With the massive support for Black Lives Matter and national movement against police brutality and systemic racism, diversity and inclusion efforts are being brought to light now, more than ever before. But, it’s nothing new for Wharton’s Stephanie Creary, who has devoted the past 14 years of her professional life to studying the topic of equity, diversity, and inclusion. She is a founding member of Wharton IDEAS Lab, heads the Leading Diversity@Wharton speaker series, and teaches an undergraduate and MBA class on “Leading Diversity in Organizations.” Drawing on her extensive research, Prof. Creary joined Stew Friedman on his show, Work and Life, on SiriusXM Wharton Business Radio to highlight ways by which any individual can use the LEAP framework to be a better ally to their Black colleagues.
Here are some highlights from their conversation, available in full here as a free podcast.
It’s hard work to connect, value, and respond to others with different backgrounds, but strategies such as LEAP can kickstart mutually beneficial conversations that can lead to more effective working relationships.
“My LEAP framework, recently published in Harvard Business Review, was my first stab at trying to take years of academic research and make it accessible to other people. A lot of my research is interpersonal. There are things that one can do interpersonally that are tried and true regardless of whether you’re an individual contributor or an executive. The LEAP framework is designed to look at this idea of improving the quality of relationships at different levels.”
“There’s something that feels hard about forming mutually beneficial relationships with other people. It feels like there’s something getting in the way. The LEAP framework is designed to help that process make more sense. The end goal is to develop a relationship where you feel like each person is helping the other person.”
Listen and learn
“‘L stands for listening and learning from your Black colleagues’ experiences. Companies are creating town halls and other structured forums to begin to understand how people are feeling about racial justice and equity. Most of the time, there are Black colleagues on that panel who are open to disclosing what their experiences are.”
“One has to be prepared to…ask ‘How is my experience different from those who are Black and Brown?’ or, ‘How might have I not supported or have contributed to some of the challenges that they’re having?’”
“‘E is engaging with Black colleagues in racially diverse and more casual settings where you’re meeting them on their turf. If you meet a Black colleague in the Black Employee Resource Group — we have these in organizations where Black employees convene to talk about how to be successful in the organization, to socialize, to network — you as a white person going to one of these meetings, you’re coming to their community and you’re learning about their experiences with other people who have a shared experience, rather than from me as the only Black woman in the white space. ‘E’ is about meeting people where they are in that racially diverse space if you actually want to know more information.”
“This is where you can start to ask more direct questions about people’s experiences. I suggest starting with their work, first, because so much of the pain that Black employees are experiencing in the workplace is the lack of work-related support, the lack of advice, the lack of sponsors, the lack of advocates, and the lack of access to prime opportunities. You will learn a lot if you actually ask Black employees about their work. But you have to have listened and learned, and you have to engaged, before asking feels genuine, as opposed to a ‘checking the box’ exercise.”
“This is where you actually provide the opportunities, suggestions, encouragement, and general support that you just learned through asking. It doesn’t matter if you’re junior or senior. There’s always something that you can do to be supportive.”
“I tell my students, ‘You’ve expressed to me what you witness in meetings, that the person who is Black or in the minority isn’t given the same opportunities to contribute.’ You said, ‘Stephanie, do you mind if the next time we have a meeting I say ‘I would love to hear more from you so we can get your eyes out there.’ Now you have a friend who amplifies. Once you’ve gotten that agreement, in the meeting you can say, ‘I would love to hear what Stephanie has to say. I think she has some good ideas and I don’t think we’ve heard them yet.’ That can change systems over time and change processes in the short-term.”
“People who have lots of power and authority who are senior have a capacity to reinvent how talent management systems are structured, how people are recruited, and how they’re promoted. You can do the big stuff, but you have to learn it from the other parts, the L, the E and the A first.”
Prof. Creary sees the potential for more equality as Dean Erika James steps into her leadership role, both at Wharton and beyond.
“There are so many opportunities. I am so thrilled to have Erika here. This is somebody who I truly believe is an absolutely outstanding leader, but also a scholar as well, and fundamentally believes and knows what to do when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Having someone in the leadership position who understands institution building and capacity building as a whole, but also has deep subject matter expertise, not just academically but also practically, is a huge win for all of us. I’m so grateful that she chose to come work with us.”
“We need to focus on our structures, making decisions around where diversity will sit. Because what happens is people need to see where the information and where the work is being held in order to know where to go. When I came to Wharton three years ago and started teaching this diversity class, I ended up becoming the center for a lot of people’s ideas. But that wasn’t the appropriate place. Having a centralized set of resources, plural, where the work can be done and people can actually get the support that they need, is one of the first steps.”
— Erin Lomboy, W’21
Posted: October 16, 2020