In this episode, I am excited to have Jennifer McClanahan-Flint on to talk about diversity, inclusion, and the impact on being a woman of color in the legal industry.
Jennifer McClanahan-Flint is the founder of the Leverage to Lead Group and Programs. As a Career Strategist, she works primarily with ambitious women of color to help them navigate bias, compensation, and their career progression so they can continue to rise. Through her work at Leverage to Lead, she has built a process to help her clients get clear about what they want out of their careers and build a plan to get it. She works with her clients to help them stop trying to fit in and identify how their difference is the key to their continued success. One of the best ways to get to know more about her and her work is to receive her weekly newsletter. You can sign up for it here. If you would like to schedule a one-on-one consultation, email Jennifer at email@example.com.
- She defines what diversity means to her and why diversity should matter to lawyers and law firms.
- The two types of diversity and how our awareness to these is paramount in moving forward to a more inclusive work environment and society.
- How diversity is related to mindfulness and how mindfulness can be the best tool for overcoming adversity and uncomfortable situations.
- Why leadership matters in diversity efforts and how everyone should see this as a community effort.
For more information on Jennifer, find her at the following sites:
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Jennifer McClanahan-Flint: [00:00:02] That’s why I think the work I do with women is so important, because they have skills just based on who they are that they’ve had to develop and they’ve had to refine, and they refine and incorporate it so much they don’t even know it’s a skill anymore. It’s just how they navigate the world.
Intro: [00:00:18] Welcome to The Resilient Lawyer podcast. In this podcast, we have meaningful, in-depth conversations with lawyers, entrepreneurs, and change agents. We offer tools and strategies for creating a more joyful and satisfying life. And now your host, Jeena Cho.
Jeena Cho: [00:00:38] Hello my friends, thanks for joining us for another episode of The Resilient Lawyer podcast. Today I have Jennifer McClanahan-Flint, who is a founder of Leverage to Lead Group and Programs. As a career strategist, she works primarily with ambitious women of color to help them navigate bias, compensation, and their career progression so that they can continue to rise. Through her work at Leverage to Lead she has built a process to help her clients get clear about what they want out of their careers and build a plan to get it. She works with her clients to help them stop fighting to fit in, and identify how their difference is the key to their continued success. Jennifer, welcome to the show.
Jennifer McClanahan-Flint: [00:01:21] Hi Jeena, thank you for having me.
Jeena Cho: [00:01:23] So let’s just start with having you give us a 30 second overview of who you are and what you do.
Jennifer McClanahan-Flint: [00:01:31] So as you know, I’m Jennifer McClanahan-Flint and I’m an executive career strategist. And my goal is to work with women of color and really help them face the future with anticipation and not apprehension. I think so often we feel so uncertain about what we should do and how we get there, and how does race, bias, and discrimination impact that. And so what I really do to work with my clients is give them certainty about who they are, their value, and what they want, so that they have the capacity to navigate uncertainty, especially in these uncertain times.
Jeena Cho: [00:02:12] Yeah, and I think that’s such a hard practice, to be become more comfortable and finding ease in light of uncertainty.
Jennifer McClanahan-Flint: [00:02:22] Absolutely. I mean you know we talk about in your work is focusing on mindfulness and meditation, and being mindful about who you are I think is one of the biggest challenges that we have as individuals.
Jeena Cho: [00:02:36] Yeah. So I wanted to have you on the show for so many different reasons, because I just so admire all the work that you are doing. But I wanted to specifically talk about diversity and inclusion, and also just the impact of being a woman of color in the legal industry. So, you work a lot with lawyers, I guess just maybe we can start by talking about (I feel like the words diversity and inclusion get thrown around a lot, but) what does diversity actually mean to you?
Jennifer McClanahan-Flint: [00:03:12] So diversity really is all about difference ultimately. I mean, I think we can use diversity in different context, but difference is at the root of what diversity is all about. Now when we think of it from an equity standpoint, and we talk about diversity, it’s about differences that impact social status and differences that impact access to resources and opportunity. And then other privileges and disadvantages of entire groups of people in a community, based on their diverse attributes.
Jeena Cho: [00:03:45] Which leads me to my next question, why does it matter, why does diversity matter? Why should law firms care about diversity, why should we as individual lawyers care about diversity?
Jennifer McClanahan-Flint: [00:03:56] Absolutely, right? I mean we hear diversity is good, but why is diversity so good? But ultimately, diversity helps us learn. It encourages us to think critically and differently, and consider information more accurately and open-mindedly. And ultimately, that’s really what we all want. It prompts us to think creatively instead of making assumptions about what we all know or believe. And that in turn actually cultivates growth in us. Because often when we don’t have diversity, we all kind of think and assume the same things. I mean, we’re comfortable with the friends that we have because our friends think like us. And so what we really want is diversity so that we’re with people who stop and make us think.
Jeena Cho: [00:04:40] Yeah, and there’s so much research out there about how teams that are more diverse are actually more successful, but also that they also have more conflict. And it makes perfect sense, because if you have carbon copies of each other, if all the people on your team went to the same law school and grew up in the same neighborhood.. I mean not that every single one of those people are going to think the exact same thing, but that you will be biased because of your life experience and perspectives. And we want to have a group that has huge range of different life experiences and cultural backgrounds, and just a different way of viewing things. And I think we can often forget that the way that I view the world may be very very different than the way you view the world.
Jennifer McClanahan-Flint: [00:05:32] Right? And you know, this actually brings up a couple of tensions in diversity. Right? Because all that diversity is really good, and most people are really good with “makes things different diversity,” “makes things interesting diversity.” Diversity that’s interesting, you’ve traveled the world, maybe we’re all lawyers but you grew up here and you’ve had this experience; “it makes things interesting diversity,” when you get to know, people we like that. But then there’s the “makes me uncomfortable diversity,” which is really kind of at the root of what we’re talking about, diversity that makes you stretch and that makes you grow. Because “makes things interesting diversity” means that at some level, you’re asking them to be included in how you see the world. Right? So they might be different, but there’s also this ability for them to come over to your side of the fence, right? Or you can go over to their side of the fence, which brings inclusion in areas that you’re already comfortable, not really stretching. “Makes me uncomfortable diversity” is the diversity where you’re like, I don’t even know what to say to this person; I’m not sure how to communicate. It’s so vast and inclusion becomes something about equity, where everyone has an equal voice at the table, not that everybody’s comfortable at the table.
Jeena Cho: [00:06:45] Yeah, and it’s been so interesting ever since the election, it almost seems like there’s like a hyper-focus on diversity and inclusion. And at the same time, as as a woman of color I never had such a moment where I felt so uncertain and just fearful, you know? And I talk to a lot of people, especially people of color that feel this way. And I think it’s almost hard to relate to that or even understand what that feels like. I mean you know, I’m an immigrant. And because of that, I have certain life experiences and perspectives, and I always sort of bought into this idea that you come to America, you work hard, you do what you’re supposed to, and that you’ll have a place where you can have a sense of belonging; which is what diversity and inclusion is all about. It’s like having a place where you feel secure and safe and you can express who you are as a person. And I don’t feel that way, it almost seems like the foundation that I lived on has completely shifted. And now I feel fearful; I feel fearful for my safety, I feel fearful for other people of color and their safety.
Jennifer McClanahan-Flint: [00:08:03] And you know, it makes me think of a couple of things. Just as I work with my clients, and this is just something that I learned as I work with my clients, like how do they feel and how do we manage it and how do I manage my own feelings around that. Because I absolutely echo, I’ve never felt so uncertain in the world as I do now, in a country that is my country; there is no other place for me to be. And one, as as a woman of color, as executive level work, a very successful career. Part of what I’ve been able to do, and other women of color do all the time, is they’re like an ambassador to so many different cultures. You have the capacity to figure out how to make people comfortable with you in a culture that’s not your own, right? You learn, whether consciously or unconsciously, how to adapt and study a culture so that your presence makes other people comfortable, right? Makes you fit and gives you opportunity. I think it’s very unconscious when we do that, and there was some certainty about being able to be your level of safety, or when you weren’t safe. Like you could go into a culture and know I’m not safe in this culture, I don’t want to be in this culture, and I’m going to go back to myself and find out how do I navigate an area that’s outside of who I was fundamentally or who I was raised to be. And now I’m working with all these white males, how do I make myself comfortable in this culture?
[00:09:37] And those things that we’ve known, and known how to navigate for so long are off the table I feel. So this certainty that you’ve navigated with being different and being comfortable with being different, and knowing when your difference is something that people can accept and can go with and that you’ll have opportunity, and know instinctively that’s not my group and I’m not going to try and be part of that group. Now all of that to me, it’s a surprise personally how many people are comfortable with racism. Not to say they are or they aren’t racist, but there’s so many people that either are not conscious of it or are comfortable with it, it gives me pause. Which goes back to my bigger issue of “makes me uncomfortable diversity,” “makes me uncomfortable diversity” is only successful with leadership. You have plenty examples around the world, and we can now look unfortunately in the United States, where diversity raises conflict. “Makes me uncomfortable, I am not comfortable with you diversity,” conflict is prevalent. The thing that makes “makes me uncomfortable diversity” work is leadership, and you can do it within your organization. And we need it here in our country. But what our leadership is giving us now, and I don’t mean simply our president, I would say from our congressional leadership, from our media leadership, is that we’re digging in to our differences and making those the things that are most important. As opposed to the fact that our differences are the things are going to make our country better, smarter, stronger.
Jeena Cho: [00:11:10] Right, and again I just just shifting and not looking at just the political landscape but even when you look at the Fortune 500 companies, and their leadership makeup. And it’s just nauseating, just how white, older white male that those positions are held by. And it also feels exhausting, because it’s like every one of those companies probably have a diversity statement and a commitment to diversity. But then it’s like, you can’t tell me that you’re truly committed to diversity when you don’t have any person of color on your executive team or on your board. But yet they will very strongly argue with you that they deeply care about diversity and inclusion, and I’m curious to hear your thoughts on that.
Jennifer McClanahan-Flint: [00:12:05] Well, I’m not their minds. I’m not in their head so I don’t know what they’re thinking about that in particular. You know, I work with individuals who are in this situation. And basically I look at my clients and I say, “What else would you do?” So you know, can you understand why they say that they’re diverse and they’re not? Probably not. But here you are a diverse woman, in this organization. So the question isn’t what do they think of you, the question is what do you think of yourself and how are you going to navigate it? Because what is your option, what are your options? Where are you going to go? You can’t decide to not be a part, you’ve got to go make a living. You’ve got to go use this education, you’ve got skills and values and things that you’re contributing. So the question isn’t how can I make them more diverse or more understanding or more aware or more woke. I mean hopefully they get there, but the work I do with my clients is about how do you navigate this?
Jeena Cho: [00:13:07] Yeah I mean, it’s almost like moving past the point of “this is unfair.”
Jennifer McClanahan-Flint: [00:13:12] It’s been unfair for years, I mean that’s the other thing I think when I look at our political landscape. I want to say, yeah I’m not down with our current president, but our current president hasn’t done anything that has not been happening in corporate America for years. To all of a sudden point to the president like, we have a problem. He is just outlying, he is laying bare the problem that has been there since the founding of the country. Since any woman, no matter what her color, has decided to go and become part of the workforce. Women of color, I mean if there wasn’t a problem we’d have a plethora of black, female CEO’s. I mean look, there’s not a harder working, more understanding, more compassionate, more flexible group of women or people on this earth as black women. And to know that there’s not many black CEO’s, we don’t need a President Trump to tell us that there’s a problem. So I think it’s clear now that we have a problem. I think it’s really clear that the people who used to say, oh we love diversity and we love you we just don’t really know how to do it; there’s a little bit more to that, like you don’t want to do it. And that’s what I think this current climate has shown us, that they’re really comfortable not being diverse. It’s not that they just don’t know how to not be diverse. And it’s a front and it’s shaky ground, right? Then there’s this, we can’t really give the benefit of the doubt like we’ve done before because we know it’s been intentional, and now we know it’s really intentional.
Jeena Cho: [00:14:55] Yeah, you know I spent a lot of time traveling around the country and speaking at all of these different bar organizations, and I’m just shocked. I mean this is the legal profession, we’re supposed to be the ones that uphold the law and hopefully create a more diverse and equitable world, and just so many of these conferences I go to are just full of white men that are speaking on these panels. And so sometimes I’ll actually reach out to the organizer and be like, you know 86 speaker and you had two people of color; those are not great odds nor numbers or statistics. And they’ll say, well you know we just really wanted to have the best speakers. And I’ll say, well what did you do to go about actually finding diverse speakers? Well you know, I just asked all of my colleagues. Well how many of your colleagues are people of color, how many are women? And they’re like, well I have one black lawyer friend. And it’s like, no. And so I think that actually is what contributes to what’s happening. It’s like we tend to have circles of friends or acquaintances, or we work with people that are like us. You know, I think there is just that like tried mentality to want to have a sense of belonging and security and safety with other people that are like you. And it’s really uncomfortable to reach across the aisle and reach out to people that are different from you, whatever the dimension that may be.
Jennifer McClanahan-Flint: [00:16:39] So I think what complicates that (just to go in), what complicates that is that when you do decide that you’re going to be diverse, your diversive people who make you uncomfortable. So even if you get past the idea that we need to branch out and I need to have a wider net, so that I can begin to incorporate diverse perspectives and ideas in what I know and what I practice in a particular industry, in a particular organization. It’s only done if I’m comfortable with this level of diversity, but I will not go to diversity that makes me uncomfortable. So I think that’s even, there’s a strata there. Which compounds it, because then people think they’re being diverse because they have a black friend, right? I’m diverse because works there, but it’s because they’re comfortable with those women. And what’s happening, to me which makes me so sad, is that part of what’s making them comfortable is that that person finds himself oppressing a part of themselves in order for that group to be comfortable with the fact that it’s “makes things interesting diversity,” not “makes me uncomfortable diversity,” right?
Jeena Cho: [00:17:48] Yeah, and and we’ve also had to learn to walk that tight rope, to make people comfortable.
Jennifer McClanahan-Flint: [00:17:58] Absolutely, but what my work is is about stop walking the tightrope. Because this is the bottom line – what we’ve done is we’ve tried to fit in, right? So you become successful, you start to get at a certain level in your career, and you attain success. And then you kind of plateau and it’s frustrating, like why can’t we get beyond? And we tell ourselves that we’re going to do all the right things, and all those right things are about trying to fit when you don’t fit. Like, it’s apparent that you aren’t “WMP”, white male partner, white male privilege, white male whatever you want to call it. And at some level you stop fitting, no matter what your actions are.
[00:18:41] And so, the answer that I have found that makes my clients successful, is that you start digging into why you’re different. Because if you’re there and you start leveraging your difference, you start leveraging different perspectives, you start leveraging different ideas, you start coming at things in a way that’s surprising, and your difference becomes an asset. And it’s unfortunate, it shouldn’t be our responsibility to make that happen, but it is what it is so what are you going to do?
Jeena Cho: [00:19:12] Yeah. And I think this line of conversation actually leads very nicely into what I want to talk about with you, this idea of mindfulness. So when you were talking a little bit earlier about being with what is uncomfortable, that is almost like a definition of mindfulness, right? It’s like okay this is really, really hard and this makes me feel really, really uncomfortable. And this is a really difficult thing for me to acknowledge about myself or my world, but despite that I’m going to show up for it. So talk about diversity and how it’s related to mindfulness.
Jennifer McClanahan-Flint: [00:19:55] And I think I’m going to go back to my definition that makes me uncomfortable to. I think make makes things interesting. Diversity there are different for me but they are interesting and are kind of like doesn’t really wounded self to mindfulness like makes me uncomfortable. Diversity is when you have to stop and think about your next word.
[00:20:13] It makes what you say and how you think more thoughtful and intentional. So if you’re with if you don’t have black people in your life and you are across the table negotiating with someone and ethnicity comes up and you have to say black or African-American and you’re asking yourself like well do I say black or do I say can I say. I don’t know how to reference. Suddenly you become a lot more mindful and everything that happens in that conversation not just around the topic. The same thing is if it’s a transgender person. Do I say he she or they. Yeah. Like if I have to he said or she but I don’t know what to say. You stop and become very intentional sometimes even to the point where you ask the person what would they like to be called. Like. Like if it’s something that you actually have to name. If you look at someone and they have a disability do I look at their disability or do I not get their disability. I don’t know what to do in a situation.
[00:21:09] Typically what we do because we’re so uncomfortable is avoid it. You say they’re not a good fit. This isn’t going to work. I don’t know what to do. Instead of leaning into the fact that I don’t know what to do it’s going to disrupt what I do about everything is going to everything and that conversation becomes so much more aware. You’re aware of so much more intentional so much more in some ways it becomes collaborative because you have to let go of what you assume to be true or what you seem to know because you know you don’t know you’re so uncomfortable because I don’t know how to swim in this water. And that’s why I think it becomes like mindfulness it I mean you’re in a situation where you are so ultra aware of everything you say and everything you do and that it’s really good for us.
Jeena Cho: [00:21:59] Yeah.
[00:22:01] Yeah. And you know I think it’s outrageous. Like all worthwhile naming that it gets not easy and had evidence of Albia like you know a life long journey like learning to be what what’s difficult and not running away from that. And also like screwing up and you know finding your way through it you know as just having a confrontation with this partner and he shared with me he goes you know it’s not that I don’t care about their recent inclusion it’s not that I don’t want to help women and people of color succeed. And my team is he said but I just feel like every time I try I don’t do it right. I get angry at me for not using the right language or you’re not seeing things properly. And you know I’m. And people like jumped down my throat for it and then you know and I can see that being Harga. And so I think you know what part of what has happened is we need to sort of give each other a little bit of a benefit of doubt and I certainly don’t. I
[00:23:08] swear it’s like someone’s actually trying to be helpful but it’s like if you just use the wrong word.
Jennifer McClanahan-Flint: [00:23:13] I know I had a telephone number seminar’s by Allison Park she’s from Fleet consulting and she gives us you know she gave these bullet points on how diversity helps us learn and these are from studies that she’s just kind of summarized and she says you know one way that diversity helps us long is it jolts us into cognitive action in ways that homogeny simply does not how much data it does it does it do. And I think that that sense of adequacy right. I mean this is what happens is you feel incompetent when you don’t know how to make something successful and it’s very interesting because when you’re with a white male in an organization that is the assumption is that they’re competent that’s just the SNP and if they’re not they can quickly learn how to be corrupt. Part of it is a cultural advantage that helps them to be able to do it but when they get in in a situation where they are not. Not only is there anxiety around not being able to be competent and there’s a sense of conscious incompetence. They also haven’t learned to be resourceful enough to reach out to get the help they need to become competent and in some ways that’s not that’s frowned upon right. That may have because somehow you think you think that I’ve made it through my smarts and my intelligence without understanding really you’ve made it through privilege.
[00:24:47] You’ve always had a hand up but now you need a hand up in a different way from people that you aren’t accustomed to getting a hand up from. It’s really having the flexibility to be able to want to learn how to be successful in this way and make it work.
[00:25:04] And it’s becoming conscious of wanting to be comfortable being and competent until you get cocktease competence.
Jeena Cho: [00:25:15] Yeah.
[00:25:15] And that’s especially hard for for loners because I now everything was supposed to be perfect.
Jennifer McClanahan-Flint: [00:25:24] But you know on the other side of that people of color have to do things they don’t have a choice but to do it like they they are there they come in unconscious of of of law firm culture. Let’s just name more culture is what it is right. It’s challenging for anyone to come into law from culture and learn regardless of what your race is as a woman of color to come into law firm culture you know you got to be totally comfortable with failure. You have to be totally comfortable with people mistreating you. People misunderstanding people making assumptions and you get up and magine deal and then go on to be even more successful. I mean so it so it’s not this sense like it can’t be done or it’s so hard or I understand I don’t really understand women people of color.
[00:26:12] They have to they had to do it when they walk in the room and they have to fail and they have to recover and then to recover gracefully and they learn how to do it. I mean that’s why it’s so like if we really had equity in the world black women would be CEOs of so many companies right.
Jeena Cho: [00:26:28] And they are judged more harshly when they fail than their white male counterpart.
Jennifer McClanahan-Flint: [00:26:34] Yeah which is why I think we talked about earlier this need to build relationships like that so often people of color lead with relationship building. You know everyone fails but when you fail it’s deemed so much harsher. So the Chet the challenge the coping mechanism that we do is build relationships so that other people share their credibility when we do. All right. The cushion that fall for us by vouching for understanding mentoring. Right. They share their privilege with us to give us some benefit of the doubt. Yeah and that’s a lot of work.
Jeena Cho: [00:27:10] It does. Yeah that’s some really.
[00:27:15] It is exhausting.
Jennifer McClanahan-Flint: [00:27:16] We do it. We do it everyday we do it consciously we do it as a matter. You do it in school you do it when you’re in law school you learn how to do this. So I think that’s why I think the work I do with women is so important because they have skills just based on who they are. They’ve had to develop and it had to refine and refine and incorporate it so much they didn’t even notice anymore. It’s just how they navigate the world that their white male counterparts have never really had to build. They’ve never really had to be resilient in the same way. And so it’s when you begin to recognize that you have skill sets and you will find them in a way that other people just haven’t even had to think about dealing with. How do you start employing that in your day to day work. How do you start identifying that is making different and many times making you better. How do you wear that right and how do you start to navigate that instead of continuing to think that if I keep adapting and keep blending in and keep doing all the right things are going to notice all they really notice is that you’re different. They don’t notice the things that the skills that you want until you tell them about the skills and why they need to notice them and why your difference makes those skills so prevalent and how you operate and how you navigate your career and your work.
Jeena Cho: [00:28:35] Yeah.
[00:28:36] What do you think about leadership why weren’t taught thinking about diversity efforts.
Jennifer McClanahan-Flint: [00:28:42] You know until we have leaders that understand that they’re missing out of market opportunities right. They’re missing client opportunities by not having diversity. Right. They’re missing out on innovation by not having diversity and become committed to it be great if they were committed because of social justice perspective. But even if it was a gender justice perspective. Right. And it was a perspective of how do we continue to make our organization thrive.
[00:29:11] Right. And how do we continue to have the skilled workforce that we need. We need to be able to tap people’s right. And communities that we don’t have because they’re not part of our network. Unless leadership really decides to do it it’s always going to be an uphill battle and you cannot manage makes me uncomfortable. Diversity without commitment from leadership be it doesn’t. You have one offs right. I mean sometimes that’s what I find in my work which you know I work with. The only way you know I work with the only woman here the only black woman doing this. The first Asian woman to do this. You know that that’s who I work with and really for us to have true diversity leadership has to be committed to it. And they have to be able to make space for incompetence around diversity. Right. Until people learn and they have to be committed to social justice within their organizations so that it’s equitable that people are rarely truly acknowledged and promoted based on what it is that they bring to the table. And you can’t do that. I mean you can’t do that without leadership train.
Jeena Cho: [00:30:24] I feel like this is such a complicated and complex issue but dangerous thoughts about someone is like oh hey like I you know I want to try to be more mindful and aware of these diversity inclusion issues because I am part of privilege and I may not see the world the way that or I may not express the world that other people of color women experience. I’m what. Like what are some things that they can do what are some steps like what does that journey like even look like you know. Because I think sometimes what happens is like you don’t making the men kind of feel like well this isn’t my problem this isn’t my issue. Like it’s not like I I can’t be the one to look at a panel and say I’m not going to speak on that panel because you don’t have any women or you know like you have a diversity problem here because some people might look at them and say well why do you care. Are you a white male like this helps you. Why do you care. I just some thoughts about you know how do you even begin that journey. Yeah I just increasing your own awareness.
Jennifer McClanahan-Flint: [00:31:32] You have to decide that maybe maybe it does concern me in a just because I’m a white male and I have white male privilege doesn’t mean things continue to go on in our organization exactly as they are. We really have the support the knowledge the innovation the work force to continue to really be at the top of our game right. There’s a buy now finite number of excellent white males but a lot of white males attorneys are mediocre. Right. And there’s a finite number of really excellent white males attorneys. Who else are going to be your excellent attorneys to do the work in your firm. Number one and number two if that concerned you then you have to do a little education. I mean Google is your friend right.
[00:32:23] I mean at this point if you understand diversity equity social justice if you don’t know what redlining means if you don’t understand the impact of racism the impact of slavery right the impact of immigration. You could just do some google. You have to leave your office. You don’t have to go anywhere and talk to anyone. You could do some googling. Right. And if there’s something that comes up that makes you really comfortable go google things that don’t make a profile and do a little research you’re a little learning with this great book that I read it’s called white and white like me and I forget Debbie and I can’t remember her last name.
[00:32:59] She wrote this book and she it’s hardly her discovery of understanding how white she is in America and she didn’t grow up thinking that White was a culture.
[00:33:09] She thought that white people were all individuals and that other people had culture and that she grew. It’s. It’s really a it was a fantastic read.
[00:33:22] First of all she uncovered a lot about American history that cultivate this idea that white people are individual contributors when really they benefited as a group based on policy. Right.
[00:33:35] So she outlines in a way that so relatable but it was also fascinating for me to read how white people think like I read it like I’m not a white person. I don’t I don’t think like white people I wasn’t raised that way and reading her talk about how white people think the world was just such a revelation to me.
[00:33:52] It was set to publish it. And I think of other like of other people read white people read that book. They were told not everyone of course but they would resonate with her point of view and her perspective. So if you want to be able to lean into it then you need to do some work.
[00:34:07] Maybe you don’t if someone tells you you know a math problem and you don’t understand the math problem but you really want to get better in math what do you do. You do the work until you start to understand the math problem you don’t just say oh math doesn’t really exist. Oh
[00:34:23] that’s that’s not a valid point. If enough people say it and it’s a point you go figure out why don’t I see this. I’m going to figure out the math problem. You know racism social injustice right discrimination bigotry. It existed and exist as much today as it has ever in our country. And so if you don’t understand it and you can’t see it then you have to be dedicated to learning and you have that. I
[00:34:48] mean to me it’s basically the growth mindset just because I don’t know it doesn’t mean it does. That’s my.
Jeena Cho: [00:34:52] Yeah yeah. And also there’s no I don’t think a singular version of the truth. I mean like I always feel like sometimes people look to you and be like OK like explain this old like Black Lives Matter nothing to me I like explain I like whatever the topic is and they sort of look to you as a black person on the emperors or whatever to like sort of give them this collected answer that will Juni apply to every Asian woman or every black woman. It’s like no no no. I asked her for her dislike is this entire style.
[00:35:30] This has been on my mind since. Cornel West has been talking about Banaszak coat’s right. And there’s this thing going back and forth on whether they agree or they agree. And to me it is the perfect example of assuming that black people are Wachira as a group like they’re like white people do not see themselves as a group. They might join a group right. They might decide they want to be democratic they might decide they want to be a Republican liberal liberal. They might decide they want to be religious. They might decide they want to lead and they might decide that they wanted to be part of a group but they do not see themselves as a collective. But they assume everyone outside of what they don’t think is a group is a group is their own individual group.
[00:36:19] And then they judge them as a group. And if we could actually talk to people as individuals because every person is on the spectrum right we know that I really learned this from doing work with gender diversity right. And people on the gender spectrum and gender inclusion and gender identity is so individual that you cannot make a blanket statement about gender and what gender means and what you call so one unless you just can’t make a blanket statement and you begin to understand it based on how that person views themselves right when that person guides how you view their gender based on how they see themselves not on how you see them. There is no he or she really period right we’re all somewhere on that spectrum. It’s the same with whiteness. It’s the same with blackness. Black people are across a spectrum of how they view being black and their experiences being black. And so this idea that white people also aren’t on a group and that and that as individuals within that group they’re on a spectrum. If they could begin to see themselves that way they could begin to see other groups that way.
[00:37:38] And I think some you know a big root of why the block is because they think they’ve been we’ve all eaten the be who he wanted self-determination and if you work hard enough and strong enough then you can you know make it and do whatever you want to do. And it’s a rugged individualists on we we drank off of that bottle since the day we were born and we believe it as Americans that is so absolutely true but it really only applies to white people because white people do not see people of color as individuals.
[00:38:11] They see them as groups I mean this is a generalization but ultimately I think that’s what happens.
Jeena Cho: [00:38:20] Yeah and I guess we should all as I put like a footnote and say like to be fair and we truly understand not every white person thinks.
Jennifer McClanahan-Flint: [00:38:28] Yes I do.
[00:38:30] I like it or not I think but I think more often or not that’s the deal that would say that’s something that I started to pay really close attention to is what media consuming think just an era of fake news. And you know I was really really surprised like I went back and I looked at all the books that I purchased from Amazon the last couple of years and I looked at like my partners and look that who am I. Follow me on Twitter who are my friends. But on Facebook and just shockingly white when I was like who you really surprised. Just like how many books I read by you know white male. And so I actually had to be like like just a little bit more conscious about you know what am I consume because I think what you consume obviously is going to impact how you view the world. And if you’re only viewing the world with this particular lens and it’s hard to kind of get all the different perspectives on it. So I’ve been just making a more conscious effort to really pay attention to you know who who. Who do I engage with on on Twitter and Facebook and as they were saying or is it a group that I feel good about or do I feel like I get different of opinions and perspectives. And do they challenge me on my police. And how do I react when I feel like you know what I noticed what I thought I knew to be true is being challenged.
[00:40:00] Zain I think that’s perhaps one place where we can all start to kind of see our own unconscious bias. And you know I absolutely like a way that we can just be more mindful and be more mindful of know when you go out to Happy Hour on Friday and like look around like who we know who are the people that are joining you for happy hour and now you see people that you see week after week after week and if they’re all sort of carbon copies of you know what are you really doing to get yourself out of the comfort zone.
Jennifer McClanahan-Flint: [00:40:31] Yeah. Deseret Attaway she runs the diversity 101 program and I took her last year and one of the challenges was specifically finding someone who believes something totally different from you and just follow them on social media in what they write. Don’t comment don’t say anything just follow and I’ve followed a group that was a pro you know pro life group. Not that I don’t believe in pro life but it was a very interesting to understand how they are this person.
[00:41:07] I don’t see them. But to humanity than it was it was a way for me to be in a position where I just said Yeah. And I couldn’t because the commitment was not to respond or not said anything. I wasn’t busy formulating my response. I was really in the position of just listening and it was such a great opportunity to find their humanity. Batan doesn’t mean that I changed my mind or that I agreed but I was in the position myself to look or I did not even look for it but just tear it over time because I could. I committed to following them for six weeks. I was just going to listen I’m not going to say a word. And you as you listen you begin to find this shred of where who they are right and what they think. It doesn’t again mean that you agree.
[00:41:58] But it does sometimes give you the opportunities you make them human.
Jeena Cho: [00:42:05] Yeah. And I think you know that’s such a basic human need to be seen to be heard to be understood even if they the other person doesn’t agree what you know and I think often we can fall into that trap of thinking well I have to agree or we have to agree. And I don’t know that that’s true. I think there’s just so much power and healing actually that can happen just by being seen and being heard even if you don’t agree with the other person.
Jennifer McClanahan-Flint: [00:42:34] Right. And I think that the challenge is having the resource to always stand the ground to say it. So you know you talk about how you know if we talked about white males and their discomfort leaning in. But then you also have people of color whose exhaustion of always standing out. You know I I do promote for my clients that it’s turned out to be different but you have to acknowledge it’s exhausting. Great you’re always educating you’re always explaining it. It’s a lot it’s a lot of work. So you know I just think on that. On the other we have to just be cognizant of the energy that it takes right to be able to support who we are when we’re in an environment that doesn’t really understand us. Yeah. Another thought thinking about reading I’ve been reading a lot lately and I was reading some books by white male authors and there were some basic cultural assumptions that they were making that you know prior to doing this work.
[00:43:36] I would have read it and just assume what they said was true or just assume that that is the way the world is. And so I just want to put out there like a consciousness I have about being Gary. Like I wrote an article beginning in January about Adam Grant’s book. His latest book I can’t remember it but there’s a S.S book that talks about black people and you know why black people are comfortable with settling for less. Basically it was what the read article I wrote it’s on Muggeridge Salita we’d like to find it. And I don’t know that two years ago I read that paragraph I would have noted the cultural bias that he’s putting out in that paragraph. So even when you’re a person of color rate it takes a lot of work and consciousness building and intentionality to be able to name the thing that’s happened to you so often experience and you know when you’re experiencing racism right you know when someone is discriminating against you but to actually name the dynamic at work and to be able to see it and call it out and and just speak to it right to speak to not only is it happening I understand why it’s happening take so it’s its own educational journey. It’s not something that you will find me when I come to learn about it in school. Not going to learn about it through your family experience you get to talk to your friends and then say oh yeah they were definitely racist but you wouldn’t be able to explain why.
[00:45:01] And they did talk about what it means and the impact of it and to even let them know that what they’ve done is not appropriate. And they bring that up because part of when you’re in the dynamic when you’re an only around people who don’t really understand you. Your ability to give voice to bias when it happens in a way that people can’t see it and it doesn’t necessarily threaten your position. It’s a skill that you have to work on consistently. And so I think in reading and educating yourself you know white people yes they need to educate but we also need to be able to educate be educated enough in our own experience to give voice to really what’s happening in the.
Jeena Cho: [00:45:44] You know is really hard for me to say like I feel like I’m being excluded.
[00:45:54] You know. And also I feel like it’s like no one’s ever going to say like well we’re not going to select you for this committee because you’re black. Rarely is that ever going to happen. So I think for me there’s like this feeling of like crazy making because it’s like they there’s no it’s like OK. Like I feel like I’m being treated a certain way because of my race because of my gender. But that. But when you called and try to call him out on it they’ll vehemently deny it like they are. And also I think they may truly believe that they’re not acting with any bias when in fact they are. And so I guess I haven’t really figured out how to have that conversation and I don’t think there’s any way of having a conversation without I don’t know making them feel uncomfortable.
Jennifer McClanahan-Flint: [00:46:47] I don’t know. I don’t know. I think it’s a skill. But there are some right there are some basics like is it worth having a conversation. So the question isn’t can you have the conversation or do you or should you or shouldn’t you or even how the first question is Is it worth having that conversation. But how it would best it might. That’s right. Is this my company. What am I going to get out of it. So that has to be the basis of what’s in it for me to even have that conversation. And then you then you can decide how do I have the conversation if you indeed you want to. And it’s worthwhile having a conversation and that’s why I mean when I said earlier when you’re a person of color the only you really have to be conscious of your energy smart space and how to use it and how you spend it and how you promote yourself or how you call out is when you need to do it because it is exhausting so it has to be worth it. You have to also be in an environment where they’re invested in you right. No matter what that might look like even if they don’t know how invested they are in you but they’ve invested in you. They promoted you they worked with you so that you also have a stake in your development and your ability to help them. So a lot of times the guys I’ve worked with have a certain level of expertise in an area and people are invested in the help and the expertise that they’ve developed.
[00:48:11] They need them and so it gives them some leverage to come back and say well you need me this is my standard by which I will work with you and the level of respect I need. Is that how I need you to treat me. This is what I need you to understand but you are not doing I cannot continue to happen if you want to continue to work with me. So I think it’s not a simple women to go in and defend myself against bias it’s why do I have to learn. What do I have to lose. Is this place invested in me. Is it my energy and fighting an organization in a place that needs substandard support that you need to meet. Even if they’re not as diverse as they want to be if they are committed to diversity it’s going to be a better organization to make that stand to you know an organization that doesn’t really care about diversity at all. Does that make sense. I think sometimes we try to make it black and white and it’s really art and it’s possible it’s not. But it has to be worth it. And you have to do some work and then you have to practice good humor troops in a way that helps you move forward. And so what’s so interesting in the work that I’ve done Gina is most people of color actually have the diplomatic way to have those conversations because they’ve been having them all their lives. They just don’t think about being more directly diplomatic.
[00:49:35] But once you get to that what’s my truth is it worth that and what do I have to lose and am I afraid or will I stand out or not stand out once you get past that issue that actual having a conversation isn’t the hardest part because you’ve been having those conversations all your life really. I mean think about like my husband is white. So I go to his family’s house for holidays.
[00:49:58] I have worked on being diplomatic I haven’t worked on that. I am really good at diplomacy.
[00:50:07] That is not that’s not us. It’s not. I wasn’t full or I matter and angry is just is what it is. So to think that I can’t transfer that skill that I’ve honed to in any circumstance that really matters to me. And that’s a career defining moment for me and that I want to be on this committee. But you are not allowing any black people on this committee. And how do I raise that. We have the skill to raise it. It’s just matter. Is it worth raising it. Do I want to be on that. What does that committee get to do. Is it worth it is it worth it. Be spending my credibility chips on this committee or not. And then how do I build a strategy to be able to say it artfully to the right people. And I think it helps to have someone who can support you a group a community a colleague someone outside of that that can help you. Thank you. How do I raise the question that we just can’t raise question. We need diversity in this country. But it is the thing that makes this country great. And we need diversity in organizations that agree that we don’t embrace that we fall behind stagnate and it is incumbent on everyone white black brown just matter to embrace how they add to that diversity dialogue.
Jeena Cho: [00:51:36] For people that want to learn more about you or your work. Could we use the best place they can go.
Jennifer McClanahan-Flint: [00:51:43] So the best way is they can go to leverage2lead.com.
I also love to I mean I am so passionate about talking to supporting working with helping women of color that you can reach out to me and support and leverage to lead dot com again it’s number two. Let it’s you know and I’m happy to you know share what I know and support people in whichever way I can be my my goal is to help take the apprehension right out of college manage our careers and look towards anticipation be rooted with who we are so that we have the capacity to navigate uncertainty.
Jeena Cho: [00:52:43] Jennifer thank you so much for being with me today.
Jennifer McClanahan-Flint: [00:52:47] Jeena thank you so much for this opportunity for a fantastic conversation.
Closing: [00:52:58] Thanks for joining us on The Resilient Lawyer podcast. If you’ve enjoyed the show, please tell a friend. It’s really the best way to grow the show. To leave us a review on iTunes, search for The Resilient Lawyer and give us your honest feedback. It goes a long way to help with our visibility when you do that, so we really appreciate it. As always, we’d love to hear from you. E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks, and look forward to seeing you next week.