Kim Steppe and Erin Tselenchuk are the CEO and Co-Founder of RISEQUITY, Inc., where they focus on using data and employee engagement to bring innovative solutions that create diverse, inclusive, and equitable workplaces where every employee belongs. In this episode, Kim and Erin give us their knowledge on how to build a transformative and empowering culture as part of your company’s identity proactively. 

In this episode Kim and Erin detail why companies conducting their own surveys aren’t getting a full picture of their company culture, and how founders and leaders should think about integrating their diversity, equity, inclusivity, and belonging point of view as early in the company’s founding as possible. 

Check out all things Dia Bondi here.

Spotify LogoStitcher LogoYoutube LogoApple Podcasts LogoGoogle Podcasts  LogoiHeart Radio  LogoRadio.comRSS

Kim Steppe is the CEO and oversees Partner and Client Relations for RISEQUITY, Inc., where her passion is to identify opportunities within a company and bring innovative solutions to create diverse, inclusive, and equitable workplaces where every employee belongs. 

Kim is an experienced Congressional Ambassador, having lobbied for Alzheimer's research funding and advocated at the federal and state level for public policies that improve the lives of those living with Alzheimer's disease and their families. She is currently the Board co-Vice Chair for the Alzheimer's Association of Northern California Northern Nevada, the Chair of the Public Policy Committee, and Co-Chair of the DE&ICommittee. 

Erin Tselenchuk is the Co-founder and President of RISEQUITY, Inc, and runs Programming and Development overseeing workshops, equity forums, partnership conferences, mentoring, and advanced programs that impact a company’s ability to recruit, retain and develop a diverse workforce.

Erin served as the Vice President of Marketing and Event Programs for Watermark, having produced hundreds of programs that impacted and influenced executive women from all diverse backgrounds, emerging leaders and entrepreneurs. Erin has a history of social activism through Project Hope and Rotary International.

In this episode Kim and Erin detail why companies conducting their own surveys aren’t getting a full picture of their company culture, and how founders and leaders should think about integrating their diversity, equity, inclusivity, and belonging point of view as early in the company’s founding as possible. 

Check out Kim and Erin’s work here at RISEQUITY, Inc. 

Connect with Kim and Erin on LinkedIn. 

And learn about all things Dia Bondi here.

Dia Bondi  0:19  
Hey, this is Lead With Who You Are. I'm Dia Bondi, and on this show, we explore and discover what it truly means to lead with who you are. And we're doing it with people who embody just fat. In this episode, we're talking with the cofounders of RISEQUITY, Kim Steppe and Erin Tselenchuk. Erin and Kim have created a data driven approach to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. And if you're looking for a pathway to building organizations that work for everyone listening, and as always, if you're enjoying the show, please subscribe on your platform of choice. And if there's a leader or an innovator in your life, who is their absolute shiniest when they're leading with who they are, Please share the show with them. All right, let's get going.

Dia Bondi  1:05  
Today we have the cofounders of RISEQUITY, Kim Steppe and Erin Tselenchuk on the show. Kim Steppe is the CEO and oversees partner and client relations for rise equity, Inc, where her passion is to identify opportunities within a company and bring innovative solutions to create diverse, inclusive and equitable workplaces where every employee belongs. Kim is an experienced congressional Ambassador having lobbied for Alzheimer's research funding and advocated at the federal and state level for public policies that improve the lives of those living with Alzheimer's disease and their families. She is currently the board co Vice Chair for the Alzheimer's Association of Northern California Northern Nevada, the chair of the Public Policy Committee and co chair of the D E and I committee, Erin Tselenchuk is co founder and president overseeing programming and development for rise equity Inc. She oversees workshops, equity forums, partner conferences, mentoring and advanced programs that impact a company's ability to recruit, retain and develop a diverse workforce. Erin served as the vice president of marketing and event programming for watermark, having produced hundreds of programs that impacted and influenced executive women from all diverse backgrounds, or emerging leaders and entrepreneurs. Erin has a history of social activism through Project HOPE and Rotary International.

Dia Bondi  2:35  
Kim and Erin Hello,

Kim  2:38  
Hi, there.

Erin T  2:38  

Dia Bondi  2:39  
It's so nice to have you. So I'm going to do a little setup here. And then I want to ask the question that we ask everyone. So here goes our setup. So you are in diversity, inclusion and belonging and you do it sort of I understand it data style. And you can correct me if I'm wrong a little later. But I understand that measurement is a big component of what you do. And when I first spoke with Erin, I learned that while you are deep in the data with dei dashboards, goal setting accountability metrics, you know, and programming you're working to help organizations build with and for dei instead of just retrofitting to it. And I'm having you invited you on our show. Because you know, our founders and leaders who listen and clients that we work with, who run through our programs, really try to lead with who they are. And founders especially I've noticed in my 20 years of leadership, communications coaching, can build an organization with, you know, their own idea and values around DEI, and then all of a sudden, their organization is 500 people deep and unrecognizable to them, and has maybe drifted from their original intention of building an organization with a broad set of representation and a culture of belonging, it can get out of hand, you know, as it grows. So in this conversation, I also want to say I don't want to focus for folks who are listening, I don't want to focus on why dei and belonging is important, like table stakes. It is so we're not we're not justifying it in this conversation. We're having conversation more about how to do it. So if that's for you, stay tuned, if you still need to be convinced this is the show is not for you. So we're going to focus on the how so that our founders, leaders and listeners can build, you know, organizations and teams in a way that it's in aligned with their own dei values, and reap the benefits for the organization and really for all of us. So that's why I invited you on the show. And I'm so happy to have you with me today. But first, I want to start with a question we ask everyone if you're to answer this question right now. How might you do that? And that question is, who are you? Maybe we'll start with Aaron since Aaron, you were the first person at RISEQUITY. I connected with.

Erin T  4:57  
And thank you so much for having both Kim and I here.for you today, who am I, I am a human in our society who's trying to create a better place. And one of the reasons why Kim and I co founded along with our other co founder, Merlin Nagel, why we co founded raise equity was really an opportunity to fix a lot of the stuff that we see broken and bringing as much as my personal self into that, that transparency, everyone talks about being authentic, what you see with me is really what you get. And so I leave with just the passion that I have behind diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, to really empower employees to really help leaders identify and build a better workplace to transform a workplace, through my own personal experiences, seeing what's been broken, and then through the advancement and the knowledge in the space that we have. But that I'm a mom, I have two young kids at home. So during the pandemic, I'm very much aligned with a lot of the parents and care providers out there. But I'm also a very, very dedicated and loyal friend to people and always willing to raise people up whenever they need it.

Dia Bondi  6:15  
Beautiful. Thank you so much. Kim, how would you answer that? How would you answer that question? Who are? Yeah?

Kim  6:22  
That's a great question. I haven't actually thought about that in a while. I think, as Erin mentioned, about just being what you see is what you get. That's exactly who I am. I'm very transparent. I am a person who values relationships with not just my friends with the people, I meet with our clients, deeply. And I am committed to this work, along with Erin, we wanted to make a huge impact and make the world a better place by making a bigger impact than maybe we had in the past. Aaron, I've worked together for a number of years at a previous company, as well, and our dear friends. And so we're aligned on the vision of rise equity, I also bring my own experiences to this work. I am a mother, I am a widow, I lost my husband to young onset Alzheimer's, he was sick for about 10 years. And I was essentially a single parent who stepped out of the workforce and then came back in, in a very different capacity. And navigating going back to work in my early 40s, or probably more like mid 40s, with two high school aged daughters was difficult. And I bring that to well, being out of the workforce for a long time was difficult, but then also coming back in and having grown children and trying to navigate that after my long experiences. So I'm a advocate for Alzheimer's research funding and bringing that all of that to the work we do.

Dia Bondi  7:53  
Yeah, I mean, these are both obviously beautiful answers to this question. You know, who are you see an ongoing question all the time and finding leveling up or leveling out or leveling in finding a new challenge and facing it stepping into it, I think it sort of, for me, every time I try something new every time I make a shift, I have to ask myself, Who am I now, it's not like it changes not taking a one at all the time, but it is like rings on a tree, right? It's just adding and redefining who I am all the time. And it sounds like both of you are pretty clear on not just what you're doing, but who you are, as what you bring to it.

Erin T  8:33  
I think that always transforms. So as you mentioned, you know, there are chapters and stages and transformations. And as we look at our lives, there's opportunities for us to shift who we are and become somebody new, and embrace who we were. But to be able to move forward with that fluidity to lean into who we are now,

Dia Bondi  8:54  
I love that. And I have a 12 and a half year old daughter who is in a in a spurt right now of like defining herself and you know, work of founders who are doing that as well. They're redefining who they are as a leader of organization they're trying to build into the world instead of maybe, you know, a product man identifying as a product manager or a product leader. Now they're a CE their CEOing and my daughter is you know, I'm always having to remind her and reminding myself as I'm reminding her that you can change. You know, what you wore, how you showed up last year in sixth grade doesn't have to be how you represent yourself and who you are. Now your friends are going to change things are going to evolve. You get to change your mind. You get to change your clothes. You get to change your ideas. Absolutely. And it's easy to forget that we get to do that. So when we think about building for diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging what do we mean by building?

Kim  9:57  
Are you want to take that?

Erin T  9:57  
Yeah, I'll go ahead and jump in and come out tend to finish each other's sentences. So there may be some overlap with that. Two totally different individuals. But we really think that we talked about this often that there is a huge opportunity for companies of any size. And we've worked with founders in the past, we've worked with entrepreneurs and startups in the past. And those people, those visionaries, those people who are really coming up with that next big idea, that next big topic, that next big service or product, and really thinking about how do you embed DEIB, into their culture at an early stage? So when you're building for that, it's about how do you create from a very foundational level, equitable processes policies? How do you establish that inclusive culture of belonging really early on, but doing it with intention? And we understand that they get overwhelmed, you know, you're running a business, you're managing cash flow, you're managing investments, especially if you have investors, you're answering to advisors, and possibly early stage board members. And you have teams that you're trying to build. So how do you manage all of that, when you're trying to build for DEI? And it's, it's being intentional. You can't think of dei when building a company as a siloed. Can what does that, you know, just a siloed function or siloed role or siloed aspect of the company?

Dia Bondi  11:31  
Well, when you talk about policies and process, it's so interesting, you know, the idea of the experience of participating in organization that is, is designed for diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging is very human experience, right? It's about humans. But then we go to things like policies and processes, which is about building into the DNA, isn't it? of an organization? Yeah. So Kim, you're nodding your head. We're an audio only podcast, but I am seeing you through our recording. So you're so yeah, just building into the DNA is a human experience, what we're talking about policies and process doesn't sound sexy, but supercritical maybe? Yeah, absolutely.

Kim  12:11  
I think it's much I mean, a lot of our clients we go in, and those are already set the policies and procedures. And so to go back and to try and embed an equitable process or change the process to make it more equitable is much harder than if you're starting out to really think about what makes you know, if you're looking at talent acquisition, or you're looking at learning and development or comp and benefits, what are those equitable processes? How can you build that in into that from the very beginning? And then the other piece of building the EIB is to think about your leadership team? What is if you're you're small, or just starting up, and you don't have a huge workforce, what do you want your workforce to look like? Your leadership team should represent what you want your workforce to be? If you want it to be divorced,

Dia Bondi  12:59  
right? So you're not in a do as I say, not as I do scenario?

Kim  13:03  
Absolutely. Because if you want to attract talent, they need to I mean, to have a diverse leadership team. You know, young talent looks at all talent looks at it right now. But especially young talent, and they need to see that there's a there's some opportunity for them as well. It's much harder to like, catch up later on.

Dia Bondi  13:19  
So this might seem really, really obvious. But what are the kinds of policy changes that you have to go in and, and fix, you know, retrofit to create a more diverse, equitable and inclusive and belonging oriented culture in your organization? Like, give me, you know, this seems like I should know, but I don't know. What are the ones that you're like, we always have to fix this one thing. It's so obvious, but it's super glaring.

Erin T  13:46  
Kim, I'll kick it over to you. But I just want to preface this by saying that, that goes back to that human element. And recognizing that everyone is coming from a very different place in their lives, your entire talent base. And so when building for that that's what you need to be considering.

Kim  14:04  
Yeah, and I'll say that it's not the same for every company. Talent Acquisition is kind of a hotspot right now. Most companies, you know, they're hiring a lot of employees, and you have recruiters with a lot of open wrecks, and you have hiring managers requesting diverse slates for those for those positions. Well, I can't even count the number of times I've heard, you know, the talent is not out there. Well, you've got overworked, you know, recruiters who need more resources to actually source that talent. But where are you looking? Right? So if you have if you're a company that has, you know, you're using LinkedIn, which is nothing wrong with using LinkedIn or you have to be in one or two different sources, but you really want to attract diverse talent and say it's a particular degree that you're looking for a particular software degree, who's graduating the most graduates, diverse candidates or diverse talent with that degree in the Country, it may not be an Ivy League, it may be some other location. Are you looking at those, those schools that are outside of what you're normally looking at? What kind of relationships? Are you developing with that? Do you have ongoing relationships? Are you keeping in contact with talent that you've interviewed for other positions? I mean, there's, it's different for every company. But talent acquisition is one that we generally do have, across the board, some recommendations around?

Dia Bondi  15:26  
Yeah, I hear that as just widening the widening the aperture about where when you say, you know, they're the pipeline is the problem. It's like, Yeah, well, are using the same isn't just Yale pale and male, that you is that the only pipeline you're plugged into? Right? So how do you think about the the fields that you're playing on, that lets you even get exposure to a range of talent that you otherwise would have just sort of not even noticed?

Kim  15:58  
Yeah. And the other piece of that, too, I mean, you talk about where they're sourcing, but also job descriptions, do you? Does your job description need to be 20 items, right, men traditionally, will could have two of those and think they're qualified, and they may very well be qualified for the job. Women tend to need more than that maybe 18 of those 20. So is that job description limited to the skills actually needed? And those years of experience are another thing that we take a look at? Do you really need 10 years of experience? Or are you efficient in that job proficient in that job in three to four years, right?

Dia Bondi  16:32  
These These things are so kind of status quo, right? For the last like 20 years or 40 years, we go to these schools, we job descriptions look like this. And we I think we probably don't notice what the assumptions we're operating on, that continue to limit where connections can happen, and what's allowing for a connection or preventing one. Absolutely.

Erin T  16:54  
This, you're talking about the connections here. And that goes back to the fact that people hire, and people look for that talent from where they're comfortable. And so you need to get uncomfortable. First, with looking for that type of talent, you need to say, I'm not going to look at the Stanford's, I'm going to look at a Cal State, if you're based here in California, or we're going to remove school and education as a qualifier. If you have a specific degree, you know, it doesn't matter where you've got the degree from. And when you're looking for that talent. This comes up time and time again. And I cannot stress this enough, as people start exploring how to build their teams or build their executive team, even. It's, well, I don't want to hire somebody who's not qualified. Being on being somebody who identifies as woman or part of LGBTQ or a person of color, black or Hispanic. That does not mean that they are not qualified. And to step back and flip it on its head and say, you know, why are we only looking at sai white men? Not saying that we should, but we need to expand that and not equate unqualified to those other marginalized populations. And that's a huge thing.

Dia Bondi  18:09  
I don't know where this fits. But but that makes me think about having to go to bat to I had a founder in my practice, I was working with a coaching client. And she had recruited somebody who was a data scientist, I'm kind of making up this has been a couple of while so I'm making up exactly what the role was data scientist, I think, that came out of weirdly, the nonprofit space. And she like her board. And the other folks that were part of the hiring committee just couldn't get past, they could not do the math, that nonprofit, somehow didn't work for their mental model of where that kind of expertise could come from. Even though it was right it like it was just right. And they were looking right at the person who had the thing, who was the who was best in class. But it was a, you know, that founder had to go to bat in that moment to go like, what we're running on some assumptions about where this person is supposed to come from. When it has, it has no bearing on actually their capability, or what they're bringing to the table.

Erin T  19:10  
And that's that inclusive culture very early on, where they are creating that insider group, initially at the very start. And that's something that founders need to be very well aware of when they're starting to go on these journeys. Whether it's how they position their product or service in the market, who their clients are, who their advisors are, who their board is, by building that. That's why those people are asking that question because they've hired or recruited those same like minded individuals.

Dia Bondi  19:38  
Absolutely. And, you know, one of the things that came up in our work was like, how, how much more proactive that founder could get about, about creating alignment around how we're going to do this, like not have the conversation when there was a candidate on deck but to be like, let's decide. I'm gonna have a conversation with where we're going to be, you know, looking for the town. aren't that we need to bring on as we grow? And before we even have anybody on deck, let's be real clear about how we're going to do this. And actually, for her to be the champion of that, and not just reacting to other people's reactions to who gets who gets put forth? No, absolutely. In my world around leadership communications, you know, I'm always like, this is a really good use of a founders voice, to not just leave these, these approaches, these policies and procedures, the processes we define on how we, you know, I know we're in the world, we're in the conversation around, you know, recruiting and engaging talent, you know, but to not have that just live on a document dead on a server somewhere, but actually to bring voice to it to carve a path to make it possible for for there to be fewer road, you know, speed bumps along the way, so that we can actually do what we say we're going to do, because we breathe life into the policies, procedures, and the way we roll here,

Erin T  21:00  
it's about staying current with the trends. I mean, whether you're addressing like Roe v. Wade, it's about humanizing it is about what are your benefits look like? Yes. What are your mental health benefits look like? And communicating that regularly? when stuff happens? I mean, we talk frequently with our clients and within the space and industry, about, you know, what's your emergency response time? We're not talking living out here in California about earthquakes, and wildfires, which you know, we have to, but it's more about how is your company going to respond? How does it fit with the company's values and culture, that is how you live and breathe it on a regular basis, and how you permeate it into the organization so that the employees really know where you stand? And you know, what, if a company has certain values or beliefs, you need to make a decision if that's the right place for you as well. And, again, for the founders. It's the established that early on,

Kim  21:57  
I also to that point, I think to the communication piece is so important. Around, you know, so many companies were playing catch up after you, Breanna Taylor and George Floyd Howard, how are you going to respond to that? So that crisis kind of response team or plan. But there's a difference between internal communications and external, right? Not every company is going to route is going to externally say something about don't say gay in Florida, but they have a large LGBTQ plus population? How do you bring in that humanity to Erin's point the humanity piece and and acknowledge that in your own community and your own organization? The war in Ukraine is a perfect example. Right? Not publicly taking a statement on the war unnecessarily, but that you have so many companies have locations either in Russia or in Ukraine, or in Poland, and all of those, those countries were have been impacted, and that humanity piece that addressing that, maybe not having such an external political statement around it.

Dia Bondi  23:01  
So let's get a little bit into your methodology. So how does raise equity approach building for diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging? Do you have a methodology? What is it?

Kim  23:11  
Yes, we do.

Dia Bondi  23:15  
Give it to me.

Kim  23:17  
So our approach is really data driven. We take a look at the quantitative and the qualitative data. And it's really a four part assessment. The first part is really take a look at the demographics, you know, from gender or race, location, age, promotions, terminations, etc, really dive into that, to see where the opportunities are. So that's one piece. The second piece is we mentioned earlier, we're talking about processes and policies, we take a look at the processes and policies around mostly HR. So we take a look at talent acquisition, learning and development comp and benefits are total rewards, and then HR ops, not necessarily to change them to really kind of dig in and see how we can make them more equitable. We also do a an inclusion index survey, which also can be sliced the same way as the demographic data that we get from a company we take the demographic data we look at for for we'd like to see four to five years to really look for the trends. So it's not just a point in time. So we slice the inclusion index survey the same way and that measures how an employee's feeling about inclusion. That survey can be repeated year over year to measure how your employees are actually feeling. The last part are listening sessions, or most people know them more as focus groups and we work with our companies to our clients to really decide what those groups are going to be generally we do them by gender, race, ethnicity, LGBTQ plus those who identify with disabilities, including neurodiverse, veterans, and location for those who don't identify with any of the other groups. So we take all of that quantitative and the qual quantitative data together, create the maturity model and a dashboard along with the recommendations. present that to say

Dia Bondi  25:06  
I'm gonna, I'm gonna pause you here because I get lost easily. So okay, so when you say maturity model, say more about that.

Kim  25:13  
So a maturity model would be where you are, we have our own maturity model based on different areas, whether it's leadership accountability, or whether it's learning and development. And we map a company on that maturity model. So it has four different categories. And where you can where you are, you're not going to be the same on each one, right. So if you're in learning to development, you're kind of an emerging place you can see where you are and where you need to go to be in that best practice category. So once we create that, we present it all to the executive leadership team, with a DEA strategic plan, going forward, sometimes for 12 months, up to 36 months. And we work with our with a we don't disappear, our feeling is to actually equip our clients to be able to do this work themselves. But we often stick around to help implement some of it, the thing about di, D IB is that you want to be able to measure it year over year. So you can, you know, a lot of companies will just throw programs at D IB, and say, Okay, we need to do something on microaggressions, we need to do something on unconscious bias. But that may not be the issue for that particular client or company, right? It could be that they, you know, don't have enough women in leadership positions. And that's what they want to increase. So those kind of programs, if you're going to, if you're going to recommend programs, they should be very specific and strategic and kind of diagnostic, I guess, to address the opportunities within our company.

Dia Bondi  26:50  
So it sounds like what your approach and your methodology does is it lets us know what the heck we're doing, where you are right from, but from a capital D perspective, like, here's where I am. And here's where I'm going. So I know what we're doing, and can make some decisions around that. Otherwise, if you can't, I feel like okay, so then here's another question. This seems real, you're probably gonna be like, yes, do of course, but this this third component, a component of the inclusion index, are you finding that organizations can make a difference? Are they having success on moving that in the right direction?

Kim  27:26  
specifically related to this survey?

Dia Bondi  27:28  
Yeah, you talked about how people feel about inclusion in their organizations, like, I think some of this stuff can feel so out of hand for folks, do they actually have a hand in it? Can they move it? Can they move the needle?

Erin T  27:40  
Yeah, and let's, let's step back just a moment and say that what an employee is willing to share through an anonymous, quote, unquote, company survey, versus when you have a third party come in, is night and day, they know that whatever they say, is going to be attributed back to them. If taking a company survey, certain experiences, certain stories, certain situations that were escalated that HR is privy to, people will be able to connect the dots. And that's what a lot of companies do is they try to connect back to try and find that one individual or what was said. And so by doing an external inclusion index survey, the results are very, very different. And you piece together the trends and patterns, between departments, or between situations, or even benefits like comp and benefits, you can see a repeated pattern. And so when you're able to go back and say, Yes, this inclusion index represented XY and Z, they either come back generally with two responses, it's, Oh, I thought that was already fixed. Or, or I had no idea this was happening. And so that gives them an opportunity to create the change at that point. Now, if you do the inclusion index, which we recommend year over year, along with modeling and mapping out your data year over year, the results will then show whether or not they were actually intentionally making that change.

Dia Bondi  29:07  
Yeah. And so I'm hearing you say, super important to have a third party do this work for an organization so that they can actually see, and that gives them some agency over, over their choice about what to do about it, because it's rooted in, in, in more truth. Right. And I guess my question is, like, are the moves that organizations are making the changes they're making having an impact? Is it working?

Kim  29:35  
Yes. I can tell you I mean, we don't particularly we don't work with companies that are about checking a box. We've we've had that experience, and it's just not the right fit right for us. I mean, everything Aaron and I do and Marilyn and the rest of our team is about making an impact. We develop really wonderful relationships with our clients and really have very transparent Converse. Asians, I will give you an example of something that worked. Where where you saw change pretty quickly, because you know, the thing about D IB work is that we set this expectation all the time, once we're done with our assessment, your employees will see, you know, there's going to be some low hanging fruit that that changes right away. So they will see that, but this work takes time, right. And so that expectation of you changing culture, culture, or shifting takes time, and so they need to be patient. And in order for it to be sustainable only, you know, we only recommend three to five things a year to focus on. But we did have a client, we were actually really focused on gender. And there was this perception that women in this company were not being promoted at the same, it took women longer to be promoted than their male counterparts. And so that's a perception. We don't know if it's true or not. And when we dug into the data, we actually found out that it did take women 2.8 years longer to be promoted than their male counterparts. So that's clear. And what are you going to do about it?

Dia Bondi  31:08  
I mean, I mean, you can have two babies and 2.8 years, like, that's a long time. Yeah,

Kim  31:12  
it is. And so this company, our recommendation, we made some recommendations to them. And what they did was they moved, the President to the Chair of the Board, who was a man moved the one woman on the senior leadership team and to the President's position and then added, I believe, two or three more women to their executive leadership team. That was all within, I want to say six to eight months, that's pretty quick. So that's a success, right? They wouldn't, you know, they could have just, they could have just, you know, kept believing that this was a perception. And then when they knew it wasn't they acted.

Dia Bondi  31:50  
Yeah, I guess that's why I asked the question, does this stuff work? Because I think I think leaders have more agency, maybe then they think they do, I That's an assumption I'm running on. But this idea that it's just sort of out of hand, and it's in its culture work, and it's very squishy. And we never really know, kind of removes this idea that we can actually make choices that have an impact, we can make changes that move the needle in the direction you want to go, you can make a difference with the decisions that you make. You know, I was just talking to Mandy, our producer today about some projects and creative projects that she's working on. And, you know, we were just noticing that, like, it's us, the ones of us, we are the ones to do the thing. But when it feels like it belongs to somebody else, or it's unattainable. It's easy to to wait, you know, but for you to recognize that once you know, oh, no, is it not perception, it's real, and then make an action that made a difference. Now, there's now we can see how much agency we have. It's

Erin T  32:53  
really a matter of looking at who owns it, you're touching on it, it's, you know, the leader steps back and says, Oh, well, it's out of my hands, or I have a diversity leader, whether it's a chief diversity officer in my company that's on them, they need to do it. But what oftentimes happens is the leaders don't lean into that. They don't say I'm responsible for my team, if I'm leading a sales team, or if I'm leading a call center team, I'm responsible for the well being of my team, that mental health that, you know, do they feel like they belong, do they feel like they can grow in their positions. And DEIB. Again, it's not the siloed aspect, it permeates down into every single function, role aspect of it, because it's related to benefits, it's related to how employees feel, they can come in and say, Look, I have to pick up my kid from work, or I'm a care provider for my parents, and I have to go get them from their elder care that's taking place during the day, or I've had a crisis. And I need that support. I need to recognize that I can trust my leader to be there for me to advocate for me. And at the end of the day, and leaders need to be allies, if they don't identify with those populations of people, whether they are people of color, people with disabilities, and in talking about neuro diversity as well. LGBTQ communities, you know, when stuff happens in other states, how does that impact you as a leader to your team, so that leadership accountability does have an influence on the work that's being done? It teams constantly see turnover, if you see employees leaving, something's wrong. It's not just peep. We hear all the time from clients where they say, Yeah, I don't get paid more than I could another company, but I stay because of the culture, or vice versa. I'm not happy here, but I'm staying because I make more money than it would elsewhere. So that's where that leadership accountability falls into place where the leaders can and put together a plan for themselves, to be better mentors to be better advisors to be better sponsors to grow the company, how they see fit. And if sometimes the executive team, or the board or the CEO and their group, sometimes we make hard decisions, if somebody's not the right fit for the company anymore, they have the opportunity, that level of accountability to transition someone out and to find somebody else that aligns with their values.

Dia Bondi  35:29  
So I'm the founder, imagine, I'm the founder I've got, I just got a big infusion of cash. Maybe I just completed a kickoff Series B, right, nice, big chunk of money in hand. And I've decided that I'm going to build and I'm going to build fast, I've got product market fit, you know, it's not just me and my bestie in the garage anymore, and I'm ready to rock we've got, you know, mentors in place, we've got a board, that's awesome. And we're going to grow fast. If I want, if I know from the outset, we're going to build this thing, and we're going to build it with diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging in mind, what is the very first step?

Kim  36:08  
I think the first step would be to think about what kind of culture you want? I mean, there are obviously some things that you want to do to make your processes and policies are equitable, but what is the culture that you want to create? And that requires, if you're, I mean, honestly, you hire a consultant to help you with that.

Dia Bondi  36:25  
Hey, I that's, that's a fair, you know, that's a fair answer, I work with a lot of founders who, you know, wait too long to do some of these things that could eliminate a lot of pain. If they did at 18 months ago,

Erin T  36:39  
we've we've talked with incubators about this, about, you know, start planning now, and don't ask an existing employee, or someone who's volunteering or being voluntold, to lead this work, you know, oh, you can just set up an employee resource group or an inclusion group or an affinity group for, you know, the five people we have, and you can run that, especially if they're not getting paid. That's, that's a very common mistake that people make early on, as they say, let's ask, you know, the one person of color on our team, because they are black, or Hispanic or Asian, you know, to lead this work, just because they have that their own lived experience. So

Kim  37:25  
many people were tapped on the shoulder because they were either a person of color, or they, you know, were in some position that they thought would, you know, management thought that would mirror complement the complement that position that didn't have any experience in that. So on top of their job, they're doing this right, they're charged with this huge initiative, without being set up for success. So aren't you the next step would be to think about? Do you want somebody to lead this initiative? And if you do, who is that going to be? And what is your strategic plan, we work with a lot of companies that hire somebody after we've done the assessment, and then we work directly with them based on the findings that we have to really, you know, lay out that strategic plan. The other piece of it is, you know, dei, if you don't have somebody or even if you do, it's usually one person, maybe two or three, that's a lot of work for an organization for three people, three people to do for an entire organization. So setting up that governance piece. So it's a Diversity Council, which we that's part of the work that we do setting up a diversity council that actually, the initiatives can't go through the the Diversity Council into committees. So you're not, if you're the CTO, the chief diversity officer, you're not charged with carrying out every piece of it, right? That it's disseminated through the organization, which also helps embed it in every part of the organization. So that governance piece and setting up those employee resource groups or infinity groups, which may not be the first thing that you decide you want to do, often, a lot of companies will have them without the other piece of, you know, the governance piece. But realigning all of that if you if you do ever Yardies. But setting up that governance, so you're set up for success, so that stuff just doesn't, you know, kind of go by the wayside, or you burn out your chief diversity officer and D IV staff. Because it's too much,

Dia Bondi  39:19  
right. Okay. So you hear that founders, it's not just like set up, set up an affinity group, and you're done. And it doesn't mean tacking on something to the one, you know, person of color in your group, you know, to try to run this, this is actually a job.

Erin T  39:34  
And it's also an investment. You need to invest you need to provide not just the resources, the people power behind it, but the financial commitment and the backing to that. So when you're thinking about budgets, when you're thinking about your p&l, and where you're investing your money, that's going to draw on an acquisition that's going to recruiting, that's how you're going to get those people in the door. That's part of it. And so thinking about it from that financial perspective as well.

Dia Bondi  40:00  
You started to touch on it a minute ago. But what are some of the pitfalls? I think you've already, some of the pitfalls that we need to consider and watch out for we've already named a few of them is sort of believing somehow that a few affinity groups and a Slack channel in your organization is going to address this or maybe waiting too long to get outside help. To help you figure out what your strategy is here and give you a measurement on your baseline. What are some other pitfalls that we might look out for as we're thinking about building early for di B,

Erin T  40:31  
I think self education, self accountability is a huge one. Especially if and I'm going to go ahead and call this out. If you're a side person or a white person, you need to learn and there are plenty of resources out there for you to read on, you know, being an anti racist, and all those approaches and things you need to think about to create a culture that you want. That is a major pitfall do not go to your token, one black friend and say, Hey, educate me on what it's like to be you or what I shouldn't be doing. That's not on them that is on you, to learn how to become a better ally. So that's one critical point that I would point out, because that in turn, will help you be a better ally, to know your place to know where to lean in and lean out and to give space for as you're building that because you need to create that space for those people to come into your company.

Dia Bondi  41:29  
Can many pitfalls that stand out.

Kim  41:31  
Yeah, a couple and I think I mentioned this really early on was the you know, programs, or you're just deciding you need to do an unconscious bias training or microaggressions. And you spent companies spend a lot of money on this training, right? And you You might remember a little bit, they're highly rated, we want you to remember a little bit of it. But does it actually create change? And is it what you need? Right? That's one thing. I think the other piece is inclusion, not to Aaron's point about educating inclusion means everybody that includes white men, that includes your entire organization, it's not just about, you know, focusing on gender and underrepresented minorities is everyone. And I think we see that a lot where, you know, other groups are feeling disenfranchised, if you focus on, you know, the groups that aren't getting the same opportunities and the education around that, if the company doesn't address that, and really take a look at, you know, what does it mean in their company to inclusion and belonging, right? And have that kind of, that's part of their culture, and everyone buys in, or gets there eventually. That you're, you're gonna lose people along the way, if you've really not committed to that. And people really understand what it means,

Dia Bondi  42:50  
right, I hear that as the pitfall can be, you know, to see feels, it feels like you're doing something by throwing money or training at something, when actually it takes an all company participation beyond an individual intervention experience.

Erin T  43:06  
It's about how you show up.

Dia Bondi  43:08  
So so as you think about, you know, the space is changing, and evolving and growing and becoming more integrated all the time. I mean, last 568 years, I've seen it change a lot. This wasn't even part of the conversation. I've been doing leadership communications work for 20 years. And my early days, there was this wasn't even a named, you know, body of work. And so it is, it is been born and then changed over time and organizations. What are you most optimistic right now about in this space?

Kim  43:42  
I will say, I mean, one of the most exciting things for me is that the younger generation has a very different perspective on DEIB, than my generation or even an older generation. And they are actually going to companies where they do feel like they're included and belong, and they'll take less money to do it. So that kind of, you know, if you want to recruit talent, I mean, they're demanding it. And that is really hopeful and optimistic. To me, especially with I have two college aged girls now. And I see it in them as well. It's very different than when I came around.

Dia Bondi  44:22  
Right, that talent. I hear that as talent is commanding the kind of change we want to see in some way because they're demanding it. Okay, and Aaron, what do you what are you optimistic about?

Erin T  44:32  
I'm optimistic that we're having conversations at the scale that we are one of our greatest mentors, both Kim and I is our co founder, Marilyn Nagel, and she was one of the first CTOs over at Cisco, and has been on this journey for longer than us but has been one of our fiercest advocates and supporters in this work and her knowledge is incredible. And to see that transition to what Kim was referencing, you know, the younger Generation is thinking differently about Dei, that accountability piece. But just that we're willing to take these moments that are occurring in our country, you know, that reckonings across the board, and we're willing to have these conversations at a corporate level when initially that they you weren't allowed to talk about this sort of thing. You weren't allowed to talk about race in the workplace, you had to sign documents saying you can't talk about your compensation. Everything is on the table now. And the employees holding the companies accountable is I agree, I'm incredibly optimistic about what the future holds for it. And that it is including people from beyond just the conversation of, you know, gender parity, we're talking about race and ethnicity, we're talking about disabilities, and neurodiversity, and veterans, and LGBTQ plus, and so on, and caregivers, we're having more inclusive conversations than ever before. So rather than just thinking about, Oh, what are we going to do to reach parity in our company? It's what can we do to bring the sense of belonging for everyone? At the same time, because you can't just do one thing at a time and check the box and move on?

Dia Bondi  46:17  
Yeah, that's great. Kim, did you have anything you wanted to add?

Kim  46:20  
Yeah, I'll just say that I also am really encouraged by I mean, companies are really being curious. They're very curious about this work, and really courageous and approaching great. And that's incredibly optimistic and open to hearing and everybody loves data, right?

Dia Bondi  46:40  
I asked you this question. But I actually realized I kind of have an answer to now that I'm done, you know that we're kind of at the end of our conversation together. And so I thought I'd share. So you may or may not both know that I'm in the middle of writing a book called Ask like an auctioneer, which is a funny little idea that got born a couple of years ago, when I started auctioneering for fun for women led nonprofits and nonprofits to benefit women and girls. And sort of turns out that the way we ask like an auctioneer can be really useful as we think about asking as a success strategy in our lives and careers and businesses and to help accelerate us toward our goals. And there's a part of it that I always walk with a little inner conflict with, which is to say, like, I want to help, you know, a million women and underrepresented folks in our industries, ask for more and get it with this playful, wonderful and actually pretty impactful approach. And I also recognize that the burden of advancing folks and let allowing them to participate in advance themselves earn more build wealth, you know, pursue their own goals and dreams cannot solely lit like I can teach women to ask for more all day, but if without systems change, it's just throwing, it's just throwing tomatoes at a brick wall, you know, so talking to you about, you know, the the the notion that organizations are in fact curious about this, that they are diving headlong in, I'm sure there are patches, where it's performative, etc. But to know that that's happening, while maybe in parallel, and not just me, but lots of folks are helping, helping folks who are traditionally underrepresented, their industries advanced themselves, but in a context that can absorb that work.

Erin T  48:28  
Absolutely. And in you touched on it a little bit ago, Kim, the younger generation. So you see a lot of STEM programs, for example. So advancing Young Girls in Tech steam stem, and getting them prepared to enter the workforce, you know, growing that talent population, but really what we're trying to do it whereas equity and the work that Kim and I do, is preparing and transforming those workplaces now. So that when we see those young individuals, the young girls and people from various diverse backgrounds entering the workforce, they're not let down. So we have to change one company at a time doing more than one company at a time, right. But it's really transforming that workplace to really empower the employees to create the vision that they need. And I think that founders have a very, very unique opportunity to start at the ground floor. When thinking about it, and it's not, it's not about the business case, you preface that at the very beginning of our conversation, you know, the business case is out there, you can go look it up, you know about retention and higher revenue and, you know, difference of thought and opinion and how that can contribute to innovation. But really, it's about what's the right thing to do at the end of the day.

Dia Bondi  49:42  
Absolutely. I spoke a couple of weeks ago with of all places that with a lead marketer, VP of marketing in the Insure tech space, that's a space InsurTech and he was like, Look, I need I need to recruit diverse talent because there's the They're gonna be the ones who have what it takes to transform this business that is anchored in how we used to do it, you know, an industry that is having a really hard time updating itself and to innovate. He said without, you know, diverse young talent, without a diversity of perspective, we are just pushing a boulder uphill. So he's desperate to bring, you know, new talent into an industry that is that is sort of stuck in its old ways, as a way to unlock the potential of that industry, which I thought was very interesting perspective. So help me understand this last question, from your perspective for you. For you. What does it mean to lead with who you are? And I started with Erin in the beginning, Kim, I'll start with you on this one. What does it mean for you to leave with who you are?

Kim  50:51  
Relationships are a really important part of my life outside of the work we do. It's also really important in the work we do. I have relationships with clients we've had in prior companies, but also really, you really getting to know who our clients are. And one of them called his family the other day. And I think, Erin, and somebody that we've one of our very first clients that raise equity, I think showing up as who I am, I care about the people that I work with, I care about, you know, one of our clients just sent her son to his first year of college, I know what that feels like, I have two daughters, but I know what that feels like knowing those things and being and developing that relationship. But I also think, for me, I can't sell anything that I think somebody will use. So it's not about going into a company and getting X amount of dollars, it's okay, here's your budget, what, here's how we can back into that, or here's what we think here would be our recommendations around that. And I think being that authentic and trusted person, I can't tell you how many times I've heard, you're not like a regular salesperson, because it's not for it's not it's about the relationship and making an impact. So I just show up as who I am.

Dia Bondi  52:05  
Aaron, what does it mean for you to lead with who you are,

Erin T  52:07  
to lead with who you are, is to be present in the moment. And to and I believe, you know, some people reference the most famously quoted, like RGB quote, you know, you should lead with in a way that gets others to follow you. And I believe that that follow approach should really be to empower and raise people up. And so I am constantly thinking of how to put others needs ahead of my own, both in work, and outside of work. Not always can be a detriment. But at the same time, it's leading with the voice, being able to have a voice, being able to have an opinion, to express your own beliefs. And to bring your full self, your best self more likely. So that everybody has the ability to rise together through equality and equity. And that's just how I lead my model for my children, I model for the people in my circles. And I think that's important for everyone else to think about is when you lead with who you are, people are seeing that and people will model in order to follow.

Dia Bondi  53:23  
Thank you both so much. Where can folks find you? And what can they do with you?

Erin T  53:26  
Well, they can find us at Rhys equity.co.co They can also follow us on LinkedIn, we do a lot of thought and content sharing over there. And we actually can connect with them. So feel free to reach out to us you can reach out to Kim directly at cam at RISEQUITY.co or myself, Erin at RISEQUITY.co. And Kim why don't you go ahead and let them know what we can do for them. Yeah, I

Kim  53:50  
think the first thing would be to have a conversation and and learn what you know what their initiatives are, where they're interested in, and then maybe share how we can help. I think the first piece is really learning where they are what they want to do.

Dia Bondi  54:06  
Thank you so much, both for being with us today. And I'm gonna see you on the flip side.

Erin T  54:10  
Thank you. Such a pleasure honored and humbled to be on your show  

Kim  54:14  
Yes, thanks so much.

Dia Bondi  54:16  
Lead with who you are is a production of Dia Bondi communications, scored, mixed and produced by Arthur Leon Adams, the third and executive produced by Mandy Miranda. You can reach out to us at Hello at DIA bondi.com Or leave us a voicemail at 341-333-2997 you can like rate, share and subscribe at Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your favorite podcast. Go to deobandi.com For show notes, and to learn about all it is that we do to help you speak powerfully and lead with who you are

Ready to Make a Shift?

Subscribe to The Shift, our monthly newsletter designed to help you shift your perspective and transform your impact.