Unexpected Insights Learning About Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Last fall I initiated a book reading group for Women In Consulting members. I did this for several reasons: 

  1. In the wake of the protests in the summer and fall of 2020, exploring racism in the US became important to me as a citizen of this great nation and as a leader of this organization. 
  2. To bring smart people together for discussing and digesting thought-provoking books on racism.
  3. I wanted to get to know more members in Women In Consulting and have found the best way to do that is over time and talking about things that matter.

We have continuously met for the last 14 months and I look forward to every Wednesday evening. 

This exploration has transformed my understanding and galvanized my commitment to action.

And contrary to the clickbait soundbites on various ‘news’ outlets, I feel more hopeful about the US than I did when I was clueless. Knowledge turns out to be empowering, not despair-inducing.

I have gained a ton of insights and perspectives through the thoughtful reading motivated by discussing chapters every week – more than I ever would on my own. Putting those insights into words for you to read in one of the emails will take some time and deeper thinking about how to organize those thoughts, since so much of my understanding comes for the context of the conversations, sequence of the books, and depth of the writing in each book. I’ll endeavor to create that for a future email.

An Eye-Opening Experience

I’d like to share an eye-opening experience I had last year as a result of all these book discussions, study, reading, thinking, and shifting of perspective I’ve had on racism. 

I was involved in a effort to look for some leaders for a project. For a variety of reasons, some of which come from the thinking I was doing, we were looking for diversity among accomplished women: economic, experiential, cultural, and racial diversity.

The first step I took was to take a look at all my LinkedIn connections and see who might be a candidate. Two facts about how I use LinkedIn make this a good option: I connect with everyone I want to remember and am impressed with; and I have over 1700 connections. I figured if I did a search, I’d have 2nd degree connections come up as well as 1st degree.

Here’s what I discovered: 

I had mostly people that look like me as connections. Is that surprising? Probably not, but on the other hand, it’s disturbing. That means I fall into the norm of meeting and working with people that…look like me, have similar backgrounds as me, and pretty much are in my economic tier. And that made me feel like I’ve not been trying very hard to really understand what it takes to create equity. 

Secondly, I did have connections with women from other cultures. Quite a few. That gave me a little hope to grasp onto. Well, maybe I’m not so myopic after all.

And finally, the coup de grace: I had only 1 connection out of more than 1700 that is a black woman (not true anymore). I could hardly believe that. I had to stop for a moment and admit to myself that I was a shining example of talk the talk but not walk the walk. EEK. 

I invite you to take a look at your connections. Look for the groups they fall into. It’s kind of a shorthand assessment of where you’re at in this process of understanding racism and then doing something about it.

And here’s the kicker. I know you know that women who are working hard to get ahead in business often need to excel more than the men they’re competing with. They (we) have needed to prove ourselves in ways we don’t perceive men needing to do. Take that and multiply it by 5 or 10 and you have roughly what it takes to be successful in the same world but as a black woman, a woman of color, other cultures, and so on. That translates into some brilliance not getting the same opportunities – brilliance in women that we’re not bringing into our connections and our work, our partnerships and collaborations, and our clients

Now I look at this differently and act differently. I now intentionally seek out a variety of women to meet, see what they’re up to, explore how we can collaborate, and stay connected and in conversation with. 

And here’s the part of that I misunderstood before: I’m doing this to expand my own perspectives, opportunities, and resources. Because these women are amazing. I’m not doing this for some altruistic, patronizing reason – that wouldn’t reflect any of the insights I’ve gained over the last year and a half and it wouldn’t make sense in any other way.

I encourage you to not only do my quick LinkedIn assessment of taking a look at all your connections, but also think more about what you might be missing.

We have a speaker for our next Business Health Check who will be talking about this and offering a checklist of ways you can level up the resources for your business and your clients by diversifying. 

Wishing you a great weekend and I hope Thursday January 27 was a wonderfully fun National Chocolate Cake Day for you!

About Kathryn Gorges

President of Women In Consulting, Senior Business and Marketing Coach, and Co-Founder at Inspired Success, I coach and lead masterminds for inspired entrepreneurs creating businesses that fuel their passion, bring them joy, put them in flow, and make them money. I apply over 10 years transformational coaching experience and 17 years of high tech marketing and sales to my work with entrepreneurs. My extensive marketing background enables me to help businesses close the gaps between their offerings and the needs of their market and communicate value simply and effectively so that revenue can grow sustainably.

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