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June 14, 2023 | 31 Mins Read

Debunking the Myths that Impede Workplace Inclusion

June 14, 2023 | 31 Mins Read

Debunking the Myths that Impede Workplace Inclusion


Sarah welcomes back Mita Mallick, corporate change-maker and Chief Diversity Officer at Carta who is soon to release her first book: Reimagine Inclusion: Debunking 13 Myths to Transform Your Workplace.

Sarah Nicastro: Welcome to the Future of Field Service podcast. I'm your host, Sarah Nicastro. Today, we're going to be having a discussion to debunk the myths that are impeding workplace inclusion. Really excited for today's chat, and really excited to welcome back to the Future of Field Service podcast, Mita Mallick. Hi, Mita.

Mita Mallick: Hi, Sarah. Thanks for having me back.

Sarah Nicastro: Of course.

Mita Mallick: I'm a second-time guest. Very excited.

Sarah Nicastro: Uh-huh, that's right. You're part of the club now.

Mita Mallick: Yes.

Sarah Nicastro: Mita was on this podcast in a former episode. I should have looked at what number. I did look, it's number 68. Okay. So, we're in the, I don't know, 200s.

Mita Mallick: Wow.

Sarah Nicastro: So, it's been a while ago, and we had a really great conversation at the time talking about having courageous conversations on race. But if you missed Mita's first appearance, let me tell you a little bit about her. She is a corporate changemaker, whose passion for inclusive storytelling led her to become Chief Diversity Officer and also to write her first book, which is what we are going to be talking quite a bit about today. That book is forthcoming and it is titled Reimagine Inclusion: Debunking 13 Myths to Transform Your Workplace. So, that is very exciting.

Before we get into it, is there anything about you that you want to share that I didn't cover in that very, very quick little bio introduction?

Mita Mallick: You covered almost everything, except for the most important thing we talk about, which is our children, right?

Sarah Nicastro: Yes.

Mita Mallick: Biggest job we have is raising kind and inclusive human beings. So, biggest job I have is parenting.

Sarah Nicastro: Yep.

Mita Mallick: Jay, who's 10 going on 20. Priya, who's eight going on 18. I remember when we talked, it was right during the pandemic. We were…

Sarah Nicastro: We were in the throes of it.

Mita Mallick: Yes. So, I just have a memory of us talking during that time. Very vivid One. Very vivid one.

Sarah Nicastro: On the brink of absolutely losing it.

Mita Mallick: Yes.

Sarah Nicastro: Here we are a couple years later, we were-

Mita Mallick: Yes, we're still here.

Sarah Nicastro: ... maybe still losing it, but we're here. Okay.

Mita Mallick: We're still here.

Sarah Nicastro: All right. At the time, when you were on... You were with Unilever, right?

Mita Mallick: Yes.

Sarah Nicastro: You've only had one change since. To Carta, is that correct?

Mita Mallick: Yeah, I'm still with Carta. Yeah. I did what a lot of people did, which was change jobs during the pandemic. For me, it was a big job. That was lots of lessons learned. But I believe I had started writing the book before we did that first podcast. I wrote this book four years ago. I'm losing track of time now, but it's been certainly a labor of love to finish it, and then also to get it published.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. I think the conversation we had in episode 68, having courageous conversations about race, certainly related to what we're going to talk about today, and all kind of part of that. I know that you are very passionate about diversity, equity, and inclusion. While it is not my role, like it is yours, it's also something that I feel very strongly about. And so, I think the work you're doing to not only make these conversations front and center, but to get into some of the things that people shy away from, I think is just so important. So, thrilled to chat.

The book that you wrote four years ago, that's going to soon be coming out into the world, I love... It says, "The premise of the book is to say all the quiet parts out loud of what holds us back from making meaningful progress in inclusivity work." I just love that. I always say cut the BS, let's get to-

Mita Mallick: Let's get into it.

Sarah Nicastro: ... let's discuss what is everyone not saying? What's really going on? I think it's so important to have someone be brave in initiating some of those uncomfortable conversations.

Mita Mallick: Thank you.

Sarah Nicastro: You've been passionate about these things for a long time. You've been in roles where this has been a part of your professional life also for a long time. What led you to the point where you felt you needed to put this in book form and get it out into the world?

Mita Mallick: There's a lot of great books about diversity, equity, inclusion, and leadership out in the marketplace. Like you said, I wanted to say the quiet parts out loud. I felt like there were myths and stories we were holding onto that stop us from making meaningful progress, because we just believe these things are true and they hold us back. I guess I'll use your language, let's cut through the BS, let's talk about what's really happening, because we can't change what we won't discuss. If you're not going to talk about the tough thing, the hard thing, whether that's at home or at work, how are you going to actually see progress happen? You won't, because you're keeping it undercover, keeping it hidden.

And I think about our conversation, that's one of my myths in the book. One of the myths in the book is, it's time to have some courageous conversations on race. Let's ask employees of color to lead them. I think about our conversation, I think about so many conversations I've had over the years, which is the culmination of this book. It's the culmination of all of my expertise and things that I've experienced, or witnessed, or led, or conversations I've had with thought leaders like yourself. So, I thought, let me write it all down.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah.

Mita Mallick: Let me write it all down and share it with the world, and I know it's going to have big impact, and I'm really excited for that.

Sarah Nicastro: That's awesome. This wasn't on our outline, but I often throw curveballs in here.

Mita Mallick: Of course.

Sarah Nicastro: I'm just curious, how often do... I know this book is specifically gearing these conversations toward what we need to talk about in the workplace, which obviously is relevant for our listeners, but I'm also curious, because I'm thinking about it from the perspective of being a mom. How often do these topics come up in your conversations with your children?

Mita Mallick: All the time.

Sarah Nicastro: Right. Because I feel like-

Mita Mallick: Even if you don't realize it, even if you don't realize it.

Sarah Nicastro: .... you're trying to, you said at the beginning, to raise kind-

Mita Mallick: Inclusive human beings.

Sarah Nicastro: Yes.

Mita Mallick: Yeah.

Sarah Nicastro: Then you have to undo so much of what have existed and-

Mita Mallick: You have to. I'll give you an example. I mean, we'll talk about this as we get more into the details of Reimagine Inclusion, but for anyone who has little people in their life, we have to be careful about the language we use. So, when my kids start to say things like, "Oh, this kid, Mita, in my class is..." Let me start again, "This kid, Mita, in my class is kind of funny, strange, weird, awkward, unusual, different. I don't really like them." Okay, let's get into that. Because when we start to perceive difference, whether we realize it or not, we start to create distance. We start to other, we start to stereotype. Stereotype becomes the gateway to hate. Really watch for that language. And I watch for it, too, because I might be saying something really innocently, "Oh, Sarah is just so awkward and weird. Ha ha ha." Okay, but what do I really mean by that?

Sarah Nicastro: Right.

Mita Mallick: Is she awkward and weird? Listen, we're all a little bit weird. So, what is it I'm trying to say? And what am I role-modeling to my children? And watch for that. I say to my kids, "Well, no, let's not use that language. What are you really trying to say?" "Well, she upset me in school today." "Okay, well, then you should tell her that she upset you in school today. Let's not start labeling people." This work starts at home and it starts early on.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. I think in terms of not shying away from things that can be uncomfortable, right?

Mita Mallick: Absolutely.

Sarah Nicastro: Like having courageous conversations. My mother-in-law not too, too long ago, kind of questioned me. She's like, "I feel like you're too honest with the kids." And I'm like, "Okay, well, I don't know if there is such a thing is too honest." They have to learn this stuff somehow, and it's better they learn things from us that we can get into with them when they ask hard questions; not just avoid it and then have them pick up whatever else might be someone's perception or stereotype, et cetera. So it's just really interesting.

Okay. So, how do you find the courage to say out loud some of the things that people tend to keep quiet about? That make people uncomfortable, the conversations they shy away from. What kind of gives you the courage to put it out there, to speak about it? How do you find that?

Mita Mallick: I think it's grown in me over time. I've had so many painful workplace experiences. We've all had. I've had painful life experiences, painful work experiences, and I don't want any of our children to go through the things that I did. The world has changed a lot. Yes, progress is slow, but it's very different from when I was born and raised in the US and how I'm raising my children, and I'm happy for that.

And by sharing all of these things, I really want stories to inspire, to move people and then really ultimately get them to act in a different way. And so, I am now at a place in my life where I do have power. I do have a different level of privilege, right, than others, and there's a responsibility with that. There's a responsibility to really say those things out loud. And they're uncomfortable. They're not comfortable. But I do think because you've gotten to know me, the way in which I try to reach and teach people is not to shame or demonize or to blame or to point fingers, but to say, "Let's unpack this together, and let's try to move each other on our journeys to be more inclusive leaders."

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, and I think that's an important distinction. Because number one, if you were trying to shame people, you're not going to be as effective as you want to be and know you can be. But two, there's a lot of this. I don't know how you would put a percentage to it, but there's certainly maliciousness that exists, right? But there's a lot of this that's just unconscious. It's just really deeply embedded in how people were raised. So that doesn't make it less harmful, but putting shame to that doesn't help someone want to think or do differently, and so I think that's a really good point as well.

So, the book debunks 13 Myths, and while I wish we had time to go through all of them, we don't, and also we want people to read the book. So I kind of hand selected a few that I think would be particularly interesting to our audience, and we will sort of start there. Okay?

Mita Mallick: Awesome.

Sarah Nicastro: So the first is in the book, I believe, myth number four, and it's, "I'm all for diverse talent as long as they're good."

Mita Mallick: Yes.

Sarah Nicastro: So let's talk about this.

Mita Mallick: Yes, let's talk about this. Please don't call me a diversity hire. I earned this seat. I deserve this seat. And so that myth really goes to how we have different standards for different people. And Sarah, throughout Reimagine Inclusion, I really get leaders to try to self-reflect. Because here's the thing: A lot of companies have systems and processes in place to help with creating inclusive and equitable cultures. And yet, at the end of the day, it's all about the leader. It's all about Mita and how she shows up to work. And if I can't interrupt my bias, it's going to be a different result that actually might go against the system or the process.

And so, when we say things like, "I'm all for diverse talent, as long as they're good," would we ever say, "I'm all for non-diverse talent as long as they're good?" And so, one of the exercises I take leaders through is, let's say that you hired me, Sarah, to do a really difficult leadership role in turning around a failed business; didn't work out for all the reasons we might get into; I move on to my next opportunity. Would it make you less likely to hire a woman of color into that role? Because I was the first woman of color you'd ever appointed to lead a division?

But what if I was a white man? I'm going to pick on Jim. I don't know a Jim, but let's say it was Jim. Jim and I had the same story. You appointed him to lead a business that was failing and he couldn't turn it around, and for all the reasons we don't need to get into, he ends up moving on. Does it make you less reluctant to hire another white man?

And so, those are the things we have to ask ourselves. And as I say, the beautiful part of the human brain is that you can have your thought in your head and no one can hear it. Although someone told me the other day, AI actually can now map to thoughts and jeez, come up with it. I'm like, "Oh God, forget that." Let's keep AI out of this. Let's just say no one can hear my thought, so I'm going to hold onto this and I'm going to interrogate it and I'm going to really question what I'm thinking. And then, as a result of questioning it, what I say next and what I do next will be different because I interrogated it.

Also, the other thing I talk about in that myth is really busting the pipeline myth. I think the global pandemic has really showed us that we have access to diverse pipelines across the globe. And so, I talk about working with individuals in the state of Vermont, which in the US is one of the whitest states, statistically speaking. And very clearly, a leader years ago saying, "I want to bring in a Black talent to lead this division. This is my intent. I want to build a diverse slate." That's a really good intent to say, "I want to change the composition of my team, and I want to build a diverse slate to help get there." Awesome. "I will pay for no relocation. I'm going to pay below market standards for the job, and the role needs to be in Vermont full-time."

Okay, so what does that already do? We've created a pipeline issue unknowingly, and then it's like, "Well, recruiting couldn't get me any candidates." But look at the standards you set from the start? You didn't allow. You can say you want a diverse slate, but you didn't allow for your team to help you build that, because you internally set up all these obstacles.

And then the final thing I'll leave you with is also just thinking about how we do interview processes, and I'll give you an example of when we don't have equitable standards for an interview process. Let's say I'm interviewing you, and I'm like, "Oh, I didn't know you went to Stanford. You played lacrosse? Oh my God, wait, you also summered in Cape Cod growing up?" Okay. All of a sudden in the interview process, we discover all these things about each other, and I really start to like you. And because I like you, I just am like, "I don't need for Sarah to go through any more rounds. Let's just move over to the final stage." But then I meet Jim. Something about Jim makes me uncomfortable and it can't put my finger on it. And so instead, what I do is put Jim through three more rounds, versus Sarah, who really just leapt to the end and Sarah just got the offer.

I always say on my own podcast with Dee C. Marshall, Brown Table Talk, we say, "Facts, not feelings. Facts, not feelings." So in the interview debrief, someone says, "Why is Sarah such a great candidate? I just really liked her. We had so much in common." And then it's like, okay, you didn't ask her any of the interview questions. You actually don't know about her experience, because the whole time you were talking about Stanford and lacrosse and where you summered as a child. You don't even get into the meat of what she does in the experience, and so those are some of the examples and discussion I have in that myth.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. So the interview, the equitable, equitable interview process makes sense to me, but going back to the Vermont example. I guess I have two questions, which is, one, is that narrowing intentional. I guess without it being a real example, it's hard to say yes or no. But then also, what are the checks and balances then? Is it just the person writing the job description, reflecting on themselves? Or what should be the next step where someone says, "Hm, you're kind of creating an unrealistic expectation here?"

Mita Mallick: I go back to what you said at the beginning of this conversation. I like to believe, I talk a lot about this in Reimagine Inclusion, intent versus impact. Most people in the workplace, I believe, have positive intent and they don't know how their impact lands. There are the Harvey Weinsteins and the Matt Lauers who make headlines, who deserve to seek redemption and move on from their workplaces. But I would say most people I work with don't operate from that place of having really negative intent, and so perhaps with this leader in the example I gave in Vermont, the leader's intent actually is positive in the beginning and says, "I want a diverse slate. I want to change the composition of my team." But then, the intent doesn't match the impact, because then they start thinking about their own needs, which is perhaps their need for control, that they need to be sitting in Vermont; perhaps the fact that they have a tight budget, so they don't want to pay for relocation or a competitive market.

So that's where sometimes I think to what you're saying, perhaps the barriers are intentional, and sometimes they're unintentional. Because sometimes with our intent, Sarah, we focus more on ourselves than the other side of the equation, which is the impact. Right? We have positive intent, but I also want to make sure that intent is good for Mita, that it works for Mita. I want to make sure, okay, Sarah's going to be positively impacted, but Mita needs to be as well, so let me center myself in the intent piece of it.

So that's the first piece. I think you have a great question about the job description and really making sure that when you're writing it, you don't need a hundred cooks in the kitchen, but making sure cross-functional partners, peers, other leaders, get their eyes on it to see what is it that you're asking of this individual. And then making sure, again, when you're in the interview process, go back to the job description. "Well, Mita doesn't have that skillset." "Okay. Did we ask her that in the job description?" "No, we didn't." "Yes, check we did." Or, is it something she can grow into? Because oftentimes, I think what you're saying is when you have a vague job description and you're not very clear on what you're looking for, that also things get muddied in the process, then you can't really evaluate candidates fairly and equitably.

And the last thing I'll say is, one of the things I talk about in this myth is it's not recruiting's job to find talent. It's all of our jobs. So if you were a leader, always be out for talent. And if you're always getting to know talent, from communities that you don't identify with, it gives you the space to get to know people without judging them versus a job description. Right? Because if you get to know me and my talents, and there's a chief marketing officer role, you might be like, "Well, Mita hasn't done marketing for a while. But oh my God, actually, she's an amazing marketer. She hasn't done it for a while, so I want to actually put her up for this job."

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm. Yeah. That makes sense. I like the point you made about not having very vague descriptions, because going back to the fact versus feelings, if it's vague, it leaves so much more room for feeling, right?

Mita Mallick: It does. Absolutely.

Sarah Nicastro: Because then you don't have as much fact to base things off of.

Mita Mallick: Love that. Yes.

Sarah Nicastro: Okay. Yeah.

Mita Mallick: Hundred percent.

Sarah Nicastro: All right. So the next one is number five. "We protect the A-holes because our businesses wouldn't run without them."

Mita Mallick: Yes, yes, yes. How many times have we seen this in our careers? I've lost count.

Sarah Nicastro: A lot.

Mita Mallick: One of the things I, and this again goes back to a lot of companies, especially big public companies, private companies, have systems and processes in place. But we make exceptions.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. It's really easy to find loopholes, too.

Mita Mallick: Find the loopholes.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah.

Mita Mallick: One of the things I say, Sarah, let's say I'm working for you. Here's how I would coach you. You have a toxic leader on your team. How many people need to leave? How much hurt or harm does this person have to cause for you to say, "I'm walking away from Mita?" How much is your personal relationship with Mita more important to you than the impact she's having on the company? Are you really listening to all the feedback? If Mita has had five women of color resign under her in the last two weeks, at what point do you say, "I need to have a discussion about what's happening on this team?"

And, those are some of the things. What cost is you as a leader? Are you going to protect this one person versus protecting the company? Because here's the thing: We always set up in our mind, it's the employee versus the company. Employees are the company. They're one and the same. The company doesn't exist with that employees. And I just find it fascinating, having done this work for many years now is like, "We will protect one person at all costs." And part of what I would also say to leaders, and I coach them, is succession planning is so key. Because of Mita, and I've heard this, I don't know how many times, "Mita is indispensable. Can't do this job without Mita. The business won't run without her." Okay, really? Is, really, Mita doing all the work, or is she just taking credit for everyone else on the team?

Or, let's step into this space of, let's pretend Mita resigns tomorrow. What would the world look like? Do you know who's going to take over? That's the scary part. Because when we haven't done the work and the planning and the preparation, all of a sudden people become indispensable. And unfortunately, nobody's indispensable, particularly toxic leaders. Where there's smoke, there's fire. That's what I'll say, Sarah. Where there's smoke, there's fire, and so also watching for those patterns at work are really important.

Sarah Nicastro: This is such a fascinating one to me, because like I said, yes, there's always processes, right? And there's supposed to be systems in place to avoid this. But there are so many loopholes and there's so much room for feeling to get in the way of any objectivity for someone that maybe has a relationship. Or maybe doesn't have a relationship, but the reality inconveniences them in some way to just brush it off and say like, "Oh, okay. Well, yeah, but we've talked about it so it'll be fine or whatever." There's so many versions of how people get away with doing things that are harming the culture, the morale of the people around them, individual people that end up leaving the company because they don't want to fight the fight, all of that.

Mita Mallick: I think you said it beautifully at the beginning. You asked me about bravery and courage. Leadership takes bravery. What if we worked together for 30 years? I came to your son's wedding; you came to my daughter's wedding; we've done softball together; we've traveled together; we've built this business together. You're the president, and you start hearing rumblings of me bullying, of me harassing, and it's hard for you to hear it because you feel like you know me in a different context, and you can make 25 excuses of, "That's not the Mita I know. That's not how she shows up for me." And so there's bravery and courage to say, "But there is evidence of this individual, this leader, Mita, harming so many people." I need to sit and listen to this, and I need to take action.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, I think this one intrigues me. Okay. All right. But we don't have time to just-

Mita Mallick: Yeah, I know. She's like, let's move it along.

Sarah Nicastro: Okay, so the next one is number seven, "We need more people of color in leadership. Let's launch a mentorship program."

Mita Mallick: Yes. Drum roll, please. I have been over-mentored and under-sponsored in my career. I'll say that again: Over-mentored and under-sponsored in my career. And every time I say that, some people will come after me. I have had so many amazing mentors. I wouldn't be here, you wouldn't have invited me on this podcast; I'm here today because I continue to have great mentorship.

But here's the thing: Mentors are not the same as sponsors. When you think about a mentor, they could give me career advice. You and I could be peer mentors for each other, talking about how to do podcasts, giving me advice about work, all sorts of things. Sponsors are typically going to be someone who's two levels above you in an organization. They have access to big budget, P&L, they're in the room when the doors are closed and people are talking about your career. And yes, people are talking about your career and doors are closed. I never really realized this when I first started in corporate America. They have access to the C-suite. They might be in the C-suite. They know about roles that are coming up that haven't been listed, special projects, assignments.

And so, the question is, who's advocating for your career other than yourself? And your boss isn't always going to be advocating for you. I've had some great bosses and not-so-great bosses. So that's why career sponsorship is different than mentorship, because a career sponsor is actively helping you advance in your career. I feel like, God, so many times in my career, it's like, let's have the employee resource group launch a mentorship program. Let's talk to HR, let's do a mentorship program. Let's match some people.

It's like, no, that is not necessarily how a person's going to advance their career. I'm not saying that they won't. But I'm saying sponsorship, it's much more game-changing. Because you have people with power and privilege in the organization taking an interest in other individuals and actively saying they're going to help them advance their career.

Sarah, one of the things I think about is when I started my career in marketing, there was never a point in my career when someone early on sat me down and said, "If you want to be a chief marketing officer, here are the four things you need to do in the next few years. Here are the assignments you need. Here are the people you need behind you." No one sat me down to help me think about my career in that way. I just was kind of plugging along, "Okay, let me do this. Let me apply for this. Okay, maybe not do..." I didn't know, and I didn't grow up with parents who had done a marketing track in a corporate company, so I didn't have many people to help me figure it out.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. It's almost like sponsorship is mentorship with a lot more skin in the game. On their behalf, right?

Mita Mallick: It is. You have social capital, political capital.

Sarah Nicastro: Because it's like, mentorship almost gives the illusion of like, "Well, I can give you some good advice, but it's up to you what you do with it." It's also sort of the out of, "Well, we tried to mentor exactly this group of people, but they just didn't really do anything with it." So it's a very unbalanced-

Mita Mallick: I actually love how you just said that.

Sarah Nicastro: ... relationship. It's then if you say, "Okay, you're not mentoring this person, you're sponsoring them. So we expect you will work with them to help them achieve X, Y, and Z." Not, "It's on them, if you just give them a few words."

Mita Mallick: Absolutely. And I'll just say, if we're in an organization and you're my sponsor, I have to show up delivering value. You're not just going to sponsor me because I can have a sponsor. But I will continue to deliver value. I'll put points on the board. I will show you what I'm doing on my team and my part of the organization that can benefit you and also help you in your career. Right? Because here's the thing. Number one job of leadership is to create more leaders. And so, when you think about this idea of sponsorship, if you are going to sponsor, let's say, five women of color, and you have a goal as a C-Suite executive that you're going to help get them to the bench for the C-suite, that's your legacy. That's part of you being a great leader. People are going to look at you and be like, "Look at Sarah. It's amazing. Look at the talent that she helps sponsor, and look at their trajectory." It honestly then becomes reflection on you as well.

Sarah Nicastro: Right. Right. Yeah, that's really interesting. Okay. All right, so the next one is number eight. "Of course, we support women. We just extended maternity leave."

Mita Mallick: Yes. Oh, you're picking some good ones. Oh, they're all good, all 13, but these are good.

So, this is the notion that all women want to become mothers, and it actually ties back to a lot of the cultural stereotypes, the gender norms we grew up with in our homes. This idea that we extended maternity leave is enough for mothers that we check the box. And if you want to create an inclusive workplace for mothers, how much more work it takes.

I mean, you look at what's happened since the global pandemic. There are so many mothers who still can't get back into the workforce. They can't afford to in the US. It is a devastating what's happened to representation of women in the workforce in the US. And I'm surprised not enough people are screaming about it. I'm actually just exhausted from, I've lost my voice. Honestly, this data is alarming and startling.

It also, in this myth, I talk about gendered ageism. Women are never the right age. We're too young or we're too old. It's like that one year where we had the perfect moment, right? But gendered ageism shows up at the workplace a lot. It is about, "Mita looking too young or sounding too young," or, "I don't know if I'd put her in front of a customer or send her to that meeting," to "Mita doesn't have enough energy. I don't know if she could keep up with the pace here. It's really intense. She might be too slow for this place." You're like, "Huh?" Jokes about whether you're tech-savvy, whether you're on TikTok all the time. The intergenerational bias is real.

And so, those are also the things that we don't talk enough about in our workplaces, and it seems like it's the opposite for men on some level. Men aging doesn't seem to really, I don't know if it impacts their career as much. The research doesn't show that. Research shows that women over 50 have had a really incredible time getting back into the workforce since the pandemic, and so those are the conversations we have to talk about. We continue to hold men and women to different standards in our workplaces.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. I was just thinking of an example of a courageous conversation. Or maybe not conversation, but objection. I was at an event at the end of April, and there was a gentleman there who was doing LinkedIn live interviews, and he asked me to come on, and so it was not at all scripted planned, nothing like that. But I had just moderated a panel discussion on women in service and creating more diversity, et cetera. And so that was kind of what the conversation centered on. But then he said, "Yeah, we really need more women leaders. Because women, they have that nurturing, motherly instinct, and we need..." And I'm like, "Ugh."

So it took me a second because I'm like, "Phew." This doesn't sit right with me, but we're on a live interview, and I'm trying to think in real time. I just said, I was like, "Listen, I think we need to be careful here because we're putting this nurturing, motherly label on women at large, and there's plenty of amazing women leaders that do not have or want to have a family like that." They're not one and the same. That does not absolutely make them good, and it does not make them not good. So that's not why we need more women at work.

Mita Mallick: No, absolutely. We need more kind and empathetic leaders, period.

Sarah Nicastro: And then the interview ended shortly after that.

Mita Mallick: So you're like, okay. Well, that's amazing. I'm glad you, that's not easy, so that's courage and action to interrupt bias on the spot.

Sarah Nicastro: It's the same thing you said. As much as I can, I try really hard to... It wasn't coming from a place of judgment or, like you said, shame. It was just, if you don't point it out, he wouldn't have thought about it.

Mita Mallick: Yes.

Sarah Nicastro: But I agree. I think the double standards, if you want to call it that, of women and men is absolutely crazy still in 2023. And while I certainly am a fan of supporting women who do choose to have a family and want to juggle that, because I myself have, in no way is that representative of women everywhere, and that shouldn't be the focus. So yes, I love that one as well.

Mita Mallick: Thank you.

Sarah Nicastro: And I think the point, too, about at least in our space, the people that listen to this podcast are constantly talking about talent shortages. We can't find enough people. You had a huge group of women that were forced to leave the workforce during the pandemic. We should be talking about that more. We should be doing more to look for... That's a whole talent pool that exists, that we could potentially find room and roles for if we put some effort behind it.

Mita Mallick: Absolutely, and don't ask about what the resume gap was. It was called the Pandemic. It was called the pandemic.

Sarah Nicastro: Right. Honestly, even if you do have women that took some time off, I would say assess them based on their ability, not on-

Mita Mallick: Assess them on their last experience. In the last few years, there's a lot of different reasons why people have taken leave. Focus on what they did most recently and their skills and what they bring to the table.

Sarah Nicastro: And again, if you have a rigorous and effective enough interview process, then you shouldn't need to be so concerned about where they were six weeks ago. Right?

Mita Mallick: Absolutely.

Sarah Nicastro: So, good. Okay, last one for today. Myth number nine, "These DEI efforts don't benefit me. My voice as a white man doesn't count anymore."

Mita Mallick: Yes. So I think there's two sides to this coin. The white men that I've worked with in my life, many of them do express that they have at some point feel shamed, named, blamed, demonized. And we talked about earlier, there are men in the headlines who have behaved badly; that's not all men, and they deserve to seek redemption and move on.

So in my role as the Chief Diversity Officer, if white men come to me asking questions, I have the space to answer those questions with grace and kindness, and to help educate and teach. And at the same time, white men listening need to understand that they do have a place in this work, because the world of work for everyone can't change without them. We need them there.

And so in that myth, I do talk about the business case for diversity, which is tired and old, I know, but it's still important. I believe inclusion's a driver of the business. You need diversity of representation in your workforce to come up with ideas you wouldn't have even dreamed of, innovation you wouldn't have dreamed of, serving communities who you've never reached. How are you going to do that if you don't have access to those lived experiences? In the US alone, we're sitting anywhere between 3.3 and 5 trillion dollars of spending power with the multicultural consumer, so anyone who says right now, "There's not growth out there," you're not looking in the right places. There's growth to be had.

And I also, in this myth, leave a very, very long action list of things that men can be doing to show up. Interrupting bias in the moment, taking parental leave and role modeling and taking all of it. If you're going to be asked to be on a podcast or panel, ask to see what other guests have been, and especially if you're on a panel and it's all white men, give up your spot, make recommendations. Are you paying your teams fairly and equitably? Don't wait for HR to do it. It's your job. So if you're shocked that women are paid less than men, oh my God, okay, great. Is that happening on your team? And you don't realize it. It's not HR's job; it's your job to look at the data and go talk to HR and say, "Hey, help me with this. I'm looking, I'm seeing this discrepancy."

So there's so many ways. And I think especially for white men in leadership roles, I asked them, "What do you want your legacy to be?" Right? "How do you want to leave this company different than you found it? And you have, gosh, so much power to do that. And it also reflects back on you as a leader and the impact you've made." So it's win-win for everyone.

Sarah Nicastro: I think, too, whenever someone has an emotional response to, like this statement, "My voice doesn't count anymore." Yeah, there's probably some percentage of that that comes from ego, but I think more so, it's fear-based. Well, what if all of this new diverse talent is actually better than me? And I guess what I think about that is your legacy will be so much bigger and more impactful and positive if you're a part of that change than if you resist it.

Mita Mallick: Absolutely.

Sarah Nicastro: So, it's going to happen whether any individual leader helps or hinders it. So you might as well see the value and play a part in something positive instead of being the one that's resistant.

Mita Mallick: So you're saying don't resist; be part of it.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah.

Mita Mallick: Don't resist. Be part of it. Absolutely.

Sarah Nicastro: Exactly, and part of the way they can do that is to read the other myths.

But real quick, one more last question and then we'll tell everyone where to find the book. What do you think sets apart leaders and organizations who are willing to do the work to improve inclusivity, create a positive culture, and those who are really lagging behind?

Mita Mallick: It's really all about whether your employees will stay or leave, to be honest. I mean, if we go back to what is inclusion; for me, what is inclusion? Inclusion is feeling that I'm valued, recognized, and seen at work in all the small and big ways that matter. And if you do that for me, Sarah, as a leader, that is the biggest retention tool. And I'm not going to walk away. Maybe for a hundred thousand. But certainly not for 10, 20. But no, there's no price to that.

As I talk about at the beginning of Reimagine Inclusion, I've been chasing inclusion all my life. And so when I find a place where I feel valued, seen and heard, you can't put a price on that. I'm not going to risk that to go somewhere else. And so that's really what it comes down to, and you will start to see a bifurcation in the market when it's an employee's choice. People will want to be like, "I've heard this was a great place to work. I've heard Sarah's an amazing manager. I know what their values are, and they stand for them, and they put them publicly on Instagram and they stand behind them. They don't slide back on them when it gets tough."

And so those are the things. And then the organizations that are silent, complicit. "We don't talk about these things. We don't have a DEI team," like Coinbase that went a few years ago. "We don't talk about politics." And I say to everybody, really interesting. When leaders say, "We don't talk about politics here." And I say, "Okay, it's the lens in which you view that is political. It's a lens of privilege. Because if I talk to my Asian friends, they wouldn't say that xenophobia is political. It's human rights. And anti-LGBTQ legislation, Black Lives Matter, antisemitism, Islamophobia, the hurt and harm physically that's being caused to historically marginalized communities, it's human rights.

Sarah Nicastro: And not taking a stand is taking a stand. Yeah, for sure.

Mita Mallick: Violence is complicit.

Sarah Nicastro: Yes, absolutely. I think that's really well put, and I think that the people as individuals and the companies that are out there, seen, heard having such good impact in this topic, it's not because they feel they have to be doing it, but because they really truly understand what you said, which is DEI is tied to how well we can innovate, how well we can meet the needs of our customers who are diverse. So there's this understanding of how important it is and belief in it. And I-

Mita Mallick: It's the center of the business. It's core.

Sarah Nicastro: Absolutely.

Mita Mallick: I see what you're saying.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, and I love that you're doing what you're doing to help more people see that.

Lastly, tell everyone when and where they can find the book.

Mita Mallick: Please pre-order on Amazon today: Reimagine Inclusion: Debunking 13 Myths to Transform Your Workplace. It's coming out October 3rd, but pre-orders matter a lot, so if you've enjoyed this conversation, Sarah, thank you so much. Please go check out the book.

Sarah Nicastro: Absolutely. Okay, so Reimagine Inclusion. Mita, M-I-T-A; Mallik with two Ls, M-A-L-L-I-C-K. Look it up on Amazon. Get your pre-orders in, and all the best with the book. I'm so happy to have you back. Thank you for coming again, and I love talking with you.

Mita Mallick: Thanks for the impact you're making with your podcast. I so appreciate you. Thank you.

Sarah Nicastro: Thank you. You can learn more by visiting us at Be sure to subscribe to the Insider and signup for the next live tour. The Future of Field Service podcast is published in partnership with IFS. You can learn more at As always, thank you for listening.