News + Ideas

MGAC Inner Voices: Episode 18


MGAC Inner Voices is an interview format podcast where a diverse mix of employees are interviewed to share their perspective on challenges they have faced in the A/E/C industry as a result of their identity—including race, ethnicity, religion, age, gender, sexuality, ability, etc. By discussing the experiences of our staff, our hope is that their stories will have newfound and powerful resonance with the audience—both to comfort others in similar situations and to encourage those in positions of power to bring about positive, actionable changes to workplace environments for all A/E/C professionals, regardless of their identity.

Beth Scully (MGAC Senior Project Manager, Seattle) talks with Dianne Lee (Executive Director, Business Development and Strategy at Kitchell) about her background—both in culture and career—and learning to use stereotypes to her advantage, embracing the yin and yang in life.


Beth: Hi. Welcome to MGAC's "Inner Voices," a podcast digging into issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the architecture, engineering, construction industry, brought to you by MGAC. I'm Beth Scully, coming to you from Seattle, Washington. I've been with MGAC for four years and have had the privilege of interviewing our guests. We wanna preface this podcast by saying we are, by no means, experts in all things diversity, equity, and inclusion. I can speak to my lived experience and will do my best to help our guests share their experience as well. Our goal is not to claim that we are experts on diversity rather we wanna share our stories and figure out how together we can create better outcomes for all of us in the AEC industry and beyond.

Today, however, we do have an expert guest in the DE&I field. Our guest today is Dianne Lee. Dianne comes to us from Los Angeles, California, and is a heavy hitter in the AEC industry, an author of the book, "Leveraging Stereotypes to Your Advantage." Dianne, I've read your book and appreciate your view on finding that balance between the yin and the yang. Can you provide a little bit of background about yourself, your elevator pitch, and where you hail from, etc.?

Dianne: Sure. So, first of all, thank you so much, Beth, and the entire team at MGAC for even having me on this podcast today. I really appreciate the opportunity to share my story and to share the genesis of my book, "Leveraging Stereotypes." So, I was born and raised in Malaysia, and I was fortunate to come to America at the age of 17. I did come to America as a foreign student, but before that, I was born and raised in a very small rural town on the other side of the world, in a country called Malaysia. So, I attended Indiana State University, and somehow rather, as life, you know, is full of surprises, I did end up and find my way in Los Angeles, and I now work for a firm named Kitchell. We're headquartered in Sacramento. We provide owners rep, construction management, and project management services, and I represent a team of about 400 construction and project managers.

I am involved in just about anything and everything to help advance the company's business development efforts. I report directly to the president of the company. Her name is Wendy Cohen, a female in our industry, so I'm extremely proud of that, and absolutely love her. She has my utmost respect. And I am involved in providing a variety of strategies from social media to branding right up to recruiting initiatives. I am consistently involved in, if needed, proposal management, especially for our key pursuits, as well as getting the team prepared for interviews on key pursuits. I've been in the business now for almost 18 years, and I am grateful to have found an industry that I thrive in, that I love, and I am actively paying it forward for other women in our industry.

Beth: Thank you so much. Well, guests, I promise you that we have a heavy hitter at this podcast. And so, here we are.

Dianne: That's very kind, Beth. I certainly don't see myself that way, but I really appreciate that compliment.

Beth: No problem. Let's dive right in. As I read your book, I was noticing that I took away a couple of themes, and I'd like to expand on those themes during our conversation. From the get-go, you were raised in a very multicultural environment so diversity was your norm, and you didn't know otherwise other than a diverse country, a diverse community and so, that was your norm.

Dianne: Right. So, Malaysia is made up of Muslims, of Chinese ethnicities, and people from India, but we are primarily a Muslim country. And you're absolutely right, growing up as a Chinese Malaysian girl in a Muslim country, we embraced everyone's differences, we celebrated everyone's religious holidays. While we knew that we were all different by race and by ethnicity, we spent a lot of time hanging out with each other, playing with each other, being each other's neighbors, right? And so, I never really felt any kind of racism, honestly and truthfully, until I came to America to the Midwest at the age of 17.

Beth: Fabulous that you didn't grow up in anything other than a diverse community. I think when we chatted, we share that in common, right? We both grew up in different countries and have a very diverse and global perspective as a result. Another theme was that you were raised in a culture of respect as the highest achievement.

Dianne: From as young as I could remember, I would say at the age of five or six, respect was the first thing that you learned. You know, respecting your elders, respecting your grandparents, your aunties, and your uncles. It didn't matter where you ranked in the family hierarchy, if that individual was older than you, you immediately granted respect. And that's how I was raised, that's how a lot of my friends were raised in Malaysia. And so, that's part of our norm as much as it is growing up in a very diverse community. And I learned when I came to America that there is this notion that respect has to be earned before it is given, and that is quite the opposite from the culture that I was raised in. We tend to give the other person respect first and it's up to them to maintain or to keep that level of respect. And that evolves over time as everything does with individual relationships, but I think that's a huge differentiator of what I learned at my time in America, is that nobody gives you respect, you literally have to earn their respect, and I had to learn that while I entered into corporate America.

Beth: We'll get into it, of course, but I think that that early on understanding of respect is what allowed you to even formulate your yin and yang and leverage. But I wanna lay the groundwork for an understanding of where you came from, and that respect wasn't earned, you gave it freely first.

Dianne: Really, yes.

Beth: Yes. And tenacity was another thing, absolutely throughout your book with everything that you did, but especially through some pretty significant adversities, I would say.

Dianne: Yes. And I wanna give credit to my mom for this. One of the teachings that she taught me at a very young age was, she used to always say to me, "You know, Dianne, sometimes you just have to take the bull by the horns and then hope for the best." And as a young girl, I never really put too much thought into what my mom was trying to teach me, but as an adult now and in my 40s, what that translated for me over time is that, you know, if you are unhappy about something, the question is, what are you going to do about it, and how are you going to choose to positively react to that? And so, I've just kind of taken that with me in my 20s and in my 30s, and as I've continued to evolve as a professional, I've always looked at every challenge and at every adversity that way.

The first thing I'll ask myself is, you know, why is this happening, and what is the lesson that I should be learning from it? What is this life lesson trying to teach me so that I can grow from it and be a better person and hopefully not make the same mistake or not put myself in that same situation? But I also think being self-aware lends to being part of who you are and it allows you to have tenacity because when you are self-aware, that self-awareness leads to confidence, and your self-confidence then gives you the opportunity to hang on to things, to feel really passionate about things, and then to push through. And ultimately, that's what tenacity is, your ability to push through despite all odds. And let me tell you, in my life I've had to defy many odds.

Beth: Yeah. Again, I encourage everyone to read Dianne's book. It is no small feat what she has lived through. I'm going to borrow this moving forward. You've given credit to your mom, but I just loved when you would call her and she would always say what to you?

Dianne: I titled this as Chapter 3, "If you can read, you can cook. How well you cook is up to you." So, my mom was very poignant with her messages. She used very simple but very concise words, but her messages and her teachings would penetrate you to the core. And if you think about that, you get to define your success. How hard you work is entirely up to you. No one's holding you back. She always used to tell me, "Don't let your past dictate your future." And I absolutely love that, and I live that every day and that message is written throughout my book in many different ways as I've evolved as a professional.

Beth: I believe that expression is one that provides you tenacity because it doesn't say you're gonna learn how to cook, it says if you can read. Great. So, you just need to have that willing spirit. You need to dive into the pool though you cannot swim and find the tenacity to dig in.

Dianne: If you have all the basics to be successful in life, if you can read, that's step number one, right, so what's your excuse? What's your excuse to not work hard? What's your excuse to not be passionate about something? Working hard is definitely something that we have to do. I mentor a lot of younger women who are coming into the AEC industry, and everybody wants to have the VP title. Everybody wants to get there in a year or two years, everybody wants to make a six salary figure. I tell them that, you know, sometimes in life that there are just no shortcuts. You have to be willing to do the hard work to get there because it's that hard work that gives you the technical knowledge, that gives you the confidence, that gives you the ability to add value to a conversation.

Beth: Which is a difficult message when you're mentoring people who wanna be VP out of the gate. I think one of the things that really set the stage for who you are as a person, for me, personally, was reading your story and learning that you came here at the young age of 17, and from the moment you arrived, you experienced varying levels of stereotyping that, until that time, really was not in your wheelhouse of experience.

Dianne: You know, as Asian students, when we come to America, we face all sorts of varying microaggressions, right, things that we were not used to when we are from our home country. I had a friend, her name was Yuko. She's from Japan. You could just tell she was one of the smartest people, you know, in my study group, but I would notice her on the second floor of the library in the same spot, in the same corner, same table, night after night, studying. And so, one evening, I went up to her and I just asked her, I said, "Hey, Yuko." I'm like, "What are you reading?" And, you know, in her broken English, she was like, you know, "A book off shelf." And I could tell she knew nothing about the book, and she really didn't care about what the book was, she was really trying to understand and increase her level of vocabulary.

And so, when I look what was around her, she had this huge thick dictionary, which is what I grew up honestly studying, thanks to my mom, and she had a notepad next to the dictionary. And as she was reading the book and reading different sentences and words, what we, foreign students, refer to as big words, she would write down what those words were and then use the dictionary, try to come up with the definition of what that word was, and then write a translation of what that word for in her national language, which is in Japanese. And that's how she was studying and trying to improve her English during college. It occurred to me as I was standing there watching her what she was trying to do, it made me ask myself, "What are you willing to do to become successful, and how will you overcome your challenges?"

And that kind of stuck with me. And even now when I look back at Yuko and I think about how hard she worked to excel in America, to graduate in four years to go back to her home country so that she can be a valued team member to her family or her company, I really admire her tenacity because it's not an easy thing to do. I think the English language is one of the hardest languages to learn next to Mandarin. So, I really respected her for that, and that just really stuck with me throughout the years, and I write about that in my book.

But I also wanna share another story, Beth, if I may. I think it was in my freshman or sophomore year. I attended Indiana State University in Terre Haute, Indiana as I mentioned earlier. One day, my friend said to me, you know, "Hey, Dianne, do you know that girl across the street?" And I looked across the street and I said, "Why would I know her?" And he said to me, "Because she's Asian, so don't you all just know each other?" I've never had anybody speak to me that way or say anything to me in that way, and I didn't know what to think of it, but I also knew that he wasn't trying to hurt me, he was trying to be funny in his own way. I smiled and I was just like, "No." I'm like, you know, "Just because we're Asians, we don't all know each other just because we all look alike." So, I kind of just brushed it off. But I just wanted to share that that was one example of many comments that I've had to just kind of live through and continue to build on those relationships. And when I had the opportunity to educate my friends about who I am and my story and where I'm from, I would.

Beth: Thank you for sharing that. And I think it also speaks to the fact very poignantly about the kinds of stereotyping people issued to you from the moment you got here, and I'm sure even still. People think they're being funny, and it's not funny, and it's disrespectful. So, I can only imagine as a person raised with tenacity, with respect, that you endured quite a bit and you did it magnificently by still showing respect to people even though you weren't being shown respect. I think that was something that spoke to me very clearly in the book.
If we could, I'd like to fast-forward to your adult career here. You were a broadcast journalist for eight years. I'm fascinated by your embrace of stereotypes during that period of your career. What were those stereotypes and how did you leverage them? Because I truly believe that most of us don't have this notion, especially in this country, about leveraging things rather than overcoming them. We have this dominance notion. We have I've gotta prove rather than this leveraging.

Dianne: So, I firmly believe that life is all about balance. And because I'm Chinese, so much of what we learn is about embracing the yin and the yang, and so much of my book is about taking the negative and turning it into a positive. And I wanna be clear to all of your listeners that my book is not a criticism or an opportunity to vent or highlight all of my negative experiences. It's far from that. It's really about making use of the best opportunity that life gives us and turning it into positive outcomes. I do have a degree in broadcast journalism from Indiana State, and it's really lend itself to what I do now in business development and in marketing for the AEC industry.

But when I first started out as a journalist, my biggest challenges were, one, the fact that, you know, I lacked credibility. I looked young. There was nothing I could do about that because I am Chinese. I sounded young, I had an accent, a very distinct Chinese-Malaysian accent. And all of that hurt my overall credibility as a reporter. So, one thing you learn about being a news reporter is it's all about credibility. How trustworthy are you? How established are you? And unfortunately, that also means how mature are you as you present yourself.

The sooner I identified what those challenges were, the quicker I was able to take them head-on. So, I learned how to speak more credibly, I became more audible. I taught myself how to sound more universal. I didn't seek professional coach, a voice coach because I couldn't afford it. I could barely afford college in America. My parents had sacrificed all of their savings to give me an opportunity to be educated here. And so, I was determined to not disappoint them and to not let them down, but I was also determined to succeed as a news reporter. And so, I took what was what I call in my book "a yin scenario" and turned it into a yang. So, which is very similar to what Yuko did, right? She took the fact that English was not her first language and took the time, did the hard work, and turned that negative into a yang for her.

Beth: It's just incredible to me, most people would've had a voice coach and yet you set out with a spirit of, I'm going to be prepared to do this. But I think another key component that I'd love to touch on is humility, right? The humility and the self-awareness to say, if I really want to succeed at this, I've gotta recognize that there may be some things I've gotta improve upon. You wanted to have your vocabulary sound a little more generic, right, to be understood, to have clarity, and I think it's a point in all of our careers that we need to take pause and take stock of, am I gonna be prepared? Am I gonna recognize the areas where I need to do that work, that extracurricular, that in the library, getting out a book I can't even understand, listening to my own voice, and making corrections and practicing, those kind of moments? That's what really sets you apart, because as women, let's say, we don't really often have the advantage of putting forward mediocre work, especially in this industry. You're gonna have to come fully prepared if you really wanna be taken seriously.

Dianne: Absolutely. And I think as women, especially in the construction industry, we walk that fine line. You know, where do we go from being confident to not being arrogant? How do other people perceive us? Staying humble is the one thing that keeps me true to who I am and keeps me grounded. I think it's really important in our industry. I have more women who are mean to me than men. Ironically, right? You would think that women would be more supportive of each other. And one of the call to actions in my book is a pledge to women and for women to step up and step out of the way of each other so that we can be more supportive of each other. And so, I do feel very passionate about supporting other women, about giving other women the respect that they deserve, giving them the opportunity to shine, but it all starts with us, how we act towards each other.

Beth: Yeah. It's a perfect segue into the next question. If you're first starting out, you may think I'm gonna stay on this track for my entire career. You very well may do that, but I think in our adult careers, we should expect to make several career pivots, and it's here, you're no exception. You were tapped not once but twice to take a career leap into the real estate world and then into the AEC pool. We've touched on it a little bit, and I'm gonna say it, outright mean girl treatment and sexual harassment during that time. It was right in those moments that you embraced your lived experience of the yin and the yang. I think that most would've shriveled, given up. What were some of your experiences, and how did you leverage them? How did they transform your perspective?

Dianne: Just about every year, I attend the largest healthcare construction conference in the country called ASHE, and I think some of your listeners may have attended ASHE as well. In one instance, several years ago, I walked up to this other industry professional who I know we have mutual friends. Yes, she worked for a competitive firm, but to me, you know, we're all industry professionals and we're all there at the same conference, right, and we all have mutual friends. And so, I didn't think twice about going up to her to say hello, which is what I always do. When I see someone I know at a conference, I will always go out of my way to greet them or to say hello, especially when we're all meeting out of town.

I walked up to her and said, "Hi, you know, my name is Dianne. How are you enjoying the conference?" Which is typically how I approach anybody at a conference. And she looked at me, stared at me, and completely snubbed me. You know, I'm just such an approachable and friendly person that it didn't occur to me what had happened at that very moment, but after a few seconds, it occurred to me that she had just very disrespectfully snubbed me. And as soon as she saw someone else walk past her, she immediately started talking to this other person and just completely ignored me. When it had occurred to me what she had done to me, I immediately turned around and started walking towards the hotel lobby to meet what I refer to as my real friends. And as I was doing that, it taught me that what I had just experienced was the yin, and how am I gonna turn into a yang? And the yang was that she's clearly shown me the kind of person that she is and someone I would never want to emulate. So, that's one example.

And then, in Chapter 8, this chapter is probably referred to as the juiciest chapter of... I really went back and forth about whether or not I should even write about Chapter 8 because it is a really sensitive topic. It is about how men have treated me and how I've had to manage that treatment. And I love the industry that I'm in and I was really concerned about my reputation. You know, how will men who read my book take that and how will they treat me in the future once my book is published? And so, thankfully, I'm happy to report that I've not had any retaliation. Everyone has been very kind and very sympathetic, and I've earned their respect even more once I've shared about what happened to me in Chapter 8. And I talk about different instances about how men have approached me inappropriately, and even though I've politely declined to their sexual advancements, they continue to ignore me. At one point, somebody said to me, "But you're supposed to be submissive, right?" And I know what that meant because I'm Asian, and how I had to navigate that.

And I will say as I reflect back, I'm really proud of myself for how I've had to handle myself off the cuff, in very awkward situations, some in very public environments, and then some very privately. But the one thing that I tell women who read my book is, at the end of the day, what I want you to do is to protect your integrity. Your physical and emotional safety is first and foremost. We are all faced with different scenarios. It comes to us from varying individuals. My solution is not a solution for everyone. I feel like as women, we don't share or we don't talk about sexual harassment enough. When readers read my book, I want them to know that number one, you're not alone, number two, there's a likeliness that it may happen and I want you to be prepared for it.

Beth: When it happens to you, there's that element of surprise. You're thinking, "Is this happening? Am I crazy?" Which is what we tend to do as women. And so, I think the value and the importance cannot be stressed enough that if you're going into this field of work or, frankly, any field of work, chances are it will happen to you, the data points to this. You know, one in five women experience this. So, having yourself prepared for how you will handle it when it comes your way so that the element of surprise isn't there is as important to me as you're sharing of actually what happened to you. Like, be prepared and have your way of dealing with it already set in your mind.

Dianne: I know that I'm an Asian woman, a minority woman in a very Caucasian, male-dominated industry. I was very aware of that. And so, when I entered into the construction industry, I went out of my way to be extra professional because I wanted to be taken seriously. I wanted my credibility to shine. I wanted my performance and the value that I brought day in and day out to be the most important thing when somebody saw me walk into a meeting. You know, I used to read every paragraph of every RFP. Words that I didn't understand, contractual words that I didn't understand, I would look up because I was determined to be taken seriously in this industry because I knew the perception that women had to live through in our industry.

And so, when some of these negative instances did happen, I would ask myself, "Was I not clear enough? Did I not come off as a colleague, as a partner, as a professional, right?" But then I think as women sometimes we're so hard on ourselves that sometimes we didn't bring any of this on, and yet it continues to happen. And so, what I want to do is to arm the women with the right tools so that they can protect themselves and they can move forward from all of this.

Beth: I love that you maintained your integrity, that you were respectful and very professional in how you handled every situation, but what I think I love the most was when you asked the question, "What would you have done in that situation?" Because we all have a notion of what we think we're gonna do, but then there's, again, back to how you live your life, your preparation, and I think it's so important as women who've been in the industry longer to say, "Make preparation for this because it may happen to you."

Dianne: Your listeners or the readers may not agree with how I resolved every situation or how I removed myself from every negative situation, but I also think with professionalism comes restraint. Your ability to control yourself, to not react immediately, that also lends itself to being a professional. I just wanna share that with your listeners.

Beth: Yeah. I couldn't agree more. We have been living with a pandemic for several years now, and early on, we heard about or witnessed a series of hate crimes towards the Asian community. This is just one representation of a lens that is skewed to gain an audience to drive a platform of hate. And our culture has become this culture of making binary choices that drive deeper divisions and schisms rather than building bridges of communication and understanding. I know this is a very long-winded question, but I wanna hear from you how you've leveraged your unique perspective in the AEC community to drive the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion and sort of allow people to find that space that doesn't make it a binary choice.

Dianne: I think watching all of the unnecessary rhetoric on Asians and all of the physical attacks really prompted me to write my book because I wanted something so negative to have a positive impact. And I felt that, you know, some people like to protest, some people like to blog, some people like to post on social media about how they feel. I chose to write a book highlighting the contributions of Asian Americans to this country. I think it's unfortunate that what happened happened, but I do think that was the yin, let's look at the yang. On the yang side of things, I've never seen the Asian community come out stronger as a united front, and I'm so proud of that. It doesn't matter anymore if you are Chinese, Thai, Korean, Japanese, you know, it affects all of us. All the marches that I saw really spoke to me, and I'm so glad in a way to see that happening. It is unfortunate that it only started happening out of a huge negative environment, but nevertheless, it is happening for the positive.

Beth: You're taking that yang and you're being able to leverage it to provide the space of, you know what, it's a big community, let's look at the contributions and see what's being done to offer people that other side and make room for a different choice.

Dianne: And I also wanna give credit to everyone else who stood up against the attacks on Asian Americans, right, our Caucasian friends, our Black friends, our Hispanic friends. Everyone else who shared in our fight, I think deserves a lot of credit. I would like to thank them for that because it does take courage, and I really appreciated that, and I think it was needed.

Beth: It's as important to learn how to be an ally, how you can stand, and how you can be an ally when you see injustice happening. Dianne, what advice would you give AEC leaders who are developing project teams and establishing the built environment? What ways can they impact change through the work?

Dianne: I think the first thing you can do is to look around you and to look at your team and the makeup of your team. If there is only 1 female being represented out of a team of 10 individuals, let's say, if everybody on your team is Caucasian, if everyone on your team is Asian, then I think you've identified your call to action. You know, maybe you need to intentionally recruit someone else. That's the first thing I would immediately, you know, urge you to do because the diversity will bring a lot more value to your internal communications and how you take things on. What I've actively done for me, in my life, and for the industry in general, is I've leveraged all of my volunteer work. I sit on three to four construction industry boards right now, and I'm using that platform to ensure that we are featuring women in construction.

As an example, I am the immediate past president of the Asian American Architects and Engineers Association. In my time as president, I founded a women in construction series, and every year we feature six different panels. Every panel is focused on a different market. So you can have an aviation healthcare, education, public sector. I think you get the idea. And each panel is moderated by a woman with three to four different women who are experts in your field in that market.

And what's been so rewarding about that experience is that so many of them had never been invited to be on a panel discussion. Why? Because it was typically their bosses. But it doesn't change the fact that these women are responsible for billions of dollars of their capital improvement programs. But they were never given the opportunity to speak to it, to speak to their value, to speak to how they're contributing to the construction industry, to speak to their leadership skills, to speak to how they're mentoring other women. No one ever gave them the platform, you know? And so, it was heartbreaking in a way for me to hear from them because they have said, you know, "Dianne, if it wasn't for you, we wouldn't be in this position. We wouldn't have had the opportunity to share our story." But at the same time, it's rewarding because now I know that we are forging a path where other women are seeing women on stage, and we all know that seeing is believing and representation does matter.

Beth: Representation absolutely matters, and leadership, leading, women leading diversity matters.

Dianne: I addressed your question from an assumption that if you are a male in a leadership position, but if you are a female in a leadership position, I would recommend that you look at your team as well and try to figure out who on your team right now has the potential of being someone greater than they are, and try to take the time to get to know them and to mentor them. I think as women, we need to do more mentorship. Don't wait for someone younger than you to approach them. Why can't you be the first one to say, "I'd like to be your mentor."
You know, when I was growing up in the construction industry, I went out of my way to seek female mentors, and I couldn't find a single one. Nobody wanted to take me on. And I can't tell you what that feels like, you know? I mean, it would've been great if I could even find an Asian female mentor. I couldn't even do that. So I asked all the other women in leadership positions if they would take me on, and not one, because they didn't feel compelled to do so. They kind of looked at me and was like, "Why? I found my own way, you should, too." It was that kind of a mindset, right, and that's something I want to change.

Beth: Yeah. We've gotta crack the mold of...

Dianne: Correct.

Beth: ...I made it. You know, just figure it out. Figure out how you're gonna make it. Really reach that hand down and say I wanna be your mentor, because that's [crosstalk 00:35:14] we change that cycle at all. We're talking about leaders, and one of the great civil rights leader who is my personal hero is John Lewis. John told us to get into trouble, good trouble, necessary trouble. In fact, I scored a t-shirt as much as I can that has that on it. But I wonder, how can leaders, colleagues, and those pursuing a career get into that necessary trouble respectfully?

Dianne: So, I love that you ask that question with an emphasis on being respectful, right? So, one of the things that I talk about in my book and on my website is about coming together, about creating a united front. If you wanna have the most influence and you wanna make the most impact, find or establish a coalition of like-minded individuals, whatever it is that you're passionate about. When it comes to DEI issues, whether you are creating a DEI employee resource group, or a task force, or a DEI committee, just make sure that as you develop a DEI task force, that you have clear expectations and a clear mission and purpose, and also attach to that, clear key performance indicators. So, 12 months from now, what do you want that task force to accomplish? Do you wanna hire more minorities? What does that look like? What are those percentages? How are we going to get there? What is the structure going to look like?

The one thing that I learned about being DEI certified is what are the mechanisms that you have to have in place to get there. But going back to your question, if you wanna do it respectfully, do it with a team of people that feel the same way. But I also think we need to start leveraging human capital, and the only way to do that is by taking the time to really learn about each other, getting to know one another, like, genuinely know one another, just not at a superficial level. Yeah, we work together. We've worked together for the last six months. Do you know that person's pet's name? Do you know where they're from? What makes them tick? Who brought them into MGAC? What excites them about working at MGAC?

Beth: When we started this, the genesis of this podcast was that if we have these kinds of conversations and expose ourselves in a transparent way, that colleague that sits next to you and you know nothing about, suddenly you know their story and you know what it took for them to get where they are, you can embrace and be a better ally. Now, it's your friend that has endured this, and you can't just stay on the bench because, gosh, it's not affecting me. Now, you've gotta become an ally or think about it anyway. So, I love that one of the things you're suggesting of how we can do this respectfully is to form a coalition because I believe with community comes accountability. You've got that community of people and you're working towards a mutual objective and you keep each other accountable. Like, I know you feel really passionate, but I think you went on the rails a little bit on this one. And having the humility to stand back and say, "You're right, I did." Or, "Yeah, I needed to take a bigger breath, maybe."

Dianne: What excites me about everything that's going on right now is that more and more companies like MGAC are establishing a DEI task force, platforms like this to communicate more, to allow others to be themselves. I love that we're embracing diversity, and it's intentionally happening. And so, I think the movement is there, we just have to keep at it and we have to make sure that it doesn't fizzle out. But I also think for people who don't have an internal platform that they can lean on, they can also volunteer with other industry organizations because a lot of other industry organizations now have a DEI task force, and they can certainly be a part of that.

And you don't always have to have an opinion about DEI, but you do have to have a willingness to be open-minded and to be able to listen and really embrace and communicate how you feel. These are really tough conversations because you are being vulnerable and you're choosing to expose yourself to things that you're not used to. That's the best part about living because you are allowing yourself to grow as an individual. And that's what life is all about, it's about being in uncomfortable situations, it's about learning more, it's about embracing others, it's about learning life, it's about being kind to others but also yourself, it's about allowing yourself to have a seat at the table.

Beth: It's about taking those blinders off. I also wanna take the opportunity to leverage your book to our readers. You can find it on Amazon, friends. And Dianne has not asked me to do this. I'm doing it because I think it's a powerful statement for anybody who is in this space or thinking about getting into the space. But you can get it on Amazon. It's called "Leveraging Stereotypes to Your Advantage." I read it in a car ride, and then reread it on the car ride back. I highly recommend it to everybody, and I thank you so much, Dianne, for joining us on this podcast. Any other nuggets that you can offer to our listeners?

Dianne: We covered a lot of ground. Was a pretty intense conversation. I really appreciate the tough questions. You definitely put me on the spot, which I appreciate. It's part of the yin and the yang, it's part of my growth as well, and I embrace that, and I welcome that. I just wanna thank your listeners, and I wanna thank MGAC for even creating this platform so that we can all be more understanding and more kind towards each other. It is a choice to be kind, it's a choice to be respectful, it's a choice. I wanna leave your listeners with that.

I wanna leave with some statistics. One in 87 White men in the U.S. holds an executive position. That number drops to 1 in 123 if you're a White woman, and it drops even further to 201 if you're an Asian man. If you are an Asian woman and you look like me, you are among the least likely to be promoted to an executive position with only 1 in 285. And I wanna leave your listeners and your potential readers with that in mind. This is why I'm so passionate about leveraging stereotypes to advantage. This is why I'm so passionate about empowering other women in our industry to stand up, and to speak up, and to have a voice. So, thank you so very much for this opportunity to share.

Beth: We are deeply grateful. I'm gonna let those statistics hang and let people take that in. Thank you. We're so very grateful to you for joining us.

Dianne: Thank you so much, and find me on LinkedIn.

Beth: That concludes this podcast of "MGAC Inner Voices." Thank you so much for joining us, and please check back next month for another episode of "Inner Voices." Until then, take care.

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