Inclusify Your Team With Dr. Stefanie K. Johnson

When was the last time you thought about how inclusive your team is? Championing inclusivity in your team will allow a greater variety of perspectives and insights to be heard and represented in whatever field you’re in, and can help in the great work towards innovation. Dr. Stefanie K. Johnson is a keynote speaker who studies the intersection of leadership and diversity, and is the author of Inclusify. She joins Dr. Diane Hamilton to talk about the virtues of championing inclusivity in your team. Don’t miss this important conversation!

TTL 727 | Inclusivity In Your Team


I’m so glad you joined us because we have Dr. Stefanie K. Johnson here. Stefanie is the author of Inclusify, which is about harnessing the power of uniqueness and belonging to build innovative teams. She’s an expert in the area of unconscious bias. You’ve seen her work everywhere. She’s spoken at the White House. She’s in Marshall Goldsmith’s MG 100 Coaches. She’s also on the 2020 Thinkers50 Radar List. I’m very excited to have Stefanie on the show.

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Inclusify Your Team With Dr. Stefanie K. Johnson

I’m here with Dr. Stefanie K. Johnson. She’s a professor at CU Boulder’s Leeds School of Business. She’s a keynote speaker who studies the intersection of leadership and diversity focusing on how unconscious bias affects the valuation of leaders and strategies that leaders can use to mitigate bias. It’s so nice to have you here, Stefanie.

Thank you for having me.

I loved your talks. I’ve watched some of it because it was very much tied into the research I’m doing on perception which is all very much cultural and bias-based. You touched on some important topics and I love the way you delivered it. I know you’ve been in about every single magazine and network. You’re also a member of the Marshall Goldsmith MG 100 Coaches. I’ve been at some of your meetings. I don’t even know if you were at the one I went to here in Scottsdale, but that’s quite an impressive group. I want to get a background on you and acknowledge that you and I were both nominated in the 2020 Thinkers50 Radar List. Can you give me a little background of how you reached this point of success and what got you interested in bias if you can start with that?

I did my PhD a long time ago on leadership. That was what I was focused on. To be honest, studying diversity, bias, and inclusion wasn’t something I set out to do. Mostly because I am a Mexican female first-gen college student. That’s not typical in business faculty. You can agree with that. It’s a very masculine field to become a business professor. Even business students are more men than women, only slightly now but when I went to school, it was quite a disparity. You could say I was trying to uphold the patriarchy. I want to study the topics that the people who hold power cared about and leadership at the end of the day is my greatest interest. In studying leadership, not surprising now but back then, we didn’t know as much as we do now about gender disparities and how leaders are viewed and perceived by followers.

As an example, some of it is the same behaviors like being assertive or aggressive that were positively related to success for men were negatively related to success for women. We all notice that there have been a lot of papers on it but at that time, when I started doing this work, it was the late ‘90s, early 2000, we didn’t have that knowledge. I thought, “I’m going to solve this gender issue. I need to figure out what’s going on.” I’ll go back to my research on leadership. I haven’t solved it and then I got more and more intrigued by that area. As times are also changing and as I became a tenured professor and stuff, I’m like, “I’m going to forget about what other people want me to study, and study what’s most interesting and important to me.” That is the way that leaders can create more equity in workplaces and the ways that we can try to develop more women and people of color as leaders in America.

That is a tough thing to change. I appreciate how you’ve worked on some of these issues that we talk about. It seems we’re making advances at times, but then at other times, it’s interesting to me to talk to people about this. When California had created the law, they wanted a certain percentage of women on board of directors groups. I’ve talked to some groups about this and even a woman I talked to who finds people for boards, she was adamant that we want the best people for the position. The best people are people who have experience and those who have experience are white men. She has a point. They do have more experience because they’re the only ones who have been allowed in. How do you fix that? Where do you get to know the experience when they’re the ones who had it?

I did a big study on this. I interviewed CEOs of the companies in the US, the Fortune 500 companies that have the greatest gender parity. Let’s take General Motors, at least more than half of their boards are women. I also interviewed some CEOs whose boards weren’t as diverse to try to figure out what’s the answer. A lot of them talked about exactly what you’re saying which is the CEO requirement. You have to have been a previous CEO of the company. We know that 5% of CEOs in Fortune 500 companies are women. How could there be more than 5% board members who are women?

What’s the solution? That’s the problem.

For one thing, most of the CEOs that I talked to said, “CEO experience isn’t a requirement for every member of the board.” As a CEO who have a ten-person board, you do want someone on your board who’s been a CEO before. For a lot of CEOs, it is a lonely job. You don’t have a big peer group. It’s useful to be able to bounce ideas off with people who have that experience, but there are ten people. You need ten different types of expertise. You might need someone who’s strong in cybersecurity or someone who has previous experience taking a company in more of a global market. Those people may not need to have done that as CEO. All boards have someone who represents legal and there are very few chief legal officers who become CEOs. That’s one thing, but I don’t know if that requirement makes sense to me.

[bctt tweet=”CEO experience really shouldn’t be a requirement for every member of a board.” via=”no”]

The other thing is there was this great study that looked at first-time board directors in the Fortune 500 or S&P 1500. They analyze the résumés of first-time female and male board members over the last few years and found that the women were held to a higher standard and higher levels of experience than their male counterparts. We need people with experience. Women may not have as much experience on average and we require them to have more experience than their male counterparts. When they got on the board, they followed these new board members and found that the male board members also got more mentoring from the board and were more likely to get another board position afterwards.

When you said 5% of CEOs are women, but what percentage are C-Suite level in women? Do you have that information because there are Chief Happiness Officers?

It changed a lot even when I started doing the board research. A board that was considered to have gender parity was 2 women out of 10. In the last few years, the average Fortune 500 board has two women. That’s an improvement.

When I was talking to the same women about this, she goes, “Here are the positions. It has to be a CEO. You have one that has to be the Chief Financial Officer in the past.” She goes through each one of them. I was asking her where the place was for somebody that have cultural experts like what I do or HR thing. She says, “They say they want that but then they need these.” She went through how each one of the positions. You need a cybersecurity person and you need this person. You get to the point where you don’t get somebody who has this experience required for the HR perspective. Have you found that to be true?

I hear the same thing but to me, it’s like, “Give me a break.” These requirements of, “We have to have this person and this person,” that’s the typical but that doesn’t mean that they’re correct. It’s just the status quo. There’s always a chief financial officer. In fact, you do need a chief financial officer for someone with finance experience on a board. For one thing, you can have more board members, and some of the boards that have become more diverse have added board members. You can bring in additional expertise like yours in HR and people ops. There’s no real legal requirement to have ten exact board members.

Have you seen much HR and behavioral experts on boards?

I haven’t. You’re right. There’s not a lot but even if you’re not an HR expert, we do know that when women are on boards, there’s a trickle-down effect that you’ll have more women hired into the executive team and throughout the organization. They have greater social responsibility in the organization. They’re less likely to have to restate their earnings, which means they lie less. Even though the women who end up on boards aren’t often chief HR officers, they do have more people experience even if they were in a different area of expertise.

That’s interesting because the people experiencing the soft skills thing, if more people are hired for their knowledge and fired for their behaviors, it seems like that would be a huge benefit.

Especially now, as companies are trying to figure out what to do in response to things like COVID and Black Lives Matter. It would be helpful to have people on your board who can speak to those issues and might have greater insight. Even if there was no one with expertise in that area, having difference on the board will help you be more creative and innovative whether it’s challenges like this because you have different perspectives, you make better decisions.

TTL 727 | Inclusivity In Your Team
Inclusify: The Power of Uniqueness and Belonging to Build Innovative Teams

You brought up the minority issue of not just women. We have the Black Lives Matter issue. Do you think there are board representatives of Black Lives?

Absolutely, no. There’s even a greater disparity. Most of my research focuses on gender in part because there’s such a small number of people of color represented on boards or in executive roles. That’s the area that I studied where it’s hard to get enough data to make conclusions. The companies that do have that diversity like the studies on women, some studies show that those companies perform better when they have greater diversity on the board. This maybe will change. With COVID, the status quo is broken. This is how we always do things so we thought this is how we have to do it, but all of a sudden, everything about our work lives is different. The world went on for the companies that survive. Clearly, they didn’t have to do things the way they used to do it. They did it because it was the norm. We all see that there are other ways to do things. We can have other people’s perspectives or do work in different ways than we might have thought before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The topic I gave for my speeches before this even happened was how to get out of status quo thinking through developing curiosity. I think that that is such a huge topic. You brought up the diversity thing. I loved your picture. You gave this talk where you showed the NBA Minneapolis Lakers from I don’t remember what year. The champions were all white guys. With that, you wouldn’t have expected at least in my mind. I love that talk you gave because you gave different questions or comments and you said, “What do you picture?” I’d like you to give a few of those. Give me a little bit of that speech because it’s interesting when you’re talking rock stars versus other types of what we have in our minds.

You’re supposed to let an image come into your mind for whatever sentence I say. The idea is this is my definition of what unconscious bias is. It’s your prototype. That helps people understand it because otherwise, unconscious bias is like, “What does that mean?” No one can ever define it and if you say you don’t have it, then that proves that you do have it. It’s frustrating for people. If you would let the image into your mind, this is a sentence, “The rock star was unhappy with the amount of alcohol at the party.” Everyone pictures Mick Jagger or Steven Tyler.

Gen Z had some other image in mind, but everyone in my generation pictures Steven Tyler in tight leather pants dancing on a table and you can even infer why he’s unhappy. You didn’t have to think about it twice. He’s unhappy because there’s not an alcohol. The next sentence is, and let this image into your mind, “The nun was unhappy with the amount of alcohol at the party.” First of all, you picture something different. No one pictures a nun in leather pants. That’s a woman. Most of the people picture a male rock star. Women are rock stars too. You even can infer why she’s unhappy if there’s too much alcohol at the party

The sentence is the same. It’s just the context is flipped. If people retold the story, they would believe that there was something in there that talked about the fact that there was too much alcohol at the party. We fill in all of those blanks and create a narrative around stories. The same thing happens when you’re like, “This woman is working from home.” You might create this whole story that she’s working at home because she has kids and the kids are homeschooled. You don’t do the same thing for men because you have a different prototype. You don’t think of men in that light. That’s unconscious bias.

It’s important in the research I did for perception. I was looking at the process of how we come up with these things and what things impact it. I found it’s a combination of IQ, EQ for emotional quotient, CQ for cultural quotient, but also CQ for curiosity quotient of what we ask and what we want to know. Much of what we think we know, they say your perception is your reality and you’re only looking at it from one angle. I remember talking to Daniel Goleman about this on the show when we were talking about emotional intelligence and he thought you needed a 360 evaluation to get a true picture of your emotional intelligence. For perception in the workplace, when we’re trying to do business in a multicultural situation, we don’t recognize how much our unconscious bias, or whatever you want to tell everyone, define our perceptions and all that impacts what we’re trying to do. You talk about how we mitigate that. You had the ABCS of breaking bias. I was wondering what you would consider in that.

I love your work on curiosity. If we had a greater curiosity about people, we wouldn’t just rely on our stereotypes or prototypes. We do that because that’s easy. We’re confronted with millions of pieces of information every second. To whatever extent you can go with a quick response, you will. If you were curious about people, you would take the time to learn, understand, and enter the conversation without seeing the world that your view is the truth when in fact, it’s one perspective. Maybe that’s all we need. We don’t need ABCS, we just need curiosity. My ABCS start with admitting that we have unconscious bias. We all want to be good people, I get that.

Having an unconscious bias doesn’t make you not a good person, depending on your organization. In my organization, acting on that bias is inconsistent with our values and culture. That’s what we have to change, the behavior. You still might have the biases until the world changes. The second one is to block it. If you know you have unconscious bias, then you need to find systems and methods of interrupting bias. You don’t act on it. We’re bad at correcting for bias. We might say, “Am I being biased?” Maybe, so I’ll choose a woman because I don’t want to be bias. You’re like, “Am I choosing her because she’s a woman?” You’re like, “I won’t choose a woman.” You’ve not considered the data. One of the techniques that I like is dual nominization or anonymizing résumés, applications, or promotion documents to take that away, remove that tendency for people to try to over-correct.

[bctt tweet=”There’s such a small number of people of color represented on boards or in executive roles.” via=”no”]

The C is counted like looking at the data. Measuring things, setting goals, trying to move the needle has the number one greatest effect on the success of diversity initiatives. How do you know if you’re doing a good job if you never measure it? We measure everything else in business. If you’re going to invest money in social media, you measure the impact of the social media. If it doesn’t work, you pull the money out. The same thing with diversity and inclusion efforts. We need to be measuring it. Do we have higher turnover among people of color in our organization? Are we interviewing people of color and not hiring them? Are we never interviewing them? Finding out where the gaps are. Maybe they are entry levels but not getting promoted. The S is support it, which particularly for top-level leadership is essential to create change. You need that top-level leadership support, but we can also support it and do our part.

As you’re listing all that, I was thinking of some of the types of bias. I’ve seen about age bias, especially when you were talking about doing things virtually or anonymously. Now that we’re doing a lot anonymously or virtually, when I took a couple of jobs in teaching online courses, no one ever saw me in the interview process. The résumés went online, they talked to you on the phone, and there was no Zoom teleconference or anything like that. You’re hired and age never came into it. If you’re talking about submitting your experience and you have twenty years in this and another ten in that, you have all this experience, then they’re going to start reading age into things. With the older generation of Boomers, no one’s able to retire now after COVID in the stock market probably. Where do we get with the age in your work? Have you done much with age bias?

I haven’t. It’s equally important as anything else but in most of the populations that I study, everyone is over 40. At least in the United States, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act requires that you do not discriminate against people over 40. You can discriminate against people who are 25. That’s legal. You shouldn’t, but it doesn’t come up as much in my research. It’s a double-edged sword. It’s great that someone has 30 years’ experience that they have more knowledge. If it’s 50 years’ experience, then people might think this is not good. It’s like a U-curve. If you have too little experience, people think you don’t have enough experience. If you have a ton, people think you’re too old and you can’t learn new tricks or whatever.

It’s going to be a challenge to see how they deal with being more open-minded to all this. I’m curious about your book, Inclusify. You’re talking about harnessing the power of uniqueness and belonging to build innovative teams. Are you dealing more with teams in this? Tell me a little bit about the focus of this book.

The idea of the book is we all recognized the importance of belonging. Belonging was the 2019 biggest trend in diversity and inclusion. We’re starting to focus on that feeling of connection and helping people feel like they were an essential member of the organization or the team. I don’t think we get talked about the fact that when you have people belong, you have to let them belong as their true self. If I asked you, “Would you rather stand out or fit in?” It’s almost an impossible question because you want to do both. If you’re in the majority, you can do both. You can be your unique self and fit in. I don’t want to study diversity because I want to fit in with the masculine prototype of a business professor. I’m going to not study that topic. I’m also leading a part of myself out of my research and not doing my passion. I’m not studying things that are important to me just to try to fit in. That’s what we see in organizations all the time.

People aren’t bringing up the issues that are important to them because they’re trying to fit in and they’re trying to assimilate and that doesn’t work. You need to do both. You need to encourage people to be themselves and show them that they’re valued as an essential member of the team because of the uniqueness that they bring. You’re not just like, “We’ll let you come to the table but we want to know that information.” When you do that, you get the greatest innovation, the highest levels of engagement, and better decision making. This is all good stuff. I focus on the team because I realized that not that many of us are CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. They’re trying to apply the principles to more general managers, executives, anyone with a leadership position. In fact, even if you’re leading up or if you’re an individual contributor, you’re on a team, we can all utilize this concept of uniqueness and belonging to help people feel seen, heard, and accepted. There are ways that we can all do it.

You bring up some of the things that keep people from being curious which I found were fear, assumptions, which are the voice in our head, technology, the over and underutilization of it, and environment or everybody around us. We’re all at meetings. You don’t want to ask a question. You don’t want to look dumb. I talked to Amy Edmondson and Francesca Gino about this who we’re both parts of Thinkers50. Amy did such a great TED Talk on the collaboration of teams and what was required for collaboration was curiosity. Francesca Gino did a great piece for HBR on curiosity but I would love to see more research done. You were talking about the costs. We talk about engagement and how there are savings involved. There’s such a little data out there when I go to organizations and I talk to them. If you improve curiosity, they’re going to ask more questions and be more engaged, all these kinds of things but there’s not data tying it to financial aspects. How much do you do in the financial research to see the cost of unconscious bias?

Not a ton. In the corporate board realm, I’m looking at countries that have greater gender parity or have past gender parity laws and how that affects companies’ earnings over time. It’s hard to look at the financial impact. The reason is you, as one manager in a huge company, might be curious and might encourage uniqueness and belonging. This might be your company’s values but it breaks down if everyone doesn’t do it. You can look at the CEO if they’re curious and inclusive and tie that to financial performance but their views may not trickle down through the organization. I interviewed Starbucks CEO, Kevin Johnson when he started and took over as CEO. He’s inclusive and believes in diversity and has done a lot of work to ensure that he confronts his unconscious bias. He’s curious. He tries to sit down with employees, which would be cool if you’re an employee at Starbucks and learn from them. There are going to be people or Starbucks employees somewhere in the US or somewhere in the world who might do something racist or have huge unconscious bias. You can’t control every employee at all times. It becomes hard to get that overall effect when you add all the people together.

I teach a course where a lot of students use Starbucks as an example, but then you get the thing where they call the cops and the guy is sitting in the lobby. Kevin does not approve of that. It’s funny Kevin’s name isn’t David or John. I loved your research. The majority of CEOs are named John and David. I thought that was interesting.

TTL 727 | Inclusivity In Your Team
Inclusivity In Your Team: It would actually be helpful to have people on your board who can speak to big social issues and have greater insight.


The New York Times in 2018 had a headline that said, “Great news. Women now outnumbered CEOs named John.”

I’m curious about your speaking at the White House. How did that go? What was that like?

That was phenomenal. In some ways, that was a pivotal moment for me. That was back in 2016. That was Obama White House. It was a Summit on Diversity and Inclusion in Corporate America. You can imagine all the people who were there care about diversity and inclusion. In 2016, I’m not sure the people in the room or not everyone believed that we were as biased as people would now admit. People ask the questions like, “Is this still a problem? For sure, around race, but women and gender? Really?” I was like, “I think so. My research always shows this.” I can understand people are skeptical because when you look at medical school. We have more women graduating medical school than men and you have women dominate in most Ivy League Colleges. They’re graduating at higher rates from law school and all these things. Don’t we have equality and parity already? With #MeToo in 2017, people are like, “The cats are out of the bag.”

It’s the perception of it which is interesting. I found a lot in higher ed, you had a lot of women in these positions, but it’s like, “Will you get the coffee? Will you get the donuts? Will you take the notes?” You’re all at the same level and you’re still not treated at the same level even if you make it. Do you see a lot of that?

I’m a big fan of women and I hate the idea or the perception that women are hardest on women so I’m not going to say that. In 2016, I did this research study specifically on the topic of sexual harassment. Women spontaneously brought up being sexually harassed, but some of them in the workplace. I was like, “This is a down of major barrier in the workplace.” When I asked some of them, “Were you sexually harassed? Have you experienced bias?” They would say, “Not me. Everyone loves me.” If you ask them, “Has anyone ever made a crude comment to you or persistently asked you out even though you said no?” One woman talked about a guy at the boardroom walked up behind her and unzipped her dress because she had this big zipper at the back of her dress. They’re like, “That’s happened.”

In 2016, we don’t want to label ourselves as victims of gender bias or sexual harassment. We deny it. I’m sure it exists. It makes people who’ve experienced sexual harassment and they’re not victims, but they’ve been harassed, they think that they’re the only ones. They have so much shame around that like, “There must be something wrong with me that people keep treating me that way. I must be asking for it.” After #MeToo, everyone’s like, “This is happening to all of us. Why didn’t we bring it up sooner?”

I’m older than you are. We started in a Mad Men type of situation. It’s comparative to what we started with. We were like, “It’s way better.”

In the study we did in quantitative quality, some women said that like, “I was the only woman for twenty years in the office. I didn’t know what to compare it to.” That’s true, but we also see that following that huge outcry, at least sexual harassment has declined. Within one study I did, that was published in a couple of years ago in a journal called Cloth. We went back and measured it a year after #MeToo because it happens that we did this study one year before the start of #MeToo. There’s a great decline but also the impact of sexual harassment on women’s self-esteem has diminished.

Even if you are sexually harassed, you don’t feel as much shame because you know it’s not you because it’s every woman reporting this. Now with Black Lives Matter, I wonder if we’ll see the same change. Everyone has to admit it. You can’t say, “We’ve come a long way with race relations. I think we’re doing okay.” It’s like, “No, we haven’t.” That means that we have the opportunity to do something about it. We’ve seen it for women, more women board members, executives, and running for political office than ever before in history. It starts with that A of admitting it.

[bctt tweet=”We must all recognize the importance of inclusivity and “belonging.”” via=”no”]

You go through times where this will be sparked when somebody gets killed like this. It’s so bad, it gets the attention, and then it dies down for a while. People think it’s gotten better if you’re not dealing with it on a daily basis. This is drawing attention to it again but I wonder, does anything ever changes if it doesn’t constantly reach some peak and continue? It’s interesting that to me, older generations are more likely to dismiss it because of the Mad Men era thing. Younger generations now that there are more of the Millennials and less Boomers. Do you think that generationally, we’re getting to be more cognizant of making these changes?

I hope so. Since I teach, every year I get a little bit older but the students always stay the same age. I get to watch the world change and perspectives change over time. When I first started teaching, people were all about the stockholder. Gen Z is much more about stakeholder rights. They’re the first generation in history that’s majority-minority generation. There are a lot more values-driven than past organizations. They only want to work for companies that have similar values to them and stuff like that. I’m hopeful that things will change. I’m reminded of 2016 with the murder of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, two black men in two days, July 5th and July 6th. There’s a huge outcry and then nothing changed.

It’s the same thing now with the Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor. There’s a huge outcry. I am optimistic that things will change because there are more people paying attention. If you even compare CEO response from 2016 to those emerging CEOs. Tim Ryan at PwC started the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion as a result of the murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. CEO signed on but it’s nothing like we’re seeing where so many companies are coming out to openly denounce violence against the black community. Maybe it will change. I want to be optimistic because what else do we have at this point other than our optimism?

That’s at the corporate level. There are many aspects of how do you get through to different groups in different situations. We’re back to the bias of how we think we see things. I remember you were talking in your talk about you study behavior and the value of diversity of how men see women as less competent by their bosses but it wasn’t true for white men. How do we change that?

That’s the finding that when women and people of color support diversity, they’re viewed as less competent but when white men do this, it’s fine. I don’t know how to change that. The takeaway from that was like, “This sucks.” I’m Mexican woman who studies diversity and there are some women out there and people of color are like, “If I’m not going to fight for diversity, who is?” Here’s the take-home message, we need to be inviting white men, all men, all people into these conversations that if this is a conversation for women about women and only women are there, we’re missing out, for one thing, diversity of perspective. Second, we’re preaching to the choir and the people who hold the most power in America are white men.

We need to be bringing them in and white men need to feel empowered to help. Doing the research for Inclusify, I’m asking men and women, why are you inclusive? Why do you care about diversity? Some of them said, “I don’t think it’s my place to say anything about gender diversity. I’m not a woman. I’m a white guy. I don’t want to be a jerk and be like, ‘We need to be focused on diversity or show up at a women’s ERG because they don’t want me there.’” Step one is saying like, “We do want you there. We’ll send you a formal invitation to come and join us.” Especially when you look at the financial benefits of diversity and inclusion. Even if there were no financial benefits, this is still true, but we look at financial benefits. Those are benefits that help every member of the organization. It helps stock prices, return on assets and growth. If it helps everyone then all of us should be working for it and toward it together.

Could we have an Elon Musk or a Jeff Bezos or somebody be the face of the voice for minorities or would that be like they’re saying, “It’s not their place?” Do you think that would be what it would take?

I don’t know if it would take a white man to be the voice, but we do have these. I mentioned Tim Ryan, he’s a white guy starting the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion. Marc Benioff at Salesforce, he has been a huge driving force in creating change in organizations and even changing laws about same-sex marriage. Same thing with Dan Schulman at PayPal saying, “I don’t agree with the values of this state. If you’re not going to allow same-sex marriage. We’re not going to open offices in your state.” There is huge power for that Marc Benioff’s book says, “Business is the ultimate catalyst for change.” There’s some truth to that. If it’s white men, white women, or black men, it’s business. It’s not going to be the government.

COVID’s such a huge issue. We talked a little bit about that. I want to end with how diversity and inclusion relate to COVID. How do you tie those in?

TTL 727 | Inclusivity In Your Team
Inclusivity In Your Team: Now, it’s very possible that socially, things will change because people are actively paying attention to the issues.


Black Lives Matter has always been around but before the murders of the Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor, there were already huge economic and racial disparities in the impact of COVID-19. We saw more African-Americans were hospitalized and died of COVID-19. There are lots of other ways like parents are more impacted. I’m a college professor, a first-grade teacher, and a second-grade teacher.

Those kids are going to have quite an education though.

I’m like, “Thank God for teachers.” This is so hard.

You get some empathy going.

Oftentimes, that means a greater impact on women but I do think all parents are impacted. I don’t think people were talking enough about mental health. People who might have mental health issues. If you have anxiety and depression, you’re trapped in your house, you can’t leave. You can’t seek social support and all the things that used to help you then that’s a huge mental health issue. We know there are huge mental health issues in America anyway. There are many ways that COVID-19 shines a light on the disparities and the issues that were already there, but were exacerbated by this pandemic.

Pandemic though is also going to create a lot more virtual working situations, which I’m all for working virtually. When you do that, people aren’t necessarily looking at one another face-to-face. Will that have a positive impact in some ways because we’re not looking if you’re female, white, black or whatever you are if you’re working more through texts, email, or different things. I wonder what impact that will have.

I’m optimistic. This could be good. If you think about women are often penalized for being a parent economically. Women earn 11% less when they have children than a similar woman who didn’t have children and men earn 11% more when they have children compared to men who don’t have children. With virtual, if we’re all working at home, maybe some of those disparities go away because there’s less judgment about when we’re home, we’re not thinking, “They’re at home because of their kids. They’re home because we’re all home.”

I had a woman leader who was married to a guy who took care of her kids at home. She made sure we worked extra hours and do a blitz. We’ll stay in extra calls because she had a guy at home watching her kids. It was easier for her to be able to put in those hours. She had the flipped situation of what most people have, but usually, it’s a woman who gets stuck in that situation of needing to get home. It was interesting when she got a divorce and then suddenly she had to take care of these kids. When you get a rude awakening of what it takes to run a family and work. It’s too bad that everybody doesn’t get to flip that without getting a divorce.

In some ways, we did because of COVID. Men parents were stuck in their house with their kids just as much as women parents were. Even if the majority of effort did fall on women’s shoulders. I don’t know that we know that yet, but even if it did, men still are seeing it and experiencing it to some extent at least from what I’ve heard. That creates empathy. They’re like, “I never realized exactly how much work and how exhausting this is for people who are women, or don’t have stay at home husbands, or don’t have reliable childcare.” Empathy is important and hopefully, we can stick to it. It’s a shame that it takes your own experience of pain to have empathy for other people. We know that that does help too.

[bctt tweet=”Women tend to be the hardest on other women.” via=”no”]

It does help. There are a lot of people who have had an eye-opening experience lately in a lot of negative things, but they’ll have a positive outcome from it. I hope that they take time to look for your book, Inclusify: The Power of Uniqueness and Belonging to Build Innovative Teams. Who is the reader for this? Is this anybody in the workplace or leaders? Who is your target market for that?

Mostly leaders but anyone can read it. There are chapters specifically for women and people of color and leaders. It’s eye-opening for women and anyone about the biases that exist because there are lots of data in there. It was written for the well-intentioned manager who wants to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace but feels like, “I don’t know exactly how to do that. I’m trying and I’m not getting it exactly right. I think I am but I don’t know.” It’s helping those managers to see that. There’s an assessment at that you can take. It tells like, “You are this kind of leader or you had the greatest tendency to be this kind of leader. Here are a couple of simple pivots to help you and other leaders like you improve uniqueness and belonging.”

Is there another website or anything else you want to share while you’re here?

You can go to or HarperCollins website. You can get the book there or anywhere books are sold. There are lots and lots of data and information on that site or my site There are tools for how to hire people in more effective ways. Information about sexual harassment and about women on corporate boards. There are lots and lots of tools that people can utilize on those sites.

Stefanie, I hope I get to meet you in London at the next Thinkers50. It was an amazing event. Congratulations again on all your great work and thank you so much for being on the show.

Thanks for having me. This was such a good conversation.

It was interesting. Thank you.

I’d like to thank Stefanie for being my guest. We get so many great guests on the show and it’s always an honor to have anybody from the MG 100 Group or the Thinkers50 group in general because it’s such a prestigious group. Stefanie is definitely an example of why that group is amazing. All her work is timely and unconscious bias is something we need to study more about. It ties into the work I’m doing with Dr. Maja Zelihic for our book The Power Of Perception that is coming out in 2020. It was interesting to do the research to come up with the Perception Power Index. The PPI is designed to look at some of the steps we go through in the perception process as we evaluate and do different things to come up with our conclusions. It is something that is going to get much more attention because perception is a combination of EQ, IQ, CQ, and CQ, of curiosity and cultural quotient.

The more we recognize that we need to step outside of our perception and look at things from other people’s perception, that ties into the empathy and emotional intelligence. Some of the things that I said in the EQ perspective, we’re going to have much more effective workplaces. Teams have to be able to empathize and asking questions is a big part of that process. That’s where the curiosity quotient comes into play. As we build this empathy and ask these questions, we’re developing our cultural quotient. Some of this requires us to know what kinds of questions to ask and have that intellect behind it to do some real critical thinking to come up with our correlations and our conclusions.

The whole thing as Dr. Maja and I had realized is an epic process. It’s so critical for companies to recognize the value of a lot of behavioral skills that can be put into the area of soft skills which are such an important part of what people need to stay successful in the workplace. Stay tuned for more of that information. You can get a sneak peek at the Perception Power Index at You can find out more about Curiosity there and check out all the past shows. I hope you do that, and I hope you join us for the next episode.

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About Dr. Stefanie Johnson

TTL 727 | Inclusivity In Your TeamDr. Stefanie K. Johnson is the author of Inclusify, a professor at CU Boulder’s Leeds School of Business, and keynote speaker who studies the intersection of leadership and diversity, focusing on (1) how unconscious bias affects the evaluation of leaders and (2) strategies that leaders can use to mitigate bias. Her new Harper Collins book, Inclusify: Harnessing the power of uniqueness and belonging to build innovative teams, shares the surprising ways the leaders undermine inclusion and provides actionable ways that leaders can pivot to build more inclusive teams. Dr. Johnson is member of the MG 100 Coaches and was selected for the 2020 Thinkers50 Radar List, comprising 30 international management scholars whose work will shape the future of how organizations are managed and led. She works with the best companies in the world to create more inclusive leaders and has extensive consulting experience and has created and delivered leadership development training with an emphasis on evidence-based practice.


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