Bringing True Diversity & Inclusion Into the Workplace – with Jennifer Brown

Inclusion and diversity are buzzwords in today’s world, but the concepts behind them have always been important. The difference is that people are paying attention in ways they haven’t before. Join us in today’s show to learn more about bringing true inclusion and diversity to the workplace. 

Jennifer Brown is an award-winning entrepreneur, dynamic speaker, author, and diversity and inclusion expert. Jennifer is passionate about social equality and advocacy, and she’s committed to helping leaders foster healthier and more productive workplaces, ultimately driving innovation and business results. Jennifer’s body of work is informed by more than a decade of consulting with Fortune 500 companies. She creates a compelling business case for leadership to embrace the opportunities that diversity represents, along with empowering advocates at all levels to find their voice and be a driving force in creating more enlightened organizations. Jennifer has written Inclusion: Diversity, The New Workplace & The Will to Change to help companies become more welcoming and accepting of every race, orientation, and culture that walks through their doors. 

The dichotomy of being both privileged and marginalized

Jennifer has risen to the top of her field by advocating for those who didn’t have a voice. As a member of the LGBTQ community herself, Jennifer has several friends who were among the first in their role to come out publicly. She was able to watch corporate cultures evolve through the lower – level leadership of her courageous friends, and she welcomed the opportunity to be part of the community that was pushing necessary change. From the beginning, she understood that she had to speak the executive language and present diversity and inclusion from a business case. Even though she focused on her own marginalization in the early years of her career, she now realizes the extent of her privilege because of how she looks and presents herself as a white woman.

Being an inclusive manager

Inclusion doesn’t just happen. Jennifer explains that you can call yourself a feminist and be politically progressive, and you still can be that manager who hires people who all look the same. Any working manager has many points of failure in the workday when it comes to diversity and inclusion. The important steps to change can only begin when we recognize the places where bias creeps in, and then we make the conscious choice to do one thing differently. Jennifer says it’s a small tweak to the mindset to learn to pay attention to different aspects of diversity and inclusion. 

Bring your full self

We live in a culture where women have certain roles and expectations in the business world, and they are judged negatively when they function outside those roles. Jennifer says we need to break out in intentional ways to find our voice and fulfill our destiny. In coming out as an LGBTQ woman, Jennifer had to navigate a path for which there was no script. She learned to depend on herself and accepted the gift that comes with truly discovering who she is as a person. 

Don’t play the Pain Olympics

This is Jennifer’s way of denouncing the hierarchy of oppression. She’s been told that she is just another white person propagating the same harmful system and that she shouldn’t be running her company. The basis for this denouncement is the assumption that she doesn’t know enough about race and ethnicity to understand and be a voice for the marginalized. Her company focuses on the workplace as a place where everyone can manifest their true selves, but the current level of anger and frustration make that a difficult task. She holds fast to the concept that her work is important in holding space for people to come into the conversation. Jennifer explains how intersectionality is demonstrated in the fact that a white woman’s experience is different than that of a woman of color. 

Confronting the shame

Leaders send a strong message by the way they lead. It’s their experience that allows them to connect with and understand the need for diversity. In Jennifer’s work, she sees that people have shame around inclusion or don’t want to address the topic in personal ways. Leaders are challenged in their thinking about diversity and inclusion, but those who can be authentic and connect to diversity on a personal level can truly be the change. This allows for belonging, which has become a big part of the diversity and inclusion conversation. 

Highlights of this episode:

  • 3:50 – Being both marginalized and privileged
  • 12:28 – Being an inclusive manager
  • 19:15 – Bringing your full self to work
  • 23:58 – The Pain Olympics
  • 28:06 – Intersectionality defined
  • 34:33 – How leaders send a message
  • 41:58 – Fem Five

Resources mentioned:

  • Find Jennifer’s podcast: The Will to Change
  • Connect with Jennifer on Twitter: @JenniferBrown
  • Connect with Jennifer on Instagram: JenniferBrownSpeaks
  • Connect with Jennifer on LinkedIn and Facebook: Jennifer Brown Consulting
  • Visit www.nextfem.com for Jennifer’s free gift, a free assessment of your inclusion journey

The Fem Five:

1. Favorite book to recommend for women?

  • Earn It: The Tools You Need to Earn the Money You Want by Daniela Pierre-Bravo and Mika Brzezinski

2. Favorite self-care hack?

  • Hot yoga

3. Best piece of advice and who gave it to you?

  • “Someone once told me to say yes and figure out how later.”

4. Female CEO or thought leader you’re into right now?

  • Azure Antoinette, who is called The Maya Angelou of the Millennial Generation.

5. One piece of advice you’d give your five years younger self?

  • “Keep going, and believe in your vision. Keep maintaining what you’ve built, and wait for the moment it will be appreciated and seen.” 

Last Time on The NextFem Podcast

Use Bragging to Advance Your Career – with Meredith Fineman

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