I love the title of your book, Inclusion on Purpose. Could you share how you arrived at this title, and what “inclusion on purpose” means to you?
I am really proud of the title, which did not change from the time I conceived of this book more than three years ago! I learned from my own experiences in trying to create inclusive, equitable workplaces and through my work advising other leaders that inclusion takes personal awareness, responsibility, action, and accountability. Left to our own devices, many of us won’t seek to interact with and work with people who feel unfamiliar to us. We need to break that conditioning and become inclusive on purpose. To me, the phrase acknowledges the intentionality behind this work.
People have different experiences with bias and discrimination—with what it means to feel truly included at work. In addition, different people have varying abilities to change their workplaces (for example, a manager versus an individual contributor). Who is the intended audience for this book?
Let me state that this book centers the experiences of women of color. However, without centering the voices of women of color who also carry other intersectional identities, we fall short on other measures creating accessibility and equity. For example, we find that many workplace initiatives to be more LGBTQ-inclusive fall short when they don’t also include the perspectives and leadership of women of color who identify as part of the LGBTQ community.
This book has advice for managers and leaders who manage teams, but also for individual contributors and any member of society. I’ve looked at workplaces for a long time (and that’s where my area of expertise is), but I also specifically chose to push for social change through workplace change, as data shows the workplace is the first time the average American will have meaningful interactions with someone of a different race.
When people in the training and talent development field read your book, what do you hope they get out of it, and what are some actions they can take to create cultures of belonging?
The intentionality piece of this puzzle can’t be overstated. To cultivate a growth mindset towards inclusion, you can’t possibly get everything right—and you won’t—but it’s necessary to keep trying. This work doesn’t come down to one training or one action but cumulative actions and awareness that happen every day—from who owns the cafe you get your coffee from (and so, spend your money to support) to whose careers you are sponsoring.
People sometimes cite imposter syndrome as something that holds women— particularly women or color—back in the workplace, but you challenge this. Why is attributing lack of advancement to imposter syndrome problematic?
Trying to address individual imposter syndrome—particularly how it has been used to indicate a lack of ability to be confident, lead, and therefore succeed—is very harmful. Without accounting for how society negatively views women—especially women of color who negotiate or advocate for themselves—we say “get rid of your imposter syndrome to succeed.” But it doesn’t work.
What does help reduce the women’s-imposter-syndrome trope is creating more inclusive cultures where all styles of leadership and confidence are welcome: a workplace where managers tell all employees, regardless of their identities, that they believe in them and have their backs.
One of your book’s many excellent recommendations is to read fiction as a way of building empathy. As a fellow bookworm, I love this advice! How can reading fiction help people become more inclusive? Do you have any book recommendations for people who want to become more empathetic and inclusive?
Reading fiction is a research-backed way to develop empathy, particularly for experiences that are different from one’s own. In my book, I recommend Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, a poignant read that really helped me understand and empathize with how generational inequality and racism has compounded to impact Black American people. As an immigrant to the US, this was a necessary education for me to better understand my new home, but I believe many other Americans need to understand this, too. I strongly recommend reading fiction by authors from the communities they are representing.