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Ruchika Tulshyan
April 25, 2022

Inclusion on Purpose

with Ruchika Tulshyan

On this episode of Dare to Lead

If you come across Ruchika Tulshyan’s new book and find yourself dismissively thinking, “Another DEI book?” you do so at your own peril—and privilege. Inclusion on Purpose: An Intersectional Approach to Creating a Culture of Belonging at Work is a transformative book. In it, Ruchika, a journalist and inclusion strategist, centers the experience of women of color and provides a framework of intentional actions—on both the individual and the organizational level—to neutralize workplace bias and foster environments that are diverse, equitable, and inclusive. As Ruchika says in her book, inclusion is the most important leadership trait today—and one that can be learned through awareness, intention, and regular practice. This conversation is a must-listen.

Show notes

Inclusion on Purpose: An Intersectional Approach to Creating a Culture of Belonging at Work by Ruchika Tulshyan

Most of us believe inclusion is both the right thing to do and good for business. Then why are we so terrible at it? If we believe in the morality and the profitability of including people of diverse and underestimated backgrounds, why don’t we do it? Because inclusion takes awareness, intention, and regular practice. Inclusion doesn’t just happen; we have to work at it. Read this book to learn cutting-edge inclusion best practices. It’s for all leaders and organizations to meaningfully promote inclusion, diversity, and equity.

 

The Diversity Advantage: Fixing Gender Inequality in the Workplace by Ruchika Tulshyan

Stop Telling Women They Have Imposter Syndromeby Ruchika Tulshyan and Jodi-Ann Burey, Harvard Business Review

Imposter Syndrome” episode of the Dare to Lead podcast with Ruchika Tulshyan and Jodi-Ann Burey

Candour

Transcript

Brené Brown: Hi, everyone I’m Brené Brown, and this is Dare to Lead. Oh man, I have such a beautiful conversation for you today, I am talking to a very singular, Ruchika Tulshyan, she is an award-winning inclusion strategist and speaker, she’s the founder of Candour, which is an inclusion strategy practice and we’re talking about her new book, which, Oh my God, I love, Inclusion on Purpose: An Intersectional Approach to Creating a Culture of Belonging at Work. You know why I love it? It’s so actionable. It’s so tactical. It’s practical, and so often we talk about organizational behavior change or we talk about individual behavior change, but Ruchika does something that is so powerful, she talks about both, she talks about what can I do and then what systems can we build within the organization and how we will never have systems that can change our culture in terms of belonging and in representation and inclusion and equity, if we don’t have people who’ve got power and privilege within organizations, making individual transformations and I loved this conversation. She’s just one of my favorite people to talk to, so I’m glad you’re here. It’s an important conversation and I’m just… I’m grateful for it.

[music]

BB: All right. Before we jump into the conversation, let me tell you more about Ruchika. She again, is the author of Inclusion on Purpose: An Intersectional Approach to Creating a Culture of Belonging at Work. This is from MIT Press. She is the founder of Candour, which is an inclusion strategy practice, a former international business journalist, she is now a regular contributor to the New York Times and Harvard Business Review. She writes often on workplace equity and inclusion, Ruchika, you may remember, she’s been on Dare to Lead because she co-wrote just an incredible paradigm shifting article called “Stop Telling Women They Have Imposter Syndrome” for HBR with Jodi Ann Burey. The article was among the top read articles in HBR history. It’s so amazing. We’ll put a link to it on the episode page. I am very excited that she’s here, she is raising a feminist son who is five, she’s a Singaporean foodie who has lived in four different countries… Oh, we didn’t talk about chicken and rice, I really wanted to talk to her about chicken and rice, which is like… If you’ve been to Singapore, the chicken and rice, whoa in those open market, oh my God, so good.

BB: Let’s jump in and we’ll learn something together, it’s a powerful conversation.

[music]

BB: Ruchika, welcome to Dare to Lead.

Ruchika Tulshyan: Thank you so much for having me again, Brené, this is so exciting.

BB: You’re just going to be one of our regulars, which I would love.

RT: That means so much to me.

BB: Okay. I want to start with, because we were talking about this before we started recording the podcast. Tell me about your name.

RT: Yeah, my name Ruchika Tulshyan. Ruchika means “interesting” in Sanskrit. So Ruchi is actually “your interest,” if you have an interest in life, like a hobby.  Which I have to say, I grew up hating my name and I desperately wished that my mom had chosen a different one and I experimented with different versions of it in college or university, as it’s called in the UK, where I was, I went by Chika, because I thought that was something fun and a short, easy pronunciation, and then as we got ready for the book, there was a moment where I really thought, is there a shorter version or is there something else that I should go by… Maybe I should just go by Ruchika T maybe looking at the list of names on business non-fiction, there’s very few names that are unfamiliar in the Anglo-Saxon context, and ultimately it felt a little bit like a brave decision because my hope is… I know I’m going to be one of the few. My good friend Deepa Purushothaman also had a business book come out on the same day, but we’re still one of the very few. But hopefully, not for long.

BB: Hopefully not for long. If the world puts this book that you’ve just written, Inclusion on Purpose into practice, we’ll start to see great representation and inclusivity on those book jackets.

RT: I hope so.

BB: I hope so too. You know it’s really interesting, this is not why we’re talking, but because you brought up the title list, it’s so interesting to me having written a non-fiction business book that the reaction was women write business books for women, and men write business books for everyone. Have you struggled at all with the pigeonholing of “Oh women’s leadership.”

RT: I mean, not only that, but to write about intersectional feminism, to write about women of color, and essentially literally be told if you extrapolate that the way it’s like women write for women, men write for everyone. It’s also white people write for everyone, people of color only write for your community, so there’s definitely been that. I almost knew that something like that would happen with my first book, I remember, I wrote about the diversity advantage about women in the workplace, women’s leadership back when I was naive, and I thought if I write a playbook on how to have more gender balanced workplaces, everyone’s going to do it. I’ll do the research, I’ll put the numbers out in front of everyone, the world economy could have 12 trillion dollars if we had more gender representation, and I remember meeting this very senior executive, banking executive, and he said, “Oh, wonderful. You wrote this book, I can’t wait to give it to my wife. She’s a stay-at-home mom.” And that was what I was not prepared for. Where I am right now, I’m prepared. And what makes me happy, what makes me excited is that there are people now coming out of the woodwork really truly saying, “Thank you for writing this book, I don’t know if it was intended for me or not, but I needed to read it.” Either as a cis white man or a white woman.

RT: And that means a lot, but I will say my number one sort of every moment that has felt overwhelming over the past six plus weeks since the book came out has been when a woman of color has written to me and said, “Thank you, thank you for putting into words, what I am dealing with.”

BB: Oh my God, and you do. And you just…

RT: Thank you.

BB: Yeah. It’s so actionable, which is really rare in this field, sometimes it’s so actionable, it’s like you speak directly to the reader’s heart, you engage the reader’s mind, you tell great stories, and then you get to tactical actionable. What do I do different? An hour from now. And that’s power. Okay, I want to get into the book. Before we get into the book, I want to know your story. Will you tell us your story?

RT: I will… Can I put a pin on what you just said because I really want to get this out?

BB: Yes.

RT: Last week for the first time, my agent is an amazing young woman of color, Maile Beal, and for the first time in two years, because it’s a two-year anniversary since we shopped book proposal, she shared the rejections with me, I got 30 rejections for the book, and it was an act of generosity where she said, “I’m not going to share the rejections” or the passes as she was kind enough to call them, and she’s like, “I’m not going to share them with you while we’re going through the process, unless there’s something very, very insightful that you can use to make your proposal better, let’s just continue on,”  and then when finally the book did go into auction and I signed with my publisher, MIT Press, I asked her at that point, “should I have a look?” And she said, “Don’t let anything derail you.” But last week was the two-year anniversary since the book proposal had been shopped, so I said, “Can I have a look at it?” And what she shared with me overwhelmingly, was that A, that there isn’t that much that’s new here, some of it is too kind of practical and it isn’t an inspiring and big picture enough.

RT: And of course, there were some that were like, “We already signed with another woman of color, so,”… [chuckle]

BB: “Oh, we’ve checked the woman of color box, but thank you. When it opens up again in a year. If you’re the first in… ” Oh my God. [laughter] I laugh to not cry because I know it’s true, I know it’s true.

RT: Yeah, so I have a campaign. I’m going to actually put some of those words out, I’m just going to share it with folks, obviously not identify anyone, because my style is not about shaming and naming, but I want folks to know, please continue writing your books and you are going to… You’re going to get rejections, you’re going to get people who don’t understand you and don’t understand your vision, and you have got to keep going.

BB: We’re going to come back to your story, but I have to just jump on this and say, we get so many hundreds of books across our desk, and hundreds of books on inclusion, representation, diversity, and what’s so funny is my team saying, “We know you love Ruchika, but this book ticks all the boxes that you have for what you want to talk about,” and they said “It’s written from lived experience, and it’s tactical and practical. And you can be different tomorrow after you read it.”

RT: Wow.

BB: And so it’s the exact opposite of what was in the rejection letters.

RT: I may have to fall down, [chuckle] because that just means so much to me hearing it from you.

BB: And I’m not a publisher. I’m actually someone who spends 90% of my time in organizations.

RT: Yes.

BB: Give me a break. This book matters.

RT: Thank you. And can I say I felt that way? Well, I felt that way when I read your book, and actually I was traveling to promote my book, and the wonderful gentleman next to me was reading your last book. [chuckle] Atlas of the Heart. And he said, “Oh, this book is wonderful. And clear is kind.” And he said, “Do you know any other books like this… Do you have any recommendations? This is what I ask people,” and I felt a little bit cheeky, but I said, If you loved that, if you love anything [laughter] by Brené Brown, I have a book for you that I can give to you, so I pulled it out of my suitcase and I gave it to him. If he’s listening, I hope you’re well, thank you for asking about my story, and I think what I will say about my story and what I hope folks recognize when it comes to inclusion work is the lived experiences of so many people who do this work is so different and diverse, and therefore, that’s why this work is complex and nuanced. So I grew up in Singapore, which is almost 80% Chinese, and I was a minority brown person, an Indian person, and I grew up in a very conservative Indian family.

RT: So I had never seen anyone who looked like me, a woman who looked like me working outside the home, so even today, until date, literally yesterday, there will be times where I’m doing something for the book, I’ll be doing a video shoot first thing, I’ll be like, “This is wild. I never, ever thought this was something that was even available for me,” and then I’ll have those moments of panic where I have a five-year-old son where I’ll say, “Oh my goodness, whose going to make him fresh hot food today?” Because that’s what I grew up with it, that’s the paradigm I had. So that’s definitely informed my work a lot growing up, truly not both from your own community, being told “There’s no room for someone who looks like you and as a woman, your number one sort of goal in life is to get married and have several children, and that’s what it is.” And then to then come out into the world, and I really wanted to reel against that, so I did my undergrad in the UK, I came here for grad school, became a journalist because I’ve always really truly believed in the power of stories, and I know that sounds trite, but really to the point where I think story…

RT: We know that story moves us, right, the data, the facts can only take you so far. It’s the stories that move us. It’s the lived experience, and then also experiencing a lot of the things I talk about in the book, which is again, not egregious acts of being called a racial slur or fortunately, never having to deal with egregious sexual harassment or anything like that in the workplace, but it’s those subtle, seemingly subtle acts, the having your name mispronounced, being invisible, being overlooked, being talked over, that’s what I wanted to capture in this book, there are some amazing books, I know your good friend Tarana Burke, there are some amazing books about what those really horrific acts of exclusion bias, discrimination, racism, look like. And then, this is a spectrum, there’s a lot of things along the way that we experience that we’re just supposed to toughen up and deal with, which I know women, white women also have dealt with, and so my hope is, as folks read this book, they can feel a bit like, “Okay, well, this puts in towards the feelings that I had, and now I can bring this up to my manager or have a discussion about this, and hopefully a safe space.”

RT: In the past, I was told that I’m never supposed to speak about these things, or they don’t matter, it’s no big deal, like I was told in the corporate world.

BB: Oh I’m sure. Or it’s really not happening.

RT: Oh, the gaslighting.

BB: Yeah. “I don’t understand how you see that that’s just not true.” Yeah. How long were you in Singapore? I want to understand a little bit. Okay, how long were you in Singapore? Were you there until university?

RT: Yes, and you will notice this about me, I do struggle to talk about myself, it’s very, very hard, and when you… I’m talking to the world’s number one shame and vulnerability researcher an expert in the world, and I will say there’s a deep amount of shame and a deep amount of… If I can impress you with my mind, if I can impress you with all the research I throw at you, then hopefully you won’t ask me any hard questions about who I really am.

BB: I mean, raise your hand right now if you’re listening and you relate to that, Barrett is in the office in the podcast space, and she’s like. Yeah. Yeah, so. I’m already impressed…

RT: Thank you.

BB: By your work, but I’m also really impressed with you, so I’m going to go back… So Singapore. Until university, what did you study in university?

RT: I studied politics and history, one of the things that I’m very fascinated by and would love to eventually come back to is colonialism and studying how colonial movements had such… It’s so linked to the empire and I, specifically largely studied the British empire, but how much what we see in the world today is so much related to the legacy of whether it’s slavery, whether it’s colonialism, and we have this idea that we’ve moved past all of that, but actually, we’re still living in it, so I studied politics and history, I think a big part of my life has been defined as being the other and the different everywhere I’ve gone, I mean in my own country, I was a minority in the UK, I certainly was a racial minority, and I’ve been one here in the United States as well, I had a short stint where I was a journalist in Mumbai for about three months where again, I wasn’t the minority anymore, but obviously culturally I was because I’d never lived in India before that, and so that experience, how you become so aware… For good and bad, it’s almost a survival mechanism, how should I show up in this room and make sure that I won’t draw too much attention to me, sometimes.

RT: It’s a survival life or death sort of situation, and others, it’s also that you start to forget who you are, or you tell yourself these things are not important about you anymore, so even now, when I remember in job interviews when I was asked, “Tell me about yourself,” I didn’t know what to say. I still don’t sometimes.

BB: Oh, you’ve got the right name for sure. I just have to say, yeah. [laughter]

RT: Thank you, mom.

BB: Yeah, if it wasn’t that, we’d have to find the Sanskrit term for compelling, because that would be your name, maybe.

RT: Thank you.

BB: And I get wanting to have a name on a spine that doesn’t make people shake their head right away before they even give you a chance. That’s what the whole book is about, I think. But.

RT: Brené can I tell you, I walked into… And again, not to name and shame, but to really put into context what folks deal with. I walked into my book launch at a large venue and both my first and my last name were misspelled, my own book launch, I can’t make this up. [chuckle] You’re giving me the look. [laughter]

BB: Yeah, all I can say is I’m deeply sorry. That you deserved way better than that.

RT: We all do.

BB: We all do, yeah. Yeah, it’s real. And it’s real, and it’s so real, I’ll tell you, I don’t know why I’m making this connection, but we’ll unravel it together. If we get a proposal from an external potential partner, and my name is misspelled, which happens… What percentage, Barrett of the time do you think that happens 40%, 50%?

RT: You’ve got to be kidding me. You’ve got to be kidding.

BB: Yeah, maybe 30%, 40%. It goes directly into the trash can.

RT: Wow.

BB: We don’t even review it beyond that page, because if that doesn’t matter to you, then maybe that’s what I really loved about the book, is that there is so much beyond what we see if we don’t have the right lens, and your book gives us a lens, it’s like the X-ray glasses, the Superman X-ray glasses, it gives us a way to see what’s unseen and who’s being served by it and who’s being actually hurt by it. I make up and I’ll ask you that that was hurtful to you, to walk in and see your name misspelled.

RT: It was so hurtful. Every book is obviously different, and you’ve written a number, but every book is very personal, and I know you wrote yours during the pandemic, I wrote mine during the pandemic. I wrote it with a three-year-old at home, and I didn’t see anyone else. Anyway, a book process is a solitary project, but for a lot of the stories, I was basically talking to women of color on Zoom, and we’d have this hour, two hour, three-hour-long, very emotional, painful, difficult, processing session when I wrote the book, and now it’s out in the world and it’s visible, and of course, I have, anyway, gotten pretty comfortable with being seen less, and I prefer to be more invisible. In fact, if there was a way for this book to be out without me being the center… I’d be very happy.

BB: Me too.

RT: Very happy. I actually, I’m very curious how you navigate that. There are people… And I’ve met now a couple of people who say you clearly are someone… You do this because you are passionate, you love it, and I absolutely do. And I just don’t know how I can make sense of it. I want everyone to have this message, I want people to read other people’s stories in this book, and in my heart, I’m a journalist. And yet when I get asked to speak, I just don’t know how to… What do you tell yourself, how do you navigate that having to be center of attention on the very important work that you do, but also learning to get comfortable with it?

BB: It’s a terrible time to ask me because right now I’m getting ready to head out on a three-month sabbatical, the first in my career, because I’ve done it, and I think I’ve done it in a way that I’m proud of, and it’s taken a toll on my life. And so, I would not be being truthful if I could tell you that I know exactly how to do it well while taking care of the things that matter the most to me, which are my kids, my family, my health, my joy. So, I don’t know right now. I think we do a pretty good job of it. I have a great team, a lot of support, but the world is a hard place right now, people are not okay, and the force right now, the force with which projection finds itself on public people right now is at an all-time cruel high. And so it’s very difficult, I think, for people like me and people like you and other people I know who can’t get their work done unless they walk through the world with a lot of their receptors open, because we’re trying to understand the heartbeat of the world, we’re trying to keep our finger on the pulse, be open to what people are feeling and thinking and how they’re being changed, and those very things that we have to keep open in order to do our work well, leave us very vulnerable to the projection that’s happening in the world right now. And so I don’t know exactly how to do it, but what I can tell you is, you’re not alone in trying to find that answer.

RT: Thank you, Brené. And can I just say that I’m really proud of you for… You don’t need me to be proud of you, but I’m so proud of you for taking that sabbatical, because I would say that is… There are various culture shocks that I had moving to the United States 10 years ago, probably the biggest one is the lack of joy and space and time off, and boundaries that I see here. I mean, in Singapore, one of the best things about living in Singapore and working in Singapore, by the way, long work hours, other things are tough, but every lunch time, you go out and eat with your colleagues. This is obviously pre-pandemic, but you know not to schedule meetings between 12:00 and 2:00, unless there’s some discussion of what you’re going to be eating. And over here, it’s like, you have a meeting 11:45, then you have a meeting at 12:30, then you have a meeting at 12:45, 1:00, and it’s the lack of having space for that creativity for us to do our best work, for us to show up in our relationships and to ourselves, with a level of kindness. It’s no wonder we’re operating from a deficit, it’s no wonder we’re sort of spreading that forward in the world, we’re not being kind to each other, because we’re not being kind to ourselves because we’re constantly operating from zero.

BB: That’s it. I mean, that’s it. Yeah, I’ll let you know I’ll probably lose my mind the first couple of weeks, but I don’t think so, I’m like, I don’t think so this time. All right, I want to jump in because I have so many questions. So the title of the book is Inclusion on Purpose: An Intersectional Approach To Creating a Culture of Belonging at Work. One thing I want to do to set the table for the Dare to Lead listeners, we’re just coming off of a podcast where we talked about some new research out in my T-Sloan Management Review, Don and Charlie Sull, and they’re not the only researchers that have found a toxic corporate culture is the strongest predictor of industry-adjusted, meaning across industry, attrition. So the great resignation really driven by toxic culture. And then the thing that we just talked about on Dare to Lead was from an employee perspective, how do employees define toxicity in a culture? And I want to remind everyone going into this conversation with Ruchika, that number one, disrespectful. Number two, not 25, not seven, not 10. Number two, non-inclusive. Number three, unethical, which to me is related to non-inclusive, cut-throat. And number five, abusive.

BB: So you think to yourself, “Oh, another DEI book” at your own peril. And I might add, at the protection of your own privilege and your own comfort. But this is why I love this book; this is the right time for this book. We have just incontrovertible, empirical evidence that the lack of a feeling of belonging is driving people to leave their jobs. And what I can tell you as someone who’s studied belonging for 20 years, that’s because we’re neuro-biologically hard-wired for belonging, and in the absence of love and belonging, there is always suffering, and I can tell you that it’s very rare that our lack of a sense of belonging is driven especially in organizations and our work life by big, obvious affronts. The lack of a sense of belonging is death by a thousand paper cuts. And so I want to get into the book, because the first thing I noticed about this book was in the table of contents, which I think this is critical. You have divided the book up into individual behaviors that drive inclusion, and organizational behaviors that drive inclusion. Tell me about the decision to look at this from a micro and a macro perspective.

RT: It is absolutely impossible to reach and create any sort of sense of belonging if people with privilege and power don’t take personal responsibility for it.

BB: Say it again. Say it again, say it again.

RT: It is impossible for anyone to create a true culture of belonging without people with privilege and power, taking personal responsibility and action for inclusion.

BB: Boom. Keep going.

RT: Thank you. And so, for me, the part that I think stood out as I’ve been doing… I’ve been fortunate to advise some really awesome organizations about inclusion in the workplace, and what I found time and time again is, when companies and leaders focused on, “Oh, we’re just going to throw a lot of money at this problem because we have it. We’ll do an audit, we’ll run a big engagement survey,” and then when you spoke to individuals who had privilege and power, we know close to 80% of corporate America, C-level certainly, but actually even when you get to Senior VP and above, is made up of white men. So indeed, I work with a lot of white men in the work that I do, and again and again, what I would hear is, it’s an organizational effort. And we as an organization care about DEI. And then I’d say, “But what about you? What do you do?” And there was a little bit of like, “Well, the engagement survey.” Well, and I have to say, “No, hang on. But what do you do? What are you doing to understand the issues? Are you reading? Are you listening? Are you asking questions? Are you getting out of the way?” My favorite chapter in the book is about credit and amplification and making room for people who’ve historically been silenced, and then getting the heck out of the way.

RT: That’s what this is about. And so, the decision was very deliberate, because honestly, if you read the first part of the book and then please read the last part of the book, which is more really at a global, technological level, I kind of wanted to look out into the future, gaze off into the sunset. But if you skip the organizational part, but you walk away saying, “I really understand what I need to do personally,” for me, that would be success. I hope you read the whole book, I hope you read the whole book, even if you’re not a manager or leader. If you’re a person out in the world today, I hope you understand how much the responsibility falls with you. And I try be honest about my own privilege. I want to be honest, I don’t want to say, “I’m a woman of color, I’ve had these terrible experiences, all I want to do is tell you how you are terrible because you’re white or you’re a man, or you’re someone with other modes of privilege, but I have none.” And that’s not what this book is about…

BB: Mm-hmm, it’s not.

RT: This book is also doing the work personally too.

BB: Okay. Fact check me here. I’m going to say something, and you say, true or false.

RT: Okay.

BB: You in?

RT: Let’s go. Let’s go.

BB: Okay. Deep, wide, lasting meaningful change will require both individual behavioral change and organizational behavioral change. True or False?

RT: No, true and. True and.

BB: And?

RT: What I really don’t want folks to do is feel like, “Oh well, someone at HR is going to take care of this.

BB: Yes!

RT: And I think that’s what happens very often.

BB: For sure.

RT: And what people don’t understand is, in every moment, in almost every interaction, you have an opportunity to choose kindness, you have an opportunity to invite other people, you have an opportunity to be human, you have an opportunity to be a better listener, to be more empathetic, and that is what drives organizational culture. And during this great resignation, we’re recognizing that “I am not going to go back into the office, I’m not going to commute three hours for your free snacks and a beer keg in the room,” or whatever it is. If I am leaving and risking myself, and risking my life, my health, and going out into an office environment right now, the only thing that’s going to make me do that is belonging and feeling like I will be seen and heard and valued.

BB: And valued, yeah. I left this thinking to myself, best case scenario, individual behavioral change and organizational behavioral change. So, systemic change and individual change. However, if you had a critical mass, this is like the big question I have, a critical mass of leaders taking personal responsibility for personal change, I think you would see change.

RT: I’ve seen it. I’ve seen it.

BB: I’ve seen it too.

RT: I’m sure you have. I’m sure you can think of those leaders you’ve worked with, who literally said, “I’m going to work against the organizational resistance.” I would say the biggest reason I wrote this book is because I would meet those people and I would say, that’s the secret sauce, the secret sauce is you as a very well-respected, C-Suite, usually white male leader, you’re putting everything on the line to talk about diversity, equity and inclusion when you didn’t need to, where your privilege would have protected you.

BB: Tell me about the bridge framework. I love this. When we talk about personal behavioral change, I think this is so helpful.

RT: Yeah, the bridge framework is really derived a little bit from the idea of growth mindset, and I think one of the reasons why I wanted to have a framework that talked about an inclusion mindset is essentially this idea that a lot of us have certainly been pre-conditioned, whether it’s the media, whether it’s your upbringing, whether it’s where you grew up, there are ideas that we all have had and we’ve been pre-conditioned with, and the biggest resistance to creating a more inclusive environment is the idea, “Well, this is just how I am.” And I talk about this all the time. I grew up in a country where, to this day, homosexuality is criminalized. I didn’t grow up knowing a single person who was openly gay, and I’m certainly poorer for it, I feel sad that that is my reality, and I’m so excited and proud that that’s not going to be the reality for my son, we’re based here in Seattle. Of course, frightening what’s happening in other places in this country. And that meant that I had to grow and I had to change and I had to learn. And that is the reason why I created the bridge framework, because I think if we all come into the workplace with…

RT: “Well, we don’t know how to interact with people who are different than us.” We’re not willing to learn, we’re not willing to be uncomfortable, we’re going to be keeping defensive. Or, the last part of the bridge framework is, expect change takes time, or we’re just going to say that, “Oh, we participated in this one DEI forum and now everything’s going to change.” I really wanted to give language to what some of the hardest parts of this work is: It’s defensiveness, it’s growing from mistakes, it’s knowing that you’re going to make mistakes and being okay to be uncomfortable. Those sorts of things are really important. I want to say, and I’ve said it before, but I want to say it to your listeners. When I moved here as an immigrant 10 years ago, one of the things that really struck me in this big, powerful country I was lucky to have visited before I actually moved, but in this big, powerful country, as folks outside the United States sometimes have this view, I met a lot of people who literally didn’t know what to do with me. They were like… I spent time in Atlanta as well. “Are you black? Are you white? Are you…

RT: You’re clearly neither, so what are you and how come you speak English?” And all of these sorts of questions. And then in 2015, I read research which changed my mind, and I cited… All the time I cited in the book. 91% of the average American, white American social network is white. Three-quarters of white Americans don’t have a single friend of color. And the first time that the average American interacts with someone meaningfully, meaningfully, with someone who’s different than them, is in the workplace. So of course, so many of us, due to centuries, decades of social policy, segregated neighborhoods and schools and all sorts of other things… For me here in Seattle, it was a big shock when I realized that I would have to make very deliberate, intentional choices on where to live and raise my brown son, because there are so many neighborhoods which are literally all white. And so that really clicked for me when I read that research and when I compared it with all the experiences I’d had in all the years prior to reading that research, it made so much of sense. And so, when I created this framework, my hope was we can all say, maybe we don’t have the tools.

RT: Maybe we weren’t given the tools, maybe we weren’t given the tools to, for example, ask people what their pronouns are, or we weren’t given the tools to, if someone tells us about an experience that makes us uncomfortable, and we’re the dominant group people, and our experience has always been centered, then maybe it makes us uncomfortable and we don’t have the tools to deal with that discomfort. And what I hope folks can take from this book, especially from the bridge framework is, that is exactly, that is precisely what we all need, that is where you grow and you make change. You’re uncomfortable, and it sucks, and it’s hard, and we just cannot afford not to do this work.

BB: I love this. Let’s go through it. So B, number one, so it’s bridge. I love an acronym. Be uncomfortable, R, reflect on what you don’t know. I, invite feedback. D, defensiveness doesn’t help. G, grow from your mistakes, and E, expect that change takes time.

RT: Yeah.

BB: Be uncomfortable, reflect on what you don’t know, invite feedback, defensiveness doesn’t help, grow from your mistakes, expect that change takes time. I mean, this is basically it in an acronym. This is what in our parlance we would call daring leadership, lean into discomfort and vulnerability, and armor up. I love the way you frame this. I want to talk about something I flagged here underlined dog-eared, there’s two things that I do not want to get away, I don’t want this to end, I don’t want this to end period, but I definitely don’t want to end without talking about this. You’re talking about using privilege to advance women of color. It’s a huge issue.

RT: You know Brené, not only is it a huge issue, but my big concern is some feedback I’ve gotten about this book is… Well, you weren’t talking about intersectionality as a whole, and I have to remind folks, the term intersectionality was coined in 1989 by Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw to center black women and yes, I’m very glad that the use of it and the terminology and the importance of considering other marginalized identities is very important, but accessibility rights without centering women of color fall short. LGBTQ rights without centering of women of color falls short. In many cases, they’re even harmful, if we do not center women of color who also have those other intersecting identities, it’s controversial, by the way. I have received pushback on this, and in this I turn to these wonderful words that Reshma Saujani who wrote, Pay Up, her new book, and she said to me…

RT: Her book is on mothers, and she gets push back, why not caregivers, why do you use mothers, etcetera… That’s a gender-biased term, etcetera, etcetera. And she said to me, “It’s focus not exclusion.” And that’s exactly how I feel about my book, it’s focus, I’m focusing women of color, and if people feel uncomfortable because they say, “Well, I’m not a woman of color, so this book isn’t for me or I’ve been oppressed, too, and I’m not a woman of color, and this book isn’t recognizing my oppression, again, we need to sit with that discomfort, you need to ask yourself why that makes you uncomfortable.

BB: Let me just go on record as saying, since we’re going to invite controversy and just dig right in there, hey, white women, pick up a copy of the book because man, a history of betrayal between white women and women of color is so painful and such, again, a legacy of slavery, a legacy of colonialism, but this is a really important book for white women to read.

RT: Thank you.

BB: Yeah, I just want to say that right off the bat, because when we find ourselves in positions of power and privilege, and then we assume the power over structures that we fought to get there, that’s just dirty. I’m sure there’s an academic term for it, but it is just… You know what it is, it’s a heartbreak, it’s betrayal. And there’s such a history of that between white women and women of color. Would you agree?

RT: Not only do I agree, but I also have to say, it doesn’t have to be that way. It really doesn’t, right, and we can do different… And there’s… One of my favorite examples in the book, it’s a reported story, so nobody knows if it’s actually true or not, but it’s the way Marilyn Monroe showed up to elevate and amplify Ella Fitzgerald, not by saying, “Ella, come join me on stage.” This is when Ella Fitzgerald was relatively unknown, but Marilyn Monroe called up the club owner of a club, Mocambo, who they refused to have Ella Fitzgerald because reportedly, they didn’t think she was glamorous enough, we don’t know whether it’s racism, whether it’s something else, probably a combination of sort of that look that folks went for at that time, but essentially, Marilyn Monroe called up the owner and she said, “I will sit in the front row every day if you let Ella Fitzgerald play and sing, but I will not be on stage.”

RT: We have to understand when we make this about, yes, there is opportunity to share your platform, but really what the new sort of focus needs to be, what inclusion really looks like is you use your platform to give another person a platform, and then you walk away, you let them shine. That’s what this is about.

BB: Yeah, and I want to get very specific here in examples for people listening and saying, I just don’t know about that, I can tell you that not only do I know about that individually, but organizationally, we have systems in place. I don’t speak at events where there’s disparity between what I make and women of color make. I won’t go on a panel around a topic if a person that had the lived experience is better suited, if I get called to say, “Hey, come talk about this DEI belonging work.” I’m like, “No, I can’t do that. Here’s a list of people I highly recommend.” There are everyday actions that we can take that are not, “Hold my hand, I’ll go with you,” but, “I’ll sit in the audience.”

RT: I’ll recommend your name and then I’ll sit in the audience.

BB: Yeah, I’ll recommend your name then I’ll sit in the audience, and if you don’t, I’m not coming, is a way, I think, to use your power. I think it’s… And there’s ways to take that kind of action from personal to systemic.

RT: Absolutely, and this is a longer conversation, and I know there are other points you wanted to make, but very quickly, I think our individualism and the capitalist structures that we unfortunately greedy capitalism that we operate in tell us there’s only room for one, and there isn’t.

BB: Scarcity.

RT: And that scarcity mindset is so exploitative and it actually creates so much of tension both between white women and women of color, and between different groups of women of color. One of the reasons, and I get asked this as well, “Why didn’t you concentrate on Asian women? You’re Indian, why not talk about South Asian or Brown or Indian women?” And I said because my dream is to build a coalition between women of color. As lofty as it is, it is to build a coalition. Yes, the challenges we face, the oppression we have faced is different, and it’s what’s kept apart, is what kept us apart, it’s what creates mistrust and distrust and that sharp elbows mentality, and we are not going to topple these very entrenched, very harmful, very toxic systems without building coalition with each other.

BB: Yeah, and I think that sharp elbows are a tool of oppression, it’s set up to work that way, right? It’s set up to work that way.

RT: Absolutely.

BB: Yeah, scarcity. I love how you call it greedy capitalism. Just out of curiosity. I’m so curious because I always get stuck because I’m like, is overthrowing capitalism going to be my jam for this lifetime, or am I just going to work within the system that’s here, because I probably don’t know enough about economics to choose another one, but I could distinguish very well, between greedy capitalism and regular capitalism, but is all capitalism, do you think, greedy by definition?

RT: Look, I’m not an expert, but I will say from what I understand, the basis and the genesis of capital and folks listening from the London School of Economics, I know I have a degree from there, don’t take away my degree for saying this, but the genesis of it really was to create enough that everyone got to eat, the idea was let’s generate capital so that everyone has an opportunity to live a good life, and what we see right now is not that.

BB: What we see is an oligarchy.

RT: Yes, yes, we do.

BB: What we see is there’s no enough.

[music]

BB: All right, two things we have to talk about because this was so helpful for me and really changed some of my behaviors, made me really aware… I love this whole idea of running inclusive meetings. Man, could this change things like… Just read this part, just get the book y’all, be brave, lean into your discomfort, read through the book, you’ll get three or four actionable things that can make someone’s life better.

RT: Life better.

BB: Yeah.

RT: Life better. I want to talk about life better. Yesterday, I was at a speaking thing where they asked me for photos of me at my last corporate job. Obviously, I just took vacation photos and sent it to them at that time, but gosh, it took me right back to those moments where I wasn’t invited to social gatherings or I was overlooked, or I certainly dealt with harassment, and I just think folks had the opportunity to make my life better. Mine and others like me. That’s what this work is about. I truly believe that everyone, that every life has an equal value and everyone has an opportunity, everyone should have an opportunity to thrive, if that’s what you believe in your heart, in your mind, then there’s the practice of being more inclusive in every moment can really change people’s lives. That’s what this is about. This is why I do this work. My dream is to own a winery, and when we solve exclusion and when we solve bias, hopefully in my lifetime, I’m going to be sitting in my winery sipping champagne.

BB: I want you to parallel path these goals.

RT: Thank you.

BB: Yeah.

RT: I’ll try.

BB: I’ll let the winery while you’re overthrowing the patriarchy and white supremacy.

RT: I may not be coherent, but it is what it is.

BB: Yeah, that could help too, maybe. Here’s what I love, can I read something to you from the book?

RT: Please.

BB: This is about inclusive meetings, so this is about interruption, which I see all the time, especially when I’m facilitating, I’m in a Fortune 50 company facilitating Dare to Lead, and I’ve seen this interrupting. This is what I love. “Interrupt the interrupters. Anyone, especially you, can interrupt people who interrupt women of color when they speak at a meeting. Some ways to do this politely are to say, “I’m sorry, I don’t think she’s finished,” or, “You know what, I’d really like to hear her point of view first. Would you mind waiting your turn? Could you please not interrupt the current speaker?” So I’m looking at Barrett, because Barrett is usually with me, and she’s on the other side of the laptop right now and… How often do we do that? “I’m sorry, I want to hear your contribution, but I don’t want to hear your contribution until she’s finished with her contribution.”

BB: And just the feedback that we get from people in the corner of the room during the bio break, which is, “Nobody’s ever really done that.” I’m like, “Well, I already got my check.”

[chuckle]

RT: That’s the best thing.

BB: Yeah, but so this whole thing of not rescuing, not white savior, but saying, “I’d really like to hear what you have to add after she finishes.”

RT: Yeah. And it changes cultures by the way, it has changed…

BB: A 100%.

RT: In some of the organizations I’ve worked with the first few times it’s awkward, and again, depending on who you are reading this book, you may not be in the C-suite that if you say, “I’d really like to let her finish,” folks will be like, “Yeah, of course you’ve got privilege and power in this room, of course you should. Of course, you have the right to interrupt someone interrupting someone else.” So the first few times it is uncomfortable and then it becomes the norm. I’ve worked with teams where it’s the norm now to say, “We don’t interrupt other people here,” it’s literally like saying, there are a lot of cultures, and micro-cultures in organizations which are obviously very problematic and exclusionary, this is one that we could all do it. It would be amazing.

BB: And let’s talk about for a second, I’m thinking about this quote from James Clear, which I have everywhere in my house, “We don’t rise to our loftiest goals, we fall to our most broken systems.”

RT: Yes.

BB: So one of the things that happens, I think when you take this work, I always think if you had a critical mass of people doing the work in your book, the systems would actually have no choice but to change, but then when the behaviors became part of the system, you’ve got a belonging train that A, everyone’s on board; and B, you ain’t going to stop. Then all of a sudden, the people not on that train, they’ve got to go.

RT: It’s already happening. It’s already happening when I teach my students at Seattle University. I’m taking a break right now, but every year, and I teach many seniors and many of the times it’s, I’m not going to work at that organization, or we’ll have a guest speaker come in. I remember when I was in journalism in grad school, and we’d have people from the New York Times and whatnot come in, and the questions we would ask were very different than when my students have a guest speaker, we’ve had guest speakers from the Seattle Times and all these big organizations. And folks, my students have no problems in asking, “What are your diversity numbers? Are there people of color there? What is the experience of people of color there?” And you can see sometimes guest speakers are going to be like, “Oh, well, our internship opens, whatever the day is,” and then I’d had my students come to me and they’re like, “Yeah, we’re not applying.”

BB: It’s so true, I taught an MBA course last fall at UT Austin, and one of the students asked, “So what is it like there for the least powerful person in the room?”

RT: I love it.

BB: Dead silence.

RT: Love it.

BB: Yeah, yeah. Okay. This is last thing I want to ask you about. There’s a lot of data in this. It’s chapter six. I re-read it four times, I’m just going to read the chapter sub-heads because they’re so good. “So money makes the world go round”, then you talk about, “This is for every dollar that a white man makes,” Asian women make 85 cents, white women make 77 cents, Black women make 61 cents, Native American women make 57 cents, and Latinx women make 54 cents. So then you encourage us to understand how racial disparities feed the pay gap. This is really great. Talk about money even if it’s uncomfortable, these are whole sections in this chapter, you talk about how women of color are underpaid. And then… Oh, I love this, “Don’t expect women of color to negotiate a way, pay inequality, that’s not a micro job,” but then here’s this thing, you talk about why fixing the pay gap is mission critical. I’d never seen this before, and you know, Ruchika, I’ve read a lot of these books, disaggregate the data. I was like, “Whoa… ”

RT: Yeah, I’ve come into organizations who are very proud of their pay audits and they’re like, “Look, women make the same as men, and we have a female CEO,” and then I’ll say, “Have you run the data by race and gender?” And the answer usually is no. And when they do, women of color, the numbers, truly, it is horrifying and heartbreaking, and what I really try and tell folks is it’s less… It is important, of course, and I’ve said this before as well, it’s less… I care, of course, that you and I should get the same amount of money for doing the exact same job, and there’s data that shows we don’t. But then what I’m really interested in, what I think folks don’t talk about enough is the opportunity gap between women of color and white women, and women of color and white men, and really also women of color and men of color, especially from, again, over-represented groups and I’m thinking technology Asian, Chinese and Indian men, for example.

RT: And that opportunity gap is a big issue, and what that means is who gets access to those top jobs where you can build wealth, where you can invest in the next generation… If you look at… I’m not a sports fan in general, but if you look at the wealth of most sports people, celebrities in the world, especially here in the United States, building wealth from the sports that they play is a very small part of their entire wealth. It’s the…

BB: Oh, yeah. Sponsorships, endorsements…

RT: It’s sponsorship, but it’s also… Now, there’s a great trend, and I’m loving Serena Williams sort of leading this, but there’s also a trend in investing, in investing in companies and building sort of a new paradigm, and I just think so many of us in small ways and large ways, get denied those opportunities to get paid our full worth and have the opportunity to get to those lucrative positions, and that continues on systemic inequity and systemic generational lack of wealth.

BB: I love that you are not just talking about pay, because it’s not just pay. It’s access to generational life-changing opportunity.

RT: Which negotiation is not going to solve.

BB: No, that doesn’t solve that.

RT: There’s great research to show that we negotiate just as often as men. We have all the tools and tips for negotiating well in general. And a big part of it is that very painful line, which I still walk to this day, where I’ve had people say to me, “Your speaker fee shouldn’t be that high. What do you bring to the table?” To this day. And then I have to do that dance of, “Do I accommodate? Do I change? But I notice you paid your white speaker this much.” And it’s a dance.

BB: I’ll tell you this, my speaking fee is high, and I’ll tell you how it got high. It got higher than what I was comfortable with, and I’ll tell you the story of why.

RT: Please.

BB: I was at an event, and I was opening the event, and normally, when I’m at events now, I’m opening or closing. It’s a great privilege. And I was opening this event, and I walked off stage and I ran into an agent, a speaking agent, and he said, “I knew my guys were not going to be able to open or close if you were here, so you got the pole position.” And I said, “Yeah,” and he said, “It’s always tough to see you speak.” And I said, “Why?” And he said, “Because you’re opening or closing, and all my guys that are following you are making three or four times what you’re making today.” And I said, “What?” And he goes, “Yeah, I would lose my job for telling you this, but I know how much you made, and I’m just telling you that all the guys that follow you are making three to four times what you made today.” And that was a bold, brave, inclusive move. For him…

RT: We need everyone to do that. We need everyone to… Whether you are hiring… I took this example out, but whether you’re hiring a child care provider, which sadly, largely women of color, underpaid, exploitative industry, etc, etc… Whether you’re doing that or whether you’re hiring a speaker, or whether you’re in charge of bringing in someone and you can help them… Even if you don’t negotiate their salary directly with them, you can say, “I’m sure the recruiter said, the starting salary is blah, but I have the data that actually it’s this, and please ask for this.”

BB: That’s right.

RT: That’s all you need to do. This is it. It’s hard and it’s uncomfortable, and there are many reasons why the system was set up so that we were not supposed to talk about pay, right? I think there’s a meme that people feel more comfortable talking about sex at work than money. We need to change that.

BB: We need to change that.

RT: So thank you for sharing that story.

BB: Yeah.

RT: Thank you for sharing that story, and it’s very common, sadly.

BB: Just know, I got on the phone 30 seconds after that. I was like, “Whatever my speaking fee is, multiply it times three.”

RT: Triple it. [chuckle]

BB: Yeah. And then the person who runs my speaking was like, “I told you that six months ago,” and I was like, “Well, it just seems unreasonable to me, but I can’t.”

RT: Yes.

BB: “I can’t do that. So that shit’s over.” I think you’re amazing.

RT: Thank you, Brené.

BB: I think inclusion on purpose is as intentional as you are. Are you ready for the rapid fire?

RT: I am, and thank you for giving me so much of your time. It’s very generous, and I know you’re off on sabbatical soon, so thank you.

BB: It’s really, really not only my pleasure, but I feel like a responsibility to get this great information to the world. It’s too important.

RT: Thank you.

BB: All right, fill in the blank for me. Vulnerability is…

RT: Kind. Kindness.

BB: What’s one piece of leadership advice that you’ve been given that’s so remarkable, you need to share it with us, or so shitty, you need to warn us?

RT: Oh wow, this is a really hard one, actually. I think related to vulnerability, I’d say the shittiest piece of advice is, “Leaders don’t share what they’re really going through.” They’re not vulnerable. They put on this aura of, “Everything’s perfect and I’m doing great.” Or leaders never say, “I don’t know.” That’s bullshit too.

BB: Oh boy, that’s really bad… Okay, I can’t wait to ask you this question. Okay. What is the hard lesson that the universe keeps putting in front of you because you have to keep learning it and re-learning it over and over?

RT: The last time I said it was boundaries, when you asked me this question. But I’ll actually say… It’s related, but the hardest lesson that I keep learning again and again and again is being very deliberate and clear about what I want. And I actually turn to your words, right? Clear is kind, and being conditioned… I know it’s rapid-fire, so now I’m going…

BB: No, go, go, go, go.

RT: [chuckle] But being conditioned to make sure other people feel comfortable as one of the only in the workplaces I’ve been in or at home, coming from a pretty traditional culture, I’ve always thought about other people’s needs. And I actually started realizing, and I… Very much in my marriage started realizing that I was being unkind when I wasn’t being clear about what I wanted. So clear is kind, being deliberate, asking for what I want… I still make mistakes all the time on that front.

BB: Oh, I love it. I was wondering if it was going to be related to boundaries, and it’s completely related to boundaries. Wow, I love it. What’s one thing you’re very excited about right now?

RT: Can I say I still continue to be excited for my book, and I’ll say why?

BB: Yes.

RT: 90% of books published… I think this has done mostly in fiction, but 90% of books published by the large publishers are by white authors. I’m really excited about a slew of amazing new books coming out by authors of color, specifically women of color, and I’m really excited that hopefully the success, whatever that means, of Inclusion on Purpose tells other people, especially when they know that I had 30 rejections, that you need to keep on writing your story. That’s what I’m excited about. I’m excited to fill my bookshelf, fill my nightstand with books written by people of color.

BB: Amen. I love it. Okay, what’s one thing that you’re grateful for right now?

RT: I’m really grateful as in some ways my star… I’ve become more visible. Let’s say I’ve become more visible. I’m grateful that I remain grounded by having a five-year-old who has absolutely…

[laughter]

RT: He will come home today and I’m going to take him for a swimming lesson, and he doesn’t care that Brené Brown interviewed me. All he cares about is, “Were there snacks? Did you pack my swimming stuff? Did you reach on time?” So I love… I’m grateful for that grounding because it is easy… I remember my husband, I talked about it. It’s easy to fall into grandiosity as you become more visible, and you need people to remind you, “Hey, you could be doing great, but don’t forget the snacks. You’re a terrible mother because you forgot… ” No. [chuckle]

BB: No, I’m just thinking back to this interview probably a year ago where someone said, “What is it like for your kids with your career?” And I said, “Well, my son texted me today,” and they said, like, “Well, what did he say?” And I said… He said, “Where are my goggles?”

RT: [laughter] That is my visceral reaction.

BB: Yeah, well, what do you think he’s going to say? “Wow, Mom,” you know, like, “I don’t know… ”

RT: “You’re a New York Times Best Selling Author”…

BB: Yeah. He’s like, “Where are my goggles?” Yeah, and I said, “They’re on the stairs. You’ve walked over them for the past three days, and can you unload the dishwasher before water polo practice and swim team practice or something?” And then the text back was, “Do I have to?” I mean, yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, yeah, that’s life, and it’s by far the most important part of my life.

RT: So glad. I’m so glad you said that, and I’m so glad you’re modeling that, because for a lot of us, we were taught in capitalism, greedy capitalism taught us it’s either/or. It shouldn’t have to be that way.

BB: No, and for people listening… Can I just share a short story? I came from a conservative upbringing, too, in terms of women, and my mom stayed at home, and it was fraught for my parents around that, working. So, my whole life I’ve grappled with having a really demanding career, even as a professor, and having kids, and I’ve missed stuff, and I don’t really usually bake things. I buy things. And sometimes I’ll write a check before I work a booth or something, and when my daughter turned 16, she wrote me a letter that said, “I know you have a really hard time when you can’t do everything that you want to do for my games or my school, but thank you so much for showing me what it looks like to have a career and try to make a difference in the world, because that’s what I want. And I didn’t know that you could do it.” And so for all the people listening out there that are like, “What if I miss this? What if I don’t get this? What if I… ” They’re watching something completely different. Do you know what I mean?

RT: I have tears in my eyes because the guilt isn’t… Or the mom… And I feel that it’s a trope and it’s annoying and whatnot, but I have to say the worry and the fear I always have at this end of the spectrum, right? Five and six. So the worry I’ll always have in trying to make others, and other women of color seen, I hope I don’t make my son feel unseen. Right? I hope he never feels like that he’s not my priority, so… Thank you. Thank you for being vulnerable.

BB: Yeah, I would venture to say for me, not seeing our kids is not the risk, but the gift that we don’t talk about is the potential we have to be seen by our children as fighters, as hopers, as changers. That’s the gift that I don’t think we talk about enough, and it’s big. It’s really big. Yeah. And I was thinking about, looking at my sister right now who’s in the room, we were walking out of that MBA class after the last day, super diverse class, just like the one you were talking about at your university, asking hard questions. And Barrett got kind of emotional, my sister did, she’s a… I guess Gabby was 10 at the time, Barrett? Yeah. And I said, “What’s up?” And she goes, “These are the folks that are going to be leading my daughter when she gets to work. That I feel good about.” So it’s bigger than us. People can see you have something behind you in your office or your home that says, “Lift Every Voice.” Wow, what a gift for your son to watch you lifting voices.

RT: No, this is from Nilofer Merchant, someone who really sees me.

BB: Oh, I love her.

RT: Someone who really sees me. Thank you, Nilofer, for putting into words what I wanted to do in my life before I even had words for it.

BB: Love Nilofer. Okay. Let’s get to this fun part. This is the mini mix tape. You’re going to have to help me with some of these names. So we asked for five songs you can’t live without. I’ll start with the ones I can pronounce, then I’ll ask for some help with the ones that I don’t want to mess up. So “At Last” by Beyoncé. Oh God, geez, gives me goosebumps, “Mama” by the Spice Girls. You got your UK on there, sis. Like, come on.

RT: I did. Big time.

BB: “Fly” by Nicki Minaj and Rihanna. So good. “Storm” by Antonio Vivaldi and Vanessa-Mae. And then help me with “Jiya Jale.”

RT: Yes. “Jiya Jale,” by Lata Mangeshkar, who we recently lost, she’s known as… Was known as India’s nightingale. Sang well into her 80s. Beautiful, beautiful voice. Yeah, I love these songs. I turn to them very often when I need encouragement, reminder, solace, the strength to go on, all of those things. I put in “At Last,” which is different from my last playlist with you, because I remember that feeling of watching her sing at Barack Obama’s inauguration. And I wasn’t living in the United States at that point yet, and I looked at that, and I just thought, “What are the ripple effects around the world? I come from a country where someone who looks like me… Where… ” And this is controversial. But a non-Chinese Prime Minister, folks will say, will never happen in Singapore. And seeing that representation and hoping that worldwide, we can take note. It’s not just… Because, yes, what happens in this country has a ripple effect on what happens around the world too.

BB: Good or bad, yes it does.

RT: Good or bad.

BB: So give me in one sentence about what this playlist says about you, the combination of this music.

RT: Championing every voice.

BB: Thank you for being with us on Dare to Lead, and thank you for this beautiful book. It’s really important.

RT: Thank you so much, Brené. It means more than I’ll ever be able to say.

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BB: I’m taking away so much from this. Are you, Barrett?

B: Oh yeah, so good.

BB: Yeah. I feel some real affirmation about some things we’re trying to do, but a deeper understanding of the why. Anything hit you particularly?

B: I think one of the things that she said that I just thought was really important was that she gives language to the hardest part of the inclusion work.

BB: Yes, yes. And she does. And you know we’re fans of giving language to stuff. I mean, come on. Every podcast has an episode page on brenebrown.com, where you can find links to the books. You can find links to our guests. We’ll link to the HBR articles that she’s written, which are just take-your-breath-away great, and the one that she co-wrote. We’ll link to that podcast too. We’ll link to the podcast that we did with Jodi-Ann and Ruchika, because it was a huge podcast for us. People… Well, it’s kind of mind-blowing, like, “Hey, stop telling us we have impostor syndrome when you set up a system that makes us feel on the outside.” That’s crazy-making. I’m glad you’re here. I’m glad we’re having these conversations. Again, I go back to Don and Charlie Sull, the toxic corporate culture driving why people are leaving work, and the lack of inclusion being in the top five attributes of a toxic culture.

BB: Again, we shrug our shoulders and walk away from this at our own peril. It’s not good for our work, and most importantly, way, way on the list, way on top of that, is it’s unkind to people. Everybody listening right now knows what it feels like to not belong, and to decide that you’re not going to do better, be better, or learn more, unlearn, because it’s too uncomfortable, when we have the opportunity to help people feel like they belong, it’s just not brave leadership. So I’m glad you’re here. Stay awkward, brave, and kind. This work is definitely going to require it. Heavy on the awkward. All right, thanks, y’all.

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BB: The Dare to Lead podcast is a Spotify original from Parcast. It’s hosted by me, Brené Brown, produced by Max Cutler, Kristen Acevedo, Carleigh Madden, and Tristan McNeil, and by Weird Lucy Productions. Sound design by Tristan McNeil and Andy Waits, and the music is by The Suffers.

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© 2022 Brené Brown Education and Research Group, LLC. All rights reserved.

Brown, B. (Host). (2022, April 25). Brené with Ruchika Tulshyan on Inclusion on Purpose. [Audio podcast episode]. In Dare to Lead with Brené Brown. Parcast Network. https://brenebrown.com/podcast/inclusion-on-purpose/