Jennifer Brown is an award-winning entrepreneur, dynamic speaker, diversity and inclusion expert. She is the Founder, President and CEO of Jennifer Brown Consulting (JBC), a strategic leadership and diversity consulting firm that coaches business leaders worldwide on critical issues of talent and workplace strategy. Brown is a passionate advocate for social equality who helps businesses foster healthier, more productive workplace cultures. Her book Inclusion: Diversity, the New Workplace & the Will to Change will inspire leadership to embrace the opportunity that diversity represents and empower advocates to drive change that resonates in today’s world.
Couldyou share with us a background of how did you end up in this arena of diversity and inclusion, what was your journey like?
As it relates to diversity and inclusion, could you share with us some of the issues that have been may be barriers to preventing a fully diversified and inclusive workplace based on your experience?
As it relates to diversity and inclusion, could you share with us maybe one or two strategies that you think small and medium-sized business owners could employ?
Now in terms of how this impacts the customer experience, could you share with us some of the best practices that you’ve seen in organizations and how it has translated into retention and better customer experiences overall?
Could you share with us how you stay motivated every day?
Could you share with us what’s one online resource, tool, website or app that you absolutely cannot live without in business?
Could you share with us some of the books that have had the biggest impact on you?
What’s one thing that’s going on in your life right now that you’re really excited about – either something that you’re working on to develop yourself or your people?
Where can our listeners find you online?
What’s one quote or saying that during times of adversity or challenge you revert to that quote to help you to become refocus?
Jennifer shared, as we like to say in this field not a lot of standard paths towards a career in diversity and inclusion. In fact, if you try to find academic programs that address or degrees that address this topic you probably will come up empty-handed. We all come from different places, for her,she was an activist in nonprofits in her 20s, but she was also always a musician and it was sort of an amateur pursuit in those early days in her life, but it was a huge passion. So, she decided to make it her profession and give it a shot, she moved to New York to become an opera singer and study at a conservatory and get her Masters in voice which was really exciting and heady times for her.But unfortunately, through the course of training she injured her voice and ended up having to get several surgeries on her voice to repair it but ultimately, she realized it wasn’t going to work, her voice just would not be an instrument that she could count on for a career where she could make her living.
It was heartbreaking but it’s led her towards where a lot of theater people go because they love the stage and they’re so good in front of people, a lot of them become trainers and educators. In fact, we find a home in leadership in the whole kind of field of leadership whether that’s as consultant or a learning and development person. So, she ended up getting a second Masters in Organizational Development/ Organizational Change, it goes by a lot of different names but it’s basically the HR education realm and she was a corporate learning and development, training and development leader for a while as an employee and then she got laid off and she said, “I think I can have more impact from the outside if I became kind of that third party, that expert.”That really appealed to her, it still appeals to her to this day, it’s the best role for her to play which is that agitator, but not the employee which helps give her some authority, gives her some distance, gives her some credibility earned or unearned or deserved but it is what it is. People tend to want to listen to people who’ve written books on things and people who are external when they don’t do a very good job of listening to their employees, which is another maybe we’ll talk about that. So she ended up hanging her shingle out about 12 years ago and doing leadership and team development and morphing into DNI because she felt pulled in that direction to specialize because she’s a member of the LGBTQ community and she has been out since she was 22, and yet she had really struggled with being out throughout her life and even in the nonprofit world certainly in the opera music world and then as an entrepreneur where she felt very exposed to bias if she were to be honest and authentic about who she actually is and it’s a huge part of our lives to deny and to walk around and do business without talking about it, without kind of leaving that hole and not feeling it’s going to be accepted and it’s also going to hurt your ability to make a living which is really problematic.
So, now they do specialize in Diversity and Inclusion, and she’s fully out all the time, you could Google her and it’s very plain.It is actually, she considers part of her secret sauce, it’s part of where she has cut her teeth on developing her own voice, her bravery, her courage, her resilience has a lot of that has come from that identity and the pain of some of the painful lessons of exclusion that that has allowed her and enabled her to feel, to think about, to empathize with and hopefully made her a more inclusive leader, not just because she’s LGBTQ, but for all communities that needs her voice as an ally. So, it’s a very cool place to find herself where she gets to write books and speak about all this stuff and it’s particularly timely because the topic is, she would say, there’s never been more attention on the topic than there is now.
Jennifer stated that it has a lot of reasons and a lot of factors, it’s rather complex and yet it’s kind of simple at the same time because the mandate is simple, the need to reflect your customer base which is diversifying quickly who has the spending power for example that non-white communities are the fastest growing consumer communities with the largest spending power.She thinks the gay community now has a trillion dollars of spending power. So, consumers are getting smarter, they’re getting organized, they’re finding their voice, they’re using it to hold brands accountable which is exciting and make spending choices that reflect their values. And yet companies in terms of their employee mix particularly in the top half or third of organizations really don’t reflect that diverse world and companies structures are old school, there is no better way to say it, they have been unchallenged and they haven’t challenged themselves in terms of the makeup of their senior leadership in particular and many companies not all but many companies have kind of gone about their merry way trying to make money and really not focused on anything larger than that, whether it’s how employees feel, who’s succeeding and feels they can thrive in the organization, who may be reaching senior leadership roles and who’s not and why they’re feeling thwarted in that process up the pipeline. And so, she thinks there’s this business as usual, we’re here to make money, we’re here to generate shareholder results and there’s not been a lot of attention paid to values, the importance of the workforce and what they want and need in order to stay and thrive and there is honestly a lot of bias around, “Well, I worked hard and all you need to do is work hard too and you’ll achieve what I’ve achieved.” So, this belief and meritocracy and it’s really easy to believe in meritocracy when people that look like you have benefited from that, it hasn’t been a challenge, there haven’t been stereotypes that have affected you, you have been pulled forward by others that look like you without even knowing it sometimes, and so there’s this willful blindness to the difficulties that are faced by anyone that is not of a certain demographic in workforces, it’s sort of, “I write it off. I don’t take it seriously. I don’t listen to it. I don’t even know it honestly.” So, there’s a lot of education that’s needed around micro inequities, unconscious bias, HR processes that are so critical like recruitment, retention, promotion and advancement, all those moments in the employee life cycle where bias occurs, it’s in a large part still allowed to kind of continue and so what their job is to interrupt those things and come in as a company and build strategies that help companies wake up, get educated, care about it, honestly have empathy for other people which you shouldn’t even need to say but it feels that it’s hard, it feels that if I explain something to you and you don’t care and then you don’t take action, that hurts, there’s a ton of research on this it’s not even like this is a mystery. It’s right there and so the best leaders and the best companies are really forward, they’re asking all these great questions, they’re humbling themselves to their own learning, to their own mistakes, they’re publishing their data and saying, “Hey, here’s our data and I know it sucks and we’re working to change it.” That’s what courage looks like, that’s what leadership looks like these days and she wish she saw more of it.
Yanique shared, I like the fact that you mentioned that it’s not something that people are accustomed to and change is hard. Unfortunately, human beings don’t adapt to change very readily, and I don’t think it’s based on the geography in terms of where you’re from in the world, I think it’s just general human nature. So, it would mean that you have to put yourself in a place of being uncomfortable in order to move from one stage to the next.
Jennifer agreed and stated that nobody wants to be uncomfortable, but the flip side is it makes you so much better of a leader and a better team member, better colleague and by the way better parent, better community leader, all of these. There’s a reason that you open a paper today and diversities in every headline, it’s everywhere because institutions are really struggling with it of all kinds for profit, nonprofit,community organizations, church leadership, so there is probably, no area of your life where you can afford to not understand and embrace this conversation and do your work, your kid could come home tomorrow and say, “Mom, I think I’m transgender.”You would be completely ill-equipped to deal with that and to be fair most parents are, it’s something that is life and does not prepare you for that but at the same time don’t you want to be ready? Even if you’re interviewing for jobs, even if you’re leading teams at a company that values diversity and you don’t or you haven’t paid attention to it, you’ve assumed it’s somebody else’s job to care about it, none of that is going to work for you in the long run, it’s a little bit of a scare tactic but she has to use every tool she has to convince people that this is important which is really tiring and honestly kind of depressing sometimes because you’re wondering how they don’t get it, “Please have empathy for people that haven’t had as easy of a road as you.” It’s just that and then she doesn’t know why we have to ask and convince and scare, how many different techniques do we need to basically talk about something that’s such a human right and is all about the dignity of everyone in this world to do their best work and to feel their sense of purpose every day.
Yanique agreed and stated, and to feel appreciated, a lot of people work in organizations and they just don’t feel appreciated and I think they’ve lost the purpose if there was even a purpose from day one, they’ve definitely lost it. It comes out in the interactions that they have with customers, it comes out in how they relate to their team members sometimes unconscious of the fact that the customer is observing you in every interaction once they’re standing in front of you or you’re on the phone and you ask them to hold but you didn’t actually put the phone on hold, so they’re hearing everything that’s happening in the background.
Jennifer shared that small companies have a great opportunity, it’s actually much easier to shift things than for large organizations, and certainly remembering that if you build it right from the beginning, you will have a much easier time down the road. So, it’s very important to think about how you are recruiting and retaining all kinds of talent, how comfortable they feel once they are in your organization and really being open to feedback about when that inclusiveness, the desire for inclusiveness is actually though being interpreted and the impact of an intention is one of exclusion. She thinks that sometimes we don’t want to know the answer to that question so we don’t ask and so it’s very critical, particularly, if you’re not a person of a marginalized or underrepresented background yourself, you’re going to have some blind spots, your network is going to look a lot like you so you will tend to recruit from that network. You will have blind spots around how people perceive your brand and by even blind spots probably about your desired customers so that to the extent that you can ensure your team that you build reflects the world that you’re doing business in, it will allow you to resonate and to see around that corner and to anticipate that audience and that customer and gear your communications accordingly and have kind have a check in balance on how are we coming across in the marketplace and like you said, we’re being observed all the time, so your future talent is looking at your current organization and looking at your website and thinking about, “Would I be comfortable there? I don’t see anyone that looks like me there.” That’s something that’s hard to fix in some cases because when you’re an entrepreneur you’re grabbing warm bodies, you’re trying to get work done, it’s very fast, you are going to pull from your own network because it’s most expedient and that network is going to tend to look like you and so you’ve got to actively counterbalance that in your outreach, in the talent pools that you’re seeking, in the way you talk proactively and very overtly about your commitment to inclusion. Shewould really recommend you have that in all of your marketing materials, it doesn’t matter what business you’re in, there’s always a way to talk about what inclusion means as a value to you and to what you’re trying to build and to the customers you’re trying to serve, there are ways to do that and she would recommend you do it because it’s a beacon, not only for talent you hope to recruit and to say, “Hey, this is a safe place for you.This is a place that you are wanted and needed not just tolerated or accepted. We need all of you to bring your full self to work, this is a place in which you can do that.” Then we want to best serve the customer and their needs and wants, and companies are at real risk of missing some key….There’s just a lot of mistakes that are made because diverse talent is not at the table when creative decisions are made or marketing collateral is designed, we’ve seen very high level mistakes made by brands like PepsiCo with the ad that they had where there was like a mock black lives matter march and one of the Kardashians was handing a Pepsi across the police line, it’s a nightmare and they pulled it immediately. And it became a kind of a case study that a lot of us talking about where we wonder who was at the table making those decisions, and if they were at the table, were they listened to, were they really considered, was that feedback taken into account? So, she doesn’t know where the error happened in their process because she doesn’t have the inside look into them but at a smaller scale this stuff can happen all the time and she thinks you’ve got to make sure your mentored and coached and you run things by people, you think about the nuances of the diversity conversation because it is really nuanced, languages changing all the time and she gets a lot of complaints about are trans and gender non-conforming friends will say, “Yeah, I identify as they, them. So that’s my preferred pronoun.”People will literally say, “Well, I don’t feel comfortable referring to you as that, it’s grammatically incorrect and I feel uncomfortable.”It’s just amazing to her, to the point earlier, it’s a small action on your part that allows somebody to feel seen and heard is that so much work, she thinks it’s such a red herring, it’s just an excuse to not grow and she doesn’t understand it. Jennifer thinks if you’re in business, you should want more language, you should want more ways to talk to people in and resonate with them, that’s what you should want.
Jennifer shared that she thinks that companies that are designing products for example for different communities, some of the larger organizations she worked with literally have something called Employee Resource Groups or they’re called Business Resource Groups, but they are diversity networks, maybe they’re a multicultural talent network, maybe they’re a black employee network, maybe there are an LGBTQ network and most companies are trying to reach those diverse demographic so they can sell more to them, but they realize that they don’t have the intelligence on the inside to really do this well and effectively, the smart ones realize that so they have these groups or these networks for a lot of reasons, these networks serve a lot of purposes in organizations and these can exist in small companies to by the way. She has worked with 200-person companies that have a full diversity committee, they have several Employee Resource Groups that are literally playing kind of this market intelligence role for the company so you don’t have to be big to access this idea and they are at the table informing product design, informing marketing strategies, informing sales, educating the sales team and anyone that’s external facing around cultural nuances and behaviors and language.In banks and financial services, a lot of the financial advisors are tend to be white and to be male and yet the biggest growth and wealth is in diverse wealth holders, female heads of households, people of color and yet you have a financial advisor community in all the big banks and insurance companies that doesn’t really look like that and they’re struggling to diversify those ranks on the inside.So, literally there are certifications you can get for example as a financial advisor, you can get certified in selling to the LGBTQ community, selling financial products to that community and you go somewhere, and you get a designation that you can put after your name and yes, you’re an ally, you’re a straight ally, you’re not in that community but you know and you’re investing in how to be culturally competent when you are selling to that community. So, you’re listenership probably selling a lot of different kinds of things, we’re all in sales all the time, we all have customers and it’s all about resonating with them and making sure you’re staying up to speed on what their care abouts are and how they talk about themselves and how they kind of getting inside their lives and anticipating what they want and need.It’s just that awareness and there’s just a lot of examples of brands that have done this really well. Heineken had a great ad that aired a Super Bowl ago that she would encourage everybody to go look at where they introduce people to each other without providing a lot of demographic information about the person and they give them some questions to talk about and they pair somebody who might have very conservative views with somebody who’s in the military and who identifies as transgender.But they don’t tell them any of these things and then they encourage some conversation and then they kind of reveal later on, “Well, actually this person that you’ve bonded with, this is who they actually are and how they identify and are you surprised and do you feel your bias is being challenged?”It’s really, really neat and there’s a lot of interesting ads, Gillette just came out with an incredible ad, she would encourage everyone to go and watch it on masculinity, it was so good and there was a lot of threatened boycotts and she watched it with her partner and they literally cried and it was so moving and to think that something that could move us and touch your soul could make so many people angry is really indicative of the polarized times we live in but by the way, Gillette’s sales went up after that ad, by a considerable amount.So, threatened, boycott or not, anger or not and social media, they correctly diagnosed the bump that they would get through putting their values out there and saying, “Here’s what we want to be about and we know that as a brand we haven’t always been all that hip to the issue, so, we’re trying to be.”She thinks it really worked.It definitely burnished the brand for her and a countless other potential customers.
Yanique stated, so this is definitely something that’s new and of course it’s definitely going to continue into another couple of years as you said people are trying to flesh out what does that mean for them based on their organization, based on where they operate in the world, based on who they are trying to target and as you said, how much sales they’re trying to increase in what community and if they can connect with these people because as you stated at the beginning of our conversation, people are now buying from brands that represent the values that they hold near and dear to them and sometimes that’s very hard to find and it’s amazing that consumers are taking this stance because it just goes to show that the power is really in the hands of the consumer and it’s going to be continuing even more, social media has given themso much power in terms of the things that they do, the comments and the feedback that they give and so it’s not so much about what the brand says about themselves, but what the consumer has to say based on their experiences with the product or the service.
Jennifer agreed and stated that it goes beyond the four walls of the company, there is no such thing anymore, there’s total transparency as you said, there’s a lot of accountability and a lot of communities are diverse communities who are questioning – Do we want to work at a place like that? Do we want to patronize a place like that? What do they stand for? People really now want to hear what do you mean and are you walking the talk?And she’s really excited to see this accountability and the visibility that they have, they can peer into how companies do business and employees are finding their voice and really being public about it like the Google walk out of a couple months ago had 20,000 employees all over the world walking out and protesting their whole process that they handle sexual harassment claims and pay equity.They had his whole list of demands and it was really inspiring to seeing Google had to pay attention. They just had to and they’ve been kind of on a journey of addressing some, not all of the requests/demands that the employees had, so, we’re going to see this is not going away, this accountability and it’s exciting because brands have gotten away with a lot in the past, they’ve gotten away with unfair workplace practices, they’ve protected their data, they haven’t been forced to admit where they’re board is entirely white and male but it’s never been talked about in the news before, those days are over and if you’re in a company where you haven’t been called out publicly, it will happen.And so, a lot of their work is actually these days about helping brands and companies make sure they’re doing their work internally, and so hopefully that day never comes, hopefully they never mess up but that accountability is fierce and swift and she almost feel like we need to start teaching the art of the apology to our customers because they’re going to make mistakes, they are absolutely going to and so the question is, how do you come back from a mistake? How do you apologize, own what happened, say you’re learning, talk about what you’re going to be recommitting to, what are you going to do differently in the future, even that as something you’re prepared for, that’s a new idea but she thinks it would behoove all business owners and even all managers to think about when I say the wrong word, do people trust me enough and they know that they can come to me and tell me, that’s what you really want, you want to ask for that, you want to earn people’s trust because by the way, you can’t just one day and once only say, “Hey, can you let me know if I ever make you feel uncomfortable?”It’s not a one and done. So, you’ve got to earn that trust that somebody then will trust you enough to be honest with you and say, “Hey, that joke you say or that saying you say or you know that you stole that person’s idea in the room or assigned it to, you took it and you attributed it to somebody else or did you realize that men did 90% of the talking in that meeting?”We’ve got to be sensitive to these things and we just haven’t been in the past and we need help to learn and so it’s not just something you do need to do a lot on your own, you need to educate yourself, you need to read a lot of books about bias and team dynamics and being an inclusive leader, her book is helpful she has been told by a lot of people, she hopes it’s helpful, so read these books, but they commit to making behavior change in yourself and inviting feedback and then act on that feedback, adjust, be humble be resilient, have that growth mindset which is failing forward.You know you’re going to fail, it happens to all of us, we’re all bias and it’s hard to keep up with this, but you just have to try, that’s huge points for trying.
Yanique stated, I like the fact that you made a point to the fact that the change starts with you because I find in a lot of organizations, the managers or the leaders are quick to say well they need to do so and so and they’re not including themselves in the process because it all starts with them as well and as a leader or a manager, if I’m in an organization, I’m looking to see what you are doing because I’m taking lead from the behaviors that you’ve demonstrated, the attitudes that you’ve demonstrated and yes, I may have my own values but in an organization people kind of watch what’s happening and they kind of conform to the culture that exists and if they do anything out of the norm, it means that they’re going to stand out and because most people don’t want to stand out, there kind of just going to go along with whatever is happening there, whether it’s good or bad sometimes.
Jennifer agreed and stated that the best example of what Yanique is talking about is watching how many men take paternity leave or parental leave. We don’t get a lot in this country, some companies are really trying to become much more generous around leave and actually going as far as requiring some employees to take leave because there’s such a stigma around taking leave and particularly for men and male parents in any family configuration, it is particularlyshamed to take. Even the leave that’s provided, take all of that leave, it’s not viewed as a positive, you get pressure, it’s spoken and unspoken pressure and men follow other men and follow what they do and they decide what the norms are based on what they see particularly senior people doing so you’re right that we take our cues from everyone we watch above us in a way and we say, “Well, that’s acceptable, that’s not acceptable, that’s a boundary I can cross or that’s a boundary that I shouldn’t cross.”This is why it particularly would leave and also vacation interestingly, there are some companies that are starting to require vacation because we don’t take all the vacation we haveand that’s not because we don’t want to take the vacation, it’s because we don’t think it’s going to be okay to do. So, the norms that are communicated through behavior of others particularly senior people, we are watching, and we are then deciding, “What should I do that’s not going to hurt my career in this particular culture?”So, she wouldn’t encourage people to think about, it almost needs to be mandated because until such time as we can change this dynamic of pressure and peer pressure and watching these role modeling behavior happen and kind of employees not taking care of themselves and not really doing what they need to do to have a balanced life, we may need to mandate some things. She just interviewed this woman, Erica Keswin, and she really recommend her book called Bring Your Human to Work and she has so many examples of what companies are doing in this vein to encourage leave, to encourage parenting and to encourage balance and flex and literally power to the employee to really have that balance that is the theme, the theme of women’s month is how do we achieve this?But remember men need balance too, we single parents need balance, people without children need balance who are caregiving, we may be doing none of those things, but we may need just balance for our time off. So, let’s not be biased in terms of how we set systems up as well and assume that only one group of people needs to manage their work-life balance, but traditionally was spoken of as a sort of women’s challengeand that’s really changing, and she hopes it’s changing. She hopes men are thinking about what they need and they’re advocating for themselves, younger men, she has a lot of hopes for millennial generation to say, this is what I need and want whether that’s a sabbatical, whether it’s flexible work assignments and arrangements, whether it’s different career opportunities and moving around a lot more often and she just hopes that employees are in the driver’s seat, it’s time to assume our more powerful position as you mentioned earlier.
When asked about how she stays motivated every day, Jennifer shared that she calls it self-care and when you do diversity work, it has to be radical self-care because it can get kind of depressing to have to have these conversations over and over about why empathy matters. We have not succeeded in building healthy workplace cultures and that is wearing us down, it’s tiring us, it’s actually making us physically ill from stress-related issues when you can’t be yourself, it’s harmful. So, talking about this all the time as is equally inspiring and also kind of depressing and makes her angry and frustrated and she has days when she wants to give up but that’s also entrepreneurship. You have this passion, you’re trying to raise money, you’re trying to hire your team, you’re trying to get contracts signed. So, how she fills her cup is gathering with people that care about what she cares about and just being able to let her guard down and be real about the frustrations and how it feels every day and for her, that might be in a room of women entrepreneurs as it fills her up to think about how are you growing your business?Just to see herself in them is a way of finding that space where you can say, “I’m not alone.” As she thinks isolation is really dangerous for us. So, who your community, where can you be real and let your hair down and let your guard down, be honest. Where can you go to feel re-inspired to realize the size of the community that’s trying to do similar things or that shares your values.There’s a lot of conferences on conscious capitalism and so, it’s not just diversity conferences, it’s conferences about values at work and culture conference, which is about why workplace cultures matter, there’s a lot of great HR conferences that are talking more and more about what she does. So, it’s this incredible convergence that she’s seeing in her conversation to many other sort of parallel worlds, which is a really cool thing to see. So, she would just recommend find your community, gather with them, put yourself around people that are having the highs and lows and everything in between, find folks you can be really real and honest with where it’s off line and so nobody’s watching and people who will hold your confidence. But ultimately, to her that has really sustained her. She has an amazing team as well, she doesn’t try to do this alone, she has always wanted to build this beyond herself because she knew she wouldn’t be able to touch all the lives that she wanted to without a team of people that could be going out and being in those classrooms and building those strategies for the companies and bringing those practices back to their group, so that they could do more of it. So, she has an incredible consulting team that does client work but also has a great marketing team that feels like they are all very aligned in terms of how much they believe in what they’re doing every day and they’re all sharing articles all the time, they’re sending inspirational stuff to each other, they’re sending discouraging new data to each other which just fuels the fight. So, she’d say if you’re the kind of person that for maybe a team would feel that it would help you do the work and get up every day for a reason, then you might want to build a different kind of organization.There’s a lot of us that just want to do it alone and that takes a certain kind of personality, it was never really her so, it’s important to know what kind of leader are you? What do you need around you? Who do you need around you to be able to do your work and really find your sweet spot and your voice in that work and then who needs to surround you to enable that so that you can focus on what you do best.
When asked about an online resource, tool, website or app, Jennifer stated that it’s such a hard choice, there is so many, she has her favorite podcasts, she has her favorite research institutions.She really relies on research by McKenzie and Deloitte are probably her favorite things, her go-to resources for data on the way the workforce is changing. So, there are these amazing think tanks, they very well resourced, they are very cutting edge and a lot of that information fuels their consulting work, they just take that to clients and they hadn’t seen it, it’s compelling data about the future and they can help kind of flush it out because of their expertise, so it really works well. And then on the personal side, she really loves this woman who runs a daily Facebook live called, Resistance Liveand that’s more of a sort of for her personal fuel.It talks about what’s happening in our political system, the new generation of democratic leaders and candidates and the whole developing conversation around progressive values is exciting to her and again, kind of feeds her the certainty that she’s going in the right direction and that there is a big community that is asking the same questions that she’s asking so, but there’s so many women’s podcasts that she listens to, so many where she also gets her education around difference.She listens to code switch which is an NPR Podcastabout race and ethnicity and code-switching which is a critical foundational principle in terms of what we talk about diversity and all of us are code-switching all the time around a variety of aspects. So, that’s one of her go to podcasts to learn about how other people experience code-switching and how she can be an ally to lessen some of what people feel that need to code switch every single day, how she can lessen that need and support people to bring their full selves to wherever and not have to put all that energy into hiding and minimizing and shifting and speaking a different language to different people, it’s exhausting stuff and we shouldn’t have to do it.
When asked about books that have had the biggest impact, Jennifer shared that she has many favorite authors that are difficult to narrow it down as usual, but there’s a new book called Better Allies: Everyday Actions to Create Inclusive, Engaging Workplacesby her friend Karen Catlin and literally she’s a woman in Tech.She was a VP in a technology company in a technical role and today she’s an author and keynoter and she has a million ideas for how to be a better ally. She’s got a hashtag and a handle on Twitter called #betterallies, which she really recommends everybody follows but she has a new book that literally pulls all that together in one place which is so helpful.So, that’s one book that she would encourage reading. She doesn’t think there’s a lot written on Allyship, so, this is an emerging area. Her new book coming out in August does talk about this a lot as well and sort of the allied journey, how you can get on board, how you can put one foot in front of the other and whether it’s adopting one new word and trying to understand what it means and using it all the way to kind of advanced Allyship, which is she’s an advocate in her organization, she’s a big-time voice, she’s challenging the system and everything in between so, Better Allies is great. David Smith wrote a book called Athena Rising: How and Why Men Should Mentor Womenabout why men should mentor women and she really pays a lot of attention to men and there are not many men who are writing about inclusion and men who speak on it because it’s so important in so many ways. The (a) that they’re involved but (b) other men are going to listen to them and read them in a different way and she thinks maybe many people are used to people who look like me and you speaking about all these things but for a man to speak about it is powerful.So, those are two amazing books she would point people towards that are great reads and full of practical advice.
Jennifer shared that they are embarking on a big shift in their business strategy at her company, they’ve been highly like white glove bespoke consulting has been their bailiwick and then she gave a lot of key notes, which is great, and she loves, and she just plan to do a lot more of them. She thinks it’s really her sweet spot honestly, but she thinks they’re moving into the online product arena and they’ve launched their first online program in the last couple of months and have their first cohort of students and thinks their programs could be so many things. They’re going to launch a new assessment behind the second book that’s coming out in August around how inclusive of a leader are you and actually give people a score and then kind of break down their score within 6 different domains. And so, it’s the first assessment they’ve ever really had like that as a company. She thinks it has a lot of potential because people want to know where they are and then they want resources and tools whether it’s a quickie online program that’s really affordable or whether it’s much longer, six months multi-course program where they can really do a deep dive. They’re starting to build all those things on the back end, to get access to their knowledge, you don’t need to hire them to come into your company basically, there’s going to be a whole way to access what they do online. So, she’s just really excited to investigate that, it’s a great revenue generator for them, a different kind of workstream business unit and who knows what’s in store for them with the economy, but it’s been a long time since they’ve had a correction and corrections and recessions are really difficult for consulting companies, a lot of us don’t make it through and she thinks they’re recession-proof now but it’s very important and every entrepreneur that listens to you will know this, that we must diversify your revenue, spread out the ways that you make money in as many ways as you can to protect yourself against downturns particularly if you are a service company, and you’re attached to corporate budgets.And diversity has been viewed as a nice to have traditionally and so, she thinks a lot of us, it really would behoove all of us to think about how are you going to weather storms? Because we know storms are going to happen and so that’s another aspect that she’s really excited about having these online offerings.They’re more affordable, they are something that people can do even with in a recession environment to invest in themselves, continue to learn and grow and prepare for the upswing, not to be morbid but it is something that has crossed her mind and she’s sure has crossed everyone’s minds that are listening to you if they run a business.
****Special Note: the book is available for pre-order on Amazon in order to get into the flow that way
Jennifer shared that she likes to think about the quote that was on President Obama’s rug in the Oval Office. It says, “The Arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”You talked about like an idea that keeps you working and getting up in the morning and thinking that what you’re doing is making a difference, there’s no better quote than that. I think Martin Luther King originated it, but she thinks about it a lot because it is a struggle, because progress can feel slow, sometimes it’s a real galvanizing idea for her and many others who do the work that she does.