Episode #51: Nora Silver and my co-host, Bree Jenkins, joins us on the podcast today to have a conversation around building bridges for racial equity in our workplaces and organizations. Nora is the Founder, Faculty Director, and Adjunct Professor of the Center for Social Sector Leadership at Haas. She teaches Social Sector Solutions, Impact Investing Practicum, and Large Scale Social Change: Social Movements, for which she is an Aspen Pioneer Faculty Award winner.
On making a change on a large scale – “You’re moving a boulder, you’re moving a whole world, and if want it to really last you’ve got to build some scaffolding under it to hold that so it doesn’t just fall back on you.”
On becoming a leader – “It’s not a formal position. You become a leader by doing something that leads.”
On the difference between hurt and trauma – “In trauma you have no sense of agency. You are helpless and you can do nothing. And so, you get yourself out of it being traumatic to the extent that you take some action or have some agency and decide a place for yourself, make a choice. Doesn’t mean you always have to speak up, but you have to do something so you don’t disappear.”
On being heroic – “It’s what the times call for. It’s the pressure to do the right thing in the right moment. And it seems that ordinary people have that ability given the right set of circumstances. So, we’re all able to be heroic when we’re called on today.”
On speaking up – “There’s another way to speak up. And that is to really hear other people’s voices. And to deeply understand them. And that’s an actual action that we all can take.”
[00:00:00] Sean: Welcome to the OneHaas Alumni Podcast. I’m your host, Sean Li, and today I’m joined by my co-host Bree Jenkins, FTMBA 2019, and our guest, Nora Silver. Welcome to the podcast.
[00:00:21] Nora: Thanks, Sean.
[00:00:23] Sean: Bree, you’ve been on the podcast before, but you know, for any new listeners, can you introduce yourself and then introduce our guest?
[00:00:31] Bree: Yes, of course. So, yeah, I graduated in 2019 last year from Haas and I was a student in two of Nora’s classes, actually. Nora Silver is a professor and the faculty director of the Center for Social Sector Leadership at Haas and an all-around amazing serial entrepreneur and the way that she’s created and founded different programs.
[00:00:53] I took a class called Large Scale Social Change with Nora. And first of all, well, I couldn’t believe this was even a class at business school and not in public policy school, for example. And this class was really incredible. I started thinking about what kind of social change I wanted to make after Haas and felt really compelled to jump in recently after the murder of George Floyd.
[00:01:17] Other Haasies and I started this WhatsApp channel because a lot of us were starting to have race conversations at work and sharing all these different resources. And we were inspired by classes like Nora’s and also other courses at Haas, like dialogues and race, which was created by some Haasies who graduated in 2018, Liz Koenig and own fatale.
[00:01:37] And so because so many of us were starting these small versions of social change around racial equity in our workplaces, I thought, Oh, I need to talk to Nora. She’s so invested in this work. She’s been doing this for many years. And I’m curious about how some of the learnings and lessons from that class play out when you go into the job market. And then to these different companies or academic institutions. So that is a little bit of background around this conversation. And Nora, if you’d like to share any more about your background and yourself, please.
[00:02:13] Sean: Yeah, Nora. I mean, did you get into this area? I see that your bachelor’s was in Education and Spanish, right? How do we go from there to today?
[00:02:25] Nora: Oh, my God. That’s such a well… that this podcast will be forever. I’ll tell you, I got a BA in Spanish and Education cause I wanted to teach in the inner city in Washington, DC. And that was definitely a formative experience for me. But I think my journey started before that. Growing up in the middle of West Philadelphia in an area that was very mixed. We were all, you know, not terribly poor but just really making it and people lots of different backgrounds. And then when I was nine, we moved to an area that was a very upper-class White Anglo-Saxon Protestant community that was a shock for me. And I think that really informs my understanding of culture and social change and particularly people from different backgrounds, either understanding each other or not. And I think I’m at heart very action-oriented. So, something like social movements really appeals to me. And I created the course after I had been at Haas a number of years.
[00:03:34] And I will say I’m really, I’m very proud to work at Haas and Berkeley. You know, I talked to some of my colleagues or friends and they’re saying, well, my company doesn’t know if they’re going to make any statement now around Black Lives Matter and I think I’m very proud to work at a place that does.
[00:03:54] I have been teaching at Haas for a number of years and I heard from students from all programs, undergrads, and grads that they really wanted to make a difference in the world. And then an AHA moment for me was, you know, I think we don’t teach that. I think we teach how to manage in an organization but I don’t think we really teach how change happens in the world, not just within an organization but in the world. And then, in fact, lots of change happens outside of institutions. So it was that that led me to create the Large-Scale Social Change course. And in terms of the question that Bree you asked right now, this is the hardest question for me.
[00:04:35] The question of how do you do this within a company especially if you’re in a more junior position. So, I need to think back about that. And I hope this is a discussion because I have a lot to learn about within a company. How do you do this?
[00:04:48] Bree: Yeah. And, piggybacking on something Nora just said of being grateful for Haas and having these conversations available and also being very aware of the problems in terms of diversity, especially the number of black students at Haas.
[00:05:08] That was a huge driver for my friends and social groups to really start having this
[00:05:30] And then now, most of my friends who are out in the world after Haas feel that obligation to talk about it. And some of that stems from wanting to be authentic to ourselves. Haas has this whole thing about meaningful work and I wouldn’t say brainwash us, but maybe that’s a good word of that you can make an impact and that you can work in something that you care deeply about and can change things.
[00:05:57] And so that, that spirit of authenticity, I think, is one of the starting points of the journey about talking about race at work and yeah, Nora, what do you think about that authenticity aspect and what that looks like?
[00:06:12] Nora: I think that’s critical. I think, you know, we can talk about and we will use strategies and tactics at work but the greatest tool you have at work is you and who you are and that’s always available to you. And I think we underestimate that. We underestimate the power of our own selves and bring yourselves fully to what we’re doing.
[00:06:37] And, for me, I’ve been, I watched a father who had to go to work doing something he hated. And learned early on the power of doing something you love. And I’ve been very, very lucky in my career to do things that I love. And I also learned from him the power of speaking up for yourself and so that is really kind of near and dear to me, the authenticity. And I’m a psychologist by training so I’m always going to look from the viewpoint of the person. And, work is valuable and we all do it and there are some parts of it we love, there’s some parts of we hate, and a lot in between but the more we relinquish ourselves, when we walk in the door at work, the more we lose I think in life.
[00:07:22] And so that’s a general statement. And the things I feel bad about and work with the times that I was not authentic, the times I didn’t take a risk, the times I was too fearful and Bree, we shared one of those in our class. So, there was a time in Large-scale Social Change class when I decided to show contrary to everything I’ve been told. It was a 36-minute video. And, I knew people would be like, Oh God, she’s throwing 36 minutes. What is this about? But it was a video that was about the Civil Rights Movement. And I thought it was really important that people see what happened.
[00:08:01] Not just hear about it in a sanitized way by reading in a book but really see the violence and the work that was done. And I knew it was hard to watch. It’s very hard to watch. But I decided to show it because I thought it was that important. Bree, why don’t you start?
[00:08:14] Bree: So, from my perspective when that video was shown I was the only black person in the class. I mean, they were amazing allies and advocates and activists honestly in the class but I was the only black person in the class and I remember being so viscerally moved by the images I was seeing I just started crying.
[00:08:37] And you see people getting hosed, you see people getting attacked by dogs. And it was very violent. That is what happens as people walk down the streets trying to protest, to get equal rights, to get recognition, to get rights that they deserved as being an integral part of this country. Those attacks by the state, by individuals by, I mean, it was just really, really horrible. And I was crying in the class and I think I was just really tuned into it. And then at some point I started looking around and there were faces of people looking sad or being upset but no one else was crying.
[00:09:25] And I just felt like, does anyone feel this? It felt so personal to me. And I think I started thinking about maybe people are not likely to cry or don’t want to be embarrassed in public or whatever it is. But I couldn’t shake that feeling of being very alone at that moment and that I was experiencing this pain alone. And I know Nora also…
[00:09:55] Nora: Okay. So, at the same time, I’m watching it as the instructor and I’m watching the class to make sure kind of people are okay or, you know, tuned in actually. I was concerned about people not being engaged enough. And it was the, I think it was the fourth year I was teaching the class and every year I teach I have a hard time holding back tears when I watch it.
[00:10:18] It’s very emotional for me. And I kind of hid behind the being a teacher and held back those tears and didn’t show them. And that was not authentic. And that meant at the end of the day that Bree felt more alone because I didn’t bring myself fully out there. And that was a painful lesson for me.
[00:10:43] Bree: And I think that’s something that I’ve also wondered about at work and I’m glad that you shared how it affected you because I think without leaders sharing how things are affecting them or touching them in some way then you can’t help but believe that people either don’t care or don’t know unless someone tells you explicitly this is what we care about. This is what we’re doing about it. This is our priority. How can you be expected to understand or believe anything to the contrary when they are still talking? And I remember, I think you asked, like, do you want to talk or stay a little bit after? And I just, at that moment, I just couldn’t do any, feel anything. It was just like, okay. I just have to get out of here.
[00:11:32] Nora: What if, you know, what if I had been able to show more emotion and you had and maybe it would have turned the conversation in the class, right? Maybe it would have allowed other people to key in because we would have modeled the way rather than you sitting there alone feeling that, you know, and that’s why authenticity is so important because we all have one life and it’s important to us to be authentic but it’s also important because it brings forth authenticity from other people. And if you want to open up a conversation, if you want to have some change, you’ve got to take the first step.
[00:12:13] You can’t ask other people to do it. You’ve got to take it to or take it with people.
On Fear of Repercussions
[00:12:19] Bree: And in the spirit of the kind of taking things with people, I wonder, and this is something that all of my friends are chatting about or just in conversations, it’s like, but I’m afraid. I want to be authentic. I want to bring my full self to work. I am afraid of what will happen.
[00:12:37] What are the repercussions? What if I get fired? Honestly, I mean, that’s a big one. I’m new to the company. I don’t want to be seen as a troublemaker trying to start this kind of conversation. I have a friend who works at a VC and she is the only black person on her firm, a very close community.
[00:12:58] They have 10 to 15 people. It’s very small and she’s always felt very supported there. And then right after George Floyd was killed, we were on the phone I think a Friday. So yeah and we were still at work but we’re both crying half the morning just saying mostly that no one at her job had said anything. And now she felt so afraid to be the one to speak up. And there was a lot of anxiety about being the only person of color to speak up. No one else was going to, but also she could not go back into another call and hear someone ask her how are you without either bursting into tears or just completely shutting down.
[00:13:42] So I’m curious about that of you get to that point of wanting to be authentic and you know there are so many fears and worry.
[00:13:52] Nora: I guess I want to respond to that both in terms of the idea of fear and the idea of risk. Because the risks are real, you could get fired, you could get shunned, you could get censured, you could be ridiculed, you know, all of those things absolutely can happen. And so, it involves in some way conquering fear or acting what’s courage is, is not having a fear, but acting in the face of fear and taking some risks.
[00:14:21] And I think in some ways it’s, again, starting with you, acknowledging the fears are real. The risk is real. I think there’s something to be said for how do you generally deal with risk and fear? You know, we all tend to have a general operating style that we have or a default, you know. Some of us kind of back off and go into ourselves and try to play it safe because it’s just too terrifying to take action.
[00:14:49] Others and I would put myself in this category is when I’m afraid or when there’s a risk, I move forward cause I’m better off in action than in sitting there. And I’m not very good at not acting and that has its downsides too. So then not one is not better than the other. But kind of what is your general response?
[00:15:08] And for me, I remember the things that I didn’t do and those are the ones that are painful. You know, like the example from the class we had together, those are painful. The things that I’ve done and made mistakes, I’ve made many, they’re not as painful for me. They just don’t ring as hard. And I think I’ve been fortified by a couple of things.
[00:15:29] One was from my family. I mentioned that when I was nine, we moved to a very upper-class community. I’m Jewish. My family was poor, my grandparents were immigrants and so we were really the first different people who moved into this community. And I was accused of stealing people’s horses because I was the only dark hair child around, you know, things like that. And I remember at dinner time conversation where my mother asked my father that he had been in the army and he was and I may get these titles wrong but he had went in as a private and then he’d get promoted to Sergeant and then he’d be demoted to corporal and then he’d go back and forth and my mother never understood what rank he was. And so, we asked him what was that about, what happened? And he said that he kept being called, excuse me, trigger alert, a WOP, which is a derogatory term for somebody who’s Italian. And he would get into fights. Again, he looked, he had very, very dark black hair and I said but you weren’t Italian. Why did you fight? And he said, because if they’ll call you a WOP, they’ll call you a Kike, they’ll call you an N-word, they’ll call you something awful and you have to stand up and fight every single time. And that certainly has informed how I look at speaking up.
Small Steps/Actions in the Workplace – Seeding Awareness
[00:16:52] Bree: One of my friends works at an academic institution in higher education and she is brand new, right. She’s already a little bit nervous about just being in the position. I’m new to this. I’ve actually never done this before.
[00:17:15] I’ve just gotten my MBA. So, I’m kind of close to the age of these other people who are in the same MBA program and I’m doing a leadership development program and the person, he was my boss. He was a professor. He doesn’t get it. And I don’t want to push too hard for, again, those reasons of fear, what if I get fired? Or what if people just don’t want to work with me. But what do I have influence over and what can I do? What is a small thing I can do? What is the thing that you can do even if the system is against you? And right now she’s decided, okay, let me talk to my boss who was a professor on a class on leadership. They do not say the word race once in this class. It was an MBA class on leadership. I could go, you know, aggressively and try to figure out why and how or I can ask questions. Like she’s kind of figuring out what is her place and she decided I’m going to ask questions and kind of see where this is coming from.
[00:18:31] Why not? Why isn’t that word just included or just the differences in how leadership looks from a race perspective. And her boss said, well, you know, then I would have to add gender, I would have to add other elements of identity into this class. This changes the syllabus in some way. Maybe people will say how come there’s only one class on race and not multiple classes on race.
[00:18:59] So there’s that kind of fear of the repercussions of what if students are now angry and upset that I didn’t spend more time on it or that I didn’t talk about their specific identity or that… Those are definitely considerations. And I would challenge. And as she did kind of challenge this person to think about what is the cost of not doing anything. It’s very easy to see the cost of me taking action, you know, if I say an external statement, if I put this in my syllabus, then these are all the XYZ repercussions. And you’re currently living in a world where there are repercussions, right? They’re already have a lot of costs and maybe this will actually be a benefit.
[00:19:52] How might those benefits outweigh the costs that you’re seeing? And again, she didn’t want to push too hard. She’s just entering this conversation. She understands her boss is very new to this conversation and what she ended up having it and just like waiting, seeing where it went next. And he told her like, I don’t know if we can do this, right, I have all these fears. I don’t know if this can even be done. And she just found out this week that he’s now talking to other administration and faculty about how do they include this overall in the curriculum.
Building Community and Belonging
I think it’s really important to have that space of people who can talk to you about those things and share with you and make you feel in a lot of ways that you’re not alone, especially when there are fear and uncertainty. I know when I was at Haas all the time we had students visiting and one student, she was a prospective black student.
[00:20:52] And she’s like so what is the deal here? Like what is going on here? I can see that there are not a lot of black kids at this school. How do you feel? Do you feel like you belong?
[00:21:13] You have people who are really, I mean, honestly could go other places. They have other options, talented people. Okay. If you get into Haas, you can likely get into all kinds of other schools that you want to go to. You ended up choosing a place that makes you feel like you belong and a place that makes you feel like you don’t have to live in that fear of if I speak up, am I representative of every single person who may happen to look like me and wanting to be just another student sometimes and not have a second job of recruiting students who look like you.
[00:21:51] Nora: Yeah. It’s such an undue burden. It’s such an undue burden you carry as a single black person in the workplace or in the class at Haas. I think building a community is part of the answer here. I think a lot of people who come to Haas are natural bridgers. People who like my own background is I’ve lived in lots of different ethnic communities that are not my own. I’ve lived in all-black communities. I’ve lived in all Latino communities and I tend to operate between spaces.
[00:22:29] Like social enterprise between for profit. I tend to go to those places. And I think a lot of people at Haas are bridgers in some way. It may not be about race. It may not be about gender but it may about kind of old-world or home country and the new world. It may be rural and urban and, you know, there are lots of ways to bridge communities.
[00:22:53] And I hope that part of the burden gets on all of us to actively take that role. So that gets lifted off the shoulders of the people on who obviously it is always put. But I think the rest of us need to accept that burden and the sense of agency and that we have a choice to change it. And if we don’t do anything, we’re complicit.
[00:23:23] Bree: I had an interesting journey to Haas. My partner and I were like, let’s move to California. As I said, I worked at Disney and I was like, I could work here forever and
[00:23:41] And I want to see what change I can make. So, I was looking at schools that had good social impact programs in California. We had visited, you know, mountains and ocean, it’s like, how do I move to California first? And once we had decided on California, I was like, I’m clearly going to Stanford.
[00:24:00] Yeah, Stanford, it’s a great MBA program. They have this center for social innovation. I can’t wait to go there. It’s really exciting. And I started talking to someone. I had a friend at Disney who had gone to Stanford. And so, she was like, let me connect you also with my friend who actually went to Stanford undergrad but went to Haas and she can tell you a little bit about the social impact program there if you’re curious.
[00:24:25] Never bad to learn more about other places. I’ve heard of Berkeley, you know, it’s a great school. So, I was like, yeah, I’ll talk to her. And her name is Victoria Whitaker. She was actually a Haas student ambassador. I didn’t know this at the time. So, she had some here also is a black woman. Really amazing. I just love her. And we just clicked so instantly and she wasn’t pushing me to go to Haas. She was just like, this is my experience at Haas. I really enjoyed it. Come visit if you’d like and we’ll meet up. So, I was like, Oh yeah, sure. I’m coming to California anyway so might as well. And I visited Haas first before I visited Stanford. And my visit to Haas was amazing. I mean, people were so willing to answer any question to help. I like what you said about being a bridge, Nora, it’s like whatever you previously did to where you want to go.
[00:25:23] And so what do you want to go? What do you want to do? How can I support you in your journey? And it was weird. I was like, why are these people who really have no stake in my life wanting to be nice and helpful? And, the social impact program sounded great. I’d heard about all these different classes. This is exciting. I actually didn’t want to leave. I had to leave halfway through the day because I had to get to Stanford for my
[00:25:55] And so this is the days pre-COVID when there used to be traffic. It takes so long to get from Berkeley to Palo Alto and then my class was canceled. And so, yeah, I was like, I’m just going to go to the business school and try to talk to someone. And when I got there, I noticed that the admissions person wasn’t even in the meeting place. So, it was a bunch of students who all knew that the tour was canceled, but we were like, maybe they’ll just come to the meeting place and talk to us about something. And so, we’re all gathered there and no one comes. Me and two other people were like, do you want to just go to admissions ourselves and try to just talk to someone?
[00:26:33] So we went over there and started talking to the admissions directors and they were very nice and friendly. And we were like, can we talk to any student ambassadors or anything like that? They’re like, just go to the courtyard, talk to anyone. And I was intimidated by that and also kind of really turned off.
[00:26:52] At Haas if I ask other any students then I would get a direct introduction. At the very least they would come out to the courtyard and say like, Hey, this is this person, do you want to talk to them? But in this case, it was just go figure it out yourself. I really didn’t want to do that and didn’t know how to do that even.
[00:27:08] And so I was like, okay, actually, you know what, I’m going to go to the center for social innovation, go check it out and like hear what they do, you know, this is Stanford, they change the world. I was so excited. So, I went there, I said, can I talk to anyone who works in the center?
[00:27:21] Can you tell me about the programs you offer anything? And they said, we’re by appointment only, you can check online. And I was just like really turned off in comparison. And I mean, I think I have friends who go to Stanford and they’ve really enjoyed their time. Other people have had different experiences.
[00:27:41] But that was my experience and that really informed me. So, after I got in, I thought about that a lot. Like, where do I want to be? Where did I feel like I was supported and belonged in some ways? And where did people treat me like I was a person before they knew if I was “good enough”. And it felt like Haas was that place and had been that way the whole time. Every time I talked to one person they would connect me to two other people. And I did get that treatment at Stanford only after I was admitted.
[00:28:17] It really depends on you, your community, where you feel like you belong, what makes sense to you? And I couldn’t turn off that initial feeling that I wasn’t good enough just being myself.
[00:28:33] Nora: I’m so glad I asked you. I never knew that story is so compelling. I have two thoughts. One is it really maps to something I experienced when I came to Haas. I had taught undergrads and I taught community college and I taught middle school, but I never taught MBAs.
[00:28:50] And so one of the things I did was I contacted my colleagues, my counterpart at Harvard and Duke and Stanford and all of these other schools and most of them were very helpful. But we had a group then, I can’t remember the acronym for it, PSAG, Public Service Affinity Group. So as people like me doing social impact at the business goals and it was so young and new there was one of us at each school.
[00:29:17] And it was only like the top 10 business schools that had anything. But we would visit each other. So, every I think it was every six months or every quarter or whatever it was, we would meet at one person’s school or another. And the thing that was impactful for me, it was very similar to your experience in that I noticed when I went to the other schools or the difference coming from Haas. At Haas, if you’re walking behind somebody like to go out to the courtyard or to go into a classroom, the person in front of you will hold the door for you. That happened at none of the other schools. And it was so consistent, so regular.
[00:29:58] And there’s nothing as kind of symbolic as having the door slammed in your face, right? And so that really fits. I understand the feeling that you’re describing from that small experience. And it also brings up for me, it’s beyond the community. I think there’s another variable here that we haven’t talked about and that’s organizational culture. There is a culture that, you know, when I came to Haas, I wanted to infuse Haas with a sense of activism and social impact. Cause there was nothing. When I was hired, it was by student demand. Interviewed by two students, professor from Goldman, two professors from Haas, and the Dean. And it was like, we need to do something because our students are demanding this, what should we do?
[00:30:48] So when I came, I was really determined. This is not about me. This is not about a single course. This is not about people who go out to work and see social impact only. That’s it, that’s kind of our smallest circle but there are concentric circles around that. And because it’s Berkeley, because I really believe that this generation of students really wants to make a difference in the world, let’s try to infuse social impact into Haas.
[00:31:11] And I think this is like 15 years later, I think. And it’s tangible. You can feel it at Haas no matter what anybody does. I don’t care, you’re working in whatever company, wherever you are, that’s something that you, that you experienced during your two years of Haas in one way or another.
[00:31:35] And I think that is part of our culture as well. It’s only one of the things that makes me proud of Haas, but I think it’s really, really important that that culture gets translated when new people come to Haas, you know, and sit on our classes and they get it. They absolutely feel that culture of a meaningful difference in the world is not the change the world technology, great leader kind of thing of…
[00:31:59] At Stanford I think it’s different there, you know, they say change the world too but it’s a little different. And it’s a very, very much Berkeley. Which is contrast in my first job in life was teaching in an inner-city, middle school in Washington, DC. I think I was one of two whites. The students were 1400 African Americans and recent immigrants, students from Central America who didn’t speak any English. The culture of the school was so punitive and so dismissive and so insulting and that was the message that the kids got. And it was in so many ways communicated from…we had eight bodyguards in the hallways that will lock us in the classrooms. Right. I said I want to take the students on a field trip. People looked at me like I was nuts. Why would you do that? Why, you know, why would you trust your kids to take them out in the community?
[00:33:00] Well, I took them out to something I thought I had scheduled at the Pan American building which had an inside like a jungle, you know, an actual jungle inside the building. I thought it would be really, really interesting. And when we got there and I’ve made the appointment, all the arrangements, paid the money, Oh, they didn’t have our reservation.
[00:33:18]. Right. And so, we went to play around the Washington monument because it was open ground. These are middle schoolers, you know, and I wanted to give them something that was fun and not a slap in the face they had just gotten. And when we came back and talked about what did you like best, what they liked best seeing a tree, seeing trees. So, culture matters hugely. And we’re all…wherever we work, we’re talking a lot about the Haas culture, but you know, where you work, Bree, Sean, where you work, whoever is might be listening, your companies have cultures and you know them. And you know them especially if you’re new to the company because it’s like air, you know, you first taste it and smell it.
[00:34:08] And after you’re there for a while, it’s no longer so clear to you, but you know it. Especially if you’re a younger alumni, you know what the culture of your company is and everybody contributes to that. It’s not something that’s mandated from the top. And that’s back to kind of the authenticity.
[00:34:24] The more you bring yourself in, the more you can influence that culture. And sometimes it’s just by being a model, you know. I was teacher at Abraham Lincoln junior high school in DC, you know, was I remembered for anything I taught? Oh, hell no. You know, no, that wasn’t it. But maybe, maybe I was remembered as… And when I left the kids took up a collection and bought me a charm bracelet with a wishbone on it because I was moving to California.
The Little Things That Make a Huge Difference
[00:34:54] So maybe the fact that they had one person who they felt cared about them mattered. So, it’s those little, you know, we talk about microaggression. The other side of that is the many things that we do that can really make a difference in a culture. Cause you don’t know how you set off somebody else or a model for teach somebody else or somebody sees it in you and starts to do with themselves.
[00:35:20] And so the contribution to culture is really, really important.
[00:35:25] Bree: And I love that you talked about that, the little tiny things that really do make a huge difference. And I’ll talk about two examples. Like one at Haas actually, during days at Haas which is after we’re admitted but we haven’t decided. During days of Haas another girl who is black and there were not that many of us. I remember really clearly, we’re having lunch and she’s like, are you coming here? And I was like, I really feel like this is a great place from a cultural perspective, we had a diversity lunch even though it didn’t feel as diverse as it should have, the fact that a diversity lunch existed where people were talking about this felt like they’re thinking about this. There’s an entry point. She said, if you come, I’ll come. And there is this like the little tiny things that you have no idea how they’re going to make an impact. And honestly, if you’re an admissions director, there’s no way you’re going to know that. That those little things might happen, have two people get together, or whatever it is.
[00:36:23] And when our whole class was together, still not that many of us, we now at least had a community where we had enough power, where we could make a change. We’re noticing that the class beneath us had six black people. We were really pissed, obviously, because we had worked really hard.
[00:36:43] We were calling people, we were emailing people. We were telling we were doing everything that we could and we realized we can’t no one, two, few people can do this. This is a systems issue. These are the things you need to consider from a systemic standpoint.
[00:36:55] We needed the energy of people who were like, how can I think about this from my organization being in consortium, which these organizations to increase the number of underrepresented minorities in business.
[00:37:08] How do I think about it for my organization or race inclusion initiative and how do we go to the administration with a systemic plan and where do we each fit in here? Where do we go each have a role and as I’ve talked to my friends at their jobs, they’re wondering that they’re curious. It’s like, where is my role here?
[00:37:30] Nora: Right
Timing & Large Scale Social Change
[00:37:30] Sean: This is a question for you, Nora, because you know, in your research on large scale social movements and as we’re having this conversation, how does the perception of time play into all of this? And I ask this because on one hand there is a huge sense of urgency, right, but then on the other hand, there is the benefit of patience, right? How does time play into this?
[00:38:01] Nora: That’s such a great question, Sean. And, thank you, that’s really a terrific question. And so, I’ve two thoughts about it, that both the sense of urgency and patience are both required for social movements or large-scale social change. It’s not an either-or. This is not, you know, the black or white, or this is the gray area. And it plays out in a couple of different ways. The first way that occurs to me is, you know, in the large-scale social change class, it was about what are the different leverage you have to create change like a financial lever like you could boycott or you can incentivize right. Or communications lever. How you talk about something or how you name something. So we talk about those different levers but here’s the reality, if you look at about 200 different social movements over time and around the world, one of the takeaways is that if you’re a strategist, which you know, most MBAs, of course are, you can’t create, you can’t just go in and decide with a master strategy to create a large change. Like the Supreme court ruling on LGBTQ rights in the workplace or marriage equality, or you know, pick your issue.
[00:39:22] It didn’t just happen because somebody decided, okay, I’m going to do this.
[00:39:25] Sean: Hmm.
[00:39:26] Nora: It takes time. And over the years, it used to take decades and decades if not hundreds of years. Think about slavery, okay, it took hundreds and hundreds of years. And if you look there’s some wonderful stuff online. There’s a timeline that shows how long it took different social movements to pop and it’s taking less and less time you think about that marriage equality was less than a decade.
[00:39:50] Okay. So, time looks different over time. Right. But the other thing is that the most important thing you can do is be ready when something happens. And so, journalists know this really, really well. You can’t make something happen, but you can be prepared for when a moment happens. And it may not be the first moment.
[00:40:12] And we have George Floyd who was the what, how many numbered black man that was killed by the police. Right? Hundreds and hundreds came before. Why did it spark now? Or Rosa Parks was not the first person to refuse to get up from her seat on the bus. In fact, she was a third, they were waiting for the right person to mobilize, right?
[00:40:32] So you need to be ready and being ready means it’s like the kind of like a muscle social change, any kind of change. Even within a company. I’ll take it within a company. So, you take the risk and take the chance of saying small things, right? And gaining one ally or a small group of allies and you start to build, you build your muscle of speaking out and testing it in ways that are effective and testing, making a change over here that might be, I don’t know, the kind of food in the cafeteria, you know, the parking lot, whatever it is, but you’re building a muscle and you’re building your muscle and you’re gaining momentum and you’re gaining your skills and you’re gaining your allies so that when something happens you’re ready. You’re ready to move. Then is the sense of urgency. And before that, you have to have the patience, right, to build this muscle, to build your allies, to build your change mechanisms. So, you have to have patience on the early end and really leap to a sense of urgency when you get that opportunity.
[00:41:34] Does that make sense?
[00:41:35] Sean: Yeah, that makes perfect sense. I mean, it just brings me back to that Bill Gates quote that he often quotes how people tend to overestimate what they can accomplish in a year and underestimate what they can accomplish in 10. And you just made that message a lot more clear for me in that in the short term, we need to be taking a lot of small steps.
[00:41:59] Sean: And then it’ll compound to a large effect ultimately. And, sometimes we get so paralyzed with fear because we think that we need to do something drastic like tonight, you know, and that’s why some of these micro-movements come and go because people are just like, all right, I’m going to bang it out tonight.
[00:42:23] You know, just like a last-minute paper or something and hope this is all done by tomorrow but
[00:42:33] Nora: It’s not how lasting social change happens. Right. You’re moving a boulder, you’re moving a whole world and if want it to really last you’ve got to build some scaffolding under it to hold that so it doesn’t just fall back on you.
[00:42:52] Bree: I think that’s why I was so excited about different classes, like dialogues on race, of being something that’s internal, something that’s small, something that could have potential but also needs to in a lot of ways be activated in the right moment. And right now you have employers coming to you who are saying, I want to talk about inclusive interviewing and asking for that and being ready for that. But it’s only happening because we have employee resource groups who have started to educate and think about things. We have people who might be experts in and available to talk about these things. Consultants even in diversity and inclusion who can come and tell you about very effective ways you can do this. And people who have already started reflecting in the quiet, I would say in the quiet moments and it doesn’t feel like there’s ever really been real quiet moments, right? It’s always surging especially when it comes to unfortunately, black people being killed by the police and each one of those sparks has made some I think incremental shifts toward being able to have companies speak out so openly. And especially in this moment where everyone is at home and reflecting and can’t really meet to grieve with one another in their own groups. So, it comes out at work.
[00:44:27] Nora: Right. And to remember also that while you’re building that muscle inside and people are able to help people with, you know, inclusive interviewing and everything else, there’s a world that’s going to push change. And no company and no individual has complete control over that. And we’re in a moment of temps.
[00:44:46] If you’re sitting and thinking, Oh, it’s scary, you know, afraid to take this risk. And it really is a risk if I bring up this conversation, it’s a risk not to at this point because you have a value to have right now, an important value to add in your, you can kind of ride the wave of the world that’s coming, crashing down on companies if they don’t do anything. So, it’s not just your energy. It’s the energy that you’re riding from outside.
[00:45:16] Bree: And I remember, I think we started talking about this, of what happened at Packard with a small group of people. So, I would love for you to share that story of kind of what a small group of people, since we were talking about community, being in community, needing to have other people kind of in this fight with you, so that you can get things done. What happened there?
[00:45:39] Nora: So, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation is one of the largest foundations in the country. It funds internationally. And from Haas, we have seven fellows that go there to work. And so that’s where my information comes from and they work in conservation science, reproductive health, children, families, and communities.
[00:45:59] And the Packard Foundation is a family foundation. And it’s been doing in many ways, bold things, you know, they fund abortion for instance. There aren’t many foundations that fund that but it’s been a fairly homogeneous organization and the fellows, for instance, stand out by being a very, very heterogeneous group, almost all people from people of color.
[00:46:20] And, they’ve been pushing and pushing and in fairness to some of the senior leaders within Packard said we need to do more. We need to do better. And there’ve been conversations, very reflective conversations for a number of years now. And, you know, some has changed, but it’s been limited. And the foundation world as a whole, not just Packard is fairly risk-averse and fairly old school in many ways.
[00:46:48] And three people within the foundation decided enough and they wrote a letter. They vetted it with various people of color affinity group, other affinity groups. And these are not senior leaders in the foundation. We’ll make this really clear. They may be a program officer or program assistant.
[00:47:08] These are not the senior leaders. And they wrote a letter of demands, which they presented to the board of trustees and the board members although legally they’re required to be open by law 501c3s are, but you know, they’re in a board room, nobody, it was going to storm Los Altos for the boardroom.
[00:47:27] But in this day and age, they think, they live-streamed the board meeting. And so, everybody at Packard could hear it or beyond, I guess, if they wanted but everybody at Packard could hear it. And these three, they were all women, presented their list of demands and the reasoning for it to the board of trustees and the board of trustees, you know, turned around and said things like you know, this is not our lived experience.
[00:47:55] You know, you’re educating us and they almost spot made a change. For instance, one of their programs is called population and reproductive health. Well, think about the world population. In colonial societies, population control, population limit. Right? And so, the head of that program got up and said, you know, can we get rid of population… has terrible, terrible meanings and many people in this world. So it was dropped on the spot. And it was three people who decided enough. Enough. And I haven’t spoken to them or ask them directly this question but I have to believe that COVID, I have to believe the killing of George, that all of these motivated them to act in a time when the trustees would be more open to it because they saw it around the world and that these people had the courage to step forward and to take this position. And I think it’s something like 120 employees roughly at the foundation, over a hundred signed the petition. I won’t say this came from nowhere. It didn’t but it really burst onto the scene in a huge, huge way and the power of a few people to mobilize and get something done.
[00:49:18] Sean: I think that’s an important message for our Haas alumni and Haas students to really stand up and be leaders.
[00:49:29] Nora: It’s not the formal position. You become a leader by doing something that leads.
[00:49:35] Bree: One thing I think we haven’t touched on as much in talking about this work and doing, trying to make a change, especially in terms of diversity and in terms of conversation about race and black people in companies specifically is the frustration that’s going to come along the way whenever you’re leading any kind of social movement and especially if your company is not in the business of diversity inclusion and in making these kinds of changes. So, the frustration that arises for, again, this group of my friends, other Haasies who are like I went into work and I wanted to start the conversation and my company said, this is a priority, right?
[00:50:34] Diversity is a priority. We want to make this part of everything that we do. And when I suggested, how can we think about bringing in people for safe space conversation? My company said, well, thinking about time and competing priorities that we have or actually doesn’t, it doesn’t really work right now.
[00:50:56] And especially being a junior person at a company or at least a new person, even if you have a fair amount of power since you graduated was an MBA degree, being a new person and hearing that, you know, that actually this is a competing priority, hearing this is going to take money and right now during COVID we don’t have any resources to devote to this or seeing that only people who have always been in the conversation are there. So, people who may be,
[00:52:01] We all said this. It was important to us. We took an anonymous poll even and said this. And so, the frustration I felt in having put together a conversation and having very thoughtfully made sure that it was planned out weeks in advance and everyone who could make it would make it and making sure that our leader was also on board with this.
[00:52:27] And then seeing that the participation rate being, you know, seven people out of 30. And, I think that feeling almost felt like what’s the point? Are people not going to engage in this? I thought we said that we cared about this.
[00:52:50] And one thing that I did with the urging actually of Nora, my manager also who is an amazing advocate but with Nora as well as to express my feelings of frustration and hurt to our leader, to let them know how this experience affected me and not to necessarily blame anyone, but to start the conversation by saying, you know, this experience of planning this out and thinking about this and being really excited and seeing the turnout made me feel like this is not a priority. And I have heard from the executives that this is a priority. So, I would love to talk to you about this more. And, my leader was really gracious and spoke with me. Nora doesn’t know this. We talked and she said thank you for your feedback.
[00:53:50] And she said at this level I usually don’t receive a lot of feedback. People don’t tell me directly how they’re feeling or what’s going on. And these are the things that I’m thinking that we can do next so that everyone on the team is involved. And I’d love to hear also like what you think.
[00:54:09] And it felt very much like a partnership. But I would have not, would have not done that had it not been for advocacy and support of my community, including people like Nora, to say that speaking up and sharing your experience is worthwhile and potentially risky. And I will, you know, I will review to help you with the language and the words and I hope it makes a change and I hope it makes a difference.
[00:54:43] And for me it has felt like it did.
[00:54:46] Nora: I’m so delighted, you know? I think it’s the psychologist in me Bree that has reminded of there’s going to be frustration. You know that, right? You’re going to have other, other very, very frustrating experiences is not the last one and hurtful experiences.
[00:55:02] But the difference between hurt and trauma is that in trauma, you have no sense of agency. You are helpless and you can do nothing. And so, you get yourself out of it being traumatic to the extent that you take some action or have some agency and decide a place for yourself, make a choice. Doesn’t mean you always have to speak up, but you have to do something so you don’t disappear.
[00:55:36] Sean: That’s powerful. Thank you so much for sharing that.
[00:55:40] Nora: So proud of you. Good for you.
[00:55:43] Bree: I mean, it was hard to. I definitely have… I feel safer to speak up in some ways I think just because of support. And when we, my kind of message and my letter, I got some feedback, like, are you sure you want to do this? Are you sure you want to send this out like that? You know what if, but if that’s something that also, you know, people who are listening might hear from their friends, right.
[00:56:10] You might hear that, like, are you sure? This can put you at risk? And that’s why I think it’s important. And it’s, I mean, it’s important to hear that, to know your risks before you walk into something and didn’t know what the options were, and it’s important to have your support group who, either can help you figure out, like, what is the most effective way to communicate this?
[00:56:32] With the individual you’re speaking to or have to even push you if you need a little bit more of a push to speak up because as you said, Nora, there is a risk in not speaking up as well. And for me, I think the biggest risk would be that the same thing would either repeat itself or the conversation would not have continued at all.
[00:56:56] In which case it would not only affect me personally, it would affect any other new person coming to my organization.
Dealing with Conflicting Emotions
[00:57:05] Sean: This has been so enlightening, just sitting here listening and just the sinking so many things to even my past, just, you know. And I want to share this because I’m reminded that at times of fear you sometimes have to think back.
[00:57:25] And I think the times that you did overcome fear, right? Where you did take action, that we’ve all done this, we’ve all overcome fear. That’s how we are, where we are today. And like, I totally forgot that in college, you know, there was an incident, a racial incident where I was on the phone with my friend.
[00:57:50] She was black and I guess someone was there drunk. This middle of the night was throwing racial slurs at her. And she called me. She was pretty upset and it escalated pretty quickly and the cops came. I happened to know this other group of people as well that, you know, were the perpetrators and they were like really close friends with my girlfriend at the time. And there was this huge conflict, right. There actually was no conflict, but you know, in my head it seemed like there was this conflict. It’s like, well, do I stand by my girlfriend or friends or do I stand with my friend? And I realized that it’s neither that. It’s about standing up for what’s right. You know? And you’ll start to realize that when you think that there’s conflict when you think that you’re afraid because there’s this imaginary conflict. There isn’t, you do what’s right.
[00:58:49] That’s what’s most important. And so, so yeah, you know, I documented everything that I heard on the phone and ended up being used in court. And it was, it was really important.
The Dangers of Labeling Starting with Kids
[00:59:09] Bree: I appreciate that you did that, Sean, and also that you’ve brought up that story because I think there is something in here also about in terms of, you know, morality or right and that being associated with what the incident versus the person. This is something that I think a lot about. I worked as head of operations for an elementary school.
[00:59:35] And in thinking about the environment we wanted to create for the students, we thought a lot about the terms that people use with one another. Right? You’re a good student. You’re a good kid. You’re a bad kid. Not like your work is not meeting my expectations. Like how do we work on this together so that this is better, but you’re, you are just that?
[01:00:02] And, or, you know, even that your action of hitting another student that hurt them, that action is that, you know, it’s a painful action to do to another person. Instead, that kid is bad, we should suspend them, expel them, get rid of them. And that it’s funny cause we have this whole concept of cancel culture as if it’s something new and it’s not. Anything that, you know, we’ve decided who does and does not belong in so many different ways in so many different places throughout history.
[01:00:36] And, unfortunately that includes schools and young kids, especially black kids and black and brown kids being the ones who are now just excluded completely and are not thought about for their actions. And like, how do we help think about what is the root of this action or how we can improve how the student reacts into difficult situations instead of where we labeled the kid or we labeled a person.
[01:01:04] So even with your girlfriends’ friends who, I don’t know them at all. I would imagine they’re not bad people because I imagine most people are not bad or good people necessarily. They do things that are not right, are not what is expected in a hurtful really. And that’s really the, like how do we talk to them about actions that might be hurtful to other people without calling people out by this name, because we know that by calling someone or labeling someone, they shut down immediately. There’s a big shutdown feature if someone tells me I’m a bad whatever number of things, wife, partner, sister, daughter. And like, I just think about all the reasons why I’m not.
[01:01:59] Sean: I completely agree with that because that’s what I also felt at the time. I mean, this is all coming back now. This is so long ago, but you know, I was just going through and I remember receiving, you know, threats. And I also agree that I don’t believe that human beings are inherently evil or bad. It’s that they are brought up a certain way with certain biases that they don’t even realize.
[01:02:30] And, instead of labeling them, we need to teach them. We need to reeducate them, uneducated and reeducate them.
[01:02:38] Nora: I just like to jump in here too, that, you know, a behavior does not make a person. We’ve all done things that we’re not proud of and we wouldn’t want to be labeled just that kind of person. But the other thing that occurs to me is if you flip the coin from doing something bad, that there’s a lot of research on what makes heroes.
[01:02:56] Like what made people, you know, rescue people in world war II from concentration camps and what made people go in and rescue people in the floods and, you know, in New Orleans, and all of this research. And I wish I could remember the particular study I saw, but it was representative of others. And it was not that they were different in kind wasn’t who they were as a person, right? It wasn’t they were better or more right than anybody else. It was that they responded to the circumstances and what was called for at the time that that’s what heroism is. And if we think of that in terms of what we’ve been talking about, like speaking up at work, you know, it’s a heroic act.
[01:03:38] It’s what the times call for. It’s what the pressure is to do the right thing in the right moment. And it seems that ordinary people have that ability given the right set of circumstances. So, we’re all able to be heroic when we’re called on today.
Internal vs. External Messaging
[01:04:06] Bree: The other thing that we started talking about was okay, there are a lot of people who are curious about the internal versus the external way that a company shows up, especially in talking about race. So, when a lot of them, of the protest, started for the killing of George overall in police brutality and racial injustice, some companies started making external statements.
[01:04:33] Some companies said we’re educating ourselves and we’re planning on making an external statement. Some companies have thus far said nothing. So, a friend of mine who is a VC firm, her company has said nothing externally and part of it and in a lot of different ways is as having to do with fear.
[01:04:52] What happens if we lose our client base that we need. There’s an element of time here. If we wait to say this until later or until after we get certain rounds of funding or whatever it is, then we’ll have more freedom to do so. So, at some point later in the future, maybe we’ll do the something that we say that we care about now, but we just can’t do it right now. It’s just not the right time. And that is leading her to be very frustrated. And so, from an external perspective, maybe she feels like she can’t move the needle. But from an internal perspective, there are ways in which she can talk to investors in which she can think about who are the people we are investing in. Are they people of color? She can start shifting a little bit of the mindset around, look at all the risks of making a statement and thinking about, okay, if we don’t make a statement, what does it say also? Again, bringing back to the benefits of making a statement that sometimes doesn’t get factored in.
[01:06:03] We only think of the costs or knowing that none of your competitors are making a statement. Actually, that could be a competitive advantage but how do we get people to see that way? So, the internal, external debate, I think, is something I’ve been hearing and also thinking about a lot. I’m very proud of how the Walt Disney company showed up externally in terms of they put out an amazing video from our black employee resource group and people are sharing their experiences and it’s just really powerful. It’s emotional at the end.
[01:06:39] There’s a statement about when we all got together and said, Wakanda forever, like, this is what it feels like.
[01:06:47] Being in community and together and being on board, I was super proud of that and proud of the way that we’ve also shown up internally and having safe space conversations and executives being champions of our employee resource groups. So, there’s like some, some tension though, sometimes between intro on the external and Nora, do you have an opinion on that?
[01:07:11] Nora: I have a couple thoughts. One is that I think almost, if you do nothing, you’re going to be swept up by the wave of the change in the world. It was kind of like, let’s switch the conversation. It’s like, COVID. Right. You can’t sit there and expect, well, we’re just going to keep having classes and we’re just going to keep doing things as normal and we’ll be fine because it doesn’t work that way. Well, racism is the same kind of disease; it’s there. It’s out there. It’s infecting us all the time. And it’s not just up to you as an internal employee. Recognize that there is a wave that is coming at your company. Whether they like it or not, they’re going to have to say or do something.
[01:07:57] There’s really not a choice because there are repercussions. This is where the to do nothing is the bigger risk, I think. Okay. Because they’re going to get pushed by others and they’re going to get outspoken for outed by a competitor or some of their customers are gonna say, why didn’t you do this? And it may not be the expected customers.
[01:08:15] You don’t know. You just don’t know. So, I would say, you know, when I came to Haas, social impact was not a thing. It just wasn’t. And I met with a former Dean. His name was Bud Cheit, Cheit Hall. It’s named after Bud, who was a Dean at Haas. And when I came, I was hired by a former Dean who told me that there were faculty that were against anything in social impact.
[01:08:42] Really? Give me their names? Okay. So, a list of like 20 faculty. It was a lot out of 75. And I went about interviewing them to understand. My first instinct was to understand because I had never taught an MBA program at the line. Let me find out. And one of the people I interviewed was Bud Cheit.
[01:09:01] He said to me, it doesn’t matter what people are saying, ride the wave of the student energy and you will never go wrong. There’s always a wave. It’s your customers. It’s your other employees. It’s the external world. It’s your competitors. You are not alone. And so, when you think about can you do something for your organization?
[01:09:30] Remember, you’re not the only one doing anything. There are lots of pressures and get attuned to them. That’s one reason I taught the social movements class was to see and to provide a framework for what you were seeing, so you could see what was happening and what was working, but you’re not alone.
[01:09:45] So, don’t make that mistake of thinking it’s either me or it doesn’t happen. Be careful of that. It’s trap. And the other thing is, you know, that again, that sense of agency, there’s always something you can do. Think hard, you’re MBAs, you’re smart. You’ve been trained in strategy. Think hard, you know, is it the people you serve?
[01:10:05] Is it somebody in another department? Is it some other way of looking at the way you deliver a product or a service? There is something there that you can do, that you can advance this conversation and even more than the conversation and the action. Look for it. It’s there somewhere. Your job is to find it.
[01:10:24] Sean: I think that message of agency is so key because even for myself, I continuously educate myself, you know, student always, just gonna throw that out there.
[01:10:39] Sean: But you know, I remember that the week of George Floyd’s murder, I was, I did feel a little paralysis. Right. And I just continued doing what I’m doing, which is interview people and host these podcasts and get the stories out. But I started realizing there was something else I could do.
[01:11:05] In the conversations that I have with my parents and the conversations that I have with my family, with my close friends, and really catching things when, you know, they’re just blatantly wrong and correcting my own family, right, in certain beliefs that you know, that I didn’t realize I had these biases before and acknowledging that.
[01:11:31] And I think starting with that really made me feel empowered that I could have this conversation with other people. Right. If you can’t even have this conversation with yourself, with your family, how do you know?
[01:11:48] It is scary, right. So that was a place where I started that I just stumbled into it.
[01:11:55] Bree: And I love that you started there in terms of not leaving it to be that there’s nothing I can do. Right. You didn’t stay in paralysis. There were still ways to take action. There are always ways to take some small action. And even if it is a conversation, even if it is listening to someone who you want to understand more, whatever it is, there’s always ways to take an action and slowly moved something.
Our Personal Power
[01:12:28] And I was just remembering actually last year I was really, really fortunate to be nominated, to be the commencement speaker for my class. And, I talked about power in my speech. That was what my whole speech was about. And I was thinking, I mean, if I think anything short-term way, I’m like, Oh, I really don’t have that much power.
[01:12:50] I’m sitting at my house right now, you know, cute little small room. I have a small and amazing family. I have a good group of friends, but like, where do I really have influence?
[01:13:03] I wanted to write about power and there’s a very specific reason. And it is because I think very often, I don’t know how much effect my voice has. It’s very, it’s really hard to understand without, especially people, you know, telling you later on or saying that one thing sparked this thing in me.
[01:13:24] It’s hard to know when people don’t always do that. But over the course of my time at Haas I started writing different articles. I sent out a communication to people every week for things like Food@Haas. And so, I knew people were reading it even if they didn’t respond. And so, I started thinking about that aspect of people reading it and knowing when events are and how to get there and things like that.
[01:13:50] And that just by sending it out, I don’t know who will read it and who will take it and who won’t, but it does have power. It changes people’s behaviors. And that’s such a simple behavior of like now people’s behavior has changed.
[01:14:04] Sean: I have to add to that your writing has a lot of power. When you shared that article that Haas posted right on your LinkedIn, I read it. And it had a huge impact on me because it made me realize as an immigrant in this country I can’t remember the last time I’ve had to ever think about my race.
[01:14:28] Right. I don’t walk around thinking, Oh, I’m Asian, you know, I’m going to walk into a grocery store and think I’m Asian or I don’t have the cops pull me over and think I’m Asian, you know, like I don’t have to think about my race and that’s crazy. I’m an immigrant in this country. Right. And, it further just propelled me down this path of thinking that even in Asian culture anti-blackness is so pervasive.
[01:14:57] It’s so pervasive. We have these ideas that, you know, white skin is beautiful and it hit me like a truck. I was like, this is anti-blackness. My friends need to know this. And so I shared that, I reshared Bree’s article and then I added my commentary on top of what I just shared and it was shocking that, you know, I think I looked at it last week or two weeks ago, 3000 people have seen it, right. That’s crazy. I don’t even think my LinkedIn network is that big.
[01:15:38] And people are reading it and people are liking it. I think that’s right getting further shared. And, even to have that type of impact in the Asian community to rethink how we were brought up.
[01:15:52] To rethink and reevaluate the unconscious biases that we hold. It’s really important. So please continue sharing Bree.
[01:16:00] Bree: Thanks, Sean. And for that, the article that I shared and again, it was from Haas. So, I had the link back to basically Berkeley but the article that I shared on LinkedIn yeah. It had 25,000 views. And I was like, who are these people?
[01:16:18] Nora: Gosh.
[01:16:19] Bree: And it was like slowly steadily going up. And it was just weird because the way that I kind of put it out there is Haas has said, I wrote it last year being black at Berkeley Haas. Haas said were putting out voices again that of students that we’ve heard who are, who are black students, amplifying voices.
[01:16:39] Do you mind if we share this again? I was like, Oh yeah, sure. Sounds good. I did it write it and I was a little bit nervous again. And I mean, in general, I put a lot of myself into that. So, all of those feelings came back up but I thought, you know, maybe it could be helpful for people. And so, I said, sure, share it.
[01:16:59] And then I was like, Oh, I never shared this. I honestly never shared it last year on LinkedIn. I don’t know if I was nervous or I was building a school or who knows what the reason, I don’t remember but I didn’t share it. And so, I was like, Oh, maybe I’ll just share it. And it felt so small to me. I knew people would read it. I knew people would react because that was already happening on LinkedIn with other people’s articles. But I don’t think I could have imagined the scale to which that would look like. And I mean, there are people writing to me all the time. It’s just like your article really impacted me.
[01:17:32] It really resonated with me. I go to business school in a different place. I work at a completely different place. I’ve just had this experience. I haven’t had this experience and this resonated with me and it was, it’s pretty insane to have that kind of power and impact. And I think that probably everyone who is listening has that kind of power.
[01:17:53] It is about kind of your networks in some ways, but also vulnerably and authentically bringing your voice to the conversation and how you do that. And when I was doing the commencement speech planning, I remember looking at other speeches a lot because what were other commencement speeches like? I honestly, my undergrad one, I didn’t love at all. I was like, okay. It was like the CEO of Coca Cola. He was talking about buying more Coke and things. I was in Atlanta so it made a lot of sense, but it was like, the whole time I was just thinking, what does this have to do with us?
[01:18:30] Like, this has nothing to do with us. And so, I thought I want to make my speech about us. That is what will resonate with people. Also, I’m so lucky I have the ear of thousands of people from all over the world, 40% of our classes, international. I mean that is crazy. And I represent 1% of my class as a black woman. So, having that kind of scale, look at things of like I could have this kind of impact just being invited to speak on the stage. So how can I use that? And what does that look like? I could use it to just talk about normal things that people talk about at commencements. We did it, we’re here, you know, or I could think about what people need to know and what people want to know about themselves and their experiences.
[01:19:27] I mean, I had so many amazing experiences with my class. They’re fantastic and thoughtful and incredible, have built so many incredible enterprises themselves, and traveled together and loved each other. And now are going into the world with so much power. I have to talk about power. I have to talk about privilege.
[01:19:46] I have to talk about my privilege to just stand up here and say these words and for people to listen and have a wrapped audience to listen. And I think even in very small conversations of anyone who trusts you, anyone who cares about you, whether it’s your family members like Sean was saying, whether it’s your friends, people who already love you, we have power in sharing who we are and sharing the things we care about and in sharing our opinions authentically.
[01:20:19] Again, not everyone will be on board with you. They won’t all agree with you. They won’t all listen. And you don’t know what will happen next. You have no idea because there could be very good things to happen next. And even if people don’t tell you they’re listening.
[01:20:34] Nora: Okay. Alright. You know, you reminded me of something. One item we haven’t talked about that I’d like to bring up is about empathy.
[01:20:44] Bree: Hmm.
[01:20:45] Nora: And you reminded me of it because I also did my graduation speech for my doctorate and I thought long and hard, it’s a lot of pressure, right? I mean, you want to say something that’s meaningful and real for you.
[01:20:57] And so, I talked about interdependence and that the lesson I had to learn, this was a school psychologist, PhD in psychology was not to be so damn fiercely independent, which I can be. Trust me. But to be more interdependent and that nobody gets to where we are on our own. And so that reminded me of the quality of empathy that we bring to this. Because we’re talking about how we speak up and that is critical and absolutely. There’s another way to speak up. And that is to really hear other people’s voices. And to deeply understand them. And that’s an actual action that we all can take.
[01:21:37] It may seem quiet, but it’s critical. It’s part of building those bridges, you know, and helping people understand how what they feel is not that different. And we know what hurt feels like. We know what exclusion feels like. It made me look at it differently at different times and certainly, there’s a difference of political power, but if we can help understand and connect those feelings person to person, that’s a powerful way to build a movement too.
[01:22:14] Sean: That’s the title of this episode, building bridges.
[01:22:18] Bree: Yeah. I love that. Nora, I think about empathy often and thinking about how others might feel as important because we cannot live in anyone else’s perspective. We never will be able to. Right. We can never lose this perspective but if we reject whatever they’re feeling off the bat of saying no way, that’s not right, I’ve never experienced that, that’s not true. Then we don’t invite anything else. We don’t invite any conversation. Any curiosity, any questions, any bridge-building. You don’t invite any way of hearing each other ever again, it’s kind of like closing that door and it happens in a lot of directions.
[01:23:12] Even just with my little brother, if we were arguing about anything, you know, it’s just, you’re dumb, I’m not going to listen anymore. Like, Oh, it was, you know, or even just saying, I’m going to agree to disagree I feel like is fine but only after you listen, like, what are you disagreeing with if you haven’t heard what the differences are. You actually could agree on the same thing, but just disagree on the ways to get there. And now we have a conversation starter, which is how do we get there? And maybe you go that way. And I go that way and we actually both ended up there together but you will never know that if you simply dismiss each other’s feelings or emotions or perspectives.
[01:23:58] Sean: I realize everything is a negotiation and the core of negotiation is to understand the other side. And you know, it’s not about getting what you want. It’s about understanding the other side and that’s something I think for this country, at this moment in time is ever more important.
[01:24:24] Bree: And especially like Nora said, if you want to make that change, you have to understand what is on the other side. Also, what’s at stake, what are people afraid of? What are the worries? Because if you don’t know that, how are you going to continue? Or you might just be offering up things that don’t help meet the goal.
[01:24:50] Nora: Just what a pleasure Bree. You know, you asked me and I thought, I thought originally asked me about using the financial lever and social movements and I’m like, okay, I can do that. So, I go over my notes and stuff and then you say, Oh, it’s about change within a company especially if you’re a junior person. I’m like, Oh crap, I don’t know anything. And I thought, okay, great. This is a chance for me to learn and to think about that because in class for Large Scale Social Change, people kept asking me that question. I kept trying to say no this class is not about that, this class is not about that.
[01:25:25] And I’m so glad you brought this back to me to say, well, think about it, dammit. You know, it’s time you thought about it. So, thank you for that.
[01:25:36] Sean: My last question is, you know, what are some resources? I know Bree, you had mentioned the WhatsApp group. What are some resources that people can find? And we can definitely, I’m sure there are a lot of articles and things that we can link it in the episode as well. But anything that you want to just mention.
[01:25:58] Bree: I will share the shared folder we have for the WhatsApp group I’ve been talking about, we have a shared folder, what we’re doing, different companies have different strategies and ways of thinking about things we’ve been sharing what is external, we’re able to share externally. So, I’ll share that in the notes.
[01:26:16] I think that the one resource that, especially Haasies can think about is their classmates. Talk to them, ask them about, you know, what are you, what are you doing at work? How is this working for you? How are you having conversations was with family, even whoever it is and just reforming those committees around the issue of race is really something that’s going to be beneficial for all of us.
[01:26:49] And I would invite anyone to reach out to me if they’d like. And, hopefully, we can make a broader community that’s specifically focused on making a change in the workplace.
[01:27:01] Sean: Wonderful. Well, this has been a true pleasure. I want to thank you both for coming on the podcast. And I, you know, hope that we can continue this conversation as we learn more ourselves on how to make change happen.
[01:27:22] Bree: Thank you. Thank you. Nora.
[01:27:25] Nora: Thank you, Bree.
[01:27:26] Sean: Thank you for tuning in to another episode of the OneHaas here at Haas podcast. If you enjoyed our show today, please subscribe to us on your favorite podcast player and give us a rating or review. You can also check out more of our content on our website at onehaas.org or you can also subscribe to our monthly newsletter. Until next time, go bears.