Leading with Inclusion
In this episode, herdacious host Lorelei chats with Jashn Agrawal as she advocates for companies to lead with inclusive cultures, which will then garner them diverse talent. Oftentimes we hear the terms diversity and inclusion used interchangeably in DEI conversations; however, understanding the fundamental difference and interactions between the two is critical to cultivating a truly diverse and inclusive workplace. As an HR professional with a passion for inclusion-first policies, Jashn clarifies that inclusion goes beyond the numbers and focuses on nurturing appreciation for and amongst all employees. From acknowledging and addressing our unconscious bias to being consistent in our organizational core values, Jashn affirms that although inclusion is an extensive process, it’s nonetheless necessary to achieve an optimal workplace. As inclusive cultures become the norm, diverse talent often follows [and stays] of its own accord, thereby benefitting both the employers and the employees.
Host: Lorelei Gonzalez
Co-host: Jashn Agrawal, MBA
Jashn is an accomplished HR Leader with a strong track record of leading & supporting global teams for companies like IKEA, Burson-Marsteller, AMEX and GE. Her expertise lies in successfully leading organizational planning and development through strategic initiatives and programs. Jashn holds a double MBA in HR with the most recent one being from Cornell University’s International Labor Research (ILR) Institute. In her free time, Jashn loves to bury her nose in a non-fiction book, do yoga, or go for long walks.
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Looking for additional resources on this topic? Check out our blog “Why It’s Important to Have an Inclusive Workplace”
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Lorelei: Welcome to HERdacious, a podcast for audacious women. A warm summer greeting to you all. Welcome to HERdacious, the podcast for audacious women looking to make some career moves on their professional journey, and HERdacious is the podcast to assist you. I'm Lorelei, the happy host of the show, and today we're gonna be talking about how when we lead with inclusion, diversity thrives. To assist us in this incredible conversation, I have a mother of two, a global HR expert who is a passionate educator on the topic of diversity and inclusion who hopes to leave the world a more inclusive place then she found it, an HR director Jashn Agrawal. Welcome.
Jashn: Thank you so much for having me here. It's my pleasure to be at HERdacious, I follow your work. I've listened to podcasts, you guys are doing amazing work. Thank you for the invite.
Lorelei: It is absolutely our pleasure. Talking about diversity and inclusion is an incredible and important piece of the work that we do, and I am really proud to be able to share this conversation with you today. So in order to avoid assumptions about what people do and do not know, start us off by defining inclusion and sharing why it is important.
Jashn: Absolutely. I always think, I think we should start with a definition. What we have experienced, simply put in my experience, inclusion is respecting and valuing people for who they are, and I even have a definition where I have defined the Diversity, Inclusion and Equity. Most of it you must have heard before... Diversity is being invited to the party. Equity is being asked to dance. But when it comes to inclusion, it is being appreciated for your dance, so for me, it's just bringing your authentic self and being appreciated for that. Why it's important, inclusion plays a big role when it comes to retention, only when you appreciate people for their ethic is when you get the best out of them, it is inclusion that helps you tap into the diversity fully.
Lorelei: Jashn, clarify the difference between diversity and inclusion. I loved your excellent example of being asked to the dance, being asked to dance and then being appreciated for the dance, break that down for us just a little bit more so that we all come out of this crystal clear.
Jashn: So I would like to start with busting a myth that we all set with. Common belief is that diversity automatically leads to inclusion in your organization or in your environment, that's not true. Just because I have a child, does not automatically make me a good parent. It needs conscious effort and learning. Same is with the diversity and inclusion. In my experience, diversity is about numbers and representation, however, on the other side, inclusion is about making those numbers count. While diversity is more tangible, something that you can touch and then have more metrics around, inclusion is on the other hand, having both tangible and intangible aspects to it. I've often seen them bundled together and talked about as if they are the same and used interchangeably, and most of the time, most people are talking about diversity and not inclusion. So while I think it's good because we are starting the conversation, we're having these conversations, and I really appreciate that organizations are doing this, but it is important for the organizations to evolve beyond diversity conversations and start talking about inclusion because that is where the magic happens.
Lorelei: So I understand that you're incredibly passionate about leading with inclusion and almost like an inclusion first policy, and in your experience, the diversity will come after that. Talk to us about why you advocate for this approach in the workforce.
Jashn: Because inclusion is what will make the diversity thrive. I completely believe in that it is inclusion that is creating the environment where people can be successful where they feel appreciated and valued for who they are. I would like to share one example, a very simple example that comes to my mind, I often use it, is of a farmer who needs to first take care of the soil before she or he sows the seeds, and only once the soil has the right environment and is conducive that the seeds will germinate it, you can have the best quality seeds. But if you do not create the right kind of soil and conditions, you will have sub-optimal harvest, and that is what inclusion does to diversity. Do you wanna have sub-optimal harvest when you've hired these awesome competent people who come with different sets of different demographics? Take care of the inclusion, I would say, they will thrive in your organizations.
Lorelei: Excellent. So what are the common challenges an organization could experience when doing the work on leading with inclusive policies and behaviors instead of banging the diversity drum?
Jashn: Well, every organization or region will have their challenges, we need to accept that. We need to accept that reality, challenges will also depend on where the organization is on inclusion and diversity maturity, but that said, some of the common ones could be, how do you measure inclusion? It's a big challenge organizations face, most of them have clear diversity metrics, they know how to track them, they also track them more often, but there is a wild card when it comes to inclusion metrics. So that's the first challenge that I see in my experience. Another one that we can talk about here is about diversity committees employee resource groups that are usually existing in these organizations. In my experience, I've seen they consistent of minority workforce, so not only that, I'm a minority work force, a lot of accountability and responsibility to move the needle on the agenda falls on me, so there's a lot of work that I need to do from my perspective on moving the needle. I think we can do better there, we can have representation from all demographics, we can be conscious about choosing who will be in the group and make sure that everybody is accounted for. Another one in my view is maintaining consistency, there's so many initiatives at the same time sometimes we take on. Even if you have those well-designed, well-intentioned practices, if you're missing consistency, you will not see the desired results. Consistency is important, like in any other thing in life, right? And one more that I can talk about is, to buy in from the existing workforce, you might think that you have the best initiative, best policy, best strategy put together because you believe in that, but if it is not really bought in by your employed workforce, the interpersonal dynamic between people, the microaggressions that happen on day-to-day basis, will not go away. So you really need to keep a top on your existing workforce, so your workforce is buying into these initiatives that you've put together.
Lorelei: Alright, give us a little more information on that consistency piece when it comes to inclusive policies and behaviors.
Jashn: Like in life, if I'm not consistent with something, even if I wanna finish my college degree, I have to be consistent with my grades, I have to study every day, I can't just say that first year, I will put in all the work in the last three years will fly off just like that. And another thing is, instead of picking 10 things, try and pick maybe two, put all the resources into that, but make sure that they're done day after day because I think Malcolm Gladwell has said it really nice, in his book, "It takes 10,000 hours to really master something." If you really wanna master inclusion or any initiative put those 10,000 into that ecosystem. Every day.
Lorelei: Love that, thank you so much. So to stay consistent with our show, I'm gonna take a quick sponsor break and we will continue the conversation here in just a second.
Sponsor: Hi, Barbie here from Moonray, husband and wife indie pop duo. If you enjoy the intro music, we invite you to listen to our debut EP Honeymoon. Streaming now on all platforms. Visit www.moonray-music.com for more.
Lorelei: We're back talking with Jashn Agrawal about leading with inclusion. HERdacious is a female-centered podcast about professional growth and development, help us identify some of the women-specific inclusivity challenges that often exist in the workplace.
Jashn: Absolutely, HERdacious, right? I love the name. So, HER. Focus on women-specific inclusivity challenges here, work on gender parity has been on the way, and we are all aware of that, but still on the bases, women face many challenges when it comes to inclusion at their workplace. Let's talk about this first one. I think that we can easily do anything. I do not need to say that. It's about promotion, it's not not being promoted to leadership position as much as you would like, we're meant to be promoted, not being in board positions for centuries, women have had to work twice as hard as men. We all know that there are so many examples. Personally, this should give us an edge, however, at workplace, this is interpreted as an ability to give it our all because of our competing parties. It's a perception mindset that it's been created, and we think that because women have children at home to take care of... Because she has the commuter, or because she has taken a break, or she's going to go on a maternity break, it's okay to postpone her promotions for later years when she gives everything to work. But it's never gonna be the kids, women have always taken more of household chores, or more share of childcare or elder care. And the pandemic has been a great example. Google it, and you will find so many researches and studies done around in the last year, 80% of the workforce that has been laid off in 2020 during the pandemic because of any reason you can think of... Maybe business went down, due to the pandemic, or any other reasons, 80% are women and more percentages are women of color. It's perception, because not only perception because they are taking or of their children and or people or people who got sick during covid at home and it's a reality, but how do organizations need to take care of this if they want to retain these wonderful women leaders or our future leaders. They need to really look at this. They really need to change their mindset. The top leadership has to really change their mindset about how they look at women, they should look at this as a strength, they should not look at it as a weakness. There's a study that's out there by McKinsey, it was an article posted in September 2020. It's called "Women in the Workplace 2020." They say, and I will quote, "Despite gains for women leadership, there was still a major barrier in 2019. For the sixth year in a row, women continued to lose ground in the force up to a manager position. Are you kidding me? Up to manager? First promotion only is so tough to you, you will do the catch up entire career, right. Even if you post promotions late, you're gonna be late to everybody or every other promotion or the people or men who are already ahead. So that's one challenge.
Lorelei: What about the men on that one?
Jashn: Men are in a better position. For every 100 men promoted to manager positions only 80% women. Now you ask me about minorities, 58% Black women versus 70% Latinas. That's the number that we're talking about, 100 men versus 85 women, so they're already ahead of us. Despite multiple studies showing that organizations having women in leadership roles make better and balanced decisions, many times women are presumed to be emotional or lacking what it takes to make such decisions, and somehow this, again, perception reduces the chances to vertical career growth. These examples of these awesome leaders of the world, like the prime minister of New Zealand, she did great in the pandemic, or see how Germany was led by their leader.
Lorelei: Oh yeah, I think the stats show the countries with female leaders did better on average during the pandemic than countries with male leaders.
Jashn: Absolutely. So we have numbers showing where women have taken those positions, leadership positions, the people are doing better, even if it is a country or an organization, so I think it's a perception that we need to create. That's another example I can think of. One more inclusive inclusivity challenge that women face at work, and I say any organization, chances are that you will find more women doing administrative tasks instead of men. For example, they know it's in the meetings, arranging a partner, arranging a holiday party, you will see more women doing that, and because they are busy with tactical work and less involved in strategic work, they lose out on those promotions because it's strategic work that gets visibility, that gets more rate when you're considering anybody for a promotion, right. That the reality. So that is another issue that women face.
Lorelei: How do you get out of that?
Jashn: All of us, we need to make conscious effort, if we see a female leader or a female taking notes in the meeting, try and divide that work next time we have someone else, have a male to take those notes. Be conscious about these things. These small things matter. It's like you wanna fill a bucket of water, you start with the first job, you just don't get a bucket full on water, just like that. So every drop matters.
Lorelei: That's a fantastic analogy.
Jashn: Yeah, so it's taking notes of the meeting is a drop in that bucket, so I would say that pay attention to these drops and eventually you will see that more women are now flourishing in your organizations.
Lorelei: Jashn, in your last example about women kind of being pushed into different roles, like the socialized roles of caretaking and support type roles, it's pretty common, and that tends to mean that there are other social expectations and different levels of success, different benchmarks that men versus women have to hit. Have you seen that in your work on inclusive practices in diversity?
Jashn: Yes, not only that, I've seen and invited their life at work. I can call an example from this recent Harvard study that indicates that women face harsher consequences for the same mistakes as compared to men. The example that the study has given is that women got in misconduct were 20% more likely to be fired and 30% less likely to find new employment in the financial services industry. This was around when financial service industries were having a really big, I would say, financial scam in the last few years. This article came out in December 2018 in Harvard Business School. It said there are harsher parameters for women than men, and that also got proven in the pandemic, when we should have shown more empathy when the whole world has come to a standstill, still women had to be the consequences of showing empathy at work, showing more that you're not only working, but also taking care of people who are left at home who needed that care. I myself, I have two kids, 11 and 8, and for both, schools were off, there was no off to get them taking classes from home, setting everything up for them every time. Any time they have an issue, they come to me first, the mother. We won't get into the reasons, we'd need a whole podcast for that one, that happens. But today we're talking about that, yes, women had to do that, but then they pull the consequences, they had to be either fired or they were built out that they were thinking of leaving the job themselves. So yes, we are harder when we evaluate women, even aggression. I think there are a lot of studies done, if a female is aggressive, it seemed very different from male being aggressive or showing the signs of male leadership polling the room. We have to be nurturing. At the same time, showing the assertiveness, you and I cannot go all out and show assertiveness and then command the room the way a man can. And for them, for men, it will go in the favor for a female or a woman. It will be seen as, "Oh my God, she's too aggressive, and she does not have that feminine side," we do. So we do have different parameters, and sometimes they're very harsh.
Lorelei: My favorite example of that was a study that was talking about actual evaluations with numbers like Likert scales like 1 to 5, 1 to six, one to 10, and male to female comparisons on a five-point Likert scale, women were scoring worse than men on a five-point scale. But when you change it to a six-point Likert scale, women score better than men when you don't have the middle option, when you have to make a decision on them being excellent at their job or them being like below par, women score better. So even built into the numbers, the statistics, there's a weird way that women are judged more harshly than their male counterparts, even though the data shows for a lot of leadership positions, women on average score better than their male counterparts, just like our world leader example from 2020.
Jashn: Absolutely, we have so many examples, but somehow this mindset that we have, the perceptions, is still not letting us really experience that female power in its authentic self. I think it's time that we let them be and then experience their feminininity or the way it is, the way it is intended to be. Yeah, I would like to see that.
Lorelei: We would all like to see that!
Lorelei: How can companies start to evolve away from those types of exclusionary behaviors such as unconscious bias.
Jashn: Exclusion is built into our system, it's like if I could buy a Louis Vuitton bag, I feel so exclusive. Right, it's like a human nature I can have. I feel superior. But if you really ask me at our workplace or anywhere in the world, the more cooperative we are, more inclusive we are, we have better results. And in my experience, inclusion will not happen overnight. First, we need to acknowledge this. Another thing, we will have to acknowledge is that we all sit with a bias, we do have it, it could be a good bias or it could be a bias that is hindering somebody's growth or hindering somebody care, but we all sit with it. So that's another challenge to acknowledge. And building inclusion or inclusivity in an organization will take time, it will take commitment, it will take resources. We need to be aware of that and commit to that. Organizations will have to be conscious, and I like to call it conscious income, not just inclusion, conscious inclusion, that's what you have to do. It is a mindset shift and change in human behaviors that we are caring and therefore it will not be quick. It needs long-term commitment to really build inclusion, I would say.
Lorelei: Talk to us more about that long-term commitment, what are some of the larger solutions, the larger processes that will help us lead with inclusivity?
Jashn: The things that can make a difference, one that I would say is that make inclusion part of your business, don't make it your side group that is just doing its own thing. Seeing it as business essential creates something that should have a short metal term plan like your business, and have those quick wins with them in your targets as an organization, have those long-term strategic plans, what is it that you wanna move in the next five years? What is it that you want to do in the next one month, just like you do with business that I think would really make a movement. And other thing is, yes, a lot of organizations do have clear diversity goals, but that clear inclusion goals also, that's really different, it's separate. Do not mix it. The diversity is, yes, I've hired so many demographics in the last few years, and now my organization looks diverse, but are you making them count. Are those numbers showing in the top leadership. Are they being promoted. Set the motion on goals, inclusion goals, those driving goals have to be there. Another one that I can say is that, don't just focus on... I have promoted so and so when that person comes from a minority group. Focus on inter-personal dynamics and the social fabric of your workforce, of your business, of your organization as a whole, because you know what? Even if you promote me as a woman of color, if in that group, my interpersonal dynamic really doesn't make me feel inclusive when I walk into that room, I still face microaggressions, I still face those small things that make me feel, "oh my God, this is not... Where I belong." I'm not gonna say nobody is gonna stay in that environment for some time, maybe they will, but they are gonna look outside and make inclusion goals part of your managers and employees goals. You have so many initiatives. Why can't you include it in the performance evaluation? It is, so do. Each organization has their own culture, and I completely understand that, but I think it's time we start measuring each and every one on their inclusivity and and how they really approach inclusion, and are they making inclusion part of their day to day lives. And you know what, with this in mind, inclusion is not a sprint, it's a marathon that you're running as an organization, so be patient. It's gonna happen, because anything I believe you pay attention to consistently starts to move that needle.
Lorelei: The intentionality of the goal is what's important.
Jashn: Absolutely the intention.
Lorelei: How will we know that our work is having that intended effect, that our intentional actions or intentional behaviors, language policies are moving us towards the goal?
Jashn: Very good question. It's important to track and trace all the goals that you've set for yourself as an organization by diversity or inclusion goals to monitor the progress of these goals, it should give you a fair idea if you're moving in the right direction or not. If I give you a few examples, one is that if you want to hire more women because you do not have women in your work force before this, and you see that in the last 6 to 12 months, you have more women population in your organization, have moved from maybe 3% to 7% or 10%. That's moving the needle. You have moved on the metric that you set for yourself, so you're making the fortune paying off when it comes to inclusion goals, see how many people did you compare the last one or two years, and are they coming from diverse backgrounds? Are they people of color. Are they coming from maybe a different leadership, it could be anything like diversity has so many colors and then so many other things that are part of it, not just race and religion, so track that, trace that and report those numbers. Be open with your workforce because if you're gonna make them part of their evaluation, share these numbers with them, then they will have more commitment towards it. A third example that I can think of is making observations on your leadership behaviors, are your leaders walking the talk, are they commited to your inclusion and goals, is it something that they talk about with their teams, is it something that they pay attention to on a daily basis, so these are the things that can really give you that sense that, yes, you're moving in the right direction, the efforts are moving the organization in the right direction.
Lorelei: We can prove that from data, what is measured can be managed.
Jashn: Absolutely, absolutely. You said it.
Lorelei: Alright, alright, Jashn. And lastly, share some resources with our listeners who wanna continue this educational journey on leading with inclusion.
Jashn: There are so many resources that are available, so many of them, it's like... You can say thousands out there. But some of my favorites are Harvard Business Review, they're very informative and sometimes they are really challenging you, so I really follow them. Connell has a podcast on inclusive excellence, they bring in really good guests, so listen to that. And then McKinsey, Accenture, they have really good research that they post on DEI. You can say, putting a lot of things out there that if you read and then share it with your teams, that can really enlighten or give you more better perspective or or addition perspective on the end. And then because I'm an HR professional, I also follow Society for HR Management. They have a lot of good articles, a lot of good research, and people who share their perspective. And they have some DEI experts that are out there, and part of this community, I love listening to them. I love listening to them because I think when it comes to DEI, inclusion, diversity and equity act more than anything else. If you listen, I think you will find your answer sometimes there, or even if not, answer some perspectives that might help you move the agenda forward.
Lorelei: Gosh, thank you so much for sharing your perspective with us today. And just like that, it's July, which means United States Independence Day. This US national holiday has evolved into a modern day celebration of patriotism, where we watch fireworks and we barbecue, wear all sorts of American flag apparel, and compromise our livers as we toast to the great nation that we are. So let's try not to forget the reason why we all gather every Fourth of July, nor the people who made this holiday and this nation possible. It was July 4th, 1776, that the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Continental Congress declaring the 13 American colonies, once subordinate to British rule, independent. Given that we continue to annually commemorate this moment in American history over two centuries later, this clearly was no small feat. This remarkable achievement could only come about from a long-standing political revolution, and a few events some of you [hopefully a lot of you] might be familiar with. Like the Stamp Act, the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party, or the ride of Paul Revere, which was multiple people on that ride, not just Paul, he's very famous though, and the battles of Lexington and Concord, all were events of the American revolution, which was led by faces of men that we all like to see in our wallets. Like Mr. Washington, Mr. Franklin, Mr. Hamilton, Andrew Jackson, etcetera. But for today's femme fact, we're going to learn about one of America's unsung heroines and their contributions to the American Revolutionary War, so in the spirit of independence and reclamation, we will bring war hero Deborah Sampson out from behind the literal shadows of men and pay tribute to her creative accomplishments. Deborah was born in 1760, in Plimpton, Massachusetts. Unfortunately, her father bailed on her mother and her six siblings when she was very young. Afterwards, Deborah's mother could no longer afford to care for her seven children and ended up putting them into different households. Deborah found herself in the company of the Thomas family in Middleborough, Massachusetts as an indentured servant where she worked until she turned 18. Under the Thomas family, Debra was deprived of a formal education, given that the head of the household didn't believe in educating women, so Deborah taught herself much of the basics with the help of Thomas's sons, whose school work she copied independently. After Deborah came of age, she went on to pursue a career in teaching, and, I'm not kidding here, basket weaving. Now, perhaps it was the low pay for her occupation or the desire for something new and exciting, or even a deep sense of patriotism for her country, but I really think it was probably the low pay, either way as soon as Deborah turned 21, she concocted the innovative idea of dressing up as a man to join the army. First under the name of Timothy Thayer. After enlistment, Deborah collected the bonus but failed to show up when her company required it. It turns out that a local resident had recognized Deborah under the male clothing and attempted to expose her to the army, so a few months later, Deborah tried it again, but this time in a different city where the likelihood of local recognition was much lower. She adopted the pseudonym Robert Shurtleff and successfully joined the Light Infantry Company of the fourth Massachusetts regimen. In her role, Deborah was tasked with espionage in neutral territories in order to gain insight into the British armies whereabouts during the war. During her numerous missions and incredible adventures, Deborah sustained musket wounds and sword wounds and all sorts of wildness. And it will come as no surprise that Deborah refused to accept treatment for her wounds by the Army's Physician because she was a she, and if you're trying to check out like a gun shot wound, you might be checking out parts of your body. It is said that she herself extracted a musket from her thigh and ended up leaving one embedded in her shoulder, but all good things usually come to an end. Deborah served nearly two years under her alter ego, Robert, until in 1783, she fell seriously ill during an epidemic where her fever necessitated medical attention. Naturally, a physician discovered that Robert was not the man they thought she was, and reported Deborah's identity. Deborah was honorably discharged in October of 1783 at West Point where she had been stationed.
The following year, Deborah returned to Massachusetts and started a family. A few years later, Deborah appealed to the Massachusetts State legislator to receive back pay for her service in the army and was successful, she later petitioned for a military pension, citing her shoulder injury as a disability that would qualify her inclusion to the pension list for disabled veterans. Initially, she was denied, but after becoming the first woman in the United States to go on a lecture tour all about her Revolutionary War adventures, her second petition in 1805 was successful. Her post or petitioning efforts made Deborah Sampson the only woman to earn a full military pension from the State of Massachusetts for her participation in the Revolutionary War. And with that, Happy belated Independence Day to you all. Keep fighting the good fight for your own individual independence as you are beholden to no one. And as Deborah showed us many times, even though you might initially fail at something, perseverance can really pay off. Now, Jashn, I really appreciate your perseverance in the DEI space, clearly, you are bringing lots of power and forward thinking, and we are really grateful that you brought some of that energy to our show today.
Jashn: Thank you so much. I really wanna thank you Lorelei for reaching out and I really had a lot of fun. So thank you to you and HERdacious. All the work you guys are doing, amazing. So thank you so much.
Lorelei: Now, if you enjoyed the show, please consider subscribing and following our show, and maybe even share it with a friend who might like a little extra career support on her professional journey. Until next time, I leave it with the words of Flavia Weeden, "If one dream should fail and break into a 1,000 pieces, never be afraid to pick one of those pieces up and begin again." The end.