Embracing the Power of Diversity with Lauren Leader-Chivée
Episode 30: Embracing the Power of Diversity with Lauren Leader-Chivée
Lauren Leader-Chivée does not have a political background, but she has dedicated her career to closing the most critical personal, professional and political gender gaps for women. She founded All In Together to help inspire more women to get engaged in the political process. In this episode, Lauren shares information about her book, Crossing The Thinnest Line, the similar reasons behind the gender gap in business and in politics, why it’s important to increase the participation of women in politics, why diversity matters and how we can help embrace diversity by acknowledging our differences.
00:13 Kristy Wallace: Hello and welcome to the Ellevate Podcast. You're gonna hear my fantastic voice today because I've got a cold, the first of the season. Hello, Maricella. I think I got it from you.
00:24 Maricella Herrera: Wait. You weren't sick when all of us were sick?
00:27 KW: No. I think I'd been out of the office, so I got the residual germs that had been clinging to everything.
00:32 MH: Outside of the office. Yeah, that's where all the "Chapter travel" comes in, doesn't it?
00:36 KW: Yeah.
00:37 MH: Everyone's sick, let me get out of here.
00:39 KW: Yeah. Yeah. I've been busy. I've been visiting Toronto. I've been to Boston, to Philly, and that's it, right? So far? Recently?
00:52 MH: I think so.
00:53 KW: But lots of recent travels, so if you...
00:55 MH: That's a lot.
00:56 KW: If you're listening and you don't know already, Ellevate has chapters throughout the world, some fantastic chapters, and shout out to our chapter leaders who are women so committed to helping other women get ahead in business. So check it out. And I've been visiting many of our chapters. We just launched chapters in the Twin Cities, I was drinking from my Twin Cities mug this weekend. And we also are about to launch Orange County.
01:21 MH: Yeah. I'm actually going down there in a couple of weeks, so very exciting.
01:25 KW: Yay for travel. Well, especially for you cause you're not from... Originally, from the United States, so you... Travel's even extra fun, right?
01:36 MH: Yeah. I need to travel around the States more, honestly. I've never been to California... Actually, I don't think I've been to the West Coast, no I lie, I went to Seattle.
01:47 KW: Well, enjoy. And we can't wait to hear all about it on one of our future podcasts, all your experiences. Well, today actually it's good we started talking about the US, because today that is a big aspect of this podcast. We interviewed, or I interviewed, Lauren Leader-Chivee, who is an author, co-founder, CEO, of All In Together, and she's also an independent senior advisor for Deloitte. So, Lauren is very much into the elections, into politics, and to getting more women into politics, and into elected positions. Incredibly fascinating woman, I really... This was... I say this every time, but I really think that this was one of my favorite podcasts because I learned a lot, and I left inspired. And I am voting, I hope everyone listening is planning to vote as a very important election coming up. And I know we have some good stats on the election, right?
02:46 MH: Yes, we do. We have asked our members which issue do they think that will be the deciding factor in the upcoming elections. 47% of them say the economy and/or fiscal policy will be the deciding factor, which is not surprising. 28% say national security. Race relations were 11%. Immigration policy 5%. Family leave 3%, and foreign trade relations 2%. So mostly it's around the economy and national security.
03:18 KW: Which have been big topics at the debate as well. I actually had Benjamin, who I've talked about on the podcast before, my little seven year old. He stayed up for some of the debates at least the beginning part and did not find economic stimulus all that interesting, surprisingly. Yeah.
03:38 MH: I love Benjamin. He's so cute. I'm really glad though that you're having him engage in this and be part of it.
03:47 KW: So do we have any other stats or information to share?
03:50 MH: So this is an interesting one. We actually asked this one in September, and the question was, "Are you concerned about the potential outcome of the presidential elections?" 60% said they were very concerned. 20% said they are freaking out, and 12% said they weren't concerned. So, the majority was concerned, there was only just 2% that said not at all, and 6% that were just somewhat little bit.
04:15 KW: So, what category are you in?
04:17 MH: I'm concerned, I would say less so than a few months ago, probably. But for me, it's like I don't have a voice or a choice, so whatever goes, goes, I guess. But it is, for my prospective, immigration policy probably one of the things I'm looking out for.
04:36 KW: Sure. Fair enough. All right. So let's get to our interview with Lauren. And also in this, and keep an ear out for it cause it's important. She talks a lot about what we as women can do to have more of a voice in policy and politics and a role within that space. So, important, very valuable information. Please listen up and thanks for joining us today.
05:01 MH: One more thing, if you are in New York City, Lauren is gonna be part of our event on November 15th, where we... The elections have passed, and we will be discussing what's next after the election for women in business. Check it out on our website.
05:15 KW: Ellevatenetwork.com.
05:33 KW: Welcome. We're so happy to have you.
05:34 Lauren Leader-Chivee: Thanks. I'm happy to be here.
05:35 KW: Really excited to hear about your background. Love the work you're doing.
05:38 LL: Thank you.
05:39 KW: Your new book, Crossing the Thinnest Line. And also, we're gonna talk about the elections and politics, so stay tuned because there's some really exciting things that are coming up in this conversation. But first Lauren, I wanted to start off with just some information about you. Could you share a little bit about your career, your background...
06:00 LL: Sure.
06:00 KW: How you got to where you are today.
06:01 LL: Yeah. So let's see. Well I grew up in Washington DC and it is relevant, I write a lot about it in the book. And it's relevant because it was a very unique place to grow up, because it was incredibly diverse. So, thinking about engaging with diversity has been part of my life story from the beginning. It's also a very political town as you can imagine. Growing up in Washington, it's sorta the only game in town, and so, if you grow up in a city like Washington, you really get politics in the blood. Whether or not your parents are in politics it's just part of everyday life and part of how you think about... One of my earliest memories is of the election of Ronald Reagan, because on January 21st 1981 our entire block became unemployed, because Washington was and still is very segregated by political party. All the Democrats live in one neighborhood and the Republicans live in another, and they do not mix.
06:54 KW: I did not know this, this is very interesting.
06:54 LL: So when Reagan was elected... They do not mix. We had one Republican on our block, and when he moved on to the street, it a huge scandal. He drove a BMW and not a Volvo or a VW, and that was deeply offensive to the all the ex-Peace Corps people on my block. But anyway, I digress. So it was in my blood. I came to New York to go to college, I went to Barnard, and worked on Wall Street to pay my way, and discovered that I loved it, even though I had no idea if it was anything interesting to me at all. I got a great job in HR answering phones, because as a Ivy League grad that's what I was qualified to do and worked my way up. For many years I worked in HR and consulting. Then in 2009, when the financial crisis hit, well two things had happened. One was that as I had been working in HR and I had worked for a couple of start-up companies, I started to get really frustrated because I was often asked to write the maternity leave policy for these companies, and here's what would happen. They would mention the secretary who had recently had a baby and had been given two weeks of paid leave, and then there was the sales person who was really valuable, and so she would get six weeks. They didn't see anything wrong with this, and it made me crazy.
08:12 LL: So after I've duked it out with my bosses and fought for a decent maternity leave policy for everyone, I picked up the phone and called the mother of one of my Washington DC classmates, someone called Judy Lichtman, who had actually written the Family Medical Leave Act and runs something called the National Partnership for Women and Families, which to this day is still working to try to expand the FMLA, cause we are the only county in the world that does not have paid leave, as Ellevate listeners well know. So anyway, I started lobbying and doing that part-time and working on women's issues. So in 2009, when I lost my job in the financial crisis along with many other highly qualified New Yorkers, I decided to work on women's issues full-time. So I went to work at a place called the Center for Talent Innovation, and I spent almost five years there consulting to major Fortune 500 companies on diversity and leadership issues, and helping lead a lot of the research and eventually became president. Then in 2013 something happened, which was that it became clear to me after many years of working on women's issues and countless hours in women's network events and working with corporations, that I felt the conversation around women's leadership was getting narrower and narrower.
09:36 LL: And after Lean In, so much of the conversation everywhere I went was: Get on a board, lean in, become CEO. And all of that is incredibly important, but when I looked around at what was happening for women nationally, it became clear to me that we have a bunch of different areas of American life where we need more women in leadership and politics was one of them. And it was frustrating to me that in a year where we knew we were likely gonna have a woman running for president, but that at a time where we had made so much progress in terms of women in business, that the numbers of women in Congress really hadn't changed, it stalled at 20%. We were at the time ranked 54th in the world for the gender participation... The participation of women in our political process. By the way that number is now 74th, so we're really going in the right direction, let me tell you, we've dropped from 20 points.
10:26 KW: As I cry in the corner right now.
10:27 LL: As you cry in the corner. So we are now 74th in the world ladies for the political representation of women in the United States, and we are the democratic example to the world. By the way, ahead of us on the list are Rwanda, Tunisia and Afghanistan, because by the way when Afghanistan embraced democracy, the United States insisted that they have gender representation in their parliament, something we have not insisted on in our own country. So they are now ahead of us on the list, we digress. The point is that I decided this was something I needed to do and work on, and I founded All in Together in the beginning of 2015 to help inspire more women to get engaged in the political process.
11:07 KW: So there is so much that you just said that I totally wanna pick apart and I wanna learn more. I want you to be my best friend right now...
11:15 LL: Done.
11:15 KW: Please. But one thing that I have to ask quickly given your work on maternity leave policy, and we hear this actually quite a bit from the women in the network, who are either working at a company that doesn't offer paid leave, and they wanna know what they should ask for. Do you have any tips, advice for what's a strong policy, what's the best practice, where to go for information?
11:40 LL: I'm so glad you asked. There's a couple of things. First of all, we tend to default to thinking about what companies should do, and that is important. And I think there is a growing movement across the country, that among companies who wanna be competitive and attract women to become really generous about this, and you've seen companies particularly at, let's call it the higher end of the business scale, places like KKR and other firms that have the resources are going above and beyond and offering these unbelievably generous policies. And of course, in the tech sector, we've seen this amazing outpouring of unbelievable benefits that most of us would just dream of.
12:18 LL: The issue is though, that on a national level... Yes, I know you have women in your network who need better benefits and whose companies probably aren't doing the right thing. However, on balance, it is the college educated working professionals in this country who are doing best in this conversation. It is women who are in hourly employment or who work at the lower end of the socio-economic scale who are most at risk. The issue is, and I think most women in business don't realize this, but for years and years and years, all of the major business organizations have aggressively lobbied against any federal mandate for paid leave. Okay. So the reason why, even though in every single Congress for the last 25 years, there has been a bill introduced to expand FMLA to include some paid leave, and there are a bunch of different proposals out there around it.
13:15 LL: One that Senator Gillibrand has been working very hard on recently, is essentially a very minimal payroll tax that works a lot like the state unemployment insurance currently does, but expands it so you are actually guaranteed your salary instead of just some pennies on the dollar the way the state insurance funds would. And it's paid for. But you have to understand, the Society for Human Resources Management, the Chamber of Commerce across the united states, all of these organizations, every business association has aggressively lobbied against these bills.
13:47 LL: So, while American women in big companies overwhelmingly support this, and when you ask senior executives, of course, they support it, the political messages that are coming through is that businesses oppose this, which is actually not correct. Most big businesses are actually going above and beyond the mandate, but they haven't gotten involved. So there's two pieces of this. One is, I do think that women need to organize themselves through their women's networks to push companies to offer, at the very least, the paid FMLA period, which is 12 weeks. I think that is a reasonable benchmark.
14:22 LL: But we also can't leave out the political piece of this, which is that there are some bills in a number of states around the country that are beginning to make progress, in New York and some other places. But until there is a federal mandate of some kind or at least that more states don't pass paid leave, the reality is, we leave thousands and thousands of incredibly vulnerable women behind. So it's an issue for professional women. But think about, if it's hard for you as someone who makes 40 or 60 or $80,000 a year, imagine if you're somebody who's on minimum wage. This is one of the reasons why 70% of Americans in poverty are women and children. 70%.
15:08 KW: How do we have an impact?
15:10 LL: So one of the reasons that I founded All in Together is because I do think that increasingly, working women are frustrated, and I think we are at a zeitgeist moment. Lean In sold four million copies. How many women are in the Ellevate network? All over the country we've got this incredibly fired group of ladies who are seeing the limits of our progress and asking why we can't do better. But we have really left out of that conversation one of the most critical pieces of the equation, which is the civic and political. So women out-volunteer men. Even working women with big childcare or elder care responsibilities, they still make time to volunteer in their communities, in their churches, in their schools, so we're incredibly civic-minded. But what we don't do is see political and civic engagement as a tool to making the country better. So we disproportionately volunteer for community organizations, but we are under volunteering or under engaged on the political front.
16:13 LL: Now, we vote and this is one thing that I think has been dramatically under appreciated in this election cycle as it has in basically all of them, because the reason fundamentally that Mitt Romney lost, the reason fundamentally that John McCain lost is because of the female vote. The reason why George W. Bush won was because of the female vote. Women turn elections, we've turned every election since 1980. We are more likely to be registered to vote, and we are more likely to actually show up at the polls and do our civic duty. So good on us, girls. But the problem is, is that once we elect people, and we elect them, we are the ones who elect them, we totally let them off the hook. So on all the other measures of civic engagement, whether that's advocacy on policy, whether that's going to town hall meetings when our congressmen are in the district, and they are largely men, whether that's political giving, although that one has changed a little bit in this cycle, which is a really positive sign. About 65% of the political contributions in this cycle came from women. That's up from 45% in 2012, so that's progress.
17:12 LL: But for the most part, women are not pulling those levers. And just as one example, every year the United States Congress receives two million fewer letters from women than men. So just as an example, there are issues like FMLA or like maternity leave that women of both political parties, both Republican and Democratic women actually support, and there's poll after poll that shows this, but we're not affecting change cause we're not using our power politically. And that's not even beginning to scratch the surface of the issue of women not running for office either. And we're not even talking about that really. So we talk to women about encouraging them to embrace their ambition and become CEOs and aspire to be on a board or an executive leadership. But we're not even talking about running for office. And in a year like this, where it's been probably the ugliest political cycle in our lifetimes, certainly not a time that I think lots of women are looking around and saying, "I wanna do that." [chuckle] I mean I am, but...
18:11 KW: [chuckle] Sorry. So true.
18:14 LL: Doesn't look fun, that's for sure. But the reality is, like anything, if we wanna change the game, we gotta play the game. And until more women participate and step up and insist that we... Our views are as diverse as they are, and we do not all agree, and I think that's incredibly important to remember, we are as diverse as the nation, and so we don't agree on every issue, but fundamentally, just on a basic level, our perspectives are not being represented.
18:38 KW: So let me ask, and there's been a lot of... There's a lot of opinions as to the lack of women in senior leadership in business, right? It's sponsorship, it's mentorship, it's breaking the glass ceiling, getting on boards, I mean there's many...
18:54 LL: All of the above.
18:54 KW: Yes, all of the above. What are the barriers for women getting into politics?
19:00 LL: They're the same ones. And that's what's so fascinating about it to me, because... So I don't have a political background. Aside from the fact that I grew up in Washington DC, that's like my only bonafides. I never worked in politics. I didn't work for... Never interned on the Hill. I didn't know anything about it, except that I'm kind of a news junkie. But I looked around and I thought, well, if I don't know enough about how this works, and I'm a reasonably well-educated, somewhat well-informed person, I was willing to bet that lot of other people didn't know either. And so, part of what we're trying to do with All In Together is to make it accessible and to train and give people tools to get involved. But the thing about the running for office really amazed me, because I was so amazed that so many of the same challenges that we face in the workplace are the ones that we face in the political process.
19:43 LL: So, there's not a ton... Women don't get asked a lot. So when people in state parties are looking around for candidates to run, they're not always thinking about the women. Women are not always asking either, so they don't necessarily have that ambition. And the interesting thing is that women are entering college with political ambition, so male and female political ambition is actually reasonably equal until our 20s. And then in college something's happening where women are losing interest, and we have some theories about what's going on with college Democrats and college Republicans, that those even become really male dominated and the girls get pushed out, where it's just socially discouraged.
20:23 LL: Oh, and then by the way, the other thing that happens in politics which your listeners will love, cause it's exactly what happens in business. Guess what women overwhelmingly say when they're asked about running? They think they're not qualified. [chuckle] Sound familiar? Right. "I don't know enough about the issues. But I've never run before. But how would I possibly do this? I'm not sure I'm capable." There's all this... There's definitely a confidence gap. By the way, men are unencumbered by that lack of experience or understanding.
20:50 KW: What would qualify you for political office? Interest and passion?
20:54 LL: Right. Right. When you look at who's in office today, this is super interesting. The majority of the men in Congress today have private sector business experience. They actually worked in business earlier in their career, and then what happens? They become powerful and successful. And what do they want? More power and more success. So, they'd go and they run for Congress cause what else would you do? Right? You've already been master of the business universe, what's next? I'm gonna go conquer politics.
21:19 LL: Women in office are overwhelmingly either career political people, or they were lawyers. You can look at like a Kirsten Gillibrand who I mentioned earlier, she was a lawyer. And a lot of the women in Congress, that's true, they either came up through a municipal offices and then... Or were lawyers. So we don't have a good pipeline of women from business who become successful in business and then decide to go into public service, it's not a connection that they make. And I really wanna see more women do that cause I think anyway, we need more business experience in Washington, that would, I think, help everyone. But why shouldn't more women expand their leadership...
21:57 KW: Well, even when we've had women from business who have run for political office, their business record really beaten up by that.
22:03 LL: You might be thinking of some women from California?
22:06 KW: Maybe.
22:07 LL: Yeah. Look, it is not easy. I mean there's no...
22:11 KW: But do you think that's just proportionate? Like the most recent political landscape, particularly in the primaries, the business success or downfalls and leadership style of... Why am I blanking on her name?
22:25 LL: Carly Fiorina.
22:26 KW: Carly was really picked apart. It was one of the biggest aspects that her opponents used against her, whereas the men, their business records which weren't equally [22:38] ____.
22:38 LL: So, are you trying to say there's a double standard?
22:39 KW: Oh, yes.
22:40 LL: There might be a slight double standard. Of course, there's a double standard. But look, here's the thing. A few things that I feel like are important to say. So not every public office is Congress or running for president, there are something like 90,000 school board seats across the United States, 90,000. There are tens of thousands of municipal and community seats, many of which are not full-time jobs, and so women could be doing while also continuing to pursue their business careers. And they're not all total slogs of personal attacks, etcetera. So part of what we try to do is actually make the whole thing a little bit... Take some of the mystery out of it, and we actually introduce women to members of Congress, and it's not all what we see on CNN, it is actually... There are lots and lots of just hardworking, well-intentioned, thoughtful lawmakers around the country who are just trying to make the country better.
23:29 LL: This is part of why I wrote the book, Crossing the Thinnest Line, and politics is one piece of it. I know that Ellevate members care a lot about diversity and about the future of the country, and believe the fundamental premise that more diversity in business and in every sphere leads to better outcomes, right? Stronger economic results, better thinking, etcetera. So if we know that to be true in business, that is also true in almost every sphere of American life, and we have to address that, right? So if we want better outcomes for the country, we can't abdicate an entire portfolio of power.
24:06 LL: The most positive impact in Congress today have been the women. Not surprisingly. They are more bi-partisan. They're more productive. They are more likely to put the interests of the country ahead of their own. And by the way, you can measure it. They get more stuff done. And that is true of women, both Republican and Democrat. So whatever their politics may be, or as divisive as they may be in the process of running for office, when they get to Washington, they overwhelmingly work in a much more bi-partisan ways than do the men. So if we want the political process to be better, if we want our democracy to be better, if we want government to be better functioning, the best thing you can do is either support a woman running or run yourself and make it better.
24:52 KW: Yes it is. So you mentioned your book, Crossing the Thinnest Line. Can you tell me a little bit more about that?
24:57 LL: So after all these years of working on these issues, and I looked around at the national conversation around diversity and I thought, we can really do better than this. Now, I had no idea that the current climate would become so toxic, but I had some sense that that might be coming. And when I looked around at the books that were out there, I had never seen anyone try to write a mass market for everyday Americans argument for why diversity matters so much to the economy, to the future of the country, and to us as human beings. Most of the books on diversity have been written by academics. And I thought, as much as this matters, how have we not had a bigger national conversation around this, one that wasn't just screaming?
25:45 KW: The power of diversity is often directed at diverse people.
25:49 LL: Right.
25:50 KW: If you're a woman, you hear about the power of diversity. But...
25:53 LL: That's actually right.
25:54 KW: If you're a white man in business... I mean, it's disproportionate.
26:00 LL: Well, and that is one of the problems. I mean, that is one of, fundamentally, the problems in the country. So what I wanted to do was to lay out what's at stake and what we have to do to do better on a macro level, and frankly, on a really personal and individual micro level. But on the macro level, there's a whole bunch of issues in the country that are connected to whether or not we're gonna just keep fighting for the next however many years, or we're gonna actually make progress. So one example of that is that our schools are actually becoming more segregated. So even though we have had extraordinary gains in terms of this openness of gen Y and younger generations because they are so diverse and so connected to one another, those are not gains that we're necessarily gonna sustain. So if you look at the chart of what school integration looks like from Brown versus Board of Education to today, it is the bell curve. And it peaked in the 1990s. So we were integrating schools basically pretty consistently up until the 1990s. And then the trend began to reverse. And today, there are huge swaths of the country where kids are going to school exclusively with people who are like them.
27:10 LL: And that is a disservice, not just to minority children, who are disproportionately losing in that, because they wind-up, as we all know, going to sub-standard schools largely because of tax maps and the way our education process is structured. But it's a disservice to white kids. And there's science around this, that having diversity in classrooms actually makes everyone think better. And there was this famous case last year around affirmative action, where the late Justice Scalia and I talk about this in the book, questions why in the University of Texas affirmative action case, which thankfully the court overturned, upholding affirmative action in that case. But Justice Scalia asked this question on the bench around why does it matter if there's black people in your physics class. And it was such a shocking thing for many people who listen to hear, but there are many Americans who feel that way. And the reality is, is that without diversity in that class, none of the kids do as well. It's not just that there's a certain equal fairness and justice at stake, which of course there is, that why should minority Americans have less access and opportunity than anyone else. But the bigger factor, and this is why it's tied to business, is that it makes the thinking and the education more complete for the white students.
28:30 KW: I think about this actually quite a bit, because I have a son and I have two young daughters. And so I'm always thinking from both of their perspectives. Are my daughters seeing a world that they fit into, that they can believe in? If it's film, if it's TV, if it's the treatment of and the language around our political figures or our business leaders, what do they see? And what will they continue to see as they grow up and are in schools and have teachers and bosses, managers, whatever that becomes? And on the flip side, my son. How can I show him a world that's diverse and in a very positive light? So he's not just on a soccer team with a bunch of boys that are just like him. I'm talking about parenting here, but it goes down to the youngest days through to where we are today, and how can we continue to reinforce that diversity should be something that we expect and something that...
29:33 LL: So I'll share something that I learned in writing the book, which was really... I talk about it a lot because it was so salient for me. So my kids are African-American. Both my girls are adopted. And so, I certainly have thought about these things in another way because of that. But I will say this, one of the things that struck me in writing the book was that I found this research around the impact of talking with kids about race. So it turns out that about 70% of minority Americans talk with their kids frequently, meaning couple times a week, talk with their kids about race. White Americans...
30:08 KW: Is that in a positive light?
30:10 LL: Whatever, like in any way. The topic of race comes up...
30:13 KW: Comes up, regularly.
30:14 LL: Is discussed one way or another, no judgement around how, but just that they're talking about it, in some way. 70% of minority Americans talk about race regularly. It's only about 20% of white Americans, and there's a very good reason for that, which I personally experienced, which is that we as white Americans want to be colorblind. We actually think that that is the right way to go and so, because we feel that if we acknowledge difference, we are somehow degrading others, and so it comes from a really good place. And obviously I'm not talking about folks who are really extremely racist, white supremacist blah blah blah. I'm talking about your average, well intentioned, good American white family, generally does not talk about race. And it turns out that there is actually... That's a problem, and it's a problem psychologically for our kids, because all of the psychology has shown that in the absence of information, in the absence of conversation, children actually make a negative conclusion. They don't fill in the blanks with, "Oh we're all the same and it's all good." They fill in with "There's something bad here."
31:25 LL: And it's so our well intentioned, "I'm not gonna talk about it or acknowledge it because we're all the same." First of all, that just totally overlooks the fact that we are of course not all the same, we are all humans, but for many minority Americans, it's deeply frustrating that white Americans don't want to acknowledge our differences. It feels derogatory to them, like it's disrespecting their life experience. And we often do it for all the right reasons, but I had to face this myself, because as a mother of African American children, my daughter came home from preschool at three, and just sort of announced, very matter-of-factly, "Mama, I'm brown." We never had really talked about it 'til that point cause there was no reason to. It was sort of obvious, [chuckle] but we hadn't talked about until, "Mama I'm brown." And then she talked about how the other kids in her class... There weren't that many other brown kids in her class, I think there was only other one in the preschool that she was in, and then I'm not brown. And my immediate, visceral reaction, was that I wanted to change the subject. And I have been thinking about diversity issues my entire life, my whole career. My best friends in childhood were African-American adopted into a white Jewish family, it's not like it's as new to me, but my gut reaction was, "Change the subject." We have to face that.
32:34 KW: I have to... I have to say, and this is really interesting, cause last night actually my son and I were reading about Rosa Parks, and my initial reaction was, "Oh I don't... " Not that I... That history is very important, but I didn't want him to read that and start to look at others as if they were different. And then I was like, "No... " We have many friends of all different ethnicities and backgrounds and... But yeah, my instinct was to kind of be like, "Ooh, if I talk about this then he will think that others are different and not the same."
33:11 LL: Right, it's fascinating that then it turns out that that's actually not the right way to go, and you sort of wonder, in the context... And then in the workplace, look at what's happening, look I think... The challenges of what's happening in Charlotte, and Tulsa, and Ferguson, and Dallas, and pretty much anywhere else in the country if you pay attention. Chicago, pick a place in the country today. And it's a very complicated moment, and I think we have to get better at having some understanding of and compassion for those issues. I spend a lot of time on conservative media, in part because I feel like it's important to have a voice there. But the trope I hear, every day on conservative media, is essentially a denial of racism, is a denial that there is bias.
34:06 LL: And whether or not you personally relate to it or experience it, and whether or not you even believe it to be true, I continue to argue that it doesn't matter, because as long as we have significant numbers of our fellow citizens who feel that the American dream is not available to them, we have an obligation to help and to fix it, whether or not we agree with their experience. It's true for them, and that's enough. I don't have to believe that American police are racist to say I think something is terrible if so many African-Americans do. And that's kind of a subtle thing, and I try to... I was on Megyn Kelly trying to make that point, I gotta tell you I got shouted down but...
34:53 LL: Cause that's not something we wanna hear. And you hear that, and that's one of the big, by the way, that's a big dividing line in the election: Do you fundamentally believe that there is, continues to be systemic racism in this country that needs to be addressed or not? And that is... And again, I kind of... I'm not sure it matters whether you believe it. Same thing in business world, doesn't matter whether you think diversity is good for business, you gotta do it because it's good for your... It's good for the company. The same thing is true for the country. For us to make progress as a nation, it is up to everyone, no matter who we are or what we look like or where we come from, to make an effort to more deeply and meaningfully understand people who are unlike us, and to use that understanding to drive change, and to advocate for a more inclusive nation. We have a lot at stake, and our diversity could be one of the greatest, and most meaningful, economic and social assets we have, or it could be a source of non-stop conflict and confrontation for another generation, and that's really the choice we're faced with. And I think most of us, if given that choice would choose the former and not the latter. But it takes all of us working at it.
36:15 KW: Great, well thanks for joining us today.
36:17 LL: Thanks for having me.
36:22 KW: 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 www.ellevatenetwork.com. That's E-L-L-E-V-A-T-E network.com. Special thanks to our producer, Katherine Heller, she rocks. And to our voice over artist, Rachel Griesinger. Thanks so much and join us next week.
Start your free membership to continue reading and learning from people who want to help you succeed.Sign up for free