By Shay Castle Daily Camera, Boulder, Colo.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Shay Castle of the Daily Camera sits down with two local female leaders in Boulder to learn more about struggles, opportunities and the surprising link between workplace diversity and the #metoo social media movement.
Daily Camera, Boulder, Colo.
Diversity -- or the lack thereof -- is a hot topic in the Boulder County business world.
Local leaders cite it as a top priority, while national companies have expressed concern that it may stifle the area's ability to attract talented workers.
There has been a lot of talk, but not much action, said Julie Imig, a business consultant and executive, leading her to wonder why diversity "is such a tough nut to crack."
She decided to take a shot at it. Along with television writer and producer Madeleine Pollak, Imig founded Boulder-based Times Three to train companies in fostering diversity.
We sat down with the women to learn more about struggles, opportunities and the surprising link between workplace diversity and the #metoo social media movement:
1.) When companies reach out to you, is there typically a specific motivation or type of diversity they want to improve?
Pollak: Most companies know that diversity increases innovation and therefore revenue. Sometimes there's stuff going on at the company that they're not going to share with us. They might have some lawsuits pending, or women have brought issues to the attention of human resources or executives.
Imig: There's a lot of conversation around diversity happening right now.
Pollak: There's this whole feeling like, 'We need to get unconscious bias training,' because that's a big conversation point right now. Sometimes it's something a company needs to do to sell the company.
2.) How does the process usually work?
Imig: We do a diagnostic for them, to visualize if they have a diverse set of ideas represented. Who's talking at the company and who's not. From there we take the measures, build a program and measure the progress.
Pollak: Our programs include skits, for which we use members of the community. We do a very similar skit four times to show the shifts in thought and action.
Imig: They show who is being heard and who is not being heard. A lot of times, workers aren't even aware of who isn't being heard. And leaders aren't aware that what they are doing is discouraging diverse voices.
3.) Boulder is not known for being diverse. Does that make your work more challenging?
Imig: A lot of companies will start out by saying, 'Boulder is 80 percent white,' as a way of saying, 'That's the world we live in,' which is absolutely true. But you can look at diversity more broadly, as two-dimensional diversity. The first is population: Do we have enough women, enough people of various ethnicities?
The other kind of diversity is what they call acquired diversity, which is diversity of thought and background and experience.
Pollak: If you don't know the background of the people you're working with, you're not actually mining the diversity that exists.
Imig: You can't build a pipeline of applicants immediately. It takes time and work. What you can do immediately is set a culture where people get to know each other, they get to get a better sense of what goods they bring.
Pollak: Which then if you establish that type of culture, is more appealing to somebody who is more traditionally diverse, because it means there's a space for them.
4.) What are some types of acquired diversity companies can tap into?
Imig: A big study has been done in Europe of the factors that lead to innovation, such as education background and country of origin -- which, here, might be state of origin. But everybody has something. I'm from a cattle ranch. That's a kind of diversity I could bring.
Pollak: We've found that people aren't necessarily talking to each other. If they don't know each other, they don't know what's missing that's right in front of their face. For example, if your company is developing a product for kids, is there someone working there who has a kid in that age demographic?
Imig: It's not like you have to shift your whole team. But you definitely want your voice heard. Getting to know who's in your company -- more than just what role they fill and if they're on time or not -- is super important.
Pollak: Diversity is a huge opportunity, but it's not talked about that way. It's talked about negatively, punatively, about what we should do. It all feels very taboo. Especially around gender, with the whole #metoo movement. It's a very serious conversation, and it needs to happen. But we want to bring an openness to the conversation.
Imig: It's about who's working at the company and who's being listened to.
5.) Has the #metoo movement led to more calls?
Pollak: Well, I don't think directly. But we are getting more calls. I think people are making the link between what we do and #metoo.
Imig: We're not anti-sexual harassment training. But I do think we're working with a very similar issue (of) behaviors that take people off guard and silence them.
Pollak: I think the #metoo is making people think about what's happening at work. Ultimately, it's about are you able to speak up? Is your voice being heard?