09 #PRIDE : LGBTQ in Corporate America

In this episode, Ade and Ola sit down and discuss LGBTQ identity in the workplace with Janet Pope, North America Corporate Responsibility Director for Capgemini.

Length: 50:28

Host:  Ade | Ola

#Pride #LGBTQ #MenareChoppedLiver
For LGBT Workers, Being “Out” Brings Advantages

TRANSCRIPT

Ade: Today, 85% of Fortune 500 companies have protective policies that address sexual orientation, up from 51% in 2000. Nonetheless, surveys show that many LGBT employees still view their sexual orientation as a hindrance on the job. A full 48% of LGBT respondents report remaining closeted at work. Further, LGBT workers who feel forced to lie about their identity and relationships typically don't engage in [inaudible] banter about such things such as weekend activities, banter that forges important workplace bonds. Some 42% of closeted employees said they felt isolated at work versus only 24% of openly LGBT employees. These factors may explain why 52% of all closeted employees, which is 36% of out employees, believe they're [inaudible]. This is an excerpt from four LGBT workers being out brings advantages, a 2011 article by Sylvia Ann Hewlett and Karen Sumberg in the Harvard Business Review. I believe it presents a strong case for living authentically as an LGBTQ person in corporate America, but how do you build courage to live authentically in unknown environments? How do you leverage existing protective policies? And how do you thrive on the ways in which you differ? This is Ade, and you're listening to Living Corporate.

 

Ade: Okay. So today we're talking about existing on the LGBTQ spectrum at work.

 

Ola: Right. And to get the discussion started, let me ask: how do you identify?

 

Ade: Thanks for asking. So I identify as a queer woman. Queer is such a broad spectrum, but primarily what that means is my dating preferences are, like, pretty fluid, and I generally don't like to explain that to people, and that's specifically why I chose queer to, like, describe myself, as my label, because there's, like, this understanding that queer is a personal thing that you explain, and it gets kind of awkward when you're maybe at Pride and you see older queer people, and they ask you about yourself and you say "queer," and, like, their faces are like, "The children say that now?" But besides that, yeah, that's typically what I go with. How about you?

 

Ola: So it kind of depends on who's asking.

 

Ade: Yeah.

 

Ola: In certain ways that I present myself I just say, "I'm a queer black fem." For me, blackness is a really important part of it. I also say queer so people kind of stop asking questions.

 

Ade: Right.

 

Ola: I always think of, like, Hagrid in Harry Potter. "No more questions. Don't ask anymore questions."

 

Ade: [laughs]

 

Ola: And then there's also--if I'm feeling generous and open maybe I'll call myself pansexual.

 

Ade: Sure.

 

Ola: Or sometimes if I don't feel like answering what pansexual means I'll say bisexual.

 

Ade: You like pots and pans. You're super duper attached to griddles.

 

Ola: Right? Exactly. I really love--I really love cooking. Not a lie. [laughs] So that's basically how I identify.

 

Ade: Sure.

 

Ola: So what would you say has been the impact of your identity on your work life? Like, what kinds of things does it make you do, perhaps differently from people outside of the community?

 

Ade: Sure. So I curate my experiences a lot. If you walk into my current workspace, you'll notice that, like, my walls are relatively bare. I have, like, calendars up. I have reminders up. I have a picture of, like, a kid that I sponsor in Uganda up, but there are no real pictures of my partners, like, my family or anything like that, and that's pretty intentional. I used to have a picture of my ex-girlfriend up in my workspace, and it got problematic because a coworker who I knew--who had made pretty homophobic remarks at one point at one point walked into my workspace and, like, made really aggressive eye contact with those pictures, and it made me really uncomfortable.

 

Ola: Ugh. That's rough.

 

Ade: Yeah, and at different points and different situations I've had, like, a coworker ask me out.

 

Ola: Hm.

 

Ade: One I don't date coworkers...

 

Ola: Hm.

 

Ade: Two... no. [laughs]

 

Ola: [laughs]

 

Ade: Like, I'm not attracted to you, right? Oh, man. Like, what is going on here? Like, a cishet man at that, and so this whole conversation, and then kind of what we were saying earlier about, like, sharing your day or sharing your week or sharing your weekend plans. Where my coworkers can be like, "Oh, me and my husband are doing this," or "My wife and I are gonna go on a trip," or "I had a really great time this weekend with my wife and kids," I usually hesitate. Like, I'm very, very careful. I usually just state "My partner and I," and I just got comfortable with that.

 

Ola: Right.

 

Ade: In general I'm not, like, a big sharer, particularly at work. You can ask anybody who knows me. Like, in general I keep most of my details of my personal life to myself, but especially at work I'm not about to tell you that I took this girl on a date because I'm just not trying to hear from HR about how I'm making people uncomfortable with, like, my rabid gayness.

 

Ola: Right, right.

 

Ade: So yeah, that's just, like, a couple of benign examples. There are other ways in which I feel that my queerness has added to hostility I've gotten at different places and different times, and of course there's also that intersection of my other identities of being a black fem that have added to how I feel I'm perceived.

 

Ola: Right.

 

Ade: So it does, in a lot of different ways, effect the way that I communicate, not just with myself--and, again, I'm a consultant, so I have different interactions with people on my team and people who are not on my team where I'm just a contractor supporting, so there's that.

 

Ola: Right, right. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.

 

Ade: Is there anything you struggle with with being LGTBQ in the workplace?

 

Ola: Well, I think it's not usually around being out. I think I was mentioning before I'm pretty single, so I don't necessarily have to tell anyone that I'm doing anything with a significant other. The person, the other, does not exist.

 

Ade: [laughs] Right.

 

Ola: What I normally kind of struggle with is that we have our employee resource groups, but for me those spaces have always been very, very white in ways that feel a little bit--not hostile, but the same way I feel about the Midwest. Like, well-meaning but awkward.

 

Ade: [laughs]

 

Ola: Like, if I walk into an LGBTQ space with, like, my fro out, and they're just like, "Yes, girl!" I'm like, "You're white." [laughs] I'm like, "Stop."

 

Ade: [laughs] Oh, my God. Like, you didn't have to put on your black girl voice for that.

 

Ola: Right, right.

 

Ade: Like, we can celebrate me being awesome.

 

Ola: Right? Like, you should at least have a little bit more shame than that.

 

Ade: Right.

 

Ola: So that's really where I struggle is, like, not really wanting to take advantage of some of the resources available just because it's usually a pretty white space, as corporate America tends to be.

 

Ade: Right. I definitely understand that, I hear it, but wouldn’t it be great if we could talk to someone with years and years of experience navigating their queer identity in the workplace and someone who has taken on the role of maybe being, like, a corporate champion for intersectional diverse spaces, particularly in multinational companies?

 

Ola: You mean like our guest Janet Pope, North American Corporate Responsibility Director at Capgemini?

 

Both: What?

 

Ade: DJ, go ahead and, like, drop the air horns right here. *imitates air horns*

 

[Sound Man drops ‘em in]

 

Both: [laughs]

 

Ade: Next up, we’re gonna get into our interview with our guest Janet Pope. Hope y’all enjoy. And we’re back with Janet Pope. Janet, welcome to the pod.

 

Janet: Hi.

 

Ade: How are you doing?

 

Janet: Doing great today.

 

Ade: On the call today also we have Ola. Ola, say your shout out to the people.

 

Ola: Hey, y’all. [laughs]

 

Ade: How you doin’?

 

Ola: Happy to be here.

 

Ade: Yeah. [laughs]

 

Ola: [laughs]

 

Ade: So Janet, tell us a little bit about yourself.

 

Janet:  Sure. So I am a native or am originally from South Carolina. I identify as a black gay woman who happens to be at 36 years of wonderful life, I guess. I have a little bit of an interesting career story, only because, as you mentioned, I’m the North American Corporate Social Responsibility Director for Capgemini, but the way that I got there is a little interesting based on the fact that my background, from an education perspective anyway, is computer engineering. So I’m a techie at heart. I was hired to Capgemini as a techie. In my 13 years there, I probably worked for seven years as a technology transformation specialist, and then around that seven-year mark I really felt like I wasn’t doing enough to help people, if I’m honest. So I talked to a couple of people who I really respected as mentors and, you know, business leaders that I was working with at the time, and I just started asking questions. “Now, how can I do more to help people?” I got different answers. “Oh, well, we’re helping clients. There’s a lot of things that we do to help clients,” and it was sort of “Yeah, yeah, I get that, but I just feel like I need to do more to help people,” and long story short, about the same time an HR leader at that time was looking to have a full-time dedicated diversity and inclusion leader, and I applied with a number of other people and, you know, for whatever reason the stars aligned and I was chosen to be the diversity and inclusion leader for North America, which then, over time, over about five years--I guess three years was the first time I looked after not only diversity but environmental sustainability and community engagement as well. So the role grew as the need grew for the North American market, but I’ve always made sure to share that piece of my journey just because I think it’s pretty odd for someone who started in computer engineering to be a corporate social responsibility director, or I thought it was odd, but the more I meet D&I leaders that really love what they do and can connect on the business and the more I meet corporate social responsibility practitioners that are really tied and tapped into how to drive it from a business perspective--many of them do not have traditional routes to those roles so they, you know, did something else in the business or in the field first. So I found that pretty interesting for the space.

 

Ade: Cool.

 

Janet:  Other personal things that I’d say are I live in Houston now. No rhyme or reason. I wish I could say, like, “I chose Houston.” Houston sort of chose me. I was a traveling consultant for many years, and just my last major client was in Houston, and I liked the city and stayed. I also, in my not-so-abundant free time, try to DJ. So I actually have--

 

Ola: Interesting.

 

Janet:  Yeah. Turntables in my home, and a couple buddies, we have sort of DJ happy hours where we have fun sort of mixing different music. So that’s a little bit about me. I went to Clemson, went to Duke for my Master’s. I’m from a family of eight. So there were six siblings, and five of us grew up in the same house, and that was really fun. So lots of good stories about all of that too. And then, relevant to this conversation--and I’ll probably make sure to weave him into my story at some point--my youngest brother is F2M, and I helped with a little piece of his transition journey as well, or I’d like to think that I was a positive influence as a part of that. But that’s a little bit about me.

 

Ola: So you said you identify as a black gay woman, but when did you come out? Was it before joining the workforce or after? How did that impact kind of your entry into the corporate world?

 

Janet:  Yeah. Again, I think one of the themes we’ll probably hear throughout the podcast and my story is it’s not traditional at all I think, in terms of the coming out stories that I hear from a number of my friends, mostly because I think a lot of people, at least that I talk to, you know, they knew when they were eight or three or 13. All of these are pretty young ages. Maybe not that they were gay or lesbian or queer, but they knew that something was different in terms of their journey or their sexuality or they felt in their bodies and that sort of thing. I think I knew that I was a tomboy. I think that was really clear. I think I drove my mom crazy because I never really wanted to wear dresses to church and--you know, but nothing that would flag anything different than any heterosexual tomboy, right, that’s grown up, has peers and, you know, married men? I think, for my journey, where I sort of realized that, you know, I was attracted to women and that that was really a big part of my identity, I was 26 and met, or reconnected, with someone and just realized that my feelings weren’t the same way that I felt about friends, and recognizing, you know, what that was and what it meant, and I struggled with it if I’m honest, probably because of my own faith. I struggled a bit with, you know, what does all this mean, and is it contradictory to my faith or can they coexist? I’ve sorted that out now in the last decade, but, you know, 26 was where I sort of realized that--I don’t know. The best way that I can put it is I think maybe I normalized my experience before and felt like I was supposed to have boyfriends and I was supposed to date guys. There was nothing wrong with it. I never--you know, I don’t have horror stories like others where they just, you know, knew things were wrong or felt really, really awkward about having a boyfriend, I don’t remember anything like that. Mine is more I had eaten chopped liver all my life, and then I had a filet mignon and I was like, “Why did I ever settle for chopped liver?”

 

Ola: Okay. [laughs] Yes.

 

Ade: [laughs]

 

All: [inaudible]

 

Janet:  Yeah. I mean, that’s kind of what it was.

 

Ola: #MenAreChoppedLiver. Sorry. [laughs]

 

Ade: [laughs]

 

Janet:  And the only reason I struggle with that analogy is because I think some people hear that and they think, “Oh, well, you chose to be gay,” and it’s like, “No, no. I didn’t choose to be gay.” To me it’s no different than, you know, being more attracted to someone that they’ve really recognized has a core value of honesty versus something else. So it was more about, you know, what are you attracted to? And I think most people will tell you they don’t know why they’re attracted to a certain trait over another trait, but they absolutely don’t have the right chemistry without those traits, right? So I think for me it was just recognizing, you know, that, that I could try to force something different, but it wasn’t where I was my happiest or most fulfilled in terms of the types of relationships that I was having with women.

 

Ade: Great.

 

Janet:  And so coming out--’cause that’s where you’re going, right? I haven’t dealt with that yet.

 

Ola: Mm-hmm.

 

Ade: [laughs]

 

Janet:  I hope I don’t turn into, like, Grandpa Storytime here, but for me it was at 28. So 26 I sort of recognized, “Okay, this is something I need to deal with and sort of settle.” At 28 I felt like I’d settled it, and I decided--I needed to tell my parents that, which, again, kind of different from most people’s 13, 15, 18 coming out stories. I was 28 years old. So, needless to say, they were surprised because I’d never talked about feeling, you know, those types of feelings for a woman. I don’t think I had ever done anything to make them think that I was gay, so--I told my siblings first actually, and they--some took it easier than others. Like, I remember really vividly one of my brothers saying to me, “Oh, my God. I’m so happy,” and he gave me a hug, mostly because I think he was just happy that I wasn’t alone, meaning I wasn’t talking about whom I was dating, and so he’s like, “I’m just glad you’re not alone and you’re in a relationship. I don’t care who it’s with. I just worried about, you know, being by yourself.” I was like, “Okay, that’s great.”

 

Ola: Aw.

 

Ade: That’s cute.

 

Ola: Yeah.

 

Janet:  And then, you know, different ranges of reaction. I had a sister that was very surprised, again--because I’m the second to the oldest, and so again she just--she looked up to me. We shared clothes. She never heard me talk about anything other than boyfriends so it sort of shocked her, and then a brother who sort of started quoting Bible verses at me. As I mentioned, you know, we grew up religious. Not overly religious or--you know, I know some people tell stories about being preacher’s children and that kind of thing. It wasn’t anything like that. I think it was pretty normal, but we went to church, you know, every week, every other week. Whenever there was church we went, and so, you know, he sort of dealt with it like that, and I took that as it was, and all of that’s evolved over time. They’ve all settled it now, but that gave me I guess just the ground for telling my parents, and so I came out to my parents at 28 years old, and really just--I think I said, you know, “I fell in love with a woman,” [laughs] “and I want to make sure that I tell you because I’m tired of hiding it.” And honestly, had it not been this particular woman and my feelings for her I probably would’ve just continued to hide it for a while longer honestly. I just--I was tired of not being able to talk about her. I cared about her so much that I, you know, wanted to share that with people.

 

Ade: So 28 sounds well into your career. So what did that transition look like? When you came out to your family, did that also kind of pour into your professional life? How did that transition happen? [inaudible]

 

Janet:  Yeah, it definitely did. It was actually easier to come out at work than it was with my family, I feel. Now don’t get me wrong, I can look back and say that now. I think in the process of it there was some fear around “Will people treat me differently?” But I think I recognized that a lot of the fears that I had were more of things that I had generated than actually played out over time. So I’ll give you an example. So I actually had a lesbian manager. She identifies as lesbian, and she is married now but had a domestic partner at the time, was open about that, and there were a couple different people on the team on a project in Boston, and I very candidly remember her saying to me, “I think you’re a great performer. I think you do a really good job, but I’m not so sure that you want to be here,” and it caught me off guard because I knew that I was doing my work, but when I started to unpack that with a mentor that I trusted, what she was saying was “I don’t know if I can trust you because I don’t know much about you,” and as I reflected on it I realized, you know--my peers, we’d return from, I don’t know, Memorial Day vacation, something like that, and people would talk about what they did with their spouses or their partners or, you know, just share things about their life, but because I was in the closet I didn’t share anything like that. I’d sort of say, “Oh, I had fun,” and keep it very short, right? And so what I didn’t recognize at that time because I thought I was being professional and, you know, leaving my personal life out of the conversation and that was unnecessary. You know, all these good things that we probably think we’re doing all the time, I was actually impacting the way that I was viewed and perceived in terms of people’s ability to trust me because I wasn’t sharing in a way that they were sharing, which I didn’t recognize factored into whether they trusted me or not. And so it actually--because I had started to unpack that, I recognized that coming out was gonna help me relationally at work, just because it would enable me to have a more authentic experience in sharing with others, and that would help me grow trust in a way that I hadn’t been able to do before.

 

Ade: No, that’s a really great point because there’s actually--I think Harvard Business Review actually put out an article to that point saying that often times minorities in the workplace will--due to the fact that, you know, often times you just can’t relate to what is popular culture, we’ll refrain from sharing too much for fear of “I don’t want to bring my whole self to work just in case my whole self isn’t palatable,” and it ends up hurting rather than helping because people just feel like they don’t know you. To the point that you made, often times you’re just not trusted by your coworkers and such because they don’t see the full picture of you.

 

Ola: Right, and they don’t know why you’re not sharing. [laughs] It always comes off as more sinister.

 

Ade: Exactly, yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, like, everyone’s talking about their partner and you’re kind of like, “Hm, yeah, that’s nice. Minding my business.” And then they’re like, “Oh, this is shady.”

 

Janet:  Right, exactly. And I think what woke me up and why I coach people around this experience for me all the time now is I didn’t recognize that not sharing something personal could impact the way they felt about my ability to do my job.

 

Ola: Well, so on the flip side of that, and I know this is probably more prevalent in consulting, I’ve definitely felt like in, like, spaces specific to the firm it’s probably better to be out than not, but then it’s always a toss up in terms of a client. So is there any situation you’ve been in where you felt like you couldn’t be or that it would be a hindrance on your professional presence?

 

Janet:  Yeah, that’s a really good point. I haven’t experienced that, but I’ve definitely, based on my role and since I’ve been in my role, worked with employees who have certainly experienced that, where they are happy and, you know, feel safe to be out at Capgemini but are with a really conservative bank or, you know, a really conservative oil and gas client, or whatever the industry is where they’re not so sure that the executives or the client partners that they’re working with on the client side will be as accepting, and we’ve definitely had to help people navigate that. I mean, the best advice I give and something that we’re trying to do at Capgemini right now is just understand where our clients have employee resource groups, because if that oil and gas company or if that bank have an LGBT group then, while you certainly can’t ever determine, based on a company’s initiatives, how one individual is gonna, you know, interact with you differently or perceive you differently or talk to you differently based on finding that out. If their companies have, you know, articulated values around diversity and inclusion and investment around specific identities, then certainly they’ll need to deal with that in a different way probably than a company that hasn’t done anything like that, if that makes sense. So we’ve tried to help people close the gap by, you know, not only doing the work on the client based on the contract, but how are they building relationships across these employee resource groups networks, business affinity groups, whatever the companies are calling them? Because we do recognize that that is a way to build relationship, right? And relationship, back to that earlier theme, is important in terms of building trust and people’s perceptions of, you know, your ability to do the work and to grow accounts and bigger deals, if I’m really honest.

 

Both: Right.

 

Ade: So what have you struggled with the most in corporate America? And we can talk about over time where you were at 28 versus where you are now at 36. So what have you struggled most with in corporate spaces in the past, and what do you struggle with now as you’ve grown in your career and in your roles?

 

Janet:  Yeah, that’s a tough--a tough one. I think what I struggled with at 28 was a little bit of “Why does this matter?” Right? So, you know, yeah, there’s some freedom to not feeling like I need to hide a big part of my life anymore, and there’s definitely energy that went into that that now I have back and I can use for other things that are more productive from a work or personal perspective, but I think I didn’t--I didn’t really get, you know, how authenticity could really make me more productive in the way that I understand it now, and I think I was naive in terms of how--I don’t want to say political because people always look at organizational politics as, like, a bad thing. I don’t necessarily mean that. I think politics is just for a reason, and that’s probably a podcast for another day, but I think that, you know, when you’re young you don’t really understand how important relationships are and how much relationships impact opportunities for honestly promotion, opportunities for the stretch roles, opportunities for the assignments that are gonna get you visibility at the levels that you need in order to really have growth and longevity in organizations. I think, again, when I was younger it was “If I keep my head down and do a really good job, people will see what I’m capable of and my experience and my knowledge will speak for itself,” and I didn’t necessarily think through the relational component of that. Now don’t get me wrong. Some people take this too far. They go way left with it, and they’re not good at their jobs, and they think they can, you know, grow everything or lay everything on the foundation of really solid relationships, and they probably get so far with that, and they just annoy everybody else that’s really trying to do a good job and works really hard. I’m saying there’s a middle ground to that. There’s a way that you balance really recognizing when and where to pick your battles, what relationships you should invest in, and how to balance that with doing a really good job. And so I just--for whatever reason, I was naive about that when I was 28, and I was naive about, you know, recognizing what--how much my personal character and, you know, the fact that integrity is really important to me as a core value and other things in my personal life--I really downplayed how big an impact being authentic would have in professional life, and so now I recognize that there’s not two separate things. There’s no Professional Janet and Personal Janet. There’s one Janet and, you know, while I’m not telling anybody that they shouldn’t have boundaries, because you absolutely should have boundaries, they’re important, and there are certain things I don’t want to hear about at work.

 

Ola: For real. For real. [laughs]

 

Janet:  But what I’m saying is that we can’t treat our lives like there’s, you know, a mask that we wear at work or, you know, that we wear anywhere, in any environment, and then there’s a different mask that we wear at home. There’s just--the energy that it takes to maintain something like that isn’t worth it, and it’s really not how our brains are wired to work. And so just recognizing that and understanding how to make sure I’m showing up in all those different hats, right? Like, sometimes--this is one of my favorite things to say--sometimes I’m showing up as a black gay woman. Sometimes I’m showing up as a woman who’s gay and black. Sometimes I’m showing up as a gay black woman, right? And so if you understand where the priority is on any given day, which can be based on, you know, what’s going on in the news with Starbucks or, you know, what’s happening in the world around the #MeToo movement, or what happened at work yesterday around any given thing, right? And so, based on the reality of my world at any moment, the priority might be on any one of--and those are three identities, but there are many more, right? I have faith. You know, I’m a millennial by some timelines.

 

Ola: Yeah. [laughs]

 

Janet:  So all of that shows up in different ways depending on the need and, I think, just recognizing that the context of how we’re authentic is really important.

 

Ola: Yeah, and I think that leads perfectly into our next question, which is when you deal with intersections, like, how have some of those impacted your work life? Whether it’s within, like, one ERG or another, and how those--like, if you’ve had to teach people about these intersections or how you’ve navigated that through your experience.

 

Janet:  Yeah. I think the way that it showed up for me first was within the women’s forums or the women’s initiatives and women’s groups because, just based on the numbers, right, the demographics, if you’re not careful the women’s conversation turns into the white women’s conversation, if we’re really honest, right? And so how to make sure that women of color really felt like they had a voice in the discussion and that LGBT women felt like they had a voice in the conversation, or queer women, and so just how to balance that when, you know, if you’re not careful the majority of the minority group can have the loudest voice. I just felt it was really important to make sure--and sometimes it was just as simple as awareness, like “How do we just rise that concern to the surface to enable us to either put in the right checkpoints or make sure that any committee or leadership team has the right intersections of diversity?” Or simple things to help people mitigate their bias around different topics, and so those were some simple ways. Of course none of that is a silver bullet to solve--you know, every time we’re talking about women we’re including women of color, but it certainly was the right direction to make sure we’re thinking that, and one of the ways we do that at Capgemini formally is all of the employee resource groups have to have certain events that are in collaboration with other employee resource groups. So they can’t just do things siloed in a box, and I think that’s really helped drive just making sure they’re collaborating, and we’ve seen a lot of great things come out of that. We’ve seen, you know, a focus of black veterans in Black History Month as an example, or we’ve seen highlights and spotlights of queer and lesbian women as part of Women’s History Month. Just simple examples, right? And so having that--I don’t want to say forced collaboration, but just having an expectation with the employee resource group leaders that you will collaborate with the other employee resource groups really raised their awareness of “Okay, we need to be thinking about intersections,” and honestly there’s some benefit for them, even from a practical matter of budget, right? If I’m partnering with three other employee resource groups--and we have 12 at Capgemini by the way, which makes my job really fun--but if I’m partnering with other groups, you know, there’s more budget for this particular initiative or program, and they like that part if nothing else. But that’s one of the ways to manage that. I think the other way is just to make sure people are talking about themselves holistically, right? So how do I make sure that, you know, when I’m in a conversation I’m being authentic about the things that matter to me and challenging people? I remember being challenged by someone in HR who happens to be Asian and black that they didn’t feel comfortable with our African-American and black employee resource group reaching out to them for specific questions or surveys or that sort of thing because they’re more than just black, which, you know, I don’t--I don’t want to say whether I agree or disagree, but people are multiple things, and we don’t ever want to feel like we’re putting people in a box. So I liked being challenged on that because it made me think about it. “Okay. Well, if you’re raising this as a mixed race individual, then there could certainly be other mixed race individuals who are offended,” and, you know, we need to think about how to make sure we’re including people and not turning them off from any language or communications. You know, that was a well-meaning thing. They were like, “Oh, yeah. We’ll just reach out to everybody who’s self-identified as black and we’ll ask them their opinion something,” and a couple of people raised their hands to say, “Yeah, that’s great. I can do it, but I’m not just black. That’s not the only thing I am,” which is--you know, it starts the dialogue that we need to have in organizations, and again I think recognizing--’cause some people say, “Why? Why does it matter? Why do we care? Why do we have to talk about our identities at work?” I think, you know, it just goes back to how we started this conversation. If we can’t do that and if we’re not thinking about the way that we’re all sort of showing up in the workplace, we’re not gonna get the best ideas. We’re not gonna get the right level of engagement, right? If I feel like you’re only engaging the part of me that is a woman or you’re only engaging the part of me that is millennial, or you’re--let’s take it a step further. You’re only engaging the part of me that’s technology-minded? Then I’m not going to be as productive. We’re not gonna come up with the best solution for our clients or our own organization.

 

Ola: So this question is about when you are definitely are in a toxic work environment. Maybe you’ve exhausted your tools to try to resolve it. How do you kind of make a decision on when it’s best for you to leave? And how do you best go about that in a way that, like, minimizes that impact on your career?

 

Janet:  I think I would say, you know--and this is whether you’re in a toxic work environment around a particular aspect of identity or a toxic work environment based on anything, I’d say the same advice--I think Steve Jobs said best something to the notion of “If you’re waking up day in and day out and you don’t love what you do more than you hate what you do, you should probably find something else to do.” Right? Or somewhere else to do it. That’s the gist of it anyway.

 

Ola: Mm-hmm.

 

Janet:  And so, you know, I truly believe that if you’ve done all you can to navigate making sure you’re on a project that’s conducive to, you know, your skills and your ability to succeed and you still aren’t finding that or you just really feel like this environment isn’t one where you can be authentic and you have gotten some mentorship and counsel that what you’re asking for isn’t unreasonable, because I don’t want to pretend like some of us aren’t walking around entitled and think that, you know, “I can bring my Kanye West album to my cubicle and blast it as loud as I want to, and anybody that’s gonna stop me? Forget about ‘em. I’ll leave if I can’t do this.” [laughs] Right?

 

Ola: Right. [laughs]

 

Janet:  So I want to just assume we’re all reasonable professionals and want to be in a work environment where everybody can be successful and we realize that we’re part of that equation, but with that said, you know, I do agree that if you do not see clear career growth for yourself or career opportunities or feel like you’re not getting them, and you’ve tried, you’ve seeked, you know, different types of mentors at different levels with different backgrounds and experiences and none of them are able to, you know, help you meet new people or get new opportunities or give you advice on how to do that for yourself, then it might be time to find, you know, a different--at least a different role or a different organization.

 

Ade: Okay. Our next segment is called Favorite Things. If you cannot tell, it’s where we talk about what our favorite things are these days. I am Ade speaking. We have our guest, Janet Pope, on the line. Do you want to say a shout out?

 

Janet:  Hello.

 

Ade: What’s up? And we also have the ever-dope, ever-delightful Ola with us. You want to say hi, Ola?

 

Ola: Hey, all.

 

Ade: Yes. Okay, Ola, do you want to start us off with what your favorite thing is?

 

Ola: Yes. So my favorite thing is Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo”, and for those of you who don’t know or haven’t heard, this is a book by Zora Neale Hurston. It’s a non-fiction work, and it’s based on her interviews in 1931 with Cudjo Lewis, the last living survivor of the Middle Passage, and if you’re not familiar with Zora Neale Hurston’s work, get your life together, okay? The way she writes is so incredible. I’ve mostly read her fiction works over and over and over again, but this is one of the few things that she did that was non-fiction, and it’s amazing. You should go get it. You should read it however you can. Library, Amazon, whatever. Go do it.

 

Ade: How about you, Janet?

 

Janet:  So my favorite thing right now is actually I guess the Oprah SuperSoul Conversations podcast. Now, I just want to make sure we’re clear, this comes #2 to the podcast that we’re on right now.

 

Ade: Yes!

 

Janet:  And this is just one of my favorite things based on the different topics and different guests that Oprah’s having on everything from Buddhism to Christianity to atheists to mindfulness to spirituality, and there’s something there for everyone as it relates to the mind and the soul, and so the way that the different perspectives are presented in looking at spirituality and the soul in many different ways is really interesting. I mean, one of the things that stood out was an early on session where someone who is Bahai just talked about how that faith for them--they thought about art being like prayer, and so just the different, like I said, perspectives resonate with me, and of course there’s lots of celebrities that are sharing different opinions, but it’s just cool to hear people talk about things that you don’t really typically hear them talk about on your traditional interviews.

 

Ade: You guys were super highbrow and, like, really lit with your favorite things, but mine is, like, super childish and I’m kind of embarrassed to share, but, you know, I’m gonna proceed. I’m gonna power through my embarrassment. So my favorite thing this week actually is bath time, and I hate how childish this sounds, but to be more specific, my favorite thing right now? Bath bombs. I love everything that goes into my bath time process these days. Like, it’s been super, like, relaxing, and it’s been this whole process for me. So everything from candles to my bath salts, my oils, all of it, but most specifically I have, like, this set of bath bombs, and let me tell you, okay?

 

Ola and Janet: [laughs]

 

Ade: I swear to God I spent, like, three hours longer than usual in the bath, than I usually would, just because of how amazing it sounds and just makes me feel. So, like, shout out to whoever came up with the idea of bath bombs, and shout out to all of the people in my life who love me and have kept me well-stocked with bath bombs because y’all are the real ones, the absolute MVPs of all my days because, like--y’all, bath time is essential, okay?

 

Ola: [laughs]

 

Ade: Any shout outs? Any final shout outs before we close out?

 

Janet:  Yeah, I’d love to give a shout out to my family. I hope that the Pope family is listening to this podcast and, specifically because I’ve called him out, my youngest brother who goes simply by Pope because he’s [smarter?] than all of us.

 

Ola: Okay. [laughs] Hell yeah.

 

Janet:  A major shout out to him.

 

Ade: [inaudible].

 

Janet:  Yeah, and then two other quick shout outs. One, there’s a group--we’ve talked about how important community is and how it’s important to just really have people that you can share what you’re going through and experience at work or just different things as it relates to life and mindfulness, and there’s a small community here in Houston that is absolutely that for me, and we sort of call ourselves the Hat Chat group. It came from the fact that we would get together and throw different topics in a hat, questions that we wanted to explore as a group, and then talk--usually over drinks--about our answers to those questions, and so we called it Hat Chat because we were chatting about the topics in a hat. But that group has kept me grounded, and I probably don’t know where I would be in Houston without them. And my last shout out is probably gonna sound cheesy and corny but I think goes with the theme of this podcast is honestly for love because I would not be out had I not fallen in love and not want it to be a secret anymore. So a big shout out to love.

 

Ade: Right. I’m just gonna continue being weird because that’s just been the space I’ve been in for the last couple of days, but my shout out this week is to water.

 

Ola: [laughs] 70% of the body, okay? 70% of the world.

 

Ade: Don’t play me. [laughs] Look. Listen. Listen, girl. It’s so essential.

 

Janet:  Water’s [amazing?]. I like it. I’m with it. I’m a water baby. So there’s a bath time in the water? [inaudible].

 

Ade: Yes! Okay, like, November 1st I’m just--I’m really here for--and you know what the hilarious thing is? I don’t actually know how to swim. Y’all don’t hound me. Don’t play me. But, like, my happiest place is being underwater, so, like, I have this, like, dichotomy of, like, being happy or being alive, so I have that frequent struggle. But yeah, so, like, shout out to water. Shout out to drinking it, being under it, floating in it. All--warm water, hot water, cold water--and if you haven’t been drinking water, go ahead and chug a gallon or two. It’s good for you, I promise. But yeah, that’s [inaudible].

 

Janet:  What about water signs? I’m a Scorpio. Does that count?

 

Ola and Ade: Same!

 

Ade: Oh, my God. Wait, for real?

 

Janet:  Wow.

 

Ola: Yo.

 

Ade: [laughs]

 

Ola: That’s funny. [laughs]

 

Janet:  [inaudible].

 

Ola: I know.

 

Ade: [laughs]

 

Ola: [laughs] I love the puns.

 

Ade: Wait, we have to [inaudible].

 

Ola: Oh, it’s staying in.

 

Ade: Yeah. So we’re good, right?

 

Janet:  Big ups to Scorpios. Last shout out.

 

Ade: *imitates air horns*

 

[Sound Man drops ‘em in]

 

Ola: Perfect placement. Perfect placement for a DJ horn.

 

Ade: [laughs]

 

Ola: Right. Thank you.

 

Ade: Thank you so much for joining us. Much appreciated.

 

Janet:  Happy to do it, and if for whatever reason somebody decides they want to hear my voice again I’m happy to do another one on another topic.

 

Ola: Awesome.

 

Ade: Definitely. Like, we appreciate your time so, so much.

 

Janet:  Yeah, no problem.

 

Ola: And that’s our show. Thank you for joining us on the Living Corporate podcast. Make sure you follow us on Instagram @LivingCorporate, Twitter @LivingCorp_Pod, and subscribe to our newsletter through www.living-corporate.com. If you have a question you’d like us to answer and read on the show, make sure you email us at livingcorporatepodcast@gmail.com. Also, don’t forget to check out our Patreon at LivingCorporate as well. And that does it for us on this show. My name is Ola.

 

Ade: And this has been Ade.

 

Both: Peace.

 

Kiara: Living Corporate is a podcast by Living Corporate, LLC. Our logo was designed by David Dawkins. Our theme music was produced by Ken Brown. Additional music production by Antoine Franklin from Musical Elevation. Post-production is handled by Jeremy Jackson. Got a topic suggestion? Email us at livingcorporatepodcast@gmail.com. You can find us online on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and living-corporate.com. Thanks for listening. Stay tuned.

Living Corporate