Blog

I'm a Top Writer in Diversity on Medium! Follow me on Medium

AMA: About (my) Bisexuality & Queerness

If you don’t really know me you may not know that I identify as queer. 

People are often surprised when I tell them I date women, too, because I can “pass” as being straight. I don’t have the stereotypical markers of queerness that some people look for in queer women: tattoos, short hair, rainbows and Xena (hey Haydee!), flannel shirt, etc. (trust me, I tried the faux-hawk thing and it didn’t work for me!). 

I identify as “femme” and I own and love it. My femme-ness doesn’t make me any less queer, radical, or feminist, because I am exercising agency to define what queerness and womanhood feel and look like for me. By the way, stereotypes that expect lesbian women to be butch, and gay men to be feminine further perpetuate heteronormativity and erase the necessary distinction between gender identity and sexual orientation. A topic for a longer blog post. 

As you can imagine, my ability to “pass” as straight and being seen as traditionally feminine give me access to certain privileges (cis- and hetero-). And it makes being queer a little tricky at times, too. I frequently find myself correcting people when they incorrectly assume my sexual orientation, explaining myself in queer spaces, and feeling defensive when my sexuality is challenged. Femme invisibility is real and I experience biphobia and internalized biphobia often. It’s been a journey learning the language and tools to empower myself to explore them. 

Coming out, for me and many others, is a constant act — every time I meet someone new, every time someone makes an assumption or questions my identity, I assess whether I want to come out. Do I feel safe? Do I trust this person enough? Do I want to engage in a longer dialogue? Is this going to require emotional labor and am I willing to perform it? Do I need this person to know all of me? Then, I run through my usual coming out repertoire, some variation of “actually, I’m queer” “I date women, too” “I’m not straight.” 

In honor of Bisexual Visibility Week, I figured I should share some of the frequently asked questions I get from folks and also my internal dialogues I tend to keep to myself. Over the past few weeks, I collected questions through my website, social media, and in-person channels. Here’s what I got: 

Q: What does being “bisexual” mean?

Like most identities, being “bisexual” or “bi” can mean different things to different people. The conventional definition of being “bisexual” is to be sexually attracted to both men and women. Some folks use “bisexual” as an umbrella term to describe being attracted to people beyond one gender. 

Q: Are you attracted to women or men more? Or is it 50/50?

On sunny days, women. On rainy days, men. Just kidding. It depends on the person I meet. Duh, people. Look at this handy chart below.

Q: What’s the difference between “bisexual” and “queer?”

“Queer” is often described as an umbrella term, but again, it means different things to different people. For me, it means being outside of the heterosexist norm — I also see it as a movement, a community, with a hint of radical flavor and a heavy dose of fearlessness. I sometimes like to identify as “bisexual,” not because I believe there are only two genders, but because I think bisexual invisibility / erasure is all too real. I like to claim the identity to increase visibility for folks who don’t fit into the L/G categories and to take up space. I find the term “bi” to be limiting in acknowledging gender as a much broader spectrum, so I prefer to identify as “queer.” 

Q: How about “pansexual?”

I identified as pansexual for a year or so in high school, but it never stuck with me. I see more and more folks identifying as pansexual, meaning you’re attracted all (“pan-”) people, irrespective of their sex / gender identity. I’ve also met folks who identify as fluid, heteroflexible/homoflexible, or choosing to not label themselves at all. 

Q: When did you know you were bi/queer?

I didn’t have the language to describe myself as queer until I was in high school. Growing up in South Korea, the concept of queerness wasn’t even on my radar, but in retrospect, a lot of my childhood experiences that made me feel “different” make sense. Like, as a child, I was obsessed with naked dolls (or are all girls like that? I don’t know) and I always got chills (the good kind) whenever my girl friends touched my hair. I had my first official crush on a girl when I was a freshman in high school. I was *head over heels* and oh so confused.

Q: What’s the biggest difference dating a man vs. a woman?

Again, this depends on the person I’m dating. But the biggest difference, for me, has been the ability to empathize with my lived experiences as a woman. I mean, it’s kind of an obvious statement, but it does make a difference when the person you are dating can deeply empathize with you. I have met some pretty cool dudes who have been able to listen to my needs and sympathize, but there’s definitely a difference in living an experience vs. observing them.

Another big difference is how I take up space in and outside of the queer community when I’m dating a man vs. woman. For example, when I’m in a relationship with a cis, heterosexual man, I think twice before entering spaces that are created to honor and celebrate queerness. Even if I identify as queer, being in a relationship that is perceived to be normative and heterosexual gives me privileges that I need to be aware of. On the flip side, when I’m with a woman, I tend to avoid spaces that make me and my partner feel less safe — think super bro-y sports bar, conservative neighborhoods, etc. Well, I guess I don’t go to those places anyway :P 

Q: Is being bisexual just a phase people go through until they decide to be gay or lesbian?

No. Although my dad still believes this. People thinking this is just a “phase” is deeply hurtful. It denies my desire that spans multiple gender identities, and makes me feel like I am not a whole person. It’s as if someone is telling me I’m still “figuring it out,” when actually, I have it figured out! Saying bisexuality is not a real identity or calling bisexuals “fence-sitters” is offensive and invalidates a big part of who I am and who I’ve always been. 

Q: Have you dated other bisexuals? What’s the prevalence of other bisexuals among those you’ve dated? 

I found this question to be so interesting. Yes, I have dated other bisexuals, but not because I sought them out. I never thought to look for other bisexuals, although this question makes a lot of sense if you think of it from the perspective of lesbian, gay, or even straight people. Huh, interesting.

Q: When do you bring it up when you are dating someone? 

Depends on the person. It’s usually something that comes up or I bring up on the first 1–2 dates. I’ve ended dates after learning the other person is not comfortable with me being bi/queer. I’ve also ended dates after hearing biphobic remarks (“oh that’s hot” is amongst my favorites. NOT). 

Q: Are you straight now that you’re dating a man?

Nope. Whom I’m dating or sleeping with currently doesn’t dictate how I identify. Does a straight person become asexual when they don’t have a partner? No. My queerness doesn’t just disappear when I’m dating a man and I bring my queerness to all of my relationships, regardless of my partner’s gender identity. Also, just because I’m dating a man, that doesn’t make our relationship “heterosexual” — I’m still a queer person, and there are ways to “queer” relationships that may seem normative on the surface. There are privileges and access points I get when I’m in a visibly “heterosexual” relationship. However, those privileges don’t make me straight. I’m happily in a relationship with a cis, heterosexual man who makes me feel seen as a whole person, who acknowledges and honors all of my identities, including my queer identity.

Q: What are some examples of biphobia? 

  • Believing bisexuality isn’t a legitimate identity (e.g., “it’s a phase” “he’s actually gay” “you can’t be a fence-sitter. Choose!”) 
  • Assuming someone’s identity based on sexual or dating history, or current partner’s gender / sex
  • Calling bisexuals “allies” to the LGBT community
  • Assuming everyone is either gay or straight 
  • Believing bisexual people are confused or trying to “decide”
  • Erasing bisexual people from the broader LGBTQ movement and struggles
  • Thinking bisexual people are “half-oppressed” or have it “easier” than lesbian and gay people
  • Sexualizing bi women or thinking bi women are seeking attention from men
  • Telling bisexuals that we have “double the options” — no, we don’t
  • Not dating bisexual people because you think they’re going to leave for another gender; thinking bisexual people can’t be monogamous
  • Thinking bisexual people are attracted to everyone
  • Assuming all bisexual people want threesomes. GAH!

Check out this Invisible Majority report by the Movement Advancement Project detailing the disparities facing bisexual people (this glaad article summarizes it nicely).

Also, check out these amazing graphs summarizing my life.

 

bi-3.png

Q: What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?

Now this is a tough one. I’m into pistachio these days, but I also love a good, high quality vanilla. I’d like to identify as a lover of all ice creams. Jk, butter pecan is a shit flavor. 

Q: How do you think your life would be different if you weren’t bi? Do you ever think about that? 

I don’t have to think about it because the media shows me what it’s like. Every. Damn. Day. 

Q: What advice do you have for people going through self discovery?

Everyone’s journey is different and only they can define the right milestones for themselves. Seek out resources and perspectives of others, try to develop a supportive community of folks you trust, and reach out! Don’t feel pressured to come out at the expense of your own physical, psychological, and emotional safety. Take as long as you need to validate your feelings and to find language that feels right for you.

Q: What advice would you give to allies who’d like to support queer / bi-folks?

Do your homework — Google all the things. Ask questions respectfully, don’t make assumptions, and try not to put additional emotional burden on folks you’re trying to support for the sake of your education!

Intervene when you observe homophobia / biphobia. Speak up whether we’re in the room or not.

Got other questions? Ask in a comment below. Are you bisexual? Share your journey and perspectives!

Did you find this post helpful? Follow me on Medium and clap to help others find it more easily!

About Michelle Kim

Michelle is an entrepreneur, activist, speaker, and a coach passionate about empowering individuals and organizations to create positive change. She is the co-founder of Awaken and owner of Michelle Kim Consulting.

Follow Michelle’s continued journey to create change in this world:

Awaken Newsletter | Website | LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook

Managing teams in times of political trauma — what to do, what to say to boost psychological safety

We talk a lot about creating an inclusive workplace culture. We attend workshops, watch webinars, bring in guest speakers, implement less bias-prone recruiting processes… but none of these matters if your direct manager sucks. 

People leave their managers, not their jobs. 

No matter how much the company says it cares about diversity and inclusion, if it fails to empower managers to actually act as inclusive leaders, change won’t happen. 

When we promise our teams to “bring their whole selves to work” — remember that this includes acknowledging how their lives are impacted by forces outside the office. And just another surface level “unconscious bias training” isn’t going to cut it. 

The Muslim ban, Charlottesville, trans military ban, police brutality and killings of black lives, the looming threat of DACA ending… there’s a lot of political trauma people are experiencing these days. 

Now, if you are feeling overwhelmed and depressed, it’s completely normal. You may even be thinking, “All of this is so terrible and sad. I need to turn off social media so I can function.” Do whatever you need to get temporary relief from the news — caring for yourself is important so that you can come back and engage productively. Key words here are “temporary,” “come back,” “engage.” Please don’t mistake self-care with apathy. Turning off social media for a couple of days so you can ground yourself before standing in solidarity with marginalized communities is not the same as choosing indefinite ignorance or eating sheet cake every night. 

If you are able to disengage and not think about these issues, recognize you have privilege. Many people who are directly or indirectly impacted do not have the option to “turn off.” 

We’ve all learned to enter the office pretending to “have it all together.” But the truth is, when your child is sick at home, when your roof is leaking, when you’re going through a terrible breakup, or when someone you love is diagnosed with cancer, we can’t “be there” 100%. Now, imagine these feelings piling up each time you see traumatic public news impacting various marginalized communities. Add to this pile of emotional shit the additional burden marginalized workforce feel to “cover” their whole selves at work.

Your diverse workforce is suffering. Today. Right now. 

If you are wondering whether your team is distracted or feeling less engaged at work because of current events, stop wondering. They are

And this is why it’s imperative for all people leaders to learn to hold space for their teams in political trauma. You never know who may be feeling completely distraught by what is happening in the world today. 

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had both individual contributors and well meaning managers tell me their internal dilemmas in light of recent political events: 

People Managers tell me:

  • “I feel like I should say something but I don’t know what to say.”
  • “I don’t want to open up a can of worms / pandora’s box”.
  • “I don’t want to alienate some people by talking about my political views.”
  • “I feel like talking about politics at work is inappropriate.”

Individual Contributors tell me: 

  • “My manager (or leadership / CEO) hasn’t said anything about ______. Do they even care?” 
  • “I feel like my office doesn’t even know what’s happening. No one’s talking about it. ”
  • “I want to talk about what’s happening, but I don’t know if it’s appropriate for me to bring it up. I’m scared I’ll be seen as too ‘political.’” 
  • “I feel alone in feeling depressed by everything that’s going on.” 

NEWSFLASH: Not talking about politics won’t stop people from thinking, feeling, or whispering it. 

Your team will remember your silence. Your team will also remember your compassion. Which one do you want them to remember? 

So what are managers supposed to do in times of ongoing political trauma? Here are some tips and actionable strategies. 

1) Acknowledge what is happening

It doesn’t take a lot for you to just name what is happening. Let your team know you’re paying attention and that you believe it’s important enough to acknowledge it. Don’t be afraid to share your emotions — vulnerability builds trust. 

Phrases you can use: 

  • “I want to acknowledge what is happening in our country…” 
  • “I am devastated by what happened over the weekend…”
  • “There’s a lot going on politically right now…” 

You might be thinking, “what if someone doesn’t agree with my beliefs?” Well, this is a real possibility. At some point, you have to make a conscious decision to take a stand by asking yourself: are you okay with your team thinking you don’t care or worse, that you condone what is happening? 

Remind yourself that we’re not talking about some nuanced tax policies or foreign affairs strategies right now — we’re talking about you taking a clear stance against obscene and direct attacks on marginalized communities rooted in racism, transphobia, Islamophobia, and other forms of oppression. 

2) Check-in with your team

Be proactive in checking in with your team and letting them know you care. Present yourself as a resource in case your team needs support. Leverage your existing communication channels to check in with your team.

Ways to check-in with your team: 

  • Do a group check-in in the beginning of your team meeting.
  • Check in with your direct report during your 1-on-1.
  • Send a team-wide email or chat. 
  • Schedule a team lunch, or coffee break.
  • Take a walk with your direct reports for your 1-on-1, or even as a team if your team is small enough, to get out of the office setting.

Phrases you can use:

  • Team meeting: “Let’s go around and do a quick check-in on how everyone is feeling. Name one emotion you’re feeling, and one thing we can do to support you this week.”
  • Team lunch: “How’s everyone feeling? How are you taking care of yourselves with everything that’s happening?”
  • Email / Slack: “In light of _______, I just want to check in with you all and let you know that I am here for you if you want to talk or need support. Schedule a meeting with me or come by to chat any time.”
  • Walk: “How about a walk outside of the office? With everything going on, I think we can use some fresh air and breathe.” 

3) Reduce or redistribute labor / emotional burden on your team

This is where your understanding of your organizational power and privilege as a manager comes in handy.

Immediately following a traumatic political event, consider reducing the labor burden on your team. You can do this in multiple different ways, depending on the business context. If you have the flexibility and power, allow folks to leave work early to dedicate time for self-care. Allow or encourage people to work remotely if needed. Ask your team how you can shift work deadlines or priorities for them. Involve your team in redistributing people’s workload collectively.

Phrases you can use:

  • “Would it be helpful if we pushed the deadline for ______ to next week?”
  • “Let’s revisit our priorities as a team: what are the most important things we need to get done this week? What can we punt to next week, when we may be more effective in achieving our goals?”

Take on additional emotional burden so your team members representing marginalized communities (e.g., people of color, trans people, etc.) don’t have to. This means you, as a person with more organizational power than your direct reports, should step in to educate or answer questions from employees in dominant groups (e.g., white, cis-gender, etc.) or intervening when you observe microaggressions

Note the dynamic may differ if you as the manager are impacted and need to offload labor or emotional burden — look for allies among your peers or superiors to support you. Remember that you need support, too. 

4) Care for your team as people, not just workers

This is an opportunity for you to be human and treat others like one. Genuinely care about your team’s well being. Half-decent managers should be doing this all the time, by the way.

Ways to care for your team’s well-being:

  • Share articles about self-care and hold your team accountable for practicing self-care.
  • Organize or participate in events showing your solidarity with communities impacted — do this as a team, or let your team know they can join you (e.g., volunteering, protest, phone-banking, etc.).
  • IMPORTANT: Some of your team members may seem distant or disengaged for some time. Recognize this is a valid self-care strategy. Respect their boundaries and ask what support looks like for them. Caring for people sometimes looks like giving people the space and boundaries they need. 

5) Host safe discussion spaces

Collaborate with other emotionally intelligent and inclusive leaders to form ad-hoc discussion circles. Send an invite to your teams or announce it more broadly so people not in your department can also join. It’s extremely important, though, to recognize safe discussion spaces take conscious planning and skillful facilitation. If not done well, you may end up causing more harm and lose control of the room to a few vocal, well-meaning but not-so-self-aware individuals. If you don’t know how to handle the “but isn’t that reverse-racism?” conversation, you’re probably not ready to host a discussion space. 

Tips for creating a safe discussion space:

  • Set clear goals and expectations for the space: why are you meeting? Is the space for venting, action planning, or something else? Communicate these expectations prior to the meeting.
  • Ensure the discussion space feels safe physically: go for a sound-proof conference room vs. open lunch area. Limit the number of people to a manageable size that feels intimate. 
  • Secure a skilled facilitator: ensure there’s a facilitator who knows how to work with different personalities, navigate through tension, and address tough questions. If you don’t have anyone who can fill this role, you may want to consider an external facilitator.
  • Set ground rules (aka “community agreements”) before discussing: these rules can include confidentiality, right to pass, speaking from “I” perspective, etc.
  • Depending on the discussion topic / context, you may want to consider having closed-group sessions for different identity groups. For example, if you want to create a safe space for healing dialogues after a traumatic event like Charlottesville, you may want to create two separate spaces, one for employees of color and another for white allies.

Again, I can’t stress enough the importance of learning how to do this well. You can cause more harm if you don’t do this thoughtfully. You’ve been warned. If you’re interested in hosting a facilitation training workshop for key leaders at your organization, contact Awaken.

6) Develop a formal response as a leadership team

This is some what of an “advanced” tip, given you may not have the right level of influence or power at your company. But for you brave souls, if you haven’t heard anything from your executive leadership team, make a suggestion to release a formal response. It doesn’t have to be an external statement — an internal memo of acknowledgement can go a long way. If you’re a part of the executive team, consider discussing with your CEO the impact of the leadership’s silence on the workforce. Get inspiration from other progressive companies making a public stance on important issues affecting their workforce. Even better if your company can put money where its mouth is.

What to say to your leadership:

  • “Have you seen the public statements released by companies XYZ? I think it would go a long way for us to do something similar, and let our employees know we care.”
  • “I’m feeling our teams are struggling with what’s happening politically. What can we do to acknowledge what’s happening and empower our managers to create a safe space for their teams?”

7) Get support for yourself

You can’t pour from an empty cup. You need to feel supported in order for you to provide support for your team. If you’re not whole yourself, your acts of service will feel performative and hollow. Do you have a workplace bestie you can confide in? Do you feel supported by your manager? What do you need to do to feel grounded and whole? 

How managers can feel supported:

  • Form an informal group of inclusive, socially conscious leaders. Meet regularly to brainstorm ideas to reduce bias-based harm in the workplace, share ideas on how to cultivate an inclusive team culture, and to lean on each other for support during challenging times.
  • Seek out external support groups or network of leaders committed to practicing inclusion. If you’re interested in being a part of Awaken’s Inclusive Leaders Circle, sign up here. You’re not alone in this journey!
  • Practice self-care! Create your own “self-care toolbox” — trust me, you’ll need this.

Practicing inclusion takes real work. Inclusion starts with every leader in the company making a conscious decision to practice courage and vulnerability. 

You don’t have to be a diversity and inclusion expert to be a great manager, but it takes a great manager to practice inclusion.

We’re living in an era where everyone is trying hard just to survive and resist completely breaking down any moment. As a people leader, you have an opportunity to allow for some breathing room for your team. 

Try out some of these tips and report back in comments. We’re rooting for you!

 

Did you find this post helpful? Share to help others find it more easily and SUBSCRIBE to my mailing list so you never miss a post!

Join Awaken’s Inclusive Leaders Circle to receive relevant updates and event notifications.


 

About Michelle Kim

Michelle is an entrepreneur, activist, speaker, and a coach passionate about empowering individuals and organizations to create positive change. She is the co-founder of Awaken and owner of Michelle Kim Consulting.

Follow Michelle’s continued journey to create change in this world:

Subscribe | Website | LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook | Awaken

How to measure “inclusion” quantitatively : free resources and research data for D&I advocates

What do you look for when you’re looking for a new job? 

Good pay, no commute, better title, opportunities to advance, a rocket ship company… oh, and culture. Culture is important. 

Well, I believed (and still do believe) there is a group of people who would put inclusive culture at the top of the list of things they look for in a new job. Because I was one of them. I still believe there are people like me, who would choose a lower paying job over a company run by CE-bros with a toxic culture. 

People who want to work at a place where they can bring their whole selves to work, where they don’t have to merely survive while suffering from daily microaggressions and other oppressive BS. Call me naive, but I thought such places can exist, but surely, it would take a lot of research and validation. 

So how do you go about finding such a place? 

How do you *really* know if a company has an “inclusive culture?” 

Well, my business partner and I wanted to find out. 

Clue #1: Diversity Reports

In recent years, more and more companies have been eager (and pressured) to share “diversity reports,” sharing their demographic data. Still, the number of companies that have been releasing diversity reports consistently is limited. And, because the format and contents of these reports are so varied, it puts the onus on the job seekers to decipher and compare. Most of these reports breakdown demographic information into race and gender categories, vs. reflecting people with overlapping / intersecting identities, making it difficult to understand the true population of the company.

And as we know, diversity does not guarantee inclusion. In fact, some companies have become better at attracting more diverse talent (“pipeline problem”) that they can quickly replace the folks they lost. The problem with most diversity reports is that they are a snapshot — like a balance sheet — that only gives you a partial picture of reality.

Just like you need a lot more than just a balance sheet to understand a company’s health, you need a whole lot more information than just the current population information to understand a company’s actual culture.

In order to understand the actual culture of a company, through the lens of inclusivity, you need way more than a snapshot of who’s surviving at the company today. But keep those reports coming, we still want to know! 

Clue #2: Glassdoor, et al. 

Ah, Glassdoor. 

I just have three points. 

  1. People don’t trust Glassdoor in general
  2. It’s hard to find inclusion-specific information on Glassdoor 
  3. See screenshot below 
 Uber’s Glassdoor rating in April, 2017 (Note — Susan Fowler’s blog post went viral in February, 2017)

Uber’s Glassdoor rating in April, 2017 (Note — Susan Fowler’s blog post went viral in February, 2017)

 Uber’s Glassdoor rating on Aug. 11, 2017

Uber’s Glassdoor rating on Aug. 11, 2017

Need I say more? 

Clue #3: Company website

HAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHHHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Ok, I do like studying the company’s leadership and board members, though. And their pretty marketing language on how much they value diversity and inclusion. I also think it does count for something (maybe, like, half a sticker) if a company is vocal about valuing D&I vs. not. 

Those are just a few resources that are available online. Unfortunately, finding inclusive culture information that is reliable and comprehensive is not easy. Plus, culture varies not only by company, but by team within a company. Getting this data online is near impossible. 

Some forward thinking companies have gone ahead and begun the process of measuring inclusion using tools like Culture Amp’s Inclusion Survey, but the information they gather is often kept private and is shared only if the data looks favorable. After all, what incentives do companies have to air their dirty laundry? 

So what do people trust? 

People trust unaltered feedback from current or former employees of the company. Resourceful people who have access to people at companies they are interested in prefer to talk to current or ex-employees to get the real scoop.

“Tell me the real deal. Should I apply?”

No surprise here, right? 

But unless you have this social capital, how are you supposed to access this information? Without access, you have to rely on your own judgment based on limited information available publicly and roll the dice. Just keep a low expectation, is that it? 

We wanted to change this. 

We wanted to redistribute power to job seekers by providing them with discoverable, reliable, comprehensive, relevant, and comparable data around inclusion.

We wanted to provide a safe platform for employees experiencing toxic or inclusive cultures to speak up. We wanted them to be able to tell their side of the story without the company’s interference. 

We wanted to standardize how we talk about and measure “inclusion” and provide a useful tool so companies can improve against concrete metrics. We understand the idea of capturing “inclusion” in one quantitative score may seem simplistic. But what we see over and over again is that businesses don’t prioritize what cannot be measured

While we would never claim one quantitative metric alone can paint the most accurate and comprehensive picture of a company’s inclusive culture, we did believe it can be a tool used to supplement existing efforts to get a pulse on a company’s culture. Or at least serve as a starting point. 

Ultimately, we believed that with better information about companies’ culture, inclusion-seeking job seekers would be able to make better decisions. On the flip side, we hoped this would put pressure on companies to improve their culture to be more inclusive, and measure how they’re doing via real-time, candid feedback from their workforce (most companies we talked to did not like this idea). 

So the idea of “inclusion dashboard” was born. We did a lot of research around how one would define and measure inclusion. We interviewed a bunch of people who were exploring new opportunities to understand their research methods and priorities. We talked to D&I experts, companies at the forefront of leading D&I, researchers, professors, Venture Capitalists, and spent months thinking about how we can close this information gap. 

We learned a lot. 

Here are some interesting, but not surprising, findings / validations from our interviews: 

  • People who have experienced harmful culture rank inclusive culture higher on the list of priorities when looking for a new job vs. people who have not experienced harm.
  • Ensured anonymity was the #1 requirement for making people feel comfortable leaving a company review.
  • 4 common factors were identified as a requirement for making information trustworthy: Relevancy of the data to the individual, credibility of the information source, balance of good and bad data (goes back to credibility), connecting directly with an individual who works at the company.

There’s a load more data we gathered that you can check out in our now archived “pitch” deck. Note we never actually wanted to raise capital, we just wanted to get advice from smart people and launch the survey to see where it goes. We had some ideas for how we would monetize, but we just wanted gather and make inclusion data public and iterate from there. 

Anyway, after conducting our own research and interviews, we attempted to develop a way to define and measure inclusion. It contained three major parts:

  1. Psychological Safety: Do people feel belong and empowered? 
  2. Trust in Leadership: Do people believe their leaders actually care about inclusion? Do they trust their leaders will do the right thing, especially when shit hits the fan? Do they believe their HR team will address complaints swiftly and competently? 
  3. Incidents: Have people experienced, witnessed, or overheard harassment, assault, or other forms of harm based on identity?
 Our fancy shmancy diagram breaking down “inclusion.”

Our fancy shmancy diagram breaking down “inclusion.”

 

We then created a survey to measure this. 

A quick note — big props to the team at Culture Amp and Paradigm IQ for releasing the Inclusion Survey — we reviewed their survey and adapted some of the questions (particularly helpful for the Psychological Safety section) and added additional ones that we thought were important for assessing inclusion. We also love all the work Project Include has done — we kept in mind a lot of their recommendations around measuring progress

We tried to make the survey as concise as possible, especially given the fact that it was intended to be done publicly (aka voluntarily). We needed the process to be as easy as possible. 

Our survey contained 30 questions in addition to gathering people’s demographic information, tenure and department at the company, and their level. This would allow us to breakdown the data in meaningful ways, showcasing how different folks at different levels, in different teams, with different identities felt about the company’s culture. 

We added important questions like, 

  • “I feel comfortable going to my HR with complaints (e.g., harassment, bullying, microaggression, etc.)” and 
  • “I was pressured or incentivized by my company to leave a positive review” 

that we don’t usually see in company-run employee engagement surveys. 

Here’s the link to receive the full survey, if you want to adapt it for your company and use it, feel free. Note the survey was still in the process of being polished with help text, definitions, and more thorough answer options. 

We were also in the process of finalizing our scoring algorithm based on the survey results and demographic data of the survey respondents. We were toying with some controversial ideas, too, weighting scores more heavily if the responses were submitted by folks in marginalized social identity groups (e.g., people of color, women, queer, trans, disabled, etc.) vs. those in privileged identity groups (e.g., white, straight, man, able-bodied, etc.). This was based on our belief that in order to achieve true inclusion, we need to ensure the most marginalized group feels included. 

We were going to launch the survey and gather data publicly, and publish the data in a comprehensive and digestable way using an interactive dashboard. People would be able to slice and dice the data to fit their needs, so if I’m looking for inclusion data from the perspective of queer women of color in Customer Success, for example, then I’d be able to. 

We worked with a product manager to scope out the platform dashboard features, prioritized business requirements. For example, we wanted to create a way to verify someone’s identity and employment history via LinkedIn (we know it’s not the perfect way) to solve for credibility, and put a threshold for when we would release a company’s data so we can solve for non-traceability based on demographic and reliability in terms of the data volume (e.g., we wouldn’t release the survey results unless a company had X number of responses, so it’s not easy to trace back who filled it out based on their identity markers). 

 Business and Product Requirements List

Business and Product Requirements List

We looked for advisors. We had partners ready to help us develop the site. 

So why did we stop? 3 major challenges surfaced.

  • Challenge #1: Gathering a large volume of data to make the site useful 
  • Challenge #2: Refreshing the data often to ensure it stays up-to-date 
  • Challenge #3: People don’t make decisions based on information

We believed we could overcome Challenges #1 and 2 eventually. But #3? That was a tough one for us to swallow. What’s the point if we gather and disseminate data but it doesn’t influence people’s decisions? How would we actually influence change? What were we solving for? 

“Since the Susan Fowler story broke out, the number of female engineer applicants has not decreased. There also wasn’t a mass exodus from Uber” —very reliable Uber insider

This crushed us. Sure, you can argue “but Uber is different — not every company has the leverage Uber has” or “no, but I really care!” 

But for us, it seemed like the ultimate impact of closing this gap was unclear especially when the road to building a useful product was a complex one. 

The truth is, unless enough people vote with their employment status, companies are not going to fundamentally shift their internal culture. 

It was a tough decision for us to scrap this “Glassdoor for inclusion” idea. We were so passionate about solving this problem, and we still are. We ultimately decided, though, this is not going to be the dream we make reality. We are still using bits and pieces of our learnings today, and have utmost respect for folks trying to tackle this gap. 

We don’t regret having done the research. 

And we want to share what we learned with anyone who cares. Because we are all in this together, and we have to build solidarity and coalition to move the needle a millimeter at a time. 

So we’re open sourcing our materials here:

You’ll find flaws in our stuff, no doubt, and maybe even judge us for being naive (but without it, can change really happen?). Basically, please don’t troll us. But do share your thoughts and ideas so we can all learn from each other and be better

The following companies are also trying to bring inclusive culture data to the forefront to help jobseekers. Check them out and support them: 

So what are we doing instead? We are providing a new kind of “diversity and inclusion” workshops to develop inclusive leaders. It’s hard work that requires a lot of emotional labor. It’s not very scalable. But we truly believe in the impact we can have on people with our approach, one rooted in social justice and the idea that change happens incrementally and with individuals. It may not be as scalable or sexy as running a software company to some, but we love connecting with real people, holding space for tough conversations, and seeing lightbulbs go off in people’s hearts. We’ve been getting raving reviews and feedback from folks who say we’ve completely changed their perspective on diversity and inclusion. Now that means something. 

Have ideas on how to measure inclusion better? Share in comments or message me directly! I’d love to hear from you.


About Michelle Kim

Michelle is an entrepreneur, activist, speaker, and a coach passionate about empowering individuals and organizations to create positive change. She is the co-founder of Awaken and owner of Michelle Kim Consulting.

Follow Michelle’s continued journey to create change in this world:

Subscribe | Website | LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook | Awaken

 

I’m going to Crissy Field on Saturday — here’s what you need to know if you want to come with

As I wrote in my previous post, there are many options for protesting the alt-right / KKK rally happening this Saturday (8/26) in Crissy Field, San Francisco.

I’m choosing to go to Crissy Field because I know people will be there, and we will be safer if there’s more of us. I want to have the backs of folks who are being extremely courageous, potentially putting their physical safety on the line to confront hatred face-to-face. History tells us multiple resistance tactics must co-exist to defeat hate. If you want to read more about other perspectives, or why I’m choosing to go to Crissy Field rather than ignore them, please read my previous post.

I have privileges that allow me to take risks — for instance, I don’t fear being arrested and deported because of my documentation status, nor do I fear being profiled by cops because of my race. Understanding my privileges allows me to understand my strategic place in this fight for social justice, and I’m going to stand by / in between / in front of folks who may be more at risk.

I’d love for you to join me. Because honestly, I’m scared shitless and I want to feel safer knowing there will be more of us (like Boston!).

I’m scared, but here are some things that are making me feel better:

  • Safety in numbers: There will be a lot of us there — more and more contingents are popping up organizing to march to Crissy Field. People are saying SF will mirror what we saw in Boston (yay!)
  • No weapons allowed: The National Park Service announced they will not allow any items that are weapons or can be used as weapons at Crissy Field. Prohibited items include: ammunition, backpacks, drones, explosives, firearms (including licensed concealed carry firearms), glass, mace/pepper spray, sticks, bats, toy or replica guns, and more (scroll down for the full list)
  • Organized leadership: Multiple activist groups and leaders are working tirelessly to provide great leadership to folks who participate in the counter protest. They’re sharing information real time and providing tips for everyone to stay safe
  • Security check points / search stations: The city has made its stance clear that they are doing everything they can to keep the counter protesters safe — though I do not trust the police (please be cautious and avoid arrest), I take comfort in knowing that they’ve been trained and instructed to search thoroughly for any prohibited items
  • Lawyers: Lawyers from National Lawyers Guild will be present to help — they will be wearing fluorescent green hats

I’m not a trained militia, I don’t have experience fighting Nazis, I’ve never been a part of a violent protest / altercation. I’m just as anxious as you are. But I’m deciding to show up for folks who have more to be afraid of, yet are being so courageous in their decision to show up.

So if you decide to join me, here are some things to keep in mind.

Important things to know / do:

  1. Meeting Point: Meet at at Marina Green first and walk over together: **Marina Blvd. between Scott Street and Fillmore Street at 10 a.m. — look for the Longshore Workers’ Union (ILWU) banner when you arrive**

  2. Text Alert: Subscribe to Bay Resist’s text alert system and check on their website / Facebook event update often for latest news: text RESIST to 41411
  3. Buddy-System: Come with a buddy, stay with your buddy. Have a plan for when you get separated. Try to stick with large groups, but still have a buddy — email me if you want to come with me from the Mission!
  4. Be cautious before, during, and after the rally: There have been cases where the deflated and pissed off Nazis retaliate after the rally. Stick with your buddy / group until you are in a safe area
  5. Communication: Cellphone service may be unreliable — coordinate communication plan in advance and let your friends and family know of your status so they don’t worry! (Don’t worry mom!) Have important numbers written down somewhere (e.g., paper, body, etc.)
  6. Engaging with Police: Don’t assume the police will protect you, especially if you’re more likely to be profiled (e.g., Black, Brown, Muslim, trans folks). Know your legal rights in case of arrest and ask for a lawyer. Do not resist arrest, even if it’s not fair. Have someone in your group who can be a liaison, who is most likely to be seen as non-threatening to cops
  7. Pepper spray: It is unlikely there will be pepper spray or tear gas, but if you get sprayed, running 50/50 unflavored antacid (e.g., Maalox) and water solution (LAW: Liquid Antacid Water) over your eyebrows, letting it flow over your eyes in an outward direction will help. Do not wear contacts — wear glasses
  8. Valuables: Don’t bring anything you don’t want to lose or get confiscated
  9. Photography: Don’t photograph others without their consent, and try to not be photographed to avoid being identified by the alt-right doxers
  10. Clothes: Wear comfortable layered clothes (in case you need to take it off after being pepper sprayed) and shoes — don’t wear all black to avoid being mistaken as black bloc (more likely to be targeted by alt-right and police)
  11. Water and food: Eat before you come, bring water and snacks 
  12. Interacting with racists: Do not engage with the alt-right / KKK / fascists if they try to provoke you
  13. Violence: DO NOT INITIATE VIOLENCE
  14. Lawyer: Have the National Lawyer’s Guild number handy in case of arrest: 415–285–1011
  15. Getting home: Leave the rally in a group — experienced folks say this is the most dangerous part!
  16. Mental health: Coordinate a post-rally emotional / mental support activity in advance. You may need to talk to someone. Take care of yourself!

Do whatever you need to take care of yourself and prepare mentally, physically, and emotionally. Find and organize with people you trust (if you don’t have anyone to go with, you can come with me, seriously).

That’s all from me, for now. I’m looking forward to seeing thousands of other passionate folks flooding the streets to stand up against oppression. 

I know we can do this, San Francisco. Let’s get it. 

More Resources

Facebook events I’m following (they all have the same meeting place):

Facebook Status I’m following

Legal Resources:

Health and Safety Resources:

Further Reading:

Full list of prohibited items as governed by the National Park Service:

A. Aerosols / pressurized canisters
B. Ammunition
C. Animals other than working service animals
D. Any other items determined to be potential safety hazards
E. Backpacks and bags exceeding the size restriction of 18” by 14” by 7”
F. Balloons
G. BBQ grills (propane tanks with any open flame)
H. Bicycles
I. Coolers
J. Drones and other unmanned aircraft systems
K. Explosives
L. Firearms (including licensed concealed carry firearms)
M. Gas Masks
N. Glass, thermal or metal containers
O. Helmets
P. Laser pointers
Q. Liquids (other than water in factory-sealed, clear plastic bottles)
R. Mace / pepper spray
S. Packages
T. Pop up tents or canopies
U. Selfie sticks
V. Shields
W. Signs exceeding the size restriction of 24” by 36” (Signs will only be allowed if made of foam core, cardboard or paper)
X. Structures
Y. Supports for signs and placards including sticks of any material
Z. Sticks or bats of any nature composed of any material
AA. Toy or replica guns
BB. Wagons or carts that can be pulled
CC. Weapons of any kind

Helpful Photos (credit: Gwen Park):

 

Also, here are some powerful words from Alicia Garza, co-founder of Black Lives Matter, on what she believes San Francisco should do: 

Honestly, I think the strategy should be “let a thousand flowers bloom.” A coordinated strategy in this case is better than a one-size-fits-all strategy. If the responses are uncoordinated that will be the story. If progressives are not aligned in keeping the focus on the white supremacists who are in office and on 45’s administration, it’s all bullshit anyway. The larger goal is showing them that we are more coordinated, more impactful, and that we actually represent America. The theoretical debate about non violence vs violence is a black hole that few emerge from. This debate only matters in the context of a larger strategy for power. If we see this as a moment that can open up new opportunities for organizing, why wouldn’t we want to have a coordinated approach that shows us what’s possible?
Coordination gives people cover, allows for multiple points of pressure, and creates many different entryways for people to participate. There are people who are willing to take risks, and there are people who are not. And they should coordinate to make sure that it adds up to one beautiful whole.
This is not a time for SF to be uncoordinated. The most important thing is that these forces understand that when they come to SF spreading their bullshit that there are people willing to stand up to them in a multitude of ways. For me, it’s not a theoretical debate. This is a time to demonstrate that the progressive movement is united across difference in it’s rejection of hate. And then, of course, do the real work which is uprooting white supremacy in our own movements. Really easy to focus on the most obvious trash while not looking at how we clean up our own shit.

 


About Michelle Kim

Michelle is an entrepreneur, activist, speaker, and a coach passionate about empowering individuals and organizations to create positive change. She is the co-founder of Awaken and owner of Michelle Kim Consulting.

Subscribe | Website | LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook | Medium | Awaken

 

To engage or not to engage: how to resist alt-right white supremacist rallies
 Antifa and alt-right clash in Charlottesville. Photo Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Antifa and alt-right clash in Charlottesville. Photo Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

As the alt-right, white supremacist, neo-Nazis continue their roadshow throughout the country, there have been many discussions around how to best respond. While we all strive to dismantle white supremacy, there seems to be ongoing debate around tactics and strategies. 

I had the privilege of attending a planning meeting hosted by Mayor Ed Lee at City Hall yesterday afternoon, joined by other city government officials including the Chief of Police Bill Scott and San Francisco Human Rights Commission Director Sheryl Davis. The conference room was filled with community organizers and leaders: there were leaders from the faith community, nonprofit organizations, education institutions, protest / rally organizers, bringing a wide range of perspectives and voices to the table. 

In this post, I intend to provide you with a comparative summary of those perspectives, as well as my own commentary and recommendations. 

First, some basic background information to catch you up: 

  • The rally is being hosted by an alt-right group called Patriot Prayer
  • Patriot Prayer is known for inciting violence at their previous events, which many recognize as an effective PR and recruitment tactic for the alt-right, neo-Nazi movement 
  • Patriot Prayer seeks to obtain a federal permit on federal land, which supersedes the state or city jurisdiction 
  • On federal land, you are legally allowed to carry concealed weapons, which poses a greater threat of violence 

Now onto the perspectives. 

Perspective #1: Do not engage, protest peacefully elsewhere (SF City’s official stance). 

Mayor Lee, Police Chief Scott, and HRC Director Davis made their collective stance clear in their opening statements: do not engage with the alt-right, do not dignify them with your presence. Instead, attend peaceful counter rallies the day before (Fri, 8/25) and the day of (Sat, 8/26). The city’s #1 priority is public safety, and they are increasing security measures all over town. 

This approach makes sense if you think about the goal of the city government: minimize risk, ensure public safety, reduce costs. 

This seems to be the most popular perspective among liberal intellectuals and progressive elites, who believe counter-protesting at the alt-right rally is giving the neo-Nazis exactly what they want: confrontation. The alt-right is seeking attention through sensationalized media coverage while framing the left as “anti-free-speech snowflakes.” So why give them what they want? Let’s just ignore them and make them feel insignificant. 

My take: I like this option because it reduces the chance of possible casualties on our side (yes, we’re taking sides, people) — it would be naive to say there will be no violence given what we’ve seen in Charlottesville and Berkeley, and I’d just hate to see folks get hurt. I also like the idea of a bunch of neo-Nazis showing up all pumped with their tucked away weapons, only to find our beloved Karl the Fog and a bunch of dog shit at the park. My concern about this approach is this: this works only if enough people choose to not show up at Crissy Field. If there’s critical mass of folks that do decide to show up, the threat of violence still exists. 

Perspective #2: Engage. Confront hate face-to-face. F*ck the Nazis. 

This perspective was held by Rev. Townsend (VP of San Francisco NAACP) among other leaders, who noted that throughout history, what forced change to happen was the courage shown by brave front-line fighters who stood up to oppressors face-to-face. He cited MLK Jr. and Birmingham, and noted there are young people who are ready to fight, who will be at the direct counter-protest, whether others join or not. He also reminded us that as much as this is a recruitment strategy for the alt-right, it can serve the same purpose for the left — we can inspire other passionate folks to join the movement against white supremacy. HRC Director Sheryl Davis chimed in, stating while she agrees with Rev. Townsend’s overall sentiment, she also wants to acknowledge the risk of police arrests for our young people of color participating in violent protests. “We have to be real,” said Davis, calling attention to the fact that we may be exposing our young people of color, knowing they are likely to be profiled and arrested at a higher rate.

Others community leaders validated they know people who will be at the counter-protest. Which begs the question, are we leaving our bravest folks high and dry? 

My take: I am conflicted. Do I think this is the only way we can win? No. However, history tells us we got to where we are today because we had both MLK and Malcom X. Rosa Parks and Black Panthers. People who are going to Crissy Field, apparently a lot of young people, are literally risking their lives to confront white supremacists. Even if we disagree with this tactic, is it time for us to have their back? Like, is this one of those “ugh, FINE, I’ll go with you and have your back, but we’re going to talk about this after” moment? And no, I don’t think people who are going to Crissy Field are less strategic minded — I think these folks are fierce AF. I think they believe this is what solidarity looks like, and this is how history gets written. I don’t think they’re “dumb for giving them what they want.” I think they believe in their heart that alt-right extremists cannot be defeated with intellectual debates, political correctness, or campaign strategies. And I’m starting to think, in weird ass times like today, where you see decades old, toxic, oppressive violence being normalized as “extreme, but still a legitimate point of view,” perhaps just the right prescription to wake people up is a big ol’ slap in the face. Sometimes, you’ve got to fight hate with the equivalent amount of passion, uproar, and fearlessness. 

As much as I’d love to see thousands of people gathered in Civic Center holding a peaceful protest, I’d love it even MORE if we could turn up 40,000 people at Crissy Field to drown out the alt-right’s noise, and immobilize them by our sheer volume. Now that would be epic. 

Perspective #3: Pretend everything is fine and talk about music and dancing.

Uh, yes, this was a real comment. Two hippie white women got up and said we should not talk about politics and just laugh. They’re organizing a peace event where there will be bands and speakers, who have been instructed explicitly to not be political. Just focus on good music, food, and dancing. 

My take: Somebody please hand them a Pepsi. Pepsi, please come collect your people. No, you cannot have a rally against white supremacists and not get political. This is simply insulting and offensive to the actual pain and material harm caused by the alt-right, that is being felt by communities of color and the Jewish community. Folks, please remember that you can center your protest around peace and joy and be politically conscious. 

Perspective #4: All tactics are necessary. Make room for everyone. 

Feng Kung, the lead organizer of Jobs with Justice SF and the co-founder of Bay Resistance, made a moving remark, explaining why they are choosing to go to Crissy Field. Kung is going to Crissy field not because they want to be violent (“No, I have a little boy that I want to come home to”), but because they believe in standing up to confront the oppressors face-to-face. And Kung asked that folks get engaged, in whatever form they choose, but to “please leave room for us.” 

My take: This resonated with me a lot. No matter where we stand on the political spectrum of the left, or what our preferred tactic is, we have to remember, we’re all fighting against the same enemy right now. We have to make room for everyone, and have each other’s back. Yes, yes, and yes. 

There were many more comments I didn’t get to capture here — most other comments were plugs for other events, and didn’t add much more to the perspective discussion, IMHO.

The most important takeaway is this: you have options. It’s up to you to reflect on what your engagement will look like and to ACT.

 Dr. Amos Brown giving his remark about the danger of indifference

Dr. Amos Brown giving his remark about the danger of indifference

Dr. Amos Brown, a civil rights activist who worked alongside MLK Jr and the President of SF NAACP, reminded us in the beginning of the meeting that the greatest threat we have to battle during times like this is indifference. Hearing directly from someone who lived and fought through the oppression that resembles the hatred we see today was truly humbling and sobering. 

My final thoughts and calls for action: 

  1. Support all people who are participating in anti-white supremacy events
  2. Stop creating new events — there are a lot of options already. Build coalition, join forces, support one another, consolidate so we can achieve more with fewer resources
  3. Show appreciation for folks going to Crissy Field and risking their physical safety to fight for justice, instead of criticizing their tactic 
  4. If you’re going to Crissy Field, please be prepared. Attend riot preparation workshops, read protest safety guides, watch online training videos, purchase appropriate gears and first aid kits. This is not a joke, and this is not a drill
  5. Wherever you are, be cautious and thoughtful about how you engage with the law enforcement. If you’re white or East Asian, be the buffer for black and brown folks, who are more likely to be profiled or targeted by the police — do not let our people, especially our brave young people, getting arrested!
  6. The fight doesn’t start or end this weekend. We need more education, teach-ins, strategizing to happen before and after, and ongoing, to build capacity to organize en mass, in unity; thank you Director Davis for this reminder from our youth
  7. We have to envision an alternative future and ground our movement in that vision — rather than centering our movement solely on opposing their vision

Last week, I posted a list of counter-protest events I found. I’ve since updated the list multiple times to reflect new events that have popped up. Check it out

So what am I going to do? 

I’m either going to be at Crissy Field or I’ll be supporting my fellow organizer friends at Harvey Milk Plaza, then marching over together to Civic Center to join the rally. Either way, I’ll be rocking my hottest protest outfit and my red lips (call me “fearless and fabulous”),

Want to join me? Subscribe to my mailing list here — I’ll be sending out an update prior to Saturday. 

Let’s show up, San Francisco.

It’s our turn to strike. 

Self-care in times of distress: Create your own “self-care toolbox” (here’s a list of 51 self-care options)

There’s so much talk about self-care these days. It seems like we’re constantly reacting to something terrible happening in the country and across the globe. We are inundated with tragic or disturbing news every day and the intensity seems to be on a steady climb. On top of that, we hold in so much stress and anxiety from our own life experiences.

There is no doubt we need self-care.

So what is (and is not) self-care? Well, well, for all answers about life, we obviously should turn to Audre Lorde:

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” 
― Audre Lorde

Here’s what I believe self-care is:

  • It’s about refueling ourselves so we can continue our work
  • It’s about drawing boundaries so we can stay whole
  • It’s about pausing to take a breath so we don’t collapse
  • It’s about acknowledging that we’re running a marathon, not a sprint
  • It’s about being vulnerable and honest with ourselves so we can allow others to be vulnerable
  • It’s about knowing ourselves intimately
  • It’s about honoring our struggles and celebrating our being
  • It’s about choosing to value ourselves when it feels like no one else is
  • It’s about creating space for ourselves so we can create space for others
  • It’s about loving ourselves so we can continue to love others
  • It’s about healing ourselves so we can heal others
  • It’s about giving ourselves permission to feel and pursue joy
  • It’s about knowing we are enough. Always

Here’s what I think self-care is NOT:

  • It’s not checking out completely ← important!
  • It’s not pursuing “guilty pleasures” for the sake of indulging
  • It’s not selfish
  • It’s not a one-time thing or a prescription for burnout
  • It’s not an excuse to become apathetic to others’ suffering
  • It’s not the same for everyone

Self-care should be an ongoing practice. For folks doing social justice work, it’s especially important to know when and how to care for ourselves, so we can continue the work.

It’s important to acknowledge that self-care is closely tied to power and privilege — marginalized people have different self-care needs than privileged people. People of color and women of color, queer and trans people, folks with disability go through life experiencing a much higher level of stress and anxiety than their white, hetero, cis, able-bodied counterparts. Marginalized people also do a lot more emotional labor. So excuse me when I give a little side eye to straight cis white men saying they “don’t read the news because it’s too depressing.” But I digress.

So how can we practice self-care?

  1. Know when you need self-care
    “How do you know when you need self-care?” Sometimes when we realize we need self-care, it’s when we’re already exhausted and beat up. Knowing when you need to turn inward and prioritize yourself is key to actually practicing self-care. This was a great piece of advice from Rich Russo, founder of The Elephant in the Room.
  2. Make a list of your self-care options
    It’s your “self-care toolbox.” Or a box of “self care chocolates.” Ok, it’s just a list of all the things you can do to care for yourself. Having a list of options readily available is hugely helpful because when you really need self-care, you may not have the capacity to think about what you need. I have a list of 51 things I can do when I’m feeling down or nearing burnout, which I’ve shared below so you can get some ideas.
  3. Commit to practicing self-care
    Having a list is useless if you don’t actually do them. Once you’ve decided on a few options, commit to doing them. I like to schedule things on my calendar so I remember to practice them, or tell a friend so they can hold me accountable for actually following through. Text your bestie “I’m going to go for a walk tomorrow morning. Make sure I do it!!”

Need inspiration for your self-care toolbox? Here’s my list of 51 self-care options. I first created this list back in March and have been adding to it.

My “Self-Care Toolbox”: 51 things I can do when I need self-care

  1. Hot shower in the dark with candles lit
  2. Candle-lit yoga at Yoga to the People
  3. Cook a healthy meal
  4. Box
  5. Outdoors run
  6. Walk
  7. Sit at Dolores Park on my favorite bench
  8. Embarcadero happy place
  9. Call friends / family (list out the names)
  10. Hold / play with a baby
  11. Get an ice cream cone and walk around
  12. Cry
  13. Journal
  14. Write a blog post
  15. Breathe
  16. Email Larry
  17. Remember grandparents
  18. Go hiking
  19. Go to Ocean beach
  20. Hug someone for a while
  21. Clean
  22. Meditate
  23. Listen to Ericka Huggins and remember her wisdom
  24. Drink tea
  25. Go to Berkeley
  26. Go to Barry’s
  27. Go out and dance
  28. Go to Kabuki
  29. Hike the Big C
  30. Go see mom
  31. Thank someone
  32. Read mom’s maternity journal
  33. Open up memory box and read some cards
  34. Go to the movie theater
  35. Eat Korean food
  36. Make to-do lists
  37. Read my diary from the past
  38. Remember Ashok
  39. Read my list of gratitudes
  40. Message Steph Lee
  41. Plan a potluck
  42. Listen to music
  43. Go to Stinson beach
  44. Drive somewhere, anywhere
  45. Get away for the weekend
  46. Book a trip to San Diego
  47. Plan a vacation
  48. Watch the video of mom talking about Worry Dolls
  49. Browse old travel photos / videos
  50. Wander the city
  51. Date night with bae
 List of my self care options written in my Evernote

List of my self care options written in my Evernote

Screen Shot 2017-08-19 at 9.55.12 PM.png

About Michelle Kim

Michelle is an entrepreneur, activist, speaker, and a coach passionate about empowering individuals and organizations to create positive change. She is the co-founder of Awaken and owner of Michelle Kim Consulting.

Subscribe | Website | LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook | Medium Awaken

Aug 26 San Francisco Counter Protests Roundup & Call for Solidarity 
 Photo of thousands of anti-white supremacist protesters marching in Boston; Stephanie Keith via Twitter/Newsweek

Photo of thousands of anti-white supremacist protesters marching in Boston; Stephanie Keith via Twitter/Newsweek

Yes, the alt-right neo-Nazis are coming to San Francisco.

They got a federal permit to gather at Crissy Field on Saturday, August 26th, and they are also expected to be in Berkeley on Sunday, August 27th.

People are mobilizing in different circles. Here are some of the protests that I was able to locate, so you can go to at least one of them. I’ve highlighted the one I will be attending. 

My aspirational hope is to build coalition and solidarity amongst various organizing groups so we can gather a massive crowd in one centralized location (check out Boston’s inspiring counter-protest), hopefully in Civic Center. 

Saturday, August 26th
Events organized in order of proximity to Crissy Field

**bolded options are my suggestions**

Obviously, this list is not exhaustive. If you want me to add to the list, just leave a comment. If I made a mistake, leave a comment. 

Want to know where I think you should go? Check out my latest blog post for recommendations and to find out where I’ll be. 

But let's be clear -- showing up somewhere is better than not showing up at all. 

We need all of us fighting against one enemy on Saturday. We can debate the nuances of social justice organizing while doing that. Let’s always remember who the real enemy is and that we must rise together

So you’ll find me in Civic Center, with my queer fam, drowning out the white supremacist nonsense with my overflowing love and joy for our community. Hit the streets. See you there. 

Michelle Kim
Why asking people to be "respectful" when addressing harm is problematic

This is going to be a controversial one. 

If you haven’t watched Brené Brown’s Facebook Live discussion on #Charlottesville, please do.

I loved a lot of what she said in the video. Naming privilege, white supremacy, power, and accountability — I think it’s what most of America, most of white America, needed to hear, and I appreciated her firmness. 

There was a few minutes of heartburn for me, though. 

She talked about shaming as an inefficient way to impact people, and that we should approach people who cause harm with more respect and civility so we can actually engage them. I think the discussion needs to be a lot more nuanced than that. 

I agree shaming is not always (and may never be) the most “efficient” way to create change. I know, because I’ve been on both sides of the coin. I’ve dragged and shamed people. I’ve been dragged and shamed. For innocent, unintentional mistakes. Mistakes nonetheless, harm nonetheless. 

At Awaken, we, too, advocate for having both compassion and criticality when trying to call folks in. To meet people where they are. To subscribe to the belief of incremental awakening rather than a rude one. 

AND. 

We educate folks to take accountability for causing harm. This includes understanding the needs of the person harmed, even when the harm is communicated in a way that is tough to swallow. 

Brené Brown gave an example of when she was called out by one of her fans for unintentionally using the word “gypped” without knowing the anti-semitic nature of the word. She noted how ashamed she felt, and how the fan should have talked to her with more civility and love. She suggested a phrase like “I loved your work, you changed my life, and I’m sure you didn’t mean it but the word you used made me feel…”

Here’s where I disagree. 

When someone reacts to what you say or do with an intense emotion, before asking them to please be respectful, try to understand where that emotion is coming from. Because the moment you ask for civility from someone you just harmed (albeit unintentionally), you’re putting the burden of emotional labor on the person you just harmed. You are asking them to put their raw emotional reaction aside to communicate in a way that makes you, the person who caused harm, want to listen. You are asking to have your dignity intact, when you just stripped the other person’s. You are asking them to disregard their history of being treated without respect so you can listen better. Do you see the problem? 

Whose needs are you prioritizing -- the person causing harm and their need to be humanized or the person harmed and their need to be heard?

We can debate the “effectiveness” of such approach all we want, but we can’t deny the reality that we, as a nation, have been putting a lot of burden on marginalized people to do the emotional labor of helping people understand and listen. 

It’s like a paramedic telling a person in extreme pain “Please do not scream. You’re making me not want to treat you. Talk to me nicely and I will diagnose you.” NO. You ask them, “How bad is the pain? Where does it hurt?” 

I wish Brown, instead of asking people who are harmed to be more civil to create change, advised her audience (the same audience she urged to name privilege and white supremacy) to learn to work with shame. In our journey to social justice and equity, we will never stop making mistakes. And therefore, shame is unavoidable. Instead of shutting down when we feel ashamed, we should try to understand where the anger, frustration, agitation, exhaustion, and impatience of marginalized folks come from before writing them off. Actually, I was surprised by her not arriving at this conclusion after her spot-on narrative on privilege. 

I wish she urged folks to understand and sit with the anguish and pain marginalized people feel, and to practice listening before reacting. 

We need all sides to try (let me be *crystal clear* — I’m talking about uniting the left; I’m not talking about reaching the alt-right fascist / KKK / Nazis. Don’t confuse this with the whole “both sides” bullshit spewed by Trump).

Dragging and shaming as the sole tactic will never bridge the gap. I get that. 

Demanding “respectful and civil” engagement from exhausted marginalized people so it’s easier for privileged folks to partake in the movement — that’s also not going to work. 

We need all sides to try. 

So when you ask people to call you in respectfully, you also have to ask the folks causing harm to understand the anger. When it comes to bridging the distance between people harmed and people causing harm, both sides have to give a little — but I’m asking people who caused harm to do a little bit more emotional labor. 

Ok tell me…was I non-shaming enough in this post? 

About Michelle Kim

Michelle is an entrepreneur, activist, speaker, and a coach passionate about empowering individuals and organizations to create positive change. She is the co-founder of Awaken and owner of Michelle Kim Consulting.

Subscribe | Website | LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook | Medium | Awaken

What it’s like to grow up without health insurance in America

I grew up low-income watching my dad be exploited as an undocumented worker.

Then he, my determined, gritty, and hardworking AF dad, finally got his green card and became a real estate agent.

For a while we had Medi-Cal (health insurance for low-income folks), but that didn’t last long. As soon as he barely crossed the threshold for being qualified for Medi-Cal, we were out of options. Premiums were too expensive and my dad’s preexisting condition limited access.

So I didn’t have health insurance all throughout high school.

Let me tell you what that was like.

We sought out doctors that primarily treated patients without health insurance, usually folks of color, usually undocumented folks.

Our go-to was a Vietnamese doctor who operated out of a small “office” in near the Mexican border in San Diego. It was about an hour away from where we lived. The first thing I always recall about the place is the stench. This pseudo clinic was located next to a run-down butcher shop and it always reeked of blood and spoiled meat as soon as we pulled into the parking lot. I would plug my nose every time and tell myself not to vomit.

There would always be a line. The line started forming at 4am — the doctor would get in around 9am, but since they only take walk-ins, patients were seen on a first-come-first-serve basis. My dad would wake me up around 4:30am, so we could get in line to be seen before he had to go to back to work. As soon as we arrived, we would write our name down on a piece of paper with multiple rows already filled out by other ill patients. The beauty about this place was that that’s about all the “paperwork” we ever needed to complete. They never asked for any documents — no insurance card, ID, credit card. Nothing.

Even our 5:30am arrival would have us waiting 3–4 hours before we could be seen by the doctor. We were usually the only Asians in line. Almost everyone there was Latnix and every staff spoke fluent Spanish. I was always self-conscious getting out of the car and having everyone stare at me, somehow feeling guilty that I was taking up an undeserved spot, taking up precious resources from more marginalized folks.

There were only a few indoor seats in the “reception” area of the clinic, which was composed of two small rooms, a hall way that could fit maximum 3 people, a small bathroom, and a magical cabinet filled with different drugs and syringes. So my dad and I would stand outside, wait for our turn, or sit in his car.

The visit always cost $20 flat, then another $20 if you received a shot. Cash only.

The doctor was always generous with his shots — I didn’t know what the hell he was injecting in me, but I always ended up getting a shot. Terrible flu, sprained ankle, ear infection… there always seemed to be a shot for every occasion. At first I resisted and asked too many questions the doctor didn’t care to answer. “What is this shot for? What is it? Should I really be getting a shot on my ankle?!” He was a sweet man, but he didn’t have time to coddle my sheltered ass. I also didn’t feel like I had the right to ask or receive full information. I had to either silence my suspicion and worries and take the damn meds, or suffer indefinitely without any other treatment options. So yes, I got a shot every time. After the shot followed a prescription, or sometimes he would just hand me a bottle of pills from the magic cabinet.

Truth be told, I never found out if it was indeed a legitimate clinic — maybe I never wanted to.

Legal or not, this doctor saved me in high school. He saved my dad. My dad, like most Korean fathers, was never an emotive man. But whenever I was sick, like really sick, he couldn’t hide his desperation. And the guilt. Oh the guilt. For not being able to provide access to quality care and prompt treatment. For having to wake me up at 4 o’clock in the morning to drive an hour to a stinky “doctor’s office.” Seeing his own daughter suffer and feeling absolutely, devastatingly helpless — I don’t wish that on anyone.

Besides this last resort option we had for when my sister and I were sick, I depended heavily on Planned Parenthood for all things a sexually active teenage girl may need (sorry mom and dad): birth control, STI screening, UTI / yeast infection treatment, pap smear, mammogram, pregnancy test (oh the paranoia days!)… you name it they provided it (and still do). Getting an appointment right away was always near impossible, so I would always wait 2–3 hours to be seen as a walk-in. But I was never turned away.

I was always jealous of my friends who talked about their “primary care physician” — it sounded like such luxury to have someone who understands your holistic health needs, equipped with your medical history and treatment options.

My days of being uninsured ended when I began college. When I got accepted into UC Berkeley, I signed up for the Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP) but I was worried about paying for it. I was making minimum wage working a part-time job, something I had started doing when I turned 14 to help lessen the burden on my dad. The student health insurance cost $625, I think it was, per semester.

I had shared my concern off-handedly with my high school counselor, Mrs. Morton, who managed the student advocacy program at my high school. She had been my biggest advocate and champion, rooting me on to go to college and to change the world. She thought I would one day run the world. She facilitated the underground support group for LGBTQ students which I was a part of, most of whom were also low-income and struggling in school. Mrs. Morton and the support group played a huge role in helping me get through high school without losing my shit. Most students didn’t know its existence and most of my friends didn’t know I was a part of this group. I was a model student: straight As, AP classes, student government, blahblah… To Mrs. Morton, I was an unusual profile among more troubled students she typically supported. I was like a daughter to her and she was always proud of me. Before school ended, she handed me check for $625. She told me I needed it and that I deserved it. We cried. I will forever remember her and how much that check meant to me.

So I signed up for SHIP. I felt safe.

While at Cal, I had a major sickness one night where I had to go the Emergency Room. I still remember that night — I kept telling the nurse I was going to die and she looked at me stoically and said, “you’re not. going. to. die.” and gave me a morphine shot to calm me down. Then came the bill — a whopping $20,000 for a night in the ER. I was in major panic. I hadn’t realized the ER trip wouldn’t be covered by my student insurance. Luckily, after many desperate phone calls and paperwork, I was able to apply for financial assistance and got the bill shaved down to a much more reasonable amount. It was a rather obscure process that I would not have found out without much pestering and research.

Since graduating from school, I’ve been lucky enough to have jobs that provided full health insurance coverage. I appreciate it every single day. Because I know what it’s like to feel vulnerable and exposed, being fearful of insurmountable debt that could cripple your entire life.

But the fear still gets me, it’s so deeply rooted in me from my young adulthood and I can’t really shake it off.

A couple of years ago, I dislocated my elbow after I fell during a run with my co-workers. Immediately after the fall I knew something was very wrong with my arm. People called 911 and I was taken to a nearby hospital. My then CEO was with me, holding my injured arm in a splinter on the ambulance. I was in a shit ton of pain, but I was mostly worried about what this incident could do to my bank account. I remember I kept asking him about our insurance — I was deathly afraid of incurring tens of thousands dollars of medical bill. He probably didn’t realize why I was so paranoid, but he managed to calm me down by letting me know everything will be okay.

When the Affordable Care Act finally passed, I was ecstatic — not for me, but for my dad. He can finally go see a doctor with an appointment. Get preventative care. Get a damn physical! ACA by no means is perfect — but it helps millions of people like my dad and young people that I once was.

But some people seem to disagree. With the upcoming Orange Stain Administration, people’s livelihoods, in addition to the very existence of our democracy, is under attack. And shit’s beginning to unravel with the proposed repealing of the ACA. We are on the brink of repeating my youth days all over for millions of folks: youth living in fear, parents in guilt, and too many without the basic human right (not privilege) to be healthy.

Our health is the very foundation that enables us to reach our potential — and we have to fight for it to become a right, not a privilege. So I urge you, friends and friends of friends, strangers, doubters… whoever you are, to realize that millions’ livelihoods are at risk, and to do something about it: go to a protest, call your reps, donate to Planned Parenthood… there are options. Google it.

My relationship with the medical and insurance world will always have an undercurrent of fear, suspicion, and helplessness. I never take for granted being healthy, and my ability to access treatment and information with dignity. And I will always advocate for universal and affordable health care, because my political stance is a deeply personal one.

Ex-Google employee's "anti-diversity manifesto": Proof that today's D&I workshops are failing us

By now, you must have heard about the "anti-diversity" manifesto by (now a former) a Google employee that got published. You may also know that he was fired just a few days later for "perpetuating gender stereotypes."

While I applaud Google for prioritizing the need of women at the company and taking swift action, I'm also afraid this is yet another milestone for further polarizing the tech community (and probably the broader, divided nation) along the party line. The "free-speech" protecting right (or self-claimed "rationalists") vs. the scattered left. 

What's truly sad (but not shocking) about this whole situation is that this person, James Damore, a Havard educated, seemingly well-intentioned fella, had steadfast beliefs based on his complete misunderstanding of how "sexism" or "discrimination" actually work

And that's the problem with the way we talk about diversity and inclusion in the business world. 

People are learning about unconscious bias WITHOUT the foundational knowledge of the cycle of socialization

People are learning about microaggressions WITHOUT the context of power dynamics

People are learning about "diversity programs" WITHOUT true understanding of concepts such as privilege or allyship

People are learning about diversity-recruiting WITHOUT the awareness of structural and institutional injustices that impact the pipeline. 

People are learning about inclusion WITHOUT the exposure to exclusion.

We CANNOT talk about "D&I" without bringing in these decades-old, fundamental social justice concepts!!!

As a lifelong social justice activist who worked in grassroots activism prior to working in the for-profit sector, I feel the “D&I” conversations sometimes feel disparate / distilled down from what’s actually in play in our society.

Whenever I hear people throw around terms like "reverse -ism" or "reverse discrimination," I realize we need to take many steps back and start the conversation over and talk about core, fundamental sociology concepts such as power, privilege, and systemic oppression. But how many of us actually do? While I've seen an uptake in people wanting to be more active and socially conscious, I've also seen an equal, if not more, increase in people engaging in slacktivism in the form of mindless social media sharing, dragging people for public shaming purposes (or for their own political capital gain, because #clappingback gets you noticed) without any intention to call IN, or simply blaming without understanding these important concepts themselves.

Now I'm not saying the onus should be on the marginalized folks to do this labor. What I am saying, though, is that companies and people in positions of power, including those whose job it is to educate people on "diversity and inclusion" issues (many of them often white folks, ahem), have the obligation to make their programs and workshops actually effective in delivering real learning outcomes that bring positive change versus creating more harm or creating a culture of shame (vs. accountability). And if your company's in-house team is not equipped to do this, hire experienced people -- but do your homework in vetting the right people (like my team via Awaken, but really, there are many others), and try to hire folks from marginalized communities (black, brown, queer, women, trans) and those whose teachings are grounded in social justice. I always prefer non-corporate bred trainers when it comes to D&I stuff -- people who have done work at the grassroots level, who know how to hold space for various folks, navigate tension effectively, and educate people not at the expense of marginalized people in the room. Those are my types of peeps. 

James Damore's world view did not include some of the most basic, fundamental understanding of how our society operates. He had so much conviction in his own "logic, evidence-based" perspective, and no one seemed to have had made an impact on uncovering his blindspots. I'm truly saddened by this reality, but again, not at all surprised. I can't help but feel defeated in knowing this incident has caused even further divide among people who may actually care and want to do the right thing, but may not know how to, or have a misguided perspective on what is the right thing to do. Truly, I feel sad for all of us, because the truth is, we are all losing. 

So what is Google going to do now? Here's a list of 5 first steps that I HOPE to see: 

  1. Review all existing D&I training materials and ensure they get at the heart of the real issues, some concepts mentioned above
  2. Ensure folks are taught how to talk about uncomfortable topics -- get people to be really good at handling tough, uncomfortable conversations by learning effective communications skills (yes, we are still talking about communications skills) 
  3. Help people understand the difference between personal experiences vs. structural / systemic injustices 
  4. Build an accountability culture vs. blame / shame culture through educating folks on how to identify and communicate their needs and helping them practice listening to others' needs 
  5. Start demonstrating commitment at the leadership level -- do all of your leaders, including the board members, actually understand / prioritize the need to have some of these uncomfortable conversations? Or do they believe these programs are a marketing imperative? Ponder that. Then commit them to holding each other accountable and leading by example

We have so much work to do. Let's begin to engage in tough dialogues to bridge the widening gaps among us, and meet each other with compassion and criticality. I truly believe this is the only way for us to start healing collectively. 

Why I'm tired of "Diversity" Workshops

I always shuddered at the thought of building a services company. I had always envisioned starting my own company one day, perhaps a product company with rapidly growing recurring annual revenue and a kickass margin. Super scalable. All the sexy buzzwords, throw them in there, I wanted them.

Never did I imagine myself becoming a workshop provider (or a career coach, for that matter). 

Well, life happens. And like Oprah said, you just have to lean in to life.

Ever since I was a student, I wanted to start my own business. Not because I wanted to be “my own boss” or because I wanted to build the next billion dollar unicorn (btw, did you hear unicorns are falling?).

I wanted to build a company I can be proud of. A company with my values and principles deeply embedded throughout. I wanted to create an alternative reality. I wanted to build a company that:

  • Treats all people with respect and dignity
  • Is radically transparent
  • Pays people well unapologetically and equitably
  • Hires and rewards people with integrity, grit, and empathy
  • Fires jerks and bros (or don’t hire them to begin with)
  • Is truly diverse (not some “diversity of thought” bs)
  • Allows people to be their whole selves
  • Is unafraid to take a stand on political issues no matter how risky
  • Roots for the underdog
  • Wants to do good, for the sake of doing good, not for ROI
  • Cares about social justice

When I imagine my perfect “company,” I remember the time I co-led a queer student organization at UC Berkeley. We were made up of majority queer people of color, and had members from all identities and intersections. Our mission was to create an inclusive space for all queer people — folks of color, folks with disabilities, undocumented folks, truly.. all people on the margin who wanted to come together and build community, participate in developing youth leaders and empowering ourselves.

I thought I could one day achieve this vision by starting a sexy, scalable product company. Well, maybe I still could one day. But for now, I’m doing workshops.

So why did I decide to start a company providing “D&I” (Diversity & Inclusion) workshops?

I got tired.

I got tired of sitting in so-called “diversity workshops” that barely scratched the surface.

I got tired of seeing old white people dominate conversations around race and gender, “diversity,” and what it means to be an inclusive leader.

I got tired of corporate-bred D&I workshop facilitators (again, most of them old white people) diluting critical social justice concepts into palatable talking points for straight white men.

I got tired of seeing white, cis, hetero people never once feeling uncomfortable when being educated on D&I, but feeling absolved after having “checked the box.”

I got tired of seeing my friends and mentors not get paid for their social justice work. Being discounted to “soft skills” facilitators, not warriors, activists, and mission-critical educators.

I got tired of feeling the only reason why companies tolerated my outspokenness was because I was a high performer (and that I was a less threatening East Asian woman) and I had to continue to earn my right to call shit out .

I got tired of seeing companies using “Diversity and Inclusion” as marketing catchphrases to gain public validation, yet never wanting to dig deeper or put money where their mouth is.

I got tired of talking about metrics I didn’t care bout, I got tired of losing myself, I got tired of covering.

I got tired of doing extra emotional labor around D&I issues because no one else would.

I got tired of dealing with “brilliant jerks.”

I got tired of feeling like dying a slow death by a million paper cuts made by daily microaggressions.

I got tired of seeing my peers be mistreated.

I got tired of being let down by people.

I got tired of losing faith in humanity.

I got tired of never feeling free.

Every time I sat through a divershitty training (yeah I just made that up), I wished someone would come in and do a REAL workshop. Encourage REAL TALK. Make me and others feel uncomfortable, because without discomfort there is no real learning when it comes to understanding systemic and institutional oppression.

I wished someone would bring in critical social justice concepts into the workplace, and not be afraid to talk about structural racism, misogyny, and homophobia, and how unconscious bias stems from our deeply socialized identities that are perpetuated systematically.

I wished someone would actually name white privilege, misogyny, heterosexism, ableism, and gender binary. I wished someone would actually say the word queer or trans. I wished someone would acknowledge the mass incarceration and killings of black people by the criminal justice system.

When the time came when I no longer could stay in the toxic tech industry as an employee, I, along with thousands of women who have left before me, left.

So now I’m trying to make my distant dream and wishes a reality. I’m trying to unlearn the toxic shit I had to pick up in the corporate world, and bring back the old, authentic me. The old me who was unafraid to call shit out, who was passionate about building solidarity and coalition, who took risks and used privileges to provide access to others.

 Awaken Team facilitating a workshop at General Assembly SF

Awaken Team facilitating a workshop at General Assembly SF

 

I’m rolling up my sleeves and applying everything I’ve learned from my social justice activism and surviving the corporate / tech world to redefine “D&I workshops.”

I’m working to bridge the gap between “Diversity and Inclusion” and social justice activism. I’m working my ass off to get well-deserving, non-corporate-bred folks paid.

In order to create change, we need to embrace discomfort. We need to create a compassionate space for uncomfortable dialogues, where we allow each other to fuck up, but also hold each other accountable. We need to acknowledge that change doesn’t happen overnight, but it can happen incrementally.

While I would never claim “D&I Workshops” will solve all your companies’ toxic culture problems, it can help begin the conversation. It’s a starting point.

There are so many amazing people trying to do different things to move the needle a smidge on creating a truly inclusive culture. And we need all of them. We need all of the process changes, policies, culture shifts, engagement surveys, ERGs, D&I consulting, anti-sexual harassment training, offsites, Artificial Intelligence based recruiting, VR training, VC accountability… we need everyone and we need all of them.

The problems we are trying to solve are so massive and so ingrained. We need all the help we can get to have a fighting chance at moving the needle.

So here’s me, choosing to do what most software junkies call “unsexy” work (but you just wait). And you can help me by spreading the word about Awaken (and our upcoming workshop series).

Come on, let’s wake people up.