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The Black Lives Matter movement began in 2013 with the acquittal of George Zimmerman, the man who killed Trayvon Martin. The national movement grew after the police killing of George Floyd in May, as thousands took to the streets to demand justice for Floyd and his family. Over the years, the movement has expanded from fighting for justice and equality in policing to other areas — including the workplace.
According to the human resources consulting firm Mercer, Black and Latino populations in the U.S. are underrepresented at every career level above support staff. Black employees make up 12% of support staff, while making up only 2% of executive positions.
Many companies have acknowledged this disparity in the workplace. But what are they doing to remedy it, and are they succeeding?
Produced by Kurt Gardinier
KOJO NNAMDIWelcome back. The Black Lives Matter movement gained traction this summer after the police killing of George Floyd with sustained protests across the nation. The movement is sparking demands for justice and equality well beyond policing, including in the workplace. Many companies, large and small, now recognize they have issues with discrimination in hiring and promotion and deep-seeded issues with workplace culture. But what are they doing to remedy it, and are they succeeding?
KOJO NNAMDIJoining me now to discuss this is Dr. Tiffany Jana, the founder and CEO of TMI Consulting, a diversity and inclusion management consulting firm. Dr. Jana is the author of several books, including her latest, "Subtle Acts of Exclusion: How to Understand, Identify and Stop Microaggressions." Tiffany Jana, thank you for joining us.
TIFFANY JANAThank you so much for having me.
NNAMDIHow prevalent is the lack of diversity at organizations and businesses in Washington, and more widely, across the country?
JANAIt is fairly prevalent, particularly as it comes to organizations that are founder-led. You often find, you know, white founders who hire in their own image. Not out of malice, but it does happen, and you get a very large number of organizations that don't have diversity. And then the ones that do tend to have their diversity concentrated at the lowest entry-level positions and organizations. So, the higher you go up in hierarchy, the more white-dominated it becomes.
NNAMDII just saw a report that indicates that just 2 percent of executive positions in the U.S. are held by black people. You may have partially answered that question already, but if you could extend a little farther. How did that happen, and how can it be changed?
JANASo, that tends to happen as a result of often unconscious bias or embedded systemic bias. So, unconsciously, you know, as citizens, we have a tendency to equate leadership with whiteness and maleness. And that is just conditioning, cultural conditioning, it's not anything, you know, bad that anyone was trying to program us with. That's just what we've seen, and that's what we've reinforced overtime.
JANASo then what happens when it's time for promotion, when it's time to hire for executive positions, we don't tend to have a lot of role models and a lot of examples in our own minds of seeing, you know, black leaders, BIPOC leaders, queer leaders. And so, when they are trying for those positions, it is very easy to dismiss them as not having leadership potential.
NNAMDITiffany Jana, you are in a field known as JEDI. Could you explain what that means?
JANAAbsolutely. All my life I wanted to be a JEDI worker, and now I am. (laugh)
NNAMDIAnd now you are. (laugh)
JANAIt stands for Justice Equity Diversity and Inclusion. So, the trajectory of my industry has changed since the civil rights movement in the '60s from just diversity, simply having different kinds of people in the workplace, to inclusion, how do we actually invite those people to meaningful engage in the work. Then equity was added, and that is does everyone have the opportunity to be successful, like with the leadership conversation. Regardless of the demographic I show up with, am I just as likely as anyone else to be promoted, to be successful at this company.
JANAAnd justice is really what's happening. And justice has been kind of a West Coast addition for a while, but I think that it's taking on, sort of, more speed and more energy now in this post-George Floyd lynching moment. People are recognizing that systemic racism is everyone's responsibility.
NNAMDICan you explain a little bit about why you say justice was at first a West Coast kind of thing?
JANAYeah, so in the industry, a lot of practitioners on the West Coast were using justice as it pertained to either nonprofit organizations, or certainly within different sort of verticals that dealt with things like food justice, right. So, the food justice area, like when we're talking about making sure that there aren't food desserts and making sure that there's, you know, equitable access to safe and healthy foods, those folks have been, including that J in the JEDI acronym for a while. It's only starting to really move east now.
NNAMDIOkay. Also joining us now is Minal Bopaiah, founder of Brevity & Wit, a strategy and design firm focused on helping organizations with diversity and equity. Minal Bopaiah, thank you for joining us.
MINAL BOPAIAHThank you, Kojo.
NNAMDIYou are a DEI consultant. What is DEI, and what do you do for your clients?
BOPAIAHSure. So, DEI is Diversity Equity and Inclusion. And, you know, Dr. Jana, I love your JEDI acronym, as well. And often, Brevity & Wit also includes an A for accessibility. So, we are looking to shift maybe to IDEA for inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility.
BOPAIAHAnd what Brevity & Wit does is we bring a design-thinking mindset to diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility initiatives in organizations, because it's important to note that organizations are designed. And they can be designed to support inequitable outcomes, or they can be designed to support equitable outcomes.
NNAMDIWhy is this important for organizations and businesses, and what's the result if companies do not reflect a range of backgrounds and experiences?
BOPAIAHSo, there's a number of ways to answer that question. The one that is most salient to me is that I think that it is a moral imperative. You know, if our organizations should be -- you know, it's an American value to have equal access to opportunity. And so, therefore, our organizations should reflect the diversity of the American populace.
BOPAIAHBut there are also other outcomes, such as greater innovation, you know. And the variety of ideas and the way that that makes products and services and organizations stronger and more resilient, when we are now operating in a very volatile and uncertain and complex and ambiguous environment. So -- and the reason I give all of those reasons is because, you know, diversity, equity and inclusion is even inclusive in the reasons why you can do it. People have different values, and that diversity should also be valued. And so, therefore, the value you get out of diversity, equity and inclusion can vary, but it has something to offer everyone, no matter what their core values are.
NNAMDIMinal Bopaiah, diversifying the staff of an organization is obviously important, but is there more that needs to be done? What else needs to be done?
BOPAIAHOh, absolutely. I mean, first of all, diversity without inclusion is just going to create a revolving door of people from different backgrounds who don't feel welcome and then don't stay. So, creating an inclusive culture is absolutely critical if you're -- and some would argue, even the first step before diversifying your staff. So that when you bring people in with different background or different perspectives, they can feel welcomed. And people know how to collaborate and bridge across difference.
BOPAIAHBut, in addition to that, there is a need to design more equitable systems so that your systems, your organizations and your prophecies are supporting the behaviors that you want to see in the organization. I've actually done a lot of work with public media, in fact, and, you know, there may be a desire to diversify content or to diversify sources.
BOPAIAHBut if you are rewarding reporters on how quickly they file a story and how many eyeballs they get on it, and you're not rewarding them for trying out new sources or trying out new story angles or being able to attract more diverse audiences, even if the numbers are smaller, then what you're doing is you've created a system that reinforces a behavior that leads to inequitable outcomes, instead of designing a system that reinforces the behavior you want to see. So, just diversifying is not enough. You absolutely have to take the steps to ensure that there's more inclusion and equity in your organization, as well.
NNAMDIYou may have already answered my next question, but I'm going to ask it anyway. This public radio station has not been immune to these issues. There have been concerns raised of WAMU's retention of employees of color and revelations of sexual misconduct by a former reporter. WAMU's general manager resigned last month in the midst of all of this. If you have anything to add to what you just said, what's your take on all of this?
BOPAIAHYeah, it (laugh) -- I mean, it is -- diversity, equity and inclusion is complex and nuanced and subtle work. And so, I have read about what has been happening at WAMU and, you know, my heart goes out for everybody there who has been obviously affected by what's been going on.
BOPAIAHAnd what I think I want to say is one, you're not alone, right. Like, this is clearly -- you know, dysfunctional organizations are sadly somewhat the norm right now. And that, in addition -- like, these issues can't be addressed with necessarily a hammer. And there is a need for incredible moral imagination right now, both in our country and in our organizations.
BOPAIAHAnd I think journalists are capable of that. And at the same time, journalism, as an industry, needs to have a reckoning with the practices and the culture of journalism that supports hierarchy, bullying and perfectionism in ways that we may not be thinking about it. Not in terms of maybe even, you know, somebody's identity, but the way we go after somebody for a misplaced comma, you know. (laugh)
BOPAIAHLike, we need to -- if that is the spirit, then, yeah, you're going to get abuses on a more macro level, as well. And so, there's really a need for journalism, and media, in general, to have sort of its own reckoning with how -- not just what you do, but how you do it. And so, it's going to take courage across the entire organization and across the entire industry to imagine and create something better.
NNAMDIAnd, Dr. Tiffany Jana, I wanted to hear your thoughts on the same issue, but we're headed to a break, so I'll just end this segment by telling you about a Tweet we got from Mary, as you wait to respond to that question after the break. Mary says, so excited that Tiffany Jana is a guess on this show, talking about diversity and inclusion. She is amazing, as always. She's one of the coolest and smartest people I know. I am a super-fan. So, there you go. We're going to take a short break. When we come back, we'll continue this conversation about how the Black Lives Matter movement is addressing workplace issues. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. We're talking about how the Black Lives Matter movement might be influencing and changing workplaces. We're talking with Minal Bopaiah, founder of Brevity & Wit. That's a strategy and design firm focused on helping organizations with diversity and equity. And Dr. Tiffany Jana, founder and CEO of TMI Consulting, a diversity and inclusion management consulting firm. She is the author of several books, including her latest, "Subtle Acts of Exclusion: How to Understand, Identify and Stop Microaggressions."
NNAMDIWhen we took that break, Tiffany Jana, we were talking about specifically what was going on in public radio and how the culture there has been affected. And our station, like a lot of public radio stations and other companies, are now scrambling to ramp-up diversity training and other remedies. But, Tiffany Jana, you say that doesn't necessarily change a company's culture. Why is that?
JANANo, it doesn't. So, a lot of people are scrambling for the same reasons, both the times and, you know, finally a reckoning around their own, you know, less-than-ideal behavior. And just engaging in diversity and inclusion, work, hiring a consultant to do a few trainings is insufficient. What is really required -- I'm really glad to hear Minal said, you know, that cultures are designed. You have to be intentional about the day-to-day lived experience that you want all employees to have at every level. And we must begin to embed accountability.
JANAIf anyone in the organization -- after we've defined the kind of experience that we want people to have, the inclusive behaviors that are good and the ones that we don't want to see, once we've defined that and made it clear and given people access to the training, the learning and everything they need to understand that, it doesn't matter what level of the organization you sit at. If you violate those behaviors, if you violate the equilibrium that we defined as how we wish to be as a culture, then there must be accountability, right.
JANAAnd so whether that means, you know, people need to go, whether that means people, you know, lose their bonuses, they get demoted, whatever happens, there has to be consequence for failing to live into the inclusive environment that we have defined as what we need to keep the organization healthy.
NNAMDITiffany Jana, what are some general tips you give your clients to help them achieve real diversity and change what are often toxic work environments?
JANAWell, my preferred approach is to begin and end with metrics. So, the things that we want to see more of and the things that we want to see less of, we can actually calibrate what's happening with the existing culture when we find ourselves engaged with a new client. And then we can create a strategic roadmap that is very clear and specific in its definitions for what it is we are trying to achieve. So, clear, measurable goals and a strategic roadmap to get there.
JANAAnd then we can continue to measure at intervals along the way to hold ourselves, my agency and the client accountable for the new desired state that we are trying to achieve. So, this industry has been really negligent as far as creating accountability, creating unified standards, creating barriers to entry. It's just been a free-for-all. So, I'm a scientist at heart, and the idea of putting rigorous research and data analytics behind both the behaviors and the organizational systems and structures, to me, is the only way to go. If you really want to make meaningful change, measurable change, you need to be able to hold yourself accountable for that new end state.
NNAMDIWell, this next question for both of you, but I will start with you, Minal Bopaiah, while Dr. Jana called you Minal Bopaiah. Which is it?
BOPAIAHIt is Minal Bopaiah, but it is frequently mispronounced, so I'm used to that. And I hats off to you, Kojo, for pronouncing it correctly, but it's Minal. Kind of like “middle,” but with an N.
NNAMDIOkay. Yeah, we took a lot of time with that today, as a matter of fact. (laugh)
NNAMDIWhat are some success stories you've seen in organizations?
BOPAIAHWow. What a good question. You know, so one, I want to say that in framing your question, I just want to make it clear that there is not an end state really to this work because we need to safeguard equity the way we safeguard safety in organizations. You know, like if you're working, you know, in a car manufacturing company, right, there are always new threats to safety. And likewise, there are always new threats to equity.
BOPAIAHSo, you know, diversity, equity and inclusion is a big business function that now must be stewarded, because with the growing diversity of humanity, there will always be ways in which equity and inclusion and opportunity are threatened. And so, we need people in companies constantly stewarding that.
BOPAIAHBut, that aside, I think that some of these success stories tend to occur when -- and I don't want to speak about clients, because there's some confidentiality, but they occur when people do exactly what Dr. Jana just mentioned. When they get really specific about the behaviors that they want to see in their organization, and then they create the metrics and the systems of accountability. And when you do that, you can create cultures that are more inclusive, where people feel more welcomed.
BOPAIAHIf we're talking about black executives, though, I think that the diversity, equity and inclusion space has been -- you know, talking about race has still been the most difficult nut to crack in organizations. And so, we are lagging there, and I don't think that there are as many success stories about getting black professionals in leadership and executive positions.
NNAMDITiffany Jana, I am glad that Minal Bopaiah talked about the fact that this is not a story with an ending, so to speak, because our next-to-last general manager at this radio station was an African American woman. But after several years, she left and moved on someplace else so it's not a story that ends when one top official gets hired or one top official leave. How do you measure success stories?
JANASo, I tend to measure the success stories by attaining the goals that we set out at the beginning. And I believe, first of all, Minal -- I apologize on mispronouncing your name. That's a whole microaggression, and we apologize when we commit those, so sorry about that. (laugh) And then the -- you know, so the notion that there's an end state, it's not -- what you do is you set goals. And when you achieve those goals, you maintain equilibrium and you identify new goals that are, you know, more inclusive or equally inclusive.
JANASo, what we see is organizations that, you know, reach out and say, look, we're an entirely white or almost entirely white organization. That's not what we intended. Minal absolutely nailed it. Starting with inclusion, creating an inclusive welcoming environment first before you treat the symptom, by adding new diversity into the situation is the way to go. So, we, you know, sort of create that inclusive environment. And then, overtime, I've seen organizations be successful at thinking about what are the systems and structures that are preventing us from having visible diversity, invisible diversity, and being very intentional about that.
JANASo, when you look five, six, seven, ten years down the line and you suddenly have an organization that is representative of either, you know, the region that you're in or the nation that you're in, that is a victory. And then you've got to add on top of those victories and really start making sure that you're getting feedback continually from people, that they feel safe, that they feel welcomed, that they know that their ideas matter and that their identity is something that they can be proud of and that they don't have to hide who they are in order to be successful.
NNAMDIHere is Iman in Chantilly, Virginia. Iman, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
IMANGood afternoon, Kojo. Thanks for taking my call. I think that I notice that some big companies right now, they change their policies to have some diversity more for the employees. But the reality is, black people did not come last year or the year before. Before Black Lives, there was black people exist, and they've always been discriminated. And I hope that companies are focused at diversity now, because there are a lot of young African Americans who qualify (unintelligible) who can't get that job because of their names or they've been discriminated somehow, somewhere.
IMANAnd I hope that companies focus who's doing the hiring, because it's all up to who's doing the hiring. And if that person, they are reasonable, he might hire you. If he doesn't, he might discriminate you based on your name, because we can't change the names because most African-American names are different than white folks.
NNAMDI(overlapping) Right. I do understand that, Iman. That's one of the reasons we're having this conversation today. Sorry to interrupt, but we only have about two minutes left. Tiffany Jana, as mentioned earlier, you're the founder and CEO of TMI Consulting, a diversity and inclusion management consulting firm. Is it safe to say that you're not beating the bushes for clients right now?
JANA(laugh) Well, in 17 years of business, I have never solicited a single client. They've always come to me, and now the volume of customers has increased exponentially, to say the least.
NNAMDIWell, Minal, some people think just hiring a diverse staff is enough, but, in some cases, the culture itself is an issue. Isn't it?
BOPAIAHAbsolutely. Often, that's the case. (laugh) More so it's a culture than access to hiring diverse staff, I think.
NNAMDIYou discovered, Tiffany Jana, a few years back, that you related to one of your heroes. Who is that hero?
JANAMaggie Lena Walker, the first female bank president. She happened to also be an African American woman and from Richmond, Virginia. So, she charted the first -- first woman to charter a bank, yes.
NNAMDIOne of the sources of inspiration for Dr. Tiffany Jana, the founder and CEO of TMI Consulting, a diversity and inclusion management consulting firm. She's the author of several books, including her latest, "Subtle Acts of Exclusion: How to Understand, Identify and Stop Microaggressions." Tiffany Jana, thank you so much for joining us.
JANAThank you so much for having me, Kojo. I love your show.
NNAMDIThank you. And Minal Bopaiah is the founder of Brevity & Wit, a strategy and design firm focused on helping organizations with diversity and equity. Minal, thank you for joining us.
BOPAIAHThank you, Kojo. I am also a big fan of both yours and Dr. Jana, so it's been a real pleasure.
NNAMDIThank you. This segment about the influence of Black Lives Matter and the workplace was produced by Kurt Gardinier. And our conversation with the new Washington football team president Jason Wright was produced by Richard Cunningham.
NNAMDIOn an upcoming Kojo Show, we're remember lives lost to COVID-19. Has someone close to you passed away from the coronavirus? Share your story with us. Go to kojoshow.org and click on the banner that says remembering the lives lost. Coming up tomorrow, six months into the pandemic, how are restaurant workers and customers feeling about dining out? We're joined by the host of WAMU's Dish City podcast to talk about returning to restaurants and the show's brand-new season. That all starts tomorrow, at noon. Until then, thank you for listening and stay safe. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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