336: Maureen Berkner Boyt—Yes, Diversity And Inclusion Can Happen But Only If You Work At It

Learn what you can do to bring about real change

Here we are in November already and I’m having such a good time re-sharing with you some of my favorite On The Brink podcasts. I’m bringing to you conversations I’ve had over the past five years with amazing women entrepreneurs, authors, change agents and overall trailblazers who have challenged me to think in new ways. And as a culture change expert, that’s what I’m all about: helping you too see, feel and think in new ways. So today I bring you Maureen “Mo” Berkner Boyt, founder of her company The Moxie Exchange and author of Rock Your Moxie: Power Moves for Women Leading the Way. This podcast was a follow-up to one we did in January 2018, in which we dug into research Mo initiated with CEOs around the country to see how they were implementing changes (or not) to increase both the diversity of their workforce and the inclusion of that diverse workforce. Is diversity real or just a concept? Listen in, then share!

Something’s gotta change

Many years ago, Maureen (Mo) Berkner Boyt walked out of yet another leadership meeting where she was the only woman present and thought, “Something has to change.” So she changed it. Since then, her company, The Moxie Exchange, has grown into a thriving community of corporations committed to building inclusive workplaces, as well as women committed to leadership development and professional growth. Its mission? To disrupt unconscious bias and create inclusive and diverse workplaces where talent can thrive.

To bring about this change, Mo initiated research with CEOs across the US. You can read the survey results, which are really quite fascinating, in her report: The State of Diversity and Inclusion According to CEOS: What CEOs are Thinking and Doing About Diversity and Inclusion, by clicking here.

What did Mo’s diversity research find? That not much was happening.

Eighty CEOs, both men and women (60% men and 40% women), responded to Mo’s questionnaire. All of them agreed that they had to do something to become more diverse and more inclusive. This “something,” however, seemed to take the form of new policies and sexual harassment training. In other words, checking a box then moving on. In reality, few of those CEOs were actually trying to transform the culture of their organizations, wich means hey also were not benefiting from the rich ideas that can come from a diverse and inclusive workforce culture.

Women leaders seem to be more open to inclusion but still not enough

Women CEO respondents to Mo’s survey seemed to be more positive about what they were actually doing to change the conversations, the ways meetings were held, and the values their organization was embracing around inclusion. However, it is one thing to hire a diverse workforce. It is quite another to build a culture where people listen to each other with a desire to understand their points of view and capitalize on their differences.

In our podcast, you’ll learn how Mo helps companies actually bring about inclusion and diversity, not just talk about it

Some of her methods that really bring about change:

  • Honest conversations
  • Being curious
  • Learning to be comfortable with being uncomfortable
  • Peer mentoring programs
  • Micro-learning courses
  • A deep online library of resources and tools

Ready to really change, not just talk about it or hope for it? Here’s a start:

Additional resources for you

Read the transcript of our podcast here

Andi Simon: Welcome to On the Brink With Andi Simon. Thanks for joining us today. I’m Andi Simon, your host. And as you know, if you’ve been listening to our podcast, we are absolutely delighted to bring our guests to you, and begin to help you see, feel and think in new ways. I tell folks, “If you’re on the brink, our job is to help you get off the brink.”

So today is really exciting, because I’ve got Maureen Berkner Boyt, aka Mo, and she did a podcast for us in January of 2018 called Lead with Moxie. Mo is back because she’s completed some fantastic research on exactly what people are doing to expand diversity, inclusion and change the nature of workforce culture, so that we can really benefit from the cognitive and gender and other kinds of diversity inside those great organizations. The work she did went out to CEOs and I am going to let her tell you about it. And out of that came some great information, the data, the information and the insights, is what I want to share with you today. And then hopefully challenge you to actually do some of this.

So a little bit of background about Maureen or Mo. She’s the founder of the Moxie Exchange Movement and the Go Girl Project, a thought partner to organizations and executive series about women’s leadership development and in creating an inclusive workplace. I spoke to one of the women and she’s in part of my book. And Linda Salinger was an executive at Keller X at Merck. And she said to me, “Andi, I really haven’t helped women in the process of building inclusion, and diversity.” And I hear that all too often from women leaders. They get going, and they forget there’s a bigger objective here and a bigger goal.

Mo has a master’s in organizational development, which I think is really fascinating. She authored a five-book series, inside each of which is five chapters, and at the end of which are five instructions that you should follow, and she’s laughing at me. But when I listened to her podcast from January of 2018, I was giggling with some of the things she was sharing. And I think she’ll share more of those with you today. So let me turn this over to Mo and you’re smiling. Tell me, it’s so nice to see you, again. Tell our listeners about what’s been going on with Maureen and Moxie and why we’re so excited to have you there.

Maureen Berkner Boyt: It is so wonderful to be back Andi, thanks for having me. We are at a real inflection point here around talent and diversity and inclusion. And the talent war is on. And it’s not going to go away anytime soon. We’ve got boomers retiring, and this is actually happening globally, not just in the US. To find and keep really great people is becoming more and more difficult. And there’s so much research that’s piling up saying that we know that when we have not just diverse workforces, but inclusive cultures, that’s when you can unleash the full potential of people. And we’re hearing a lot of that, and we know from the research too, that nothing changes unless the CEO, unless it’s driven from the top.

So what are the CEOs really thinking and really doing around diversity and inclusion? And that led us to do this survey. We ended up having 80 CEOs participate from across a variety of industries. And when I read the results, and we were sorting through the data, I didn’t quite know whether to laugh or to cry. Some of it was surprising, some of it not surprising.

We found that there were really four main things, that there is a strategic knowing-doing gap. CEOs told us, “Diversity and inclusion: I believe it’s a strategic imperative. I believe it’s a strategic competitive advantage,” and then answered the questions. Is it a top five strategic priority? It’s not, and is there somebody on my executive team who’s being held accountable to drive diversity inclusion? There isn’t. So yes, I believe it’s going to make us more money. I believe it’s going to make us more competitive and innovative and all those things, the research share, but we’re not putting any resources toward it.

Andi Simon: Pause for a moment, Moe, because we know that you can think things a lot and the data is very compelling, but we buy with a heart. We make decisions with how it feels. And there’s something in those brains of those CEOs that are hijacking what has to happen. Am I right?

Maureen Berkner Boyt: Yeah. And if I could say one thing overall about this, is: hope is not a strategy. And our findings really showed that that is the majority of CEOs, that’s their strategy. Now a second finding that was fascinating to us is that gender really matters. We had about a third, over a third, close to half of the CEOs that participated identified as female. And their results and answers to those questions were very different. They have about a 50/50 split in terms of, do they have somebody on their team that’s being measured. 50% of female CEOs said yes, and only about 25% of male CEOs, same thing around whether their programs are put in place, whether it’s a strategic priority.

So in looking at that, that was at first surprising because it was such a stark gap between male and female CEOs. And then thinking about it, really saying, you know, they probably either have experienced some of the barriers to getting to the top as a female and to understand, kind of at a very visceral level, that this does not happen by accident. So I think that hope is a strategy.

How do we then also take the experience of women in the workplace, beyond the CEO, or beyond the executive suite and help that experience actually fuel positive change because we know that, just like being healthy, I can’t want to be fit, I can’t want to have great blood pressure and cholesterol levels. I actually have to do work. And it’s the same here.

Andi Simon: We love when we work with companies and we realize that the only way you can change is to visualize and have a vision, but visualize a different kind of organization. And I wonder if the CEOs who are well-intended but doing nothing, have no picture in their mind, no movie to set their new story about if I do this, that will happen? There are no small wins, there’s no plan or process. They’re sort of missing an action. Your thoughts?

Maureen Berkner Boyt: I think that is so true. When you can paint a picture of the future, you’re willing to do the hard work. I think there is this wanting, but not really being able to visualize what’s that like, and it might be a little scary. We know that when you bring in diversity and inclusion, when you have very diverse teams, it actually raises a bit of tension. If you’re around a whole group of people that are just like you, it’s like being in your living room, kicking up your feet on the coffee table, you don’t have to really think about the impact that you’re having on other people.

When you’re on diverse teams, that’s actually a part of what unleashes the potential. I have to be thinking about, how do I ask this question? There’s a huge piece in this that we know that diversity without inclusion is pretty worthless. If you have a diverse team, and people have to show up and all act the same, you’re not tapping those differences. And in order to create that inclusion, and get to the place where you can have a diverse team where everybody does feel like they’ve got their feet up on the coffee table, you have to create safety. And that is the safety of being able to make a mistake. The safety to be able to ask a question and say, you know what, what words should I use? The safety to be able to come forward and say, you know what, when you did this, here’s how that impacted me. So I think that is a piece that we’re really focusing on is, how do you create that everyday inclusion? Starting with, how can you have those difficult conversations? How can you, as a leader, create that safety in that space?

And we know the power of story. And when we go in and work with organizations, we actually are building this into our digital micro courses as well. I will tell stories about how I screwed up. This is the work that I do. And I tell the story. My daughter is a little person. She’s a dwarf. Before I became her mother, I had never met a dwarf. I didn’t know the right words to use. I didn’t know, if I was in conversation with a little person, am I supposed to get down on my knees? Am I like, what was all that?

And then I just lead with curiosity. Okay, I have this daughter, I want the world to be great for her. I don’t want to offend this whole community of people. And beyond just not wanting to offend, I really want to get to know and have wonderful relationships. So I got curious and started asking a lot of questions. And, as if we want to bridge this knowledge gap, if we want it to create inclusion, the best thing we can all do is get curious and set that tone. Of course, we’re going to make mistakes, we just don’t know. And let’s assume ignorance, instead of assuming bad intentions.

Andi Simon: Curious for you, I often get a call from an HR director. It’s often around culture change, but it is relevant here. And they want to know how can I help them change the culture, which is really what we’re talking about. We want a culture that’s diverse, and inclusive, not just diverse in ghettos, which I’ve seen. One, which begins to bridge the gaps. And I asked them, Why do they think that HR is owning the culture, as opposed to the C-suite, the leadership, the management, where behaviors are going to be observed and changed? Are men, the people in HR, the folks who are asking you for the help? Or is it the senior leadership, because I’m trying to get them to get past that it’s a function, as opposed to a ubiquitous culture of different values, where we listen differently. And we want to know how we can help each other better. And we do it with some, we go out for beers, not all the guys. They know how to bring along some women and think that they are collaborators, colleagues. Your thoughts?

Maureen Berkner Boyt: I think what’s interesting about that is that it also gets to another one of our findings. And that was that the response in these last 18 months has been very short term, and very reactive and very protective. Very “check the box.” Very, “Let’s have this driven by legal and HR. We’re hearing that we better do something about this diversity and inclusion thing. And we heard about the Starbucks incident, or Nike walking a bunch of their executives out because of the cultures they’ve created. Okay, we better do sexual harassment training. And we can check that box. Let’s look at our policies and review our policies.”

None of that will create an inclusive culture because those are driven by HR, those are driven by so-and-so instead of saying, “What we’re going to do is actually do some unconscious bias work and have people understand that we’re all biased, and how do I show up and be inclusive, the longer harder work?”

So I’ve found Andi, that it’s those companies that really have this long term commitment that don’t see it as a function. They see it as, this is core to who we are. That’s harder work. And that is longer term work. I can put my company through sexual harassment training and check a box and feel like I’ve done something. No, doesn’t change your long term outcomes.

Andi Simon: You know, as the listeners are listening to us, and I know many of them because they send me their emails, they’re both guys and gals and across the globe. Part of this is really understanding humans. And there’s a great book by Margaret Heffernan called Willful Blindness and it’s really about birds of a feather flocking together. We’re most comfortable with others who sound and look just like us.

So when we’re talking about building a stronger workplace through diversity and inclusion, both of those, we need to change those behaviors. And I often say to people, “It’s a little like theater. You all play Macbeth really well, you know your roles. But tomorrow, we’re gonna play Hamlet and you don’t have a script.”

To your point, they don’t know what to say. They don’t know how to stand on the stage. They don’t know how to interact in a meeting. They feel very unconsciously incompetent and that is always awkward. So rather than rehearsing and doing some role playing and practice, they end up going back to those wonderful and diverse not inclusive clubs, which is really what those organizations fall into. You know, birds of a feather flock together. Do you have other tools they can use? Because I could do some of those as well.

Maureen Berkner Boyt: Yeah, I can show up and put my feet on the coffee table without having to do much thinking. So there is, I would say: the first is to have some conversation to say, “You know what? It can get a little messy.” And creating as a leader, or even if you’re not, if you’re listening and you’re not a leader, you’re still a part of a team, and going to your teammates and saying, “You know what? I want every single one of us to be able to bring our full selves, and to be able to do that, that means that we’re all going to have to think a little differently. We’re going to have to have some awkward conversations, and we’re going to have to be vulnerable. I’m going to have to not know. I’m going to have to be willing to risk saying or doing the wrong thing. But knowing that we have made commitments as a team, that diversity and inclusion matter to us.”

I would say, we did the CEO work because CEOs can organize change, right? And they can have resources and they can set strategic priority. Inclusion happens for the most part, from how you and I are treating each other when we’re sitting next to each other at our desks. So the tool that, I will repeat this until I’m blue in the face, the greatest tool we all have is our own curiosity, and our own willingness to challenge our own beliefs and to grow. Growth does not happen in ease. So I think a conversation as a team, we suggest having a diversity and inclusion check-in. How are we doing? Is there somebody that we want to call out as having done something really great, and being a great ally when they saw something happen? Where did we have some missteps this month? Like maybe that last meeting was an absolute train wreck because we let the dominant culture dominate. If there were voices that weren’t heard, what can we do?

We’ve got a whole set of tools around: How do you run an inclusive meeting? because so much of what happens in our worlds actually happens in this framework. We call a meeting. You have the no interruptions policy. You have everybody speak, you attribute ideas to where they come from, the person that originated that idea, all things that are a different way of doing something. We’ve all done the exercise where somebody tells us to write our name with our dominant hand, and then write our name with our non-dominant hand and how we have to slow down and actually think about it. So think about this as you would learning any new skill. And learning any new skill, you’re not good at it at first.

Andi Simon: I do have a question or two about how do we drive it down lower before business itself. Because I have a hunch as I work with higher education, that they are ignoring this in higher education. I had one wonderful client and we have a whole group of about 13, part staff, part faculty, part students, and the students said quite candidly, You guys think you have a diverse, inclusive campus. But look at us, we all sit together. We live together, we’re ghettos. And we’re most comfortable in that safe spot where we are like the others.

They had recruited from across the globe, but in fact, people were looking for a safe place for them to be with others like that. And when we were working there, the idea that this was supposed to be diverse and inclusive was sort of missing, it was a strategy of hope. And if we bring them they will come, but will they be diverse? And will they learn how to do that?

And I’m wondering as we’re working with several other universities now, how do you take Moxie and bring it down there so that when people graduate, they’re already prepared with the attitude and aptitude to do it in business? And I don’t know if you’re focused on it at all, but I will tell you that there’s a market waiting for your wisdom.

Maureen Berkner Boyt: Yeah, you know, it’s interesting, because this starts even before university.

Andi Simon: But to your point, it goes beyond the university. Are you doing anything with universities?

Maureen Berkner Boyt: We’ve done some work and it’s interesting. We usually go in and we’re usually brought into the business school. We talk to their groups that are within the business school to where it might be a woman in business and we go in and have them understand unconscious bias and how it might impact their careers. Or, without the work, again I come back to there: we don’t achieve anything, whether that is driving cost out of our supply chain, without work, because, and people want this to be easy, and they want it to be seamless, and they want to not have to do the work of it. Just not going to happen.

I would like to take this all the way back to our communities. If we want people to show up at university, and build bridges, and be curious, and be willing to be uncomfortable, we have to start doing that in our families. We talk about when we actually get alongside and have interaction with people that are very different from us, that it becomes less scary. So it becomes what are we doing in our communities to say, I’m going to go and spend some time at the cultural center for Islam, or whatever it might be. I’m going to take my family, and we’re going to have those conversations. What am I doing in my parenting, in my neighborhood group, to say There’s some really interesting folks out there, I know what this conversation is going to be like, I wonder what that conversation is going to be.

Andi Simon: So we’ve got to spread curiosity all the way into our lives, and make it feel safe and exciting, that we are seeing a difference as positive and not frightening.

Maureen Berkner Boyt: And getting rid of the idea of the other. You know, when it’s us against them, and when it’s a zero sum game, everyone loses, versus: we all at our core want the same things. We want our families to be healthy and happy. And if we start at how we’re alike, and we know actually even with you, in the early stage, in the uncomfortable, in the messy, I have somebody that is wildly different than me, how can I set a common goal?

That’s an easy thing to do. Whether that’s at the university level or with our teams, what are we in common trying to achieve here? Now let’s actually take a look at the different ideas on how to get there, but we have this common thing that we share. And if you need to take it all the way back to basics, we have this common thing that I want to show up to work and feel like I’m valued. And you want to show up to work and feel like you’re valued. How do we get there?

Andi Simon: I’m looking at our time, and we’re really enjoying having you and I could have a deep conversation about this for a long time. Because at the end of the day, we truly believe if you just stay in the business area, that there’s richness awaiting those institutions, those organizations, if they change the way they see, feel and think about each other. And it says it’s important.

We’re doing a lot of work with women entrepreneurs. It’s important for them to build a diverse workforce in their new companies that they’re forming, and really respect the value that the guys, the gals and everybody else are bringing with a lot of diversity and inclusion. So it goes both ways. And then those who have a strategy of hope, hoping it doesn’t come back and bite them in some fashion.

You know, the Nikes of the world, these are big companies who have ignored this. And so their strength can come from really looking deep inside and beginning to think about what we’re missing. Be functional here. You are missing the value that comes from this that could really help you grow your business, open your minds to the ideas that different people bring, and see which ones might be the strong one for tomorrow.

Maureen Berkner Boyt: And I find that it’s actually the smaller you are as a startup, the more opportunity that you have. The larger you get, the harder it is to change this. So for those of you listening that are just getting started or have a smaller nimble organization, your opportunity is amazing. So being thoughtful and being intentional about this and saying, “I understand this, we’re going to look again for diverse talent,” and then saying, “We know that inclusion is going to have to happen at the organizational level by us talking about it, putting plans in place, having process interrupting bias at the team level. How we are sharing ideas, giving credit, how we have fun together, social and cultural?” And then at the individual level, me showing up being willing to be vulnerable, being willing to lose. And then I’m going to stay really curious. That’s how we start to build that bridge between hope and actual change.

Andi Simon: And on that note, we’ve had such fun. Mo is really an exceptional woman who’s trying to make a very different world for us to live in. It’s bigger than a project, or a book or anything else. This is a mission with great purpose. And every time I have an opportunity to see her and to share with you her thoughts, I realize how inspirational it is. But it isn’t a hope strategy. It can really happen. The problem is that it is up to you to make it happen. And for those of you who are listening, how can they reach you Mo if they’d like to get some information about the programs you have: your online courses, your books, anything that would help them do better?

Maureen Berkner Boyt: So they can reach out on email. And that’s Maureen@Moxieexchange.com. There are two e’s: one at the end of Moxie and one at the start of exchange.com. So Maureen@Moxieexchange.com and then they can go to our website, TheMoxieexchange.com. And I’m always active on LinkedIn. I would love to link with all of you and have some of these messy conversations about how we can create a more inclusive world. Or I imagine this place where everybody has completely unleashed their potential. Isn’t that fun?

Andi Simon: I would love to hear from our listeners who begin to apply this: send us the positive stories and the war stories. We can all share the war stories, but I’m more interested in sharing testimonials to how a little effort in this way turned into a big idea that led to us having more fun together in a much more diverse, inclusive place, with cognitive diversity, all kinds of diversity, where we listen differently because richness comes from those conversations. That’s how we all relate to each other.

So, on that note, this is On the Brink with Andi Simon. Remember, our job, if you are on the brink, is to take you beyond the brink so you too can soar. The trick is, how do you see, feel and think in new ways so you can do it as well. Today is all about not just hoping that new policy gets you more diverse or recruiting differently will do it as well, but what it’s really about is taking action and seeing how it works, building those small wins and moving your organization forward so that you can really capitalize on the talent that’s there. That’s our mission.

It’s been a wonderful morning. Thank you so much for joining us. And I look forward to publishing and posting more podcasts with you. You can listen to my first one with Mo back in January of 2018. And you can find it on Andisimon.com. Send me your questions at info@Andisimon.com and we can talk more. Have a great day.