Zach chats with Dr. Lily Jampol on this special Saturday episode themed around allyship and privilege. She and Zach discuss the diversity, equity and inclusion space at length, and Dr. Jampol shares her perspective on both where the industry is going and what the next step is to really take it to the next level. Check the links in the show notes to check out the work of several prominent Black authors and thought leaders!
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Zach: What’s up, y’all? It’s Zach with Living Corporate, and we’re back. Yes, we’re back from outer space, having another great conversation with someone who is passionate about amplifying Black and brown voices at work, ’cause that’s what we do, right? Like, we exist to highlight and center underrepresented perspectives and experiences and identities at work, and we’ve been around, shoot, now going on a couple–like, it’s almost up to year 2 now, and I’m just really thankful for all the support. So shout-out to all of our listeners. Shout-out to the folks working 9-to-5. Shout-out to the people working 10-to-9s. You know, whatever y’all working, man, shout-out to y’all. And then of course shout-out to our allies, you know? Our Buckys, our White Wolves. So, you know, for those who are not Marvel fans, Bucky was Captain America’s sidekick, and then when he had to be rehabilitated because he was brainwashed by Dr. Zemo, Baron Zemo, he then went to Wakanda, and when he went to Wakanda he became “the White Wolf.” And, you know, Wakanda’s all Africa. You know, it’s all a bunch of African people, ’cause it’s in Africa so it’s all Black people. But he was the White Wolf. Like, he was trusted. You know, he was a true ally of the people. So all of that to say we also engage allies on Living Corporate, right? So this is not, like, exclusive, right? Like, if you are less melanated, then as long as you’re down for the Wakandans, hey, we’re down for y’all, right? So with that being said, we have a really dope guest – Dr. Lily Jampol. Dr. Lily Jampol helps organizations solve difficult challenges and ensure that their workplaces are happy, productive, and equitable. She primarily works with the diversity, equity and inclusion firm ReadySet based in Oakland, California, and a people scientist and strategist. Dr. Jampol is also a frequent speaker and writes on diversity and inclusion from a behavioral science data perspective. She believes that one of the keys to moving forward is understanding how people think, behave, and relate. Lily, Dr. Jampol, Dr. L, Dr. J, what’s up? How are you doing?
Dr. Jampol: I’m doing pretty great. I’m almost always doing great. I’m feeling super fulfilled by my work right now, and I’m generally speaking a pretty positive person, so it’s all good. I feel like it’s a rare thing when the anger and disappointment that you feel about the world and society can be channeled into your actual day job, so I’m constantly grateful for that and all of the other wonderful things in my life.
Zach: Man, you know, and you’ve been a few different places, right? So I know that you’re at ReadySet today, but you’ve had a journey, right? Like, can we talk about your background and how you got into this world of diversity and inclusion?
Dr. Jampol: Yeah, definitely. Well, so I’ve always been a pretty curious person about other people and society in general. I’ve also taken some non-traditional routes in my career trying to follow that curiosity, and in terms of background I actually grew up in an eco hotel in Costa Rica, and that was a really interesting experience for me. It was the first time that I really saw inequality, and yet also I had to confront how my white privilege played out there even while I felt like an outsider myself. So growing up in a different country and also a hotel made me super curious about just how people relate to each other, how differences play out in society. I also came from a pretty social justice family since they’re all eco warriors, so I knew I wanted to do something social justice related. I started off in political science, but I ended up getting my Ph.D in social psychology where I was examining human behavior, specifically gender bias in organizations. So for a while I thought I was gonna be in academia, and I spent 3 years as a professor in London at a business school, but while I really enjoyed my research, I really was also feeling like I could make a bigger impact working to implement that research in organizations, and this all came to a head when I was going through the middle of a pretty nasty divorce and I was like, “Screw everything,” so I quit my 10-year [track?] career and joined a tech startup here in Silicon Valley, and after a few months there I realized I wasn’t really working as much on issues that felt really socially important, so I transitioned to working with ReadySet, my amazing team, doing diversity, equity and inclusion work, and I’ve done serious amounts of learning since then. So I came into this work thinking that I was an expert in my field, and I didn’t realize how much of a novice I was when it came to actual equity issues. First of all, I barely knew or used the term “intersectional feminism” before starting this work in the field. So part of what I love about my job now is how much I’ve been able to grow as a person and also help others who are just beginning their journey to be able to do so too, and I really do have my colleagues and my network to thank for that.
Zach: That’s incredible. And, you know, you talk about your privilege and you talk about, like, you coming to learn things and experience things on your own and develop certain levels of fluency and awareness. I couldn’t help but notice myself that you’re white, you know what I’m saying? Like, it leapt out to me. [laughs] I’m curious to know about how your whiteness intersects with the work that you do within behavioral and data science and, like, you know, when I say how it intersects with the work you do, like, how does it impact how you show up, and what observations do you have in, like, being in this space?
Dr. Jampol: Yes. Right, I am very white, or unmelanated as you put before. I’m literally half-Viking, half-Ashkenazi Jew.
Zach: That’s incredible actually. Shout-out to both the Ashkenazi Jews and the Vikings. That’s–wow.
Dr. Jampol: My mom is basically, like, 100% Swedish, Norwegian, so yeah, definitely have some Viking blood in the background. My whiteness really does impact my work in a pretty big way. So when I started my Ph.D I was actually focusing on behavioral economics, and the reason that I’m telling you this background is because I want to explain how my behavior and my work has changed since then. So when I was doing behavioral economics, in that field it’s mostly dominated by white men, still is, and when I was doing that work I always felt like I had to prove myself to be taken seriously, and when I started transitioning into looking at gender biases, I was told to stop doing that work by many of my advisers and colleagues because I was told no one was gonna take me seriously as a scientist. Now, of course that made me want to do the work more, but now that I’m a white person and I have a data and quantitative background, I realize how privileged that identity is. So I can come into a room with a bunch of tech executives and lay my Ph.D out on the table, proverbially speaking, talk data with them, and they give me the validation and respect that many of my colleagues who have been doing this work much longer than me and who are not white just don’t get, and it actually impacts the way that I play a role on my team, and for good reason. So for example, we had a company who we were working with who were just not taking the CEO of my company seriously, who is a Black woman, and she has a JD from Harvard. She worked as an international human rights lawyer. She’s the CEO of her own successful company, has been doing this work for, you know, 5 times as long as I have. You put me in the room, and I had only been working in this space for a few months, and their attitudes just totally changed. They went from, you know, defensive and aggressive to, “Oh, yeah. Of course. You know, this sounds great. What do we need to do to get there?”
Zach: Can I pause right there though? ‘Cause, like, I’m so–I’m so triggered. [laughs]
Dr. Jampol: Okay. I’m sorry about triggering you. [laughs]
Zach: No, no, it’s not your fault. [laughs] So the reason why I’m pausing is because I think–and we haven’t done these studies because of white fragility and the fact that I think academia is still, like, very much so, like, a white space, but I wish–and maybe we have and I just haven’t seen it, but I’d love to see a behavioral study done on how the majority tends to treat Black and brown professionals with a certain level of hostility and defensiveness that they don’t treat white counterparts, right? Like, your earlier point about the CEOs, like, why–and I’ve been in situations where I’ve been on the receiving end or I’ve observed. Like, “Why are you talking to me like I’m your enemy or like I’m trying to get you?” Like, “Why are we not able to have, like, an actual dialogue?” Like, “Why does everything feel really transactional and, like, a zero-sum game in this conversation,” you know what I mean?
Dr. Jampol: Mm-hmm. Yeah, no, I totally do, and I think, you know, you’re totally reading my mind about wanting to do some behavioral studies on this stuff. I think about this all the time too, and I think you’re absolutely right. There is quite a bit of evidence showing that people from underrepresented backgrounds in different domains, including women, have to prove it again and again and again and give more and more legitimacy in order to be taken seriously, but I do think that the aggression and hostility is an interesting component of this, and I have a lot of theories about why, and I think–and I don’t want to go too down the rabbit hole, but you got me excited about this topic, so just for a second… so [a study] I’ve been really playing around with in my head is the entitlement to the good will and patience of people of color towards white people to learn and to get to where they need to be, and I’m talking about not just, you know, average people, but well-meaning, progressive, liberal people who still believe that it is your work, people of color’s work, to be able to get them to where they need to be. And it is my job, and it is our jobs as, you know, a company, but I would love to see research showing that there’s an entitled expectation to how we’re supposed to be doing this work for people and also putting up with them when they don’t want to do it and don’t want to, you know, put their 50% of the work in. So there’s lots of other studies I want to go over, but that’s just one I’ve been playing around with as well, that entitlement aspect.
Zach: Yes. So I’m not trying to cut you off, ’cause you’re telling a story, so I’m not trying to–ironically–mansplain and jump all over your stuff, so please continue with the story. It’s just that you said that and I was like, “Oh,” and I wanted to just ask the question. So please continue. So you come into this space. You’re relatively new. The CEO, the person who actually built the company and has the education from a fairly elite, recognized institution is not as well-received, but you come in and the whole vibe changes.
Dr. Jampol: Yes. The whole vibe changes. Not only that, but we just have more–you know, an easier time getting [?] and actually comvincing people, but I think I also want to talk about one interesting other thing that I observed, and this is something that I’ve observed in a couple of different companies and situations in that a lot of the people who do this, I think that we have this idea of what that person looks like, the CEO of a company or who sits on the board of a company. White women are very much involved in the same process, and in fact I see this pattern from white women almost more than I see it from white men, and I think there’s something interesting in that.
Zach: Wait a minute. [record scratch sfx] Say that again.
Dr. Jampol: I think that often we see white women putting up the most resistance to doing diversity, equity and inclusion work within companies, especially if they’ve already achieved a position of power. And, you know, there’s a litany of reasons why that happens. A lot of them are psychological. A lot of them are just where women sit in the power hierarchy of society. So they sit in the middle, not at the highest point–which is where white men sit–and not at the lowest point, which is where a lot of people of color sit in terms of how much power and influence you have. So they have a lot to lose, and a lot of the ways that women have managed to achieve a semblance of power is by either mimicking white men or upholding the very systems of oppression that have, well, essentially benefitted them for a long time, but also benefitted white men. So there’s a lot to lose by getting rid of that power, but there’s also a kind of “pull yourselves up by your bootstraps” attitude of “Well, I got here, so why does anyone else need help to do so?” But I do think that there’s something greater in terms of how white women have benefitted from systems of oppression compared to women of color and men of color.
Zach: And I wonder, like–and so, you know, I am not a Ph.D, so when I say things like, “You know, I haven’t seen this,” I’m not trying to say that it doesn’t exist. What research or what, like, written work would you recommend, if any, that explores, like, the historicity of white women and their relation to systems of power in America?
Dr. Jampol: Yeah. That’s a great question, and I also want to, before I continue, just say that I don’t have, you know, quantitative research to back that observation up. It’s an observation I made. However, this idea that white women uphold systems of oppression can be seen in lots of other data that we have. For example, who is the group that voted Donald Trump into power? We have lots of other data to show that white women are upholding systems of oppression, but I think, you know, we can go back and look at historical data about how this happened. Stephanie Jones Rogers is an amazing academic who wrote about how white women were complicit in slavery, essentially, in the American South, and it really starts there. You know, it starts in other areas of colonialism, but there’s quite a few academics who are writing about this, and there’s also thought leaders who are writing about this as well. Rachel Cargle. Robin DiAngelo. I mean, she’s a white author, but she’s written extensively on white fragility. Ibram Kendi, Ijeoma Oluo. Those are all folks that I think are really interesting to read and have [?] a lot more on this than I have.
Zach: And again, like, just shout-out to you for, like, highlighting Black authors and other thought leaders in your quick list that you just, like, sprouted off like it was nothing. That’s super dope. So let’s talk about that then, right? We’ve talked a little bit about how we’ve seen, like, power abused or taken advantage of, but I’d like to talk a little bit more about what, like, effective allyship looks like, right? And we’ve had a few of these types of calls, like, these conversations on Living Corporate. I don’t think that, like, they ever get old. I think it’s really important that we have advocates and aspirational allies on this platform, because there are a variety of people that listen to Living Corporate. A lot of diversity and inclusion professionals listen to Living Corporate, and I can say that I just–I don’t know if I’ve even seen a lot of programming that is really explicit on what it means to build inclusive behaviors as a leader. I don’t know if I’ve seen training that’s really, really intentional in building that fluency or building that capability or that muscle, whatever word you want to use, and so I’m really curious from your perspective, what do you think it looks like, specific to white women, what does effective allyship look like in the workplace?
Dr. Jampol: Yeah, that’s such a great question, and I think we’re talking about allyship more and more, and it’s something that we talk a lot about with the organizations we work with. I think that first of all–let’s talk about intentions for a minute. I think I feel sometimes when I talk about white women that there is this assumption that there is an intention to be racist, for example. I don’t think that that’s necessarily true. I think there’s a strong desire to be good people, and I think that, you know, women, having been marginalized themselves, feel like they have been victims of that marginalization as well. The problem is that strong desire to be a good person, when they are told that their actions are contributing to racism or they are complicit in a system of white supremacy, it makes us feel threatened that our own progressiveness, our own willingness to help others, our idealism of ourselves as good people is super threatened, and that makes us shut down, and I think that’s because we’ve been–and I’m not the first person to say this obviously as lots of people have written on it, it’s what we teach–we have not had to grow up and experience the discomfort of having to talk about race and racism and systems of oppression. And so for a lot of people this is the first time they’re even hearing about it. So the first thing is just being comfortable with that discomfort of understanding that it’s not about you, it’s about systems of oppression that you still might have behaviors and even attitudes that are formed through your experience with the world, with culture, with television, with radio. The way that we learn how to stereotype is just ingrained in our society, and so we have to start slowing down and be able to recognize how we actually are contributing to that. We have to also be careful in terms of allyship with how we show up. So I’m always trying to be conscientious about not taking up too much space and making sure that I’m amplifying non-white voices and work and also listening more than I talk. I think this has been a big change for me over the last couple years. This is also part of the framework that we teach in our Ally Skills workshop, which I co-facilitate with my colleagues Willie Jackson and Kim Tran at ReadySet, and it’s really about moving from passive allyship to active allyship, what we call being an accomplice. So it means centering impacted communities rather than yourself, owning your impact when you hurt somebody’s feelings over your intentions to not have hurt their feelings, listening and learning and expressing humility and amplifying other people’s voices, and it’s also about how we demonstrate growth and are humble when we mess up, and we will mess up. So I myself am trying to be a better accomplice in this work. I think in terms of D&I practitioners there’s a huge place for white women who are working in this space, and I know a lot of white women are trying to figure out what exactly their role is. I think one of our roles is to be able to do some of the emotional work and the burden of carrying some of these conversations and some of this work forward so that it’s not only people of color who are doing it. So there’s also–you know, my white privilege as a white person, I can get angry and I can push back in a way that doesn’t have the same repercussions for my Black colleagues. I can lend my voice or carry conversations that are triggering or exhausting for people of color to do, for example, convincing white women that they play a part in white supremacy or that feminism has to be intersectional for it to work. So I think there’s very specific roles that we can play that can help us be better allies, both personally and to other folks in the DEI space.
Zach: And, you know, it’s just such an interesting dynamic too when you talk about, like–so, like, the things you’re talking about around feeling threatened or feeling attacked or feeling just various levels of insecurity, like, it’s really interesting as it intersects with having white women managers, right? [both laugh] Or then, like, being even more complex is having a white woman manager who is, like, supposed to be the czar of diversity and inclusion, and you’re working for this person and it’s like, “Okay. I recognize that you’ve been invited to these very, like, exclusive white spaces to sit on a panel and, you know, to word diarrhea on diversity and inclusion and, like, the latest thing that you read in Cosmopolitan, but I also have insights and life experience, and those life experiences mean things, and I know things by merit of my life that you may not understand or you just frankly don’t even think about.” And it’s just interesting to me when I think about, like, this dynamic of, like, the corporatized diversity and inclusion space and how you have often times white women in these positions of leadership in these groups, and they themselves are either–I mean, everybody has blind spots, so it’s not, like, even this huge knock. It’s not, like, this huge indictment. It’s just the reality of you’re trying to lead a space that it’s critical for you to be empathetic, coachable and humble in, and if you think that you have nothing to learn or you think that everyone around you, especially people of color, Black and brown folks, are just there to do your bidding, like, that is just cruelly ironic, you know what I mean? But I see that though. I see that often, like, in these corporate spaces, where, you know, Whoever is, like, the leader of D&I, and it’s like, “Why are you here?” And I know there’s tension, right? Like, I’ve had conversations with Jennifer Brown, and she’s talked about, like–I’m not gonna say she’s on one side and I’m on the other, but my impression of our conversation was, like, “I feel like we’re–” We being white D&I professionals–“are constantly questioned and have to really show and prove that we should be here,” and I’m kind of like, “Well, yeah. You should though.” I mean, I’m not trying to be, like, a jerk. It’s just like, “You should. You should show and prove that you should be here, because we don’t have a historical track record of–” Like, I don’t know of a model, like, a person, a white diversity and inclusion, one diversity and inclusion that is like, “Wow, this is the model.” And I’ve asked other–you know what I mean? I know I’m kind of ranting, but I’m asking–
Dr. Jampol: No, no. I hear you, I do, and I actually really agree with you. It’s something that I’ve thought a lot about, even as I’m thinking about my own career trajectory, right? Because I want to help do this work, but I don’t want to occupy a position of power first of all on my own as a white person, like, I don’t think I should be the head of diversity and inclusion at a company, at least not right now in this societal context, because I think context really matters too, and I think we often don’t think about that. We think in terms of meritocracy, you know, about, like, “Who has worked hard and who deserves to be here and who doesn’t?” But we’re talking about representation. We’re talking about justice. We’re talking about repairing harms that have been done over hundreds of years in our society, and right now diversity and inclusion is often one of the places where people of color can have influence and power within a company. And it’s important too because–well, I’m not explaining it to you, because I’m hearing all of your points and I’m just saying that I agree with you, because I think you have to be in a position of taking a step back and learning, and I think you can find your niche as a white person in this area–I mean, mine is behavioral science data right now. I’m also still trying to figure that out, but I’m also really focused on learning, ’cause if we’re not doing that personal learning, we’re just repeating those same things that have happened throughout history, and we’re repeating those hierarchies and we’re maintaining that status quo. So yes, short, TL;DR, you’re right. [both laugh]
Zach: It’s interesting too. I want to talk about your work, right? I think something we first talked about, like, when we first did an introductory call is I’m curious about what does it look like because–so, like, I’ve met people who are in D&I and, like, they purport themselves to be, like, data strategists, right? But they don’t actually have any actual context–and I’m kind of jumping ahead, because this is a part of a question I’m gonna ask you in a little bit, but they don’t really have, like, the empathy or the, like, fluency and, like, understanding of American history that would then inform how they do their work. So in my mind, and this is based off just my very limited experience, right, is it feels to melike you’re almost sitting in two camps. Like, you’re sitting in, like, this hard, quantitative, scientific, measured space, but then you’re also–because of your own background you still do have a passion around, like, connecting inclusion and diversity and equity with justice and the historical foundations of the work itself, as well as the work and writings of Black and brown women and activists and people who came before you, right? So, like, do you feel a duality there? Do you feel as if, like, you’re uniquely placed, or do you feel as if your profile is common within, like, this data science and behavioral space that you work in?
Dr. Jampol: Yeah, that’s a great question. I think about this a lot. I don’t think that it’s common. I think if it was common we’d see a lot more data scientists doing diversity, equity and inclusion work, and I mean–there’s other reasons for that. I mean, I could be making a $300,000 salary if I wanted to do data science in a tech company. We don’t do this work for the money. But I do think that I’ve had different relationships with data and how I approach this work, and I think I do want to start this by saying that it’s really because of my team at ReadySet that I have become this hybrid that I feel comfortable [?] and that I am able to do both the quantitative aspects of my job and also the very human aspects of my job. I think when I came into this field I had been taught my entire career that quantitative evidence-based scientifically published data is the only type of data of value. So evidence-based work, evidence-based in general is such a buzzword now. I think everybody hears it, and I think people believe “evidence-based” means that it has to be couched in [?] methods and scientific papers and outcomes calculated in ROI, and I definitely did when I started with this work. So I’ll just tell you a quick story. I think in my first week of working with ReadySet I was analyzing data for a company, and I was doing it the way that I had always been taught to, which is trying to find significant statistical difference between groups in a sample, and in order to do that, when you have fewer than 5 people in a sample you usually just take [?] out because it’s not gonna be statistically valid, and I remember having this conversation. I think in the room was [?], one of my colleagues, and Kim Tran, and we started this conversation, which was started by them, which was, “Why are we leaving out a small sample?” Now, this sample had been a sample of transgender people within a company, and in my mind I was just like, “Well, we’ll just leave them out ’cause they’re not a big enough group,” and they were–you know, that was how I had been taught, and they were like, “Wait, but the whole point of doing this work is to represent the voices and the opinions and the feelings of underrepresented, small numbers of people within a company,” and I was like, “God, that makes total sense,” and it’s ridiculous that I had even thought in my mind that that was an appropriate thing to do, you know, in terms of getting these major insights. So that’s just a story about, you know, how I first started thinking about this, so I really want to give credit to my teammates for helping me get there. I still think that evidence-based research is important, but so much of that research is based on white, Euro-centric idea samples and methods. Quant data can be super useful, let’s say if you want to track representation in your company or show that a bias exists, but it should not be necessary for doing this work. It’s just that our concept of data, what data is and what kind of data is valid and important is biased, and I’ve been writing about this a lot recently. I’m trying to publish it soon, but I’ve just been getting–I feel like this idea is so complex and interesting, but I have noticed that there has been a trend with the people that we work with, and that is people’s responses to DEI work in particular, they use data–and data with a big D, I call it–to stall and delegitimize or otherwise reject diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.
Zach: Yo! Yo, wait a second! Golly, Dr. Jampol on here dropping crazy, crazy, crazy Flex bombs. [Flex bomb sfx] Oh, my gosh. And then also–
Dr. Jampol: Yeah, and please feel free to, like, stop me whenever. I tend to just go on [?].
Zach: Yo! Yeah, I’m trying not to cut you off. I’m trying not to be rude. And also air horns for your team, ’cause I know you shouted them out. [air horns sfx] Okay, so first of all, yo, man, tell me why you’re talking about–you said people use big Data, big capital D data, to discount D&I initiatives and–like, say that again.
Dr. Jampol: Yeah. So I think that people are using data to basically put off doing the hard work, to delegitimize the work itself or just reject, like, having to do any of that work itself, and I’ll explain a little bit why I think this is happening. So I think it’s happening in part because the way that people in power use data in relation to diversity, equity and inclusion work is similar to other ways that we inadvertently uphold systems of oppression. It’s essentially gatekeeping, and it benefits white people, and I think one of the ways that I’ve seen this is overly demanding evidence from DEI best practices. So wanting to know, like, what exactly is going to work here in my specific context, but then also refusing to contribute to those best practices by actually being innovative and taking risks in that space so that we can add to the knowledge base. And then another way is through dehumanizing human data by not looking beyond the quote-unquote “hard data,” so not wanting to listen to people’s stories, not wanting to hear the voices of employees that already exist within their organizations, by not wanting to listen to experts, people like my teammates who have been spending years doing this work, and then finally using data or the need for more evidence to block the efforts to actually go forward on that data. And so often, you know, we’ll have a conversation with people that often sounds like, “Okay, here’s why we should go forward with this program,” and they’ll come back and say, “Okay, okay, but do you have any data on whether this is gonna work?” And I’ll come back and say, “Look, we don’t have a ton of data yet. This is still a pretty new field, and there’s lots of different people doing it. It really depends on what your context is. But, like, here’s what we know.” “Okay, but that’s not enough data. Like, we really can’t go forward with this until there’s something that’s not gonna be as risky.” So then we’ll come back and say, “[We] collected all this data from inside of your organization. Here’s this group, this group and this group that are saying, “I’m not happy.” Please do these things,” and they’ll say, “Okay, but how many people actually said it, and can you actually go get us some [?] studies of other companies like mine that have done this so we don’t take a risk and don’t make people upset?” And then we say, “Which people are you making upset?” And then they look blankly and say, “Wait a second.” And we’re like, “Yeah, [white?] people.” Anyway, I think the reason I put it this way is that I think that data is important, yes, [but?] data is used as a tool to block this work because it is inherently uncomfortable and it involves having to do [?] and it involves having to do some money and some priorities into it, and I think people ultimately just don’t think it’s that important, and so they’re able to use data as this kind of delegitimizing or scapegoating force that they can say, “Well, we don’t have enough to do it.” That’s my thoughts on that in a nutshell.
Zach: First of all, again, shout-out to you ’cause, man, that’s incredible. You know, I might have to go ahead and drop another Flex bomb… [Flex bomb sfx] ’cause that’s incredible. So it’s interesting though, because you’re talking about how organizations can use quote-unquote “data” to slow down or block efforts to make organizations more inclusive, but I also think, like, there’s something to be said about how data itself is reported, aggregated or analyzed, right? So how do we account for, and how in your experience as a data scientist do you account for, the biases that exist within, like, data analytics itself, right? So let’s just say you get the data. How do you account for biases on the day that you receive it, and how do you account for any biases that you have, conscious or otherwise, in how you analyze and report that out?
Dr. Jampol: Yeah, that’s a really great question, and–I mean, there’s a lot to be said here, and I think this conversation is happening in other places like AI as well. I think first of all, like, the way that we use–so let’s go back to the evidence-based question for a minute. So when people talk about evidence, they’re often talking about academic research that has been done. As an academic researcher myself, I know that a lot of this research is really not legitimate for talking about any bit of this work with any kind of intersectional lens, because most of this work has been done using a super white sample at an Ivy League institution in a lab where all of the variables have been held constant except for the one that you’re researching, and that unfortunately has translated in a lot of cases to best practices where people say, “Oh, well, we have to change this one thing in our organization because research has shown when you change this one thing, this happens.” Of course that doesn’t really incorporate a lot of people’s experiences, and I want to say also that I am fully guilty of doing this in my past research. So as a gender bias researcher, I often talked about women and men as this very, like, homogeneous group, and really when I’m talking about women and men I’m talking about white women and men, because that’s my sample and that’s the lens through which I was doing the work. And, like, Black women’s experiences are gonna be super different and my affects might totally change. You know, one of my affects that I found is that women–and I should say white women because that was the majority of my sample–are given less accurate performance feedback than man. So even though they’re judged to be doing poorly, their managers will tell them that they’re doing okay. By the way, this work was done in a lab with a primarily sample of white people who were Ivy League educated and through samples in, you know, Mechanical Turk online. So just thinking about that through an intersectional lens, do I know that that is going to happen in the same way for women of color when we’re thinking about different types of women in the workplace? No, and yet we still use these words, you know, “This is a gender bias effect,” you know, without really knowing what some of the different groups might experience. So I do think there’s that bias. I also think in terms of the data that we’re analyzing. This is another really important thing. When we get survey data, often companies just want to rely on that survey data to make decisions, but the problem is there are certain groups–especially the ones that feel less safe in organizations–that do not answer the survey, and so you’re leaving out groups of people who are the most important to hear from if you’re just looking at one type of information. Instead it’s better to go and do a qualitative assessment on top of the data and make sure you’re getting down to the bottom of some of the trends that you see, but also you’re including voices that wouldn’t necessarily participate in a written way. So there’s lots of different ways that bias can creep in, and the way that we analyze it and the way that we do that research is really important.
Zach: I’m really curious about your opinions on this, and I’ve shared this on another interview but I want to bring it up here. So your work heavily focuses on partnering with organizations to help them set up their D&I strategies, and when I talked to other diversity, equity and inclusion professionals, a lot of time this work is delivered in the context of office hours or workshops or, you know, trainings. I’m curious though, like, have you helped groups transition from seeing diversity, equity and inclusion as, like, these isolated, singular events to being more of, like, an iterative journey that they’re on to develop and grow and, like, partner with them? Like, have you seen that or have you helped any organizations kind of pivot in that way?
Dr. Jampol: Yeah. So I think it’s hard. I think it’s really hard. Most of the work we get is for “check the box” type work. Initially a lot of organizations want to come in and hire us to do a workshop or an assessment and then go from there, which is totally fine. Often the people who are initiating those programs are internal HR and DEI practitioners who have a very limited budget that they’re working with and need something to be able to convince stakeholders that this is worthwhile and that there’s a desire for it or they just want to get it flowing. So we love doing that kind of work because it allows us to be able to impart important knowledge. For example, we focus a lot on systems bias, not just interpersonal or unconscious bias. We focus on biases that are structural and how those relate to historical systems of oppression. So we do get our education in there, but in order to do this work successfully it has to be integrated with other business objectives and as an outcome itself. So we know, you know, you can make the business case for it. It’s tied to ROI. It’s tied to innovation. I mean, it’s a really important part of culture. I’ve found that in order to convince stakeholders I often offer the risk side of this as well. It’s really risky to not do this work for many reasons. I mean, talent attraction for one, but there’s also your culture can fall apart, and that can actually lose tons of money. But ultimately our aim is to get people to see why it’s more than a business case, and I think we’ve had this success with a couple of companies. I’m thinking of one in particular where–and actually this is one that I’ve mentioned before in some of my stories, where we came in and did a series of conversations with the executive team trying to convince them that, you know, diversity, equity and inclusion is a good way to go, and it took a long time. It took 6 months of really educating people, bringing them in terms of conversation, letting them contribute their thoughts and fears, and really we use, you know, empathy, but also just vulnerability there to understand, like, where the pain point is, and now we’ve got, you know, a multi-year scope with them, and they have fully understood, and we’re working with every single organization and team within their company, and its become a priority, but it did take some time. So I think there’s hope to be had, but I think you have to do it really intentionally and really methodically in order to get people there unless you have someone who’s on board already.
Zach: That really leads me to my next question. What do you think the next step is for diversity, equity and inclusion, like, as an industry, as a corporate for-profit space? And I ask because I see–it’s weird, and again, like, I’m not a sociologist, I’m not a psychiatrist, I’m not a behavioral scientist. I’m just a change manager who is also passionate about diversity and inclusion who’s doing his own thing and kind of creating his own path. It’s almost like you have this growing activist wing and, like, community organizing wing within this diversity, equity and inclusion space. There’s also, like, this growing academic wing that is almost, like, a white moderate, but then I see this other group that’s almost pushing against the community organizing activist attitudes and sentiments, almost to the point where–’cause I’ve seen things like this on LinkedIn, no doubt, where I’ve seen things that people say, “Just because you’re a person of color doesn’t mean that you should be in diversity and inclusion,” right? There’s these narratives of, “You’re passionate, but your passion doesn’t equal education or credentialing.” And so I’m really curious about, like, where do you see this space going next, and what do you think is, like, the next step to really take this work to the next level?
Dr. Jampol: Yeah. That’s a big question, and I’m just gonna kind of share some thoughts. I don’t know that I have a perfect answer for you on this, but I think to your comment around–you know, you see these kind of different camps on social media and practitioners and different approaches and ways of doing this work, and I think actually that that’s a really important dynamic to have to move the work forward. I think it’s the same thing we see, say, like, in the Democratic Party, where there’s a more radical left side and then there’s the centrist side and then there’s this push and pull constantly of, like, “What do we do and where do we go?” And through doing that we’re creating new definitions and understandings. And, you know, I get a ton of education from just reading through Twitter on a daily basis of, like, “Oh, I didn’t know that word. I hadn’t thought about it in that way before,” and trying to see, like, where my values align, but I think that in order to progress we need pressure from the outside. We need radical pressure, and we also need the more compromising inside pressure of “Okay, we’re gonna take this slow and do this methodically and bring people along,” and I think you need both those forces. I think the outside pressure is the social pressure that really validates some of the inside pressure that we’re putting on people. So let’s say I’m taking a company along, trying to get them to understand using empathy, and they’re doing okay, but then they have a PR crisis because something they posted on their social media site gets called out, and those two forces operating together create a really successful way forward, and I think that’s also why there’s different roles for different people within this space. I do think we should be pushing boundaries, and I do think we should be pushing people to get there, and I think some of the comments that are happening around this stuff is really just evidence that that’s happening, and I think the third part of this is just that we need companies to lend more support to actual innovation within this space. Going back to that data conversation, you know, by demanding best practices and more evidence to prove the things that we already know work and to prove that we’re actually legitimate in doing this work, it’s stifling innovation. We need organizations and leaders who have the privilege of being in these spaces already to put money and time and effort and spaces towards creating innovation in the DEI space. We need more collaboration between academics, leaders, corporate employees, and we all need to work together to be able to create new pathways forward, but I think we have to get out of that head space of thinking about, “Best practices, best practices, best practices,” and start taking a little bit more risk, because I think we’re seeing risk the wrong way. We’re seeing risk as like, “What if I do this work and it goes wrong?” when we should be seeing risk the way that any other company sees innovation and risk, which is sometimes you have to play around with the parameters in order to do the work the most effective way. But I as a data person would love to see data on this, just so we can keep track of what we’re doing and what works and what doesn’t. I think I would love to see more data like that, but it means that companies have to release their data on what works and what doesn’t, and when diversity and inclusion stops being a shameful thing, you know, when companies stop thinking, “Oh, gosh. It’s so horrible that I only have 20% women or 5% Black people in our company. Nobody knows, so I don’t want to talk about it.” Like, everybody knows. Everybody knows. You’re a tech company. Like, it’s bad. Talk about it and, like, actually publish it and support new ways of thinking about this stuff. I think we need all three prongs of pressure there to move forward.
Zach: Man, Dr. Jampol, I have to just thank you again. Like, this has been a super dope conversation. I want to give you the last word. Is there anything else? Like, any shout-outs? Any parting words before we let you up out of here?
Dr. Jampol: Thank you. I feel the same way. This has been such a fun conversation. Thank you for letting me nerd out and be on your podcast. I think your podcast is wonderful. Thank you for doing the work that you do. I also just want to give a shout-out to my team again because they’re so amazing and I feel grateful for them every single day and for all the authors who have helped educate me to get here. And Twitter. Honestly, like–not Twitter the company but, like, the people who are actually being brave and voicing their thoughts on Twitter and helping educate us, even if it means that they are taking flack for it. I think it’s been such an important part of my own growth. So thanks to everybody.
Zach: Oh, man. That’s beautiful, and yes, we’ll make sure that we list all the authors and we’ll have all of that content in the show notes, y’all, so make sure you check it out because, again, believe women, listen to women, believe Black women, believe all women. There’s a lot of great work that’s being done, you know? For those of y’all who are–you know, it’s funny. There’s an understated, like, expectation or kind of, like, tension around who really deserves to talk about these things, and those conversations don’t really happen until Black and brown people start trying to talk about diversity and inclusion, but that’s a whole other conversation. But the point is a lot of the work that comes into really educating yourself, what I’ve been learning is, is about reading the work that Black and brown women have written about this space, right? And so I just want to encourage, like, if you’re listening to this and you’re passionate about diversity, equity and inclusion, check out the show notes, use that as a starting point, and just start reading. Like, educate yourself something. Like, don’t depend on these super Ivy League white institutions to tell you what diversity is. It is one of multiple data points. I would say start with the Black women and then work your way outward from there. All right. Well, cool, cool, cool. Thank y’all for listening to the Living Corporate podcast. You know we do this. You know we’re posting content three times a week. We’re all over the place, so if you just Google Living Corporate we’re gonna pop up, ’cause we got it like that. Ow. We’re also on Instagram @LivingCorporate, on Twitter @LivingCorp_Pod, and again, if you want to check us out, if you just gotta–let’s say you old school and you wanna type it in the browser, then it’s www.living-corporate.com–please say the dash. We’re also livingcorporate.co, livingcorporate.tv, livingcorporate.us, livingcorporate.net, livingcorporate.org–Lily, we have all the livingcorporates except for livingcorporate.com, but we have all the other ones. We’re trying to–what’s that thing when you… SEO. We’re trying to take it over, okay? One domain at a time. So we’re out here. Let’s see here. Until next time, this again has been Zach, and you’ve been listening to Dr. Lily Jampol, data scientist, behavioral organizational just beast, general researcher, all over super dope White Wolf ally… what else we got? I don’t want to say edge-snatcher because, I mean, you’re still white. I’m not trying to get you in trouble, but just super cool Viking Ashkenazi Jew hero. How about that? Is that cool?
Dr. Jampol: That’s awesome, and I’m someday hopefully gonna fit that all in my LinkedIn profile. [both laugh]
Zach: ‘Til next time, y’all. We’ll catch y’all. Peace. [both still laughing]
Dr. Jampol: Bye.