Blue Rock Search

Evolving the Conversation Around DE&I

Interactive Webinar

Join Blue Rock Search for an interactive webinar supported by Hunt Scanlon Media. The session focused on ‘Evolving the Conversation Around DE&I’ examining how DE&I is expanding to touch equality, equity, and belonging and why this signals a change in both organizational culture and workforce expectations. A strategic diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) management plan can help your company make the most of its diversity by creating an inclusive, equitable and sustainable culture and work environment.

This is a great opportunity to hear first-hand from some of the key players on the frontlines of transformation. They will share valuable insights into what is happening and how they see the changing attitudes to language about DE&I, and what that means for executive search and beyond.


We were joined by Brian Miller, Chief Talent, Diversity and Inclusion Officer at Adobe, and Sharawn Connors Tipton, then serving as Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at Micron Technology and now Chief People Officer for LiveRamp.


Listen to the webinar in our full video, or take a look at the transcript below:



Ruben: Good morning, everyone, and thank you for joining us. Ruben Moreno here, HR and Diversity Executive Search Practice Leader at Blue Rock. Blue Rock is a 100% minority- and female-owned search firm, with offices in Florida, Tennessee and Ohio, serving clients both across the country, as well as multiple global clients these days.


Really excited about hosting our first DEI Webinar. Today’s topic: evolving the conversation about DEI. And with me today, two respected thought leaders in this space, who I’ve known for several years, so I would consider them also personal friends. So excited to be doing this with them.


I’ll start with Brian Miller. Brian is the chief talent diversity and inclusion officer at Adobe, and Sharawn Connors who is the chief diversity and inclusion officer at Micron Technologies. Brian and Sharawn again, thank you guys for taking time out of your day to be with us today and help us put this on.


Before we jump in, we just want to let the participants know: there is, on the bottom right part of your screen, there is a Q&A section. Please submit your questions through the Q&A, and we’ll look to field as many of those at the end of the session as we go through, time permitting. Brian, in no particular order, but I’m gonna pick on you first. Let’s dive right in. You think about looking back at 2021 and 2022. How has the DEI landscape changed in your opinion?


Brian: It’s a good opening question. And it’s something I’ve been pondering actually, for the last few months. And let’s give it some visual representation. So, think about this pre-pandemic. Here’s the conversation that we were having as DEI practitioners: we were talking about unconscious bias, diversity of thought, psychological safety, covering microaggressions, intersectionality. These were all the topics that were kind of floating around pre-pandemic. It was a very intellectual conversation.


Pandemic hits, the murder of George Floyd happens, the attack on the Capitol happens. And you see a visceral shift in people, I call it an embodiment. It physically changed how people were showing up. And then you see an activism rise through companies now. There is the change that you’re starting to see: this idea of managing activism with advocacy. I see that as the biggest shift that as a practitioner, that a lot of companies, and specifically Adobe were looking to kind of stare into..


Ruben: Wow. Thank you, Brian. Pretty insightful. I appreciate that. Sharawn. How about you?


Sharawn: Yeah. So I can recall that time so vividly, and I was about a year in at Micron. And I was really working hard to get time – time in front of our executives and their teams. And what I noticed after the murder of George Floyd, and I say, this is why he did not die in vain. Instantly, everything changed.


So, I went from asking for time on calendar and to be on town halls, to all of a sudden there’s this huge demand for diversity and inclusion and for this conversation. Now, what’s interesting is when you think about where was the demand coming from? It was coming from our team members! They were fully engaged, and they were holding us as a company accountable to say, what are you going to do, right, and many employees around the world did this.


And that was something, you know, I’m going to date myself way back to Rodney King. I can remember my father telling me, “you don’t talk about that at work. That’s something we talk about at home.” And so that’s how much everything changed, just in an instant. It was a conversation [and] people were bringing that to work, and that was something that I had not seen before.


I think the other thing that that changed with that is that folks started to be called out for what we call “performative DEI,” right? So, you come out, and you make these great statements around what you’re going to do to make things better or to address the issues at hand or to ensure you have equality in your HR practices, and you have this inclusive environment. But now team members are saying, “That’s great, but we want to see it, you know, you say you’re doing pay equity, show us the data. Talk to us about the methodology. You know, you say that you want diversity in our organization, what schools are you going to, you know, what does our talent pipeline look like?”


And so there’s just this new level of accountability from team members, absolutely from executives, from shareholders, right? So we’re starting to see now, shareholders saying, you know, “We want to see what you’re talking about in your proxy, you know, when you talk about human capital, what is your D&I strategy? Is your executives’ compensation tied to D&I efforts? And so, I say all of that to say there’s just a new level of accountability that is unprecedented.


Ruben: Wow, thank you for that. And it’s as you were saying that, right, the word I actually wrote down in big letters here: “Accountability,” right? Just in general, and people being far more active and proactive and honestly vocal about that.


Sharawn, you just finished up, but I’m going to toggle back to you, and then we’ll come back to Brian so I’m not I’m not providing any preferential treatment here!


So, if you think about the broad umbrella of DEI, it covers a lot of topics when you think about it, you know, but they all have one thing in common, right? A focus on improving access and fair opportunities, especially for members of historically underrepresented groups. So, you know, the exact terminology. I’ve had a lot of conversations recently around, what’s the terminology we’re using in this space –  inclusion, belonging, equality. So if you think about that, why have CHRO and diversity leaders started to talk more about the importance of belonging?


Sharawn: Yeah, I think in the past, if we take a step back, when we talk about diversity, “diversity” is something that folks are more comfortable with, because it’s easy to measure, right? I work in an engineering company, we love to measure stuff, we love data, you can easily count who you have and what you have in the organization. Right? That that’s the diversity piece.


Where it gets a little tricky is when you start to talk about having an inclusive environment where everyone is seen, heard, valued and respected. Right? And so the question is, how do you measure that? Right? That’s a little bit more tricky.


And so, what we have done as practitioners is, you know, we’ve looked at, okay, can we get to that in engagement surveys, can we get to that by looking at retention? And so we’re using different measures to figure out how truly inclusive is our environment. But the real magic happens – and this is what we found through trial and error – when you have employees that have that sense of belonging.


So they wake up Monday morning, and they feel that, “this is an organization that I want to come to, I feel that I have a voice here, I feel welcomed, I can share my ideas, my thoughts and we can have radical candor.” And we can even disagree, right?


And I think companies are latching on to belonging, because they understand that’s really good for business, it’s great for retention, and it’s great for innovation. Because if I’m in a space where I feel like I belong, that’s gonna allow me, when we’re sitting around the table, and we’re designing chips, or talking about new – in my world, you know, HR processes. If I feel that I belong, and I have that psychological safety that Brian mentioned, I’m going to be able to speak up and share my thoughts and my ideas. And again, ultimately, that’s going to get companies to the best innovation. It’s going to allow them to design for all of their customers, not just some of their customers. And so, I think that’s why you see the pivot: yes, we have to have diversity in the organization, but you don’t get the benefit of that diversity, unless you are creating an inclusive environment and a sense of belonging.


Ruben: Thank you for that. Very cool. Brian, how about you, sir?


Brian: Yeah, it’s it’s a word that believe it or not, it’s been around at least a half a decade. So we know when Pat Waters came out with it at ServiceNow with her “dibs” approach. So, it’s interesting that I believe that the word is under an evolutionary moment.


Here’s the way I see this starting to kind of move itself forward. “Belonging” is now being called upon to be something I think greater – unifying moments. That is something, I think, at least at Adobe, we need to go ahead and really address. It’s those unifying moments, I think, are the inputs where the output is belonging. So how do we create these unifying moments that really connect us?


I am concerned that there is a fracturing of our craft that’s beginning to happen. And it’s interesting because you start to see a proliferation of multiple, you know, resource network groups. You’ll see a very strong belief that “I want to hear my voice.” And this is actually in time for us. I think it’ll be a very interesting time for us as, as head of DE&I to really think through, how do we bring us back together? How do we create this sort of strength in numbers, as we would say, here on the West Coast, but how do we do that? I keep going back to this idea of activism versus advocacy versus agency. Agency is the last one; agency is about choice. And that is this next evolution of belonging: it’s providing that choice that brings us together that now allows us to really create a movement that’s powerful and sustainable. So that’s the thinking or at least the path I’m going to take Adobe on.


Ruben: Thank you for that. So, Brian, I want to make sure I caught that proper light. So, the unifying moments are the inputs where the output is belonging. Did I capture that right?


Brian: Yep.


Ruben: Okay, I’m going to use that one shamelessly. So, thank you!


Brian: As long as you footnote!


Ruben: I will absolutely! Brian, let’s come back to you. I’d like to talk for a minute about your personal experience as a diversity leader. You know, when you bring any of these topics up as a leader in the craft, with executives, today, what’s resonating with your peers as you’re having these conversations?


Brian: Yeah. The first thing from a personal standpoint, Sharawn may be able to – I’m sure she’s able to kind of resonate with this – you do have these one and only moments. You know, you’re the only black person, African American person in a room. That is, to me, something that I am bringing my peers to get greater awareness of who are the “one and only”s in our company. And we should definitely know or be sensitive to that. That’s one aspect from a personal experience.


So, things that are resonating most of the time with, with my peers, or this idea of I would say this idea of stigma, let’s call it that, of the progression of stigma, meaning that this is something that, you know, Kenji Yoshino wrote about in 2006: the idea of covering. And everyone can relate to that – everyone covers in some shape, or form. And this goes back to, you know, we were talking about bringing your full self to work, but everyone can relate to that. And this idea of stigma and shame, or, you know, “why am I doing that?” That seems to resonate, and then it gets back to this psychological safety.


But you if you demystify that word, all that is, is vulnerability without consequence. That really that’s what you really break that word down to, “how can I be vulnerable without the consequence of, of being judged?” So, to me, that seems to resonate throughout multiple peers within the company. Everyone wants to move to that place where they can uncover that they have an opportunity to at least be heard – maybe not agreed with, but at least be heard. So that’s what I see resonating.


Ruben: Thank you. Sharawn? How about yourself?


Sharawn: Yeah, so um, I would have to back up what Brian said, I recently saw a statistic that said over 60% of white males cover at work. And I think that’s really interesting, because a lot of times what I hear is all diversity, equality and inclusion is for them. And it’s not for this group or that group, it is for everyone. Now, we know, clearly we have opportunity with underrepresented groups. But when we think about diversity dimensions, everyone within our company has some type of diversity dimension. And to Brian’s point, almost everyone is covering something. And so how do we pull apart that so that people are able to show up and they’re not covering and they’re fully engaged, right, and they’re able to be their authentic selves. And that is what we’re after.


I think when I talk to my leadership team and other leaders about this space, what a lot of us are struggling with is “what does DEI mean on a global level?” So, I think in the US, DEI is something that we’ve talked about dating back to EEOC. And the although we haven’t solved it – let me be clear on that – it’s been a topic on the table for a while. But when you start to look at Japan, and Singapore, and Taiwan – Micron is in 17+ countries around the world – diversity starts to look very different.


Even in the US, when you look at geographies, we’re in different places on this journey. But then when you expand out to the world, it’s like, oh, my gosh, you know, how do we tackle this, knowing that the issues are so very different? And so that’s, again, where I think that sense of belonging comes in that that Brian talked about. Right? And really getting everyone to that place, and thinking about as a leader as DE&I leaders. How do we create a global DEI strategy that focuses on that belonging and inclusion, but also leave room so that we’re able to localize?


So when we look at the US, when we talk about underrepresented groups, I’m designing for our Hispanic and Latinx and our Black and our veteran folks. But when I look at Singapore, the underrepresented group is ethnic Malays. And so that’s very different, right? So, some of the overarching global strategy may be the same, but the group is different and the needs of that group are different. And I think that’s something that we are really acknowledging needs work, and that our leadership team is talking about and keenly focused on.


Ruben: Gotcha. Thank you for sharing that. This is an interesting one. I was at a PE-meets-executive search conference last week in New York and DEI was a major topic of conversation. And one of the during one of the panel discussions, this question came up, so I was really excited about being able to ask it today, with the two of you.


Beyond, you know, doing the right thing, from a DEI perspective, I personally believe – and you’ve talked about it in terms of inclusion and innovation and some of the things that the business will benefit from, you know. From your perspective, your experience, how does the conversation go in terms of linking, you know, DEI to business goals and business performance? Right? Because that was, there was a lot of conversation about that at that conference last week. So definitely want to get your perspective on the linkage and the conversation in terms of DEI, business goals, business performance. Brian, I’ll start with you, sir.


Brian: It’s, it’s, I think Sharawn already started to hint to this one where the visibility of DE&I to boards now and to CEOs automatically, I think drives a business sort of centered conversation. There’s no more need (and I say this, you know, it’s all a little bit different), there’s no more need to prove out that D&I actually drives better company results, profits and revenue. That’s been proven, proven by the McKinsey study, 2010 or 2012, proven by iForce, CP and their studies, it’s, it’s been done. We know that high performing companies that are diverse deliver better results. It’s just it has the literature behind it.


So now the conversation is just what Shawarn is starting to say, it’s how do you measure that? How do you actually measure that, and to me, you’re only measuring to make a better decision, or you need evidence-based decision making. So that to me is the nut to crack. Representation, you’re right, we can measure, you know, who’s, who’s where, and, and what they look like. And we can do it by level by country, you know, by department, by leaders. So we know that really well. We can start to measure progression if we want to. If we want to measure how are we progressing, women and underrepresented minorities to come we can even measure that.


This idea, you’re right, of unifying moments and that belonging piece that one is an interesting sort of puzzle to play with, because it’s going to require multiple different touchpoints. And to me, that’s the one, if we really got into, how do we continue to drive a business conversation? That’s the one we have to go ahead and stare into. Well, what do unifying moments look like? How do we architect them? What data do we need to make that happen? You can say, well, we need organizational network analysis data, meaning we’re going to map who’s connected to who in the organization? Who needs to be closer together? Who doesn’t you do that to find out who are multipliers of what I call “multipliers of hope and unity” Won’t that be an interesting metric – haven’t seen many companies go after that!


These are people who really, when you meet them, they inspire you. But it’s data that can be found in an organization. You know, it’s data that you can really go after you just have to be bold enough to, to push into it. To me, that’s the next horizon when it comes to this business centered sort of DE&I conversation for sure.


Ruben: Gotcha. Sharawn, how about yourself?


Sharawn: Yeah, I was laughing when Brian was talking about all the different cuts of measurement, because again, we’re an engineering company. So I think I’ve sliced the data in every possible way, to the point where I’m like, Okay, enough, enough, I don’t even know if this is going to get us to the answer we’re looking for! So, certainly can share lots of stories on that.


When I think about, you know, DEI when it relates to business objectives and business goals. Brian hit it on the head. Like the business case: been there, done that, for those who don’t get it, send them a copy, let them you know, sort it out. We definitely have shown that there is a clear ROI for diversity and inclusion in an organization. I think for us at Micron, we really had to start on this journey by getting our house in order. And so, what that meant for us was really looking at the talent lifecycle. So how do we hire folks? You know, what are our recruitment processes look like? Is diversity and inclusion built into those? How do we promote, right? When we look at our talent reviews and succession planning? How do we pay? You know, do we have a pay equity study? Are we looking at all underrepresented groups? Or just some are we making sure that everyone is paid fairly? And even looking at how we exit people, right, so who’s being put on performance plans? How are those measured who’s leaving our company?  All of that is part of the talent lifecycle, and I firmly believe that you need to have process around diversity and inclusion built into that talent lifecycle. Once we sort of got our arms around that and there’s always more to do, but we feel we’re in a good place.


Then we started to look at our business practices, right. So, for example, our supplier diversity program, who are we doing business with and what are we requiring them to do? One of the things that that we were able to do is require our contracts for our janitors to be paid a living wage. That’s part of our diversity and inclusion efforts. We also thought about our cash management as a company. Who’s managing our assets? Are we working with diverse financial institutions? And this isn’t charity; these are reputable financial institutions that often don’t get the opportunity to engage with businesses of our size and scale.


So as we start to talk about DEI we are moving beyond that talent lifecycle to think about how do we do business. I was just talking to IT; we were doing our strategic planning session. And I think it’s important that chief diversity officers have a seat in those planning sessions. And so, as we were walking through that, IT was saying, hey, we want to focus on tools for the future that allow for more collaboration. And it’s like, well, that’s wonderful. But as we’re designing that, are we thinking about, you know, people with disabilities, and what that experience looks like for what does that look like for them?


And so I say all that to say, step one, table stakes, you have to look at your talent processes. But then the next step on that maturity model is really looking at how are you doing business in your organization, and is DEI infused to every single step of that process along the way? And that’s a very different place for a CDO to play. And that I think, is what’s going to set companies apart. And that’s how we drive real change in our organization.


Ruben: Great, thank you for sharing that. This, this next question. And then after this one, I’m going to open it up. And actually, we’ve got a couple of really good questions in the chat bot. But I know both of you personally and I take complete editorial privilege at this one, because I’ve had conversations where, you know, mentorship and helping others along their career journey and so forth. Personal passion for both of you. And the question, says one, but you don’t have to just do one, right. So if you had one, if you had to give leaders one piece of wisdom gleaned from your past experiences, what would it be? So, Brian, I’ll let you go first.


Sharawn: Phew!


[all laughing, inaudible]


Ruben: Sharawn’s gonna say what he said!


Brian: Advice, wow, that’s a good one. You know, the big advice is, it’s, our conviction will be tested. That’s the advice. It is just what Sharawn said, I’m old enough to remember Rodney King as well. And it’s the conviction that will always be tested. Our ability to stay the course, is what I would give the advice to CEOs and executives and friends. You have to have an air game and a ground game, you got to be able to do both, you got to get in the neighborhoods, and build that advocacy at the same time. You have to be able to see the promise of tomorrow. So I go, there is the advice; your willingness to do both should drive you. It should be an anchor. With that goal of hey, I know our conviction will be tested. I know that this has to move from programs to a process to now it’s about a culture. It’s how we show up every day. That’s what culture is about. So to me, that’s that is the ultimate sort of advice. Build a trust, build affection, build stability, and then build hope. If we can do those things, then I think great things will happen.


Ruben: Okay, Sharawn. You can’t say what he said!


Shawarn: I agree. I agree!


Okay, no, no, in all seriousness, thank you, Brian, for jumping in with it with a very strong answer there. I would say my advice for leaders and executives would be, walk the talk. You know, if we look back, we talked about a year ago with the tragic murders that we saw so many, you know, of Black Americans. Look at the statements your company made, and look at what you’ve done, and do they alig? So walk the talk, you know?


This should not be just a check the box exercise, make sure that you are resourcing appropriately. I can’t tell you how many calls Brian and I I’m sure Brian gets them to a company and say, hey, I want to DEI leader and you say well, what’s, you know, what’s the staff? Oh, you don’t have any staff? What’s the budget? Oh, we don’t know. Is the board interviewing? You know, are the leaders engaged? It’s like if you really say you want to do this, then do it, run it like you would any other business imperative, because that’s what this is. So that would be my advice for leaders and executives: walk the talk.


For folks on the phone that are working with Brian and I in the trenches every day, I would say continue on, start where you are right there. We’re all in different places on this journey – don’t let that in any way stop you from making progress. Start where you are with what you have, because even small changes, over time, that adds up, right? And leverage your network. So you know, I’m here. Brian is here. You know, we’re on LinkedIn, I’m just gonna volunteer Brian, you can call Brian any time, you know, any questions you have!


But in all seriousness, this is true, when you look at DEI professionals, there is a sense of community. And so if you’re struggling in an area, reach out, we’re happy to help you.


Ruben: Thank you for that, you know, and I’ll share something, you know, having worked with both of you in Brian, particularly with you that you’ve taught me a lot over the years. And, you know, sometimes this topic can be mean, Brian, I think you use the word “visceral,” right? So there’s an emotional context and reaction, and you want to be able to get to logical discussions around particular topics. And for me, that’s the power of empirical data, right? What is the data telling us? When I work with Brian, data is king, right, as we go through things, because it allows you to make good decisions. And I think in this particular case, you know, Sharawn, you talked about cutting the numbers all different ways, but not what is the data telling you because that becomes a starting point for having the logical business conversation around any of these topics.


Sharawn: I agree. And if I could just jump in there, I think for me, at my point, I had to learn quickly how to influence our executives. And I found that by leading with data and not necessarily a story around team member experience, or you know, just other things that I was seeing, or that I was feeling intuitively, for my organization, data is where it’s at. And that’s how you really are able to drive action. And so, I’m sure we all have some great stories about that. And it sounds like Brian is very well versed in that space. But I can tell you, for me, having a handle on the data really allowed us to accelerate our progress.


Brian: Yeah, I totally agree with, plus one, all that’s been said there. As I get older, the one thing I’m trying to balance data with is just the true sort of share reality that this is emotional. And then you just define that word, all emotion is, is energy in motion. That’s, that’s what emotion is, and how do you direct that energy? How do you want to embrace that energy?


It’s something I really am now coaching executives about. It’s like, hey, that’s the reality of what we’re in, and you have to create this shared reality and emotion is going to be a part of this. So, we can’t run away from it, we have the data. But now we need to address, to the point, that visceral reaction that people are going to have, that’s real. And in today’s organizations with the ability to take a small voice and amplify it, through all the technologies that are in organizations today, that’s real. You can quickly have a situation, if you’re not keen to the fact that, hey, we cannot be robotic about what we do, we have to understand these are real people. Sharawn knows that – when you look at these numbers, that’s a real person behind that number. That’s not just a number. That’s a real person. So that’s the other balancing act we as CEOs have to deal with as well.


Ruben: Great, thank you very much for that. Appreciate that. And then, uh, we’ve had several good questions coming in, in no particular order. First one, and this time, I won’t pick – I’ll let one of you volunteer, as opposed to I just voluntold Brian a couple seconds ago, right?


So how does the shift to a hybrid work world change the landscape for DEI?


Brian: You want that one, Sharawn, or do you want me to go?


Sharawn: I can jump at it! And I’ll kick us off, Brian.


So I would say we’ve given a lot of thought to this. We just moved to a hybrid schedule. And we thought about, who is this helping? And who is this hurting? Right? And so, when you think about who are the folks who are going to raise their hand and say yes, I want a hybrid schedule, it’s great to understand that from a data perspective. And then, how does that translate when you look at you know, opportunities in your organization, right?


So if you have some folks, for example, you’re having a conversation, some folks are in the room, some folks are at home? How do you make sure those voices have equal weight in that conversation? If you’re thinking about a rotation assignment, and you’ve got some folks at home, how do you make sure that they’re included, as you’re thinking about who you’re going to tap on the shoulder? And so when I think about any process we have, or new HR program at Micron, I’m always thinking about who is it helping, who’s benefiting and who isn’t benefiting? And how do we equalize that, right, so that everyone has an equal access and equal opportunity to reach their full potential at Micron. And so that’s what we’re after.


I have seen some companies… so I know Clorox has this, they have an ERG for remote workers. And I think it’s very important, when we talk about that sense of belonging, you want to make sure those that are remote or in a hybrid schedule, somehow they have that connection. Right? Brian talked about multipliers. How do you how do you make sure that they’re still engaged, and they’re tuned in and they’re getting the access and resources and information that they need? Because things aren’t going to happen as organically as they have in the past. So as you’re designing that, think about who could be in danger of not benefiting? And then how do you correct that?


Brian: That’s… yeah, I don’t know how much I can add to that one, that’s spot on. It is this idea of, in hybrid work, how do you continue to build communities? I like that idea of ERG, specifically for remote workers, it’s some good thinking there for sure. I think also that, when I went to that sort of unifying moment, it is figuring that out and hybrid work distance bias, of course, we know we need to manage that. Typically, the closer you are, the more favorable bias may happen versus you know, from further away, that can disproportionately hurt underrepresented minorities. So I agree with that, wholeheartedly. We need to stay on top of that one. But the next one is community building, you know, how do we build communities in a hybrid workforce? And to me, that’s something we’ve got to figure out.


Ruben: And I suspect some inherent challenges also around the culture piece, right? Because you no longer have the water cooler. They’re walking by the office. “Hey, what about this?”


Brian: So you have to architect those moments. That is something that takes not just us in HR –  hat takes facilities, security, you bring all those sorts of other experts in the room to architect moments that bring us together. And that is something we call it the future of work that we’re working on at Adobe. So that is something that I’m actually have another meeting after this one, just to dig into more of that. How do you architect that type of moment for Adobe, or multiple moments like that for Adobe?


Ruben: Thank you for that. The actually, there’s a book Brian and Sharawn, I’ll send you a copy of it I just finished reading. It’s called The Power of Moments. And it talks about exactly that. And it’s great from an experience management standpoint, as we’ve been looking at it, but Sharawn, you don’t have to write it down. I said, I’m gonna send it to you!


Sharawn: (laughing) Okay!


Ruben: This one, actually, this is definitely a topic I’ve had the opportunity to engage with Esther Aguilera, who runs the particular organization focused on Latino representation on boards. This one comes and I’m going to read it because I want to do the question justice, this one actually is coming in from London.


Hello, and thank you for the valuable insights. At work in London with chairs and boards, and at times, still, its own skepticism about the process and the value of an inclusive search process to recruit new board members. As experts in the field, what do you feel the most effective way to open up the dialogue with chairs and boards in a productive and professional manner, when it’s sometimes feels like a decision has already been made? I always lead with leading with data is always part of, you know, my communication. But at times, I feel like I need a different level of influence.


Sharawn: First of all, it’s a fantastic question. And I think it’s a problem all of us have faced at some point, regardless of the level. I would say I would anchor on best practice and benchmarking. So I know NASDAQ just came out with guidelines around diversity on boards. I think sharing those recommendations with your board members and saying, “let’s have a conversation about this.” Whether they agree or not, might be a great way to start the conversation, because what that’s doing is, it’s promoting a growth mindset. And you’re trying to meet them where they are, right. So not necessarily coming from a place of judgment.


But “hey, this is the direction that I see the market moving in, there may be some insights that we can glean from this, I’m going to send you all a copy of these new recommended standards. What do you all think?” And I think by opening it up that way, it makes it safe for them. And you can start to understand, you know, what are the real concerns are? Where’s that skepticism coming from? Right. And so I always that’s what I do, I try to anchor on best practice and benchmarking when I’m having a hard time driving the point home.


Brian: Yeah, I agree. The other part is I tend to go with, there are times when you just need to lead and declare. And this is where the the chairman, or the president, or the Chairman, I believe, needs to stand tall and say, “this is something we will do” kind of declaration. And I know that may be difficult, and we’re looking for influencing and those type of activities. But there are just times when you declare that the board needs to be diverse. You know, we’re one iPhone snapshot away from this board being public, if not already public on social media. I mean, it’s that simple. It’s like today’s social media days, I go, that is so permeable. Your one action or moment from this idea of skepticism, turning into a referendum on you as a company. And I go, that is where a President stands tall, he or she says this needs to change. And I go, that to me, then designs this alliance building that needs to happen.


Ruben: Right, thank you for that.


Sharawn: If I could just add one more comment. I would also say sometimes, you know, folks struggle with the “how are we going to do this?”, so anything that you can do to help them along there. So I know for us, we use search firms for our board. So that’s built into our contracts with them that they need to provide a diverse slate. And so it could be that you’re engineering in the background until they’re able to catch up with their thought process. But really coming to them with ideas around, hey, this doesn’t have to be a heavy lift, there are systematic changes we can make that will stick that will allow us over time to have a more diverse board. And by the way, we’ll get to see more candidates which is, you know, amazing. That’s great. That’s what we want.


Ruben: Another question that just came in: how to enhance benefits that support DEI efforts, such as parental leave childcare centers, stipend, limited PTO, etc. Have you been able to see a correlation?


Brian: Yeah, I think I think especially within, during and post pandemic, the total rewards team has really jumped in. Even on wellness, you see the increase spend on wellness alone. And the idea of making sure that people have self-care in their life. That has been a big spin that I’ve noticed recently, within the benefits team; they’ve really ratcheted up the wellness conversation. Now you layer on that with, I would also say, transition surgery. There are multiple other aspects of DEI that the benefits team has really started to embrace at Adobe,


To me that that, once again, sets a foundation for the conversation. It’s basically saying, I see you, I see you and I want to make sure you too are supported. But if I had to pick one thing that I’ve seen a big drastic shift in investment, it has been around the wellness piece.


Sharawn: Yeah, I love this question, because I grew up in comp and benefits. So whoever asked this question, I love it. We have six DEI commitments at Micron and one of our commitments is to equitable pay and inclusive benefits. And so currently, what we’re doing is we’re running an RFP with different benefit brokers. And what we’re asking them to do is look at our benefits across our 17 countries, and identify, number one, just where we have opportunity. So where are there gaps in our offerings? And then we want to understand from a cost perspective, what would it take to make those enhancements?


Because when you think about benefits, there’s always an issue of affordability. And then from there, we want to understand what can we offset, right? So, if we have benefits that our team members aren’t using today, you can cut back on those benefits and shift that costs to more inclusive benefits. And so there’s a lot of work to do with within that. So I would say to Brian’s point: get your total rewards team involved. And you’ll probably, I would recommend you get your benefit brokers involved as well, because they’re going to have some great benchmarking around what other companies are offering, and where you have gaps. And I think it’s important to do that assessment.


And I think one of the things we did early on was we assumed, hey, this is the inclusive benefit that we need to add. And that may or may not be the case. But I think there’s some pre-work to do to make sure that you’re designing for your employee population.


The other thing that we’ve done is we’ve listened to our employee resource groups. So to Brian’s point, our Pride+, which is our LGBTQ+ and allies ERG, they have been very vocal around the types of benefits that they need in the US. And so we’ve been able to make some real enhancements and go above and beyond to make sure that we’re providing what they need. So tap into your ERGs as well as you’re designing your inclusive benefits.


Ruben: Right. Dovetailing off of the data comments we were talking about earlier – when you talk about data, what data are you looking at? How are you collecting it? And how costly an exercise is it?


Brian: It’s a big question. Keep it simple, from a cost standpoint. And the first thing is, most organizations are collecting self ID type data, ethnicity and gender. So that one, even if you as a team went out and said, well, we don’t have all that data you can generate a self ID sort of initiative with the give back is, the more we know, the better we can invest as a community within D&I. So that’s the first point: just kind of knowing ethnicity or race and genders, first dataset that you start to look at.


And then you take that and you’re actually trying to identify what I call, what is your hiring. So what’s your funnel look like? So you’re looking at that from a hiring standpoint. Then you’re looking at from a progression standpoint, so you’re keeping that data about who’s actually getting promoted. And then you’re looking at it from a retention, what I call voluntary versus total trips. So that’s the that is the basic dashboard that you typically start with.


And I tend to look at it from a year-to-year sort of timeframe, or quarter-to-quarter, how are those numbers changing? So I mean, that’s the simplest way to start. And then you can get really cool and tricky because then you can of course Serrano’s, I can cut that by leader, I can cut it by function, I can cut it by location. But here’s the cool stuff you start to see. Okay, can now I can layer on my talent management data to that dashboard progression. I actually know how many women I have in my sort of top right hand box who should be promoted. I can go, well wait a minute, as I look at our promotion numbers between, let’s call it director and senior director. Boy, it looks like we’re lagging on women! And yet we have women sitting on the bench at X percent. So you can get really creative about additional data that starts to augment your conversation. And I’m sure Sharawn has more examples. I’ll stop there.


Sharawn: I have a nightmare of an example. So when I started at Micron, it was very clear that I did not have the data that I would need to be successful, and that was extremely painful. And so what we did was, we were going through a workday implementation. And so we took a step back and we had to look, by country, at what is the data when it comes to diversity dimension that we can collect when we’re hiring someone, and then once they’re a candidate, and then once they’re in the organization. And so that’s an exercise that my team went through with legal and our HR business partners. And we got very clear by country on what are all, you know, that drop down menu and what is everything that that we could select, and then we coded that into the system. So that was step one.


Then step two was we knew that we had a lot of people in the organization who had not self-identified. So we had some data but we didn’t have enough data. And so we ran a “count me in” campaign. So we made a little video, and we had people from different diversity dimensions share why they’re sharing their data. Wexplain what we do with the data, but more importantly, what we don’t do with the data. We had our chief legal officer talk about how we protect the data and other types of data that we gathered on our team members as well. And that really helped us to get more folks to self-identify.


And then once we did that, so now I have some data I can work with, right, so I’m like, well maybe I’l,l you know, be alright here. The next step was I had to get someone who knew a lot more about data than I did. And so I hired a data analyst on the DEI team. Now you don’t have to do that if you have a people analytics team, you know, every structure is different. But for me, I felt like the road we were heading down with my executives, I had to have someone lockstep and key with me with that new data. And so we brought this person into the DEI team. And Prabhu is just amazing. But what was so great about him was he was able to take the data and do what Brian and Ruben talked about. And that was tell a story create insights, right? Because you’ve got all this data. But what does it mean? How do you tie it together? And that’s where the magic happens.


And so having that resource, that was the key for me that that unlock the door, to be able to influence my executives to say exactly what Brian said. “Hey, you know, when you look at the distribution of promotions, you know, maybe we have some opportunity when it comes to our veterans, they’re, they’re lagging, or maybe they’re ahead, and that’s great.” And we want to tap into why. But we needed someone to be able to help me to articulate that, and that was the data analysts. So that is my journey from nightmare to just having, you know, a wonderful time at Micron.


Ruben: This actually was the first question, but the chat has gone so long. I’m just coming back to it. And so it’ll probably be the last one. Again, I’m going to read it because I want to make sure I do the question justice.


In a webinar discussing their new book on the shortage of women in investment management, Alan Carr and Katrina Dudley mentioned that the better investment results that derive from more diverse investment units happen when the gender minority segment of the team hits about 30%. Does that jive with your experience that you need a certain threshold of diversity to get the improved business unit performance? I mean…


Sharawn: I’m sorry, Ruben. Go ahead.


Ruben: No, no, I just I’ll leave it open to either one of you.


Sharawn: Yeah, I was gonna say I don’t have data, so I’m just speaking anecdotally. But what I will say is, I’ve noticed, you know, if you’re in a room, and you’re the “one and only,” it’s really nice to have someone else to amplify what you’re saying, right? Or there’s a certain comfort that comes from that. So I could certainly see that being the case. But I don’t have data to support that. Brian, I don’t know if you do.


Brian: Yeah, I would say the same thing. It’s more anecdotal. But even when we were designing, or even when I designed diverse slates, I do it the same way. It’s this idea that you need at least two to three, minimum of two minorities on a slate. And it was the reasoning is because not only you get a certain judgment that happens with the one and only, but you have now a broader perspective of that voice, or that candidate, or that skill set. So I do see that maybe at 20, 30%? That seems to make sense, because we tend to go down that path. But I don’t have empirical evidence that that’s, you know, the right metric across all groups, because you wouldn’t say does that work with women only, does it work with Blacks or Hispanics or Latinx? I don’t know.


Ruben: Gotcha. Wonderful. Well, we’ve actually fielded all of the questions from a Q&A perspective. So thank you both for, you know, agreeing to kind of go down that road and be vulnerable in your responses. And again, thank you for taking the time. And then with all of the participants, by the way, just a couple of pieces of feedback for Sharawn and Brian. Excellent presentation. Thank you, Sharawn and Brian, excellent advice.


So, lots of very positive feedback from the folks listening in. So again, thank you for the time, and I’m sure you’ll get lots of LinkedIn connection requests coming, particularly you, Brian, since I volunteered you for everything! Yes. Well, wonderful. Well, thank you everyone for participating, Brian and Sharawn, we’ll talk soon. Thank you very much, everybody.

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