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How to Prevent “Diversity Debt” By Weaving Inclusion Into Your Startup Strategy

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Episode Notes:

Many companies wait until their business hits a period of high-growth or experiences a significant retention issue before investing in diversity and inclusion strategies, but startups can’t afford to treat D&I as an afterthought. We’re joined this week by Kellie Wagner, founder of Collective, a diversity and inclusion consultancy and research lab shifting how companies grow, engage, and retain diverse teams. Kellie outlines proactive tips that every business should use to avoid the pitfalls of what she calls “diversity debt.” We talk about managing across difference and discuss minimizing bias in the workplace by building operationalized processes for hiring, performance reviews and promotions. 

About Kellie:

Kellie Wagner is a consultant, speaker, and the founder of Collective, which helps build inclusion into the foundation of organizations through strategic consulting and innovative accelerators, all centered on amplifying marginalized voices. Prior to founding Collective, Kellie spent a decade working in strategy and operations at fast-paced startups like Meetup and and graduated from NYU's Managing Workplace Diversity & Inclusion program. Her work has been featured in Forbes and AlleyWatch, and she’s spoken at companies like The Muse, Deloitte, The Wing, and Namely.

Follow Kellie and Collective on Social Media:

  • Twitter: kelliemwagner

  • Instagram: kelliemwagner

  • Twitter: collectivedei

  • Instagram: collectivedeilab

Reference Links:


  • Looking for the lowest cost method of investing in D&I? Build a diverse team from the start. Here's how to prevent diversity debt.

  • Two things established companies can do to invest in diversity and inclusion.

  • Building out people processes

  • Standardizing performance management

  • How employees can advocate for D&I initiatives within their company.

  • Acknowledging and addressing unconscious bias in management conversations.

Full S1E7 Transcript

Kellie Wagner 0:00

White Americans in this country, their friend groups are made up of 90% of other white people, right? So nine out of 10 friends that they have will be from the same racial background. And so that can make it hard to just look at your own network and hire. And so it requires more intentionality. And oftentimes in the beginning, you have so many different things, that you're not thinking about that. But the value in being intentional and really trying to seek out different people is that you never get into diversity debt.

Gabriela Acosta 0:39

Hola Hola, it's Gaby Acosta

Jenelle Acosta 0:39

and me, Jenelle Acosta. We're highschool sweethearts on a journey to be better allies.

Gabriela Acosta 0:39

You're listening to The Way We Lead. Where we talk about inclusive leadership, allyship and advocacy with folks across identities, industries and experiences.

Jenelle Acosta 0:39

If you're new here, welcome. You can follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter using the handle @thewaywelead.

Gabriela Acosta 0:39

We're glad you're here. Let's jump in

Jenelle Acosta 1:09

Hey, friends, it's Jenelle, I'm so sad that I'm not going to be able to make this interview with Kellie Wagner, I know it's going to be great. You're going to hear Gaby and Kellie get to talk about everything. And then I'm going to join afterwards with Gaby to give my reflections. So I'll talk to you guys later.

Kellie Wagner 1:24

Hi, my name is Kellie Wagner. I'm the founder and CEO of collective a diversity and inclusion consultancy. I work with high growth, mission driven companies to help them make sure that they are recruiting, retaining and engaging, really the workplace work staff of the future.

Gabriela Acosta 1:46

You just got started in this agency a couple of years ago. Can you tell me a little bit about your adventures before you got started, why you decided to get started and how things have been going?

Kellie Wagner 1:59

I started Collective a little bit less than two years ago. And I really kind of stumbled into this world, just trying to solve my own problems in the workplace. So I studied journalism in college, and was always really passionate about the idea of surfacing stories that weren't being told, and using storytelling as a way of connecting people across difference, and really building empathy for one another. And so I moved to New York, to you know, go to grad school, get my masters in nonfiction writing, because I wanted to really do more long form journalism work. And while I was in school, I got a job at a real estate finance firm, which was a very different world for me. I was one of a handful of women at the organization, I was one of two or three women that weren't in kind of assistant positions. And so it was a little bit like being transported back to Mad Men. And I loved my colleagues, I definitely started to see how the traditional gender dynamics that we often see pop up in the workplace, and ended up moving on from there saying, you know, I wanted to, I wanted a workplace environment where I really felt like I could be myself. And I, that was kind of the first time I'd really thought about, you know, workplace culture and where one fits in and how your identity plays into that. And so I ended up moving into a really pretty diverse tech company that worked with young people and social change, and got to see what it was like to have a workplace that was really representative of the city that we lived in, and the people that we served, and ended up moving on to a couple of other tech companies. And, you know, that vary from organization to organization. But I had seen kind of the power of that, and wanted to be a part of the solution, and really solve this issue for people of what does it mean to belong? And how can companies support, you know, employees from all different backgrounds to help them be able to thrive?

Gabriela Acosta 4:26

So tell me a little bit about the moment that made you decide, okay, not only do I want to advocate for this as an employee, but I'm going to start an entire organization to tackle this giant problem?

Kellie Wagner 4:39

Yeah, that's a great question. The company that I work with, right before I started Collective, was probably the furthest along and they're organized diversity and inclusion efforts, which is really promising and exciting. So they had a DI Council and we met on a regular basis. Lovely, one of the things that I started to notice was that we didn't really have a way to make much impact. It was a collection of employees, mostly in more junior to mid range roles, we didn't really have a direct path to leadership. And so we had all of these amazing ideas and a ton of insight on what would be impactful for us, but no real power. And so I thought that being kind of this go getter, and if I don't know, something, I'll teach myself, I had this moment where I was like, you know, the reason we're not being listened to is because we just don't have the credibility and the frameworks. And so I ended up going back to school, and out of pocket, pay for a Diversity and inclusion program through NYU. And I came back to the organization with all of these kind of new frameworks, or strategy, a ton of case studies and research. And I was so excited, and I put together a plan. And, you know, it went nowhere. And it was super frustrating and disheartening. And I realized, there are a lot of folks like me, in organizations who, who seemingly want to do the right thing, but don't don't know how or don't, aren't willing to put the structures in place to really empower their employees. And so I just knew for me, I wasn't going to be able to make the impact that I wanted by being on the inside. And I had all of this new knowledge that I really wanted to kind of leverage. And so I just took the leap, and was super grateful. And I kind of hit the ground running and have been running ever since.

Gabriela Acosta 6:59

It super resonates with my experience as well. I came from an organization where I felt like I had been on a diversity and inclusion committee, our inaugural group, similarly to what you were mentioning, and started back in 2015. And it took us almost four solid years to get momentum for some of the initiatives that we had proposed way back in that first year that we had been working and collaborating together as a committee with our executive leaders in the company. And I felt like there's just got to be a better way, we eventually pitched and proposed hiring an outside agency. And it wasn't until this outside agency came in and was able to leverage data in a way that we never could independently to really drive our proposals forward with that clear direction. Being a tech company. I think so many companies now are in that very data heavy space, it, it really resonated with the mission and the the leaders within the company to say, "okay, because the data is saying that this, this initiative will lead us in the right direction. Let's do it." So I am so thankful that organizations and agencies like yours exists, because it really does drive people to take that leap to move forward.

Kellie Wagner 8:28

Yeah, it's so true. I mean, it's, it's unfortunate, it makes me sad to hear other people's stories of that, right. Like, in some ways, I always think shouldn't it just be enough that your employees feel that way? But I do see that a lot with companies of wanting to kind of see the data and, and understand that this is actually not just a wide spread need and like a way of risk mitigation, but also seeing the true value and benefit to prioritizing this in this work, and weaving it into your overall growth strategy as a company.

Gabriela Acosta 9:06

Yeah. So I'm curious from your perspective, now, having been in the game for a couple of years now, what kinds of clients typically come to you? What kinds of organizations? And and why do they typically come to you?

Kellie Wagner 9:21

There's a couple different profiles of companies that come to us. And probably the most prominent that come to us are folks that are growing, and they look at their organization, or they have enough people in their organization from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds, encouraging them to look at so organization, and they realize, whoa, you know, based on the community that we're operating within, or the audiences or that we serve, our team just doesn't look like that. Right. And I think there is kind of a sense now that if you look at your team, leadership team page, and an all white men, that's just not, that's not working in your favor, right? Working in your favor, as far as being, you know, the most innovative team or, you know, understanding the unique challenges of all of the different types of people you serve. But it's also not working in your favor in trying to recruit the best talent. Particularly with the changing workforce, and, you know, Gen Z entering the workforce, there's just demand whether folks come from underrepresented backgrounds or not. A lot of younger employees are asking, what are you doing about diversity and inclusion? And so companies are realizing this, and they think that's often something that spurs them to action. Or sometimes it's a retention issue, which is that they're seeing a lot of turnover and thinking like, oh, we're starting to see a trend that certain types of employees are not staying as long. And, you know, they have to take a really hard look in the mirror as to why and they want to figure figure it out. The third type, which I, I mean, and maybe a little bit partial to, because it's exciting that they're kind of self driven, or the companies that are a little bit earlier on in their journey. And they just really, they understand that this is important, they care about it, like there's a moral imperative. And they may have been doing some work on their own, and realize that they need to think more strategically about it and just don't know where to go from there. Which is totally understandable given that this field is so new. And a lot of the research out there is really catered towards or built around, you know, fortune 500 companies with unlimited budgets and a thousand employees. And it's so different when you're a startup, and you're like, have all these competing priorities and less time and money.

Gabriela Acosta 12:11

I'm getting to know a lot of folks in the space that are just launching their own small startups. And when we talk about these topics, it seems like they're so overwhelmed, not just with wearing so many hats as a single proprietor of a small business or a tiny business with three to five people, but also thinking about how are we going to pay for the strategies that need to keep us sustainable in diversity inclusion initiatives long term? How does somebody who's just getting started approach this kind of work?

Kellie Wagner 12:47

I've noticed this a lot with companies that come to us, and a lot of companies that are putting money behind Diversity, Equity and Inclusion work. And it's that they wait until they have kind of this critical mass before they start to put resources behind the work. And the challenge behind that is they've already been solidified a culture that's rooted in certain kind of characteristics or representation wise is overwhelmingly homogenous. And I always say one of the most low cost ways that companies can think about this is to really be intentional about building out a diverse team from the very start. And that can feel tricky to people in the beginning, because when you think about who your first employees are, they're typically friends, family. And there's a couple reasons for that. One is that you, you trust those people more, right, you know them, it's less of a risk. And on the flip side, they trust you more and are more likely to kind of believe in your vision and take a chance on you. So it can feel really just like easier to go with people you know. But one of the things that we that research has shown us time and again, is that most people's friend groups, and networks are overwhelmingly similar to that person's identity. So white Americans in this country, their friend groups are made up of 90% of other white people, right, so nine out of 10 friends that they have will be from the same racial background. And so that can make it hard to just look at your own network and higher until it requires some more intentionality. And oftentimes, in the beginning, you have so many different things, that you're not thinking about that. But the value in being intentional, and really trying to seek out different people is that you never get into diversity debt, which means that, you know, if I'm building my first team, and I'm hiring five people, and if I hire people from all the same racial background, we're all the same gender, all the same sexual orientation, whatever it is, that and they're likely to have friends who are similar to them, when you go to continue to hire, and you leverage referrals, which is how a lot of companies hire that homogeneity is getting, it's just kind of radiating outwards as you grow your team. But if the first five employees that you have are from different backgrounds, and their friends are from similar backgrounds to them, then all of a sudden, as you grow, you're building a pretty organically diverse team. And the culture that you're creating will be representative of lots of different communication styles and thought processes and the way that people solve problems. And so you're getting that benefit from the start. Whereas, you know, when you wait, don't think about it until you're a couple hundred people, all of a sudden, it's much harder to attract diverse talent. But also, you have a culture that's rooted in one kind of way of thinking,

Gabriela Acosta 16:12

wow, diversity debt, what, that's such a term that I've been looking for, but couldn't, couldn't find a word. That is exactly you hit the nail on the head there. I, I've always felt like startups exacerbate a problem, because they are constantly tapping into their current network, which exactly like you're saying, tends to hire from their same university, they're same sorority or fraternity or the same racial background, and it, it really does impact startups. So if I were an organization that were more established, what would the typical recommendations be for an organization at that phase of growth, that is hoping to drive further diversity and inclusion initiatives in their company?

Kellie Wagner 17:01

there's two things that really come to mind. One is really investing in building out your people processes. So with an inclusive lens. So you know, looking at your recruiting process, and thinking about who would who it's kind of tailored to, one of the things that we do with some of our American clients is really work with them from the top of the funnel all the way down, through the actual kind of hiring, assessing candidates piece of the recruiting process, to minimize bias wherever possible. So a lot of startups, a lot of companies, I say, startups in the sense of like, this kind of new millennial driven company. So like, an Uber or an Airbnb, like a lot of those companies often are averse to a kind of structure, because they don't want to end up being kind of bureaucratic, like the older, you know, fortune 500 companies that we've seen in the past. But what we've found is that without structure, particularly in environments that are stressful, and fast paced, like startups, like scaling companies, people then fall back on using their bias to make decisions. And so the best thing you can do is put some clear structure into place. Another example is around like performance management. So helping people getting really clear on what a success look like. So and putting a rubric against that, before they go in and try and assess their, you know, direct report, in a performance review setting, making sure that everyone's really aligned on what success looks like and what we're looking for, in order to promote somebody. Because without it, then we just default to do I like this person are they like me? Do I see their potential because they're like me, I see myself in them. And that's where you start to, again, promote folks only that come from the dominant background or overwhelming, so. So anything that you can do to put structure in place and take away the opportunity for people to be guided by their own stereotypes and bias, that's a hugely helpful thing to do. And then the second thing that I would say that companies should really think more seriously about investing in his new manager, and like middle manager training. Oftentimes, we see diversity and inclusion initiatives, the areas that are most are the kind of areas of the company that are most involved or most effective, are the senior leadership team, you know, you'll have a CEO that's really passionate about this and talking about it a lot. And then you'll have really strong grassroots from the bottom of the organization group of employees who are really committed to this work. And then until resources will go to either, you know, coaching senior leaders and doing leadership development for that C suite team, or there will be trainings for independent contributors or ERGs to support those, and then the middle managers get forgotten about. But the thing is, is that middle managers, particularly, and this is especially true for a new manager, people managers are the ones that you know, most impact the vast majority of employees day to day experiences. So if you can train them, particularly on how to manage across difference, because that's the other thing if you're like bringing in a ton of people from different backgrounds, and we know that we spend most of our time people who are like us, then all of a sudden, you have time managers, new managers who not only don't necessarily know how to manage effectively, but they're also being asked to manage people who have different communication styles, or grew up very differently. And so what success looks like to both parties is very different. So the more you give that support that population,

Gabriela Acosta 21:27

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This is something that my my wife and I talk a lot about, she leads a team of 16 and is constantly thinking about how do we ensure that our middle managers are not only being trained to and coach to take on the next level of leadership? but also how do we look at the way that they're engaging and being introspective about their identity, how that inter plays with the identity and dynamic of the rest of their team, and then outside intra team dynamics across different departments. It's something that I think is so critical, because just having that little bit of self reflection and being able to stop and think before we say something, both as a leader and as an employee, as a community member, it really does make a huge difference.

Kellie Wagner 22:49

Yeah, I there's a, like a really great study in a Harvard Business Review about black women and the kind of achievement gap for black women and why they don't often move up within an organization. And it was kind of heartbreaking, because the biggest driver was that they weren't getting honest and clear feedback from their managers. And when we looked at why a big reason was that managers were afraid to communicate, particularly managers that weren't other black women were afraid that, you know, the way that they would give feedback would be misinterpreted, or, you know, that would be they just didn't know how to communicate with with these black women, because they didn't necessarily relate to them. And it did such a disservice to the black women, right? Like they were the ones that ended up missing out because they didn't move up, because they weren't getting the feedback that they needed to be able to, you know, do a better job and, and really grow in their careers. And so when we don't have when we don't teach managers how to feel confident, engaging across different, who we really end up hurting, are the people, the director.

Gabriela Acosta 24:04

Wow, yeah, that absolutely is heartbreaking, because it sounds like, it could potentially be a very well intentioned thing from the manager perspective, saying, I don't want to hurt your feelings, I don't want to come off as potentially discriminatory. So I'm just not going to give you the feedback that you need. But in fact, that's stunting the growth. And that's even more of a structural issue of having dynamics where we're not out and allowing folks to move up in the ranks and have representation at the leadership levels. That's incredible. I can't believe I mean, I can that's the thing. I can believe that. It's it really is devastating. But I, I hope that in the instances where people feel that they are holding themselves back from saying what they need to say to their employees, that they're starting to find ways to get coach to and trained to have those meaningful feedback conversations. So I'm wondering, in an instance, where maybe the opposite is true, where the leadership team has yet to buy into diversity inclusion, and, and isn't ready to invest quite yet. But employees are trying to build a case, one of the kinds of things that employees can do to say, here, here are some tangible reasons for why we need to go after diversity, inclusion, and modify the culture of our organization.

Kellie Wagner 25:36

It's interesting, I mean, the way that I approach it with leaders is different than maybe how I would encourage employees to deal with it. But the things that I've told the employees who have come to me and said, we really want to galvanize and serve as a catalyst for our leadership team. I always say, There's power in numbers. So finding as many allies, and people from different backgrounds that can really, you know, bolster your point, right, so it's easy to maybe ignore one or two people as something that only they care about. But being able to show that this is something that an overwhelming majority of the organization cares about, is really powerful. I don't know, if you saw like, a month or two back, Wayfair there was a huge lockout from their employees, and it got news coverage. And like, that's the type of stuff that, you know, how do you ignore that as a company, you pretty much can't if you have an overwhelming number of employees, and so I think finding allies, you know, really banding together, a lot of times ERG's which are employee resource groups based on like a shared identity, that are kind of grassroots communities often work in silos. And I always say, like, you have collective bargaining power. So make sure that you're working together and supporting one another. When you when one of you one of your groups has like an issue that you're trying to surface with leadership. And then the other pieces is, unfortunately, but truly, is that data point, right is being able to show the cost to the business, or the potential value that can be added. So a lot of companies don't think, don't really think as much about the cost of turnover, right? Like not retaining talent is actually quite expensive. Every time that you lose somebody, you know, and having to one year losing that institutional knowledge, but to you have to go back out and recruit and backfill that because and so there's actually a tangible cost to companies not not investing in retaining their team. And so I always look at it as like, a cost benefit analysis of like, Okay, well, we're asking you to invest x thousands of dollars towards Diversity, Equity and Inclusion work, or bringing somebody into support on this. And really, when you look at the cost versus the cost of losing email two or three staff members and having to fill their fill their roles, it's actually quite less expensive to invest in this and be proactive.

Gabriela Acosta 28:37

yeah, it sounds like in this case, prevention is actually a better initiative than reaction when you lose employees because of the current culture in your organization.

Kellie Wagner 28:48


Gabriela Acosta 28:50

So I've heard that you're actually in the midst of launching a new accelerator model? Can you tell us a little bit about what that is? And why did you choose that kind of structure?

Kellie Wagner 29:02

Yes, I'm so excited about this. It's been kind of a long time and in progress. And, essentially, you know, one of the things we found, and we've kind of touched on this today is that companies, we usually too long to start dealing with their diversity, equity and inclusion challenges. And we recognized, you know, that oftentimes, cost is prohibitive to being able to bring somebody else in to support and so there are a couple of different engagements that we do with clients over and over and over again, one of which is around, you know, helping them shape their recruiting and hiring process to minimize bias. And so we started to look at the common ass and say, could we do this in a group setting? And what we love about the idea of training up companies, internal teams, around some of these, you know, common diversity and inclusion challenges is that one, it allowed them to institutionalize the knowledge while getting the like building what they're building in real time. To, it's just so much more accessible for companies who can't afford to spend $40K+ bringing some one consultant and firm into their organization. And three, are working with companies who could afford to have us come in one on one, the question kept coming up, "What are other companies doing? I want to learn from other companies. And also, you know, this work is really lonely. I'm the only person in my organization or I'm one of a handful of people in my organization doing this work. And I want to meet people from other companies who are also working through the same challenges". And so our accelerator model is a three month mixed learning model where we're bringing 20 companies together, and putting them into peer groups of four with other companies who are facing similar growth trajectories and similar challenges, so that they can learn from one another's kind of wins, and you know, even learning lessons when things don't work out. But also helping them over the course of three months through in person sessions and digital templates and toolkits to help accelerate the process, allowing them to really overhaul their recruiting process in real time, while also learning to be able to do it. In the future.

Gabriela Acosta 31:41

That is phenomenal. I cannot tell you how much I love that initiative, it is so important to have not only an ally, someone who you can look to to say, "Hey, I'm, I'm struggling with something similar, let's discuss," but also to see how people are addressing similar or different issues in different perspectives based on the lens that they have in their industry. And that's something that I always felt like we struggled with in our last organization, because we typically recruited from from within for management roles, and we kept, kept feeling like there was a little bit of a management gap, right, where, where the diversity of thought and experience really wasn't there, because we were hiring from the same pool, and being able to tap in an entire different perspective, through another organization trying to tackle a similar problem. That is a huge benefit to your clients and to your network. I feel like that is going to have such an incredible impact.

Kellie Wagner 32:44

Yeah, and I'm excited because it's letting them build a community of organizations who are really dedicating themselves to this work in a really meaningful way. And also being able to point to other organizations are doing, you know, x y&z when their leadership team comes back and you know, pushes back on a decision. And saying, "well, actually, you know, this worked really well for this company. This is why I think we should try it". So I'm, I'm super excited. And we have, we're launching our first cohort this fall. And we've already got a ton of amazing organization signed up, and speakers from like, Squarespace and Jackwell, and The Muse. And so we're, we're super pumped and, and hoping that we can kind of expand this model to other other areas that we see a lot of companies struggle with,

Gabriela Acosta 33:42

I always like to end our conversations with folks by asking them two questions. The first being, what does allyship mean to you, personally, or as an organization?

Allyship is not a's a verb. It's like a collection of actions that we're engaging in every single day. And so it's about showing up and learning from your mistakes.

Kellie Wagner 33:53

For me, and this is something that we we definitely tell our clients as well. Allyship is not a noun, I think we talk a lot about leadership as an identity. And I don't think that that's particularly helpful, it's almost a cop out, right? Because then people can say, "Well, I'm an ally, well I'm an ally", when they mess up or, or like as a way of not having to do the work. And to me, allyship is a collection of—it's a verb. It's like a collection of actions that we're engaging in every single day. And so it's about showing up learning from your mistakes. And that's the other thing is, oftentimes, there's this feeling of like, as an ally, there's no room to make mistakes. And I would say that actually, the best ally is the one who tries, you know, even when it's outside of the comfort zone, puts that into perspective, when they do make a mistake to the impact that they've had, and being willing to kind of learn from that and, and you better next time. So, you know, it's a lifelong journey. And it's about showing up every single day in support of other people,even when you don't necessarily understand their experience.

Gabriela Acosta 35:08

And then give us a little bit of what we can expect in the the world of Collective to come. What do you have going on that other folks should know about?

Kellie Wagner 35:19

As far as what we're up to? It's been a really amazing year for us. We've gotten to work with so many incredible organizations who are just so bought into this work and passionate and this fall, we're excited, we're going to be doing a lot more events, and partnerships. We have a ton of really great workshops that we are rolling out. And yeah, and the accelerator is like the big kind of main event. So excited for people to follow along and connect with us!

Gabriela Acosta 35:52

Kellie, I'm so thankful that we got a chance to connect with you to get a chance to interview you. It sounds like collective is doing some major initiatives. Can't wait to see where you all go. It's wonderful to see fellow role models and folks just going for it and being the change that you want to see in the world. I love it.

Kellie Wagner 36:14

Love it. Well have a great day. And hopefully we'll talk soon.

Gabriela Acosta 36:18

You too. Thank you so much, Kellie. Have a good one. Bye!

Hey, babe.

Jenelle Acosta 36:23


Gabriela Acosta 36:25

I'm really sorry that you were unable to join us for this conversation with Kellie, because I kept thinking how much you would have enjoyed the conversation. And I really think you would have liked her too. She's just a cool person.

Jenelle Acosta 36:38

Well, just listening to the recording. I love her. And I want her to be my new best friend.

Gabriela Acosta 36:44

You hear that Kellie?

Jenelle Acosta 36:45

Please hang out with me We can you can come to DC or we can go to New York, I don't care. It's fine. I think we'll A) You did a great job by yourself.

Unknown Speaker 36:53

Thanks honey.

Jenelle Acosta 36:55

Yeah, some really good questions. And you're absolutely right, I wanted to jump in and be like, but tell me more! But I'm glad that we're doing this. So I because I have a lot of thoughts about everything. And a lot of what you guys were talking about, is always stuck in my brain, day to day at work in the way that I live my life as a leader and as a boss. And so I have so many thoughts about this, you all talked about the importance of thinking about diversity inclusion in the creation of people process, right or people policy.

Gabriela Acosta 37:27


Jenelle Acosta 37:28

If we're in a situation where it's somebody could be fired, or stay on, let's say, a boost or something like that a performance plan in order to help them continue to be successful. And you're leaving that choice up to an individual rather than a policy, you're inputting bias. And so it's incredibly important to make sure that if you're talking about making a change, that could look to the individual making the choice about who's hired who's fired, who's promoted, who not, that you identify where the bias could live, and you make it a standard policy change that everybody has to follow.

Gabriela Acosta 38:09

I liked what she recommended when Kellie said, creating a rubric will eliminate that room for bias.

Jenelle Acosta 38:15

Yeah a rubric!

Gabriela Acosta 38:16

And I think if the more that you can standardized procedure, the less likely that people will play around with their own gut instincts. And gut instincts are always based on what we know what we believe, based on our own personal experiences.

Jenelle Acosta 38:35

I would say if you're in a situation in your organization, that you think that you have to constantly fight for an exception to something, you probably need to create a process around it to make sure that not just one portion of the organization is always calling for an exception, and other people are not.

Gabriela Acosta 38:55

Yeah, and I think this directly ties back to standardizing your review process. And Kellie talked about this from that perspective of like, the Harvard Business Review article, right. And that data blew my mind. Yeah. And it's infuriating how frequently it happens that a manager with a black female employee will not give that employee the proper feedback that they need to be successful, or to adapt their strategy in order to grow. Because they fear the response from their employee, right? We're basically doing a huge disservice to women of color,

Jenelle Acosta 39:41

And you said it in your interview that you in some way, this is coming from a place of best intention, right? Like, my best intention is I don't want to be sexist, I don't want to be racist. And so therefore, I'm going to change the way that I'm giving information as to not come across that way. But the problem is, is the best intention here is actually creating a negative result. And which is why I go back to this type of information needs to be more widely talked about, and trained on in MBAs and so on and what other type of leadership organization or leadership training there is. So it is a topic of conversation here, right. And and on the topic of this article, saying that women of color are not getting the feedback they deserve, in order to be able to continue improving in their job, and in order to be able to move up within the organization. Right? I would argue that people are not giving the feedback to black women, especially, as well, because there's a fear of the "angry black woman". And I'll talk and I statements here, when I was a young manager, that was 100%, of fear of mine, that I was trying really hard to pay attention to how I would give information and how I would give feedback to my black women employees. Because I had an inherent bias that if I gave bad news, then I would have an angry black woman in front of me. And I know that that's wrong, right. And so now, as a stronger leader, as somebody who's more thoughtful in the work that I do. Whenever I go into conversations, especially with any of my women of color, or people of color employees, the first thing I have to think about is, am I being, am I treating them as I would treat anybody else? Is their race is their heritage is their skin color affecting me? Right. And because that, that bias, in theory still lives inside of me I was we have been in the media and in the world, trained to think that every black woman can become the "angry black woman", right. And so I need to check myself every single time to make sure that that's not what I'm doing.

Gabriela Acosta 42:05

I would actually argue that when you ask yourself that question, am I treating this person differently because of their identity? If the answer is yes, it's okay. If it's an intentional yes

yeah, yeah, yeah. Okay thank you on that.

Jenelle Acosta 42:18

This is important because there's a difference between the idea of quote unquote, not seeing color Because you want to treat everyone exactly the same versus seeing color, acknowledging it, identifying the fact that people are different and diverse and have different and unique needs


Gabriela Acosta 42:34

And adapting, because it's going to support that person with their unique needs not not bias them and perpetuate an issue because of their unique identity.

Jenelle Acosta 42:46

Yes, thank you. So and I love that you brought that up, because and thank you for clarifying it. Because yes, I agree with you, right, that I want to be able to recognize that I might be treating a black employee versus a white employee differently. But there's a purpose to it, right? Because I want to recognize that their experience because of their race and their visual identity is different than their white employees.

Gabriela Acosta 43:11

Yeah. And that I think that's okay. Like, I think there's a big fear out there, there still exists theres this, this misconception that we should treat everyone "equally". Right. But like, I think there's a really great infographic that I'll I'll link to in our show notes, that talks about the importance of equity versus equality. And equity is making sure that everybody has what they specifically need. So if somebody is, for example, in a wheelchair, you're not going to give them steps to go up, you're going to give them an elevator or a ramp or something that they can use so that they can have a user experience that is equally as fluid as anybody else. So it's not about equality, I'm not going to give somebody who isn't able bodied, a stairwell that they have to go up, I'm going to give them the proper support to ensure that they have what they need.

Jenelle Acosta 44:09


Gabriela Acosta 44:09

Same deal with anybody. It's acknowledging who they are, what their experience is, what their their challenges are in their situation, and trying to ensure that we're mitigating anything that might be preventing them from being successful.

Unknown Speaker 44:24

Yeah, you guys talked about that Harvard Business Review article that will link to in the show notes as well. But I bought the article because I want to be able to hold on to it and share it. But I got access to the article, I've already emailed my boss and I said, "this is really important, we need to have a conversation about this in our organization", right. And I told him like, "hey, A) I'd love to lead some type of training with ideally a woman of color next to me, in order to help sort of drive the conversation and so that it's not me being the white woman coming in and trying to lead a training on something like this". But with my managers, I've already sent it to them, it's now a required reading for them to go over. I'm also going to share the article with my entire team. Because I want my managers to be held accountable to giving feedback. And because I'm not the one in the room, when they're giving the feedback, I want to make sure that this article is in the hands of my employees. So if they feel and that they need to have a conversation with me about the fact that "my white manager is not giving me the feedback that I deserve", that they can come to me and I can work and drive and fix the problem.

Gabriela Acosta 45:43

Yeah, this week was actually black women's Equal Pay Day, which essentially means that a black woman has to work an entire year and eight months, in order to make the same amount of money as the average white man in the previous year.

Jenelle Acosta 46:04

They have to work an additional year and eight months or they have to work. So they have to work eight months longer?

Gabriela Acosta 46:09

Eight months longer to make up the difference from the last year of pay.

Jenelle Acosta 46:13

So they almost have to work an entire year, that's absurd.

Gabriela Acosta 46:15

Almost an entire year, I've entered I believe Latina and Hispanic women's Equal Pay Day hasn't even happened yet. We talk a lot about in I believe it's it's around March, I'll have to look this up, I'll put it in the show notes. There's a white woman's Equal Pay Day, which happened way earlier this year. We really need to look at it from an inter sectional perspective, white women still aren't making on average the same as white men, however, then women of color ( Asian women, black women, Hispanic Latina women) are still making significantly lower than even white women. And we need to understand why that is. And this isn't just on average salary for the same role. This is all so thinking about things like opportunity, which is why I loved so much what Kellie was talking about, about getting the feedback that they need in their reviews. Because if you're not getting the feedback that you need in your review, you're also not getting the development that you need. And you're also going to be lacking opportunity for growth. And that, to me is unacceptable, no matter who you are.

Jenelle Acosta 47:24

Correct. I totally agree.

Gabriela Acosta 47:26

So I think this, I'll add additional resources around equal payday for the various identities and backgrounds, so that you guys can start start having conversations within your organization's about this, because equal pay day isn't just about making sure that you're leveling your pay for each role. It's about ensuring that your organization is giving everyone opportunity.

Jenelle Acosta 47:50

Yeah, because if you just level the pay, you're not you're you're getting them to equal but you're still having a gap in who's going to get promotions, who's going to get development who's going to get growth, and so you're fixing it for a short, short term, you're not fixing it for long term. You're still going to believe behind, particularly the women of colors and have less opportunities to advance comparatively to white men.

Gabriela Acosta 48:15

Absolutely. So definitely take a look at some of the resources that we're going to be putting up on our show notes. Because I think it's really important that we all recognize how we all play into this, how we personally are affected by it, and what we can do to support our peers.

Jenelle Acosta 48:33

Yeah, and the last thing I want to leave on is, obviously, we've been talking a lot about women of color and how to help support them and give them the feedback that they need. But also to be able to look around you and see how diverse your team is. And I would challenge you that if you look around and you're not seeing the diversity that you need, to start with conversations with your peers, but also maybe if you feel comfortable to start a conversation with your boss to talk about how you can be an ally and an advocate in trying to increase the diversity in the team.

Gabriela Acosta 49:09

Yeah, right on.

Thank you so much for joining us today. Join in on the conversation. We'd love to hear from all of you. Visit our website and share a voice memo on our Contact Us page. Want to get exclusive bonus materials? Then sign up to become a monthly patron by clicking on Patreon button on the top right of the website. While you're on our website, subscribe to our newsletter for some additional behind the scenes materials. This episode was written and produced by me Gabby Acosta and co hosted by my lovely wife,

Jenelle Acosta 49:43

me, Jenelle Acosta!

Gabriela Acosta 49:45

Our music was written and produced by Emily Henry.

Jenelle Acosta 49:48

And here's me singing us out with this week's list of seed fund sponsors.*Singing* Julie Colatrella, Karlee Nicklas, Kasey Smith, Kate Farrish, Katharine Greenlee, Katie and Roger Bordine.

*Mellie Barks*

Jenelle Acosta 50:09

Every time


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