You can also listen on iTunes, Stitcher, and Google Play.
Creative Director Rana Reeves returns to the podcast to discuss the ways in which various identity groups are coalescing around reproductive health and how brands can take a stand to put their values into actions. Discover the tension that brands are facing when it comes to taking a stand on a variety of social and political issues.
Listen in now, or read on for the transcript of our conversation:
RANA REEVES: We’ve got the attacks on the LGBTQ community systemically, we’ve got Roe versus Wade potentially being overturned, we’ve got the 50th anniversary of Title IX and we’ve got the beginning of the run up to the midterms. If I look at my Facebook, I can see the movements coalescing so I can see the activists from Black Lives Matter, queer groups, women’s groups, coalescing around reproductive health, coming together and around the protests. It’s everyone coming together with this idea that if you raise the water, all ships rise.
ADRIENNE LAWRENCE: This is Adrienne Lawrence. I’m a Vice President at Jennifer Brown Consulting, where I host a free monthly conversation series called Advocacy in Action. During these thought provoking conversations, we discuss important issues impacting diversity, equity, and inclusion in our communities. And we provide tools you can use in your own inclusive leadership journey. This month’s Advocacy in Action is called, Inclusively Approaching Reproductive Health: Supporting Women and Birthing Employees in this New Era.
In this session, we’ll address how reproductive health is a business issue that will impact your organization’s bottom line. How organizations are approaching the matter in the current climate and the tools you have available to inclusively support women and birthing people in your workplace.
Jennifer Brown Consulting is proud to be partnering with the Women’s Reproductive Rights Assistance Project for this month’s Advocacy in Action. Join us for this important virtual conversation on Thursday, May 19th at 2:00 PM Eastern. To register for this free session, click on advocacy underneath the events tab at jenniferbrownconsulting.com.
Inclusive Leadership is the skillset every leader must have today, if they want to keep pace with rapidly diversifying markets, customers, ideas, and talent. Are you ready to take the next step in your inclusive leadership journey? JBC’s 6-week DEI foundations course is designed to equip you with the knowledge you need to meet the challenges of this changing world. This online certification course is unmatched. It gives you practical tools to dismantle systems of inequity and to build inclusivity in professional spaces. You’ll learn from subject matter experts, diving into a range of issues from unconscious bias to covering. You’ll uncover the power of your own diversity story so that you can speak about DEI in a way that engages others. Become an inclusive leader, enroll today at jenniferbrownconsulting.com under the courses tab, and for a limited time, use coupon code, podcast for 20% off that’s coupon code, podcast for 20% off. The next evolution starts on Monday, June 6th. You won’t want to miss it. Join us.
DOUG FORESTA: The Will To Change is hosted by Jennifer Brown. Jennifer is an award-winning entrepreneur, dynamic speaker, bestselling author and leadership expert on how organizations must evolve their cultures towards a new, more inclusive workplace reality. She’s a passionate inclusion and equity advocate committed to helping leaders foster healthier and therefore more productive workplaces, ultimately driving innovation and business results informed by nearly two decades of consulting to Fortune 500 companies. She and her team advised top companies on building cultures of belonging in times of great upheaval and uncertainty. And now onto the episode.
Hello and welcome back to The Will To Change. This is Doug Foresta. This episode features the return of Creative Director Rana Reeves. Rana has been on the podcast before in episodes 114, episode 128, episode 165, I encourage you to check all of those out. And in this episode, Rana returns to talk about the moment, particularly the issues surrounding the potential overturning of Roe v. Wade and the tension that brands face when taking a stand over social political issues, but how increasingly they are being forced to take a stand. Of course, there’s more to the conversation and you’ll hear more of that soon. I also want to make sure that you check out Rana’s writing. Rana does quite a bit of writing. He has a recent article Roe v. Wade-5 Ways Brands Should Prepare And Respond, which was published in Ad Age. You can learn all about Rana at ranaverse.com. That’s R-A-N-A-V-E-R-S-E.com.
And now onto the conversation.
JENNIFER BROWN: Rana Reeves, welcome back to The Will To Change.
RANA REEVES: Thanks Jennifer, is good to be back.
JENNIFER BROWN: Oh my goodness. And what timing it’s always good timing when we have you on, because the things that you and I talk about are breaking news. And yet, as we’ll talk about today, have been clicking along and these crises that we find ourselves in now, and right now we’re having this conversation the second week of May, 2022, and these couple of weeks will go down in history as so many things happening in the political sphere that are dragging brands. Some of whom are kicking and screaming into this, into social actions and harm that’s being caused.
And other brands like the ones that you get to work with, I know are very much eager. Maybe eager is overstating it, but they are very committed to putting themselves out there with your and others’ guidance, right? To take a strong stand, to say, “Here’s what we stand for, here are our values, here’s how we’re putting our values into action, here’s what we agree with and don’t agree with, here’s how we will make sure our employees are protected and that they are provided for in terms of benefits and protections.”
And so, as usual, I’m thinking of this like enterprise allyship, like you and I we usually talk about allies in terms of humans, but organizations play this and are evolving through these moments and locating themselves if you will, just like our aspiring allies are too. They are trying to figure out how far do we go? What is the impact of how far we’re going? And I think the anti has changed and like we’ll talk about today, massively. And when you and I cooked up this idea, Rana, I know you have your finger on the pulse, you sound really alarmed to me in a way that I haven’t heard you be alarmed in the past.
And so the challenges we’re being faced with now feel very deep, the impact that they could have is going to call a lot of things into questions. So the allyship that perhaps we have seen on the part of enterprises in the past has worked very well. The boycotts that have been threatened have been, like you and I were talking about, tweets, online harassment, threats of the boycott and whether it’s consumer, right? Consumers threatening these things, or big hoo-ha online, but they haven’t really hit corporations where it hurts in ways that I think we’re looking at now and that started, I think to crystallize with the Disney situation in Florida, but then has rolled on from there.
So tell us why you’re so alarmed right now, and really what has shifted that we really need to be paying attention to, even in the very recent weeks and the game has shifted. And I agree with you that we are not playing the same game. And so what does that mean for us as those who really champion and are trying to support organizations to do the right thing, because we need their might, we need their heft, we need their influence. And honestly, they’re the most admired institutions when people are surveyed beyond government, beyond other entities. It is employers that are really being looked to get really involved, I think, in new ways, even in the last couple of weeks. So let me pause there, that’s a setup. And I’d love you to just run with that and then we’ll go.
RANA REEVES: Sure. Well, it feels a bit like a Lord of The Rings at the moment, the different lives, different tribes trying to marshal together to take on the bad guys as it were. But as I’d spoken about, June was always going to be this massive intersection. 2022 was always going to be this massive intersection. I think as we talked about, June is Pride month, it’s the 50th anniversary of Title IX, it’s when Roe versus Wade potentially will be overturned, it’s on the uphill to the midterms. And what we’ve seen is a shift in the tactics within the political realm that is affecting all of this. So as you’d said, the debates were consumer debates, really. They were tweets there were burning of Nike sneakers, but nothing that was really, I would argue heavily affecting the bottom line.
I would argue that bottom lines were more heavily affected by consumer boycotts around being pro trans or around Black Lives Matter. These issues were settled in the court of public opinion. The bar has been lowered with direct retaliation. And this is where Florida with Disney, Texas with City Bank, that you are seeing actual legislative moves to attack brands that come out with a point of view. So brands are held in this epic tension, right? Of consumers saying, “We want to know where you stand.” Employees saying, “We want to know where you stand.” And on the whole brands tend to stand where it’s commercially viable in the right way. So we talk about abortion. 69% of Americans think that some abortion should be in place, right? So the stats are all there, but a vocal minority who have legislative power are now able to be punitive to brands.
And this is a new sphere, this systemic assault. Last year when we spoke, we were talking about black and brown voter impression this thing. And there was, I think for myself, maybe as a London or a Brit, a naïve feeling that things would level out, right? And if anything, they’ve intensified and they’ve intensified due to the American system, because they’ve intensified state by state, municipality by municipality, right? It’s settled slightly on a federal level, but now the Supreme court, all of this is swirling together into this maelstrom, right?
And I think the reason I’m nervous is because there are some big questions coming up now where intuitively there aren’t always the gray areas certainly for consumers. You have to be really super extreme now and no brand is going to come out and say “We advocate for white supremacy.” No brand is probably going to come out and say, “We hate the gays.” Right? But there are these lightning rod issues, which are being coalesced and entering the commercial world. Critical race theory, abortion, trans rights.
Some of these issues can be super minor. When you think about, that they’re legislating against trans kids in Arkansas playing sports. When I think they identified, there were three children. The noise of it compared to what they’re legislating against to get click bait. It’s adjusting the national conversation. And so it’s a super tricky time for brands, even brands or companies that we work with that are all in it. It’s like the level keeps changing, right? Like, “Yes, black lives matter.” All agreed. “Yes, trans lives matter.” Predominantly, all agreed. Now it’s well, where do you stand on abortion? Right? These are almost things that should have been set in stone by now.
JENNIFER BROWN: Right. And you said it feels now like it’s a debate. And like you just said, nobody’s arguing for this anymore. Right? These are so to speak settled issues, right? We don’t know what the future holds. But this one sounds like that. You used the word epic earlier, but this battle, church and state, this feels there is not legitimacy power numbers on both sides if I can say. And brands are caught in the middle. And we’ve already seen some responding of course, with reproductive healthcare services being offered by companies who have employees in multiple states, right? And we have Tesla having moved west coast to Texas, for example. So this things are shifting in terms of the geographies, in which brands have employees and therefore are having to come up with policies, state by state in order to provide the same benefits across the board, which is so important to them. This is so critical to every company’s to be equitable across the board.
So you’ve got all these. I wonder what you think about the ways companies have responded simply with the healthcare benefits strategy of, “Okay, we are going to be covering this regardless of where you need to go to get these services, this is part of what we are committed to.” That feels like it’s huge in some ways, and it’s unprecedented, but it is just one of many things they’re going to need to do to equalize this across this messy patchwork of states.
It reminds me of those old days of pre-marriage equality and the state by state mess that companies had to navigate in order to ensure that certain benefits were being grossed up or certain protections were in place when we were not protected in certain states. So what do you think about that first step that we’re seeing on the part of whether it’s City or Yelp, or I know there’s a slew of companies that have started to offer these benefits to their employees, but it’s just such a drop in the bucket compared to what the bigger battle that’s going on.
RANA REEVES: Yeah. I think you’re right. I think that brands have two things they need to do, which is retain employees and attract employees and benefits on the whole need to be a one size fits all across the United States. Yeah, you can get away with a different benefit in the United States and France, but you can’t get away with the two tier system in one territory. And I think that traditionally, what was great is that brands could almost act as like the resistance in a war. So they could set policies, which cross state lines, right? That supported their employees. And I think as you mentioned around gay marriage and stuff, I think they’ve always done that to a degree.
But the difference now is that the internal has become external and has become retaliatory. I don’t think unless I’m wrong, city, they didn’t give an external statement, right? They didn’t issue a press release saying, “We are pro-choice. This is what we’re going to do.” They just started to do something that got politicized. And I think that’s the big difference now is that it moves at lightning speed from internal regulation to external click bait to legislative retaliation. And this is a new thing to navigate.
JENNIFER BROWN: And you said that it’s going to be really tough for brands whose message is so aligned with supporting empowered women in particular, to thread this needle. Can you elaborate a little bit more the difficulty of that for particular brands in the slew, so to speak.
RANA REEVES: Yeah. If you position this through a discussion on women’s or people’s reproductive health, that includes everything from contraception through to birth, through to childcare, through to female empowerment, through to fem presenting people’s empowerment, trans men, et cetera, et cetera. You have to look as a brand at what you are putting into the marketplace across everything. You could be selling, I don’t know deodorant right? But if in your advertising it is going along the line of, this is for the woman that can have it all, right? But in Texas, she can’t.
So you can’t release, in my opinion, that advertising without seeming that you just turn deaf, it’s the same as the social justice movement, right? That everyone had to look at that, everyone was forced to shift their lens, to understand that these things, these nuances are going on, right? That there is systemic racism. It’s the same thing around the statues that had to be removed. People had to shift their axis, right? The interesting thing about Roe versus Wade is that the axis were shifted decades ago, and it’s the first case where, and this is a subjective discussion, but the axis is shifting the other way, right? And so this is a new way of us having to think. It’s not like it was set in stone that Black Lives Matter and then suddenly the world went back to All Lives Matter.
So there’s a shift here that brands are going to have to navigate and in the same way that you don’t get to put a black square and be not against systemic racism, that you don’t get to put a rainbow and not be for trans rights, you don’t get to say to women, you can have it all and not be for reproductive healthcare, in my opinion. And we live in a world where people can call you out on this stuff. And so if you’ve built your whole brand on empowerment, particularly female empowerment, right? Which so many brands have, right? Brands that are aimed at women in particular. How do you navigate this without a statement when this is probably in living memory, the biggest attack on women’s rights that we’ve seen?
JENNIFER BROWN: Yes. And you said, not just women are under attack, people are under attack, and this moment is so intersectional. Can you elaborate more on all the aspects of this that you see, and you’re seeing a coalescing of the, you called it the rainbow coalition, truly the coalescing of communities that is coming together that is intersectional fighting in a stance of allyship and accomplishing, because it does impact so many. And it is a perfect example of intersectionality and commitment and accountability and using our voices for each other. But can you describe the landscape? So this is just one issue that impacts one community. And I just wanted to get all of those great examples that you talk about.
RANA REEVES: Is so heavily intersectional, think about the care economy. So I’m going to get the stat slightly wrong. But I think that the vast majority of black and brown women are one medical emergency away from poverty, right? And so contraception, abortion, female healthcare, these things are under attack. They will disproportionately affect black and brown communities, trans services, right? Will disproportionately affect LGBTQ communities. If they shut the clinics in a state, it’s people with money that can travel to other states, it’s people that can afford half pay time off that can afford to travel, right?
All of these things are intersectional. So it’s not just about gender. It’s about race, it’s about orientation. And this is why there is so much coalescing around it. Also, this will set a heavy precedent that things that I would argue we felt were enshrined, are not enshrined so is gay marriage enshrined, right? Civil rights segregation, these are all things that are still in living memory of having been enshrined in law, right? So it’s something that is so fundamental and the only other … This is not a discussion in Europe, right? I have to say this. In the same way as guns and not a discussion, those are the two issues, right? America cannot coalesce behind. But Roe versus is Wade enshrined a principle that I would argue in the same way as racism is wrong is just stated, but it’s up for discussion that is so destabilizing to so many communities, right? You know that phrase of, I can’t remember what it is, but “they came for you when you were silent and then-
JENNIFER BROWN: Yes.
RANA REEVES: It feels very much like that, that we all can’t be silent with this.
JENNIFER BROWN: That’s right. And the financial consequences then, you and I were talking through Ben and Jerry’s whose parent is Unilever, but it operates largely independently. And we were talking through the very strong statements as a brand going further than most. For example, stopping selling their product in disputed Israeli territories. So the backlash that happened from that, the financial repercussions and I asked you, what were the financial repercussions? Because I wasn’t following that story. But you said it was substantial, but it’s interesting because they have a level of autonomy based on what they negotiated with their purchase years ago. I don’t even know what year that was. So the autonomy to take the hits, if you will, to the bottom line, you might argue what hits are going to happen and are they going to matter? Are they going to hurt like these big entities really? Are they going to be like a speed bump or are they going to really knock the chassis out of the car?
RANA REEVES: Yeah I think the difference, Jennifer, is, this isn’t consumer attack. So if you think Nike came off of the fence around Black Lives Matter because they were a Gen Z brand and Gen Z was wholeheartedly on the whole pro Black Lives Matter, right? But there were no legislative attacks on Nike. Oregon didn’t re-tax them. So this is where it’s unknown territory now, right? So I think if this was just left to the court of public opinion, I think you would’ve already seen brands come out heavily. If I’m honest, I think they would’ve come out of the gate, the so called coastal brands the tech brands, et cetera, et cetera already would’ve come out the gate. “We need Roe versus Wade, this is not right, et Cetera, et cetera right?”
But now with this new world, I feel like you could call this podcast Retaliation because now people don’t know, right? State by state. They don’t know what retaliation. Disney was a special case in point in that it had specific laws that were passed to benefit Disney, right? But for an employer of, I think it’s, I might get the figure wrong, but 78,000 people in a state to be retaliated against, I think it’s unknown territory.
JENNIFER BROWN: And by the way, then what happens is, those companies pull out of these states, therefore impacting the economy, the ripple effect of that is substantial. What do you predict is going to … Do they stay in fight? Do they pull up?
RANA REEVES: Well, I think, Jennifer, it depends on the company, right? If you’re GM, building autos in Detroit or Michigan, you’re not closing your factories and building new ones, right? And nimble companies can move. Things that we’ve seen prior when there were attacks on the trans communities. So sporting events can move, right? Conferences can move, but if you are headquartered or you have major manufacturing plants in states, it’s very difficult. And also it’s not even just about that. It’s about the supply chain. If you have major vendors that you are reliant on, right? We’re also interwoven. We’ve seen that with the pandemic. So it’s such a complex issue.
I do believe that if this is overturned in June, I do believe that brands will have to come off the fence. At the moment, there’s this tight rope going on, right? But I think that they will have to accept what is coming, right? And people try and exist in gray areas, but that’s not always possible, right? And so I think probably there’s a lot of conversations happening in a lot of boardrooms around this stuff. Like Tesla, Elon Musk is talking about everything, but he silent on this.
JENNIFER BROWN: That’s interesting. Definitely not silent in everything else.
RANA REEVES: Exactly. And this is such a hot button issue. So I think there’s a waiting game at the moment. This conversation I hadn’t expected to really have with you until June. It was the leak that put this onto the map. In some respects, the leak is a good thing. Probably not legally, but the leak is a good thing because it’s really enforced to brands, “This is coming.” I’ve been waving the flag since January. Say, “We’ve got to get ahead of this.” This is turn on the crisis management, develop your processes. It sounds like you can just change healthcare by pressing a button, but it’s not that simple, there all these logistical things that have to happen and brands don’t move quickly, particularly on an issue where they potentially have employees there isn’t like a commonality of agreement, right? That there is a commonality of agreement on race. I would argue there is a commonality of agreement on lesbian and gay. I’m not sure there is a full on our trans and gender nonconforming siblings, right? But brands, it’s not like they can just drop in to this and expect no pushback.
JENNIFER BROWN: That’s right. So getting ahead of Pride messaging, for example, it’s going to be a fraught period, for communications and brands especially those who don’t have a good story to tell, right? But also aren’t like adept at threading this needle and don’t have examples of where they’ve put their money, where their mouth is in the past and aren’t ready. So I would imagine you work with a variety of brands, although they wouldn’t probably hire you unless they were really hungry to do more, do this right. Or tell their story more vocally. Right? That’s probably who’s attracted to you in your work. But what are some of these conversations like? And what do you find your role to be?
You said to me, I hope I can share this, but you said, “Jen, this is beyond our pay grade. This is a whole different level conversation.” It was one thing and I feel like there’s two as a DEI thought leader, and you as somebody who runs this really successful agency that is known for guiding brands through the choppy waters, it feels, like you said unprecedented, like we are all making this up as we go.
So when you think about the raw materials of each of your clients and you’re sitting here and all eyes are on you and you’re like, “As much as you all don’t know, I don’t know. However, what can we do? What can we hang our hat on? How can we stay in the conversation with what we do know and mitigate risk, but at the same time, take the right risks?” Because I do know also, you just said, companies don’t turn on a dime. They’re like the ocean liner, right? You spin the wheel. And 20 minutes later, something happens. It just takes forever. But at the same time, we’re living in these days where we’ve learned over the last two years, employees and customers, they want to hear you right away. They want to know unequivocally where you stand and that can have a disastrous effect like what happened with Disney, missed the window, right? Totally missed the window. We thought that was a scandal. Then what happened next was, but I remember that moment a couple weeks ago or month ago, how distressing it was to feel hung out to dry by your employer who’d always been tried and true in the case of Disney and through the miscalculation of the CEO, frankly, although maybe it wasn’t a miscalculation now that we know what we know I don’t know.
Anyway, so lots in there, but how do you feel when you’re now asked for this intelligence and guidance and feeling that you’re writing the script as you go, you know who better than you? I’m really happy that you have your hands on the wheel because I trust you and they should trust you. And they do, but above our pay grade, these are decisions that need to be talked about and decided at the C-suite and the governance level.
RANA REEVES: And shareholder, Jennifer. This really rips the lid off of the commerce machine, right? So I don’t think brands are intrinsically good or bad per se, what they react to is commercial needs, right? And it’s who operates those levers that is important, right? It’s the will of the shareholders, the will of the government affairs, the C-suite and the shift is the systemic shift, right? Is that there are laws of the land that they will have to adhere to, brands can’t break the law, right?
JENNIFER BROWN: Right.
RANA REEVES: They’re not allowed to do that. And so it’s so complex and even from an internal perspective, intersectional, the departments that we are potentially having conversations with, and also that we’re all coming at with different levers, with different needs, with different requirements, right?
I’m not the head of CRM brand that is having to feel all the hate emails that come in when a brand makes a statement, right? I’m not in the phone lines where they hit the hate, right? They get the hate. I’m not also the shareholders who are part of the process. I’m not the politicians, I’m not government affairs. Everything is polished over here, shine over there. So there are laws that are being passed or not being passed that brands need. It’s so layered, this conversation. And I feel if you took out the extremes, I imagine that the vast majority of the mainstream of the business world, the political world, et cetera, et cetera, really didn’t want Roe versus Wade to move. They may or may not say it, but I don’t think anyone wanted this particular headache, right?
There are two left to me, which is guns and abortion. And the two, which are so codified and entrenched, and everyone is so organized. And so polarized, even though they seem like really simple issues to someone sitting in my liberal library tower of Chelsea, New York, it seems like a no brainer, but for this particular country, it’s so deep.
JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah. So deep, oh my goodness. It goes all the way back. It’s these massive unresolved questions going back to the constitution, going back to the debates that they had. Literally we’re living it and we have not resolved it. We haven’t addressed it. We haven’t gone back and done that restorative work.
RANA REEVES: But also Jennifer, this is the crazy thing, as I’m talking to you, it felt like with abortion, it was addressed. We haven’t addressed gun control. Abortion was addressed. And there was a ruling by the Supreme Court, right? We are now talking, and I feel a bit like a news pundit now, but we are now talking about the idea that the law on such deep issues, right? Almost sacrosanct issues could be overturned. Two years ago would you have thought we would be having this conversation?
JENNIFER BROWN: Gosh, no. Oh my goodness Rana. All right. So let’s see. Best case scenario, worst case scenario, if you fast forward a month, we’re in the middle of-
RANA REEVES: Of point of how.
JENNIFER BROWN: … Title IX anniversary, 50th anniversary of Title IX, and you just actually pointed out, how can we celebrate that when there’s such erosion of things that we assumed were settled law. The word bittersweet does not go far enough. It’s funny, I remember Pride two years ago and the decision that we couldn’t be fired in 35 states for being LGBTQ+ remember? And that lent a celebration to Pride that year, that I just had never felt. It was incredible. And I thought, we were all aware that could have gone a whole different direction, right? And made Pride a totally different June and a different reality for so many of us for everyday of the year.
So I guess, what are you hopeful for? And then maybe what are you most concerned about in the coming weeks? And I guess those of us who are listening to this, it can make us feel really powerless. Our whole conversation about where these decisions are made and how it’s gone into this other realm where we thought our advocacy from within could really impact our leadership’s decisions. We believed and we believe, I think a lot of us listen to this, that we have a voice that matters.
Some us need more of a voice and more of a seat at the table because our companies are really early stage. But we’ve influenced a lot of things. Look at the corporate equality index we have in lesbian and trans and bi community, which measures corporations on a scorecard. We get very specific about what we expect our employers to provide, to have in place, to be accountable for. They fight hard to make sure they have a great score on that because they feel the power of our community.
So is that equation changing? I hope not. And how can we not feel powerless? But we feel powerful when these things that are swirling around, that the landscape is shifting and it’s almost like we’re being sidelined because the stakes have shifted and the powers that be now are having a very different conversation. And we have to sit back and wait, which is to me, the worst feeling, not being able to really influence something as a community. So what do you see?
RANA REEVES: So I think what this test is company cultures and the ability, someone says something that really blew my mind last night at dinner, which is, “Hope is hearing other people’s experience.” And so much of this is about that, right? It’s about unity. And we have lost this ability to reach across the divide, right? The culture is so heavily polarized right now. And there has been some shifts, which had to happen. Systemic racism is one of them, right? But I think within companies, what this is going to test is the ability to coalesce transparency, honesty, openness and it’s naive of me to think this, but brands really explaining to their employees why they can’t do stuff if they can’t do it, rather than this being this closed door mentality. And I think that even that can be tricky, right? Because communities feel under attack. People feel under attack.
When you read these headlines, even if you’re in a state where it doesn’t affect you, it feels like that. So this is going to be beholden on companies around the company culture that they create and the values and this feeling psychologically safe for people. We had a lot of failures within companies of not understanding when social justice was really moving, the effect that would just have on black employees, right? Psychologically of seeing this stuff all the time of being hit with it. I imagine our transgender, nonconforming siblings feel the same way, right? So it’s understanding corporately how you can show up for your employees because we are all in this boat and there’s a level of humanity that needs to come through an empathy because we are in the unknown. I would defy anyone to say they have a clear route to how this is going to go.
JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah. Well said. And what you made me think of is when a company in leadership is transparent about the nuances and about wanting to communicate more not less and not stay silent, which was one of the huge, top five lessons of the last couple of years. The level of transparency outside of the organization and the click bait and all of these invasion, I think of taking things out of context and there’s no safe quarter within which to be together to figure it out together. It doesn’t feel there’s any room for that. And yet I always counsel clients to be transparent when they don’t know the answer and transparent about not having the way forward and putting one foot in front of the other, like, “This is what we do know, this is what we are doing, this is what we have done.” Those kinds of messaging.
But inevitably though, we’re in such a, like you said, polarized situation that even that if the choices between over communicating to reassure employees, we’re on it, we’re thinking about this. This is what we’re thinking about. The chance of that getting into the wrong hands, right? And so it’s this damned if we do, damned if we don’t conundrum where I guess the best practices, we’ve always advocated for, we’re all in this together, they break down because there’s so much scrutiny and so much weaponization of information while the companies that have always wanted to do the right thing, and they exist. You and I find ourselves in these conversations with them. It is indeed really tricky.
And I think about ERGs, employee resource groups, what is their agenda going to be? How is this going to change? You talk about an intersectional coming together and puzzling through all the different communities that are affected by one issue. If there were ever a better and more important lesson to learn that, while we have viewed diversity dimensions as separate and siloed in the past and historically, this may be the thing that brings it all together. And is the conversation I’ve wanted to have for a long time, which was, yes, we needed to exclude to include, right? We needed for a time to be within our own silos and have those conversations and find our voice and feel empowered and identify our strategies, but what’s been so amazing to discover and see others discover is the intersectionally, the diversity within the diversity that has always been there, but these issues awaken that.
And I guess if I were looking at a silver lining and I wonder what yours is, that piece of coming together in allyship is so powerful to me and those lessons we’re going to learn about how to do that. How do we raise our voice together? How do we look at every issue and see and notice and share and make public all the different communities that are affected by one thing. I think that if we coalesce, we are massive and we’re powerful. But what would you say is the silver lining to all of this?
RANA REEVES: The silver lining for me is people’s humanity. So we’ve talked about this before, Jennifer, growing up how I grew up or my own life experience, I can very easily go into a them and us and into anger and fear and not understand teachable moments, et cetera, et cetera. And there is a lot of desire within brands and within people to just help people, right? And when you bring this to a personal level, I think that’s where humanity comes through. Think about gay marriage, That’s why they went with love is love. If we think about abortion, we have to really take this down to an individual level of what is the effect on these people’s lives. Right? And I think that you have to be pretty stone cold hearted to not be affected in the first person then, because when you talk about this stuff in an abstract way, right?
You can be very like black and white. And I think that it never ceases to amaze me the conversations we’re working with City, the banking organization. And my perception when we were going to start working with them was they’re all in suit, they’re going to be conservative.
JENNIFER BROWN: Right.
RANA REEVES: Probably, Bar Unilever. They’re the most progressive company I’m working with at the moment.
JENNIFER BROWN: Wow.
RANA REEVES: And it’s incredible, right?
JENNIFER BROWN: That’s amazing.
RANA REEVES: It’s just incredible. So I think that’s what I would say is that personal level of how unity on a one on one and how, is hope, hearing other people’s experience.
JENNIFER BROWN: That’s so beautiful. That’s such a wonderful note to end on. Rana, thank you so much. And everybody check out Rana’s pieces. I know you’re having one in at Ad Age this week, but please follow Rana’s work and his voice and continue to learn from him. But thanks for joining me today, Rana, and to the next time, which I’m sure there will be.
RANA REEVES: Take care, Jennifer.
JENNIFER BROWN: Thank you.
RANA REEVES: All right, bye.
JENNIFER BROWN: Hi this is Jennifer. Did you know that we offer a full transcript of every podcast episode on my website, over at jenniferbrownspeaks.com. You can also subscribe so that you get notified every time a new episode goes live. Head over there now to read my latest thoughts on diversity inclusion and the future of work and discover how we can all be champions of change by bringing our collective voices together and standing up for ourselves and each other.
DOUG FORESTA: You’ve been listening to The Will To Change: Uncovering True Stories of Diversity and Inclusion with Jennifer Brown. If you’ve enjoyed the episode, please subscribe to the podcast in iTunes. To learn more about Jennifer Brown, visit jenniferbrownspeaks.com. Thank you for listening. And we’ll be back next time with a new episode.