In the Season 2 premiere, Katelin chats with Pamela Culpepper, co-founder of Have Her Back, a culture consultancy focused on advancing equity for women in the workplace. Before co-founding her own company, Pamela spent several years working at PepsiCo as its VP of Human Resources and Chief Global Diversity Officer. Pamela and Katelin share stories (and a few tears) about being working moms, the skills that make for a good People leader, and the essential role a Chief Diversity Officer can play on your People team.
“Sometimes, people leaders get so engrossed in the business that they forget that it’s the people that make that business successful. We need to continue with people who are courageous enough to speak up and speak out often and loudly.”
Katelin: Welcome back to Season 2 of All-Hands, brought to you by Lattice! I’m your host Katelin Holloway. If you were with us last season, you know we focused on sitting down with C-level execs to chat about how people strategy is good business strategy, but this season, we’re doubling down. We’re not only talking to CEO’s and founders, but a wide range of people leaders— from Heads of People, to Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officers — to really get into some of their core practices, principals, and beliefs when it comes to putting your people first.
We have an absolutely incredible guest for our first episode: Pamela Culpepper.
Pamela has dedicated her career to developing intentional cultures within organizations. With over 25 years in the HR space – she’s pioneered the foundation of an industry that is finally catching up with her authentic approach to diversity, equity and inclusion. As a part of her journey, she spent 14 years at Pepsico, where she held various leadership roles including being their Chief Global Diversity & Inclusion Officer — long before it became the Silicon Valley trend that it is today. A few years ago, she left the corporate life to co-found a culture consulting agency – Have Her Back – which works with brands and companies to advance equity for women and underrepresented communities.
Katelin: Pamela, welcome to All Hands.
Pamela: Thank you so much for having me.
Katelin: Let’s start at the very beginning. I would love for you to be able to tell your story to our audience in your own words.
Pamela: Yeah, it’s often surprising to me, as I think back over the last 25 years. It feels like so much has happened during that time. 25 years ago, I embarked upon the career of human resources with a degree in psychology, but more than anything, an avid interest in human behavior. Because I believe that people, when given the right circumstances, put in the right environments, present their best selves. When they don’t have an opportunity to do that, there are barriers that are there that’s in their way and it keeps them from being able to deliver their best selves. It’s on that premise that I actually wanted to be in human resources, that there is an opportunity for people to shine and there are natural barriers that have systemic barriers that have existed.
I have spent more than 25 years in corporate America, multiple industries. I have been CPG. I have been public relations and advertising, the financial services. I’ve been across multiple industries. The players are different, some of the games are the same and I think because I have wanted to really be on the cutting edge of business transformation, cultural transformation. I’ve always done some level of DE&I in my work. Then I would just end with, my last role in PepsiCo was as head of global diversity and inclusion and that is probably the most concentrated time that I spent in this space and very rewarding.
Katelin: I love the way you frame that. I think that some of the most incredible people that I admire in the field of people and culture and HR really do have an incredible winding path where they are collecting perspective and collecting and understanding this human behavior that really does ultimately impact and shape our company cultures. I feel like our titles have evolved over time and the work that we do has evolved over time. I think it’s really great for you to acknowledge that there’s always been an aspect of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging in your work.
It didn’t always have to live in the title, but having that understanding and that reflection really does shape your perspective as you are moving from organization to organization and now running a company that is helping many companies do this and do this work. I think that’s a really valuable perspective to have, so thank you for sharing.
Pamela: For sure.
Katelin: Now, I have another question, a follow-on question. You’ve shared with us a little bit about your professional journey, but is there anything else you’d like our audience to know about your identity?
Pamela: Katelin, that’s a great question. Unfortunately or fortunately, I think about it a lot. There are intersections of who I am that collide at times, they intertwine at times, but they’re always a part of who I am, right? I’m a black mother of an adult male, black son, where there is so much context from a social perspective that’s included in that. I have been a corporate executive. I am a sister. I’m a loyal friend. I have a niece dog. There’s just so much diversity in my family that it’s hard to describe, but
When my femaleness intercepts with my blackness, intercepts with my executive presence, all of those things tell you so much more about who I am and how I have to move in the world.
Katelin: I appreciate you sharing. This is a new question that I’ve been asking folks that I encounter in my life and I’ve got to tell you, it really does change and shift the dynamic in the context of the conversation that I’m having, especially as we live in this remote-first world that we were thrust into in March of 2020. It really, really allows, I think, for the understanding and connection to happen maybe a little bit differently than it would have if I just said, “Hey, Pamela. Tell me your story.” “Oh, great. I understand your LinkedIn better now,” but that’s a great starting place for us to get now into the work that you have dedicated your career to and how that works and maybe is woven into the tapestry of who you are and how you show up every day. Thank you for that context. It’s very helpful. I’m very curious about a niece dog.
All right. Well, with that, let’s start with the foundation of some of the work that you do. I love that you share that you are deeply curious about that human experience and how people operate. Just as humans on this Earth, how we show up every day to work, how we show up with our families and within our communities, I think is absolutely fascinating and the patterns that we can see in behavior and the patterns that we don’t see in behavior really mean a lot. If we’re thinking really big picture about the details of the work that you’ve done, what does it mean to you to be a people-first leader?
Pamela: I think there are three things. I think it is being able to separate your concern for your own career and the career of others. I think it means balancing your team’s development with your own personal reputation capital. And I think it means being curious and compassionate about the people who are put on your teams and in your functions. I think one of the things that I think challenges leaders is that they risk losing their own status when they uplift the members of their teams, right? Sometimes, the best conversation comes when you put the leader in front of you in a group that you’re normally presenting to because they know the topic, they know the subject matter, but we’re so afraid sometimes of losing our own grounds as leaders that we won’t put our talent in front of us and we don’t give them a chance to grow and develop.
The only way they want to do that is to be in the room with the group that’s teaching them how to operate in those meetings. For me, it’s been really important that even if I risk them not showing up as well they’d like to, it’s more important for me to have them grow than for me to look good. I think it takes courage to do that.
Katelin: I love that so much. I was fortunate to learn that early enough in my career because I had an incredible boss who did that for me and really just the access, even to the sit as a fly on the wall in those first few leadership meetings really dramatically changed. I feel dramatically changed the course of my career and my confidence in my ability to be a part of that. I’ve said before on the podcast, but it’s a funny joke, I was fortunate to have a grandmother who was fairly audacious for her day. I remember talking to her early in my career about how I could grow, how I can develop as a woman in the workplace. She said, “Well, honey, if they don’t have a chair for you, bring your own.” Then I was-
Katelin: It’s one thing to have the confidence or to have a grandma or a friend or a mentor in your ear telling you that, but it’s entirely another thing to be invited in by your boss.
Pamela: Well, it’s the ultimate act of inclusion, right?
Pamela: When we say we want to have examples of what that looks like, that’s one of them and one of the most powerful ones.
Katelin: It’s so easy. It’s deceptively simple. I think that as a leader who does find the courage or the bravery to get to do that and to challenge and stretch our teams to do that, what you learn very quickly is it actually has quite the opposite effect. It actually does not dim your light at all. It showcases that you have the confidence as a leader to share and to open that space up and really give the mic to the people who are true experts in their field. Then you are celebrated for having the courage to make that incredible hire and to bring that person into the room.
Pamela: Absolutely. I absolutely agree.
Katelin: What types of skills or personality traits do you think are necessary to be a really great people leader?
Pamela: I’ve got three. One is courage because I think that there has to be people who aren’t afraid of losing their jobs, losing their status, when it comes to speaking up on behalf of and as a champion of its talent. Sometimes, people leaders get so engrossed in the business that they forget that it’s the people that make that business successful. We need to continue with people who are courageous enough to speak up and speak out often and loudly. That’s one.
The second one is curiosity. When I am a people leader with a diverse team, I can’t imagine that everything that I do is going to fit the needs of a diverse talent group. I’ve got to be curious about what it means for a particular person on my team to be their best selves at work, what do I need to know about them And what do I need to provide them as a leader in order to bring forward that best self. Then the last thing is what I call tunnel vision to block out the noise. There’s always going to be some competing force that says, “Don’t focus on this. That’s not going to be popular,” or, “Don’t let this person be the spokesperson for this big idea because that’s going to reduce the shine of your light.” That’s the noise that’s happening on the sidelines that makes people hesitate, that makes them pause, that makes them stop, that makes them not go forward.
Tunnel vision on the outcome that you want for your people should be at play all of the time because when your team shines, you shine. I don’t think people believe that enough.
Katelin: I love that. Those are beautiful mantra to remember for our people leaders out there listening. I really appreciate the tunnel vision as well and the way you phrase that because in the world of people, in the world of constrained resources and competing priorities and constantly shifting roadmaps, it can be very, very, very easy to lose track of, things that really ought to be a priority or the things that are maybe more foundational than the fires that are cropping up right in front of you and in the absence of doing that foundational work that ultimately will have a much bigger impact as your company grows and evolves, it’s really easy to get caught up in the sidelines of you’re playing Whack-A-Mole with HR responsibilities and duties.
Pamela, what would you say were some of the defining moments in your life or career that really impacted your approach to leading a team and ultimately starting a company?
Pamela: I would say it started with some feedback that I had gotten from a gentleman. I did a lot of work in M&A in the companies that I worked for. This was an instance where I was having a conversation with a gentleman who was on his way out. He had made plenty of money and he was a casualty of the acquisition. And I was very young in my career at that point, but he said to me, “I know what you may be getting feedback that you should dedicate as much of your time and your energy to your career, so that people aren’t just seeing you as a female, but they’re seeing you as a contributing member of the organization, but please don’t let this work get in front of your commitment to your family.”
He said, “I’m leaving this organization having made plenty of money, that won’t be an opportunity, but my kids only know my wallet. Now that I’m leaving and I have plenty of time for them, they have no time for me, right?” He said, “So please let this be a part of who you are but not totally who you are.” That was a defining moment. That’s led me to really focus on what it means to be balanced, what it means to be a present parent and what it means to fast forward into the organization that I am a cofounder of, what it means to help organizations create the space and the opportunities for people to show up in their best light at work and at home, right?
The focus on gender equity is really about being able to help both the organization and the women themselves make the right decisions and create the opportunities for themselves to be successful.
Katelin: I’m getting emotional listening to that story as a mother myself with young children still in the home. I’m curious, as you reflect back, you shared earlier that you have an adult son. I’m not going to ask you to give yourself a grade or score yourself on following that advice, but given that was shared with you while you were younger in your career, are you proud of the balance that you were able to strike or ?
Pamela: Actually, I am. I have been #NoRegrets for a number of years, but there are things that I did at various points in my career to make sure that my son knew that I was there for him no matter what. Now, it meant that we had to sit down and think about what was on the calendar for a week and say, “Look, you’ve got these three things what’s most important that I attend and I will make sure that that I’m there.” Also, at one point in my career in my global role at PepsiCo, I traveled 80% of the time. Things like sharing diaries, I’d write him some notes in his book and he’d write me notes in mine. They would last us throughout the weeks or I would say, “Look, I’m going to be gone three days. When I’m gone three days, you get a prize. When it’s one or two days, you just get me.” He would say, “Well, are you going to be gone three days?”
I just loved coming up with and sharing and even getting ideas from other people about how to minimize the guilt, right? Here’s the ultimate and you talked about getting emotional. Here’s the ultimate, my son gave me a card when he was in high school that said, “I don’t know how you did it, but you manage to make me feel loved and valued and cared for even in the midst of all that you had to do.” That was a card and I still have it.
Katelin: I bet that you do.
Pamela: Right? Whether I give myself a grade or not, he gives me one and that was most important to me.
Katelin: That’s the real testament, right?
Pamela: Yes. I know. Don’t you start.
Katelin: Even just this conversation, this moment of conversation between us, mother to mother, as we think about the complexity of who we are and how we show up in the world.
Really, it is a gift to know that it can be done. You had a big mega role in corporate America, and gosh, talk about the demand that was pre-virtual and remote work friendly where the expectation of how you show up every day, the amount of commitment and making up for the space historically has been so occupied by others to show up and be all of those things.
Pamela: Just layer on being black and being female, right? Those are the intersections that I talk about. Those are the complexity, complex layers that we all walk around with. While I’m trying to show up as a consummate contributor, I’m also talking my son through things that he might be experiencing in school. It’s been an extraordinary journey. There’s nothing about it that I regret. I’m just happy to continue to share and be a present part of the development of people.
Katelin: Let’s focus a little bit more about the rise of the chief diversity officer. This was back in 2011 when you were at PepsiCo. Was that a role that actually predated you or was that created for you and with you?
Pamela: No, it predated me. In fact, there had been two other people in the role before I was. If you think historically about the role as meaningful as it could be, it actually started out just like foundation roles where you go to retire, you go to be a sage, you go to live in a space where people can honor your experience, but there’s typically not a reason for you to go into any other role. It’s like the last role before retirement.
Pamela: That’s historically, what the role meant. When you think about the slowness of progress, there was not a real demand for you to do a whole lot other than be a part of the community as a liaison between the community and the company, or to be a spokesperson for what the organization is trying to do from a sustainability and community standpoint. When I was asked to do the role, I actually turned it down first couple of times because it had that reputation and I was still fairly progressive in my career. I’ve done a number of roles in PepsiCo already, it just felt like it was going to be too narrow for me. I think because of two things. One, the CEO called, and at the time, it was Indra Nooyi and said, “Look, I need you to do this role. This is what we’re trying to get done. She put a level of importance on the role that that changed how I thought about it.
The role had been important in PepsiCo, but leadership had changed and sometimes the importance changed. I think between that and me being thoughtful about how I could make this role the most impactful led me to say yes.
Katelin: I really do feel like the role has changed and evolved so much, particularly through this last year. It just went into hyperdrive. What would you say then if you’re reflecting back on what the role was historically how it shifted for you in doing that role? What does it look like for today’s ecosystem? If I’m a company, I’m thinking about bringing on a CDO or a head of diversity, inclusion, belonging, whatever we’re calling it, there are a hundred different names for it these days, but what might that role look like today versus the work that you were doing at PepsiCo, if so?
Pamela: I think there’s a requirement for it to be different. I’m not always sure that it has evolved. Sometimes, it has to do with the experience of the person coming into the role. It has to do with the maturity of the organization in terms of what they believe the role should be and it has a lot to do with the progressiveness of the CEO who has a position of influence over what the role can accomplish. Let me start with the first. There are people who have been in this role for a number of years, been in the space for a number of years and the organization required just how I described the role in the beginning.
All of a sudden, with the shift of the three pandemics, the economic, the social, the medical, because of the shift, there was an expectation that the person could change how they’ve operated in the organization to now be this person who is influential, who is knowledgeable, who has done the cultural work, who has shown up in a way that could influence the behaviors of the leadership in the organization when that was never a prior expectation. Imagine being in an organization where you weren’t required to do much, now you are. You’re either ready and able to be able to do that or you have an atrophied muscle that you never had to use and you’re not successfully moving the organization along. That’s one.
I think the other is an organization from a maturity standpoint has to shift how it’s thought about DE&I from the past. You bring in this leader who can take you progressively forward, but you’re still locked into the way that you’ve always done things. There’s this passive aggressiveness. There’s this resistance. There’s these unset traditions that underscore everything the organization has ever accomplished, that the new CEO cannot break the barriers on and doesn’t have enough tone at the top which is the third thing, who says, “I’ve had this life altering experience that says, ‘I now understand what systemic racism looks like. I now understand what it means to marginalize. I now understand some of the things that we’ve done in the past that that disconnected us from our goal of building this diverse and inclusive environment to the fact that look back five years up until now, we’ve made no progress.'”
Unless the CEO and the executive team has said, “You know what? We’re out of patience with how we’ve done it. I need for us to make some progressive changes so that we are showing up in the way that we’ve told our clients and our communities that we would.”
Katelin: Absolutely. I hear you loud and clear on that very much. I think it’s fair to point out that it’s, it’s not necessarily the evolution of the role. It’s the evolution of awareness. That’s a maybe a silly way of saying it, but we’d certainly … I think many more people have had their eyes opened through this last little moment in history. I think ultimately it’s going to have a very good and hopefully healthy impact on our organizations, but we most certainly are going through this transition. I think a lot of companies are feeling the growing pains and all of that.
One last or maybe a few last things on the CDO and that dynamic that you’re talking about in order to get that buy in, how does this person then fit into the people and culture or the HR organization? I think that there’s a supreme amount of accountability and responsibility. How does a CDO work with a CPO or a head of people in that organization?
Pamela: Even though it’s a two part question, it actually is the thread and the theme of what I think makes the CDO role successful. I’ll start with, a CDO can fail at any level of the organization. There’s always this debate about where it should report, “Should it report to the CEO? Should it report to the HR team? Does it fail if it’s further down in the organization?” I think all of those could be yes, but if the CEO is not progressive and not really interested, if the HR lead does not have a level of sensibility as relates to the impact of the DEI role, it still won’t make the progress that you want. Best-case scenario is when your CHRO has either been a part of an organization that’s always had the DEI in its thread or has done that role themselves. There’s a combination aspect to it so that they’re able to deliver the work and be the champion for the work, but when the CDO reports into the head of HR and the head of HR has to juggle insight over all functions of HR, it becomes a bit of a challenge for the CDO to make headway and here’s why.
I believe that a part of the challenge in any organization is that there are practices and policies that have fostered systemic racism or exclusivity that unless you examine those, you’re not getting underneath the issues.
If I’m a head of HR and I’ve got a CDO who’s concerned about how these policies and practices are impacting the talent and I’ve got a head of talent and I’ve got a head of recruiting and I’ve got all of these other folks who are not only owning the processes, but defending the processes, that head of HR has to be thoughtful about, “How do we weave in the CDO’s work into across all of those lines, not be siloed? I’ve got diversity practices over here and I’ve got HR practices over here.”
Pamela: When that understanding comes into play, there is success on all sides. I wish CDOs could work their way out of jobs because right, what they’re doing is threaded throughout. Unfortunately, that’s not the case yet, but that has to be the goal that we’re threading the work of the CDO throughout all of the talent processes, so that they are the issues that have plagued them are eliminated.
Katelin: Yes and yes and yes. If our audience could see my head bubbling up and down to what you’re saying, I have not actually heard it phrased that way and that the goal is to actually earn ourselves out of jobs or earn those titles away because it is so deeply embedded in the fabric of your culture and every single person, every single person, not just at the leadership level, really embodies that and has accountability. It’s built into every single OKR or KPI. It’s a part of every tradition, your written rules, your unspoken rules. Values are used as a tool to bring that to life. I love that phrasing. I will remember it and I will give you credit because it’s actually really powerful.It’s not about ownership within an organization, meaning like, “I need this title so that I can earn or climb my way here or to best position myself or that.” It’s not about the individual, but the reality is, and to your point, we need someone that can give it a voice until we can bleed it down into every level of the work that we do internally, externally and so on. It really does need an advocate. It needs voice. I love that.
Pamela: Some of our clients, we’re actually helping to develop the CHRO to be that consummate DEI. It’s like a crash course in how to lead the function, but we’ve encouraged some of them to add it to their title, right? If you’re not ready for a CDO, you become that person. You hire someone who can bring in some of the application, but you become the champion. If you now own aspects of it, you will make sure that it gets accomplished.
Katelin: That’s a great tactical tip. I feel this is such a great segue because I want to talk a lot more about Have Her Back, your organization that you cofounded. I feel like we’re getting a free mini lesson, a free seminar here. Let’s zoom back out again and talk a little bit more about you specifically in your path and your journey from making the decision to move from corporate into this incredible business. Can you tell us a little bit about that decision making and then actually share with us what Have Her Back is all about?
Pamela: I’d start with, I believe that all of us have superpowers, and sometimes, it’s more than one but at least one, right? Mine has always been to make it safe for people who have a desire to do something different but are in such senior levels and organizations that it’s hard to admit it first to themselves and then to others because they’re expected to already know what and how to do it, right? In all of my executive roles, I’ve been the executive coach or the CEO whisperer or the person who can create an environment for someone to ask a question, that in some ways, if it was ever put in the newspaper, it could be damaging to them, right? That’s always been contained in the organization that I sat in. I felt like there was a bigger opportunity for me to share that gift outside of just one organization. I also, as head of HR, sat in sessions where people’s careers were talked about and their trajectories were talked about. Having a really clear understanding of what happens in those rooms and where the disconnect comes for people who are not like those who are sitting around the table and how few the opportunities are for there to be championship for a diverse person or a woman to be able to get an opportunity, because I had an interesting, intricate understanding of that, that coupled with my DEI work and executive coaching work needed more breathing room.
I didn’t know quite what I was going to do and how I was going to do it. I just knew that was my next opportunity, and as I was thinking more clearly about that, I got a call from Erin, “We’ve got this fantastic idea. We want to talk to you about it. Can you do it tomorrow?” For a calendar that has always been double booked at the time that she wanted to meet was open. We have this conversation about a movement that was started by Erin and my other cofounder, Caroline Dettman, a movement that was inspired by talent in the creative space leaving agencies and specifically female talent that no longer felt like the advertising world was a place that they could thrive in, that they could not advance. There was no flexibility for the changing opportunities in their lives. Many of them were leaving and going freelance. They did not take the opportunity to have the discussion lightly, but they started this call to action for organizations and agencies to think about, “What is it that’s happening, that’s standing in the way of female creators being successful?” They had these conversations and then they hammered out the problem, but there was no way to talk about the solution and come up with solutions. These companies were like, “Well, you’ve helped us illuminate the issue, but how do we solve it?” It’s in that moment that the two of them thought, “There’s a business that that can be born out of this opportunity,” and the rest is history. We started out focused on gender equity with a clear understanding that equity for all is the goal. If you start with one demographic, you start to solve for the rest. That’s how we got started. If I would flow into how we had to pivot over the last few months or a year, we moved to equity for all as the starting point. Organizations couldn’t start with gender with all that was going on from a race relations standpoint, from a systemic racism standpoint. We pivoted in a way that started with, “How do we help organizations have conversations about what’s happening? How do we help them think about what to do for their talent bases in the wake of all that’s happening?” whether it’s the COVID-19 pandemic, that created and wreaked havoc on families having to work from home with each other in the same space with a two-year-old, right? “How do we help organizations address those issues?” That’s really been the lion’s share of our work over the last year.
Katelin: You talked about equity for all, but interestingly, you add the word authentic to too much of your language on your website, in your collateral. Talk to me about why authentic. How does authenticity impact equity or our ability to create equitable workforces?
Pamela: The culture is actually defining it even better than we have. When I talk culture, I’m talking social media, I’m talking employees speaking out about what’s happening in their organizations and what their experiences have been. As people get more courageous and less fearful about an outcome, who you say you are inside and who you think you’re showing yourself up as in public comes out, right?
Pamela: Where we spend most of our time is that in between that gap between who you say you are and who people think you are, whether it’s your employees or your customers and when your customers get this idea that you are the consummate employer or you’re the consummate champion of women of people of color and then someone speaks up and says, “But you only have two people of color, so how can you black lives matter if you only have two black people that work for you and they’re not in a senior position?” or, “How can you say that you are a champion of women when you have a maternity policy that challenges their ability to balance their new roles?”
Authentic says that when you say it publicly, there is backup internally that supports what you said and closing that gap it to me and to us is the difference between whether or not a customer continues to use your brands, use your services and whether or not they will move to the one that they think more closely aligns with the things that they value most and they’re honest about it.
Some brands, we love until we find out that they represent something totally different. It’s amazing how quickly you can shift from loving that to not loving it because they’re not showing up authentically to you.
Katelin: I’m so glad I asked that question. What a powerful answer I talked about that breach that integrity breach between our values. I talk a lot about the difference between your held values and your shared values. Your shared values are what you put up on the wall, what you put on your shirt and your held values is what you actually do. When those two things do not match, we’re reading from the same book here, which is when the when there’s a gap, that’s an integrity breach and you’re going to be held accountable to that in a very different way than you were even five years ago by your employees, by your customers, by your family and your community, all of those extended versions. I personally think that is a wonderful thing, but a challenging thing. It makes a lot of sense that you all have expanded your work and your offerings because I think that a lot of organizations and leaders in particular are really struggling with how to do this. I think that this could be a misstatement, but I feel like, at least in my circle, my little peek into this world, I do feel like there is a genuine awareness and an openness to wanting to do work, but being a little bit scared of how to do it, “What’s the correct nomenclature today? Am I going to say the wrong thing? Am I going to upset someone? It’s easier for me to stay quiet or push my CDO or my head of people out in front of mic to own the messaging because I’m so fearful.” I love that there is an organization like yours that is out there that can actually help illuminate, create that safe space, when you’re talking about being the CEO whisperer and giving that space to say, “We can have these conversations in a productive and meaningful way if you can let down your guard a little bit and be open to learning and changing.”
Pamela: Yeah, well, we talked about working with brave companies because it’s not for the faint, right? Not this level of work. This is not Diversity 101 or Inclusion 101. It literally is challenging everything that you thought made you successful in the past that presented itself as a barrier and a roadblock for members of your organization. If you’re not ready to tackle that, we’re probably further down the road for you until you get to a place where you are ready to do it because it’s not an easy endeavor. It’s emotional. It’s scary for leaders who have been in organizations for a long time who have seen success come from the way we used to do it, right? It’s scary for them to think about having to do it a different way.
Katelin: Absolutely. That doesn’t make it less important or not important. I think that in a world where we have some leaders coming out and writing diatribes about excluding those conversations from the workforce as to not distract, it’s setting pretty clear boundaries. It’s just more information for employees and for customers to recognize, “Okay, great. Thank you for that information.” Let’s give a quick little plug. If someone was interested in learning more about the work that you’re doing at Have Her Back, what’s the best way for people to be in touch or to read more about the work that you are doing?
Pamela: I think there are a few ways. I would certainly go to our website, haveherback.com, one word. We’re on LinkedIn. Each of my partners have our own LinkedIn presence. We’re on Instagram. We’re on Twitter. In all of those instances, I’d say you could find us.
Katelin: Excellent. We have the internet, we have the name. I must say, the content really is good. I was not just schmoozing in the beginning. You all really have been an incredible source of inspiration for me over the years. As I’ve hit challenges, there’s some really incredible tactical things that I have employed, so thank you for that. Please keep creating.
Pamela: Absolutely, my pleasure.
Katelin: All right. We’re going to get into the rapid fire questions. Are you ready?
Pamela: I’m ready.
Katelin: OK. First one is super easy. In a world of Zoom, virtual background or real background?
Pamela: Real background.
Katelin: Two, what item on your desk in front of you right now sparks joy and why?
Pamela: Lip gloss because it helps me look at myself on Zoom all day.
Katelin: Excellent. Your favorite productivity hack?
Katelin: Are you like a lo-fi beats listener or what kind of music?
Pamela: Sometimes, it’s that. Sometimes, it’s the coffee house. Sometimes, I have a playlist that’s just upbeat productivity music, so it’s just music, but it’s upbeat and it keeps me.
Pamela: It keeps me productive.
Katelin: Excellent. That was just the warm up.
Katelin: Now for the big boys. I joked. You got this. Company culture, family or sports team?
Pamela: Sports team.
Katelin: Now give us one tactical thing that leaders or people in HR or on HR teams can do today to increase inclusion in their workplace?
Pamela: Ask the people what they need.
Katelin: Easy. It works. It totally works. Shocking how listening hugely impacts your ability to deliver.
Pamela: That’s right.
Katelin: Last rapid fire, I realize I’m not going rapid fire because I just want to talk about your lip gloss and all of these things, but when was the last time you were deeply proud of something that you have accomplished?
Pamela: When I got a note from a CEO who said, “The conversation that we just had in front of 1,500 of my closest employees had a tremendous impact on my intentions around DEI and has given me opportunities to build relationships that I didn’t think that I would have.” A thank you note from a CEO is probably the thing that I’ve been most proud of lately.
Katelin: I am proud of you for having that moment because I agree, as someone in the HR field, this is why we show up to work every day. That’s actually what fuels our fire because this stuff is hard. This is not fun. This is emotionally heavy for the people doing the work as well …
Katelin: Pamela, one last and final question for you before we wrap things up here. The question is, what advice would you give to founders and people leaders out there trying to make sense of this particular moment in history? There’s such opportunity here that is open and ready for us to really get in there and do some good work. How can they use this as an opportunity to build a better organization in this next chapter?
Pamela: That’s a great question. As simple as this may sound, it’s easier to say than do. That’s be the change that you want to see. As we are helping companies be better and being contributing members of society, we have to remember that what’s outside comes into our organizations. If we’re not showing up in a way that says, “This is how I would operate even outside of this organization,” then we’re going to miss the mark on the difference that we can make. We have to live it. If you’re not diverse enough as an organization or as a team, even small companies, make the composition a priority, not just optically, but
you want to represent the people that you serve. There’s no better way to do that than to have that representation in the room.
That’s the advice I would give.
Katelin: I appreciate that very much. I agree if we really truly aim .. The way you say it is so beautiful, the way we aim to serve our communities, we must do that. It’s an imperative. It’s not an initiative.
Pamela: That’s right.
Katelin: Well, Pamela, this conversation has been so fun. I really have enjoyed getting to know you a bit better. It’s so lovely to hear about the work that you’re doing and the evolution of the work that you’re doing and the work that you have yet to do. I know I speak for myself, but I think I can speak for all of our listeners. We very much look forward to what you have yet to do out in this world with Have Her Back and beyond. Thank you so much for doing the work that you do, thank you for this conversation and thank you for leading so authentically.
Pamela: Well, Katelin, thank you for the invitation. It’s been my pleasure. Anytime you want to have a follow-up conversation, the pleasure would be mine.