Episode 61 : DEI and Black History

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By PositiveHire and Michele Heyward. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.
Hello, everybody. Welcome to another episode of Dear corner office. I'm Michele Heyward. And I'm so happy to have you join us today we have a guest that is absolutely phenomenal. She has a different experience level coming through diversity, equity inclusion, and I'm so excited to introduce Luaskya Nonon to you Luaskya, Thank you so much for joining me.
Thank you so much, Michele for having me. I really appreciate the opportunity.
So, one thing I love about your experience is that you come from the legal side as an in house attorney for organizations when it comes to diversity, equity inclusion. And can we talk a bit about before we get into that, like, where did you grow up? So we kind of understand why how did you get over to legal?
This, it's, I appreciate the opportunity. Michelle, my upbringing is, is interesting in that I'm a first-generation American, I'm a black Latina. I was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, my parents is first language is Spanish. And so I grew up in a Spanish speaking household. And I have, having grown up in New York have had experiences with many different cultures and many different types of people. And growing up, I just knew that I wanted to do something in support of the people that I lived with and worked with. And so I decided to become an attorney initially, because not at all related to the but initially because I wanted to advocate for abused neglected children. And then, in the course of just lived living my life and working and school, I decided that being an in house attorney would afforded me opportunities to work as a volunteer in this space, live a life that I could be comfortable with and pay those law school loans, because those are quite expensive. And so I've been in house at an IT company for over 15 years practicing and I then was able to find my way into Dei.
Wow, I love that mission to help to help others. On the legal side. We often see people do in education, nonprofits, but I absolutely admire that mission to start helping on the legal side. And yes, student loans are massive. Understand, absolutely understand. So you're on the legal side of an organization in house, was there anything particular that had you move over to the diversity equity inclusion part.
Um, there were quite a few things I actually started my my entry into the DEI space before it was the when I was supporting organizations with their affirmative action plans and becoming EEO compliant with with the requirements as a federal contractor. And in that space, I became familiar with the requirements of ensuring Pay Equity, and Diversity representation and diversity hiring and and making sure that the companies that I worked for had programs and policies in place that supported those those missions. And that then move it steered me into get having more of a strategic role, right. The EEO compliance work is strictly about compliance and doing what's required, the minimum required to be all transparent with you be doing the minimum that's required to be compliant. But I wanted to do something that was more strategic, something that was more forward looking at something that was more impactful to the organization as a whole, as well as the employees within that company. And then I worked my way into Dei, right. And the objective for me is to work with companies that believe in the strategic mission of creating inclusive spaces and equitable opportunities for all of their employees. Many companies say that they want to do that, but they don't. their values and their actual initiatives may not align with what they say. And so I try to work and encourage those, those companies that I work with as a as a consultant, but also my employer to put policies and programs in place that align with those values.
And love it. Yes, the metrics of EEO, affirmative action rather, definitely was an entry point for a lot of a lot of people into what we now call dei diversity, equity inclusion, and maybe maybe you have the J for justice or the B for belonging, depending on where you are, and your perspective. it. So I love that loved how you transition over and how much the space has changed in those 15 years that you've been a part of it. So
it has Michelle and I have to say that um, as an attorney starting my my my practice in what's now the AI, I'm very aware that as an attorney, there are certain risks that are presented when you advance DTI initiatives that attorneys often share with their clients their in house clients because the risk of reverse discrimination is a valid one. But it's it's a valid one that's consistent with all the other risks that businesses take when they are running a business, right. And so I think it's important as an attorney, not only to raise that, the risk of reverse discrimination as a risk to your client team, but also to weigh that risk out like you would any other risk in a corporate setting, to help them see that the value in advancing equity and inclusive workspaces, in many cases outweigh the risk. And like any good attorney, you do what you can to advise your client on ways in which to mitigate that risk, right? There are things that you can do to ensure that or rather, maybe not ensure, but to mitigate those risks, to help your client still move forward and advancing equity and inclusion in their workspace. And keeping in mind that there are those possibilities that someone may raise a claim against you. But the benefit, the overall benefit to the organization is by far so worthy of taking that risk.
And you talked about ways that employers can mitigate risks, what are some of their options in risk mitigate.
And so every case is different. But if I were speaking at a very general high level, I always caution clients on making sure that when they set their goals right there, like hiring goals, for an example, to stay away from definitive hiring goal, like numbers, right quotas, right? You don't want those numbers to be seen as a quota, it is better for it to be seen as an aspirational goal. And that comes in the way in which you communicate that to your managers, and how you communicate that to the employees at large. You don't ever want it to be known across your company, that you have a quota to hire five black people and seven women and X number of months or years rather, because then that puts you at risk for higher scrutiny. And if by chance you don't achieve that quota, what's the consequence, right, and so when there's a risk for failing to meet that it raises the bar even more, that they're this may be a problematic number of attainment that makes a third party that may be the person that did not get the job or did not was not hired by your company have a basis upon which to assert a claim against you, right, because if you have this as a well known quota in your company, and you fail to hire the white man that may have otherwise been qualified for the position, but he could argue that he did not get the position because you have this quota. And your managers know that it's a quota. And if they don't meet this quota, then there's gonna be consequences to them. And so they overlooked him. And so you do not want to create a basis for someone to raise a claim against you in that realm. And so what you would want to do after consulting with your attorneys, is to focus on a goal and I realized that this is a nuanced way of looking at things right. But there are ways in which you can identify have aspirational goals for achieving diversity hiring or diversity representation in your organization. What I like to focus on as one way that I think that really addresses this point is to not necessarily focused on the hiring number, but to focus on the candidate pool, to the extent that we're able as as advisors or companies to encourage our, our employers or or clients to ensure that they're expanding the candidate pool to have a diverse representation and have a quote, I'm sorry, I have a goal for that number, right? I want 50% of my my candidate pool to be of diverse dimension, diverse, different diversity dimensions. That's that's a great way to address the ultimate goal of having more representation in your hiring. If you have qualified candidates of diverse dimensions in your candidate pool, you will find a diverse qualified person, right? It just, it's just the numbers, right? So that's one way to do it, making sure that you have a diverse candidate pool. Also, make sure that you're these are the individuals that will be doing the interviews your diversity or panel of interviewers is diverse, right? Bias is in every decision that we make So to the extent that you can have people of different minds and different lived experiences being the decision-makers, then they will bring their whole selves to the process. And it will not be a cookie-cutter type, interview process, and you will be able to achieve your diversity representation goals with a diverse panel. Again, there's training that needs to go along with this as well. So this is just a very high level recommendations, but these are things that companies can consider. I also like to advise clients to have scorecards during the interview process if if your diversity if your diverse interview panel has scorecards within which they are basing the interview. And those scorecards align with the requirements for the jobs that require skills, and I'm not talking the the subjective things, I'm talking about the specific requirements to be successful in a job, and that individual is rated on and the candidate is rated on the that scorecard, you then have tools that you can look to to support your decision, if ever, there's a claim that's asserted against you for vers discrimination. So these are some of the tools that I recommend my clients and my current employer to utilize when they are trying to advance their goals for diversity representation and diversity hiring.
Thank you for that. I have a couple of questions you brought up this scorecard, do you recommend they look for a template or do they create one in-house with some guidance from their legal team,
I absolutely believe that it should be unique to the company. I mean, a template can be a great starting point. But each job should have a specific job description, right. And the job description should be the basis upon which you use to create the scorecard. Now, there may be things in a job description, that there may be additional requirements that are that are that one can identify that supports a candidate that would excel in the role. But I actually, as I'm talking this out, I think that if it's a requirement that would enable someone to be successful in a role, it shouldn't be in a state of job description so that people can say whether or not they have those skills. So I would choose your job description as the basis upon which to base that scorecard. And everyone on the panel should be well versed in what those skills are, as it applies to the role so that they can appropriately measure the candidate that that they're interviewing.
Absolutely, that means actually having hiring managers create a new job description appropriately, as opposed to copy and paste.
Oh, great. Oh, absolutely. Absolutely.
The other question I have for you, was about creating a diverse panel, interview panel. Have you gotten any pushback for having to take the additional time to create a panel, especially when it's just starting out in an organization?
Michelle, as you well know, in this space, empty? i There's always pushback. I mean, I there's no function that I have, that I have held, there's no role that I have held that has more pushback than in the United States, not even in my legal position. I know we got a lot of pushback and legal but anything you want to do in the AI in an environment where it's never been done before you're gonna get pushed back. And so that's just the norm for this for this practice.
How have you dealt with pushback? What are some things that people that are new to this, or they're trying to get executed in organizations? What are some things that may have worked that may work for them that you've seen work, work in other places?
So for me, at a very high level, when you think about what I think about the pushback that Dr. Practitioners face, how I approach the pushback is just asking the person that I'm talking to the CEO, the executive, or the other leader in the company wanting to understand what their goal and objective is like. So you say you want to have diversity representation within your organization, I am offering you ways in which we can achieve that goal. But you're pushing back on me so how what what else would you advise we do to achieve your goal, right? Because there may be other ways to achieve the goal that I'm not aware of. I mean, I am not the be-all and end-all expert in all things Dei. I do know what I do know when I know it well. But sure there are things that I may not know. So I turn it back to my my leaders who are not certified diversity practitioners, right. And I asked them, so how would you achieve this goal? If you don't want to Do it this way. And then and then ask after a pause. Well, let's talk about why you don't want to do it this way. What is it about this approach that causes you concern? Well, so that we can maybe address their root cause, and and maybe allay any fears or concerns that they have regarding the proposal that I have put forth. But sometimes that you, sometimes you're going to get so much pushback that you just have to let it go and move on to other things. Because this, there's so many, there's so many goals that you want to achieve as a DDI practitioner. And you can't get hung up on every one singular instance in which you're getting pushed back, because you will always get pushed back for many of the things that you offer. And as a leader in this space, your role is to, unfortunately, in some ways, educate people, because they're not willing to educate themselves, or at least give them the opportunity to understand why things are the way they are, and why they need to change and try to get out of the status quo. But then also, you also have to preserve your own mental health and well being right, because like I said, there's there's emotional labor that goes along with this work. And when you constantly got that pushback from your leaders that say they want to do this work, but they're not really supporting the advancement of equity and inclusion in their workplaces, you have to take a step back and just give you do some self-care, because there's no way that you're going to be able to sustain in this space if you don't do that.
Absolutely, thank you for that. It is about progress. And how do you make that progress? Definitely, buying can be difficult on so many different levels. So thank you for that. Now, I have some questions. I'd love to call them rapid-fire questions for you, specifically around diversity, equity inclusion. So I'm excited about this. I know somebody gets get nervous, but it's always in good fun. And people like I don't know about. So are we ready? All right, let's do it. All right. What is your DNI team's biggest challenge?
In this time of the great resignation, diversity, hiring is a huge issue. Right? And everyone is dealing with that. In addition, and I know this is intended to be a rapid-fire, so my answer should be short. But when I think about big challenges, I think about diversity hiring, but also think about, just like we talked about the sincerity of your leaders like if you're having to constantly bang your head against the wall, because you're getting pushback from your leaders, it's important to know whether your corporate or CEO or your C suite executives are sincerely committed to your efforts to advance diversity inclusion in the workspace, or whether it's just performative. Because knowing that helped you also to just know how to approach the situation, know when you need to step back, right, and then know whether you're where you need to be. Because at the end of the day, many di practitioners don't want to be at a place where people aren't don't believe in the mission of equity and inclusion. And so it's helpful to know that so I think that's a big challenge, like really knowing the hearts and the desires of your executive leaders is a challenge that I think is is facing many of the practitioners.
Absolutely. And I don't think anybody does, rapid response in that, that's why it's always interesting to call it rapid-fire questions. And as you said, knowing if an organization's leadership is performative, but not it really does help you save time and frustration.
It does, and it helps you keep your perspective, I mean, many of us need to have a job and we have bills to pay. And so knowing where you are and what their objective is, helps you to, to come to work in the way in which you can that helps you have a healthy existence, and helps you to do the job that you need to do because sometimes it's just about learning what you need to learn at that place to then take it to the next place that's going to appreciate you and value in what you have to bring.
Absolutely. Next question. What's your all-time diversity and inclusion book on workplace culture?
You know, that's such a good question. I just finished up with Jennifer Browns on how to be an inclusive leader and I really enjoy that book.
Great. Go ahead,
and that would be my answer for that
one. Okay. Now ya know which book to pick up. A recent book. What is a recent book on dei you Love,
you know, I and because I'm an attorney and words mean something you use the word love. And I don't I haven't loved any book. But I will tell you that I have been reading a lot about unconscious bias and the one that I have been really pleased with and have learned quite a bit from was Pamela Fuller and Mark Murphy's the Leaders Guide to unconscious bias. So that has been a great book to learn from.
And I want to point out some of these two books you both have the word leader in and I think that's really, really important when we're talking about diversity, equity inclusion, okay. What DNI or HR podcast delivers the most value to you?
I have been enjoying Janice gas on his desk 30 Diversity podcast, and I've really liked it.
Alright, who is the DNI influencer, that you're most influenced by?
I've got to go back to Janice got some I think that I relate to her quite a bit. She's a first-generation American. Her parents I believe are from Cameroon. And she just she talks like me like, like, she's very knowledgeable on ei has a Ph.D. She's a professor of Forbes writer. I mean, she's top-notch. So I crash a little bit on Janice. It's pretty cool.
I love it. Where do you hear from the influence? So the most like LinkedIn books, podcasts? Where do you find that DNI influencer, the most?
Janice does she writes for Forbes. So she, she's got quite a few Forbes articles that she's been writing for a number of years. So I've gone back on to just look her up on a couple of her articles. And of course, I'm connected with her on LinkedIn as well as IG, and she does have a podcast called 30. Diversity.
I love it. What's the most overrated diversity inclusion training trend?
Now, that's such an interesting question. When I think of overrated, I think it's everyone's not everyone. Is Is many leaders' default training? Well, let's go and do this. And that overrated training that I'm referring to is unconscious bias. I think that there, there is value in unconscious bias training when it's done well. And it's typically done well, when there are some sort of materials or tools that a participant can take back with them, that helps them to apply their learnings to their everyday job. If you don't have a way as a finance person to identify your unconscious bias in your processing of financial documents, then that training has not been useful at all, it just doesn't move the needle enough. And so I do believe that there's value in it. But I think people, some place too much value on unconscious bias when there's so many other trainings that I think will be more impactful to anyone really wanting to change the status quo in their workplace.
Absolutely. I tell people often, that there's time for education, and then there's time for transformation. Absolutely. You need to know where you are. Okay. Next question. What's the most underrated diversity inclusion training tactic?
I think of cultural competence training or some may consider it a cultural sensitivity. And when I say those two words, I think that there's some overlap, right? From a cultural competence perspective, I think that it is invaluable for people to know where they are on the spectrum of valuing, understanding who they are, what their lived experiences are, how they bring that to their everyday work, as well as how does someone else's lived experiences differ from theirs and how they bring back to work so that they can appreciate that the differences that we bring to the workspace are stemmed from our lived experiences, we are our lived experiences that I don't think that leaders take the time to really think and appreciate that. And so if you have cultural competence training, from a perspective of who we are, who you are, understand who you are, understand your whole self understanding others and being willing to be open and aware and appreciate others, then you can then you can take the time to step back and really think about how your actions impact others. Right. And that's, that's the overlap of cultural sensitivity in some regards, but because cultural sensitivity when I think of that term, I think you need to be able to be sensitive to other people's culture, but it's bigger than the culture, right? It's the whole person, right? And not just who they are, where they came from, but their lived experiences as well. So those types of trainings that help people fully understand who they are why their lived experiences are how they come to work, how they bring that to work everyday and then being open to how to give how to interpret other people's lived experiences by giving them the opportunity to share that right and being vulnerable enough to share that lived experience and appreciate and value and take in that other person's lived experience and, and be able to look at the world from another person's lived experiences based upon your your interaction with them, right, many leaders tend to just operate in a bubble where they interface with just those that look like them. And so when you have opportunities to interact with other people that don't look like you're there don't have the shared lived experience, and be vulnerable enough to share your own experience, you will not only find that there are different lived experiences help bring innovation and value to the workspace, but also that there are some things that are likely similar and lived experiences.
And I do agree it is often underrated. Okay, two more questions, I promise. If you could ask one question to 100 of your peers a corporate or C suite leadership? What question would you ask them?
What percentage of your black and Latino employees enjoy their jobs and feel they have equal access to opportunities for advancement in your company? Oh, I think that's many, many companies that are doing anything in STI space. They have surveys, or someone has audited their employee population and conducted a survey. But I want to know the actual percentage of black and Latino, I don't want to know just about your entire employee population. I want to know about your people of color, I want to know about your black and Latino people, like are they happy? Are you asking them? Are they happy? Do they feel that they have advancement opportunities within your company, because that's what is going to move the needle and benefit those people. And that's what if you're really buying into the idea that equity and inclusion is something that is critical for your company to succeed in the world today, then you will want to take focus on what how to advance your lack of Latino employees in your current workspace. And if they're not given those opportunities, then you're not creating an equitable opportunity environment for them. And so that means that there's there's something for you to do to change that.
Absolutely. I love this question. It goes into discussions I have, often when we do recruiting, which is we have great benefits our employees love them. I said all of them, he's fair like them. And I'll ask her what percentage don't like it and they look crazy. And as simply if you're a creep ating equity in your workspace, you need to know who are those employees that aren't taking advantage of certain benefits and why? And why? Because I help insurances, great. But if they don't have access in their neighborhood, and they're having to take three buses and two trains, or it's an hour commute, they're sitting over just for a child, it has a cold. And it's really important.
Oh, if it's great, but it's great for just a few because only a few can actually afford the copay because their salary is just so low. You know, that doesn't equate that doesn't even make sense.
It doesn't I work for organization many years ago, what you pay for your health insurance was based on what your salary was, where the janitor, you did not pay the same thing as the CEO. It was scaled. And I have yet to find anybody that is doing. I'm sure there are other places. So this is literally more than 15 years ago. But the fact they were that far ahead and the scale benefits so that it was based off a salary and not just like everybody pays it because that's not equity in the workplace.
I love that. I love that.
So, okay, so last question. What kind of data would you like to have access to as a diversity and inclusion leader?
I really like seeing the actual numbers and percentages are good. And I've done some research and at online for certain companies just to try to see what their diversity data is. And I love when they show the percentages but you then don't even know the percentage of what right because you don't know what their entire population is. So you can't get to the number right so I like seeing actual numbers. So for me any data that any data is good, right? I like data, but any data that does not center whiteness by lumping everyone else in the bipoc or POC category. I'm here for it. I because as a black Latina I want to know how was a black how was it? How was the Latina how was it? How are they how Who are the people of color that are not just lumped in together? How are they doing? I don't, I don't like seeing data represented as all all people like all of you. And then bipoc, which means that that all is really inclusive of white, right? It's not, they're not willing to do the work to go and ask the questions or pull the data because there's there's value in the data. And when a company is not willing to show well, unfortunately, we only have one black male executives in the company. But if you look at the bipoc number, it's like 23%. Yeah, cuz you've got other people of other ethnicities. And they're not It's not bad. But I want to know, because I care about the advancement of the black individual, I care about the advancement of the Latina individual. Right? Not I, it's important for me to know that number. Because if you say you're a company that wants to advance equity, equity does not just apply to the 23% equity applies to that black person who's the only individual in the company on the leadership team, like, how do we ensure that there's more of him? Or more of her and she's in here or not the only ones representing their entire ethnicity, but that's what I'm about.
Absolutely. I absolutely agree with that. Break it out, put it that intersectionality gender, race, sexual orientation, differently abled, like, we want to know where where you are in your organization, when it comes to marginalized people? I absolutely agree. Absolutely agree. This has been fantastic. Oh, my God, I can't believe we're out of time.
Oh, my goodness, this is always fun. Thank you so much. Michelle,
can you let our audience know where they can connect with you?
Sure. So my name again is Louis unknown. And I can be found on LinkedIn as little as going on an L U A. S. K Y A. N. O. N. O. N I'm sure that Michelle will put that information in the show notes. And my website is equity principle.com, where I have my consulting company listed with all the services that we offer, so feel free to connect with me there.
Thank you so much for joining me today. This has been absolutely fantastic. I love having a lawyer's perspective teach. I feel like I can do this.
I can do this. Definitely you can do it. All right.
Thank you, everybody. Until next time, have a great week and keep pushing to bring change in equity in the workplace. Bye, everybody. Yes,
bye.

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