Mo: Hello, hello, hello and welcome to this week’s Everyday Inclusion and Belonging, the show where we chat about all thing’s diversity, inclusion, equity, and belonging. I’m not sure if we’re doing OK, it is telling me that we are having a wee bit of trouble streaming so I’m going to end the broadcast and I’m going to have to try again Trudy.

Trudy: It says we’re live on our side.

Mo: You know what, let’s just give it a whirl and if we need to re-record, we will do that.

Trudy and I have known each other for a couple of years and our paths just keep crossing. She’s one of the people that I respect so much in the diversity inclusion and leadership space. Many of you have probably been familiar with her work. Trudy I never do justice to your introduction, so I’m actually going to let you introduce yourself.

Trudy: Well you are too kind Maureen, thank you very much. Hi everybody I’m Trudy Bourgeois, I’m the founder and CEO of Center for Workforce Excellence. We are a global leadership development organization really passionate about building inclusive leaders and close cultures to advance better business results.

I’m a former senior sales marketing executive and been an entrepreneur for almost 20 years. I could hardly believe it so, that’s a little bit about me.

Mo: Isn’t it amazing how time flies?

Trudy: Yes.

Mo: That’s actually you know, thinking about the work that you’ve been doing for 20 years, and the lack of progress that we’re seeing. And that’s really the basis of our conversation. Why have we stalled, why have diversity and inclusion efforts you know, there’s a lot, it’s sort of like a lot of talk no action. What do you think that the root of that?

Responsibility At The Top

Trudy: So, I might say something that may offend some people, but my truth, what I believe, is that we started incorrectly. The initiative itself started incorrectly. Number one, white men never saw themselves as part of the equation.

We took brown and black people and women and we put them in rooms and said OK, we’re going to give you some you know, angel dust, and make you perfect and then we are sticking you right back into their culture. Which also were never a part of the strategy and so consequently we did a little bit more harm than good, to be honest with you.

The second thing is we’ve given rhetoric to what this initiative is all about. There is not an organization on the face of the planet that would say this is not a business imperative, right. Maureen, you and I both know, if it’s a business imperative, the CEO owns it OK.

There’s board governance if it’s a business imperative, it’s a top five priority. And I would just humbly submit that this talk about it being a business imperative, is just that, it’s talk it’s not strategy.

Mo: You know it’s interesting, and I’ll post this. We actually did a CEO survey last fall and it was interesting because there was what we called the knowing doing gap. They were all saying absolutely this is important, I believe the business case for it and genuinely right? But there is this then cognitive dissonance in they didn’t have folks who were responsible, there wasn’t a budget, and it wasn’t a top five.

Right, so it’s like yeah, I believe it to be true, well that’s great. Like I really believe I want to be healthy and fit, believing it doesn’t get me there, I still need to do the sit ups. I don’t want to lose that first point that you made, that it was like where we were trying to fix people versus fixing systems. Let’s actually finish this thought about CEO, budget, and accountability.

Goals Need To Be Set

I found it really interesting Trudy, that you know when you ask people like what are your goals, what are your metrics, they’re like no, no, we can’t have that, I’m like are you kidding me? You have it for sales, you have it for quality, you for profitability, and it’s like if people don’t see it as a business driver right, nothing is going to change.

Trudy: Well and you know what we’ve found you know, we do a lot of work with the executive leadership council and we had a conference last year for CEOs called Game Changers. It was all specifically focusing on advancing black leaders. But one of the things that we’ve discovered is that general counselors have not been folded into the mix. There is a huge level of pushback if we can’t set goals or we can’t do this and that’s because see, we’re not looking at it you know, from a business imperative perspective.

We’re looking at, let’s get a chief diversity officer so we can say we check that box and the truth of the matter is, that the chief diversity officer and the chief human resource officer in many cases, are not integrated, right? And then of course, you talked about accountability, but really in most organizations, inclusive leadership has not been defined. And they haven’t trained for it so how can you hold me accountable for something that I don’t understand.

I said to a CEO recently look, if you wanted to raise the financial acumen of your organization, you would have a strategy. You would have a plan, you’d have milestones, you would have measurements, you’d have course correction, you would not stop until you saw progress. And you wouldn’t be satisfied with this ‘oh we’re making some directional progress, it’s just a bit more difficult than we thought.’ Like I think that’s crap.

Mo: I completely agree with you. Or we’re going to sponsor the pride parade or we’re going to have this you know once a year event that does not change. And I think that actually gets us to the first point that you brought up. That is, we were trying to fix people from underrepresented groups right, Vs. really understanding what diversity, inclusion, equity, and belonging are and then fixing systems that everybody can thrive, versus a small set of the system being set up for a small group of people to thrive.

Trudy: That’s right, that’s exactly right. It’s almost like we have to hit the reset button, right? Because right now, we’re having to go back and try and convince people who think that they’re not included that they are. And that’s because when we first you know, the effort started diversity was thought of as black white, male female, right. So, the broad definition wasn’t configured in my mind and in my heart correctly.

Then we were not touching the truth, we were not having courageous conversations. What do I mean? OK, white women have been the biggest beneficiary of affirmative action.

Mo: Absolutely.

Trudy: But we weren’t having those kinds of conversations so consequently you got frustration building in a lot of pockets. And until you address the systems and the culture, then all you do is swirl, and that’s why I think we have to make the progress that we need to and can.

Mo: And then that’s leading to frustration not just with the people who are impacted the most, right people from underrepresented groups, but then with leaders who are saying well we’re not making any progress. Like right, like it’s just not even worth it.

Trudy: The mountain is too tall right?

And I’ll tell you from my own research and writings, that the thing that will be breakthrough is when people personalize this. You cannot in my opinion, advocate for inclusion when you don’t know what exclusion feels like. You can’t do it. And so, when we’re working with senior leaders and others we try and get them to a place of personalizing this.

Taking you know the head and then dropping it into the heart so that we can be motivated to do something differently, because if you’re not in pain, well your life is great. You know seriously, like why would I want to slow down and pay attention to this?

Mo: Well and you know it’s interesting Trudy because we’ll sometimes do an exercise and I think it’s a great thing for anybody watching this to think about. We have all had a moment in time when we felt like we weren’t supposed to be in a room.

Trudy: That’s right.

Mo: We felt like we didn’t belong you know and that could be all the way back to you know 5th grade when you weren’t invited to that birthday party. And then I can really sit with that and feel that, which I know you do a great job getting leaders and organizations to do. But then imagine there are literally people every day showing up to your workplaces who are feeling like that. Do you think you’re getting their best and brightest?

There is so much talent that’s being left on the table.

Inclusion and Future

Trudy: But Maureen I love what you’re saying because we do take people back to a time of rejection, right. So, they may not know exclusion in the way that a person of color would know exclusion, but every human being knows the pain of rejection.

And then the other thing that we find is when we start talking about daughters or sons and what’s going to happen in the future. Then people are like oh well I would want my son or daughter to be a place where they could belong. So, then you can you know invite the leader to say well do you want to be a part of the equation of changing things?

But until we you know, really touch the truth, that the systems are still very broken, I don’t know I think we’ll continue to make this slow progress which just irritates me.

Mo: We don’t have time. I think there is a part of this that I don’t think we’ve talked about on this series yet. And I’ve heard people get really pissed off when somebody’s like well I get it now because I have a daughter. They’re like you didn’t care before. I’m like I don’t care what got them to the table, why do you care what got them to, as long as they are at the table.

And then the second thing is the data and the research shows us that if we’re just focused on white women it’s actually at the harm of in particular women of color.

Trudy: Absolutely.

Mo: And so maybe you are a white guy and your daughter got you to the table, you can’t just create for your daughter, you have to create across the gender spectrum. And then you know whether it’s a woman with a disability, a woman of color, a woman who’s not a cisgender, like all of those things you have really look at intersectionality. We’re making the system better for a segment.

Trudy: That’s right. You know I grew up in the deep South, I grew up in segregation and was a part of desegregation. So, my whole journey around the quality, the dream chose me I didn’t choose it.

Then I had a special needs son and realized oh gosh, there’s more inequities in the world and I understood. Then my daughter, our second child married someone not of her race. And now I fight for my biracial granddaughter and I share all that because we have to look at it holistically.

If we don’t look at it holistically, we’re going leave somebody out. And that that would be tragic if we do that.

Mo: Well and I think that’s the, you know we always talk about curiosity and the power of questions. Who else should be included here?

What perspective am I not thinking of? And you could use checklist if you want to. Right, like are we considering class right now? That’s one that’s left out quite a bit. You know are we considering people with disabilities, LGBTQ, or religion.

I love showing this photo of some of the team that took a picture of the black hole. Over 200 scientists, five continents, like 16 countries. And when you look at that picture there is age, there’s race, there’s gender spectrum, there is you can’t tell from the picture but one of the lead scientists is uh a man who’s in out in science.

He’s part of the LGBTQ community you know there’s cognitive diversity there. So, I think that’s the other piece of this is ‘oh my gosh when we get this right, we can do such cool things’.

Trudy: OK so what’s interesting about that is, that intellectually we know that. The facts are there. If it were just for the data, we be done. You and I wouldn’t even be having this conversation today, right. So what senior executive would know that his or her profit could increase, or performance could increase, their innovation could increase.

Time To Address The Messy Work

Who wouldn’t sign up for that? But there is fear that is paralyzing us and we’re so afraid to step in the poop and to get messy we don’t want to talk about race right. Now you talk about the intersectionality we don’t want to go there.

Mo: Which by the way, you’ve got a great book. Give me the exact title so people can look it up and I’ll put a link to it to.

Trudy: Thank you, it’sEquality Courageous Conversations about women, men, and race. DNI breakthrough and I think what we have to admit is that corporate America is nothing more than a reflection of society. Look at what’s happening in society. Look at the polarization that exists particularly in North America but you got pockets all around the globe and so we’ve got to hold up the mirror and be honest with ourselves.

Otherwise, I don’t think that you’re going to see organizations do what I think that they really can do Which is to be apart of the societal solutions right. I mean that’s where I say, let’s hit the reset button. You know you look at companies like Procter and Gamble who’s using their gigantic advertising budgets to put together small films to influence the way people perceive each other across different cultures, across race.

I mean where are the leaders, where are the CEOs whose consumers are in the community right. And so, we’ve got to marry both the community and the business world together if we’re really going to have an impact. Because where do people spend the vast majority of their time? At work.

Mo: Well and you do a good job helping organizations actually have those courageous conversations. I do think like even if we just go back to the measurement piece. Like oh we can’t measure, it’s like well why the hell not. Until we measure it, you measure what matters. So of course, you have to measure this.

Trudy: Yes of course, but the fear, the fear that that OK once I start measuring, I’m going to see how bad I am. I’ve lowered myself into thinking that I’m making lots of great progress because I’ve done so well on women, which translates into white women going back to what you said before.

But when I really look at the underbelly, and I start cutting the data, one senior executive said when she actually had her team disaggregate the data, she said oh my gosh, we look like a racist company.

I said well tell me why you’re saying that. She said when I disaggregated the data when I sliced it and sliced it and sliced it, I couldn’t I could no longer pretend that I had made all this progress because the representation just wasn’t there.

Mo: Yeah, and I think like particularly when you start to slice and dice. Right about the fact that we know that at least 20% of the US population, probably closer to 25, have some sort of disability.

Trudy: That’s right.

Mo: There’s no way we’re representative on that, there is no way. I think there’s piece that goes back to like, do you really believe the business results, or do you just think it’s that this is something that’s soft. And so, I think it’s really digging in on that too which is pretty common sense.

When you think about of course you want all these different experiences to build the best product or service. They’re just going to see things a different way, they’re going to bring a different set of skills, beliefs, behaviors, experiences ways of looking at things, that’s that stronger.

Trudy: Yeah, all that makes such logical sense, but here’s the deal. We’re not in a space of logic. We’re doing heart work, we’re doing soul work, we’re doing beliefs right. When you when you start thinking about how you were raised you know often in our classes. We will say, how many of you have heard loved ones use disparaging language to describe people across differences? And I’m like OK the whole room everybody’s hand should be going up right?

That that’s why it is so unconscious because it’s so deep that you’re not even aware that it shapes the way that you see others. And so that means now I gotta deal with grandma or grandpa using bad language, I gotta really face a lot of stuff. So, I think the other piece that we really need to wrap our head around particularly in the US, is just integration of history.

We don’t want to look at history. Aren’t we beyond  that? No, we are not!

Mo: We are right in it.

Trudy: And if we’re not really careful, we’re going to be like right in at 50 years ago. You know great leaders know and I mean Jim Collins book is still a New York Times bestseller. And one of the points that he makes about great companies and great leaders is that they touch the brutal facts.

So, until as a senior executive, you say to your team, I want the brutal facts I want it as raw as it can be. Until you take that step, you’re always sort of you know pretending. You know and if you get a little award from somebody, you’re like ohhhhh look at this. But then when you lift up the hood like you know people are broken and don’t feel like they belong. And consequently, as you know, the data says they’re not engaged.

Mo: Right. So, if you had to just pick three things that a leader could do, what would those three things be?

Three Things Leaders Can Do

Trudy: Well the first thing is to personalize this. Integrate this as a part of your own leadership agenda. It has to be personal. It’s gotta be a top five. I don’t care you know, I’m not I’m not trying to let anybody else off the hook and I’m not suggesting that senior executives don’t have their responsibility. But you got every one of us has to lead from where we are. We gotta get into the game. That that’s the first thing.

The second thing is that that we’ve gotta give ourselves permission to get messy. And be uncomfortable and you know all that stuff that we talked about. But this is messy stuff that’s why nobody wants to deal with it right.

Mo: But it’s hard. Trudy, this is the work that you and I do. I will tell you, I have an epiphany almost most every week.

Trudy: Me too, me too.

Mo: Something I’ve said, something I’ve done, or a different way of behaving. There was a leader my gosh, I’m actually going to forget which company. Out of Altera wines in Canada and I came in and did an unconscious bias session and he looked at his team afterward, and he said, is this not the coolest leadership opportunity ever?

He said, we have this opportunity to grow and to think and to stretch ourselves. If it’s messy and its hard but if we see this as a really cool opportunity that’s a different way to frame it too. I so appreciated that he’s the only leader that like came at it with just that like wow, this is going to be hard and it’s going to be really cool.

Trudy: But imagine the impact which is the third thing in the in the three things. It is really after you personalize it, after you do your own work for learning, and you get dirty and get messy right then you start thinking about OK here is the honest truth. All of our careers are going to come to an end and nobody’s going to remember how many widgets we sold. They are not going to remember how many you know vans were filled with whatever product. But everybody is going to remember how you treated them.

The impact that you can have upon another person’s life, just imagine that kind of power and responsibility and privilege to actually have a positive impact upon somebody else’s life, I mean wow, that’s big stuff.

Mo: And then the ripple effect.

Trudy: Oh yes, yes. And I sit here before you and your audience even though I was born in segregation. My parents didn’t have a lot of resources for kids. I had a white couple, there were only two families that I could go into their homes because of my skin color. And one family was the Donikees. And the Donikee’s were ahead of their time.

They took it personally, like in equities it became a big deal. Did they have to do it? No, their life was comfortable, but they made it personal and then what they did was they took a risk. And by getting messy back in those days when people were caught with black people, they were beaten up right.

And so, they’re like no, we need to expose this wart. And then the last thing that they did was they breed possibility thinking into me as a kid.

Mo: Actually, I want to leave us with that story Trudy because it’s so beautiful. Like if you just think about that that couple, what they did, and the impact that you’re having in the world, it’s a perfect example of why all of this is worth it.

Trudy: And all of us can be a part of it.

Mo: We have to be. Thank you so much Trudy if you are not following Trudy whether it’s on LinkedIn or other social platforms do it, she’s always posting great stuff.

When we’re able to be at events again if you have the opportunity to see Trudy to be apart of either just keynote that she’s giving, or workshop I highly encourage you to do it. It’s so good! We just keep finding ways to collaborate and Trudy, I just appreciate you and everything that you do in the world and how you are really helping to build everyday inclusion and belonging so thank you.

Trudy: Thank you Maureen thank you very much for all your work and dedication.


For more on Every Day Inclusion jump over to our Every Day Inclusion App page to learn more!