Talking to Jennifer Brown

In today’s show of Seize the Day, I am talking to Jennifer Brown, a leading diversity and inclusion expert, dynamic keynote speaker, best-selling author, award-winning entrepreneur and host of The Will To Change podcast, which uncovers true stories of diversity and inclusion. As the founder, president and CEO of Jennifer Brown Consulting, Jennifer’s workplace strategies have been employed by some of the world’s top Fortune 500 companies and nonprofits—including Walmart, Microsoft, Starbucks, Toyota Financial Services, T-Mobile, and many others— to help employees bring their full selves to work and feel Welcomed, Valued, Respected and Heard℠.

Listen to this episode here.

We discuss

  • Jennifer’s journey to diversity and inclusion (D&I)
  • How Jennifer approaches self-care
  • How to advocate D&I to individuals who might not understand or care about inclusion
  • How to bring your ‘full self’ to work
  • How to implement diversity and inclusion initiatives within the workplace

Jennifer Brown’s Social Media Links


Personal website

Book Website

The Will to Change Podcast (iTunes)





Amazon book link

Jennifer Brown’s Links to Past Speaking Engagements

Interbrand: Interview with Jennifer Brown, Author of Inclusion

Talks at Google: Jennifer Brown: “Inclusion: Diversity, The New Workplace & The Will To Change”

TEDxPresidio: Finding your voice in the workplace


Transcript for Today’s Show

Please note this transcript has not been edited and is automatically generated meaning certain words will be incorrect.

you are listening to seize the day with Natalie Miller-Snell now during these podcasts we’ll be exploring all of the different opportunities that we get to see the day on a daily basis and what tools and what changes we can make in order to grab those goals hello hello hello podcast lovers how are you all it’s Thursday I’m Natalie and you are listening to seize the day now I am incredibly excited for today’s show I have got such an inspirational lady on and bowled over she is a leading diversity and inclusion expert a dynamic keynote speaker best-selling author award-winning entrepreneur and host of the will to change podcast which uncovers true stories of diversity and inclusion as the founder president and CEO of Jennifer Brown consulting Jennifer’s workplace strategies have been employed by some of the world’s top fortune 500 companies and nonprofits including Walmart Microsoft Starbucks Toyota Financial Services t-mobile and many others to help employees bring their full selves to work and feel welcomed valued respected and heard just amazing please put your hands together for the incredible Jennifer Brown thank you looking forward to this it should be great and it’s now so it’s the morning for you so literally good morning 9 a.m. ish yeah yes start of the day started a very busy day but I’m just happy to not be on a plane you know that’s a good day for me yeah I’m based in New York City right in Manhattan where I’ve been for 22 years believe it or not and but I’m a Southern California native so I’m sort of I’m a bicoastal person at heart love the Sun and sunshine and relaxed vibe of west coast and I also love the all the type anus that comes with New York City oh absolutely now that intro is quite spectacular and now I think your journey is it’s very admirable and it’s very inspiring so for all of the listeners let’s talk about that because you had a dream that says I’m going to go into a musical he had to abandon it and you came overcame that negative and turned it to a positive in such an incredible way for all of the listeners who might not be familiar what’s your journey in your story yeah well I think let me tell it quick as quickly as I can I was an activist in my 20s so I’ve always I’ve always sought like a professional role where I could be making a difference so that was always really important to me and then but I was also a singer at the same time so I said to myself in my 20s I said I’ve got to move to New York and try to make it which I did lucky me I got a master’s in operatic vocal performance and I was sort of going full-on towards that and then injured my voice had to get a series of vocal surgeries and I never really my voice never really recovered its stamina the stamina that would be needed for eight shows a week and so I had to reinvent and I found my way luckily to the field of leadership development because a lot of performers X performers and stage people are great with people you know and you don’t lose that I mean you have a real gift with that so I ended up being a trainer for a while corporate trainer I taught everything under the Sun like presentation skills and business writing and management and supervisory skills it was really fun and I realized I really loved being in front of a group but I loved being in front of that group teaching leadership and really facilitating the knowledge from a group as well like not just teaching but really listening and pulling the knowledge out and connecting the dots and things and so that was a real fit as a facilitator for me and I got laid off for my last corporate HR job doing that and I said to myself you know I think I want to be an independent I think I want to influence the conversation from this sort of external point of view which would give me a lot more freedom to shape the conversation to basically have a have an opinion honestly I mean you don’t work for anybody you can tell the truth in different ways yeah and it’s such a gift and so I was started my company 13 years ago Jennifer I’m consulting I built my team we started in the leadership and team development space but then we pivoted into DNI because I’m a member of the lgbtq+ community have been out for 25 years and I I realized there could be a this beautiful synergy between organizational development leader the leadership conversations I wanted to have and the sort of my identity that I could bring to this work and then it sort of grew into the ability to influence the diversity and inclusion conversations in companies which is effectively a leadership conversation and it’s effectively an organizational change conversation actually because you’re trying to awaken people to the need for attention and priority on diversity and inclusion and workplace issues and you know people feeling welcomed valued respected heard and so um we pivoted into diversity and inclusion I became over time I became a specialist in it um one which might say an expert although I think all of us even though that are doing this full-time realize there’s so much we don’t know I learn every day right every day every day and then yeah and so these days 13 years in as an entrepreneur I have a team of 25 where all were virtual were all over the country in the world we get to work with fortune 500 and I like to say I was meant to use my voice just not as a singer so that’s pretty cool she called fantastic I have been admirable the whole shebang when he sees the day moments in that it’s absolutely quite incredible from the Opera side of things so then even just talking about the how the redundancy came in with a job and that sparked you to do something else so it’s very it’s taking that next next step forward and it sees in the opportunity and moving which is absolutely incredible so you founded JBC back was it around 2005 ish how what strategies did you employ to build your own confidence because back then folk don’t necessarily as accepting the world is changing which is wonderful to build your own confidence to lead groups when you might have often have only been the only way or definitely the LGBTQ side of things how did you how did she find the strict to me forward I’m actually tackle that yeah you know I think I was always a brave kid um I had a sort of strange I was kind of precocious and I I was the old I was the oldest child but I I think I always wanted to be an adult woman even when I was a small girl and I was my mom was always like pushing me out on the stage I think she secretly wanted me to be Miss America honestly not so secretly so uh so she she just I don’t know but it’s funny like we’re born into the families were born into I think for a reason yeah for sure and my parents pushed me really hard they pushed me to perform in all domains and I was put on that stage as a young child and I actually really loved it believe it or not I mean I I might have protested and you know done the usual rebellious child kind of stuff but like secretly I was like ooh I like this a lot and I was never afraid I was I was like I craved performing and I really creating on the stage at that time as a musician right so I was in piano competitions and singing with Orchestra and I just I just rolled with it like it was just meant to be so I think when I realized I could have a role like on platform as we say in a training world and people would listen to me and funny enough they would listen to me even though often I was the one with the least experience in the room but the beauty of facilitation in the learning and development world is that you’re given like a lesson plan like a really great design and I’m you only need to really facilitate most of the knowledge from the room itself and your role is to really marshal that gather it it’s uh connect some dots give it back you know so it’s this different you don’t have to be the expert and but over time inevitably from facilitating all those conversations you become an expert because you for me anyway you you sort of hear things over and over you start to form a point of view you start to steer things a certain way we start to realize like I certainly realized through facilitating hundreds of classrooms in corporate America that so much was broken in the workforce and then the workplace around culture and engagement and feelings of belonging and I didn’t really have the language yet for diversity and inclusion but I definitely I definitely realized people were really unhappy and it was interrupting performance and fulfillment and the connection to purpose and all those things and I didn’t again I didn’t have the language for D&I; this is certainly not just a diversity issue but these days we understand that diversity is actually an when when the lack thereof is a present or people don’t feel included it creates an engagement issue it creates a leadership issue so I think that and that was true for me and so I think part of my power came from my own personal story and the riddle I was trying to solve which was that I was closeted in the corporate space for years you know I was closeted as a performer not seeing anyone that looked like me on stage and said or that I thought looked like shared my story you know because we can hide so much a lot of us and I can too and so I just I was assuming like there’s just nobody that looks like me and where am I like like do I belong in the business world do I belong onstage you know what if I came out like how would that impact how I was cast in roles you know everybody always wanted to make me do janu cuz you know that’s typecasting and I’m very like feminine presenting and they you know I was gonna play the 18 year old you know younger sister until I was 50 years old and that was sort of the writing on the wall and that was not too interesting to me actually so I think there’s a lot of reasons that I probably needed to get out of performing but yeah so anyway I had that confidence as a performer and to get up in front of any group and make it work that I knew I had that sort of presence and I had that confidence that comes from auditioning you know and saying hearing no like constantly and then I also had this sort of personal lens of having felt like the other and then I and then I was lucky enough to take part in these sort of early advocacy groups around the LGBTQ the corporate conversation meaning like the very early days of domestic partner benefits the very early days of LGBTQ advertising and I had a lot of friends who are leading that in their companies here in New York and I just fell into this group that was like literally the most out person who was you know leading the first like marketing strategy for Merrill Lynch for you know cute clients you know this was years ago so I was I was on the ground floor of that and I learned so much and I thought to myself like how could I bring my story to bear on this and my leadership lens and my organizational change background to be as a consultant for more diverse and inclusive workplaces and it sort of broadened out from LGBTQ to encompass than all aspects of diversity which we do now we literally we like consult on all of them together yeah yeah and it just went yeah it was really cool so now we’re like I think we’re one of the leading firms on this stuff and um I’m on my second book and we’re sort of trying to chart a course for you know for both employees to feel like welcome valued respected and heard but for companies to do the right thing which is a huge passion of mine because that was me you know I was not I left I left corporate America it it lost me you know as a person who might have brought talents and energy and innovation to the company but I just was like you know what this can’t hold me I I can never thrive here and it wasn’t just LGBTQ honestly it was so many other sort of issues that are broken I think with the way that work is structured and obviously as a woman being in a masculine dominated workplace – I think there were so many cracks in it and I’m you know I I just and I don’t think that we can afford as companies to lose talent like me and others and sort of large numbers but that continues to happen so you know we need to change that because not everybody needs to be an entrepreneur and nobody it not everybody can be an entrepreneur like most of us need a paycheck we need to be in a part of an institution so to me it’s unacceptable if these institutions aren’t really taking these things seriously and doing something about it you know something I believe I read in your book actually you talked about it being poignant that you want to encourage workplaces to be more diverse and inclusive because as you said it was your life and you’ve experienced that and I’ve experienced that and I’m sure many people listening will have experiences as well you feel excluded you don’t feel that you’re part of necessarily their company makeup or strategy in terms of moving forward or that you’re valued in that sense and included so having I think in what I’ve written down here those personal experiences make what you’d what you more valuable in that sense because it’s there’s integrity there there’s honesty and there’s real life experiences and anecdotes that can go along with it so we’re definitely come on to your book as well but I just want to ask you one other thing because we touched on it before we started on the photos I’m an advocate for self-care and looking after yourself and taking time to rest and repair be in a diversity and inclusion leader you know making that path and being the pioneer that’s got to be exhausting how do you or how do you ensure you make time for yourself in order to avoid the compassion fatigue that you probably advocate for others but you can still be there at the front great let’s charge come on let’s go yeah totally you know I bear in mind that I have so much I have so much privilege based on the family I was born into the opportunities I’ve had the comfort and safety about of my life because of the way I look you know the way identify you know I have had a very different experience than you know others even within the LGBTQ community because there’s levels of privilege that we have and so I say you know I I have a lot more I think stamina we all have a lot of stamina first of all to do this work but but I am not managing a lot of other stigmas and stereotypes that maybe other advocates in the community are so I’m coming from a place of having perhaps I’m able to step in and maybe lead and not face so much difficulty as perhaps some of the else in the movement and in in the advocate world does and so for me you know I like to think like I you can pass the baton to me and I will run with it and I will do everything I can to get in the room and challenge the conversations and speak truth to power and you know and and sort of I have a job to do in this body that I was given I mean I did not earn comes with responsibility and opportunity for me to lead things and step in you know when others are tremendously fatigued and what this sounds like is you know we even have clients who say you know Jennifer I’ve been saying this forever but they’re not they’re not hearing me can you come in and say the same things and you’ll be heard and that’s not right and that’s not fair but it is a reality so I think that for me the self-care I mean that energizes me because I feel I feel important and I feel like what I can contribute is significant and that actually fills my cup it doesn’t drain me it enables me to feel like I have a role to play and change which is which is scosh like sort of the deepest sense of belonging that you can have because you care so much about this movement you know but I think that many people are trying to find their role in this movement and in this work I mean trust me I get like 10 emails a day can you tell me how you got into diversity inclusion I want to quit my job and start doing what you do can I work with you for you like I mean can’t use a lot of people who are waking up to the importance of this yeah but are struggling I think based on their own demographics like well what do I fit and can I do this work because there’s a level of like well what do I need to know and how do I use my voice particularly as a person that maybe looks like me or share some of my demographics of privilege so it’s just really interesting um my self-care personally is to have you know to be in community so I have to go out I have to like sail away from the comfortable Shores you know and sort of fight the battles but like when you think about like where you return to you like where’s your home base where do you plug back in like where do you feel like you’re sustained I think that that’s for me the LGBTQ community particularly women that community is probably my my crew you know we sort of come back to that and say like okay let’s like regroup it’s like you know sustain each other and then you know you sort of scatter again you do your thing you know and that’s that’s hard and but if you can come back and be in a room where you feel super comfortable like just relaxing saying like how it really happens talking about how you feel having a place to put your anger in your frustration and have people just totally get it on so many levels is is how we I think have to make sure that we we can fight another day and so I would think about that I also I just for me community being reminded of why I’m doing this and who I’m doing for and with and alongside is where I kind of resent her yeah and then I can go out again and be in those rooms of all-male all-white male executives who are like crossed crossed arms like totally skeptical looking at their watch being like you know what like who is this woman and why she little doctor do you think you’ve just said there which I think you fabulous and I do want to talk about them because it’s admirable you talk about your privilege and I find that it’s quite a fascinating and very inspiring thing that you do because your self reflection isn’t it when you back it yourself and to actually be able to then use that as a tool for advocacy to push forward and to speak for others is actually really really really special I think so I think that’s fantastic and and then the community as well I totally agree go into conferences we’ll get to do this where you like-minded individuals and you can fire off each other it brings that energy back doesn’t it and it gets you grounded in order to go on and carry on and II need to do I totally understand that wonderful wonderful let’s talk about your book how to be an inclusive leader it’s fab I’ve started to read it reading the preface alone I’ve written down here is enough reason to buy it I worked really hard on that preface those are the hardest parts to write is the beginning of the book in fact I left it till the end I asked my publisher like the I struggle because the beginning has to be such a it’s gotta be a really specific phone yeah yeah and and your lose people if you don’t write it well and you don’t write it in exactly the right way because I know for my audience right it’s not like you and me it’s people who are really may be skeptical may be apathetic may be clueless and saying I’m I don’t know what I don’t know and why should I care or maybe even people who are like being forced to yes better and yeah and so the preface is like yeah it’s lovely I loved it how you talked about the word how and that’s the driver for the book and then the introduction which you just touched on just now present in 225 white male executives with such feedback as I don’t want to know what about people’s personal challenges people need to stop being so sensitive do you know how many times I’ve heard that so many times I don’t care if you’re black white or purple I hire the best person for the job again how many times so we credit because you were presenting feedback to an organization with regards to a survey or something yeah and they had been like totally busted in the public square for like bad behavior on the trading floor and then they’re still in denial it’s funny you can even show the data and the feedback and they don’t care I mean they just they will argue with you because they don’t if you don’t want to face the truth in themselves as leaders or their responsibility because it’s honestly an organization they have actually shaped right so they have in in a way they’ve been complicit in this behavior if they haven’t done anything about it if they’ve been told and they didn’t do anything about it like that’s that’s an interesting thing and if they didn’t know then they’re in denial because it’s a bad reflection on that right and so many people want to believe they’re good people of course like we want to say well not on my watch and that can’t be true and you know I’m a I have daughters and I get this you know and so it’s just this whole sort of self construction that like I am well intended and I believe I you know I generally believe that like everybody should have equal opportunity but that they’re not admitting that their belief that their workplace is a meritocracy is actually not true it’s never been true because honestly people have hired their friends they’ve hired you guys from from the same schools they went to without evaluating the rest of their performance they’ve like literally built or this is why we see like one demographic over-represented and leadership and this is why we struggle because then the then the meritocracy argument is applied then to to the situation now which is like well don’t force me to hire somebody that I don’t want to hire like are you telling me I have to hire somebody who’s not as good at the job because I’m trying to fulfill a diversity quota and then you have to sort of go down that spiral right of like sort of saying well guess what it was never a meritocracy it was never fair actually and so could we could we start there as a baseline it’s just really hard because like it’s taking apart like everybody’s past practices beliefs that they’re a good person beliefs that they’re fair but they’ve never ever looked at this this through this lens that I’m bringing and it’s a really like startling sort of I think I think people have to go through a period of shame honestly if they have a hard and they have empathy you say elf reflection yeah just to say Wow Jennifer like you’re right you know I didn’t realize it was so bad and I didn’t realize that I had played this role in enabling it or continue no not challenging it or you know you hope you can kind of wake them up to this but this is the hard work really hard work of getting through the denial getting through the eye you know I’m not saying you’re a bad person it’s that we we have not really understood this and in its truthful form yeah and and let’s let’s do something about it and then they’re like and then the next thing you get is okay well okay so let’s require like one woman in every slate of interview candidates and one person I’m like by the way that’s not enough yeah okay good step but the chances that that one woman on the slate is gonna actually get through there were interview rounds I get hired is still nil it’s not enough it’s not enough of a change and you can’t just tokenize diversity in your processes like you really have to almost positively bias the way you do things in order to correct the vast gap that we have like how are we gonna correct that and and we don’t have until 2050 like we like the world is changing it is changed and yet organizations are completely behind like and so to my call to action is for leaders it is like what what are you gonna do to truly correct this and fast because the more time you take and you differ and you take small actions and you make incremental commitments the more talent you are not going to be able to hire because they’re gonna look at you and look at the organization and look at them ask that and say I can’t thrive here because I don’t see anyone that looks like me here and like I hear on word on the street and I read Glassdoor about the environment you know like we have data now we know we know and so I just think the building is on fire and so many years just Ark in complete denial and I oh yeah and the world is changing so much and there’s a lot of challenges going on as well that companies will unfortunately that they become dinosaurs and they were false they’re not actually address in there are beautiful people out in the world who bring so much talent so much incredible smart thinking to companies and that’s being ignored because people aren’t addressing the race imbalance the gender imbalance and you know gee but you know everything whole lot of it I don’t have anything except for like one or two demographics that have somehow been sort of promoted and pulled up and you know supported into executive leadership and like that has that has just been running unchecked for as long as business has existed so this is a lot to undo it’s a lot undo big job for you big job give it to me give it to me I will die trying that is for sure there are benefits to employees bringing their full selves to the what do you mean when you say that what do you mean in terms of bring in your full self to the company you know in some companies my friends call it bringing your best self maybe not your full self I don’t okay there’s a lot of what of like conversation about language because this language is really important even one word but bringing your full self to work I mean as an LGBTQ person remember that 50% of us half of us in the workplace today are still closeted so I mean just to put a stark example of it like literally making up like changing pronouns and not putting pictures on the desk and not talking about what you did and who you did did it with over the weekend like socially or community or philanthropy or anything like so just sanitizing your life in order to assimilate to a dominant culture in your workplace but that could be anything it can be hovering mental health challenges I mean it’s just you know mental health is is is rife in organizations and it’s a deeply stigmatized thing to talk about it reminds me a lot of being LGBTQ and by the way there’s mental health geologists in the LGBTQ community which is which is what we call intersectionality which is the sort of existence of multiple stigmatized identities or experiences that are sort of impacting each other and kind of compounding in terms of the impact on the individual who’s trying to bring their whole selves to work so yes so LGBTQ I think also look if you’re a woman or a woman of color or both women of color in the organization you know you can’t hide those diversity demographics and so they actually you know they are impacting you whether you like it or not like some of us can hide some you know a disability etc others of us you know you walk in the room and stereotypes are going to happen and assumptions are going to be made about you and your capability and your your professionalism and your credibility based on your gender based on your ethnicity it really it just depends on the audience right and so bringing your full self to work may mean for me as a woman of color for example like not sort of downplaying my gender and my ethnicity and not ever talking about it and not being seen with other people that look like me and not advocating and challenging jokes but actually bringing your full self to work may be saying committing to yourself like I’m I’m going to be an advocate for change like I’m not just gonna not talk about Who I am you sort of leave it out of the conversation I’m gonna actually braise it or I’m gonna activate my allies to help me raise cultural issues that I’m experiencing because by the way speaking of self-care you don’t always have to do all this stuff alone and you shouldn’t because you’ll burn out yeah so so thinking about like I’m here as an as a as a potential ally that I can be activated by someone picking up the phone and saying to me Jennifer could you put in a good word could you have a conversation with this person could you raise this comment that was made or this this statement that’s always made that makes makes me not feel a welcomed valued respected and heard and like I meet standing by to do that and I think that that’s what allies should be doing and one of my friends calls allies accomplices which I love oh yeah that’s really different to us right it’s like I’m here like I’m I’m with you whatever you need my friend Patti Dingle says it’s like I’m like I’m in the getaway car like ready to speed away like you come you jump in and I’m driving like yeah so so I do think self-care also means work smarter not harder like don’t continue to be the fly against the screen door like over and over again beating your head because that is just gonna destroy you and you’re not gonna change the environment work with your allies who have some kind of power and maybe they they are a different looking messenger than you yeah and work through people so that you can get the point across but it doesn’t always need to be you know you that is constantly pushing the boulder because you just that’s not sustainable yeah so work through others work through influence marshal your allies I think there’s so many people that are asking me anyway like how do I do more and my answer always is so who are you doing more with and for and in support of like do you even know how to apply your energy for who alongside whoever needs it most and maybe you have excess like maybe you’re safe maybe you don’t it’s not risky for you to challenge something you know so to me that is like underutilized assets that you could be any that somebody else needs it’s literally like just a mismatch of like you know energy and those who need it and those who can give it we just have to match these things like we’ve got to kind of connect the dots and like give some people a break because honestly showing up and bringing your full self to work when you’re like a trans woman or your gender non-binary and you’re in a corporate environment is exhausted it’s exhausting you’re constantly educating you’re constantly kind of correcting people you’re constantly trying to teach the organization you’re constantly being asked Oh tell me about your experience you know so when I can and I yeah I mean I got a I have to be fluent so that I can help people that look like me understand what the issues are for a variety of communities and my job is to know enough to be helpful and it’s a lot I mean trust me I have to learn about 12 communities of identity on a constant basis that’s kind of my own checklist I need to know literally I’m like okay so what are the statistics how does this community want to be referred to what is the latest language what are the statistics about how engaged this community feels at work or not why you know what are some differential or equitable strategies to include this group how do they want to be spoken to spoken about including supported like it’s not just LGBTQ people like I need as a white ally I need to be able to talk about what the experience as a woman of color as a woman I have to be able to talk about trans and gender non-binary issues like that’s my job so I would just hope this book is a call to action for other people that especially sit in a relatively comfortable place to say like there is so much that you’re needed and you need to step forward and do this so that we can all rise together because if we leave all the work to people who are the most marginalized changes are gonna happen and those it’s not healthy or fair no I totally agree with you so I’ve written down it how do you go about trying to influence somebody who is either doesn’t understand or really just doesn’t care about the inclusion side of things and it just really ignores it how do you tap yeah how do you tackle that it’s hard you know I always say I always feel like I have to have a million tools in my arsenal some people love data some people respect research right some people are transformed by a personal story that they hear that they have an aha moment from some people have something happen in their families like their kid comes out to them and all of a sudden bang you didn’t care about this yeah you do now you have somebody who wants to be referred to as they them pronouns on your team because by that’s happening more and more and you have no idea what to do about that and you maybe have some I don’t know I hope not but maybe some resistant feelings about it depending on your personal beliefs so it’s at your doorstep whether it’s in your family your community your place of worship your workplace your clients maybe your clients are pushing you when you bring an all-white male team to a sales meeting maybe you get some feedback from a client that says you know we’re not even really sure like the fact that you it didn’t cross your mind to bring a diverse team to meet with us because we’re in like say you’re a consumer products company and like you’re very much in this diverse marketplace that is our is our marketplace today and maybe you were very tone deaf in terms of who you brought to a meeting and maybe you hadn’t even thought about the fact that you could lose business and clients and relationship because you have no story to tell and you don’t care about this and it’s not on your radar screen at all so I think more and more there’s pressure coming from so many different places and so what I try to do is figure out where does this person set how much do they know is there resistance basically just a lack of knowledge so that if they’re shown the information they they can actually have an aha moment or are they resistant so that’s kind of a different conversation yeah and then but there’s I’m honestly think it mostly it is literally a cluelessness it is like I always say if I stopped like a male business leader on the street and I said do you think you have a gender issue in your organization like do you think women are paid the same as men do you think you what would you guess is your percentages in terms of demographics at all levels of your company I honestly think people would say like oh I’m in so it’s so fun of course of course we wouldn’t pay women any differently like what do you mean like I’m a great leader I would never let that happen on my watch and then you show the data and it’s like this moment so so I just think people don’t think there’s a problem and that’s so how do we show how do we show this we back it up yeah how do we do that and then they say oh my goodness I’m so ashamed I’m so embarrassed I didn’t know this how could I have been a part of this I didn’t mean it right intent versus impact okay okay great like be upset for a minute and then like let’s move to like action so what are we gonna do about it and then it becomes a question of how much courage do you have to talk about this to not hide it to own it to publicly share a commitment about changing it actually changing it being consistent in terms of a commitment to change talking about your journey like that’s all the good stuff that once that sort of initial like unawareness or resistances sort of you have to process through it then you can talk about the how and that’s really where it gets exciting because then you can like build those strategies and and watch a leader and an organization kind of change and make a commitment and I love that if we can get to that then I feel like we can really we can really do what we’re best at which is like let me go after this yeah run with it right this is love it love it you said I believe that everyone has a diversity story and I believe everyone has a story as well so I’m totally with you middle-aged white man yeah so so I think so my field the DNI field has been very focused on underrepresented groups historically so we’ve been obsessed with sharing like who’s missing from the workforce right and let’s just pick two groups like women and people of color for one and that’s has served we’ve built all this infrastructure around this we’ve built employee resource groups affinity groups we’ve we’ve like made strategies around like changing that and I think that the unintended consequence has been that many people have not really felt like they’ve been a focus in the work or that they’ve known what role they need to play and in fact maybe even been identified as part of the problem and yes I mean maybe by doing nothing and not paying attention or knowing this was a problem you’re part of the problem right it’s the definition of complicity and I think silence on something speaks volumes as well and like unfortunately sends a message whether you intended it or not and so uh I think we haven’t we haven’t talked about everyone having a diversity story very intentionally and I think the result then has been that many people don’t feel like they’re a part of this that they’re just like oh well that’s the diversity team’s job or the affinity groups will take care of that or I will send my people to unconscious bias training and check the box but that’s all the attention I’m gonna give it for a calendar year literally like I’d never take it on board I never personalize it I never think about it as a leadership competency etc so much of my work has been to talk about the universality of exclusion and the fact that we all have experiences of that and we all actually cover parts of our stories and our identities at work so I have executive leaders when I do this session and my keynote when I ask them to share they say ok I think I understand Jennifer like this is true to me as well like I cover in the workplace and I don’t bring my spirituality or my religious beliefs I’m Jewish on a Christian man you know nobody ever talks about Jewish holidays and in fact we sort of worked through them the nobody nobody pauses to be inclusive about different holidays I don’t have a college degree and I never talked about it and my kids don’t even know that I didn’t graduate from college but now I’m like a CEO of fortune 50 company or I grew up in a alcoholic abusive family and it was my child who was incredibly difficult and I wasn’t sure if you know I’d have enough to eat and like Holy stories so and or a disability how disability affects people’s lives um how mental health and addiction is impacting I had a father share about his son who’s tried to commit suicide several times like it’s very you know and I so anyway there’s just this humanity in a group of people that I think has been disregarded in the strategy and if we can somehow succeed in in creating this sort of explaining that this is a universal it’s not the same demographics we may be covering in the workplace but we all know the experience of not bringing our full selves to work in many way and it by the way men men suffer from the man box so I’ve had God cast guests on like mark Greene who wrote the little me to book for men where it talks about the harmfulness of this like hyper masculinity that dominates the business world that is not great for all men I mean I would argue it’s not great for all for any men certainly not for the women that work with those men but it’s not great for the men themselves in terms of this sort of narrow straightjacket about norms and behaviors and what you’re allowed to be interested in and whether you’re whether you feel like you can take paternity leave like so many men don’t take fraternity leave because there’s so much shame around it and no other men are doing it even though it’s offered because literally like this vast underutilization it’s not so that tells me like there is just so much hiding and so much like angst and an effort spent kind of sanitizing ourselves regardless of who we are so if that’s true then let’s build workplaces where we normalize more of who we are what we truly are what we’re truly going through every day let’s talk about these things let’s talk about mental health in the workplace let’s let’s talk about like how do we keep an employee base here because we want to retain our talent when there’s so much going on for each one of those people that we aren’t comfortable talking about that we haven’t normalized that leaders aren’t speaking about or being honest about you know leaders have to go first in terms of declaring like hey I’m gonna take a risk here I’m gonna be vulnerable I’m gonna share something that was very meaningful to me I’m gonna share a challenge I’m gonna share what’s going on in my family right now my kid just came out to me as transgender like I’m learning and I need to be what I’d like to hear leaders do is be vulnerable and truthful and say hey here’s here’s where I relate not bringing my full self to work like let me go first even though I’m the all-powerful executive that’s supposed to have all the answers let me be real because that by the way is what young people want to see and hear they don’t want to see the sanitized version and they are not going to give you the authority just because of your title and your your offices just if you’re not true anymore so how are we gonna earn that followership and that’s through authenticity vulnerability being open to learning being agile sharing your journey and I would just really really think that would make a huge difference in terms of retention because people then would say oh my leaders like are really really trying they really they’re not perfect they don’t always get it right but at the very least they’re doing their work and they’ve shared about how they’re doing their work that would be transformative yet you know you’re so right and I’ve been not in a way to everything you it and so so true the authenticity side of things and in fact actually how men are expected to behave I’ve got two sons and ah yeah I mean they’re beautiful boys and they’ve got such a wonderful mind and it’s open and it’s sponge-like and I want to help them maintain that openness yes is diverse and what it is to be inclusive because you’re quite right I I imagine there’s a whole wealth of men who feel that they have to conform in a particular way in order to get by because this is what you’re supposed to do much like women behave or feel that they should in years gone by so I think it’s opening the boundaries up we’re all human at the end of the day break a rule rate you know we want to get by so it’s I love what you’re doing and how you’re talking about it legislates absolutely fabulous just one other one other question so for anybody who is trying to make an impact in their workplace that you know a manager who’s trying to be more more inclusive and bring diversity but doesn’t feel that you’re making the effort but doesn’t feel that they’re quite getting it right hmm or they’re not succeeding what advice would you give them to just what step should they make just to try and bring it in yeah well in the book there is a four stage model like a journey so I would say you’ve got to know where you are in order to make progress so there’s an assessment that goes along with the book that’s free I would really recommend everybody take that you can find it at inclusive leader the book comm and you’ll get a score along like five different criteria and categories and you can start working from there and there I would say there’s a lot of ideas in the book tour concrete small big actions private public actions whatever you’re ready for however quickly you feel like you’re ready to move you may be really aggressive about it and be like I am NOT gonna get this like I’m gonna read everything Jennifer writes like really like apply myself and other people are gonna take a long time you know and that’s that’s totally to me it’s acceptable as long as you’re on the journey and you’re really making an effort so I would say read learn do your homework like I said I’m constantly consuming media about different identities besides my own I’m trying to understand the lived experience I’m asking colleagues to share honestly with me like what is it how can I be a better Ally like how might I support you is there something that I can do to enable your success is there an area where you’re being forwarded or you’re feeling like you have a disconnect with being here or on the team and by the way you don’t need to be a leader to do this you could be a colleague you can say like what could I do and I one example is like sharing a pronouns is really powerful I try to say hey I’m Jennifer Brown my pronounce her she her hers and then I move on to the business of the day and I just I’m casual about it I try to do that I’m still building my own muscle with that as assists women but I I am it’s important to indicate that because that may open a door and make and normalize it for the team discuss it and somebody on the team who’s never said anything might might then feel more safe to say actually my pronouns are they them you know would you call me that like just little stuff like that so I think um it’s there’s a ton of ideas like that in the book and once you start to pay attention maybe you’re on Twitter Twitter as a great is a deep resource on diversity and inclusion I’ve learned so much from all the different threads and all the articles in the news I mean once you start paying attention to this you you start to I think tune in and you start to like crave and read if you’re a man you should be reading all the articles you can about what the workplace feels like for women like all of them and you should be thinking about it and you should be noting the statistics and and have some research in your back pocket so that you can share whatever you might share with legitimacy because look the business world is sterile very fact-based very quantitative very much like you know fortunately or unfortunately like if McKinsey says it so than it is so like whatever it’s really good stuff I don’t I don’t mean to knock it I actually use McKinsey stuff all the time but like but you just have to like be smart about how you you’re gonna challenge things like if you’re coming up against somebody who doesn’t believe LGBTQ rights should be celebrated in June and there shouldn’t be a pride flag at your headquarters even though the CEO maybe was the one that hoisted it and you know your colleague doesn’t think it’s a thing and by the way doesn’t feel like they could bring their full self to work because the flag is flying how are you going to have that conversation as an ally you know and and and what will you how will you argue that like how will you say well actually LGBTQ inclusion is important because it’s like it’s a it’s an a it has everything to do with our ability to attract and retain people from certain communities who could be like our next most brilliant scientist you know who could be our next come up with our next big idea who reflect by the way tons of our market you know in terms of buying our products and services so you need to be able to articulate that that it’s not just the right thing to do but that you can bring that business case because the right thing to do the moral argument is probably going to be your maybe least powerful argument sadly even though for people like us and maybe your listeners it should be enough it should be enough to say okay please have empathy for people who are literally not talking about their life at work like have some empathy for that because that’s exhausting you know you try to work with a blindfold on and hands tied behind your back every single day because you’re walking through the hallways of your workplace and you’re literally like managing the fact that you’re the only one that looks like you that you see on a constant basis or you hear jokes and comments or you’re constantly in like work work environments like sports bars and you know other sort of environments where you don’t feel like you don’t feel comfortable but nobody cares and so it’s just like the empathy thing but I’m sadly the moral argument is not going to necessarily win the day for the majority so have your have your arguments ready be fluent know the numbers speak about it in terms of what it does for the business of the company the organization that you work for and by the way there’s plentiful data like just google it Google business case for diversity you know listen to how different companies in different sectors and different industries talk about that like NASA talks about it they say oh my goodness you know we have like fit whatever it is 15% women engineers in our Ostrow physicists in our organization and then we’re sending women on spacewalks and we didn’t even measure we didn’t even think to measure flight suits for women so we had to delay the whole we had to delay the whole mission because it didn’t even cross our mind that like we would have to like fit this differently because no woman was at the table to point that out or maybe she was but she was ignored and the perspective was not listened to right so this has like real-world consequences yeah you know you’ve hit them out on the head again so many times it is wonderful listening to you speak Jennifer understand I’m sure the listeners will be thoroughly enjoying this and I you know I’ve been guilty of this myself we’re not guilty just how I’ve managed my life in certain parts of it when I first came out I was in universities I was in my twenties and I was very proud I was very my own long hair then all about the hair is dang but nobody yeah nobody knew and I cry droid actually surprising people know I’m gay and I enjoyed the education yeah yeah you forward 5-10 years when I’m in the workplace I stopped doing that I didn’t talk about it didn’t you know I had to get my very male-dominated environment I didn’t talk about my life you know and then you get into a rut and then you just kind of would you listen to the jokes hmm yeah it’s been the last few you terrible it’s not right but you just tolerate it you do you’ve hit the nail on the head it’s actually almost a conversation you need to have with somebody by saying okay just think about it from this this way and I’ve never thought to have that conversation how do you feel if you came to work and you can talk about any of that and I’m gonna sit here and I’m gonna have this joke about this and you just you just accept it right you know an absolutely fantastic way to approach it I think but yeah Brian be more confident yourself it’s very impartial it’s very kind of logical and I think that unfortunately this is so sad but when we get to kind of worked up and passionate we get called the squeaky wheel we get called the angry fill-in-the-blank like it’s such a strong sort of stereotype that is applied to us when we’re passionate and when we’re tired and understandably sort of impatient and that comes through I mean ask any person of color how they’re judged if they are passionate about something and they’re excited about something and then it’s called aggressive like literally you should know that these double standards are applied to some of us when we are only being passionate when we are only being definitive if we’re only sharing a strong opinion like everybody else gets to do but when we do it it’s called something else you know this is the kind of stuff that I wish you know would be allies would know like this is a fact it’s been documented it happens it’s as double standard that’s applied and you’ve got to be super vigilant about it whenever it’s applied to somebody around you when you’re in a meeting a meeting after the meeting and somebody says well she was coming across really strong and oh she always brings that up I’m so tired of it like what would you say in that moment you know will you point out like no no no she had an opinion she was sharing that opinion and it’s very valid she gets interrupted all the time and nobody pays any attention like happy have each other’s backs but you’ve got to know though like when does it happen and you’ve got to increase your vigilance around you about like who is who is who is getting judged based on the stuff unfairly when am I gonna step in how am I gonna step in what am I gonna say right and not to me is something we should all be vigilant because you cannot leave it to that person to constantly be defending themselves if they even know that this has being said about them this is the other problem you’re in a total vacuum like people are gossiping about you not being quote-unquote professional or having executive presence and therefore you’re passed over for something you’re not given the stretch assignment but nobody ever tells you because everybody’s afraid to give you honest feedback because they’re afraid I don’t know you’re gonna cry I mean believe it or not that is still a belief or that somebody’s going to bring a racial discrimination suit against you if you give feedback like no like be courageous yeah we don’t this is a thing and and like I just think it’s irresponsible for leaders not to understand that these things happen all the time and and who they happen to and whose job it is to address it and set the example yeah absolutely love it so much now everybody listening I’m going to put all of Jennifer see tears in the show notes including the book go out again it is out now isn’t it it is yeah is it it’s been out for two months it’s how to be an inclusive leader the assessment that goes along with it is that inclusive leader the book calm please take it ten minutes it’s free for an it for now it’s free we’re trying to figure out like how we blow it up and make it like I think it’s gonna be it’s gonna be big because it’s it’s honestly one of the few things that tries to measure kind of where the learner is and the journey and and what they can do next and that’s been I think it’s been one of the missing pieces and making progress so yes again self-reflection I love it now I’ve just got a couple of very fun questions for you all get to know okay what do you like to do to unwind oh my gosh hot yoga all the time comes in around yeah yeah I could drown rat but like really like Zen doubt yeah it’s hard it’s really hard but it’s really really cleansing I did I quite like the Zen ones yeah well you can think of it more I mean I don’t do a lot of yoga but it is hard so it is hard it’s hard to stay in the room and yet heard of the I think part of the relief that you know aside from yourself if you were a superhero saving the world other than what you’re doing now and you’re always would you have oh my gosh I like I would like to I’d love to be able to fly and be in a million places at once and replicate myself and others that are doing this kind of work I don’t know cloning myself cloning cloning us so that we can be everywhere at once and we can have eyeballs in like all different places and we can advocate in the moment I would also love to be able to have people live in each other’s shoes so that would be transformative for this work like if we could do that through like virtual reality I mean and I think the technology is happening now where we literally can put people in that place and that is that makes such a strong impression on us that would be amazing does everything so yeah something like that I like that a lot what a great answer now do you what since she were or do used to sing what’s your favorite opera oh I love probably the Mozart operas like any of that because they’re they’re fun to sing they were perfect for my voice yeah I would say that that stuff but honestly it’s funny I was an opera singer but I really preferred jazz so I almost I almost studied to be a jazz singer oh yeah I not answer I could I would I could have a long conversation so yeah it was interesting I think it was covering in a way to be an opera singer because I was raised in a classical music family and yet secretly I was constantly listening to jazz and R&B; and I and so yeah it’s interesting I kind of miss my calling in a strange way musically and I will always kind of regret like what could Adam look like because that’s the kind of music I really in my next life next multiple lifetimes exactly what is what achievement are you most proud of oh gosh oh gosh I think the books I have yeah I think that I mean book writing is so tough I mean it there is nothing that prepares you for it it is so expensive it is so time-consuming it is so frustrating it is really hard it’s very personal it takes everything out of you and it’s so vulnerable to put it in the world and and be afraid that fear of it not doing well is so deep and the fear of exposing yourself and and and you know it’s one thing to be able to have an audience to speak to and influence because I think I’m really good at that I can control that but putting your stuff out and not knowing who’s picking it up and not knowing what they’re gonna write about you in social media and it’s just really very vulnerable but I really recommend it I mean I at the same time it is transformative to sort of boil down your message into a package and and put it out there regardless of what happens is such a important part of your journey as as a human in this world and so I really really recommend people and and they and and not to think your life is insignificant that you don’t need to write about it because I honestly I’ve never met somebody who doesn’t have this tremendous thing that I think the world will really benefit from reading because if we assume our stories don’t matter and they’re not they didn’t happen to us for a reason and that that reason not only transformed us but it could transform other people’s lives like that’s the important thing so so like heal yourself but then like also know that it’s going to show a path for somebody that is literally in the darkness right now and that that it that should be reason I think alone those two things are to me like sort of overwhelmingly convincing to do it make the time to do it etcetera I mean yeah I next generation needs all the help they can get they need all the role models they can get and when your story has not been told and it’s not not told you know that to me like think about that think about who might need whose life you might save I mean we often don’t consider ourselves important enough or relevant for our experiences something to discuss but actually everybody has something and a lot of people have a collective amount of experiences that are so valuable that will touch somebody else that will help somebody actually move forward exactly that’s good yeah right – the book is admirable I think I’ve had the good fortune to have several less fickle authors on and again they you know the stuff that they put into their books and put out it’s a really you’re vulnerable okay Acton yeah exactly two more these are like these two they’re always think they’re fun what’s the last photo you took on your phone on your photo stream oh my gosh my expenses from business model that’s a super boring answer literally but let me find the next most interesting one my cat is sitting on my laundry pile my partner is in animal rights that’s her job and so we have a lot of rescue cats in our tiny New York City apartment so um I have one cat that just loves to be photographed and is always very proud of herself by getting in the laundry basket and being cute so cats don’t go everywhere but nice and they know and they’re being cute and bad at the same time it’s your most use emoji since you have your phone oh oh gosh probably the rainbow and for a lot of reasons not just LGBTQ stuff but I just like it cause it’s like it’s sort of a like and also like the hands like the Atta oh yeah girl yeah boy out of girl out of out of a gender identity neutral absolutely but it’s sort of like keep going keep doing it work you’re doing great I’m supporting you etc love this absolutely just finally to close off since this is a Caesar day theme and you demonstrate such a vast amount of seizing the day opportunity season moving forward you’re a confident lady the background and whatnot which you openly admit you know privilege starts but you still make in those moves and you’re advocating for others which is amazing for all of the listeners what advice would you give them if they wanted to try something new or perhaps that are more shy there may be an introvert and they want to move forward in their life put themselves out there being in the workplace or do something you what kind of advice would you give to somebody to seize the day and whatever guys that may be mm-hmm well let’s stay on the theme of sharing your story I mean I would love to see more of us like uncover whatever we might be keeping like very very deep about ourselves it with the intent to change things around us but then also to leave that legacy of change so that others can have an easier Road so I think that twofer kind of lends of both healing ourselves through our sharing of stories through that confidence of my story matters and by the way it’s important to believe that it’s important to assist whatever organizational context you’re in because we need to bring these this change I mean I I don’t know we can’t really wait to have the change performed by someone else I mean we are the change makers so you know I think our pride our embracing of ourselves our commitment to our own authenticity our commitment to our needs are our honoring of that is what’s going to change the world around us so you know I think that you know the less we adjust ourselves to make others more comfortable in whatever group were in that actually can change hearts and minds out authenticity people get inspired by that they really do and like we’ve talked about today the world needs that because the world doesn’t know what it doesn’t know so and some worrying not true yeah yeah inside might have a little bit of a truther that they’re not even aware of and right yes and it may open that up there you can never predict the domino effect that you can have and it’s a it’s a wonderful joy to discover the impact you’ve had on people that you didn’t even know and and you could never have predicted so I do think in my experience people are very open right now they’re like in the world right now in the political environment in the company environment a lot of people are like okay now I know what I don’t know like and can I like maybe I could do more but what is that more like what is the how and I think there’s an openness to that that I haven’t honestly never seen and all the years I’ve been doing this it has really shifted in the last year or two people are like you know I’m not doing enough what is this diversity thing how can I be an inclusive leader and that was right I wanted to write the book because I just wanted to capitalize on this on this openness the door is open and people are open minded and hearted they just don’t know what to do and how to support so if we did nothing else but to say to ourselves like how can I ask somebody to support how can I you know endless this how can I surround myself with you know people who have my back um how can I tell my story so that it may shift something in somebody else how can I not like it how can I not have my confidence diminished because I feel you know ashamed or I’m hiding something that’s my truth because by the way that damages us most of all it damages us to tell our subliminal selves like this is something that I am either ashamed of or it’s something that I have to kind of spend energy modifying downplaying minimizing you know that hurts my productivity it hurts my professionalism it hurts my power honestly and I mean that’s that’s diminishing us at the end of the day so don’t give in to that remember you’re a leader remember you’re leading with your story remember you have the ability to transform people and teens and organizations around you and remember that the world really needs you right now because we don’t know what we don’t know and you need to teach us end it this has been truly fantastic thank you for sharing your morning with me this has been and sharing Natalie really been on your farm thank you thank you everyone for listening take care look after yourself keep well you have been listened seize the day that Natalie Venice now all contact information can be found in the shownotes together with any links to websites or may have referred to in the show if you’ve enjoyed this podcast then come talk to us at a lesbian talk show chat group on Facebook email us on podcast at the lesbian talk show com or follow us on Twitter at lesbian talk show you can also join our community of patrons and geeks collusive content go to and talk shows the link is in the show notes thank you thank you thank you