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Listening and Learning with Julia Taylor Kennedy
Episode 57: Listening and Learning with Julia Taylor Kennedy
Julia Taylor Kennedy now works at the Center of Talent Innovation, but her career has taken twists and turns all due to her curiosity and desire to learn about many different topics. In this episode she shares her journey or how she got into radio, her real-life run in with the imposter syndrome and why you need to be confident and raise your hand, veterans in the workplace, how you can create a career using the skills you love, politics in the workplace, and more.
00:00 RG: Welcome to the Ellevate podcast. Conversations of women changing the face of business. And now your hosts, Kristy Wallace and Maricella Herrera.
00:13 Kristy Wallace: Hello everyone and welcome to the Ellevate podcast, this is Kristy Wallace here with Maricella Herrera and I'm dying to ask you a question right now. Dying.
00:25 Maricella Herrera: Hey, Kristy. I can see it in your face, what are you gonna ask me?
00:30 KW: Have you watched The Handmaid's Tale?
00:31 MH: I have.
00:33 KW: Love it. Love it.
00:34 MH: I've only seen... So honestly and truly, I had never read the book until you guys were talking about it here so I read it.
00:39 KW: But you should.
00:44 MH: I'm a little conflicted on what I think about it but the series has been really amazing.
00:50 KW: Are you conflicted about the issues it raises and it talks about, or are you conflicted on just whether you like it or not?
00:57 MH: Both. Both. The issues it raises is clearly very conflicting. If you're not conflicted by those issues then you have a problem, but whether I like it or not, it was... I wanted more. I think that's what happened.
01:13 KW: Yeah.
01:13 MH: I just wanted more at the end.
01:15 KW: Yeah. Well they released the first three and then now there's another one out. But we wanna hear from you, our listeners, we love hearing from you, your questions, you can email the email@example.com. But also if you have any comments, feedback, you wanna share your own thoughts on some of the things we talk about on the podcast, please feel free to let us know 'cause we care about, your voice is always so important and we wanna know. But, yeah, so The Handmaid's Tale, you'll hear more about my prior experience with this text during my conversation on today's podcast with a wonderful woman, Julia Taylor Kennedy from Center for Talent Innovation. But as another kinda quick aside before we get started with that. I first read The Handmaid's Tale when I was in college at Villanova in a class with my female role model, Professor Hicks, who I had the pleasure of going back to see recently and she's as amazing as ever. But I wanted to use that as a good segue to talk about our female role model campaign which is something we're incredibly passionate about here which is shedding light on the women that inspire us to do better, to do more, to pick ourselves up from failure, from hard situations, and keep going. We believe so much in the power of community and the power of being inspired by and supported by other women. And Maricella, who's your female role model?
02:49 MH: I have many a female role model. Jacqueline Novogratz, founder of Acumen. Huge, huge female role model I think what she does and what she's doing is amazing. Obviously, my mom, but that's the sensitive side of me. I don't know, I'm trying to think. Honestly it's very hard to pick 'cause we get to meet so many amazing women and...
03:13 KW: Yes, we do.
03:15 MH: First off, Kristy, happy anniversary.
03:17 MH: Oh, happy anniversary to you.
03:19 MH: It's our first year anniversary of the Ellevate podcast and we have not acknowledged this.
03:23 KW: Oh my goodness.
03:26 MH: And the reason I say that and sort of came up with the female role model campaign is because part of it is we're celebrating all of the female role models that have been on this podcast 'cause that's what they really are. You are all really inspirational figures with great careers, great advice, great insights and stories and you're all our #femalerolemodels.
03:48 KW: Yes. So share your female role models with us, @EllevateNtwk on Twitter, we're also on Instagram and on Facebook and LinkedIn so all of the social platforms. We wanna hear who your female role models are. Get us inspired, motivated and share with us.
04:07 MH: And if you want to go see some other female role models, if you're in New York we're doing a podcast live on May 23rd. Check it out and register on our website at ellevatenetwork.com. If you are not in New York City, so sorry for you but you can watch it. [chuckle]
04:26 KW: But not, 'cause you can still watch it!
04:27 MH: You can still see it live via live stream. Also you can check out the details on our website. It'll be Kristy and myself. I will probably be quiet. I promise I will try.
04:38 KW: Well, I hope not.
04:39 MH: It depends on how many whiskeys or wine I have before and we will be interviewing Gretchen Carlson, so it'll be a pretty, pretty darn interesting conversation.
04:48 KW: I cannot wait. I cannot wait. Wow.
04:51 MH: I know.
04:52 KW: You got the best job ever.
04:54 MH: Yeah.
04:54 KW: Yeah.
04:56 KW: Alright. So much that we talked about today, want to quickly end with some data of some of our polls. As you know, we poll the Ellevate community every Tuesday through our newsletter the Morning Boost and your voice matters. We wanna hear from you so please keep the responses coming, I look forward in the Boost on Tuesdays and we'll be sure to share the results with you on the podcast. So what is our poll today, Maricela?
05:22 MH: Well our poll today is something that we've been thinking about a lot. We asked our community, what do you think is the best way to engage men in the conversation about gender equality? And we're bringing this up because about two weeks ago, we had an amazing, amazing panel, great speakers here in New York City and also live streamed, and on Facebook Live and Julia Taylor Kennedy was one of our panelists. We had some really inspirational people and you can check out the video on our site.
05:57 KW: Yeah, it was Donna Parisi from Shearman & Sterling. We had Rafael Espinal from, a New York City council member who is a huge champion and advocate for women. He's great and we also had Wade Davis Jr, who you will see at the Ellevate Summit in June.
06:15 MH: Yeah.
06:15 KW: So it was a great panel. You can watch the live stream recording on ellevatenetwork.com and make sure that you sign up for the Elevate newsletter. If you're not a member of the community or subscriber to the Morning Boost, it would be great if you did sign up because then you get alerts and notifications about new podcast releasings, live streams, Facebook Lives, events, Twitter chats and all the great stuff that we're doing.
06:40 MH: Cool. So let me share the data because we digress, 'cause we have so many things to tell you, but what do you think is the best way to engage men in the conversation about equality? 60% of our members said it's getting buy-in from men in leadership and/or influencers...
06:56 KW: True.
07:00 MH: Which is sort of what we were trying to do and showcase in the panel. We had Wade Davis who is a huge influencer and we had Rafael who is city council. So he's also a leader. 13% say, show hard numbers of the value of gender equality. So show the data, show the business case for why it matters. 10% formal training at work. 8% informal conversations at work. And 6% said talk to them at home. So basically just talk.
07:31 KW: I don't know, it's really interesting. So I would say, I mean, clearly, the getting men in positions of leadership and power engaged is key. That is definitely very important, especially since we know that men represent 83% of leadership positions in companies, Fortune 500 companies, and 80% of board and 97% of Fortune 500 CEOs. I mean, men are in power and they... That is the reality and they have the power thus and the influence to drive change. And so that's what we really want, but I think it's also middle managers and anyone with hiring responsibility, with management responsibility, who can really drive change within their businesses and make sure that you are aware of gender bias, make sure you are providing equal opportunity, equal support, and really pushing equality through your organizations and through your influence in the workplace.
08:36 KW: The data stat is... I'm conflicted on, because I 100% believe that we need to have the data that proves the ROI and talks about these numbers but it's been interesting for me personally on social media and other platforms, if I share the data and people just discount it immediately and like, "No, there's no gender pay gap". And I'm like, "But look at the data", and they're like, "No, no, I don't know what you're talking about. That doesn't exist". So, people, we live in a world and we saw all this a lot around the elections and other causes where I think we distrust data and information, and fair enough. I mean I think as educated individuals and consumers of content information you always wanna look at the sources and look at the methodology and be as informed as you can, but it's a proven fact. The gender pay gap exists.
09:29 MH: There's a lot of data and information about it, but yet we don't believe that but yet we believe all the fake news that are out there and floating around.
09:37 KW: We believe what we wanna believe is what it comes down to. I mean we do, right?
09:42 MH: But we believe...
09:44 KW: But I hope that that's changing. We believe. [chuckle] We believe the children are the future...
09:52 MH: In the moral community.
09:52 KW: Lead them well and let them lead the way.
09:56 MH: Okay.
09:57 KW: And we believe in you, Maricella.
09:58 MH: And we believe in you, Kristy. And we believe in Julia, so let's go listen to this interview.
10:01 KW: Happy anniversary.
10:17 KW: I'm thrilled that you are here because oftentimes, the guests on the podcast, I'm meeting them for the first time, but you and I are already like old school friends.
10:26 Julia Taylor Kennedy: Yeah, you know what to expect.
10:27 KW: So this is gonna be good.
10:27 JK: Oh great.
10:28 KW: This is gonna be a good time.
10:31 JK: I am so excited. I've been listening for a while, so I'm really excited to be in the room with you.
10:34 KW: Awesome. So every time I meet you, I learn something else. You kinda bust out with some like story about yourself that I'm like, "What?".
10:44 KW: "How am I just figuring this out, like are you kidding me?"
10:48 KW: And you've done so many cool things, including what you're doing now at the Center for Talent Innovation but I would love it if you could just share a little bit about your background, and how you got to where you are today.
11:00 JK: Sure. Okay. Where should I start? Well, I think the way I got to where I am today is really, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do for a living and I was a very curious person.
11:12 KW: Yeah.
11:12 JK: So I started out in college, undeclared major, kind of taking a lot of different things and realized that if I majored in Journalism, I would continue being able to be kind of a dilettante and learn about many many different topics and make that into a career. So I was listening to a lot of public radio at the time and this was before podcasting became the juggernaut cool thing that it is today, but I was kind of a geeky person listening to a lot of NPR and sort of falling in love with idols, like Terry Gross and other people. So I started working at the college radio station. Meanwhile, I was taking... I was doing the college thing, taking a lot of women's studies courses at the time, sort of just for fun.
12:00 KW: Sure.
12:01 JK: And graduated and worked in radio for years. I was a radio host, I worked for the Central Penn Business Journal and covered commercial real estate, my dilettante strain continued. And then I started working for a station called WAMC in Northeast Public Radio, it's out of Albany. It's got an interesting footprint. It's basically all of the second homes markets outside of Boston, New York. So the Berkshires, Hudson Valley, Adirondacks. I was their Hudson Valley Bureau Chief.
12:33 KW: Okay.
12:34 JK: Which meant I was chief of myself.
12:36 JK: But it was a really cool place to be cutting my teeth as a reporter because there's so much going on with arts and culture in that area, and really interesting politics. Now, Senator Gillibrand, was just in her first run so I got to cover her very first press conference, and see her star rising and what I noticed was I was this Hudson Valley Bureau Chief and I remember when I got the job, I said to my husband, "There's this show that there's no chance in hell that I would get to host, but it would be my dream job", and it was called '51%'.
13:14 KW: Okay.
13:16 JK: And about a year later, lo and behold, the host of the show quits, they're looking for a new co-host on their morning talk show and they called me, and they said, "We noticed you haven't applied", I thought I was way under-qualified. "We noticed you haven't applied. We'd like you to be the co-host of the morning talk show. Oh, and by the way, in the afternoons, you can work on this national show about women called '51%'".
13:44 JK: And I was... [chuckle]
13:44 KW: You're like, "Pinch me."
13:45 JK: Yeah, exactly. I called...
13:47 KW: And then kick me because I thought I was under-qualified.
13:49 JK: Exactly. I couldn't... Right, it's like the classic story of someone sort of noticing me in Albany from what I was doing in the Hudson Valley, me being completely clueless, and sort of pining after this job that I thought there was no chance I had to get it. And it was, it was wonderful. I was developing conversational skills in the morning, and interviewing all kinds of different authors, and then in the afternoon, I got to totally direct and produce and host my own weekly half hour show. So it's manageable and I picked a different theme every week, kind of gave myself a women's studies degree and discovered that something I'd always been interested in, by speaking, as you are in this podcast, by speaking to the real legends in the field, Carol Gilligan, all kinds of really important... Hillary Clinton, Kirsten Gillibrand, all kinds of really important feminists, thinkers, authors, writers. I learned what a passion I had for issues of gender and diversity, and how it could actually be my career. Then I went back to grad school thinking I wanted to focus on something, and I studied women migration patterns between US and Latin America.
15:13 KW: That's awesome.
15:14 JK: There's a new one.
15:16 KW: Sorry.
15:19 KW: You're like, "I wanna focus on some things so I'm gonna do women's migration patterns. Okay".
15:26 JK: It was fascinating. I had majored in Spanish, in undergrad. There's some continuity there but there are a lot of twists.
15:33 KW: I'm sure there's just really interesting ties where we are today as a society that we're driven by the influx of women from South America.
15:44 JK: Well, absolutely. We did a study on Latinos in the workplace at CTI last year, and one of the major themes that came out was how much Latinos value family...
16:00 KW: Yeah.
16:01 JK: And how they integrate that into their approach at work. And what I saw in migration was Latinos were having to redefine family as they migrated to the US and women were grappling with suddenly being a breadwinner in many cases when they came to the US, and then having to realign how they interacted with the other members of their family around that, whether it was their spouses who weren't used to being the supplemental income, and suddenly were pushed into that position or relatives back home who were suddenly dependent on them for financial resources instead of care. There's just a lot of disruption, and I think you have a really good point which is we do not understand a lot of the Latino women came to the US and were working in caregiving roles, and were shaping the way that many kids in Connecticut were being raised.
17:00 JK: I was studying Danbury, Connecticut. So, yeah, there's a huge under-seen influence there and which was kind of tangential to my research but now I wanna do another research project on it. [chuckle] I feel really lucky that in the end, I landed at Center For Talent Innovation because I feel like it pulls together all those early sprouts that seem so disparate in my career. I get to research in a deeper way than I was as a journalist 'cause I sometimes got frustrated by those deadlines. So I have a project. Now, I'll run a project that goes for a year and a half, instead of a week. But it's still in that core gathering stories, storytelling, and understanding how that connects to broader data and trends of the way we interact with one another at work, what our career paths look like, and how we can use that to shape a meaningful life.
18:00 KW: I love it so much, I was a double major in college, English and Sociology. Just because I liked them, it's interesting I think how wholly unprepared you are for a career upon graduating from college, because you're like, "I'm just gonna study the things that I like", but it doesn't translate to an actual function oftentimes.
18:23 JK: Right.
18:27 KW: My senior thesis in college was around actually Margaret Atwood's 'The Handmaid's Tale'.
18:35 JK: Oh, you must be excited for the TV series?
18:37 KW: I am. And talking about how government and societies are controlling female identity and the ways in which they try to create this uniformity around women to remove individual identity and to create these gender roles within the society and with the home that you're forcing upon women. I mean, I could talk about it forever, but, it's interesting because it's kind of like what you're doing now, it's like that sociology aspect, like the data, looking at the numbers, but then also, what is this culture and the stories within the culture, and sort of these trends and these behaviors and these mindsets, and how do we connect all of that to tell a deeper, richer story that's showing, "This is the evolution of our culture, of our society, of our workplace, of our norms." It's fascinating.
19:35 JK: Yeah. I feel very lucky to be on a team where we respect both sides of that coin. So, I'm working on a study now about employees with disabilities, and we're just starting to peek at the data. But it is amazing to hear, I think one of the major themes that's gonna be part of that research has to do with this tension for employees about whether to disclose or whether not to disclose, and what benefits that might give them access to, about what risks they might be taking in their career path. And I hear in every conversation, even those who have disclosed are careful about how much they say to whom, when, and in what setting. And others who haven't told a soul at work and are very nervous on the phone with me, but looking at the data and seeing that indeed, when we feel the survey among white collar, college educated workers who have disabilities in the workplace, you see that same theme extremely prominent in the data, that they're struggling, that not many... I don't have the exact figures yet, but many have not disclosed, especially if their disability is invisible, if you can't see right away that they have a disability.
21:03 JK: Then when we ask deeper questions in the survey, why not? The reasons are sometimes as simple as, "I just don't want my colleagues to see me differently". And so, then we're able to color that with an individual who I interview, who has lived that story. So, it is, it's been very... My background as a journalist come much more from that qualitative perspective and also my graduate work was much... It was rooted in Ethnography. So to work with really data minded folks on our quant team and bring our two outlooks together is sometimes challenging and always really rewarding.
21:47 KW: Yeah. And you need both sides, because those stories that you're hearing and those conversations you're having are supporting the data, and I think helping you to interpret it. There's always underlying information that helps the lens with which you're seeing it and to identify also the underlying stories that might not be told, because you're not asking those questions.
22:16 JK: Right. I agree. And on the flip side, I think one reason that Sylvia Hewlett who's our founder, who started the organization, she's an economist, the one reason she started the organization was because she saw a lot of narrative around women and work that was not rooted in data, that was journalists or scholars interviewing what she saw as their inner circle, and getting a skewed perspective because of it. And so, having those, you can also get a really bias slanted lens by what's close to you or by the five stories you've heard. And so, because we can't interview in a really sort of even way, 5000 people, it's very helpful on the last project I did, which was around veterans in the workplace.
23:10 JK: One of our strong hypothesis based on our early interviews was that veterans who were former military officers and veterans who enlisted in the military would have very different experiences entering the corporate world, that those who were officers would be stronger leaders, those who were enlisted might not really have nuanced communication skills to navigate the workforce and what we discovered is these are actually stereotypes that our data showed extremely similar experiences in terms of the basic assumptions veterans confronted, difficulties they had in their transition, finding a role that matched their skills and experience, very similar and we couldn't show different cuts between enlisted and officers, because the data was the same.
23:58 KW: That's huge, it's a huge to have that information because then, you can start to work with companies who are developing programs to recruit and retain veterans. What you're able to accomplish with the information that you're finding and sharing is immeasurable. Do you just love everything you do everyday?
24:26 JK: Most of it.
24:26 KW: I'm such a fan-girl right here. Like, "Oh my God!"
24:28 JK: I do. It's a really, really fun job. I think our challenge comes in then we present the information and we're external to the companies. And so it's been figuring out how to help them drive change within their four walls after they understand what we sort of have discovered. And sometimes it's valuable to be an external party so we can deliver messages that they have trouble delivering internally. But sometimes then, it's hard to... Like any consultant or external, I'm sure you've experienced this in your career too, it's hard to implement things to their complete conclusion when you're not there on the ground. So that's one of the challenges with our work.
25:09 KW: Yeah.
25:10 JK: But especially, the work with veterans. The intention and attitude and willingness, both on the part of the veterans themselves, who I like to say, Brazilians and veterans are the best people to interview because they're both so open.
25:25 KW: Yeah.
25:25 JK: The veterans, they just wanna help other vets. That sounds like a blanket statement, but it was consistently true across all of my interviews. And so, there's some great intentions there. And really, the companies hiring them want to bring in talents, see potential in this talent, and are putting so many resources into recruiting vets that there is this will to figure out how to engage and retain them as well.
25:56 KW: So what's your next project?
25:58 JK: So I'm working on disabilities. I'm in the midst of that. I'm also very busy on the sponsor-ready program which I'm doing with you.
26:08 KW: Yey!
26:08 JK: Yeah, which is really fun. We're gonna be looking at bias in the workplace, in a really specific way. So many companies, we have an 88-company taskforce that guides our research and what we're gonna look at next. And many, many of the companies that are members of our organization are running unconscious bias training programs, which can be amazing for driving awareness that we all hold biases and may or may not act on them, but may not be aware when we are acting on them. Those training programs have done an enormous amount to build awareness. Companies that are not necessarily sure what to do next. So the study really looks at the that at how to build on that beginning step. And then we also have a couple of other studies. We have one looking at race in the workplace that very much came out of the shootings from last summer. A lot of people were coming to companies, unable to talk about the trauma that they were experiencing.
27:12 KW: Sure.
27:13 JK: And companies not entirely sure how to facilitate that conversation. So it looks at that.
27:20 KW: Yeah.
27:21 JK: And then, exciting stuff we're thinking about. But those are the two that are in the works, along with disabilities for this year.
27:28 KW: I've seen and I've heard just this crossover melding between workplace discussions and what's happening outside of the workplace. And everyone's struggling with what...
27:44 JK: How they integrate.
27:45 KW: How does it work together, how do you talk about politics in the workplace and be conscious that there are people with all different opinions? And sometimes, those opinions can be hurtful to others. And how do we react to that? How does a company or does a company have a role in that? You were talking about with the shootings and violence, and when there's so much that's happening in our world. And how do companies play a larger role in terms of their workforce and the conversations, and the inclusiveness, and the dialogue that they're fostering within a workforce? Because those conversations can help the whole company move forward if it's done in a respectful and inclusive way, is my guess. But you're the expert on that. [chuckle] I don't know.
28:42 JK: Well, and I think, build a sense of belonging, right?
28:45 KW: Yeah.
28:46 JK: It is super tricky terrain. It's really tricky terrain. You don't wanna start a conversation that then is gonna end up making people feel judged or worse.
28:55 KW: Yeah.
28:56 JK: And so, companies are really exploring this tentatively. But you see Google, which has a group dedicated to Black Lives Matter in the company. And I think, it's very much voluntary and not everybody agrees with that, but there's a space for people who want to organize around that. You see companies like Airbnb talking very actively about creating a sense of belonging for their internal community of employees, as well as combating some of the stuff that's been going on with people who are participating, and guests and hosts on their platform. So, it is. It's a really interesting time. And I think that in the political arena, companies are feeling the need to signal side at the Super Bowl commercials, feeling the need to signal that they are inclusive spaces because the talent needs, the need to hire and retain diverse talent is a reality in a global company today.
30:00 KW: Yeah.
30:02 JK: Whether you're talking about people in emerging markets connecting with people at headquarters or you're talking about increasingly diverse talent coming out of college and graduate school, the numbers, the demographics are shifting in a way that somehow our political sphere has managed to navigate through, but I think companies increasingly are seeing market opportunities in these growing diverse markets. So they're actively trying to be inclusive and not some are better than others. And some are more forward thinking than others, but I think the other trend that I see is companies increasingly be more active in the social sphere, whatever it is. So you have activist CEOs of Salesforce around pay parity and other issues, and LGBTQ issues. And Tim Cook at Apple.
30:52 KW: Yeah.
30:53 JK: So you're starting to see CEOs have a political platform, a social platform, in addition to their kind of business platform.
31:03 KW: Great, well I can't wait to see all that you do in the Center for Talent Innovation and I'll definitely keep an eye out for this research as it comes out, and I hope that our listeners do too because it sounds really interesting and hugely impactful.
31:17 JK: Great. Well you can find us at talentinnovation.org. It was such a pleasure to be here with you, Kristy. Thanks for inviting me.
31:24 KW: Thanks.
31:28 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. 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.