of you who are listening to this in a timely fashion. So we have an upcoming webinar on identity and intersectionality in the workplace. That will be on November 16. That is not only our last event of the year. It is going to be delivered by myself. So if you can't get enough of me, sign up for that and check it out. So I'll be talking all about those topics and we're planning tons and tons and tons of exciting events, opportunities, different things that we're trying to think about for next year and how we can continue to support and engage this work in 2024. So stay tuned for that. But this is the first podcast of the season, so you're going to be able to hear from so many more Amazing people, so also stay tuned for upcoming podcast episodes. Anything else on your end, rachel? I think that's it.

0:56:53 - Rachel Murray I just want to thank everyone for listening and, as usual, please don't forget to rate, share and subscribe. It really does make a huge difference in the reach of this podcast and, by extension, this work. So now please visit us also on YouTube, instagram, linkedin, sign up for our newsletter, visit us on, and then that's a great way to stay up to date on all things SGO. And thank you so much, bye.