Posted by The Bowdoin Group on February 2nd, 2021
February 2, 2020 – Businesses are under an enormous amount of pressure to implement a successful and sustainable diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy, starting with their boards and leadership teams, but many don’t even know where to begin. In honor of Black History Month, The Bowdoin Group, one of the largest and most progressive executive search firms in Massachusetts, co-hosted a LinkedIn Live with Quantum Power Skills (QPS), diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy management consulting firm, to discuss on the promise of diversity: the purpose, the problems, and the pathway moving forward.
In the recorded discussion, Esu Ma’at (Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer of the Orlando Magic and Head of Diversity and Co-Founder of QPS) and Soyini Chang Ma’at (CEO and Co-Founder of QPS) joined The Bowdoin Group’s Dave Melville to discuss the behind-the-scenes work happening at The Bowdoin Group around the role of executive search in increasing representation of diverse talent in the workplace.
Listen in to hear more about the following themes:
- Dave’s personal perspective on the promise of diversity, equity and inclusion, the influences that have helped formed his ideas, and how this perspective has shaped his personal relationships and the way he runs the business
- What the role is of executive search firms in driving diversity and positioning diverse talent for executive level roles given the data that white men comprise nearly 34% of the US domestic workforce, yet they represent, by some estimates, more than 85% of all C-Suite positions
- Why it’s taking Corporate American so long to integrate and innovate given the data that suggests that homogenous leadership teams are 70% less likely to capture new markets, 57% less collaborative, and experience 42% less discretionary effort
- The Bowdoin Group’s commitment to diversity and how the role of heritage month observances such as Black History Month play a part in the overall strategy for driving diversity, equity and inclusion at the company
- Advice to executives that are trying to determine how best to increase and leverage the value of visible diversity. Where should you begin? What are the challenges relative to increasing representation from the standpoint of optics versus impact?
You can watch the recording of this recorded broadcast below to learn more about how The Bowdoin Group is working with QPS to create more opportunities for diverse, equitable, and inclusive cultures:
Check out the transcript of our LinkedIn Live event below:
ESU MA’AT: Good afternoon. And good afternoon and welcome to Black History Month, everybody. My name is Esu Ma’at. I’m the chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer for the Orlando Magic. And I am here today on behalf of The Bowdoin Group, one of the largest and most progressive executive search firms in Massachusetts. As well as Quantum Power Skills, a transformative diversity, equity and inclusion consulting firm. Our conversation today focuses on the promise of diversity. In particular, the role of executive search in advancing diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. My guests are Dave Melville, the CEO and founder of The Bowdoin Group, and Soyini Chang, CEO and co-founder of Quantum Power Skills. Good afternoon Dave and Soyini.
DAVE MELVILLE: Good afternoon, Esu.
SOYINI CHANG: Hey, good afternoon, Esu.
ESU: So, I want to get just get right to this thing. And I’m going to come to you Dave. And so—what we know is that the research, all the research suggests that homogenous teams are—leadership teams, in particular are 70% less likely to capture new markets. 57% less collaborative. And they also experienced 42% less discretionary effort. What is your own personal perspective on diversity, equity and inclusion? How did you arrive at this perspective? And why is it taking corporate America so long to integrate and innovate?
DAVE: Well, okay—well, those are very complicated questions. Thank you for throwing me some softballs to start out Esu. We’ll-we’ll jump right in with it.
ESU: Nothing you can’t handle Dave.
DAVE: (laughing) Thank you. Um, you know, from my personal perspective the last year—the last 12 months has exposed for us all to see the real dangers of a society that is unequitable and lacks diversity, and has shown us the great benefits that we’ve seen when we have a diverse and functioning workforce.
DAVE: You know, we’ve seen—we’ve seen the tragedies, the dislocation, the anger of groups that are—that are threatened, feel threatened, whatever. And we’ve seen amazing innovation and amazing opportunities coming from all around the world, and people of all different backgrounds. So, I think we’re at a pivot point that everybody knows, and we can choose our path now. And I think, you know, from my perspective, the companies we deal with—everybody wants to choose the path they can have of diversity. Of building more effective teams. Of moving forward. You know, when you ask me to be part of this, I was honored. And as you know, I also wasn’t super enthusiastic, because, you know, we—our company is 65%, female. We are 88% white. We are not in the spot that we need to be. We’re helping our clients with the same battles that we’re facing ourselves and creating a really highly functioning team to grow into the future. Soyini’s been awesome in helping us review that. I’m not here to be an expert. I’m just more like—I’m on the journey with everybody else in this as well. And, you know, understand what’s important and willing to move the commitment to move forward and [unintelligible].
ESU: I think that’s great, Dave. I appreciate your comments and candor there—saying it as it is. It is indeed a journey. I like what you said there. Can you (Soyini) talk a little bit about Quantum Power Skills, and the work the company is doing with The Bowdoin Group?
SOYINI: Well, Esu, thank you for asking that question. And Dave thank you for, again, being so candid with the reflections that you’re having. Essentially, what we do here at Quantum Power Skills, we’re a strategy management consulting firm. So, what we provide is strategy solutions for organizations. We provide implementation and training solutions. And essentially, what makes that really unique is the fact that we provide all those three buckets of services in one organization. Most companies only provide one or two of the three. How we’re helping TVG is in a very holistic way. The Bowdoin Group—we first did assessments with the organization because we needed to find out where are the gains and gaps within the company? Where is there opportunities that lie within the organization already? And then, we sought to do a two-year action plan with the organization. In that action plan, we are working with the leadership team on their strategic goals and metrics for 2021. And lastly, what we have focused on is really having streamline integration. So, we’re working with every business unit within the organization to ensure that the integration of DEI content and initiatives are at every level of the company. One of the things about The Bowdoin Group that has been so amazing for us is the fact that they have focused on transformative impact when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion as opposed to making this some sort of one-off transactional engagement.
ESU: That’s great, love that. And, Dave, I want to come back to something that you alluded to. The U.S. domestic workforce, right? Is comprised of 34% white males—again, to touch on a comment that you made there—and yet, more than 85% of C-suite positions across the board are held by white men as well. From your perspective, what is the role of executive search firms relative to driving diversity? Helping diverse talent land more opportunities?
DAVE: That’s a good question. You know, I never sit here and judge what other people do or don’t do, we all do our own thing, but companies need to survive. And companies need to grow. And it is absolutely in our best interest to be putting our clients in position to grow rapidly and grow effective teams. They will give us more business. It is also absolutely in our best interest to be expanding the candidate pool that we can find for our clients. And it’s in our interests-best interest to meet them where they are. Where they want to diversify their workforce, where they want to be relevant to society to their customer base. If we can’t do that, we will cease to be relevant. So, I think our-it is—which is why we’re excited and engaging in this very long term project with you. I think, as executive search firms, if we’re not on this bus, we will become obsolete. And we need to help our clients with their journey, just the way we’re taking our journey ourselves.
ESU: And Dave, I read somewhere that I think it’s now up to nearly 60% of most executive searches—or 60% of executive searches. The client is asking, either specifically for a diverse candidate, or at the very least a diverse slate. Are you all seeing that as well? And how are you responding to these requests?
DAVE: This is—I would say it’s higher than 60%. I would say—
DAVE: It’s there. Right now, they’re talking‑it’s in every conversation. I mean, I’m not saying it’s 100%. But it’s 90%. I think the big shift that we’ve seen, and you alluded to it earlier, I think seeing is—it used to be very, very tactical. It was, “Hey, you know, our website has like all white males and it just looks bad.” And, “My next person cannot be that.” And there was no real business strategy to it other than just like, “Let’s fix this problem.” Because CEOs want to fix stuff, you know, just make this—what has changed over the past year is companies are now—they’ve moved off that. Of just, “Hey, can we fill this gap with x?” And they’ve moved into, “Our future depends on the diverse workforce.” For us to attract people, the Gen Z’s, millennials, they expect us to be reflecting society.
ESU: That’s right.
DAVE: We don’t have the talent pool that we need to have. It’s gone from a, “Yeah, we’re still going to do this because we have to.” To, “No, this is the core to where we are.” This wasn’t the conversation that we had two years ago. And people are much more willing to engage in a strategic decision, and much more willing to say, “Yeah, this is really hard, but it’s really important.” So, it’s for fun—virtually everything that we’re doing right now. So, 60% surprises me only that it’s low.
ESU: Yeah. And it sounds like sage advice, what you’re alluding to. And yet, despite the fact that there is this growing recognition that organizations need to address representation, especially at the higher levels—there are still many, many cases where firms like yours are producing the talent for the slates. And yet, these candidates are still not being selected, despite the fact that they, in many cases might be the best person for the job. Can you talk a little bit about how you’re dealing with that reality as well?
ESU: And what can be done? What can be done moving forward?
DAVE: Yeah. And I think, you know, one of the things that I like—like sitting when you’re working with us is, we can have real conversations, right. And we cannot have these sort of like, “Let’s pretend everything’s utopia” conversations. And, we deal with startup companies that are doing really innovative stuff, and they have jobs that need to be done— they have to have the best team in place, period. Right? They need the best team in place. There’s nobody that doesn’t want to have the best team in place.
ESU: That’s right.
DAVE: So, we have to look at with them—if you just go role by role and always assume that someone has the 10 checkboxes, is the best person, it’s very easy to fall back to the same thing over and over. Look at like the NFL coaches just move around with limited success all the time, I used to [unintelligible]. When we engage in a discussion with our clients, we need to build the best team, and we need to augment the skills, and we need to attract people—then it changes the scope of the role for building the team. And we’re willing to match teammates with teammates, as opposed to checkboxes with checkboxes.
ESU: That’s a great point.
DAVE: And that’s a really different way of thinking. And it’s easier said than done. And we’re going through like—you see me working on this process myself. How do we rethink what we’re doing? Because in our business, it’s still mostly, you know, Caucasian people. And if we’re going to diversify, we need to think differently than we have.
ESU: Yes, so Soyini chime in there. Advocating—well, identifying and advocating diverse talent. Again, many companies are saying that this is where their challenge is. What is QPS seeing? How is QPS helping The Bowdoin Group navigate this very kind of slippery slope?
SOYINI: Well, I’m glad you asked that. The organizations like The Bowdoin Group and other companies, they are trying to better understand what’s the distinctions between the impact of the individual and the performance of that individual. When it comes to recruiting diverse talent and attracting diverse talent, there’s other metrics that you really have to look at that maybe we have not been paying attention to in the past. One of those metrics we might talk about is what’s been cultural impact on that person’s presence in an organization? Right? And so, what we’ve been focused on is, how do we exactly identify these tangible metrics that improve the process of how you recruit and attract diverse talent?
ESU: That’s right.
SOYINI: That’s one of the things. Another thing that we talk about is some of the best practices. Like if you don’t have at least two on deck—and when I say two on deck, at least two diverse candidates to select from. If you only have one, then the probability of that individual actually being selected for the position is extremely low. But if you’ve got at least two on deck, then we know that, okay, that’s sort of a best practice, you know, that you have an opportunity to select another candidate. Who—again, not lowering the bar, not lowering the level of performance here.
ESU: That’s right. That’s important.
SOYINI: You’re all about building the dream team, right? And that’s what we want. So, you’re picking the best of the best, but you’re just opening up the selection process more for diverse candidates. And again, it’s a partly-part of the—part of it is these best practices, you have to implement them. And another part of it is sort of looking at how we measure the impact of diverse candidates in an organization differently than we have in the past. Not just what’s on the checklist, on the paper. But what are some of those intangibles? And how do we attach metrics to those?
ESU: That’s such a great point. And so, as I’m listening, [unintelligible] there’s also this elephant in the room, and you just alluded to it. And that’s the optic, Dave, right? That’s this notion that sometimes an organization is putting themselves in a vulnerable, vulnerable position where people will say, “Oh, well, you just made that hire because of the optic you needed.” Somebody from, you know, for ethnic—ethnically diverse background to step into the role. And then the flip side of that is, if you do—to Soyini’s point—end up with someone who’s kind of underperforming, and you’ve gone through an entire process to try to get them to level up, if you will, regardless of their background—but then you then have to replace that individual. If that individual is diverse, sometimes that leaves a bad taste in people’s mouths as well. You said it earlier, there’s no simple solutions to complex problems. But, talk a little bit Dave about the optics and how you have to navigate that.
DAVE: I mean, that’s sort of the heart of the whole thing, right? That’s so hard. And, you know, in our company, and I think it’s similar to many companies, the easiest thing we’ve done-it’s-we’ve grown with it—is we repeat what works over and over and over again.
DAVE: And when you do that for too long, you wind up into a very too narrow a bucket and you start to constrain yourself. We recognize that, our clients recognize that. And it is very, very hard—real world to say, “Hey, I want you to bend your specs to bring in diversity.” Because the first thing you hear when you say bend specs is someone that’s less qualified, right? That’s the first thing like, “Why would I want to do that?” And then it creates all this pressure that rolls through, as you said. And I think the thing we’re actually still working with Soyini is—how do we change the conversation and change our perspective? To say, “Yeah, what we’ve done in the past has worked to a point. What else can we do differently that will work even more effectively to the future?” And how can we really reevaluate people the right way to get the best hire in and get agreement within the organization. It’s a disaster when someone hears, “Checkbox, I’m willing to take an eight out of 10 for this person, but not an eight out of 10 for that.” I just don’t ever see good outcomes coming from that.
ESU: That’s right.
DAVE: It’s—I’ll let you comment on that Soyini you’re much more sophisticated with this than me. But this is the stuff we struggle with in the real world.
ESU: And Soyini some of it is—some of these conversations, there’s a reluctance to have them because people just aren’t sure what to say and how to say it. I mean, talk a little bit about that. We hear that all the time, that people are reluctant to have—dare we say difficult conversations about diversity, equity and inclusion issues for fear of saying the wrong thing.
SOYINI: Yeah, you guys are hitting on a lot of the sweet spots. Not so sweet for everybody who’s in the position that has to deal with them, though. So, to what you’re saying. These are real conversations that have to be had. I mean, part of what’s happening, even at The Bowdoin Group is kind of understanding the role that they play, in advancing the promise of diversity. That role has shifted a little bit. There has been a paradigm shift. Not so much—on one level, it is about pleasing the client. And yet on another level, you’re finding yourself in a position where you also have to reeducate the client. And in that reeducation, you don’t want to come off as insulting. You don’t want to come off, as you know, weaponizing anybody for the information that they don’t have. Or that they don’t know. Or because they’re not quite yet at that point in the journey where they’re ready to be transformative.
SOYINI: And so, I think that—I mean, there’s no easy answer, it is striking a very, very sound balance between pivoting and the role that you’re playing when it comes to reeducating the client. Eliminating what’s really at the heart of all of this is the inherent biases. These conscious and unconscious biases, that organizations, individuals that are in the position of power, they are still holding onto them. That is really the slow-killing virus within the organizations, is the inherent biases. And we’re doing our best to level set in order to remove as many of those biases from the hiring and recruitment process as much as possible. But, as we do that level setting, we’re also focusing on—again, like I said, reeducating even the client a little bit when it comes to communication and behavior that is just—has no space in the workplace. It is just—we just have to have a no tolerance kind of perspective on certain things.
Some of those things may include certain microaggressions that are just kind of common water cooler conversation that people like to have. Or sometimes when a client is being extremely—let’s just say maybe too extremely—too frank or to candid, or too raw, too honest about some of the things that they’re saying. They’re saying it off to the side and that kind of thing. We’ve got to eliminate any type of communication that is—just doesn’t have a place in the-in the work—in the workplace and in the workforce. And, you know, as we go through this journey, we’re getting better understanding on how do we standardize this. Right? Our goal at QPS is to focus on how do you standardize this? How do you create a framework that’s effective for this? And how do you help to boost your team up so that they feel not just only competent, but they feel confident about having those tough conversations?
ESU: Yeah. Yeah, it’s a great point. This whole conversation around bias is important. Right? And, and trying to eliminate as much bias as possible from the talent acquisition process. Both of you were kind of alluding to that. Lots of techniques and research to support how to make the process a little bit more diversity friendly. But once you get them in the door, Dave, then there’s a whole talent management piece to this that’s important and needed as well. After all, the retention is part of the business model, right? Because replacing these folks is expensive. So, can you talk a little bit—both of you actually, on some strategies around talent management. So that for your clients that are successful landing diverse talent that really will make that transformative impact that Soyini is talking about. How do we keep them?
DAVE: Yeah. And I think and I’ll let Soyini jump in with most of this. But this has been an age-old problem, it’s been a problem with male-females, you know, in companies with diversity. And, you know, you get companies that are, you know, testosterone driven and the activities are based, you know, going into stereotype—going to a Bruins game, you know, what they do most of the time, and, you know, women come in from the south that have never seen—and they have no interest in doing it. But it’s made clear, this is what the club does, right.
DAVE: And when you have that environment, you’re not going to keep people that are not part of the club.
DAVE: And then you are going to eliminate your diversity. I mean, that’s, that’s something that has been an age-old problem that the companies need to address. I think the other thing that’s really important is, if I’m saying, “I’m building my best team, so building my best team means I’m hiring for potential.” Right? In this age of innovation, I need someone that can rapidly expand themselves and adapt to the world three years from now as well.
DAVE: So, to hire the best person, I’m actually willing to hire someone that maybe has a gap in a certain area today, to get—because I know that in a year, they will be better than anybody else I could have hired. That’s the ideal person, right? You want to get the best person for the future. I need to acknowledge—
ESU: Love that idea.
DAVE: That I may need extra training to this high-potential person to get them to the spot so they can be excellent.
DAVE: If I’m expecting this high-potential person to be excellent the first day they walk in, I have made a mistake. You know, so I think it’s getting to say, “Yes, we are—we are doing this, how do we make sure this person is the leader and is the innovator that we need them to be in tying this whole thing together?”
ESU: I love that Dave, because corporate philanthropy gets a lot of attention. Corporations—and The Bowdoin Group is no different—very, shall I say “Heart in the right place,” really, when it comes to the charitable giving to other organizations, typically, that are in under resourced, or underprivileged communities. And yet, what I find is really at the root of what underrepresented groups want Dave is opportunity and access. So, I love what you’re saying there—you’re saying that you can recognize the talent, but you also have an opportunity to develop them. And if you’re successful at that, they might end up being on the high end of all the talent in the organization. I just think that’s an important message to speak directly to both candidates and clients. Does that make sense?
DAVE: It does. Nobody’s talking about not bringing in the best people to build a team—
ESU: That’s right. That’s right.
DAVE: We know how to do that.
ESU: That’s right. And you alluded to—Soyini I’ll come to you with this. Dave alluded to kind of that insider-outsider dynamic. And how that many times creates—I forgot how you said it—slow-moving virus throughout the organization. I’ve never heard that before, I like that. That insider-outsider dynamic leading to this toxicity. And so, what are some of the strategies of dealing with this—with these inherent biases, and these dynamics step that play out and lead to poor behavior in the workplace.
SOYINI: Wow, so Esu that’s a really loaded question there. And there is no simplicity as far as—
ESU: Well, it’s a lot about training and education, though, isn’t it?
SOYINI: Yeah, it is about training and education. But there’s—as you mentioned before, there’s no easy solutions to complex problems.
ESU: That’s right.
SOYINI: And dealing with the human experience as even another level of complication to it. However, for us to mitigate that it does demand different types of training and education. That’s super important. About how do you first start with self-awareness, right? That’s one of the first parts of our module that we focus on is self-awareness so that you truly can put the mirror on yourself and see what you can do differently. How you can create paradigms just within yourself, on breaking through those unconscious and conscious biases. It’s extremely important. To you all—you’re speaking about how do you build out long-term retention for diverse talent? When you get them in the door? How are you going to hold them? How are you going to keep them? Well, that’s why diversity, equity inclusion is so important. You need to create an inclusive environment where people really have a sense of belonging in the organization. They’ve got to feel that. And the interesting thing about it is that that feeling has to come from the receiver, not from the sender. So, a lot of times we feel like we’re sort of, you know, doing all the right things, so to speak. And we do have good intentions. But you’ve got to have those check-ins with the individuals who are part of this. To do the climate surveys, to get an idea of what’s really working within the organization. And what isn’t. This process of I call it the ‘constant feedback loop’—getting that feedback from both the receiving side and ensuring that if you’re doing the things within your control, that you can do better.
So, sense of belonging is very important. First time in history where we have four generations working in the workforce together with the different levels of needs and different levels of expectations. And Dave, you know this all so well experiencing it at The Bowdoin Group. We’ve got to figure out how to make sure that the millennials behind us, they have a sense of belonging. They’ve got to feel like they’re a part of an ecosystem that truly provides access to opportunity for them, equitable access. So, as we build out these tiers—we like to say we build out these first, second and third-level tiers within the organization that helps to ensure that your high—top performing talent wants to stay for the long term. Part of that is mentorship and mentorship programs, allyship programs within the organizations. That does what you said Dave, “I see the potential in you. I know you don’t have everything on the checkbox. But, not only do I want to invite you to the meeting, so you have a seat at the table. Maybe next time, I’m going to ask you to leave the meeting.” Right?
ESU: That’s right.
SOYINI: I have a colleague, you know, he says this—he’s like “Don’t just—you invited me to the dance. That’s great. Now actually extend your hand and asked me to dance with you.” Right. Esu, that’s something I’ve heard you say before. So, it is taking that extra step. In order to break through your own, you know, biases, you may be housing or holding onto. You know, naturally as humans, we have a similarity bias. We like to herd with everybody that’s just like us. Right. It’s just sort of this innate thing. Instinctually, we know that that happened, because of the fact of historically—it was important that we stayed together. And we stayed with like-minded. Now we’re in a platform where we have globalization.
ESU: That’s right.
SOYINI: We have four generations of workforces together, we have these societal mega-trends that are happening, and these projections that are coming. And that’s creating—to what Dave mentioned before—that’s adding to the pressure. It’s adding to the pressure and it’s creating a real sense of urgency, that organizations if they want to be in existence, they’re going to have to ensure that diversity, equity and inclusion strategically is a part of the business. And that it’s not one of those strategic goals that they keep pushing back. It’s got to happen now.
ESU: Wow. And Dave. And so, Billie Jean King said, “Pressure is a privilege.” As the CEO and leader of an organization. Obviously, everyone else in the organization is taking their cues from you. If you—if diversity, equity and inclusion is a business process that gets integrated and woven into the fabric of the organization, just like other business processes, then one would expect that the rest of the organization would follow suit. And I know that that’s what you’re doing. However, the flip side of that coin is, if there are people who perceive that the organization is just checking a box, then less accountability that’s spread throughout the organization, less buy-in throughout the organization, how is this pressure that Soyini alluded to—how’s it playing out at The Bowdoin Group? And what is leadership there doing about it?
DAVE: So, that’s a really good question and [unintelligible]—just as I feel like I take my cues from the people in the company more than they take their cues from me, (laughing) but whatever. You know, Look at, I—we’re doing stuff that I wish we had done years ago. Right? Part of my reluctance to engage in this process, not that I completely understood what it was. I mean, I was terrified of this box checking exercise, right? I didn’t believe in it. I don’t believe in it. I think it’s a disaster for an organization. I’ve seen it fail. It’s phony. And it’s all these other things. And I have—to do it without checking a box takes a real commitment. And, you know, we and other companies are realizing that the way we thought about it before—the box checking doesn’t help anybody, it solves no problems at all. But we know we need to solve this problem. And we know to grow we need to be diverse and for all these reasons that you highlighted Soyini. And it’s a little scary, because you’re going down a path that you’re going to have conversations—you know, we said, “Look, if we’re going to instruct our clients this, we have to go through it ourselves.” And with—to be honest about it ourselves, we have to be honest with our clients about where we are in the journey. Let’s just put it out there. And we’re going to have conversations that—it’s hard for families to have. And we’re going to not move at the pace that any of us had hoped we would. We’re not going to be able to—six months from now, say we did it. And how do we maintain that energy—you know, when I talk to—when people come up to me and say, “What concerns you most?” The usual answer is, is that we’ll give up because it’s so hard.
ESU: That’s right.
DAVE: We just have to stay with it for us to grow and to prosper the way we want to. And we have to let ourselves be vulnerable and let ourselves disagree. And have it be okay that we have different opinions on things. I will say—and Soyini you’ve been hugely helpful with this—the conversations that we’ve had have been amazing. It’s brought our company closer together. We’ve had really hard conversations; they continue outside of the core of what we are. And there is agreement that we’re going to do this the right way. And it’s going to be hard and everybody’s hearts are in the same place. Our clients all want to do it. I don’t think we interact with people that have mal—you know, malintent. They’re good people, they want to get this. We just—it’s just really hard and they need to run a business while they’re doing it.
ESU: Right. Right. Soyini, anything you wanted to add to that?
SOYINI: Um, yeah, I think that this is what we want. We want business leaders to know exactly what you’re saying, Dave.
SOYINI: We want- they need to—I’m so happy for anybody who is joined in with us right now, who is a part of the conversation, who’s listening to the conversation. These are exactly the types of transformational testimonials that people need to hear. Business leaders like yourself, individual—white males who are in positions of leadership, they need to hear these conversations. They need to understand that’s what’s helping to drive the impact. And so, although our business is so much focused on the human-centric side of things, we do recognize like you’re saying, you are running a business as well.
ESU: That’s right.
SOYINI: And let’s not pretend like, you know—we know profit is important, performance is important. But if they can see the bridge between people, and providing this promise, and integrating diversity, equity and inclusion in their organization, it’s going to lead to the uptick in profits and performance that they want. It’s going to lead to the uptick in creativity and innovation that they want. It’s going to lead to the uptick in long-term retention that they want. I mean, so I just—I’m so grateful that, you know, we’re a part of The Bowdoin Group, we’re part of the team here. And I couldn’t be happier to be working with you all. One of the things that we noticed from the beginning is that, you know, The Bowdoin Group is about doing the right thing.
ESU: That’s right.
SOYINI: In the words of Spike Lee, you know. And you all have been about doing the right thing from the beginning. And I think that I know that that’s a big part of your value proposition that you bring to the table as an organization. And it has been true to form. So, thank you for sharing that. And again, it serves as inspiration for those of us that are on the outside looking in, give them a little bit more courage to do the same thing.
ESU: Yeah, and more from Soyini and Dave in a second. While we have them here, if you have any questions for this all-star group here. Or, these two all stars let me say. Feel free to either tweet those questions to @BowdoinGroup or feel free to type them into the comments here. I want to give—continue with this thread, though, about diversity being tied to the business model of the organization. Otherwise, certainly what I’ve seen is that the initiatives are not sustainable, right? And ultimately not successful. So, Dave, to Soyini’s point, what is your advice to other executives like yourself who are trying to determine how best to increase and leverage the value of visible diversity? Where do they start? And, you know, what are some of the challenges—in addition to many of the things that we said already—to them getting started? What are some of the challenges that they’re sure to experience? I want to make sure we have this conversation in a very holistic way. Right? A lot of times in these conversations we just talk about—I heard somebody say this last week, how beautiful the baby is, but the baby sometimes needs a little work. Right? So yeah, Dave, what’s your advice? How do they get started? And what are some of the potential challenges that they’ll face?
DAVE: I’m seeing somebody just posted, it’s “can’t get ever give up the good fight for diversity.” It’s—look it is a marathon. I mean, I think that’s a good first of all starting point. I think when it’s-when it’s-when—the trouble that we’ve all had in the past is we’ve never tied it specifically into the mission of the business and why it’s critical for the business—
ESU: That’s right. That’s a great point.
DAVE: It’s more of been that we need to diversify, period, because of whatever. [unintelligible] We get that.
DAVE: Nobody’s going to say no to that. But it’s not tied into the—this is why it’s clear to the mission of the company. And I think, I think the first step is really a real conversation that, “Yeah, for our business to be the best it can possibly be every piece of evidence, everything reasonably well discuss, we need to have a more diverse group.” Right. So, that’s mission imperative. And that, to me, the next step is, okay, let’s look at our internal obstacles as to why that hasn’t happened.
DAVE: You know, and then once we looked at our internal obstacles, okay, what’s our game plan to get around those? Our mistake is we go to the end, like, “Hey, our team’s too x—you know, too many
males. So, let’s hire more females.” That, I assure you does not work. You know, but it gets to the end too quick. You’ve got to be willing to take this journey because it’s critical to your company. Everybody needs to know why.
ESU: Yeah. I love-I love this reoccurring theme that this is a journey not a destination. I—it’s certainly a process. And so, Soyini to that point—what is the role of heritage month observances, in particular this month, Black History Month? What is the role of these observances relative to the overall strategic framework for diversity, equity and inclusion at a corporation?
SOYINI: Well, the role is actually very, very critical. I think that sometimes people might not really understand the gravity and the importance of why these heritage month observances truly bring value proposition to their company, strategically when executed well. It is extremely successful for the organization. People want to know, what do you stand for? And what will you do to back it up? That’s very important. The observances like Black History Month and throughout the year can be very impactful. And what we know is that businesses have to make these authentic connections with diverse markets. To what David mentioned earlier, it cannot come off, as you know, tack—just some transactional type of engagement. It cannot come off as disingenuous. It has to be really true engagement. And it has to be ongoing and consistent. This has to be a part of the business model for the organization. It has to be in the budget in the organization for you to make these very ongoing and consistent engagement touch points throughout the year. And the benefit, as we mentioned before, is that not only do you get this new genuine connection with a totally different audience that you may not have had on your radar before. But it also again leads to new consumer upticks in sales. And I believe that if organizations change their mind—sort of again, do that mental shift and look at it through that lens, they’ll see the value of the strategy.
ESU: Yeah, also right there on what we see. Dave, for sure, people need to see themselves in the game, if you will, if they’re going to be inspired to play the game. Right? And so, as we kind of come to the end of the conversation, I want to come full circle. How important is it for hiring managers—and these panel of decision makers who will decide who that organization is bringing in—how important is it for those teams to have some diversity? How important is it on the executive search side, for you all to have some of this diversity in your organization that mirrors the diverse talent that you’re looking for? And how important is it for other candidates to know and see that there have been candidates before them in this space that have been hired and been successful? I know that’s kind of a loaded question. But, again, I call it more of a 360-view of this process, where-if we, if we really ever expect to see—if we really ever expect to see representation improve, then we’re going to have to address it on all fronts. And people are going to have to see themselves in the game. Let me say it again that way.
DAVE: You know, I could just give you an example. Anybody can do this themselves. You know, just take the Boston biotech companies.
DAVE: Pick some that are run by white male CEOs. And then pick some that are run by either female CEOs, or a you know, non-white CEOs.
DAVE: The companies that are run by the non-white—by the female, non-white CEOs, then look at—look at their employees. They are all more diverse.
DAVE: Just look. Just look.
DAVE: And that’s because, I think, because they’re representing-so they’re having an easier time attracting—and I can tell you from working with them, they’re not spending more time talking about it. And they’re not even—ironically, this [unintelligible]—
ESU: It’s organic. It’s almost organic.
DAVE: They’re not even telling us to hire diverse because they already are, they don’t even need to bring it up. Right?
ESU: Right. Right.
DAVE: And so—so it is easier for them, because they’re representing to hire really good people from different backgrounds.
ESU: That’s right.
DAVE: So, you know and I know—also I’m super critical of this—but I have to make more of an effort to show that we’re welcoming and inclusive, even though we’re not perfect.
DAVE: And that’s how I think the journey goes. It’s not—it’s just like, “We know, we’re not perfect, we want to you to be part of the journey with us. But here’s the commitment we’re making to the journey this week and show you.” This is what we’re doing. This is what we’ve done. We can show you that we’re in this together, and I am confident that will work for us in [unintelligible].
ESU: Yeah, you know, Dave, I’m thinking about where our country is right now. And thinking about the past election, and what the data from that election tells us. Which is that—as everybody has said—we’re a country divided. I know, in the diversity space, there are many of us who are talking about—how do we build bridges as opposed to widening the divides that we know exist? At our companies—you alluded to this earlier—in our homes, you know, in our network in general. How have you been thinking about this division that exists and how you might be up against that, whether that’s internally or externally, and yet building—being focused on building bridges as opposed to making matters worse, if you will?
DAVE: Yeah, that’s a good question. To something I think a lot about and not sure is the right answer—but I think we all look at it as a zero-sum game. I take a slot that someone else can’t have. Right? Someone else takes it because I’m giving them an edge of whatever that edge may be—regardless of what— then they’ve taken my slot. We don’t look at is growing the pie. Right? So, nobody is saying—I don’t think anybody’s saying that, like, all these white CEOs, male CEOs on your numbers aren’t qualified—most of them really qualified, hard-working smart people. What we’re saying is there are more people like them, that don’t look like them. That should be CEOs as well. And the pool should be expanded.
DAVE: And I think because of our approach—because of so many things, it’s like a zero-sum game. Somebody takes a slot that I should have had, I didn’t get a side I should have had—as opposed to if we grow this, there is slots for more people. There’s more innovation. There’s more wealth. There’s more success that goes through.
ESU: That’s right. So, Soyini, I think it’s Gandhi who said that, “We all need to be the change that we expect to see in the world.” I would imagine as the CEO of a diversity, equity and inclusion consulting firm, this is kind of a theme that that you wake up to. What do you say to this quote? What is it—what does it mean to you personally?
SOYINI: Um, yeah, Esu you’re right. It is really like a mantra for me personally. The world and the workspace that DEI is—it’s very emotional. It is highly emotional, and can be taxing emotionally as well—dealing with resistance. Dealing with levels of resistance. Dealing with changed management and the transition process. And so, you can have as we call it, ‘DEI burnout’ sometimes. And you’re fighting the good fight because you do want to make a difference in the world. But I feel most inspired to do so because of what the promise of diversity, equity and inclusion brings to the world. Not just for myself, but for everybody that exists. Especially and particularly, I think my—one of my biggest inspirations and sources of inspiration are my children. I know—and I said this before, the children are going to inherit the problems that we didn’t fix. Right? And the truth of the matter is, are they ready? And are they equipped with the tools to fix the problems? And if my answer to that question is no, then it used to be a lot of fire in my belly to continue to push forward. It really does.
Because these questions and these conversations are not just about the workplace, they’re happening when you get home from work. Because you turn on the television and you see—as you mentioned before—the disparity. You see the divide in the country. And so, it then goes back to what types of—what type of mindset are you teaching in your own children? Are you teaching them a fixed mindset or an abundance mindset? Are you helping them to understand what that really is, so that when they see themselves diversely represented, it inspires them to pursue those same positions. To be able to see themselves. And to understand that we did our best work while we were here.
ESU: Right. That’s great.
SOYINI: To make it a little bit easier for them. This is a generational thing. We’re passing the baton from one generation to the next.
ESU: Great point.
SOYINI: And like I said they’re going to inherit what it is that we couldn’t fix. So, let’s do our part. Let’s do our deeds that we can do in order to lighten the load for them.
ESU: That is fabulous. I am going to leave it at that. Thank you both for your very insightful perspectives. This has been an inspiring conversation. I know for me, personally, I appreciate both of you for your enlightenment, and your convictions and your courage. For anyone else out there looking for more information about The Bowdoin Group, you can follow them on the web. There’s a ticker going through the bottom. There’s also—you can follow them on social media as well. Same for Quantum Power Skills. You can follow Quantum Power Skills at quantumpowerskills.com. Thank you very much everybody and hopefully we will continue the good fight. And along the way, stay healthy and stay safe. Take care.