As Chief Diversity Officer for Goldman Sachs, Erika Irish Brown ’98 is responsible for the firm’s global diversity strategy, including the development of initiatives for the recruitment, retention, and advancement of diverse professionals. In a broader sense, Ms. Brown works to embed inclusive cultural values in the organization. In conversation with Vice Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Gita Johar, Ms. Brown discusses her experience leading these initiatives across various business and financial institutions, with a focus on opportunities as well as challenges. The conversation also touches on the role that business can play in addressing racial and social justice in the current environment.
Costis Maglaras | Dean | David and Lyn Silfen Professor of Business | Columbia Business School 0:04
welcome to all of you that join us this afternoon. Thank you for, for coming. I want to frame a little bit what we're doing. We originally developed the leadership through crisis series as an immediate response to COVID-19. The goal was to offer insights, valuable thought leadership from faculty, alumni and business leaders during this time of great uncertainty. And also as a way for a Columbia community to sort of stay connected and informed about what is going on wherever there were, or are in the world. Over the last three months, we have hosted more than 20 live programs with experts and thought leaders across business disciplines. In addition to live web programs, we have interviewed faculty, alumni and highlighted research. We have served information regularly with all of you. And we will clearly continue to do so. Now in light of current events, we have elected to really widen the focus of this series to also address recent in justices that have captured the collective attention of our nation's Black Lives Matter. And it's an important important for us to acknowledge that, to discuss it, and to explore the ways in which business leaders are responding to these issues as well. That's the series will be evolving into a wider platform for discussion of and thought leadership. In addition to furthering our understanding of short and long term effects of global of the global pandemic. The series will highlight actions and research from faculty experts, business leaders, responding in real time to current events, and most notably issues of race, justice, discrimination, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion among others. while offering a path forward in challenging times. We will continue to host programs like today's on a regular basis and we really look forward to all of you engaging with us as often as possible. With that said, and without prologue, let me share a few quick comments. We introduce our two amazing speakers today. That I'm sure are going to provide a very lively conversation. Erica Iris brown and Geeta Joe Hart. So let me share a couple of words for for each of them. Erica graduated from high school in 1998. Erica, that was the year I joined the school, and is currently the Chief Diversity Officer of Goldman Sachs is responsible for a Global Diversity and Inclusion strategy, as well as efforts related to recruitment, retention and advancement of diverse professionals. Erica has over 15 years worth of experience in the area of diversity and inclusion and power. Prior to her role at Goldman Erica worked at Bloomberg Bank of America and Lehman Brothers with a focus on inclusion and diversity hiring efforts. She also has extensive experience in banking and finance, and additionally serves as a member of the Executive Leadership Council is also a friend of the schools. It comes to many of our events, including events that we speak to admitted students talking about, in particular admitted students, their diverse backgrounds. Let me give you an introduction for Geeta professional Geeta Jo har is our Vice Dean for diversity, equity and inclusion. He sees the mayor Philbrick professor of business in the marketing division and many of you may know Geeta from her core classes in marketing as well as courses in the global immersion program. Professor Joe Hart her expertise in consumer psychology focusing on how customers react to marketing efforts, especially advertising promotions or sponsorship. She also examines the influence of consumer self control and perceptions of control on decision making and consumption. I asked Geeta about 12 months ago to be the inaugural Vice Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the school. And she has been really leading our efforts in these areas. And in particular focusing on three strategic areas of importance, community diversity, curriculum and classroom inclusion and culture and climate. Served in many, many areas of leadership at the school. She was the inaugural Vice Dean for Research was a Senior Vice Dean for Faculty Affairs. She is an amazing partner, to me and to the school. And I want to thank both of you for sharing your experience and expertise today with our students and all of our participants. really look forward to a lively conversation. Thank you.
Gita Johar | Vice Dean for Diversity, Equity and inclusion | Meyer Feldberg Professor of Business | Columbia Business School 4:44
Thank you so much. coasties Thank you for that wonderful introduction both to the series, the pivot we've made we've made with the series, as well as your introduction of Erica and myself and Erica Welcome and thank you so much for agreeing to be part of conversation, we have a large audience that is all eager to hear from you. So I will start by just asking you a very, very general question, which is, this is a difficult time, it's a difficult time for you probably personally, as well as professionally. And I want to just start by asking, How are you feeling? How are you doing? What's been on your mind?
Erika Irish Brown | Chief Diversity Officer | Goldman Sachs 5:25
Thank you, and thank you for having me. You know, it's always a privilege to come back to Columbia Business School, and, and certainly to have this really important dialogue. As you can imagine, I've been asked, How am I doing by very many people, especially over the last three weeks, and really over the last, you know, three, four months? or so? The answer is I'm exhausted, physically exhausted, mentally exhausted, emotionally exhausted. You know, for me, as the mother of three black young men, the recent events have taken its toll, it's very difficult to watch the videos of a matar Berry, or George Floyd, and not think that that could be my son's. So I've really taken that to heart and we know that they are not the first. So that's been really tough. And then, of course, in my profession, I am doing my very best to lead Goldman Sachs through this very challenging time. Right. And, and, and we're in a dual crisis, because really, this first started with COVID-19. And as a global firm, we were dealing with COVID-19, of course, before it got here to the States. And there are very many diversity inclusion issues, when you think about the impact of COVID-19. And the impact on diverse professionals, whether or not it's anti Asian sentiment and discrimination, whether or not it's our caregivers, doing the double double at home, caring for their families, working, serving as teachers, housekeepers, everything that you can imagine. And then the disproportionate impact on communities of color as it pertains to either job loss, certainly loss of life. And, and really understanding the roles of critical workers, right frontline workers, and I think when people at my firm think of essential workers, at first, you might think of, you know, the traders and the people that manage our infrastructure, but I think we all have a different definition of essential workers. And I think we see who disproportionately those essential workers are, and people that don't have the luxury to work from a home office, and and how that has impacted communities of color. So those are all things that I think about, think about how we have to respond as a firm, how we can support communities, our clients, people's families around the world. And certainly, I felt like the current race crisis was something that we really had to show up, and, and support our people who, just at this point, I think everybody was home. I think everybody was feeling very human. I think everybody really watched what happened to George Floyd. Nobody was running to a dinner to a flight, working late. And I think that any human being that watched that video had to have been impacted, and they were impacted. And then coupled with Christian Cooper. It was one of those things where I think, you know, everybody just reached the breaking point and said enough. And and, you know, and I've been working extra hard ever since to try to make this moment turn into a movement and to have, you know, George Floyd is not the first tragic loss of life. But maybe he'll be the last in this manner. Thank you,
Unknown Speaker 9:39
Erica, thank you for sharing your personal reflections as well. And also on a professional standpoint, you made a very interesting point that there's an interaction between the health crisis between COVID and the focus on systematic racism. The fact that people now have a moment to stop and think and absorb what they're seeing and therefore realize that this is wrong, and it cannot continue, and then make a movement, as you said so well into a movement. So I think that interaction between the moment when we're all sitting back, those of us lucky to do so at home, and being able to absorb all of this has also enabled realization of systemic racism innovates, I think that's a very important point, I want to build on something else you said, which is what what the organization, particularly Goldman Sachs, in this instance, is doing and can be doing, you touched on a number of things about your clients, essential workers, whether I had never thought of traders as essential workers that I see how that's, you know, that's really true, you can stay at home and also other employees. So what exactly like any sort talk about some specific things that you have been doing at the organization from a dei perspective?
Unknown Speaker 10:55
Sure, I think one of the things that we thought was important was that our CEO share his views. And, and he did, and I think that, you know, for people who, you know, work for a senior leader, they look to that leader for guidance, they look to that leader for support, people want to know that they're working for a company that has values consistent with their values. And I really feel like we were able to show up in that way, in a very authentic manner. And, you know, our CEO has has made multiple statements and shown many different ways to support the community, both internally and externally. So I think that was one of the things that we thought was important and executed on, we also thought it was important to tell the story. So we hosted a global firm, wide Town Hall, where our CEO moderated a panel of three black partners. Very, you know, very senior, very well regarded all three running, you know, major businesses at our firm. And, and they told their stories. And I think the storytelling has been very powerful. And I think that black people, black leaders are telling stories that they've not told before in public forums, and certainly not in the workplace. And I think that it has created insights on the lived experiences of black people, insight that everybody may not have previously had. And I think that one of those insights is that regardless of socioeconomic status, level of education, who your employer is that, you know, as a black person, you know, once you walk out of the doors of Goldman Sachs, that you have the same concerns for your own personal safety, or the safety of your child, or, you know, driving while black. And that it is no different for us, then any person they may have, you know, read about or heard of,
Unknown Speaker 13:26
in the past. So I do think that that was an eye opener, we also thought that by using some of our senior most black partners, to tell their stories, that it would give our other black colleagues permission to storyteller to talk, to feel something to show emotion in the workplace, which is not something that's typical. But we felt like this was a breaking point between COVID and, you know, the race crisis, and we're all working, you know, finding, having a lot of difficulty setting boundaries, right, you know, and we used to talk about not bringing your personal life into the office, well, now your office is your personal life, and, you know, everything's intertwined. So, um, you know, we really felt like we had to make it okay, to show that emotion to tell the stories. I did a fair amount of storytelling myself, and even in my professional capacity as Chief Diversity Officer, and having to deliver information, training on how to you know how to start dialogues about race in the workplace. I also wanted to maintain my own personal authenticity. So whereas you might try to script out your opening remarks what you might want to say, think about what example you might want to use to drive a point home. I actually didn't do that. For these trainings. I wanted it to come out wrong. authentic, I never went into a training knowing exactly what story I was going to tell, because I didn't want it to sound rehearsed, or that I was talking about a personal point of pain and a commercial, you know, educational way. And, and I needed to be able to process and go through my own stages of grief, while I was working in my professional capacity, and helping people understand how we might manage through this, what we expect of our managers, what we expect of our leaders, how to support our junior people, create forums for them to have open honest dialogue, create forums for them to share out to senior leaders at the firm to hear you know, the voice of our people directly. And not just through translation through people like myself. So we had a lot of forums for a storytelling and communication. I mentioned the training, we trained over 3000 managers on starting the dialogue around race in the workplace, and that was viewed very favorably and very helpful. You know, people are not comfortable talking about race. And we had to make it okay to have that conversation, give our leaders some tools to have that conversation. And also say it's okay to make a mistake, you know, and that people will make mistakes, but we need to have this dialogue and that silences endorsement. And, and that's the last thing that we think any of our colleagues would want to do is appear to not care or to endorse what was going on. So, um, you know, moving beyond that, we do have additional plans on rolling out an ally training in our divisions. And we do want to scale it so that we're able to leverage a train the trainer model for ally training, and really drive a culture of everyday allies. And we've had success with ally programs for the LGBT plus community, we have what we call disability champions, of course, we have male champions. And so now allies for racial equity is another opportunity to add to the portfolio of really what you know, should be an overarching, including champions for inclusion, inclusion champions. And I think as we go deep, dimension by dimension, we will continue to deepen our culture of inclusion at Goldman Sachs.
Unknown Speaker 17:43
Thank you for that. Erica, you talked about a few things, you talked about the initial statements, you talked about forums, where your black leaders actually spoke about how they felt in the moment and how that gave permission to others, I really liked the point you make about from the top, then it gives permission to everyone in the organization to bring, you know their whole selves to work to talk about their personal issues as well. And particularly now in this moment that is so fraught, and in this moment, when it is so difficult for our black colleagues to depose their personal lives from their professional lives, you talked about training, as well as train the trainer ally models. I think these are all really amazing tools in the toolkit. I'm taking notes, because I hope I can implement some of these here at Columbia. Also, I want to ask about do you feel like this moment has allowed you to do a lot more in the space than you've been able to do in the past, let's say five years, or however long at Goldman Sachs? Because people are being more receptive to it?
Unknown Speaker 18:43
Yeah, so I've been at the firm for two years. And, you know, my tenure has coincided with our CEOs, leadership tenure, and diversity and inclusion has been a top priority for the firm. We reconstituted our global inclusion, inclusion and diversity committee. Since I joined, we have four regional committees. And we've been on a journey. So certainly, I think this has put a spotlight on the need to drive racial diversity to address racial inequity. And to focus specifically on black. Right, and very often, we talk about people of color. Very often people are very comfortable talking about gender diversity or LGBT plus diversity. And, and sometimes people are uncomfortable really sharpening the point of the pencil and talking about black. Right, you know, it's historical there. There is a history there that has created, you know, systemic issues that you refer to earlier. And I do think that there is a A great racial divide when it comes to understanding the black experience in this country. And and I think that there is a greater understanding that is being built right now. And a greater sense of urgency to do something about it, and a clearer sense of what is disproportionately affecting the black community, whether or not it's, you know, health care, in the COVID-19. environment, whether or not it's jobs and financial security, in the COVID-19 in that environment, or whether or not it's Who's most likely to be subject to police brutality. And, and so I do feel a sense of urgency, a sense like, of We have to do something, you know, and focusing on lack with a capital B, that I have not seen, for my 30 years working on the street.
Unknown Speaker 21:09
I definitely feel that at Columbia, too, I hear the same things about diversity, equity, inclusion is a big bucket, but you need to focus and right now, I mean, you need to really be thinking about anti black racism, and all of the reasons for it and addressing it in the workplace, as well, as you know, with our students and Columbia Business School has such a big responsibility in this place. In this face, I want to come back to that at the end, when I want to ask you for very specific advice for Columbia Business School. But I want to talk still on this. Talking about Goldman, there was this email from one of your colleagues, Frederick Bhabha, a black Goldman executive who wrote an email, where he kind of talked about his own experiences of harassment at the hands of the police as a black man, he made the point you made in your opening remarks when you said, it doesn't matter who you are, when you leave the doors or pull Goldman, you're still afraid, you know, driving while black or all of those feelings that you expressed, he put that down into an email that went viral. And then I believe was shared with all of Goldman's employees. How was that received? And how did the leadership react to that?
Unknown Speaker 22:19
Yeah, I mean, we supported it, you know, even to the point of storytelling, we've used very many forms of media, frankly, internal, external, social, audio, written word, to share the experiences of our people. And we, Fred's email is not the only note that we shared on our corporate intranet, we call it GS web. It was the first it was not the last, it was powerful. And again, we felt like sharing these stories, you know, a managing director, as brilliant as Fred really made the point, you know, so so it was encouraged, it was not something we wanted to sweep under the rug. And, and we created the space for people to feel like they could do that and share and post in email. And, and the response was really favorable. Because we needed to hear those voices. It's even comforting, right? You know, it's therapeutic for the writer, it's comforting for the reader, it's informative to those who may have less perspective on on, you know, that experience and viewpoint. And, again, I think, you know, the one thing while I do think the impact is more acute on the black community, I think all of our people felt this, you know, I really think that this is a human issue at this point between COVID-19 and just what everybody saw, really, at the same time, you know, not just, you know, when you think about people's different, you know, social media, where they get it from news, where they consume it from, and what some groups are privy to versus others, you know, this wasn't just in the black newsfeed and this was not even just impacting and and in the US, right, so this really, it may have happened in the US, but it was felt seen and affected people globally. And, and just like any other global pandemic, or issue, that's how we have treated it.
Unknown Speaker 24:42
Yeah, definitely touched a nerve worldwide with all the worldwide protests that went on. And, you know, coming back to the fact that we all consumed that news at the same time. And so, you know, saw it firsthand because of the time available. I think these are all excellent points. I want to step away from Goldman for a minute and talk about the financial industry in general. And you've had a lot of experience. And do you think these issues of diversity and inclusion are even more challenging, let's say in the financial industry compared to other industries? Or how would you think about that?
Unknown Speaker 25:19
I think there are several, you know, elite, high performing industries, where some of the barriers to entry might be, you know, your level of education, what schools you want to, um, that make it more difficult to access, especially, you know, for women and people of color, and that are challenged around really having a diverse and inclusive work environment. You know, I have worked for some fantastic firms with genuine leadership on the topic, you know, thought leaders leading the function. And, you know, honestly, for my 30 years on the street, I can say that I've seen a lot of progress. At the same time, I can say, it hasn't been enough. And I'm somebody that goes into work every day, trying to figure out, you know, how do we accomplish more in the space? What's going to be that that thing? Right, that one thing, that's the game changer, and even in this current environment, I just really feel like, if I cannot capture the opportunity to make sustainable real change, especially for black colleagues, but let's not forget it, you know, it's June, we're still in pride, we still have very many dimensions of diversity to address. And that's not lost on me at my role, but certainly for this moment, and even acknowledging intersectionality, right, so whether or not it's pride, or if we were in March, or otherwise, you know, this is the time that we should be able to lay a foundation, set some bold goals, you know, and we're finally talking about systemic racism. You know, racism has been like the R word. We've never gotten there before. And, you know, at best, we've gotten to unconscious bias and micro aggressions, but we're really talking about the full picture. And it's not a dirty word either. Right? You know, and it's, it's, it's not a standalone type of, you know, but we're finally addressing all the pieces to the puzzle on how we've gotten here. So if we can figure out how we take, take things to the next level, and how we are intentional, now that we've acknowledged that there are systemic challenges. Like, I just hope that this is that opportunity. I have seen the progress the wall street I started on 30 years ago. Very, very different. But we haven't gotten far enough.
Unknown Speaker 28:18
You mentioned setting goals. So I want to talk a little bit about how do you go about doing that? Like, what's the framework for setting goals? How do you measure success of the initiatives? What are the right metrics to be thinking about?
Unknown Speaker 28:31
Sure. Well, I mean, you know, of course, you do need to measure representation, that can't be your only metric for success. But you do want to measure representation, you do want to measure it by dimension and not lump groups of people together, you know, all people of color, or, you know, something along those lines, you do want to set potentially recruiting goals. So, at Goldman Sachs, we do have entry level recruiting goals, over 70% of our hires each year are at the analyst and associate level. And we have set goals that we think are in line with the talent pool and representation of these groups around the world. So you know, for women, right? That's 50%, for example. And, and we are achieving our aspirational goals and hiring, and you know, the talent is out there, you may have to cast a broader net, you may have to add an additional school. But we've had a lot of success, and we're optimistic while you know, entry level aspirational goals is not our only effort. What we do know is that 67% of our last partner class started at the firm as analysts and Associates. So you know, so we are definitely feeding the pipeline for senior leadership in the future through these goals.
Unknown Speaker 29:55
Talking about the pipeline, that's an issue that we face at Columbia Business School, to be He's talking about, you know, how do we build a pipeline? But then there's the opposite argument, which is exactly what you said, which is maybe we're not looking broadly enough. It's not really a pipeline question. But it's a question of really looking broadly. And if you look for the talent, you will find that, right. So these seem to be sometimes put up in opposition, but maybe they're all parts of a bigger puzzle where you need to do all of these things. So I want to ask specifically about Columbia Business School, where, you know, through, we are building educating business leaders for tomorrow. And that is clearly a huge role that we play that can then lead to talent being, you know, more diverse as it goes out to investment banks, or other places, consulting firms, and so on. So we play a role in building that challenge. And I think that's a critical role. And other thing we do is we work closely with alumni who are leaders in their own right, such as yourself in many organizations. So how do we use our voice at this moment, both with our students, and then with the business leaders that we are in touch with as alumni and recruiters and so on?
Unknown Speaker 31:09
Yeah, I think, to your point, it starts with who your student body is right and casting a broad net, in terms of even the recruitment efforts, not just the people that come to Columbia Business School, because their parents is an alum, or they've already gone to an Ivy League undergrad institution, or they already were working on Wall Street and everybody's an analyst and then goes back to business school, or whatever the example may be, there are more traditional flows of potential students that I think come Columbia's way. And then there are students that don't even know what business school can be a gateway to in terms of opportunity. You know, I remember myself being very concerned about the expense of graduate education, as somebody who at that point was completely financially independent, had to figure out how to, you know, finance my education at the graduate level without any help. And, and that was really a concern of mine, when I was considering graduate education. And frankly, if I did not have a mentor, who encouraged me, and made me understand that investing in myself, was investing in my future, I probably would not have gone back to business school. And I was doing, you know, frankly, quite well, I worked for seven years before I went back to business school, and I had been an analyst, I took my G mat while I was an analyst. And you might, my mentor, every year would ask me when I was going back to business school, and I had some phenomenal opportunities. I went down to Washington, I worked in the Clinton administration for bob rubin at the US Treasury, you know, everything was going great. Every year, she would ask me, when I was going back to business school, and in that last year before that g max score expired, um, you know, it was sort of an hour, never moment in some ways, and I'm so glad that she encouraged me, but I had, I was reluctant, I didn't really have the coaching at home. To say that this is very important. You know, my, my father does not did not hold a college degree. My mother was his college educated. But, you know, these are things that are, you know, people set expectations for you people actually follow what they know and see. And if you don't know and see it, you don't know what the potential is. So that's the first thing in terms of the student body, I think, then to develop inclusive leaders, right? We know, folks that go to Colombia are going to be running something somewhere very successful, whether or not it's entrepreneurial, or within corporate. And these future leaders need to be future inclusive leaders, and need to set the tone from day one, right? So whether or not it's starting as an associate in a program, or whether or not it's a consulting firm or whatever else, right, because inclusion is how people experience that inclusion piece is who people experienced day in and day out. So, of course, you need an inclusive manager and inclusive leader. But you know, when you're sitting out, you know, on the desk, the pod, however, the office is structured, you're experiencing the person to your left and your right. And that's really where inclusion does or doesn't begin in terms of the experience. So when people think about their role in creating an inclusive work environment, it's from that first day in the office. And of course, as they become more senior and more seen as As a leader, then that role model behavior matters. And if it's important to that senior leader, if they see those actions in that senior leader, they will be replicated. So we need to really, you know, those inclusive leadership behaviors need to be part of what, you know, we ensure Columbia Business School graduates leave school having a clear view of what that is what that means the importance of it. And frankly, has a diverse network from the people that they went to school with and is, you know, culturally, fluent, globally competent, and, and they bring that to their future workplace and beyond.
Unknown Speaker 35:43
You said, through two things that really struck a chord with me, you talked about mentorship, and that's something that, you know, is a big part of building an inclusive environment, encouraging people, whether it's going on to grad school, or encouraging women or encouraging black employees, you know, to, to kind of claim their work claim their seat at the table in some sense. And I wonder if you how you think about mentorship programs? Are those more formal? Or should those be more informal? How would you think about mentorship?
Unknown Speaker 36:14
I think it should be all of the above. Right? You know, and I have, I mean, even the mentor that I referenced, in my story about going to business school, she was an assigned mentor, when I was an intern at chemical securities. And that was a long time ago, as you can imagine, and she is still somebody that's like a big sister to this day. So when people say, Oh, you know, assign mentorships never work, you know, I don't have that perspective. I know that if you put the effort in, and if that person puts the effort in, you know, it can work, it may not work, but I'd rather try. Right, then not try at all, I think some are formed organically, I think some happened through the work. I think sometimes, especially for people of color, and especially black people, very often, they are not taken under the wing in the same way, as others are, maybe we don't have the same alma mater as others do, that is a point of commonality or we're not from the same town or we don't arrive the same Metro North train are all the different things that can lead to a personal connection, or a level of familiarity and comfort. So sometimes you have to architect the pairing, and and highlight the points of commonality or the opportunity to coach a young, bright, you know, entry level person. So I think, you know, I think it should be both, I think people should have more than one mentor. I know, I did I do. And, and then of course, as as things progress, right, you know, there are some mentors that might turn into sponsors, or you might also then pick up some sponsors. But you know, certainly navigating, you know, the corporate landscape, it helps to have mentors, it helps to have sponsors, you know, a mentor can even be appear. So it doesn't always have to be somebody that's really senior at this has to be somebody that can really help you learn how to do your job exceptionally well. And, you know, give you the tips, the rules to the road, even, you know, most firms have a lot of unwritten rules. And somebody got you to give you that playbook and tell you where the landmines are buried that you can't even see. And and, you know, again, like when we put mentoring programs into place at Goldman Sachs or coaching initiatives. To me, it's not about special treatment. It's about architecting, what exists for some and not all. So it's really about leveling the playing field, and ensuring that everybody has the same opportunity for success, whether or not it happens organically or otherwise.
Unknown Speaker 39:13
Thank you, Erica, I know we have a lot of questions coming up in the chat box and a lot of interest in speaking to you directly. So I will turn it over at this point to Rachel Smith, who will moderate the q&a session, and I'll come back at the end to finish up our conversation. Thanks.
Unknown Speaker 39:32
Thank you both for an amazing conversation. There are a lot of questions coming in. So I'll start quickly with the first one. The first is about how you Erica initiated the race dialogue at Goldman. So as you talked about earlier, you have to sort of shift the conversation to start to speak specifically about black lives. How did you swerve the conversation there?
Unknown Speaker 39:55
You know, really for my 15 years in diversity inclusion I Always swerve the conversation to be inclusive across all dimensions, which absolutely included black. I have to tell you this time, it's like the conversation was swerved for me, right? You know, I mean, really, the demand and interest was there. And it was coming from every angle and every level. So it was not a challenge to initiate a real dialogue around lack diversity, you know, most recently.
Unknown Speaker 40:35
Thank you. You talked also earlier about the racial allied group that you're putting together and the training that you're putting together, there's some questions about specifically what that training will look like how you initiated that as well.
Unknown Speaker 40:49
Sure. So I mean, this is something that we're rolling out real time, we have amazing sponsorship from some of the senior most partners in our firm that make up a global and regional inclusion and diversity committees, we really felt like, you know, the concept of being allies and upstanders. And everyday allies was an important concept that we had seen be very effective at the firm over the years for other dimensions of diversity. And we felt like it was an opportunity to advance the ally model for racial diversity. So I mentioned, I think I mentioned we're employing a train the trainer model, right? Because we really, we don't want to just train the senior people, we don't want to just get down to a certain level, we want everybody to understand what it means to be an everyday ally. And we want to make sure everybody has the tools, the language to be an every day ally. So you know, some of the things that we even, you know, what is an ally, right to share what that definition is, and to, you know, talk about taking on, you know, the struggle as your own standing up, even when you feel like, you know, you're not sure how to, and and, frankly, to transfer the benefits of your privilege, right, you know, for our colleagues who are not diverse, who do want to stand up what for what's right, who do enjoy a different level of privilege? How do you use your privilege? You know, I've had a lot of these talks, I've been giving proper Procter and Gamble, a lot of credit, because they've had these ad campaigns that really shine a light on some of the key issues. And, you know, it started with the talk, you know, the top black parents have to give their children unfortunately, about the realities of being black in society. And then they had the one the look, right, which really sort of talks about the micro aggressions that, you know, many of our black men experience when, you know, when people see them or slightly move their bodies away from them. And, and, and how there's a certain assumption, no matter who that black man may be, and now they have the choice, right, the choice of how to use your privilege, the choice of how to use your voice. And, you know, I think that they've done a great job, and it's, you know, it's visual. So for those of us who are more visual learners, or really can't necessarily conceptualize it, I think they did a wonderful job with that. So I give them a lot of credit. But um, you know, I think being an ally is is about, you know, building empathy. Right? Like, you shouldn't feel pain, like and I and again, I think everybody, especially for this George Floyd situation, felt pain, even if they weren't internalizing it, and it wasn't about them, per se. I think the empathy was there. I think people saw that, you know, felt pain, I think their eyes were opened, you know, and there was a desire to better understand, what is it that's happening? What is the lived experience of black people that this happens, and, you know, with the recognition that this is not a unique or isolated incident, so, so really walking people through that mindset, and the concept of being an everyday ally, and even how do they take 100% responsibility for understanding you know, what they need to know and being aware of the situations of black people around the world, so taking responsibility for educating themselves, which is something I probably should have mentioned when I was you know, chatting with PETA, which is that one of the things we made sure while we absolutely leverage the power of storytelling, we also made sure that our leaders and people did not make it a job of their black colleagues to educate them. Right? You know, there's this amazing thing called Google the internet and everything else, that there's plenty of information available, you know, to be educated on the history their books in, you know, and we certainly could recommend books or certain articles that were written. And, and certainly, that's part of my team's role. But what we didn't want to do was shift the burden on our black colleagues who already were carrying a disproportionate, you know, weight of the burden, even starting from COVID-19.
Unknown Speaker 45:42
Thank you. And you talked about people's eyes being open, both professionally, and personally. But there are some concerns. There are a couple questions about organizations having the conversations but doing so in an insensitive way. So doing so without having the right resources without offering right. Support for their black employees, black staff members, black students, can you talk a little bit about some of that and sensitivity that's, that's going on now?
Unknown Speaker 46:11
Yeah, you know, I'll give you two perspectives. I mean, as somebody whose job it was to make sure that we weren't insensitive, and I know, I work for a firm that has resources, that has been on a DNI journey. For decades. Now. I don't take that lightly, who has a leader that, you know, really cares deeply about the topic and was willing to use his voice even before a lot of other leaders were out in the public? Right, so. So I don't take that lightly. And I know that I am in a position of privilege to have been able to roll out things in the way that we did with the expertise that my team has, and the resources that we have as a firm. So I think that a lot of informations available, and that, you know, people who want to do things the right way, right, that are at firms that are successful firms, right, they figure it out. So I don't give people a pass, because they didn't do their homework, they didn't figure it out. They didn't, you know, hire that consultant, or, you know, or they didn't even have a diverse enough network to ask somebody, you know, hey, Rachel, you know, how do you think I should do this? Or do you have a consultant to recommend? Or what if I say this, is this appropriate? Or can you read this note I want to send to my employees, because I think this is important, but I don't know the words to use, right? So. So, again, that 100% responsibility for your own learning, I think, is very, very important. But I also think we also as a community need to have some grace. Because what we don't want to do is have people be so afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing, that they just clam up and do nothing and saying nothing. Right? You know, because that's not where we want to be either. So I do believe that there is an opportunity to show a little grace. And to make sure that, you know, when people are asking questions, they might use exactly the wrong word. But if you think it's authentic and an onus, then maybe there is a little grace to be shown. And, and again, that's sort of also being that upstander right? Well, when you say this, it you know, it actually isn't the right way to say that, or actually, you know, it's it comes across as somewhat offensive, this is the word you might rather use instead, you know, so I do think that, you know, people have to be proactive and try to manage missteps. But if they're genuine and willing to, like, acknowledge the mistakes when they're made, I think, in some ways, you know, we have to allow for that. And, and really, even some of the conversations that I've had, where people haven't been willing to have conversations, my question to them is sort of what's holding you back. And when you ask people, what's holding you back, a lot of times, it's fear, it's really not like intention, it's fear. And we've got to, like, break down that divide, and, and allow people to be vulnerable, and know that when people make themselves vulnerable, that, you know, they have the potential to make, make a mistake. And actually, for some of the senior leaders in industries, like, you know, like investment banking, I actually think that's a fantastic thing. And some of the conversations I've had is about, Look, you've got to be vulnerable. You've got to listen, you know, for once you're not going to have the answer, and please don't offer one. Right, you know, and those have been the types of conversations that I've had. And and, you know, we're an industry people, people get paid to give Advice. But this is really not a time to, you know, for the advice giving. So I think it's also making sure that you have the right mindset, even when you're addressing this situation, that you're not trying to problem solve or give advice, or pass judgment on somebody, right, you know, like, you know, oh, the looters or whatever, you know, right? Don't ask the what as the why. And again, your opinions here really is not the point of this conversation. So Best Kept to yourself. So, um, so people need coaching. But people need to be willing to have the dialogues that frankly, I don't know, that we've ever had across, you know, in mixed company before.
Unknown Speaker 50:49
And you talked a little bit about fear, just then I'm, there are some questions about fear as a junior level minority employee, who doesn't know how to approach their senior colleagues about wanting to increase and improve DNI at their organizations. What's some advice that you can give to those junior level employees that are struggling with wanting to see change, but don't know how to approach their senior executives?
Unknown Speaker 51:15
Oh, thank you for asking that question. And what's, what's nice is that I've gotten questions from senior leaders on, you know, how can I enable Junior people to give me the feedback I need, you know, so, again, I see, you know, some of the gaps being bridged a little bit and coming a little closer, you know, to the center, you know, I think you have to figure out who you have a relationship with, right? The one thing I say to folks, don't just reach out to anybody and say, how are you doing? And if you haven't talked to somebody before, don't start talking to them. Now, it's disingenuous, it's not authentic. Right. So. So it's the same way in terms of reaching out to people, hopefully, there's somebody in the workplace that you have some relationship with, that you can have an honest dialogue with, that you can say, you know, Hey, can we have a conversation in a safe space? You know, and a safe space is actually safe? Right? You know, that's important. And I tell leaders, on the flip side, don't say it's a safe space, if you don't mean it, you know, and then, you know, when people offer their opinions, don't get defensive, if you ask them a question, receive the answer. And, and I think, for a junior person, if you're offering an opinion, it needs to be fact based, right? with examples and real life experiences, just platitudes, you know, that aren't backed up in terms of your personal experiences. And, and, you know, everybody gets into anecdotes, and I don't expect for junior person to have all the data necessarily, I don't mean it like that. But at the same time, you know, giving a clear example, to make people understand how it manifests itself. Right, that gives people the opportunity to take the information and figure out well, what types of actions do I take? Or how, you know, how would I deal with this specific situation? So, you know, I think there's accountability on both sides of that conversation. I think that, that this is the time to have it, frankly, you know, whether or not you're a junior person or a senior person, I mean, the conversations are happening, you know, but it needs to be with the right person, it needs to be a well thought conversation, it needs to be authentic. And then hopefully, it will be you know, actioned upon, you know, which is the other thing I've told senior leaders, like, don't ask people for their opinions, and what should we be doing, etc. If you have no intention of following up on the recommendations, it doesn't mean you have to do everything, you know, that said to you, but in earnest, you should be trying to address something that has been shared with you. So I'm, so these two way relationships, the relationship pieces, the most important, if there's some trust there, then I think there's the opportunity to have honest dialogue and have to go somewhere.
Unknown Speaker 54:14
Thank you. The next question is a bit broader about institutional, white supremacists, sort of inherent in our organizations that we work in the institutions that we're a part of, is there an opportunity to dismantle some of the overt racism with the inherent racism that's already built into the institutions that were a part of by you know, invest, doing more impact investing or opportunities for economic justice? Or even bringing in governance models, so having chief ethics officers so that we're breaking down the systems that were built on this culture?
Unknown Speaker 54:53
Yeah, I mean, that's a difficult question to answer because some of that is based on in visuals and some of it's based on institutions. A few things I'd say on that is like, even when I think about how any organization should approach the current environment, there absolutely is some element of financial contribution. Right, that actually I was in a conversation where the person said, you know, that's the price of entry, right? Like corporate institutions with, you know, the resources that they have, like a Goldman Sachs should be making some effort, like we stood up our fund for racial equity. And every or, you know, what organizations? Are you going to support that doing this work? Right? Is it the, you know, legal defense fund? Is it the uncf, the NAACP, the Urban League, Girls Who Code, black girls cook, like, there are organizations doing this work? Every individual, I don't care if it's $25, should be writing a check to one of these organizations, if not many. And even what our firm did was, you know, so again, no matter how Junior you are, whatever, if you wrote a check for $25 or less, a week, we we, we matched a three to one, you know, so that really, our people were able to give and feel like they were addressing the problem. So I think that's number one. Number two, again, and the one thing that I'm very conscious of is we can't go out and make statements and write checks without connecting the dots internally. So our internal focus, both with the organizations that we're supporting, like, what's the connectivity? Why am I supporting the uncf? If I'm not trying to connect the dots around recruiting and everything else, so the connectivity and the work and creating holistic relationships with the organizations that are doing the work that we're supporting? And then of course, with our own internal population? So what are we putting in place, whether or not it's an ally, program, manager training, aspirational goals? What are we putting in place to deal internally? So that, you know, we're not just talking the talk, we're walking the walk internally, and then most corporate entities also have the ability to influence externally. Right? So how are we using our platform, our power to influence externally, not just the check writing, but even you know, since in the last three weeks, we even had the opportunity to be one of the corporate supporters of the Atlanta hate crime bill. You know, down in Atlanta, I'm sorry, the Georgia hate crime bill, that we were able to support, you know, there are only four states that didn't have bills that specifically spoke to hate crimes, right? So how are we using the voice, the power the platform of the firm, to influence more broadly, externally? So you know, to me, those are the three key levers for organizations that address you know, systemic racism, whether or not it's it's in government and education, and you know, how you pick and choose and how you invest, whether or not it's corporate dollars, individual dollars, sweat, equity, right, and volunteerism, I think there's so many ways to get involved. But everybody should feel like they were playing a role or supporting an effort in one of those three buckets from my perspective.
Unknown Speaker 58:36
Thank you. And there are so many more questions, but we have run out of time. So thank you, Erica. Thank you so much. Geeta, I'll turn it back over to you.
Unknown Speaker 58:46
Thank you, Rachel. And I see the q&a box has been lighting up. And there are so many questions on the chat as well. I want to just say thank you so very much. And you shared your experience, your expertise, and your stories in a very authentic way. It really resonated with our audience. And I know I'm inspired to keep doing this work at Columbia Business School. So thank you so much. And we are so proud of having you as an alumnus. Erica,
Unknown Speaker 59:12
thank you. You know, my time at Columbia, I made some of my lifelong friends. It was an amazing experience. I think Colombia is an amazing community, and I'm so glad to still be a part of it. And you know, I just hope everybody on this zoom thinks about what role they can play. You know, it's not just for the chief diversity officer, or the diversity team or the HR team. It's, you know, everybody's role, you know, to drive diversity inclusion in their organizations. And I hope people take that seriously. You know, sometimes people don't like to say diversity, they think it's like a dirty word. You know, diversity and inclusion is a real opportunity. And right now more than ever, so, so I hope everybody thinks about what role they will play and lift as they climb. And that's what I've tried to do since my Columbia days and even during my Columbia days as a member of the BSA, so, um, so I really thank you for the opportunity to share my views and I hope everybody benefited from it. So thank you.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai