Workday Podcast: Peeling Back the Layers of Diversity and Inclusion

What does diversity and inclusion mean to you and your organization? Carin Taylor, chief diversity officer at Workday, and Mike Dillon, chief diversity and inclusion leader at PwC, joined me to share their experiences and inspiring insights in a podcast. Take a listen:

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If you’re more of a reader, below you’ll find the transcript of our conversation, edited for clarity. You can find our other Workday Podcasts here.

Greg Thomas: Organizations of all sizes and types are focused on creating an environment that celebrates the differences in every individual. That diversity and inclusion isn’t just a tagline or thing you check off. It’s an ongoing journey.

I’m Greg Thomas from Workday. Today on the Workday Podcast, I am joined by Carin Taylor, chief diversity officer at Workday, and Mike Dillon, chief diversity and inclusion leader at PwC. Welcome to you both.

Mike Dillon: Thank you.

Carin Taylor: Thank you.

Thomas: Glad you’re here. So Mike, maybe starting with you. Share a little bit of your own experience and your story. How did you come to be in the diversity space?

Dillon: So, I’ve been at the firm for the last 30 years, and so I came out professionally, at my time at the firm, and I know that the coordinated efforts of many, many caring people can make a change in a diversity and inclusion space. And as a gay man, and as a highly visible role model over the years, I know that we may change outside the four walls of PwC, and inside the four walls of PwC. So now, in this role, as chief diversity and inclusion officer, I think about paying that forward. I think about that change across all dimensions of diversity.

Thomas: Carin, how about you?

Taylor: Yeah, my journey started quite some time ago. As an African-American woman, I’ve had some experiences that have led me to think about diversity a little differently, and I’ll share one of those experiences.

Before I started doing diversity work, I used to travel all around the world, and I was actually at a sales conference one time, and the sales conference was a typical sales conference, about 120 people. I was one of about ten women, one of two African-Americans, and the only African-American woman in the room, and the topic of conversation that day happened to be diversity.

However, as I sat there looking at the presenter, which was a typical-looking executive, a white man. I sat there just really having an adverse reaction to listening to this person talk about diversity, and I couldn’t receive his message. And so I walked up to him during a break and I said, “Mike,” I said, and not Dillon, but a different Mike, I said, “Mike, I’m sorry, but I really can’t receive your message.” And he said, “Why not?” And I said, “Because of what you look like.” And he said, “I’m gay.” And it was the first time that unconscious bias hit me upside the head.

But the real moral of the story didn’t happen until later that evening, when I was sitting at home and all of a sudden I just started crying because what I had realized is that what I had done to Mike, people had been doing to me my entire life, and had been judging me simply by what I had looked like, and I, in turn, started to doing it to other people.

So, it was literally that day that I decided that I would never make another person feel undervalued simply because of what they look like, and so that really has driven how I think about diversity and inclusion today.

Dillon: And Carin, that story resonates a lot with me, because people will look at me and say, “Why is the middle-aged white guy in diversity and inclusion?” And then we talk about invisible dimension of diversity, like being part of the LGBT+ community, and people understand I’m trying to pay it forward. But I understand that story, and that hidden bias.

Taylor: I can totally resonate with that.

Dillon: Thank you for sharing.

Taylor: Sure.

Thomas: Thank you both, for being so willing to share your own experiences and … So, how do you think about diversity and inclusion, how do you define it, how do you try to put it into practice, and maybe Mike, starting with you.

Dillon: So I look at diversity as getting people in the door, and the score keeping, but I really think about inclusion as what’s happening in the workplace, and to me, inclusion is belonging. Is it an organization you feel you can belong at before you join? When you do join, is it an organization you feel you belong every day in the four walls, and an organization where you feel succeeding by belonging in that organization.

Thomas: Carin, what would you add or take away from that?

Taylor: Yeah, for me I really think about diversity in terms of it really equaling difference. And one of the things that I like to do is level set around the fact that everybody is diverse, and when I start from a point of helping people understand that diversity simply means difference. So if I look at Mike as an example, the color of Mike’s skin is no more, no less diverse than the color of my skin. Mike’s masculinity is no more, or no less diverse than my femininity. These are just different things, and when we level set that way, then people understand that everybody plays a role and has a part in the diversity conversation.

Thomas: Yeah, I love that because it really simplifies it, right? We’re all individual human beings, we all have experiences, we all come from different backgrounds, we all have a story to tell, and if we can find a way to share those stories, and celebrate them, it makes it a much nicer place for everyone.

So, to carry on from that thought, diversity hasn’t always, perhaps, been seen as something that could include everyone. There were classes of people that diversity initiatives, perhaps, were directed at. The way you both described it is a different way to think about the topic, talk about that.

Taylor: Yeah, you know, when I think about diversity, and the way that we talk about it at Workday, is really something that we look at, called “VIBE”: value, inclusion, belonging, and equity for all. And what we really want everyone to do is really make sure that they are not just accountable, but they are a part of the issues that we’re trying to solve. And so, when I can take the beauty and the difference in every single person, and really leverage that to help us solve problems differently, that’s what’s going to give back to both Workday and our customers.

Thomas: What about you, Mike?

Dillon: I think about it when we want to say “inclusion,” including the majority, and when I ask the majority, “Who are you championing, who are you sponsoring, who are you an ally of,” I really want to give them the opportunity to be an ally/sponsor/champion of someone that doesn’t look like them, and sometimes that means teaching them, and teaching them what exactly an ally means, what a champion could do. The power of sponsorship for someone that is not like them.

Thomas: So maybe for our listeners, talk a little bit about that. What is an ally, a champion, a sponsor? How should people want to be part of this movement? Think about what they could do to help.

Dillon: Yeah, I’ll start. I think I’d want to redefine all of these together. I think ally was something that was always in the LGBT+ community, but I think it feels the same as champion and sponsorship, which is very different than mentoring. When we talk about creating equity in the workplace, I think that’s what a sponsor-help does, and I think a lot of times our diversity-inclusion programs in corporate America has been focused on the diverse individual. Almost, “What are you going to do to fix yourself?” As opposed to, “How are we going to change this organization, so we are more an organization of belonging and more of an organization of sponsoring each other to succeed in the organization together, and to create a better organization that’s more profitable, and more attractive to recruits and clients?”

Taylor: Yeah, I agree with Mike. And I think it really requires this notion of collaboration and partnership across all the parties. There’s something that I have to give, and there’s something that I can receive. And so I think both ends of that work really well together, but I do think it is inclusive and really based on a collaboration that happens between the parties.

Thomas: I mean, describe that. Why not? Right? I mean it makes perfect business sense for the company, right? You have better employees, people are more engaged, people are more engaged themselves. But it hasn’t always been so easy, has it?

Dillon: No, it hasn’t, and I think that the workplace is always a place that people have caution around what conversations they use, or have, what language are they going to use, what topics are they going to approach. And I think we’re in such a time of whatever happens outside the four walls, we’re naïve if we think that doesn’t affect our employees, and what they, and who they bring to the workplace every day. So, I think, that silence is deafening in the workplace, and we’re having a lot more conversations, and I think that’s going to help us understand, and have the tools and the courage to be more inclusive.

Taylor: I also think the new generations within the workplace are driving how we’re looking at this conversation very differently as well. Millennials and soon-to-be the Gen Z, or Digital Native Generation; they’re demanding that we address a lot of the issues that they care about that are happening from a social perspective, outside of the walls of our companies. And they’re asking, “Do you have a diversity and inclusion effort at your company?” And if you say, “No,” a lot of that talent, and what we think of as great talent, is deciding to opt-out of coming into our companies, and I think we really need to be concerned about that as we’re thinking about the war for talent.

Thomas: Yeah, I think about how the barriers between what we traditionally thought of as work-life and home-life, those have sort of softened, right? This is a similar dynamic, perhaps, that as you put it, Mike, was happening in the wider world; of course it affects us all as human beings. How can we leave that at the door when we show up to work? It’s probably not a realistic assumption.

Dillon: And belonging, inclusion is really based on trust, and trust is saying you’re able to have these conversations, able to bring up these topics that are very difficult, and there are no easy answers or black and white answers. But we feel, as a firm, it’s very important to be having these difficult conversations in the workplace.

Taylor: Yeah, but the other thing I’d add to that too, is this element of empathy. That often does not exist in the workplace, and the empathy for what are the other experiences that people are having that we need to take into consideration when we’re in the workplace, because those experiences are impacting productivity and how our employees are showing up. And so, I think it’s important for us to also think about, “What is it like to walk in someone else’s shoes,” and how can we be more empathetic about those experiences?

Thomas: I mean that really resonates with me. I had a conversation, maybe three or four months ago with coworker who was relating what it was like to, as an African-American to live through Black Lives Matter, which is, of course, not done, but about a year ago, and she said, “How can I show up to work every day, and leave those feelings at home? It’s not realistic. I need that empathy, I need to be able to talk to people, I need to be able to express what’s in my heart and in my head. Otherwise, I can’t do my best work, and I can’t relate to people if we can’t find some common ground to talk about things,” that, as you said, are very difficult to talk about.

Taylor: And as Mike mentioned, built on trust. Right? If I don’t feel comfortable coming in and saying, “This is how this weighing on me today,” how am I going to feel like I can release that and still come to work and be myself, be my best self, if I have to leave those things that are really deep and bothering me outside the walls of our companies. It just, it doesn’t work like that in terms of us as people.

Dillon: And I think it absolutely goes to belonging, and trust, and respect. But I’m glad, Carin, you brought up productivity, because I look back at my career, and my biggest regret is all the negative energy I put into covering as a gay male, until I was ready to come out. And that distracted me from maybe going after promotions sooner than I did, or just being that person that showed up every day, full-force in the workplace. And so I’m very sensitive to people covering for any matter in the workplace.

Taylor: I love the fact that you brought that up, because I have a kind of mixed experience with that, right? Not only am I an African-American woman, which I can’t cover, but I’m also a lesbian, right, which I have, for many years covered, and so you’re absolutely right in terms of the productivity and really the draw on how that really impacts just how you show up is super important. Because I wasn’t being authentic, and I wasn’t being my best self because I was hiding so much of who I was.

Dillon: Carrying a rock around, right? Yes.

Thomas: So let’s pivot a little bit, and talk about how companies are thinking about and working through these issues. So maybe starting with that diversity component, which Mike, I think you said earlier was about the score keeping. So how are companies tracking diversity demographics, and what barriers exist in how they wish to do that. Maybe, Carin, we’ll start with you.

Taylor: Yeah, I mean I think typically, we track diversity demographics the normal way, by counting heads. And I think that that gives you a sense of who’s in your workforce. But for the most part, that’s predominately what it gives you, with an exception of where do you have some opportunity?

I think the flip side of that is how do you start to measure inclusion? How do you start to measure belonging? What’s the real employee experience that your employees are having, and how do you take that into consideration as you’re thinking about, not just the impact on innovation, but the impact that you’re also having in the experience that your customers are having with you. And so, I think that we have to get much more crafty about pulling in that other piece of how we measure inclusion and belonging along with the diversity space to really make it a full picture, in terms of how we’re measuring just diversity and inclusion across the board.

Thomas: Mike, what would you add?

Dillon: I completely agree with that, and I think the benefit of having pulse surveys, which I think Workday does every Friday. I think when you look at that, that really goes to an employee’s experience, and I think tells us a lot about someone feeling included and feeling like they belong.

We just implemented Workday at PwC, and a conversation Carin and I just had about a month ago, is around self-ID and how do we have our people self-ID within the workplace, and that is an issue we have especially around the hidden dimensions of diversity, or the invisible disability, and LGBT+ communities. And the point is though, how do you get employees to feel like, “There’s something for me, there’s an advantage, there’s a benefit on the other side of me disclosing,” and also for our company to prove to employees why this is so important for us; not just score keeping, but for the experience we’ll provide across all dimensions of diversity. So, a very interesting thing with Workday around self-ID and so we’re excited about that opportunity.

Taylor: Yeah and I think it allows employees to really bring their best selves to work, right? It allows them to be who they are know that their company cares about them as individuals, not just as a number, and I think that’s important for us also.

Thomas: That’s interesting, because when you were talking about it, Carin, I was thinking, “Well that’s a lot of subjectivity,” but you made a very objective example, Mike, out of how you could start to track those different dimensions, and then use that as a way, perhaps, to look at then, if someone identifies in this way, do they feel included? Cool stuff.

So we talked a little bit about technology and how it’s changed things. Where do you see the role of technology, if there is one, in helping people to feel more included, to be able to identify in the way that they wish to. To bring their best selves to work.

Dillon: So we just started a new inclusion hub. We also have an app, and what we’re really excited about is to be able to bring people together for mentoring purposes. And we know we have offices where there’s not a lot of representations, or dimensions, of diversity; and so is there additional coaching, support, championing, feeling “I’m not alone in this.” We feel technology is bringing people together. And so, we just piloted it to great reviews. We’re also thinking about some gaming applications we can use to think about how we, again, create those communities within our four walls.

Thomas: Maybe bridging some of the physical distance with virtual connections.

Dillon: Absolutely, absolutely.

Taylor: I think another part to add to that is the importance of diversity in technology itself. So how are we creating technology, and what are the different perspectives that are going into how technology is created. So if you think about artificial intelligence as an example. If you don’t have a myriad of perspectives from people with different backgrounds, then are we really going to be leveraging technology that’s going to be doing it in a very automated way? Are we really leveraging the technology the best way that we can? And so I think that diversity and inclusion really play a key part in how that technology is created. And I think that is going to be a big part of how we leverage technology in a positive way as we move forward.

Dillon: And Carin mentioned also, earlier, about being in each other’s shoes. Think about the possibilities for virtual reality, to truly be in each other’s shoes.

Taylor: Yeah, yep.

Thomas: What is the role of leadership in championing inclusion and championing diversity? Mike, we’ll start with you.

Dillon: I think the first thing is to acknowledge the tone, and how often you talk about it, how frequently and how well you understand what the issues are, and that there truly are differences that have to be bridged. I also think just that leadership, not just within the four walls, but outside the four walls, that advocacy, that taking a step forward, shows your people a lot about what your personal values are, and what the values of the firm are. And we’ve made D&I part of our purpose, part of our values of the firm.

Taylor: That’s great. I would add to that. One, the first thing is probably engagement. And the second thing is mirroring the behaviors that we want to see from our leaders. The other thing that I would add to that is getting leaders to a point to where they are comfortable talking about diversity and inclusion. A lot of us have very different experiences, and we feel very differently about the conversation. And some of us are not as comfortable as Mike and I talking about this because we’ve gone through journeys in different ways. And so I think really getting leaders to not just mirror the behaviors, but to be comfortable in their own skin talking about this topic is important.

Dillon: I know, Carin, we’ve talked before about the CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion and in other bodies where leaders can get out there and really dive into this.

Taylor: Yeah, and compliments to PwC, because their CEO was one of the people who really spearheaded the CEO for Action, and now there are hundreds of companies who are engaged in this CEO for Action, and I think the more that they’re having conversations about solving some of the real issues, the better off we’re all going to be.

Dillon: Yes, it’s almost up to 500 signatories, and we’re very proud that our CEO was one of the initial founders of the CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion. We think it’s really important dialogue, because it’s something we should not be competitive on. I always think about the tide should rise together here. And this is something we all, collectively, could do for society.

Taylor: I agree. It’s funny because sometimes, we’ve been, not PwC and Workday, but a lot of time we think about each other as competitors, and I think in this space, we’re not competitors. We are all in this together. We can learn so much from one another. That’s the beauty of a topic like this that is growing immensely every single day. And so, I love the fact that I get to work with people like Mike and really delve into this conversation and learn from one another.

Thomas: So, let’s bring it on home. So, if someone’s listening and they’re thinking to themselves, “I would really like to be a bigger part of this movement. I would like to help. To be, maybe, an advocate, or an ally, or a mentor,” or just bring a different aspect of themselves to work. What would you suggest to someone who says, “How do I help?”

Taylor: For me, I would say, “Don’t let fear hold you back.” Be courageous in being able to step into conversations even when you may not have all the answers, or even when you may not know the right words and the right questions to ask. But I think being brave and courageous in just stepping into the conversation will go a long way.

Thomas: Mike?

Dillon: Let’s sit back and take an inventory and really look at who you’re helping to come into your firm or company, who you’re helping to advance, who you’re sponsoring, who you’re championing. And then spend some time thinking about who are you potentially leaving behind every day.

Thomas: Good advice.

My thanks to Mike Dillon of PwC and Carin Taylor of Workday. So thank you so much, both, for coming in. I’m Greg Thomas. Thank you for listening to the Workday Podcast. If you’d like to hear more, please subscribe. Thanks for listening.