What do you get when a Catholic school girl, an arts student and extra from Sixteen Candles walk into a bar?
This week’s podcast, obviously.
What brought these women, each from such different backgrounds, to the table? A discussion about fighting bias and promoting inclusion of course.
This week’s guest, Jennifer Brown is an award-winning entrepreneur, speaker, author and diversity and inclusion consultant. Named Woman of the Year by Pace University, Social Entrepreneur of the year by the NYC National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), and NYC Controller Bill Thompson’s LBGT Business Owner of the Year, she uses her expertise to advise Fortune 500 companies like Walmart, Starbucks, Microsoft, T-Mobile and Toyota in building more inclusive workplaces that welcome, value, and respect all kinds of talent, allowing employees to bring their full selves to work.
As a distinguished speaker and host of the popular weekly podcast The Will to Change, Jennifer is no stranger to being behind the mic. Which is probably why she opens the show identifying herself as “dangerous-as-hell” and immediately talking about her trip to prison. Let’s clarify once again that this trip was on behalf of Televerde and their prison-based contact centers and that Women Your Mother Warned You About isn’t a forum for female ex-cons to exchange tales about their time on the inside, although the name would be amusingly fitting.
Instead Jennifer continues to share her own journey and the struggles that lead her down the path of becoming an inclusion consultant and bestselling author of; Inclusion: Diversity, The New Workplace and The Will to Change and How To Be An Inclusive Leader: Your Role in Creating Cultures of Belonging Where Everyone Can Thrive.
When she failed to find examples of professionals that she could identify with after coming out at the age of 22 she knew she must use her experiences to help organizations create cultures of belonging. Which is why the word “how” in the title of her second book is so important.
In this new book “there is a model that goes from unaware to aware to active to advocate” which she defines in the book as the Inclusive Leader Continuum. She continues, “notice that we didn’t stop at aware. Aware is now I know there is a problem, now I know women in my organization feel like they don’t have a fair shot or maybe we don’t pay people equally. Aware is…truth and reconciliation.”
Jennifer explains that it’s now more critical than ever that we move past the awareness stage because “being well intended isn’t enough. Being tolerant isn’t enough. Being accepting isn’t enough” since intentions, tolerance and acceptance are often invisible. Actions however are visible so you must be proactively working toward equity and equal opportunities while supporting those that are underrepresented or marginalized. It’s then that you’re able to move towards the advocate stage where you’re capable of transforming biased systems and sparking lasting change.
When asked what advice she would give those who are looking to improve their viability as leaders, who are ready to move past the aware stage, she says “read the book.” But beyond that, “read, consume media that’s not about your identity, have people in your corner with whom you’ve built trust to actually ask [for feedback]: ‘How am I doing?’, ‘Am I supporting you?’, ‘Where do you need support?’, ‘Where are you feeling challenged?’”
Essentially, be in their corner. Be an ally. Take action.
You can download the first chapter of Jennifer’s second book for free by visiting her website JenniferBrownSpeaks.com. There you can get more detailed definitions of the various stages of the Inclusive Leader Continuum, and learn that this journey towards becoming an inclusive leader isn’t linear.
She encourages “during this journey, it’s essential that we don’t become critical of ourselves or others or place judgment based on where people are in the continuum. Instead, let’s focus on making progress.”
Turns out inclusion includes being kind to yourself.
To learn more about Jennifer Brown, her coming out story and her advocacy tune into Episode 50 or visit JenniferBrownSpeaks.com where you can also take a self-assessment if you’re wondering “Where do [I] fall on the Inclusive Leader Continuum?”