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This episode was originally recorded as a webinar, sponsored by SmartBrief and moderated by Becky Robinson, Founder and CEO of Weaving Influence. Tune in as Jennifer Brown and Celeste Warren, Vice President, Global Diversity and Inclusion, Center of Excellence at Merck, discuss what it means for a leader to be inclusive, and how to determine if your organization and leaders are inclusive. You’ll also discover the behaviors that leaders need to exhibit to create an inclusive organization and how to incorporate those behaviors into your organization and weave them into your practices.

Listen in now, or read on for the transcript of our conversation:

CELESTE WARREN: You have the power to be able to bring colleagues together, your peers together, your colleagues, your friends in the organization. Bring them into a conference room and say, “Hey, we’re going to have a, what we call lunch and learns.” And it’s basically, I’m going to send out an article on diversity, on equity, on inclusion. We’re going to talk about women in the workplace. We’re going to talk about something. And then ask everyone to read it. And then set up a time during the lunch, everybody bring their own lunch, and you have a conversation about it. It really helps from the standpoint of building your folks around you their capabilities around diversity, equity, and inclusion. It has this exponential effect. Everyone that’s attending, even if it’s just 10 people or eight people or whatever, but they’ll go and if they had lunch and learns with 10 other people and you think/see about the ripple effect that happens. And oh, by the way, they’re having conversations with their manager.

DOUG FORESTA: Everyone has a diversity story, even those you don’t expect. Get ready to hear from leading CEOs, bestselling authors, and entrepreneurs as we uncover their true stories of diversity and inclusion. And now onto the episode.

Hello and welcome back to the Will to Change. This is Doug Foresta. This episode was originally recorded as a webinar sponsored by SmartBrief, and moderated by Becky Robinson, founder and CEO of Weaving Influence. Jennifer Brown and Celeste Warren, vice president of Global Diversity and Inclusion at the Center of Excellence at Merck, discussed what it means for a leader to be inclusive, how to determine if your organization and leaders are inclusive. They also discussed the behaviors that leaders need to exhibit to create an inclusive organization. All this and more. And now onto the conversation.

BECKY ROBINSON: I’m so thrilled today to be joined by Celeste Warren and Jennifer Brown. Celeste Warren is the vice president of Global Diversity and Inclusion Center of Excellence at Merck. She’s responsible for working with Merck’s global leaders to advance and embed diversity and inclusion throughout the organization to enhance the employee experience and to maximize business performance. So in addition to being honored with many awards, Celeste is also a sought after speaker with her first book coming from Berrett-Koehler Publishers next year, which is so exciting.

I’m also thrilled to introduce Jennifer Brown. Jennifer Brown is the CEO and founder of Jennifer Brown Consulting. She’s been working with organizations for over 20 years. She’s written multiple books on these topics of inclusion, including her most recent, Beyond Diversity, with a co-author whose name I can’t remember. Do you want to tell us, Jennifer?

JENNIFER BROWN: Sure. It’s with Rohit Bhargava.

BECKY ROBINSON: Ah, thank you for that. So Jennifer is an award-winning entrepreneur speaker, diversity and inclusion expert. And she hosts a popular podcast, a weekly podcast called the Will to Change, which focuses on true stories of diversity and inclusion.

I know that this is going to be such a great conversation because you each bring such expertise and unique experiences related to these topics. So as we dive in, I hope that we can first talk about what does it mean for a leader to be inclusive. Jennifer, what are your thoughts on that? What does it mean for a leader to be truly inclusive?

JENNIFER BROWN: Well, it’s interesting to go back to go forward. Inclusion wasn’t always the focus in the diversity and inclusion conversation. Back when I started this work 20 years ago, we were counting heads, right? That’s diversity. That’s the who. Who’s sitting around that table? The composition or the representation. And is it representative of the world that a business entity exists in, right? Or exists to serve, or the customers of that entity. And those were the metrics. And those still are extremely important metrics. Inclusion though was little understood I think back then, and it was kind of tagged on and people assumed it was synonymous with diversity. But it’s definitely different. We think of it as the how.

And so, inclusion is how that diversity is incorporated, is consulted and included. And to me, it has to do with behaviors. How do I get the most? How do I create a sense of belonging where I get the most creativity from people of all different backgrounds because they feel safe, secure, seen, and heard? And so, inclusion, what does an inclusive leader look like? To your question, and what are inclusive organizations look like? They are organizations that prioritize attributes and skill development around empathy, vulnerability, transparency, belonging. They prioritize understanding what kind of culture does this feel like for a wide variety of identities.

Many of them, by the way, we carry multiple identities too. So many of us are intersectional. So we bring all of who we are hopefully to these workplaces. But fundamental, historically, I know Celeste will agree, organizations were not built by and for many of us for us to be able to thrive. And so, that gap is the gap I look at every single day, which is how do we move organizations that were fundamentally not built with a complete set of diversity around that table. How do we shift organizations towards a place where we have a deep understanding of what belonging means in the eyes of the employee? Not according to me, the CEO. Not according to me, maybe somebody who’s comfortable in this workplace because it works for me, but in the eyes of the beholder. And to me, that is the employee. Those are our future leaders. Those should be representative of our customers and the changing demographics of our world.

So inclusive leaders, inclusive organizations make this a priority. There’s millions of reasons why they should, and that’s the business case which I’m sure we’ll get to a little bit later. But it’s tricky because people don’t like to change. That’s kind of where I focus. Celeste, I’ll hand it over to you. Just why are we still kind of stuck where we are? Are we making progress? Some days it just depends on the day for me whether I feel like, “Yes, we’re going somewhere productive and more inclusive.” And then some days I feel like it’s a couple steps back.

CELESTE WARREN: Oh absolutely, Jennifer. Someone shared with me recently, I was in a Zoom meeting and they had a mug. I thought it was very, very insightful. It said “Diversity is a fact.” It’s a fact. We are all diverse across multiple dimensions, seen and unseen as far as diversity. But diversity is a fact, but inclusion is an act. And it basically saying that, “How are you taking the diversity that exist across to all of the employees, the people? How are you taking that diversity and leveraging it to really add value, add value to the organization, add value to themselves where they feel like you valued me. And inclusion within an organization and an inclusive leader is so, so very important.

If you think about two circles, one circle being the organization, the other circle being the employee, the person, an inclusive leader knows how to make those circles overlap. They know how to bring value out of the person and how to make them feel valued and how they contribute to the organization. And all of those things that Jennifer talked about, empathy, psychological safety, demonstrating role modeling and intentionality around inclusion is so very, very critical. So it’s all of those different things. And you’re absolutely right, it is not… When I was coming into the workforce many decades ago, it’s all about the business and the people are just assets that we need to use like our spreadsheets and our computers and everything else. The world has changed so much. Thank goodness. It has changed so much where we have to understand how we’re leveraging the vast diversity with our employees and with people to be able to and bring those two circles together.

BECKY ROBINSON: That’s a really powerful image. And what I was thinking about as I was listening to the two of you is that inclusion is really something that the individual in the organization either experiences or they don’t. and it’s all about that employee or team member and what they’re experiencing. So I’m curious as we dive a little deeper, how we can deter whether or not our organizations and our leaders are living out this value of inclusion? How can we tell if we are being inclusive of our teams and our people?

CELESTE WARREN: Well, that’s a great question, Becky. First of all, I think that sometimes we separate the key performance indicators, those KPIs of data and the metrics that we used to drive the business. So we look at customers, we look at revenue, we look at all of those different things and then we separate out those things that would measure inclusion. When in actuality, if you don’t have strong inclusive leaders, if you don’t have a culture of inclusion within the organization, you’re not going to be able to have great business performance however you measure that performance. And as an organizations, we haven’t done a very good job in connecting the two. And so, what I would argue is that if you have a great inclusive culture where people feel empowered and energized to do the work that will help us to reach our mission and our goals, then you’re going to basically have the challenge of being able to drive your business.

So looking at all of those key performance indicators for your business is one way to do it when you connect the dots. The second piece is looking at some of the people metrics. Turnover, retention, and all of that is very, very important to understand that. And then also, many organizations, many companies, they participate in employee opinion surveys. I know most companies do. They either do it a big bang, one time a year, or once every other year, or piecemeal it and do it every two or three times a year with very small surveys.

What you can do is you can learn so much about that information through the employee sharing that information through these surveys. But also you can’t stop there too. You have to, once you get the surveys and if there are written comments as well, looking at the written comments, but also going out and talking to them. Talking to your employees and saying, “Okay, I saw this and this is really a pain point for the organization. Let’s talk about it. Tell me what you’re feeling, how you’re experiencing that, how that is manifesting itself through people, through your leaders, your managers, your peers,” and have that conversation so you can get at what are some of those solutions that you need to put in place to really have an inclusive culture.

JENNIFER BROWN: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Celeste, that was beautiful. I mean, I think what I hear the theme you’re talking about is what we need to know. What we don’t know can really interrupt inclusion. And the data, the collection of not just the facts you just said, the open-ended questions, right? The qualitative data versus quantitative data is really important. And you’re right that we need to be counting, right? And looking at that representation in all of our core HR processes and setting goals, looking at percentages. Year over year, quarter over quarter, what is the manager behavior that we’re seeing manifest in the number of promotions and advancements for example, for certain communities that are underrepresented in our workforce? So that stuff you can see.

I think the trickier part is measuring inclusion has always been this mysterious kind of sand in the hourglass thing. How do we know? And it’s changing all the time. I mean, we’re in these times of rapid churn and generational change in the workplace, plus hybridization, plus belonging and inclusion in a virtual environment which is an additional challenge to, I think, leaders and managers that frankly I don’t think were terribly good at generating inclusive environments before we were virtualized or hybridized, so to speak.

But Celeste, what you said about our dependence on data, on information, we need to be relentless in terms of asking these questions in a variety of ways. Engagement surveys are great. Sometimes I have issues with them because they’re only done every year or every two years. And that’s like a lifetime in terms of the cycles of change these days. We at JBC, we do a lot of focus groups. We’re really big fans of that. And I think if you really want to dig into this in a creative way that will get you the really good honest stuff, because sometimes that’s hard, you have to put people at ease and kind of meet them or go to where people feel comfortable in their community of identity. And we ask the same questions across different communities of identity in small groups. We facilitate those conversations with someone from the community of identity.

And so, what you’ll come out of from that is you’ll see very clearly that there’s a gap. When you ask somebody, “How do you feel supported or seen in the organization? Or do you believe that you have equal opportunity or access to promotion or stretch assignments?” You will see gender differences. You will see ethnicity differences. You may also do generational cohorts which is really interesting data. And you should also include men and straight white men also. Depending on how big you want to make your effort, it’s extremely important to understand the gap in perception.


JENNIFER BROWN: And everybody, if you haven’t read Women in the Workplace by McKinsey which was just out a couple months ago, they do it every two years. Yeah, Celeste is agreeing. With LeanIn, they do a big research study. It is extremely illuminating. Celeste, it sounds like you’ve read it too. Do you remember anything you learned from it that you were like, “Oh, wow.”

CELESTE WARREN: Well, yeah. And I haven’t read the details. I’m just at the executive summary. But McKinsey does a great job in putting those out. I wanted to comment on your fact about cutting the data and looking at the data. At Merck, we had our administration at the largest circle. We do what we call pulse surveys three times a year. Just quick 12 to 15 impactful questions. And then at the end of the year, we do a bigger one that has about 30 questions. My team and I, we were just this morning reviewing a lot of the data. And we look at it, male versus female. We look at it all of the things that you talked about, generational, and ethnicity, race. All of the ways that you can look at it from the standpoint of having the information.

And you’re absolutely right. When you compare that and you see where are the gaps, where are you seeing the issues one group over another other and then really digging into that, that’s how you have to do the work. You can’t just think that this is all going work out. It’s going to work itself out. Then otherwise, Jennifer, you and I would be out of our business for a while. But no, to Jennifer’s point, you have to look at that data and you have to find out where are those issues, where do you see those gaps.

And I’ll tell you, we’ve been doing this at Merck now, oh gosh, for many, many years. When you see the efforts of everybody that is working diligently to drive D&I across the organization and you get the data back and you start to see those gaps close across different groups of communities… I had a big smile on my face as we were reviewing the data this morning and looking at some of the verbal written in… I’m sorry, the written comments. You start to see those gaps close and it’s like, “Okay, let’s keep going.” We want to celebrate, but you got to keep going and continue to keep doing the work that you’re doing. Otherwise, you sort latch yourself into this false sense of, “Hey, we’re there.” And nobody is ever truly just there. You have to continue to keep evolving and keep growing.

BECKY ROBINSON: So it sounds like in order to determine if your organization and leaders are inclusive, you have to ask your people. And data is a critically important piece of this. So once you have the data, you begin to see the reality of whether your organization and your leaders are inclusive or not. I’m curious from there. What are the behaviors that we really need to hold our leaders accountable to if we want to create increasingly more inclusive organizations?

Jennifer, what are your thoughts on that? What are those key behaviors of inclusion? And I know I did see a question in the chat from Anna who was asking, at the beginning of the hour you had a long list of these attributes, which attributes behaviors there might be some overlap, and Anna was asking if you could repeat those.

JENNIFER BROWN: Oh, sure. Yeah, one of my favorite topics. I write a lot about it. I think about a lot about how we change as humans. What is the process we go through? Because it’s not just about the behaviors. I’m fascinated with how do we become comfortable being uncomfortable, how do we develop new competencies particularly if we’ve been leading for a long time. I mean, it has to be said that we get kind of set in our ways and what has worked for us. That’s our go-to. That’s what we return to. And also by the way, it’s what has been incentivized by our organizations in terms of our performance metrics, and our compensation. The estimation of whether we are ready to advance has I think been based on, frankly, I think an incomplete list of competencies. And this is why we have ended up where we are, because empathy and true and a commitment to belonging hasn’t been top of mind. And so we saw the bottom fallout.

Last year, we lost millions of women from the workplace just to pick one demographic that was extremely impacted by organizations that had never really taken the time and had the investment and commitment to support people differentially. The definition of equity, let’s remind ourselves, is not equality. Equality is that sort of hoped for goal. But equity is a strategy that sees difference, right? That acknowledges that those differences are present and they make a difference and they can be those headwinds that get in our way of our progress. That invisible bias, it can be visible bias. Not just unconscious, but conscious. It can be organizations that just have never taken a close look at themselves and really held their own feet to the fire to change. So this comfortable being uncomfortable competency list I think that I’d like to see now become part of our core leadership competencies is, I said empathy, right? I said true emotional intelligence, like leading from that place of seeing difference and wanting to not just celebrate difference but remove any obstacles in the organization and in our own behavior as a colleague that is preventing someone from thriving.

So the ability to have enough trust that somebody says to you, “I’m struggling. I think I’m being held back. I think I’m not able to… I’m hitting this wall. I’m hitting this barrier. I suspect it’s about bias, but I don’t know.” Working these things through with people in the organization and then taking and being that person’s ally, being that person’s accomplice to say, “I’m here to enable you to succeed. I believe in you and I’m going to go and seek out how I can address these obstacles in our organization that’s holding a lot of people back.” So I wonder if it’s also… So it’s transparency, it’s advocacy. And I think I say advocacy not just mentoring, but I need it, I see it as being much more proactive, championing talent. And to champion talent, we can’t champion all that talent in the same way because that talent is not having the same experience, because their identity is impacting their experience.

So even just that concept that I just described, I think is a huge kind of, for some people, a 180 from how they’ve understood. And frankly, my generation was told to say, “I don’t see color.” We were told to not… Right? To not see gender. To treat everybody the same. We thought that was the right answer. And so, to sort of shifting that now and saying, “Well, actually, the world is very different now and we need to speak to our talent differently. We need to build trust differently. We need to acknowledge things differently” and then our role changes to enable the success of others, enable their voice to be heard, enable them to have a platform, enable them to shine. Work in by behind the scenes, if possible, to remove obstacles with… This is not something we do for glory or for recognition. We need to actually believe that this is our job.

I don’t know if there’s like a magic word that captures everything that I just described, but I think of it as advocacy, championing. It is allyship. It is. And I think the D&I language, we’re going to start to see the language we use in our world start to become a core part of HR and leadership conversations and talent management and even corporate social responsibility. I mean, the S in ESG is social. Environmental, social, and governance. And this piece is where D&I is starting to become a real metric for organizational health. A real metric that if this organization doesn’t do this right, there is added risk in this organization of failure. So I like to kind of present the stakes in this way, because we have to get people’s attention that this is imperative. This is not a choice. It’s not something I either agree or disagree with. It’s happening. And so to me, the real choice is how do I then get comfortable being uncomfortable, jump in and begin to practice inclusive leadership as awkward as it feels, as incompetent as I feel?

It’s conscious incompetence, right? I love that model. It’s, “I’m aware of my awkwardness. I’m aware of my lack of ability and skill here, and I’m still going to do it.” That’s what I expect of inclusive leaders on their journey, is, “I’m going to sit with the not knowing. I’m going to talk about the not knowing. I’m going to articulate my uncertainty. I’m going to share my learnings. I’m going to know that I’m not going to get it right.” And I’m going to continue it and I’m going to persist.” And if I could hold leaders accountable to anything, it would be getting to that place and staying in that place because that’s where the growth happens.

BECKY ROBINSON: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Celeste, I wonder if you have anything to add as it relates to behaviors and attributes that you expect within Merck. Are there certain written standards of leaders of what it means to be inclusive? And how do you translate what Jennifer is saying at the global organization level? Because I know as I listen to you, Jennifer, it sounds like this is kind of a one at a time thing that we have to be in the not knowing. But how do you translate that with tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of employees around the world, Celeste?

CELESTE WARREN: Oh, yeah, Jennifer, she hit on all of the ones that are incredibly important when you think about inclusive leaders, the empathy, I like to say the vulnerability and that she described being vulnerable. A lot of times, if I’ve made it to the executive brains where “I’m a manager. I’m a leader. I’m supposed to know it all. I’m supposed to be able to answer my employees’ questions and be able to have the answers and be able to solve all the problems and all of that.” And that is exact opposite of an inclusive leader. An inclusive leader, they recognize and they understand that they don’t have all of the answers. And so they leverage their teams, they leverage the people within their organization to help them to solve issues and empower them.

If you can’t create an environment where people feel safe to speak up to elevate their voice, to raise issues that might be contrary to how you might think about it, how the organization and their perspective about it, if you stifle that, you cut off innovation, you cut off creativity. And from that perspective, at least in our business, we have to have innovation when it comes to our science, when it comes to our research labs. That innovation is so very, very critical. And so if we don’t have it, God knows how many directions we would be going which would culminate in our not meeting an unmet medical need for our patients. And so it becomes really, really important that inclusive leaders, they understand that. And they can be vulnerable. They have to be vulnerable because they don’t have all of the answers. And you have to basically… We always say that the people closest to the product, the process, the labs, et cetera, they have the answers. And so, how are you leveraging your people in order to get the answers to some of those solutions need to get to?

And then another piece, we talk about psychological safety is really, really important. And that is sort of making sure that you’re not just saying, “Hey, I have an open door policy. Feel free to drop in anytime and have a conversation.” But you are truly creating an environment where people feel safe to have different perspectives. Just adding on to what Jennifer said, the Generation Y and Generation Z are the most diverse from those dimensions of diversity that you can see and those you can’t see. They are the most diverse generations that we’ve ever had in the world historically. And so, the way that they define themselves and how they identify is even 10 times different than how baby boomers and even Generation X.

And so, as a leader, you have to meet people where they are. You have to meet your employees where they are individually and in groups and congregationally. But being able to meet them where they are and then interact with them in a way that is not, “Oh, I don’t see color. I don’t see gender. I don’t see your identity,” because that’s insulting to people because they identify, especially they’re very proud of their identity however, they identify. And so ignoring that is not the best way to be able to leverage them.

And so when we think about being a leader, it’s not black and white anymore. It’s not Xs and Os. It’s not Is and Os or however we look at it. It’s not binary. It is a whole plethora of different things that we need to consider as we are leading organizations. And you have to show your vulnerability. You can’t be afraid to say, “Well, I don’t know something.” Because I guarantee you, the more vulnerable and authentic that leaders come across, the more people can relate to them because we all feel like we are vulnerable. We don’t know everything. But when we see a leader is also demonstrating that vulnerability, it helps us to connect with them. And that’s the best thing that you need to do. Connectivity is so very, very important, and being able to unleash the power that exists within your employees so they feel valued and good about doing the work of whatever your mission of your organization is.

BECKY ROBINSON: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

JENNIFER BROWN: Could I jump in Becky really quick? Celeste just said so many good things, I wanted to add. I’ve heard recently over the last year and a half, employees want to see your passion and your maybe indignation also. So inclusive leaders I think are involved not just intellectually from a head perspective but from a heart perspective in the issues that are impacting employees and customers. Increasingly, those are social issues. Those maybe challenges, like right to voting for example is one that a lot of companies jumped in on. And it took them a while though. And so, what I see companies kind of doing is they’re warming up their engines and they’re kind of picking and choosing rightly and wrongly and suffering from not saying anything, being silent on issues that are really important particularly to Gen Y and Gen Z that Celeste just pointed out. Now remember, our Gen Z’ers are about 26 years old as the oldest of that cohort, so there are incoming workforce.

But inclusion is the, a number one generational priority for this generation. And imagine they come into companies that are traditionally silent and the leaders have no comfort or even expectation that they would say “I’m outraged. I don’t agree. I want us to be about. I want us to stand for.” And so this expectation, and this is another place that’s catching leaders short because again this was not okay even. In my generation, the personal was over here, right? It’s like your work self and your personal self. But now we live in this time, and I don’t think we’re going back, where everything is woven together, everything matters all the time. And sometimes senior leaders will say, “Well, Jennifer, where does it stop? Isn’t it a slippery slope? I acknowledge this. And I acknowledge that.” And I say, “Yes. And?” Like, this is how the expectation of leaders. And institutions have power to create change. We need institutions to step up and say something is not okay. We need institutions as allies.

If I could tell leaders one thing, it’s that you will not… Avoiding this kind of issue like maybe you did in the past is not going to work anymore because the ability to do my best work as a Gen Z’er in your organization has to feel that my values are somehow aligned and that you speak up for the voiceless, that you are an advocate in the public sphere and as sort of a citizen in the ecosystem that you exist in. And you exist at the pleasure of as a company, by the way. Never take it for granted that your customers are in the driver’s seat, your employees are in the driver’s seat, right?

So I think that’s also a huge shift in terms of the way we perceive the role of ourselves, particularly as executive leaders. And so I say to them… Celeste, I don’t know if you’ve said this exactly, but I say, “Listen, I’ll tell you. You know the least about workplace cultures that are ones of belonging and inclusion, because generationally, you don’t know what it means. You never experienced it. And I think at that level, you lack all kinds of the diversity that we speak of so you look at that level nothing like the incoming workforce from a demographic perspective. And so that you lack the lived experience that is so much top of mind for brands and companies now, and for how your customer base is changing.” So it’s a real risk to be out of step.


JENNIFER BROWN: I spend a lot of my time trying to, again, sort of sound the alarm to say like, “This is a business risk. This is a bottom line risk. It’s a survival risk. It’s a thriving risk in the business landscape of the future.” You’ve got to figure out how to do well and not just do good. I’m not talking about philanthropy. It has to go beyond that. And you really have to figure out like, “How to get engaged with this?” And I want people to care. I want them to care not just as an exercise. I believe that companies can be some of the most progressive spaces in some of the most psychologically safe places. I’m LGBTQ. If I work for IBM and I live in Eastern Europe, my workplace is the most affirming safe place for me.

CELESTE WARREN: Mm-hmm (affirmative).



JENNIFER BROWN: I just think too, we have to kind of remember what companies can stand for and how world changing that can be.

CELESTE WARREN: Absolutely, Jennifer. Absolutely.


BECKY ROBINSON: Yeah. I’m just trying to take this all in because what I’m feeling is this deep sense that the world has changed so much. It’s changing faster than most of us as leaders can adapt. And what I’m hearing from both of you is this need to see the world as it is, not as we experienced it 20 years ago. But to see the world as it is and to see people as they are, and to help them be seen by us in our organizations. And I think there’s a learning curve.

CELESTE WARREN: No, absolutely. Becky, what Jennifer said about companies, that the age of corporate social activism is what we’ve saved. And companies, a lot of them still are hesitant, but you have some of those companies that are just right on the forefront of… They’re out there, raising their voice and doing things to help the culture of the world. I always say to our leaders, I said, “No, we’re one Tweet away from our stock price dropping tremendously.” We know the power of social media. That’s why we need everybody to be diversity and inclusion ambassadors when they’re out in the world, out in the community, when you think about a sales rep for example that has a company badge on and they’re having a bad day and they have a bad interaction with someone, with the customer.

Everyone has an iPhone. Everyone’s videoing everything. If you don’t really act as that ambassador and really make sure that you are on the best behavior that you can, the world today is so very, very different, and exactly the case from the standpoint of… We used to, in my parents’ day, we would look to the civil rights groups or the women’s groups, the community organizations to fight these battles for us. And fast forward now to 2021, the corporations have an obligation to do this. And if you don’t do it, the shareholders are calling on it, investors are calling on it. Very importantly, the labor market, generate your employees in the labor market.

And just as Jennifer said, Generation Y and Z, they want to go to organizations, be a part of organizations and companies that have the same values and standards that they do. If they don’t, they’re voting on their feet. They’re either not coming to your organization or they’re leaving your organization. And it’s not like it was for boomers and some of the older generation X’ers where company loyalty was a thing. They will leave in a heartbeat and not think about it, job or no job. You know how we used to say, “You don’t leave a job unless you have a job. It’s easier to look for a job if you have a job”? That’s not the thinking of these generations. It just isn’t. So inclusive leadership is so critically important and a business enabler across all companies.

BECKY ROBINSON: Thank you for that, Celeste. I’m seeing so many questions in the chat. I think that we’re going to hop to some of those if that’s okay, Celeste and Jennifer.


BECKY ROBINSON: And some really great comments in the chat as well, but I’m just seeing so many questions come in and I want to make sure that we can get to as many of them as we can. So Katherine is asking, “How would someone not in an official leadership role, in addition to being identified as a black indigenous person of color, navigate their workplace and perhaps even encourage leadership toward inclusivity and inclusive leadership? How could someone who’s not officially a leader make a difference in their organization?” I know Celeste that your book is speaking to this.

CELESTE WARREN: Yes. Everyone plays a critical role. I get that a lot. I can’t even tell you the number of times that people have come up to me in conferences or in different places and had that look on their face of complete powerlessness. And it’s so sad. Because people don’t realize that the majority in an organization, there’s about on average 30% to 35% of any organization is your management team, your leadership. 30% to 40%. The other 60%, 60% to 65% are employees. They don’t manage people. And so, in order for the organization to really be able to drive D&I across the organization, you have to engage with all of the folks who I call the individual contributors. They’re not people managers, but they have a crucial role to play.

So one is what you can do, it’s just a simple thing. You have the power to be able to bring colleagues together, your peers together, your colleagues, your friends in the organization, bring them into a conference room and say, “Hey, we’re going to have a, what we call lunch and learns.” It’s basically I’m going to send out an article on diversity, on equity, on inclusion. We’re going to talk about women in the workplace. We’re going to talk about something. And then ask everyone to read it, and then set up time during a lunch. Everybody bring their own lunch, and you have a conversation about it. And it really helps from the standpoint of building your folks around you their capabilities around diversity, equity, and inclusion.

And then it has this exponential effect. Everyone that’s attending, even if it’s just 10 people or eight people or whatever, but they’ll go. And if they had lunch and learns with 10 other people, and you think/see about the ripple effect that happens. And oh, and by the way, they’re having conversations with their manager. And so a second thing, a second step you might be able to do is go to your manager. Your managers, they have staff meetings, and say, “Hey, do you mind if I take a half hour or 45 minutes out of the next staff meeting and send an article out and then have it to the team and we have a discussion around diversity and inclusion and just engage everyone around it or have a discussion around how we can have a more inclusive work environment among our team. What are some things that we can do?” Because that’ll benefit the manager because they’re, “Hey, I want a more inclusive… I want all my employees to be happy.” And so it’s something that anybody can do.

And then the third thing is just build on your own capability. Educate yourself. There are lots of articles, lots of books out there around diversity and inclusion and how you can be a better inclusive leader. Just because you’re not a manager now, if you have aspirations to be a manager and a leader, pick up Jennifer’s book and read it and learn about not for the job you’re in now, but the job that you aspire to be, where you aspire to be, the job that you want in the future. And start to really learn on your own about that. So when you are given that nod or you get that job, that you’re prepared to be able to do it. But the first thing is you have, as a person who’s not a manager, a sphere of influence. So you can use that influence, your social networks, within the environment to be able to drive diversity and inclusion. Jennifer, is there anything that you want to add?

JENNIFER BROWN: I can’t wait to read your book, Celeste. This is so good. Please, everybody, this is really good and very simple, low tech, no cost, but I think somebody said in the chat, I think it was Tim, it’s high agency, right? You have that sphere of influence that you can influence. And starting within what you can impact is so important for our sense of self, right? Our confidence as we build it. I would say if you find yourself in an organization with affinity groups, by all means, join them. Take leadership roles. Use those as a springboard and a platform for developing skills and also for visibility to get on the radar screen of people with power, which kind of leads me into the conversation about making sure that you are looking for all the time those one-on-one relationships to have mentoring and sponsoring going on.

I want to challenge us all too, to think about the fact that mentoring traditionally, the mentor has been the senior person and the mentee has been the junior person. I like to think of it instead as a mutual relationship, because as we talked about earlier, the younger parts of the workforce have a ton of knowledge about what the workplace culture, what would enable it to be a place of psychological safety and belonging so that people could be their most creative selves. And that’s information I think that is very invaluable for senior leaders who don’t have that proximity to what that future looks like. So if you could, make time to invite the connection, the virtual coffee. Follow up with that person. And keep an eye on how you are going to kind of lily pad your way up an organizational hierarchy, because it is who you know, it’s who knows your work, it is who sees you do your most creative stuff, it’s who’s talking about you, it’s who has your back.

So there’s a lot that’s been written on sponsorship and the importance and it’s particularly for nontraditional talent of sponsorship in particular. To have someone on your side who is the wind behind you and someone who is not just a sounding board which is more mentor, but somebody who’s willing to put their capital in play for you. So somebody who’s willing to say, “Hey, I put your name forward. Hey, I mentioned you. I’m going to make this introduction. I think this is next for you, and I’m going to help make that happen.” So I think we have to be smart. But make time to find those relationships because they’re extremely important especially for women and people of color and LGBTQ talent. We are typically traditionally outside of those sort of informal networks, but that’s what greases the wheels of business. It is not a meritocracy. Let’s just face it, right? It never has been actually.

And so, I think we have to know what game is being played. Even if we’re outside of the game, we need to invest some time and understanding like, “How can I make this work for me? But at the same time, how am I going to rebuild a new game?” which is a whole other webinar. But for the meantime, we need to be successful in the systems that we find ourselves in at the same time as we’re changing them. If there aren’t affinity groups in your organization, I would encourage you, if you are this individual contributor that that Celeste is talking about or even a first time or early in career manager, championing affinity groups to benefit not just the community as a safe space, as a place to seek that support, but also to bring your group intelligence and insights to the company is so invaluable too.

And so if you don’t have right now, if you’re a company and you do not have a committee going, you don’t have a black network, you don’t have an LGBTQ network, I don’t care how big or small you are, those groups are sort of the fuel for innovation and that future talent pipeline. So if you can champion that, if you can suggest it, if you can lead it, I’ve seen a lot of careers be… And Celeste, I’d be curious if you… I hope you agree with this, that it behooves us to step forward and take these leadership roles and bring the tremendous talent and intelligence that exists within communities who have not been a part of the mainstream and companies, precisely because we haven’t been. We have this outsider innovation lens that is invaluable for business. So I would say if that doesn’t exist in your organizations, read. I’ve written a lot on ERGs, employee resource groups, business resource groups. Merck has incredible, like decades of history with them. Celeste, how many do you all have now? [inaudible 00:47:46].

CELESTE WARREN: We have 10 new employee business resource groups. One of our leaders, Jason Voorhees’ on this call.


CELESTE WARREN: He’s the leader of our Rainbow Alliance. I just saw his name pop up.


CELESTE WARREN: We call ours employee business resource groups. They are so very, very crucial. We have now about 20,000 of our 65,000 employees are members of our 10 employee business resource groups. They are so very, very critical in being able to drive diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout the organization. A lot of times people say, “Well, yeah, that’s grassroots or that’s a liberal thing” or something like that. They are so instrumental in being able to understand that if you want to drive your business, you have to understand the diverse communities of where your customers are. And in our case, our patients.

And so, as an example, one of our franchises, the HIV franchise, they work very closely with Jason and our Rainbow Alliance Employee Business Resource Group because the Rainbow Alliance understands the barriers and the obstacles that persons in the LGBTQ+ community have when it comes to healthcare, when it comes to being able to experience those ultimate health outcomes. And so, you can’t be on a team, a marketing team or whatever, you can’t be on a team and say, “Well, I think that this community’s going to feel this way, or I think that they would respond that way.” You have to have people from those communities that are on the teams that are putting together the strategies to be able to meet the needs of your customers that are very, very diverse.

The world’s demographics are changing drastically. People that think that this is just a, “Well, this is just a liberal concept, this whole diversity and inclusion thing,” you have to understand that it is crucial to being a successful business. I’ll give you an example. This is in public domain so I’m not saying anything out of turn, but Moderna. We know that with the vaccine, COVID vaccine, that Pfizer came out first, and then Moderna came out afterwards. One of the reasons that there was a delay in the Moderna vaccine is because when they were going through their clinical trials, they did not have enough diversity of patients in their clinical trials. And so, they had to go back and get that and redo some of their clinical trials with diverse patients. And boom, Pfizer comes out first with their COVID vaccine. And so it actually caused a delay because they weren’t thinking in integrating D&I into how they were developing and how they were looking at the drug, the vaccine.

And so there are countless examples around that. 30 years ago, people used the example about the Nova, the car remember back then. It had horrible sales in Latin America. Well, it’s like, “Duh? Because Nova, Nova means don’t go. Who’s going to buy a car that means don’t go?” And so, there are examples of the fact that D&I is not something that’s just nice to do. It’s not just a liberal concept. It puts your company, your organization at a competitive advantage. And the good leaders, the good CEOs, the good C-suite leaders, the good managers know that and they blend the two together to say, “How can I leverage the diversity within my organization, within my people, to be able to drive our business forward?”

BECKY ROBINSON: So back to the question about employee resource groups, we do have a question from a listener who’s wondering what types of activities have been seen to be the most impactful for those employee resource groups.

CELESTE WARREN: So I can speak from the standpoint of our organization. We focus our employee resource groups in three areas. One is around talent acquisition and development. So your members are the talent pipeline of diverse leaders that we want to get into to take over critical roles. And so, what are you doing to build their capabilities, leadership and functional capabilities? How are you doing that as an EBRG to do that? And then also talent acquisition. Working with our talent acquisition organization, helping them to bring in diverse talent, diverse employees, diverse candidates into the organization by connecting them with their communities.

The second thing is around business and customer insights. How are you taking the experiences, the cultural experiences from your community and adding business value, working with different franchises? So our League of Employees of African Descent Employee Resource Group working with our oncology franchise because we know that prostate cancer impacts black males more so than others, as an example. And I use the example with the Rainbow Alliance in HIV. So that’s another one.

And then the third one is around social and community outreach. How are you making our organization the community of choice in the various different countries where we do business? How are we contributing to the community? Our employee business resource groups play a huge role in that. So they’re just very, very critical in helping us to look at our diversity strategy holistically. And then also just helping us to implement. We wouldn’t be anywhere, anywhere in our diversity inclusion strategy if we didn’t have employee resource groups.

BECKY ROBINSON: Thank you so much. We are coming to the end of our hour together. I know there are many questions that we weren’t able to get to today, but we do have a number of resources that you can access after this event. And I want to share a few of those with you right now as we wrap up. One more thanks to SmartBrief, which is a Future company, for their sponsors of today’s event and this important conversation about inclusion.

A few things. We’ve been putting some links in the chat about how you can stay connected to Jennifer. We hope that you’ll order one of Jennifer’s books today. These are only just two of her books, How to Be an Inclusive Leader, published by Berrett-Koehler Publishers, and Jennifer’s latest title, Beyond Diversity. As we mentioned, Celeste Warren does have a book coming out next year. It is available for pre-order. It’s a way in advanced pre-order, but her book is called How to Be a Diversity and Inclusion Ambassador. We would encourage you to sign up for Celeste’s email list so that you can get all the updates as we get closer to the publication of the book. It’s November, Celeste? Is that correct?

CELESTE WARREN: That is correct.

BECKY ROBINSON: It’s almost an entire year away, but we hope you’ll choose to stay connected. As we wrap up the hour, one of the questions that I saw earlier in the chat that we didn’t have a chance to get to was one about accountability for truly making an impact as it relates to diversity, equity, and inclusion and not merely checking boxes. So as we finish the hour together, I’m wondering if both of you could just share with us some additional inspiration or a final thought for those who want to go back and really be able to make an impact in their organizations. Jennifer, do you want to speak first?

JENNIFER BROWN: Sure. Nothing like a doozy in the last… So maybe I’ll share I think of it like carrot it in the stick. It’s how do we motivate behavior change. The stick is metrics and goals and targets. Yes, those things may be a check the box, but they have a usefulness. I think it’s important to have goals and watch for progress and interrogate, “Well, why aren’t we making progress? Or why are we making progress over here, but we’re not over here in the business?” So, that’s the stick. The carrot is the invitation to change. It’s the human piece of it. It’s that sort of sticky, mysterious piece of why do people change, why do they feel the desire to, how do they deal with the fear around change and the uncertainty of being comfortable being uncomfortable.

So I think in any organizational strategy, as we think about how change happens, just start to notice what are we leading with. Do we have a healthy balance of these two things to both require change but also invite change? I think those are two… And if you overuse one and underused another, I think it’s a little out of balance. I think I admire most organizations where I see both things in place and that there’s a deep level of kind of inquiry and adjustment. And as they go on their journey, that they’re balancing out these things. That acknowledge that change is hard. A lot of us resist it. Sometimes we need to be brought to the water and then choose to drink and then realize that actually what we’re embarking on is something that can actually transform us and goes far beyond the box checking exercise.

Celeste and I know, and Becky, you all know how powerful this work is. It’s not a chore, it’s an opportunity. And it’s, I think, a very important one, a very sacred one to investigate what enables the thriving of all of us. And so, I hope that that excites some people and encourages them to get off the sidelines and get involved.


CELESTE WARREN: Yeah, I think the only thing that I’ll say is that going back to that phrase from the beginning, “Diversity is a fact.” It is here. It is all of us. Everyone identifies in a certain way. We have to make sure that we’re leveraging that diversity that exists within the workforce because the inclusion is the act, and how you do that is very, very important to be able to connect those two circles of the organizational need and the employee’s passions and desires and capabilities.

BECKY ROBINSON: Thanks everyone.

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.