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How to Measure Inclusion in the Workplace, with Lisa Russell

How to Measure Inclusion in the Workplace, with Lisa Russell

We sit down with Lisa Russell, Co-Founder and CEO of Aleria, to discuss removing barriers for employees, what it means to be a social impact entrepreneur, and recognizing the lack of trust in the workplace.


0:00:00.5 Maricella Herrera: Where leaders go, learning follows. Harvard Business School Executive Education offers more than 60 in-person and virtual programs. Learn more and apply at That's

0:00:17.5 Intro: Welcome to the Ellevate Podcast: Conversations With Women Changing the Face of Business. And now your host, Maricella Herrera.

0:00:36.9 MH: Hey, everyone. Happy 2023. And welcome today to our episode of the Ellevate Podcast. I'm Maricella Herrera, the CEO of Ellevate and the host of this show. I'm here with Megan Oliver, who's my partner in crime. How's it going, Megan?

0:00:58.8 Megan Oliver: It's going well. It is 2023 somehow, which goodness knows how this is going to go. Let's just keep an eye on this year.

0:01:07.2 MH: It'll go well. I am cautiously optimistic, and I'm trying to stay that way. So don't shake me up.

0:01:16.1 MO: Yeah, I don't know if I believe in manifesting, but I'm going to manifest the heck out of this year being a good one.

0:01:21.8 MH: That's exactly what I'm trying to do. So yeah, the more of us manifesting, maybe it works. I don't know.

0:01:29.3 MO: Yeah, let's do it all together. So if you heard us last episode, we did a bunch of the old lightning round questions where we asked one another our answers, just so you could get to know us a little bit more at the end of a year and now the beginning of a new year. And this time, we're going to ask each other the new ones. So that while you're listening to these new questions for our amazing guests, you can have in mind what we think and get to know us a little bit better.

0:01:57.7 MH: Sounds great.

0:02:00.1 MO: Yeah, you ready to go, Maricella?

0:02:02.2 MH: I'm always ready.

0:02:04.1 MO: All right, let's go. So, question number one, if you could time travel, where is the first place you would go?

0:02:11.0 MH: It's really hard. So I guess I'm not ready. And I ask these every week. I'd like to go way back in time to see the old civilizations before America was conquered by all of the different European nations.

0:02:38.1 MO: Yeah, I get so tricky on this because there's a lot of... I think there's a lot of unsolved crimes that I would like to go back and see what actually happened.

0:02:48.1 MH: Oh, that's a good one.

0:02:49.9 MO: Yeah, there's a lot of just random. Like I'm like, I would love to see who's the Zodiac killer. I could go back. I mean, I don't really want to meet the Zodiac killer, but I think it would be super interesting. But usually what I say is I would like to... You know, bands that have been broken up forever. I'd love to see a Beatles concert. I think that'd be fun.

0:03:09.3 MH: Oh, yeah.

0:03:10.2 MO: But I think honestly, there's a bunch of unsolved mysteries that I would just pop in and be like, "Okay, what actually happened here? Who was Jack the Ripper? Like, what's going on?"

0:03:19.9 MH: Yeah, the one thing I know is I would not travel forward in time.

0:03:24.1 MO: See, I would be so curious about traveling forward because I'd be like, do we make it worse or do we get it together? But yeah, then again, I think, it would be torture.

0:03:33.3 MH: Yep.

0:03:35.1 MO: Just knowing where we're headed. I think if I had traveled forward in time in 2012 and saw the Trump administration, I don't know what I would have done.

0:03:43.0 MH: Exactly.

0:03:45.9 MO: Yeah, so all right, this next question. Anybody who doesn't know this, I'm the one that created these questions. I picked them. And this one is very important to me. Just as a person, does pineapple belong on pizza?

0:03:56.9 MH: It does.

0:03:58.2 MO: It does. Correct. Yes, it does. It's delicious.

0:04:05.4 MH: Yeah, I do believe that.

0:04:08.2 MO: I have had full on arguments with people who don't believe it belongs on pizza. And I'm like, "You are wrong. It is delicious." Would you rather explore outer space or the bottom of the ocean?

0:04:20.4 MH: Outer space.

0:04:21.4 MO: See, I'm so torn on this because the logic in me is like outer space would be cooler, it's bigger, it's whatever. But I'm like, I think I would pick the bottom of the ocean just because I want to know what's there. Because there's so much we don't know at the bottom of the ocean. And I watched a whole video on deep sea gigantism, which is all about how animals get bigger. I would love to see a giant squid, though I'm sure I would be terrified. I'm like obsessed with Titanic.

0:04:48.1 MH: That's why I choose outer space.

0:04:52.7 MO: Yeah, I'm obsessed with the Titanic. So I'm like going to the Titanic wreckage. But yeah, I think just curiosity about what is down there.

0:05:02.7 MH: Yeah.

0:05:03.0 MO: If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

0:05:09.8 MH: I wish I could fly.

0:05:14.5 MO: That's always a good one. I generally wish for telekinesis, just to be able to move stuff in the mind, if just because of laziness.

0:05:21.4 MH: Yeah, I mean, I guess not fly. Tele-transportation is really what I wish.

0:05:24.2 MO: Like teleportation?

0:05:26.8 MH: Yeah, like just blink and be wherever I'm thinking I want to be.

0:05:30.1 MO: That would be great just in terms of like housing, where you could just get super cheap housing in like Wyoming, and then just poof to see a Broadway show.

0:05:39.9 MH: Yeah. See my family without having to do all the plane, airport, random stuff. Yeah, that would be mine.

0:05:50.1 MO: Yeah, that's, yeah. I have had fantasies about rent prices because of that, which, you know, that tells you how much of an adult I am at this point. Because I think like, "Wow, I could have such cheap rent and work anywhere." But yeah, favorite mythical creature.

0:06:01.5 MH: I don't really have one. Well, the Phoenix.

0:06:05.6 MO: Phoenix is good. I think I get torn between like, I know they're classics, but like I love a unicorn, but I also...

0:06:13.6 MH: Oh, me too.

0:06:14.3 MO: I love a mermaid. I think it's mermaids. Just because I would love to be a mermaid. Not like, 'cause I just, I would love...

0:06:23.8 MH: You have an ocean theme going on.

0:06:26.5 MO: Yeah. Yeah, I think I just, it's because I'm a Pisces.

0:06:32.6 MH: And I think unicorn is more true to me in the sense that I think about them more. And I always say, I want a unicorn, but a Phoenix, well, and a dragon. Hmm. A dragon would be nice. Anyway, a Phoenix, I've actually thought about getting tattooed. So I'm going to stick with Phoenix.

0:06:51.0 MO: Oh, yeah, that's a good one then. Let's see here. If your house caught on fire, what's the first object you would run to save?

0:06:58.5 MH: My cat.

0:07:01.5 MO: That's so fair. When I wrote this question, I wasn't thinking about pets. I was thinking about objects. And then everybody that's gotten this question, they just said their pet. And I was like, "Oh, right." I don't have a personal pet. So, I mean, I would save my roommates pets, obviously. But I feel like my first thing, it's horrible, but I feel like I would grab my laptop. No, that's not true. I would, I've always had a fantasy of if the house is on fire, I would bust open my window and I would just chuck my books out. Like I would just chuck them out by the armful.

0:07:29.0 MH: Yeah, I don't know. Besides my cat, everything else is replaceable. Not really, but you know.

0:07:37.9 MO: Let's see. Most used app on your phone.

0:07:42.7 MH: WhatsApp.

0:07:46.7 MO: TikTok. I mean, it's got to be TikTok at this point. What sport would you compete in if you were in the Olympics?

0:07:56.1 MH: None. I'm not a sporty person. I guess running in some way.

0:08:00.7 MO: Yeah, I mean, but it, your dream sport, what sport would you want to compete in? It could still be running.

0:08:05.4 MH: Yeah, I'd stick with running.

0:08:06.8 MO: You're going to be an Olympic marathoner.

0:08:09.8 MH: My new coach just qualified for the Olympic trials. That's how fast she is.

0:08:15.9 MO: Oh my God. I love that. Yeah, literally, the, like you run marathons. That is an Olympic sport. Like, let's just be clear here. You're like, "I'm not sporty. I've run a marathon."

0:08:28.1 MH: Yeah, running. I'd stick with running.

0:08:30.9 MO: Yeah, I mean, I think we all know that I would love to be a gymnast.

0:08:34.3 MH: Yeah.

0:08:37.3 MO: But I would love, I would compete in anything. I adore the Olympics. I would compete in anything. I always thought it'd be fun to be an archer.

0:08:43.8 MH: Yeah, It's fun.

0:08:46.1 MO: But yeah, I would be a gymnast. Let's be real here. Yeah, what's a skill you wish you had?

0:08:52.5 MH: I wish I could sing.

0:08:57.2 MO: I wish I could draw.

0:09:00.7 MH: Yeah, that's a good one.

0:09:01.2 MO: Yeah, I've always wished I could draw. What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?

0:09:09.6 MH: Oh, that's a hard one. I've gotten a lot of really good advice just based on where I, what I do for a living. I think the best pieces of advice, and it's not like one or the other, but like it's not one specific, but it's a theme that recurs in my mind as people have given me, is find what you love. Like I've been told, find what you want to do and do it here. I've been told many ways, like find and define your own success. And I think that's been probably the most helpful for me.

0:09:46.9 MO: Yeah, I think mine wasn't given personally to me. It was in a video. But I remember John Green, who is an author, and he does a bunch of videos on YouTube. He was talking about his wife and how he really, really admires her because she figured out very early on the thing that so many of us struggle with, which is that other people really don't care about what you're doing as much as you do. Like they don't notice the little stumble you had. They don't notice the little stuff. So stop getting so worried about what other people are thinking and just focus on you and improving yourself.

0:10:23.1 MH: That's a good one.

0:10:23.2 MO: Yeah, which I always, I reflect on that a lot. So and then the final question is, of course, the what's one thought you'd want to leave with our listeners, which we did last week. So that's all of our new, brand new, fun, lightning round questions. Look forward to the end of each interview because Maricella always asks them to our guests. She doesn't always ask all of them, but she'll choose a few of them. So if you want to know how anybody in particular feels about pineapple on pizza or the most used app on their phone or what superpower they'd have, be sure to listen in.

0:10:56.3 MH: Yeah, I don't always do all of them because I usually end up spending a lot more time in the conversation. Yeah, but they are fun. I always do a few, at least five.

0:11:11.0 MO: Yeah, perfect.

0:11:13.1 MH: Well, now I'm really excited that this is the first episode of the year. I really, really am, because this conversation, not only did I feel like I, like met someone that's very like minded and believes in a lot of the same things that I do, is working towards a lot of what we are working towards at Ellevate, which is creating businesses that are inclusive, where the culture is and culture of belonging and helping people, really, helping companies actually, really understand where they are in their diversity, equity and inclusion journeys. And not letting them shy away from the rough conversations.

0:11:57.8 MH: So our guest today is Lisa Russell. She's the co-founder and CEO of Aleria. Aleria is a tech company. It shows companies how inclusion can help improve recruitment strategies, increase employee retention and satisfaction, achieve their diversity goals and really drive their business performance. Lisa and Arshiya, who is her co-founder, are incredible. We've been partnering with them for a while, and I'm really looking forward to more collaboration with them because I think there's, I think what they're doing is great. I'm a huge fan. I actually really, really highly recommend go to their site and sign up for their newsletter. They always send really, really valuable diversity, equity and inclusion information.

0:12:47.6 MO: A hundred percent. I ended up, I used to be subscribed to about a million newsletters and I finally just, it was clogging my inbox. So I unsubscribed from almost all of them. But one of the very few that I kept on was the Aleria newsletter.


0:13:00.6 MH: Yeah, it's really, really good. So I hope you enjoy it and we can go to my interview with Lisa.

0:13:11.7 MH: Hi, I'm really excited to be here today with Lisa Russell, who is the co-founder and CEO of Aleria. Hi, Lisa.

0:13:25.3 Lisa Russell: Hi. Thanks for having me.

0:13:27.5 MH: How's it going? So I'm so excited to talk to you about everything you guys are doing at Aleria, because I think the research, the thought, I do read your newsletter and the thought leadership that you guys put, put out and I think it's fantastic.

0:13:41.9 LR: Thank you for that. Yeah. We've been putting that out every Tuesday for four years now. Awesome.

0:13:46.0 MH: Yeah. And it's really, really like, it has a lot of real actual valuable resources, like thought leadership itself.

0:13:57.3 LR: Absolutely.

0:13:58.4 MH: On DEI, which is a topic I'm very, very passionate about. So I'm sure we're going to get into a lot. But I want to start as we usually start this podcast, which is how did you get here?

0:14:14.6 LR: Some days I ask myself that same question, probably in a different context. How did I get here? I think where I would start is just to point out that I consider myself a social impact entrepreneur. I genuinely believe that we can and should have more business leaders who are approaching everyday business a bit differently. No need to accept that we have this opportunity to prioritize purpose and impact while also driving profit. Right? And so that's that's pretty core to who I am. And that's in part because of a journey that I've been on from a young age. I've been on this personal mission to remove barriers for folks. And that's really what I think I'm here to do. And this is all I think if you rewind and say, what put you on this path, Lisa?

0:15:05.8 LR: It has a lot to do with the fact that a few months after I graduated high school, my mother and her husband went to prison. And almost immediately, I was able to see how society expected less from me and gave me access to less opportunity. All as a result of something that actually had nothing to do with me or at least something I had no control over in that moment. Right? And I'd say that, that moment, that experience really changed the way I see the world and put me on the path that I am on today, where we're, at Aleria working each day to understand and to highlight opportunities to remove barriers and to truly make things more equitable.

0:15:46.1 LR: Now, of course, my journey was all over the place in between that included years in finance and years in B2B SaaS, tech startups. But pulling all of that experience and all of those passions together here at Aleria, which is just an incredible thing that I'm very thankful for.

0:16:05.5 MH: I did not know that that's how that, that was what motivated you. And it is, like I can see that thread of how removing barriers would be what your purpose is.

0:16:20.7 LR: Yeah, it's very important. And it's one of those things I think that every single day we're not really thinking through that lens. And I just was in this moment where I had to. Right?

0:16:30.6 MH: Right. And I, a thousand percent agree with you on the purpose and impact and profits like businesses need to do things differently. It's not just that they should.

0:16:44.1 LR: Definitely. And they can benefit from it. So it's a silly thing...

0:16:46.3 MH: Exactly.

0:16:46.5 LR: That it's not the act of conversation.

0:16:49.0 MH: Exactly. I don't think we talk about not on, I mean, we try to convince people with the benefits and the ROI, but I don't know. I feel like it's an imperative need as of a while ago if we want to continue existing in a positive way.

0:17:11.2 LR: Yeah. And I think the conversation is heading further and further down that line. You know, I think increasingly we're seeing folks talk about like, you know, billionaires shouldn't exist and questioning the role of business leaders and whether or not, you know, they should be held accountable for more than just profit. Right? And I think that increasingly we're seeing stakeholders put that pressure on business leaders. We're seeing folks spend their money with companies that align with their values. We're seeing folks take jobs at places that are aligned with their personal values. And increasingly, we're going to see these stakeholders, whether it's customers, whether it's investors, whether it's board members, whether it's employees, hold those business leaders to more.

0:17:53.0 LR: And I'm excited about that. And it's an unfortunate path. It's unfortunate that we have to kind of pressure folks into making the right decision. But if we put them in a situation where whether they're making it because they believe in the human reason or whether they're making it because everyone else is pressuring them to do so, hopefully we start to see things trend in the right direction.

0:18:13.0 MH: Yeah, absolutely. The beginning of my career was also in finance and going back to back in the day where you would think of only you are now saying stakeholders and all of these folks that matter. But back back in the day, it was only shareholders and shareholder value. And now I do love seeing how it's changing.

0:18:40.0 LR: Definitely. I think we've always underestimated or like to hide the power that each individual employee has and the impact that they have in our ultimate success of a company. Right? And I think that increasingly those business leaders that recognize that their employees are able to make a difference, but also that their customers are able to be their biggest champions. And both of those groups, both of those parties of folks can define and secure your success as a company as well. It's not any longer just dependent on a business leader making the right strategic decisions.

0:19:13.7 MH: I love this. So tell me a little bit about Aleria and what you're doing there.

0:19:19.0 LR: Yeah. So at Aleria, we very specifically say that we're on a mission to change the way folks think about diversity and inclusion, but more importantly, what they do about it. And the way in which we're doing that, is that we're measuring inclusion in the workplace and not only measuring inclusion in the workplace, but pinpointing exactly what business leaders can do to be able to drive impact.

0:19:42.0 LR: And we're thinking about impact in terms of increasing employee satisfaction, driving inclusion, driving diversity and ultimately, as we've been talking about, driving business performance for them. And so we're just trying to make that as easy as possible so that they know that even though they're not experts in people analytics, even though they're not experts in diversity and inclusion, that they can make small decisions that have big impacts. And so we're just trying to hem them that. And it's based on the day-to-day experiences of their employees really surfacing anonymously. What's happening on a day to day basis?

0:20:17.2 LR: We think and believe that inclusion is actually the way to understand where the opportunities exist in your organization. And by driving greater inclusion, you're then able to benefit and maintain diverse teams. And so that's really how we're kind of reframing this for a lot of folks that we're working with.

0:20:36.1 MH: I, 100% agree with you here. I was at a conference this past week and they were talking, someone was talking about how companies have always focused on the diversity aspect. And that's you know, you have it backwards. If you start with diversity, then diversity for diversity sake is not bringing anything. But if you start with inclusion and actually harness that power, make psychological safe environments, make places where people feel like they belong, then you're harnessing the power of diverse teams. Then you're attracting diverse talent.

0:21:10.1 LR: Exactly. Yeah, it's funny. We've been doing this for almost five years now. And five years ago, we were out in the world kind of delivering this message and getting a lot of raised eyebrows. And I'm so excited to see additional folks kind of coming on board with this way of thinking. And I want to emphasize the fact that it's not that diversity isn't important. It's that when folks set diversity targets, they can easily gain the system. And so what we're actually seeing is that they're, okay, yeah, I'm going to walk over to an HBCU and I'm going to recruit folks onto our, my team, from there I'm going to put them into entry level positions. But then what we find is that not only are they at the lower levels of the organization, but they're not created and they're not creating jobs that have the same opportunity. They're not treating them with the same level of recognition and respect and all the things that really make that job a successful and impactful position for them.

0:22:01.7 LR: And so we really want to make sure that before we're bringing folks in the door and before we're forcing folks to be the only in an organization, we want to make sure that they're coming into an inclusive work environment and that they're able to truly thrive and enjoy their day-to-day work. And that's going to set, you know, again, both the individual and the organization up for success. And it's just so important. And I'm like I said, I'm so excited to see that increasingly we're seeing folks pay attention to the power of inclusion. There's a quote that I really love that it says diversity without inclusion is like a revolving door of talent.

0:22:36.7 MH: Wow.

0:22:36.8 LR: And I'm a very visual person. So like this has always stuck with me because I can just see like it's like if you can increase your diversity metrics as much as you like. But it's that revolving door. They're just going to go right back out the door. And that's exactly what we've seen happen time and time again.

0:22:51.0 MH: Yeah, I had not heard that quote and it's it makes so much sense. You're right. Like I can see it.

0:23:00.5 LR: Yeah, definitely.

0:23:00.9 MH: So tell me you're, so you help companies measure inclusion. So how do you do that? How do you measure something that some people might find very intangible? What are the characteristics of an inclusive workplace?

0:23:15.5 LR: Yeah, so we spent a number of years studying and really trying to understand how can we measure inclusion? And the way that we do it is through experiences of exclusion. So when we come into an organization, their employees are going to anonymously share and describe moments that made them feel excluded. We then have a patent pending framework that we leverage to categorize those experiences and to understand their potential impact across the organization. So then we are looking at eight categories of types of experiences and areas of focus for the organization. We're scoring the organization across each of those categories, and then we're surfacing where there's a difference in experience based on identity. So importantly, it's not just are you doing great at recognition? Are you doing great at compensation and benefits? Do folks have access to the resources they need?

0:24:05.0 LR: But rather, we're taking a look at are there groups in your organization that don't have the same experience? Do we see that folks who have an invisible disability aren't provided the work life balance support that they need? Are we seeing that folks who are parents and are in their 40s don't feel like they have fair compensation? Whatever it is, we can tease it apart. And the goal is to remove those gaps. And so much in line with my story, what we're trying to pay attention to is like, where are folks not being provided that same level of experience, that same level of inclusion? And we start there.

0:24:43.0 MH: And so you do this for an organizational level, but then you also have, I would assume, the data more broadly.

0:24:51.9 LR: Of course, yeah.

0:24:52.3 MH: Have you seen anything that's like surprised you?

0:24:56.7 LR: Oh, I feel like we've been in this data so long that very few things surprise me these days. But I can give you a couple of things that often land differently. The first one that I'll share is that we have time and time again seen that it's people, not policy. Meaning if we're looking at the true source of exclusion, where there's improvements to be made or who's being attributed to the experiences of exclusion that are occurring across organizations, it's not, people aren't pointing to the policy as the issue.

0:25:28.5 LR: They're saying it's people. It's day-to-day interactions. It's the behaviors. It's the folks that I'm talking to frequently that are causing me to feel excluded. And so it's always, one thing that we have to emphasize is that, we have to, it's people, not policy. And more importantly, or more, I guess. Impactful in terms of knowledge is the fact that it's almost always leadership or direct managers who are attributed to the majority of experiences of exclusion within an organization. So in order for us to really make a difference, we have to start there. We have to be able and willing to have business leaders who are often the folks who were saying, "Hey, here's what you need to work on." And it's like, "Oh, by the way, it's you. Here you go."

0:26:10.6 LR: You know, that's not uncommon. And so we're often having to prepare organizations to receive that news and to be a part of the problem, if you will, or the solution, really, if they're willing and able to get past the way that the narrative can be twisted. So people, not policy, almost always leadership and direct managers are the key source of exclusion in an organization is definitely one tidbit that I think everybody should know.

0:26:36.9 MH: Wow. So the manager part, I would, yes, because everyone asks me, like, "Where do you start or where where should, you know, what do I think is like the where you can make the most impact?" And I always think it's managers. I think that's where you can really have a direct impact into people's experiences.

0:26:56.9 LR: I agree.

0:26:57.3 MH: Because that's who they're they're hearing from. That's who are they're in their day to day.

0:27:03.3 LR: And if the manager chooses to do so, that is the person who understands the value of that person's contributions. That's the person who can be the champion for that individual in rooms where they're not sitting. That's the person who can set them up with assignments that are challenging, but are going to put them on a growth opportunity or track in the organization. There's so many small things that managers can do that change folks path and possibilities in within that organization. And I think that they just have to acknowledge and understand that the way that they're existing as a manager on a day to day basis is impacting every single person that reports to them.

0:27:43.5 MH: And it's, you know, when you're saying that, it's like there's so many things managers can do. I've heard a lot of managers and just within our community or dealing with talking, speaking in public and whatever people who say, you know, but it has to come from the top. And I agree, it has to come from the top. But also take some responsibility because you have power wherever you are, especially as a manager. You have power in your individual team. You said you have power over people's career trajectories if you so decide to support them.

0:28:19.8 LR: Yeah, I think one of the things that we'll often ask when we're running workshops or speaking to groups of employees as we're deploying our technology across their organizations, oftentimes the last thing that we'll ask them to think on is related to what you're saying. It's the fact that every single person has the opportunity to increase the sense of inclusion in an organization. So no matter your position, we want you to think what is one thing that you can do today that's going to make one person feel just a little bit more included? And I can tell you that if every single person in an organization, every single person in the entire world answered that question and just did one thing to make one person feel a little bit more included every single day, how simple, but how impactful that would be to our overall sense of inclusion across the world.

0:29:05.9 MH: Can you imagine? It's like just how, just the emotional mental health impact that would have.

0:29:14.6 LR: Yeah, it makes so much sense because you think about little things that make a difference in your day, right? Someone walking by and smiling can make such a difference in the right moment or someone just acknowledging your contributions or someone helping you be heard in a room. Small things can make such a difference. And I think sometimes we forget we have that power.

0:29:36.9 MH: Do people, how do people receive or like you're in companies and like when you're talking to them and you're like, "Oh, it's you." Have you gotten a lot of pushback or is it, you know, like, "Oh, okay."

0:29:49.4 LR: It's a fair question. Yeah, I think what we've had to learn as an organization is how to get ahead of those expectations before delivering insights and results. So we've quite, you know, I would say let's start here. The very first time that we ever tested this framework in this way of measuring inclusion in the workplace, we did it in partnership with 13 companies. And I'm going to just, you know, not mention who they are. We collected experiences of exclusion in this initial project from a lot of women.

0:30:26.2 LR: And we're trying to understand why this industry was struggling to retain women, particularly after, you know, in the 30s and later. And by the end of it, we had so much clarity and we were able to kind of both weigh the fact that there were assumptions as to why that was and the fact that they were not the right answer. And the fact that the answer was actually very clear. And we were so excited with those insights and the potential impact that we were going to be able to drive. And I can tell you this was a few years ago now, almost four and a half years ago.

0:31:01.9 LR: The four of those organizations did not want to see those results in writing once they realized how detailed they were going to be. They were terrified.

0:31:08.9 MH: Wow.

0:31:09.4 LR: And so it was defeating because I was like, I can literally show you what to do. Please just take this information. And they were like, "Nope, that's too risky. We now see what you're going to be able to tell us. And we... " you know, not said, but like, you know, the kind of like underlining of this occurrence was the fact that, like, they were scared about like discrimination lawsuits. Right? Things like this. Because if they didn't act on that information, they couldn't say that they didn't know. Right? And I think what's comforting and what's exciting for me is that since that time period, you know, in the last few years, we've seen an increased expectation of transparency across our businesses, across society. It's no longer okay for a business leader just to pretend they didn't know something or for them to just use the excuse of like, I didn't know this.

0:32:03.0 LR: Right now, we have because of the increasing stakeholder pressure that we're talking about, folks holding those business leaders accountable for figuring it out, for understanding, for being able to talk about diversity, inclusion, employee satisfaction, the experience of their employees, these types of things. And so I'm excited to see that shift. Now, all of that's really important because when we're talking about like, how does that land when we're coming into a room and we're saying, "Hey, heads up, it looks like we really need to focus on leadership or we need to really need to focus on direct managers in your organization."

0:32:35.3 LR: We've now built into our deployment. So when we're onboarding new organizations, the second step in our onboarding phase is a leadership workshop, meaning we have created the opportunity to spend an hour with their "leaders" and that looks different. That group looks different in every organization. And that opportunity has really been a kind of a win-win. You know, it's free training for them. We're giving them the language they need to be able to champion the work that we're doing. We're helping them understand why we're measuring inclusion. We're helping them understand what to expect. And we're getting ahead of those expectations. So we start to show them how the data is going to look. We start to show them examples where in other organizations we've had to flag the opportunity to drive greater inclusion through leadership.

0:33:21.2 LR: So we start to just set those expectations early in our process so that two, three months later, when we're having a conversation around, like, what do you all need to do and how are you going to do it? And how are you going to measure the success? It's not as much of a surprise. It's not so much to unload and so much to process in that moment. And, you know, if anything, we want to just avoid triggering the defensiveness. Right? We want to avoid that. That like shutting down because they're part of the problem and make them really feel like they have an opportunity to make a difference. And so that's, you know, in our experience, just a lot of context and kind of just like warming them up to what to expect.

0:33:57.8 MH: It's kind of bringing them along through the whole process and almost like incepting the idea of you're going to have to take a hard look at yourself.

0:34:07.7 LR: Yeah, exactly. And they have to be on board to do that, because if not much like their companies we were talking about early in that narrative is like they're just going to hide the results and they're not going to share it with their employees. And then that's going to backfire because the employees are going to say, "Hey, I've already talked about this. I've already shared the fact that I'm having this horrible experience and nothing has happened." And then they're going to feel like, "Okay, not only is this happening, but nobody cared." And that's worse. And so, we were really careful about coming into organizations and giving them this information if they're not going to act on it.

0:34:39.1 MH: And so you said it's people, not policies. So when you say that, it makes absolute sense to me. However, people are so much harder to change than policies.

0:34:50.3 LR: Yes, they are. Yes. But we have to be able and willing to acknowledge that we're part of the problem and that's actually what needs to change. Right? And I think that oftentimes the way to it, you know, it's like we're not going to be able to change individuals and who they are. But what we have to do is be able to acknowledge when and where we're a part of a problem and develop processes and systems to work around that. Right? It's, you know, it's more about like you can still solve the people problem with a solution and with a process, with a change in the way that we do things, you know, to help us avoid those biases, to help us avoid those instincts that we all have as humans.

0:35:36.0 MH: Yeah, because at the end of the day, it's not like the person, it's the behavior. So if you can make the policies and the processes and all the other things drive the behavior that you want, then you are addressing the people problem. This is a trend.

0:35:51.6 LR: It's a step. Yeah, for sure. And, it's nuanced, right? Because depending on the challenge, it's like yes and no. But I think the reality is we have to be able to acknowledge what we can and can't change or what's going to take a lot longer. Right. And so certainly we're trying to prioritize things that are going to lead to impact and things that we feel are possible. Right? It's one thing to flag a problem, it's a different thing to flag an opportunity. And so we do in our case, whatever we can to highlight recommendations that are informed by what's happening on a day to day basis, but also informed by the fact that we have a good sense of what can change and what the potential ripple effects can be across the organization.

0:36:36.9 MH: And I believe it's going to be different for every company. But have you seen something that you're like this besides, I mean, managers, but something like is it recognition? Is it something else that's the most impactful, like the word you were using in general?

0:36:52.4 LR: Definitely. Yeah. So I think a couple of things that have come up and it's it's been interesting to have this data and to see it evolve throughout the pandemic and the shifts in how folks are working over the last couple of years. And I say that because we're seeing that as folks were working from home more often or folks were shifting to hybrid work or not just being able to work in the same ways in terms of getting that, like casual hello in the hallway situation that most a lot of folks were used to if they work in an office. What we saw is that recognition really was a theme that was surfacing across every single organization and industry that we work in.

0:37:34.7 LR: And it was very clear that employees were not feeling as valued and that employees weren't feeling as if they had as much clarity around how they align with the ultimate mission of the organization. And they weren't feeling as if they understood how they could grow within an organization as clearly. And I think that's all connected, because if you are able to build a in-person relationship with, let's say, your manager, you're able to kind of get a sense of like gauge what's happening in casual, quick conversations and kind of allow those to collect up and build that confidence, that reassurance, that sense of value, that acknowledgment.

0:38:15.0 LR: If you are working from home, the only way you get that same level of recognition and clarity is if your manager and you set time to do that, which can be uncomfortable, particularly if it's not already a system that's in place for your organization and is a requirement. And so increasingly, we found that we were coming into organizations with that exactly. We're saying, "Hey, big opportunity here. We need to create a system of recognition. We need to empower direct managers or encourage them to create systems that allow for feedback, but positive feedback." And increasingly, we were doing things like reverse mentors programs and things like this to help kind of open up access and kind of challenge assumptions around what folks are doing and where they want to be in the organization.

0:39:02.7 MH: It seems like from what you're saying, people had to be much more intentional about all these things that were a little bit more casual almost robust.

0:39:12.5 LR: Exactly. Exactly.

0:39:15.1 MH: So a lot of this. So I've been going down this epiphany of is all of this or a lot of these quite quitting or the narrative of women are not ambitious because we're kind of over the bad workplaces or bad cultures. Is it a crisis of trust? And as you're saying, if people aren't being recognized, if people don't know that they're going to be promoted or keep being supported, how do you trust a company? How do you trust your managers if you don't have that relationship?

0:39:50.2 LR: Oh, man. Trust is such a complex topic.

0:39:54.2 MH: I know. I'm just I would just bring it up because this is what I've been... This has been in my mind for the last month. I've been toying around with the whole are we in a crisis of trust idea?

0:40:04.0 LR: I love that. Yeah, I think, I find myself kind of spinning in similar topics recently. I hadn't quite thought of it as trust, but I've been thinking a lot about like, " Lisa, can you overcome the systems that are in place?" Right? "Like, can you drive the change you intend to given the context in which you're working?" But also, like, "Do you know when to quit?" You know, it's like I've been, you know, similarly just like asking these questions. I am, you know, just from the bit, you know, about my story, it's like I am a very tenacious person. I do not quit easily. I am determined. I will prove you wrong about me in any moment. And in the, in trying to drive change in corporate America, sometimes I'm like, "Is this even possible? What am I doing?"

0:40:49.5 MH: Yes. I feel that way. Every other day.

0:40:53.9 LR: Definitely. And so I and I think trust is an important element. But I think that we set ourselves up for the wrong expectations sometimes because we have, we're coming after a generation where folks did have the possibility or the option or the opportunity sometimes to have a job for their whole life and to have that organization invest in their growth. And then just the same for you to invest in your growth in that organization and for it to be like a partnership. And I don't think that's the case anymore. The reality is that everything is measured. Everything is a number when it comes to business. And and so we have lost a lot of that trust, to your point, but a lot of that like commitment to each other. And so we have to just come to terms with like businesses are, unfortunately in business and doing whatever they can to optimize for profit. Back to our conversation earlier. And so we can't expect that same level of commitment. We can't expect to have folks making decisions that are on our own or that will serve us best as individuals.

0:42:09.3 LR: And it's unfortunate. Of course, you want to build that relationship with your managers, you want to build that relationship so that folks see your value. But oftentimes when things don't go the way we want them to, it actually has nothing to do with us. It has to do with a number somewhere. It has to do with like a dashboard or like a board saying, "Hey, cut your expenses." And it really it's unfortunate, but like that's the way things are unfolding. And so if in at all possible, I think that people have to reclaim both how they value themselves and make sure that it's not dependent on their their job, but also what's possible for them in terms of their big picture career and not being tied to one organization for that path. And so I think we're getting better about that. But it's just the reality. And we can't expect it's, trust is certainly a piece of it. But the reality is it's just different motivations on each side these days.

0:43:05.9 MH: It's so hard, though, 'cause it's, when I think about these things, I'm like it's kind of disheartening in a way. I know it's just like I know that, I understand that, I'm a business person. I know these things. But at the same time, I'm like, but we're all humans and businesses are a collection of humans. And can we be just nicer to each other? I don't know. I think a lot of it is too because of working in a smaller business and the difference between, I left my big big corporate days a long time ago. And I understand the difference between both.

0:43:46.7 LR: There's one thing that we say a lot and I think it's related. We say inclusion is invisible, particularly to those who enjoy it the most. And what I mean by this is the fact that oftentimes if you are a business leader at the top, if you are a fully abled white heterosexual male who is an executive in an organization, odds are you aren't going to know what it feels like to be excluded within that organization on a day to day basis, because everything around you, the system, the people, the processes were designed to be inclusive of and for you. And so, in our narrative, we're often pointing out the fact that this is why business leaders should not be making decisions around where to prioritize efforts without understanding their employees' day to day experiences.

0:44:39.3 LR: But I think in this narrative, the reason it's important is that oftentimes those business leaders are not able to actually see the impact of their decisions. And that's not to give them an excuse. It's meant to say they have to work even harder to really understand what that ripple effect is. And so we have to encourage them to do that and to like explore that and to not be thinking about things through their own lens. And that's a good business leader is making decisions in a more informed way and not just through their own perspective. But we need more and more of those.

0:45:16.8 MH: Bring more people to the table so you actually understand.

0:45:21.2 LR: Yeah, that's right.

0:45:22.9 MH: Thank you so much, Lisa. This has been great. This has been lots of fun. Anything that we didn't cover that you want us to cover?

0:45:30.8 LR: Not anything specifically, I think that, we are out in the world measuring inclusion in the workplace, and so certainly folks have questions around that. I'm happy to chat.

0:45:42.2 MH: Honestly, this has been great for me. Like I said, those are things I've been thinking about a lot. So it's just been really nice to chat. Thank you.

0:45:49.2 LR: Yeah, likewise.

0:45:50.6 MH: Megan would kill me if I don't do the lightning round. So we always end up the podcast with a short little lightning round so you can answer in a sentence or less.

0:46:02.3 LR: Okay, let's do it.

0:46:03.8 MH: Okay. Top self care practice.

0:46:08.7 LR: Getting outside. I like to hike. Surrounding myself by trees is really kind of my default.

0:46:13.6 MH: I like it. I like it. Dream dinner guest.

0:46:19.0 LR: Right now, I would say Heather, who is one of my younger sisters. She spent her life kind of overcoming mental health challenges and struggles with addiction. I haven't seen her in over five years, and I would love to sit with her for dinner.

0:46:34.4 MH: Pet peeve.

0:46:36.2 LR: Folks no showing or canceling meetings last minute.

0:46:40.4 MH: I get that. Favorite recent read.

0:46:45.3 LR: Patriarchy Blues: Reflections on Manhood by Frederick Joseph. It's an incredible book.

0:46:50.7 MH: I'm going to write that one down. I am writing that down. Sorry. You blues. Okay. And finally, what's one question or thought you'd want to leave with our listeners?

0:47:04.7 LR: Let's go with the question I asked earlier. I would just encourage every single person to think about what is one thing that you can do that's going to make one person feel just a little bit more included that day? And just I would encourage folks to answer that question daily, if they're up for the challenge.


0:47:21.3 MH: I love it. Thank you so much.

0:47:23.3 LR: Yeah. Thank you so much. This has been great.

0:47:30.0 MH: And we're back. I really like Lisa. It reminds me I have this, email her and Arshiya.

0:47:38.3 MO: Yeah.

0:47:39.4 MH: So we are still on winter break this week for our round tables. It's just the beginning of the year. So give us a sec. However, I do want to make a little bit of a plug here because we have really great stuff coming at you from Ellevate this year. So you're going to hear it here first, because the press release hasn't come out yet. But you can hear it here first. We are expanding and launching seven community circles. So these are spaces for people with similar life experiences to come together. So one is a Community Circle for Black Women, one is for Latina, one is for the LGBTQ plus community. We'll have one for Asian Pacific Islanders, working moms, remote professionals and professionals over 40. I think I got them all. But if not, go check out our site. These, we've been doing some of these for a while, especially the one for black women, LGBTQ plus and the Latino one.

0:48:44.6 MH: But they are so incredible spaces where people can show up as themselves. And Megan, you've led the LGBTQ one for a little bit...

0:48:57.0 MO: Yeah, since it started.

0:48:58.9 MH: Yeah. So it's great. And I'm very excited. I'm very proud of Ellevate for doing this. We have a very large community and we believe in the power of diversity and intersectionality. And these spaces are needed.

0:49:16.6 MO: Yes.

0:49:17.3 MH: I hope if you identify with any of these that you can come and join us.

0:49:22.3 MO: Yeah. And if you identify as any of these as well as if you identify as many of them, don't feel like you need to pigeonhole yourself into one. I'm sure there are plenty of us out there that identify as many and feel free to come to as many as you want.

0:49:37.5 MH: 100% agree. So that's one, that's very exciting and I'm very excited about. So you'll hear about it more and we'll continue to to share the dates and what's going on with our community circles. Definitely go and check out the website That's Ellevate with two L's. So you can check out the dates and join one of them. They're all virtual, so you don't need to, you can do it from your own home. The other one is that our squads program, which is our peer group mentoring program. We do it twice a year and applications for our spring cohort will open in a few, in a couple of weeks. So they'll open January 15th. So mark your calendar so you can apply for your squad.

0:50:26.0 MO: Definitely mark your calendars, especially as we go into 2023. If you want that support system to help lift you up and make 2023 the year you want it to be. I can't recommend squads enough. I've gone through two squads. They're amazing. I'm still in contact with both of my squads. They're just fabulous groups of women.

0:50:46.9 MH: That's great.

0:50:47.5 MO: And of course, we would be remiss if we didn't mention our history maker segment. Maricella, do you want to kick it off today?

0:50:52.7 MH: Sure. Karen Bass became the first woman mayor of Los Angeles.

0:50:58.9 MO: Yes, she did. Julianne Sitch became the first woman head coach in college sports history to win a national men's soccer champion.

0:51:06.9 MH: Wow. Amber Cowan became the first woman executive officer of a submarine. That's crazy.

0:51:15.0 MO: It is crazy. And we've been talking about deep sea diving so much with going under the sea. She actually, is doing it. Younghee Lee became Samsung Electronics first woman president.

0:51:26.1 MH: Oh, finally.

0:51:28.4 MO: Yeah.

0:51:28.6 MH: Christine Carr became the first woman certified as a bomb squad technician for the Boston Police Department.

0:51:36.1 MO: That is gutsy.

0:51:38.6 MH: Very.

0:51:38.8 MO: Yeah. And then we actually have just like last time, we have a bunch of group firsts at the end. There was a whole piece that I read about the Navajo Nation Council and how they elected a bunch of firsts. So Richelle Montoya became the first female vice president of the Navajo Nation. Crystalyne Curley became the first female delegate elected to represent the communities of Táchii and Blue Gap, Many Farms, Nazlini, Tsélání and Cottonwood and Low Mountain. And finally, Shawna Claw became the first female delegate from the Chinle Chapter.

0:52:15.2 MH: That's really cool.

0:52:15.3 MO: Yeah.

0:52:18.1 MH: Well, thank you all. Let's continue to celebrate history and let's make sure that 2023 is a year where we all make history in one way or another. As little or as big as it is, we can make history in our own paths and in our own life. And we'll be here to celebrate with you.

0:52:38.0 MO: Yeah. And speaking of making history and moving forward, who do we have next week, Maricella?

0:52:44.5 MH: We have Amy Borsetti. She's a human behavior expert and thought leader in the future of work. Over the past 15 years, she's worked with hundreds of organizations to really think of how they leverage both people and technology to really do more. She's the head of revenue and the GM of the Americas for Asana. So I'm very excited about this conversation. There's a lot more to her bio and there's a lot more to how cool she is. She's a huge LGBTQIA plus supporter and part of the community and has really done a lot both inside her company and externally to bring awareness to that. So very excited to chat with Amy.

0:53:31.6 MO: Yeah, I cannot wait to hear it. And we will see you next week.

0:53:34.5 MH: See you next week.


0:53:40.8 MH: Join an exceptional peer group to sharpen your leadership skills and advance your career. Harvard Business School Executive Education now offers in-person and virtual programs. Learn more at That's


0:54:01.7 Outro: Thanks so much for listening to Ellevate. If you like what you hear, help a girl out. Subscribe to the Ellevate podcast on iTunes. Give us five stars and share your review. Also, don't forget to follow us on Twitter @EllevateNtwk, that's Ellevate Network and become a member. You can learn all about membership and all the great things that Ellevate Network is doing at our website, That's E-L-L-E-V-A-T-E And special thanks to our producer, Katharine Heller. She rocks, and to our voiceover artist, Rachel Griesinger. Thanks so much and join us next week.