"The Diversity Leader"
Singleton Beato is a leader determined to create a better future for everyone. She is the Chief Diversity & Engagement Officer at McCann Worldgroup, and a thought leader and expert in the behaviors and practices organizations must embrace if they want to develop workforces that reflect society. During our conversation, she talked about the role that her race played in her upbringing, about why she waited until she was 32 to go to college, and about how to create environments that embrace differences.
- Be self-aware of who you are and how you show up.
- Be courageous; jump in and be willing to have difficult conversations.
- Be generous and show empathy to others.
"FEARLESS CREATIVE LEADERSHIP" PODCAST - TRANSCRIPT
Episode 47: "The Diversity Leader" Singleton Beato
This is Fearless, and I’m Charles Day.
Every week, I talk to leaders who are unlocking creativity - leaders who are turning the impossible … into the profitable!!! And in the process, are discovering what they’re capable of themselves.
Monday, March the 12th was an end, I hope. And a beginning, I believe.
Early Monday morning, a group of female leaders announced the creation of Times Up Advertising - a body committed to ending workplace discrimination, harassment and abuse; and to creating equitable and safe cultures within their agencies.
This is a moment. It represents the end, I fervently hope, of the male dominated hierarchy that for too long has controlled the advertising industry.
And, I believe, it represents a beginning - an inflection point in the shift to a diverse power structure and a more balanced form of leadership. A more modern form of leadership.
180 women signed the letter that announced the birth of TimesUp Advertising. Those women are a veritable who’s who of the very best female leaders across the advertising industry.
I’m proud that over the last few months, six of those women have appeared on this podcast. Colleen DeCourcy. Wendy Clark. Rosemarie Ryan. Heidi Hackemer. Susan Credle. And, today, Singleton Beato.
If you know these six women, even a little, you know they would not want to be singled out as extraordinary but as part of a group of women determined to create a future that is better than the past - for everyone.
Singleton Beato is the personification of a leader determined to create that better future for everyone.
She is the Chief Diversity & Engagement Officer at McCann Worldgroup, a position she came to after seven years as the Executive VP, for Diversity Strategy and Talent Development at the 4As.
She is a thought leader in the issues that create the absence of diversity in organizations, and she’s an expert in the behaviors and practices that organizations have to embrace if they want to develop workforces that reflect society.
During our conversation, she talked about the role that her race played in her upbringing, about why she waited until she was 32 to go to college, and about how to create environments that embrace differences.
It was a timely conversation when we recorded it a couple of weeks ago. It has become even more relevant in the aftermath of the announcement of TimesUp Advertising.
This week, 180 female leaders, collectively started a fight against that most fierce of enemies - the status quo.
This podcast is about fearless leadership.
To me, the women of Times Up Advertising embody and reflect the very heart of what I believe it means to be a fearless leader.
Great leaders are not fearless. But they do fear less. Making a difference matters more to them than the obstacles - both external and internal - that hold others back.
This fight does not end with Monday’s announcement. The fight to make a difference never ends.
But the willingness of the women of TimesUpAdvertising - and indeed the entire TimesUp movement - to act, makes the world better today.
And will make the world better tomorrow.
And for all the days to come.
Here is Singleton Beato.
Singleton welcome to Fearless, thank you so much for being on the show.
Thank you for having me on the show. I feel very honored, I do.
I've been looking forward to this conversation for some time actually. I'd normally ask a specific question at the beginning of the show, but I actually think I'd like to ask you a slightly different question. When was the first time you were conscious of your race, of your skin color? When was the first time that you suddenly thought, "Oh, that's the thing I have to deal with."
I think I've been aware of it and conscious of it probably my whole life. I grew up in Chicago on the South Side and my community was certainly predominantly black. But I think that there was this level of consciousness in conversation about how my family was different from the very beginning.
My mother grew up in the era when there were a lot of protests for equality and the focus back then was race relations and racial equality. So, I was kind of in the middle of it from the very beginning. And then as I got older, when I went to elementary school and middle school, I was one of the only black kids in all of my classes. So that obviously ... it added a layer of understanding of my difference and the reaction to my difference and how I needed to manage that.
Were you conscious of being treated differently even as a kid?
Yes. I think that pretty much when you are black in America certainly, you learn to pick up on nuances in the way that people talk to you or don't talk to you, the way that you may be almost invisible if you will to groups of people. So, I think that again early on it was clear that I would be treated differently.
There were no bad feelings that I had about myself because of it. Luckily, I grew up in a very proud family that was very proud about their identity and where we all came from. I've got such strong female ... I wanna call them family leaders that really just have always really from the beginning taught me that we are beautiful. We are black, we have something useful and different and interesting to contribute to any given situation.
And so I never felt like, "It was me?" But more, "Okay I understand what I'm dealing with, I could pick up on that very quickly." And understand how I wanted to engage based on that, and it happens to today.
So it's been something you've dealt with your entire life?
Absolutely, like right up to maybe yesterday. You go in a room and you are immediately scanning that room and you are making decisions about how you need to show up in that room before any conversation even takes place. So yeah, dealt with it all my life.
I wanna weave two things together in a second. So, I'm gonna now ask you the question I ask all my guests, which is when are you first conscious of creativity showing up in your life?
At a very young age, I have a family full of creatives. My mother was an artist, she loved to draw, and she went to art school. I was a singer and a dancer from a very young age. I would put on little shows for my family. I remember doing a show where I was singing along to a song that was put out by The Spinners, not to date myself and it was great. My family would bring me flowers just like it happens on Broadway.
So, creativity was a part of my life. I loved theater, I loved film. And I'll tell you, when I was young I didn't think of it as creativity, but I loved the magic, the magic that would happen. I wanted to grow up to be a film star, not an actor but a star, but it's because what I saw and obviously so much of the work that I do is about the layers of the things that we see and experience throughout our lives and how that shows up every day.
But there is what I would call Hollywood magic that happens, right? So you're watching a great movie and there is a moment, a crescendo that happens emotionally to you, and I call that Hollywood magic and I said, "I wanna be a part of that."
Of course, as I was growing up, it took me until probably my 20s to realize that there are a lot of people behind the scenes that are creating that moment. But yeah, so, creativity was something that I recognize, was important to me or important part of me, and important aspect of the path that I was going to journey on as I became an adult.
Where did you go to school?
I went to school in a lot of places. I went to school obviously primary school in Chicago, then my family moved to San Diego, California. And so I went to middle school and high school there. And I went to college in New Jersey. I did not go to college until I was in my 30s because I understood when I was leaving high school that I had sort of learned to game the system.
And I knew that if I went to college, I was really just gonna waste someone's money because I was gonna spend most of my time going to the parties because I was sick of school. And I also learned early on that I could show up, do mediocre work and pass, and I didn't wanna pass and I didn't wanna waste anyone's money. So, I felt like "Well, let me just skip to what I really wanna do."
So, right after high school I moved to New York. And a lot of people said I couldn't do it. Even my father said, "Oh, you'll never be able to live in New York, you have no college degree and you'll never ..." And I decided that so much of who I am is about taking the challenge. And so I felt that since everyone thought that this would be an impossible journey to be successful in New York without a college degree, I was gonna take in on and beat it.
And I did, and I was very successful for a lot of years. At a certain point kind of the creative path and journey that I was on was competing very heavily with the corporate journey that I had fallen into. Because I had great administration skills and great project management skills, at a certain point I chose the corporate journey.
Was that a hard choice?
No, because I met a wonderful man who's very traditional guy, he's Dominican, a very traditional guy and it was apparent to me, sometimes you get into those cross roads moments in your life. And it was apparent to me that I would need to make a choice, because if I wanted a future with this man and a family, which I did, I would not be able to in good conscience be the type of mom that would call their family and their children from another country and say, "Hey mommy loves you and the nanny will finish raising you."
Not that ... I'd known knock on people that can be fine with that, but I knew at a young age, I was not that woman. And so I made the choice to marry this man and build a family and a life with him and it's been incredible. But a certain point when we decide when we were going to have children, right after I gave birth to my son Gascon, I thought about the example that I was setting for him. And I thought about who he was going to be, like literally I had just given birth and I'm thinking about all this stuff, right?
And I knew that he was going to be a black man in America, and that college would not be an option because I would want him to have every opportunity to make choices. I also knew that as young people do that he would challenge me on saying that you have to go to college if I had not been myself, because at that time I had realized a lot of success in my professional carrier.
So, at that point I didn't need to go college, I proven myself I was already at a senior level making great money. But I wanted to be able to say to him, no, college is just happening and if I did it, then you will do it and because I said so.
So I started college right after I gave birth to him at 32 and I went straight through and got my masters, but I was also ready to receive the education and knowledge. I was able to hungry for that knowledge and be interested. So that it was not a scenario where a professor was talking at me, but where I was literary engaged in what the professors and the curriculum and the teaching could offer me for my life, so it was great.
You went to college full-time?
Full-time. I went to college full-time and I was working full-time.
How did you do that?
Yeah, I was lucky enough to work for people that really valued what I could bring to my work and what I had already proven myself to bring to the work. And because of it, they wanted to support what I intended to do for my professional journey in terms of education.
And so they allowed me to work from 6:00am to 2:00pm every knowing of course, because I was a workaholic that I would log on latter on to make sure that all of my bases were covered. But because they gave me that flexibility, and let's face it, if you leave the house at 4:30am or 5:00am in the morning, the baby's still asleep, everyone is still asleep, so you still could home at 2:00, take care of the baby, spend time with the baby and then go to school at night. So, that's what I did, that's right, yeah.
What was it like being a 32 year old student?
I wasn't alone, because there was a great mix of people of different ages in my classes, but it honestly was great. It was great because I was moving toward what I would call when I was younger my Clair Huxtable years, okay? And I loved clear Clair Huxtable because that was a woman who seemed like she had it all together, right? She had it under control and all together and she was equal to any problem, she could balance it all.
So, I was moving toward that point in my life where I knew myself. I knew that my capabilities were endless. I was a lot more fearless and so because of that, I loved it because I handled it differently than kids out of high school would. I handled the workload differently, I already understood how to navigate a challenge in a way that would be efficient in terms of the time to solve whatever my scholastic challenge was.
And I think I also had better language to express myself and I also made a cognition. I was able to think about my thinking, so that when I approached an assignment, I wasn't trying to get through it, but I was able to complete it more quickly because of the way that I had absorbed the information in the text. So, it was an awesome experience for me, and I was able to get through it pretty quickly because of that.
And then you jumped back into the workforce full-time?
Yes, I did.
At the same company?
No. A few months after I completed school, there have been so many leadership changers that I felt it was a great time for me to explore new opportunities. I wasn't really in full pursuit of my next opportunity, but I happened to get a phone call from a woman that I had known professionally for years, who had followed my career.
And she said to me, "I have a client at J. Walter Thompson and they need a builder. They need someone who is entrepreneurial, who can come in and deal with fast pace craziness and build an HR Department and structure that will really properly service the agency.
Were you conscious either from your own perspective of your race playing a part in your decision-making process? And were you conscious of other people looking at you through that lens of having that influence then as well?
At that point, I'm always conscious of it. So let me just start by saying I'm always conscious, I'm always conscious that I'm different, I'm always conscious and I'm conscious that the unconscious bias of another person will play a role in how we engage. It just will.
And so to that end, as I'm making all of those decisions my race is less a factor for me because it's sort of a part of me that at that point I had accepted, but almost pushed to the side because I had already proven to myself that my race would only be a barrier if I let it be, that no one could stop me, no one can stop me from doing whatever it was I would want to do.
So what did find out when you moved into advertising about yourself?
I found out that I really was capable of making significant shifts in how I applied my knowledge and my skills. I found out that I was far more resilient than even I had expected, and I found that I had done a fair job at developing the skill and interpersonal connection building.
I don't think that I realized that before I became a part of the advertising community, because relationships are so critical. They are critical in any industry, but in particular in our industry, developing relationships and connections can be the difference between success and failure, absolutely.
And as you started to go inside the industry and you started to see creativity through that lens, what did that activate in you?
Full excitement. I was completely excited.
And my excitement came into play when I realized that I could take sort of my experiences from other global organizations where I had engaged with people from all walks of life that had different cultural identities. And how that sort of became a presence in those interactions and I understood how I could apply that to my conversations in the Ad industry about difference and difference in cultural ethnic identity difference, as it pertains to what I called the big D.
Give me an example of big D difference?
Big D difference is religious differences maybe, because if there are no obvious ways for me to see that you have a certain religious background, by your dress or practices that I witnessed, then I really am not recognizing the difference between the two of us. And I'm not recognizing a critical part of your identity, that's important to you. So that's what I mean by big D differences. Now we talk about different forms of invisible diversity, my son has ADHD and you would not know unless he told you that.
So I think it's important to understand how all of these nuances of difference are important. They are important to the way we engage at work, in our teams. They are important to the way that we pursue solving business challenges as a collective.
And they are important in terms of making sure that we create the conditions where no matter how diversity is showing up, those conditions are providing the psychological safety. And the kind of collective embrace that becomes critical if you are going to have a type of work place where all people from different walks of life and that have different experiences, lean forward and leverage those differences to maximize creativity, to maximize innovation.
You gotta have everybody leaning in, you have to have the type of environment, where diversity at its core can be unleashed and leveraged.
When did you get to the point that you realized you wanted to make diversity and inclusion a primary focus of your career path?
When I was at J. Walter Thompson, I was given the opportunity to reimagine how that agency approached diversity and inclusion and I created the first fully comprehensive diversity strategy. I had a conversation with our CEO and he just asked me this very honest question and he said, "Singleton, why can't we solve this? Why is this such a hardship?" And I said, "Because we're not doing anything on purpose to change it. We're sort of going about business as usual and hoping that magically things will be different."
I felt that I could really make change, because I also was at a point in career where, again I was fearless enough to have the hard conversations with people. And just tell them the truth about the challenge and what would be necessary to solve it. And I also felt that I had the experience to help provide the tools to make the difference, because I think a lot of our leaders say, "Yes, I want change, but what do I do?"
And so I decided that my next role would be focus 100% on diversity and making change in that space.
Which is what took you to the 4A's?
That's what took me to the 4A's. Before I had been a part of some of the leadership groups, the agency leadership groups for the 4A's. But I felt that the work that had been to that point around diversity was a bit lackluster. And really just because of the timing, the industry itself had been in the public eye for not making a lot of improvement in the diversity space. So, to that end, the 4A's was in a position where it had not had to really create progressive models around diversity.
It was good enough to have an intern program where you were sourcing diverse students from around the world, because agencies were so desperate and hungry for diverse talent that that was sort of good enough. But once the kind of public shaming begun, it was clear that we were in a very new space and that a more progressive approach to helping agencies in the industry move forward with regard to diversity and inclusion, I thought I could help.
So the advertising industry has talked for a long time about its own diversity issues and more often that conversation has been fringed with a lens of gender equality. And recently of course that has become an explosive topic for lots of different reasons. Why do you think you mentioned creativity earlier and the role of diversity and obviously that's an area I would like to explore for a few minutes. Creativity thrives on diversity, right? We could argue, we probably both would argue that diversity is essential to creativity. Why do you think an industry that sells creativity has such problem with diversity?
Well, it's a great question. I think that we have a problem with diversity in the way that it is defined because we've been a pretty successful industry because we have leveraged diversity in a very different way. So very often we know that when we approach solving a business problem for a client, we pull together a team of planners and account folks and creatives. Sometimes we have digital people.
But even though those folks are maybe the same ethnicity, they are diverse in the way that they approach solving the problem. So you see it's a very interesting dichotomy because diversity is what made us as great as we are today. But with diversity as we talk about it in terms of cultural and ethnic diversity and gender diversity, that adds a very different layer of complexity.
So we do approach everything from a model of diverse thinking, but the thinking comes from the disciplines. So the reason that we have a challenge is because there is this tension and under-current of a collective thought process that says, "We are diverse, we are already diverse. Diversity of thought is critical, and we have that in these meetings in our agencies, we have diverse thinkers." And I liken this to the period in which digital as a component of our business and our client's business and really the way that consumers experience our work and our messages.
Very often the digital teams and digital people were set aside. They felt othered and they weren't brought into those core meetings. Well, fast forward and this is all because technology of course, digital is a part of everything that we do. But the aspects of what digital professionals and technology professionals could bring to our efforts to solve business were not valued at the same level of the account groups, the creatives and the planners. Well, what we know now is they're critical, their knowledge, their insights. The way that they approach a problem and can support the problems that we solve for our clients are an important aspect of our offering as a creative industry it's taken off.
That was a diverse group that was outside of our core model. And so what's happening now is and we talk about the importance of this more traditional approach to diversity, we are having a tough time, that same tough time integrating the prospect of diversity with regard to gender and race and you name it because there is not the same pressure from the external to make the change.
Part of the reason that the public discourse on diversity is at the level that it is today is because that's changing. So clients are starting to become acutely aware of how important all types of diversity are to their bottom line. But unlike digital, the rate of change is slower because what the client is looking at doesn't apply as much pressure for change. So what we're looking at doesn't apply as much pressure for change.
You have to go after what is most pressing at the time. And the digital integration was absolutely filled with pressure, we had to make those changes immediately in our team frameworks, in our organizational frameworks, in our leadership frameworks. We had to do it because technology moves quickly so we had to run after it if we were gonna compete.
So is a business imperative.
It is a business imperative.
Are we missing the human imperative?
I don't think we're missing the human imperative. I think that the human imperative is integrated in the business component. At the end of the day, it's our talent that helps us to work toward great messages and great stories that connect to the consumers. And each one of those employees has a story, each one of those employees have a unique perspective.
But what we have seen is that and what we know is that the perspectives are out of balance. Because we have sort of recycled the same talent in the industry for so many years, that many of the employees that work in our agencies have become accustomed to thinking a certain way. And therefore, relying a little bit less on their unique insights.
And so there is a certain homogeneity that comes with this cycle of moving the same types of thinking and human beings from one agency to another. But what we're not doing is balancing the conversation with human beings that are extremely different than the employees and human beings that are typically in a room when we're talking about what our clients need.
So the human element comes with the diversity piece because it's all about insights, it's all about perspective, it's all about the unique stories that people can bring to bare. And the fact that after a while, you have sort of the kind of a uniform way of thinking and approaching a problem. So I don't think we're missing the human part if we do the work.
One of the things I'm always struck by in my work is how hard it is for people to see themselves accurately. Why, we all struggle with that in fact. I don't know whether it's even harder or just as hard to see other people, truly see them, because we have so much noise in our own heads and we have so much wiring and preconditioning and unconscious bias and so on.
Where do you think the focus needs to be placed, is it first helping people to see themselves more clearly so that they can actually take that noise apart and understand their own perspective and then help them to see the world through that lens? Or is it just starting with helping them to see how the world shows up?
Yes to both. I remember a conversation that I had so many years ago where a leader said, "Well you know I think that we should focus on recruiting people that are diverse." And what I made clear at that time, and what I truly believe and have seen sort of play out in my work, is that you can't do one and then the other or one or the other.
Yes, I think it's important for people to understand how to see themselves, which is why an important part of the McCann Worldgroup global Strategy is focused on making sure that every single one of our employees go through Unconscious Bias Training. 'Cause it's critical to know who you are and the way that you see people. And understand that there may be some faulty viewpoints that you've been carrying around that have been playing out in the way that you manage your teams, the way that you hire and the way that you receive talent that is different.
It's important to understand who you are and where you are, but it is not enough to merely do that. The critical aspect of our approach here at World Group and for all of our agencies is about conscious inclusion. And when I talk to people about this is, what I say to them is, "It's great to understand how the unconscious you is showing up and impacting your work, your relationships and your ability to retain and create the conditions for talent to thrive, great for you to know yourself.
But there are some important ways that you have to think about the gap between knowing oneself. And conscious inclusion and that really entails creating tools and interventions to help people bridge that gap. Because we are all our human selves and because of that we have certain set of beliefs. We come into the work place a full composition of our experiences and what our families taught us and the influences around us that have been around us our entire lives. And so changing a human being is not easy.
I tell people all the time, "It's hard for me to change something in my husband as small as getting him not to drop his towels on the floor after a shower." I can't even change that, this is a guy, he loves me, we have a relationship. He knows all the reasons that that is a problem. However, and I can say this after being with him for 25 years that I've not been able to change some of these things.
Well, if you can't change someone that loves you, who is sort of wired to try to create the conditions where you feel that you're heard, where you're happy. And really to prove to you that they care about how you feel, If I can't change that, it's gonna be really hard for me to change you.
We can do all the Unconscious Bias Training we want. There has to be some meaningful reason that taps into not just the mindset but the heart of a person to help them to change. It's not as simple as a lawsuit. It's not as simple as a training program. It's not as simple as posters in your office. It's just tough work to change the way a person perceives the world around them and what's necessary to be able to be successful themselves and what they're missing out on in terms of human relationships. And growing not only as professional but as individuals.
These things are critical, but you have to sort of do it all. This is at its core a changed management initiative, no matter who's attempting to shift culture when it comes to diversity. It's all about change management.
Are there different kinds of people who are more receptive to this? Do you find that people of different either ages or backgrounds are more receptive to as you said so eloquently earlier, "Appealing to their heart," which is really where it comes from? Look, if it doesn't matter to you in your heart, intellectually you can say, "I should do it because my client asked me to." but the affectation of that disappears very quickly when something else becomes more important. So who's hearts are the most open?
You know that's an interesting question. Let me say that I wouldn't be able to group it and I'm gonna tell you why. A year ago, I would have said, "Young people," right? Because young people are different today, right? They are connecting themselves to their peer groups in interesting ways and these are peer groups that may be in other countries that may be very different than they are. So I would have said that and I might give into that.
But a year ago my family moved from what is a pretty urban community in New Jersey ... ha ha, yes we have those. To another community that was less urban in Northern Jersey. And my son who is a very fair-skinned young man had his first encounters with racism and this was from his peers. I mean full blown using the N-word, the whole things, right? And thinking it was perfectly fine. And even when they came to understand that using that word was upsetting to him, not only made him feel offended but made him feel othered, it hurt him. Even when they knew that, they kept doing it. And I will tell you even in recent months there have been some kids that even use the fact that that word bothers him to taunt him with it.
And so I would have said, "Young people." Because as we know, the demographics in the country and the world are to a shifting a greater population of multicultural people. But I will say that no, the answer is not young people. Now, what's interesting that we're seeing more and more is that when it comes to social causes that they care about, they are more open to change and to effect change. But often that comes as a result of some catastrophic totally offensive situation that has reached a fever-pitch and affected so many people across the country or the world that young people take action.
So I'm not gonna say young people. I will say people who are diverse themselves and who recognize their diversity are probably more inclined to lean into the effort that is required to see the change. Because they already have experienced themselves some type of othering. And they understand from an emotional standpoint how that feels. Or like you, they have seen so many negative things that have happened to other people or that people are experiencing that they are emotional inclined to, leaning to take on a lot of responsibility in our agencies, in our organizations, in our communities to make change.
I will also say that I have seen that folks in generation X have really demonstrated a greater inclination to lean into diversity work in a way that's meaningful. Because to your point, it takes time and we're all busy. I think that's something that we see all the time.
That you cycle.
We see that all the time because really this is about prioritizing the effort that it takes to change. For a thing to be important to you now, is the work that I have to do as a diversity leader. I have to make these issues and the opportunity so important to you that you prioritize it and therefore make time for it. And take an authentic position in wanting to do the work to see the change.
I think that's really well put. So it's really about helping people to define for themselves the kind of organization, the kind of society, the kind of world they want to live in, right? So I'm just curious from your standpoint, does the opposition of something else ever create positive change?
No. And I've thought a lot about that because I think that at any point in our society, there is an issue to be solved around diversity and it's a social issue. But I think that one of the reasons that we've not really seen change, that we've not elevated our consciousness as a society around some of this stuff, is because people in those groups are angry. They have experienced so much in justice and inequality for so long that you start to create this momentum that builds a sentiment of anger.
And what do we do when we're angry, we find people to blame and we wanna punish them, that's the humanity showing up in us. And because of that and the emotions tied to that we tend to swing the pendulum well over to the other side of the conversation, but we don't get to the heart of the matter, we just don't. And because of that, we land in situations where we're focused on women, gender diversity is critical. We went from the place where we said, "Women can bring so much interesting insight and we approach problems differently," we can bring so much to the business and we're not being allowed to contribute.
So the modern-day women's movement took off. What we've seen in the last, I'll say 18 months, is then the black women said, "Well wait a minute, we would like some justice too and PS when we're looking at the Fortune 500, there is only one black CEO. Wait, oh, she just resigned, so there are none. So this feels like you guys, a white women's movement you're living us behind, what about us?" And so again diverse groups are often a little bit more amiable to change. So the women that were leading a lot of that charge said, "Oh yes, women of color, we need to bring them into the fold, we need to make sure that they're a part of what we're doing because all boats rise and it's about and it's about women."
Well in the process of that work and progress, there become this added layer of harm and injustice toward women. So it moved from the benefits to the idea machine and the business machine that impacts our society in wanting young women to grow up feeling like they could also make this important contribution. It became women though have been violated and harmed. Well see now that is really taking off now in the social discourse. So what started out as a really important and useful conversation where a group of people said, "Hey we're equal to playing an important role in business and society and we want to be embraced and we want an opportunity to make those contributions too and PS those of you that kept us out. Many of you are really bad actors."
But now the entire conversation has become one conversation. So now that conversation, becomes offensive and at a certain point, feels to the white guy that he's being blamed whether or not he's a bad actor. He has been oppressive just by breathing in and out, he represents this group of people that have been oppressive and that have kept women out. We're not dealing with the issue, we are dealing with the superficial manifestation of our historical framework as a society and that's this country, that's every country.
And because we're not working to elevate consciousness as a global community and global citizens, we never get to the heart of what is really driving where we are, but more importantly the heart of what will help us to see change. And change that is sustainable, change that is inclusive of everyone.
And I have these conversations with plenty of white guys who have said, "I feel like I didn't do this, I'm a good guy. I treat everybody fairly and equally." Well, see that's like me as a black person saying, " You're a white guy sitting in front of me and you represent harm, like literal documented unmasked harm. Even though you were not even thinking about that, you're were showing me a good guy and make sure that you are allowing everybody to feel in your presence that they are included and important and valuable to a much larger picture in your life and in this world.
There are behavioral changes that have to happen, it's a cultural matter, and we can keep taking on different groups every year or every couple years but by large, they will always be another group that says, "Well, wait a minute, what about me, I'm important." But the weight of the diversity challenge du jour leaves no room for other people that feel the negative impact of being diverse today.
If you were sitting in a room, if this room was filled with people whose job it is to lead and unlock creativity, what two pieces of advice would you give them in terms of making sure they are creating as inclusive and diverse a community, an organization and culture around them?
So the first thing I would suggest is that they lean in. We're all so busy that we do not curve out the time that it takes, and again in your example earlier, it took you 20 seconds to identify an issue and do something about it. So when I say lean in, I mean you have to step outside of your day-to-day and consider what you don't know about your team or your organization and figure out how you can do things differently.
So when I talk about conscious inclusion, I'm talking about just that. How can you consciously just step back and say, "When I'm considering my team and the open position on my team. Let me look at the current makeup of the people whose knowledge and insights are brought to bear in the work that we do. Now as I've considered that, how can I now formulate a plan to create an opportunity for someone's whose completely different from these people, who have something very, very different to bring to our conversation, to our creative process."
But that takes time, you have to be conscious of the fact that the people in this room are pretty much the same or they are the same in these five ways. "How do I now seek out the diversity necessary to create the tension and the difference in the room that will inspire creativity, that will help us to think about things in a way that we never would have? How do we do that?" Again, lean into those things. The other thing I would say and before I leave that thought ... and I'm talking about if you need to put sometime on your calendar, have your assistant or you yourself put 30 minutes on your calendar one week to just think about you know, " What does difference and diversity mean in terms of how we can be more creative in our thought process? And how we can invite diversity into our conversations and our strategy sessions and things like that?"
That might mean bringing in people that are not even on your team. But how do you do that? Half an hour put it on your calendar and then create one action, just take one action just like you did the other day, right? Take one action to change the way that things are being done. I would also say build relationships with people that are different from yourself. So we started an initiative here last year, where we were very prescriptive about having our leaders meet with diverse talent. But in so doing, we decided that we were going to go as far as to put these people on the calendars, like create the meetings ourselves.
So I say relationship building is key, find some people that you do not know that are as different from yourself as possible. Again, then put one hour on your calendar a month and just have a conversation, pull in someone that is maybe from the LGBT community.
And it doesn't have to be a conversation about them being from the LGBT community, but it can be about getting to know that person, "Where are you from? Where did you go to school? What do you think of some of the work that we're doing? What's your perspective on the campaign that we did for X, Y and Z? What do you wanna do in the future and why? And what's meaningful to you in a work experience?" Just build a relationship, because so many of our decisions as managers of people and leaders, come from who we know, who is in our mental sort of Rolodex ... dating myself, sorry with the Rolodex.
But who is in that mental Rolodex that I can quickly look to, to help solve this problem or to be a part of this team or be promoted into this new assignment, who is that? Is it gonna be somebody that you know? So if you never get to understand the interesting thinking and the insights in the framework that comes from some of the more diverse people around you, then you probably aren't gonna make choices that include diversity in terms of your talent. Just because you gotta make decisions based on what you know, so I would say expand what you know and who you know, those two things.
What are afraid of? Last question.
What am I afraid of? Oh, I am afraid that my son will grow up in a world that is fighting with itself and that the basis of that fight will continue to be difference and the rejection of difference and the fear of difference. And I'm afraid that will affect the way that he builds his family and makes his choices in life and raises his children, that's what I'm afraid of.
I understand that. I have three things for you to take away with you. Actually, they are wrapped under an umbrella of just respect and admiration for the work you've done in terms of your self-awareness, it's just extraordinary. I mean your consciousness of who you are and how you show up. Even going back to the choice of when to go to college and why to wait, I mean, the level of self-awareness that that takes I think is rare and extreme.
Moving beyond that, clearly your courage, your willingness to lean into a situation to jump in and to have difficult conversations I think with anybody and to figure out what you're capable of and to take on those challenges is really powerful. Your generosity towards other people and making time, willingness to have conversations, willingness to help them in almost any circumstance. And I think finally your empathy of really being able to see through the lens with which somebody else looks at the world. We need a lot more of that and I'm really glad that you're around to provide it. Do those resonate with you?
They do. Thank you very much. I will say that I hope that I can apply all of those things to helping our industry to change. I think we play such an important role in how society sees itself, what society thinks is important, what hits at the emotions of an individual that are on the receiving end of our creativity, that activates them to think differently. To behave differently and to look at their fellow humans differently and also for our industry to take seriously the fact that we have to change, and we shouldn't wait until there are all these really harsh conversations going on. And we are probably most uniquely situated to change because of what I said before, we've been approaching business through the lens of diversity in terms of the disciplines that we collect to create ideas, we've been doing that for ever.
There's probably no industry that can do it better or more effectively than we, we just have to change our minds, commit to that change and then be the change and I thank you for all that you do. I think when we talk about diversity, I talk about how culture drives creativity.
I think I would love to leave your listeners with a suggestion that they listen to all of your podcasts. Because they all inspire one to be more innovative, to think more creatively and to be much more fearless in the way that we approach our work, approach each other and think about the world at large and I thank you for that gift. But I would suggest that people really listen to the people that you're talking to and those conversations to expand themselves.
Oh I appreciate that, thank you. I'm humbled by that. I have one last thing to say to you. Happy birthday.
Thank you. There is no better way for me to kick off my birthday than to be with you.
And you're awesome. Singleton, thank you so much for being here.
Thank you for asking me, I appreciate it.