Join Change Catalyst Founder & CEO Melinda Briana Epler with Daisy Auger-Domínguez, CEO of Auger-Domínguez Ventures, to discuss Amplifying the Latinx Experience in the Workplace. Daisy has been an executive at Moody’s, Time Warner, Disney, Google and Viacom, and is the new Chief People Officer at Vice Media Group.
In this episode, we talk about Daisy’s path to leadership as a Dominican-Puerto Rican – a journey full of sponsors and allies that believed in her, promoted her, pushed her and supported her. We discuss the difference between Hispanic, Latino/Latina, and Latinx, and we dive deep into how to create change through amplification. Finally, we discuss what individuals can do to be great allies and create culture change within organizations.
Learn more about Daisy’s work at daisyauger-dominguez.com
Additional resources for allies:
- “Getting Over Your Fear of Talking About Diversity” by Auger-Domínguez, Harvard Business Review
- Hollywood Commission to Eliminate Harassment and Advance Equality in the Workplace
- Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility “Corporate Inclusion Index”
- “Vice Media Hires HR Veteran Daisy Auger-Domínguez as Head of Human Resources” by Todd Spangler
Daisy’s story began as a Dominican-Puerto Rican raised by her grandparents in the Dominican Republic, with strong national identity and cultural heritage. When she moved to New York for college, her mindset around identity shifted – feeling boxed in with the new label of “Hispanic,” and confronted by many slights that rejected and minimized her people and identity.
Recognizing that the corporate space needed the most changing, Daisy moved quickly from the nonprofit world into corporate work. She began at Moody’s as an Analyst. During her 12 year career at Moody’s, she met a powerful sponsor who put her name in the hat for a life-changing opportunity as their first Diversity and Inclusion executive. After her work at Moody’s, she went on to create impact at Time Warner, Disney, Google and Viacom, then moved to a private consulting practice at the urging of Dr. Anita Hill.
“An ally helps you find your way without projecting on you who you should be.” – Daisy Auger-Domínguez
We discussed language, and the need to give people their own agency by asking how they would like to be identified. We discussed how to change culture: confront deep-seated beliefs and unconscious habits, and then be willing to take action. Explore your identity in relation to others, ask what you aren’t primed to ask, build new muscles, and go beyond awareness into the deep deep work.
“Culture change… requires you to recognize your personal blindspots and your organization’s cultural and systemic sore spots.” – Daisy Auger-Domínguez
How do you amplify?
- Begin with data. Understand and dig deep into the data to see that Latinx people are not homogeneous but intersectional and unique. And share that data widely.
- Address the unique challenges of diverse Latinx people, with different needs, wants and support structures.
- Help Latinx colleagues navigate new workspaces: show them where to access information, help them decode the organization, and find career opportunities.
- Tell stories: “With stories, we see each other through each other.” Shed light on what people don’t know. Challenge dominant viewpoints of what leadership looks like, what relationships look like, and what difference looks like.
“I am often told that I have all the confidence, and asked how did I gain it? You know, just like my smile, it was hard earned. It is not something that just came about. It happened over time. For me, it was really critical in those early stages of my career to have someone who heard me, who saw me, and who was willing to be there for me.” – Daisy Auger-Domínguez
Don’t stop here – keep learning, keep taking action. 👊
Founder and CEO at Auger-Dominguez Ventures
Daisy Auger-Dominguez has made it her mission to make workplaces more equitable, compassionate and inclusive. A workplace culture shaper and human capital strategist, Daisy inspires and equips leaders to think inclusively, lead with purpose, embrace courage and shape the future of work.
Daisy is also the Founder and CEO of Auger-Dominguez Ventures, a consultancy that takes leaders, companies and organizations from inclusive workplace culture theory to practice through organizational psychology, applied experimentation, strategic planning and capacity building. She has designed and executed organizational transformations at Moody’s Investors Service, The Walk Disney Company, and Google. Her impact over the past 20 years reaches across the global business, social impact, entrepreneurial and philanthropic communities.
A dynamic and sought-after speaker, Daisy writes about reimagining diversity, equity and inclusion, workplace culture and leadership. She serves on the board of directors of Planned Parenthood Federation of America as Vice-Chair, the Brooklyn Children’s Museum as Secretary of the Board, the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, and on the advisory board of Facing History and Ourselves.
MELINDA EPLER: Welcome, everyone. We will get started in a couple minutes. Go ahead and introduce yourself in the chat when you come on. We will love to know who you are, where you are from, and what you do.
MELINDA EPLER: I think we can get started. I know people will continue to trickle in over the next several minutes. That seems to be a trend, but we can go ahead and get started. All right. Welcome, everyone. Thanks for introducing yourself in the chat. It is good to see where you all are from and what everybody does. Please keep doing that. Welcome to Leading with Empathy & Allyship. I am your host, Melinda Briana Epler, the founder and CEO of Change Catalyst. We build empathy for underrepresented and historically marginalized people and provide tangible steps week all take to be better allies for each other. Just a few logistics before I get started introduce our amazing guest. We are extremely lucky to have Anthony, an ASL interpret and the ASL interpreter is sponsored by Interpreter Now.
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Today we are discussing Amplifying the Latinx Experience in the Workplace. Please welcome an incredible human, she has been a friend and a colleague and a client over the years, Daisy Auger-Domínguez, founder and CEO of Auger-Dominguez Ventures. Welcome, Daisy.
DAISY AUGER-DOMINGEZ thank you so much, Melinda. I am so happy to be here and thank you to all of the friend on the chat.
MELINDA EPLER: Can you tell us about what your story is and how you got to be doing what you are doing now.
DAISY AUGER-DOMINGEZ: Those short stories, right? I always begin with the beginning. I was born in New York City to teenage parents of Dominican and Puerto Rican descent and raised in the Dominican Republic by my father’s parents, my grandparents, from the age of 2. There I navigated having a very different family relationship and environment. I was technically the youngest of their kids, if you will, but still very much growing up with grandparents as parent figures and then still very close relationship with my father who still lived in the U.S. And when I was growing up, I studied at an international school. That is how I learned English. And the intent and the purpose always had been that I would come to America and by the way, for any Dominicans out there, America for us is New York City, and that I would come to the U.S. to study university. And my junior year of high school, my father learned of the P-SATs and these tests we were supposed to take to prepare you for college and he decided to buy a house he could ill afford in New Jersey and knowing that me moving to New York City would be very much of a shock for me, and I think he was right, and so we moved into this small town and I finished my last two years of high school there. I often talk about that time in my life as the real awakening for me. You know? I had grown up with a very strong, national identity. I was Dominican and Puerto Rican and I grew up in this international school where my friend were from all over the world so for us it was normal to talk about our national heritage and our cultural background and how that influenced how we ate, danced and engaged. Then all of a sudden I moved to the U.S. and I became Hispanic. That was a term all of us seemed to envelope everything about me. It wasn’t a term I rejected but it felt like a term that was putting me in a box. It was a box that wasn’t always very nicely defined, right? When people spoke of Hispanics it wasn’t always in the most positive ways. As time would go on, I would realize when you say Hispanic, you think low socioeconomic advancement, you think low educational advancement, poor, and to be fair, I came from a working-class family, but my experience seeing the full breadth of the Dominican, Latino, Latin-American experience gave me a sense of the good, the bad and the ugly of it. It was clear here when people saw me and referred to me, as simple as when I was in high school getting accepted to all of the university I was getting accepted to and receiving comments like oh, you got in because of affirmative action and me knowing so little I didn’t know what that was. The only response I could come up with was no, I am getting in because I am smarter than you and had better grades than you which is all true, but it was those comments that felt very diminishing. It was getting accepted into one of the colleges that I did, and getting a letter inviting me to go a summer program, and the summer program was a math and English remedial program, and I was just about to graduate with an English AP course under my belt, so I couldn’t under why they thought that I neededed to learn better English. I spoke English quite well and I remember my aunt, who was like the latina aunt that veers over your shoulder and of course, read what I had received and she said oh, they think you are poor because you are Hispanic and they think you are uneducated because you are poor and Hispanic. Needless to say, I did not attend that program but it was a time when I should have felt excited and wanted and a sense of belonging and what I felt was a sense of rejection and a minmization of who I was and who my people were. And those experiences carried with me in university. And then I went to balkner university and got my undergraduate degree in international studies and women’s studies and I was one of the few Hispanics at the school. My father was like how did you come back a revolutionary and I am like that is how it happened. I have become further aware of my otherness and what it means, also, for me, university, was the time when I began understanding within the U.S. context and began understanding about my own origins. It was at bucknel where I learned about Haitian heritage and history and I grew up in an island that is shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic but because of historic legacies, very much rooted in racism, I had not learned about not just the atrocities of what the Dominican government and leaders had done to the Haitian people, but I just didn’t know about hour — our history. University was the time I could learn and grow and encompass race and gender. After undergrad I decided to get a Master’s in Public Administration and participated in a program created for minority students led by Dr. Walter Stafford who became a dear mentor and friend and his goal was to create more public policy master programs for students of color. I went and did that after undergrad and thought I would stay in academia and realized I could not live inside my head and that I loved people and engaging. So right after my graduate degree, I was accepted into a fellowship for the core fellows program which is a post-graduate leadership training program and it was amazing and over the course of nine months, I had nine different internships and learned about differences across sectors and how power gets shared and taken away and how to navigate those environments. For some reason among the many, many learning of my core experience, one of the realizations for me was that I had been in the nonprofit space for so long and I didn’t know how to navigate the corporate space, the space that needed the most change systemically and operationally, so my curiosity has driven me to do wild things and I decided to apply to all these corporate jobs, initially in finance, and not surprisingly most rejected me. I had a good academic degree but never taken finance and economic courses. I had shied away from them but I was really fortunate that Nicole Johnson ad Moody’s Investors Service gave me a job as a credit rating analysts and I had a 12 years career there. I was in both domestic and international when we were opening Latin America markets it was great to have the one Latina that speaks Spanish. I managed the global operations philanthropically and thought I was in my lane. Then I received the call to be the first diversity and inclusion officer at the company. Frankly, I had never thought of HR as a role I was interested in. When you are on the business side, HR is the place where you dread going and bad things happen. It was the first time I said no to what looked like a promotion but I wasn’t sure what it would be and also the first time I learned about sponsorship. It was the company’s CFO, a woman, who put my name in the hat, and when she found out I was questions something she had decided, she came to my office, and pretty much said, you don’t say no to something I put your name on the hat for. And I remember looking at her and going do you even know who I am? We have never had a conversation? She paused and said I have been watching you. I think you can do this. Also, later on, I realized they were also keen on finding someone that if things messed up, it wouldn’t be a huge to-do for the organization so I was relatively positioned it was a well-calculated risk for them but it was a life transforming opportunity for me. I launched the global diversity and inclusion function for Moody’s Investors Service and then went on to Time Warner. I did a lateral move into their executive search function focusing on diversity and inclusion. Did that for two years. And got an amazing opportunity to go to Disney to not only lead the diversity and inclusion function were the television group but to lead their talent acquisition which has become part of my trajectory. Then I got the call to join Google and they created a for me as the head of global diversity staffing and did more consulting work for the Alphabet companies. When we were final done with the California adventure in LA for Disney and San Francisco for two. I missed my family. When you are on the west coast and Caribbean it makes are really hard to go home. We came back to New York to be closer to my family and I joined Viacom. My focus has always been on diversity and inclusion. A year into that, as we restructured the organization, I had the rare opportunity to take advantage of having a year left on my contract and decided I really, really needed a break, so I took a year off. And it is an amazing privilege and that I have learned and it was very hard to explain to my working class parents especially by abuelo who is like you don’t go into the office every day and are still putting food on the table? Took a year off, decompressed, traveled with my family and reconnected with myself and that immigrant sense of worth and value that I had been pushing caught up to me and I needed that. About a year into that, I was doing some volunteering work, because I am Latina, I can’t just sit around, and one of the organizations that I had the privilege of supporting was the Hollywood Commission to Eliminate Sexual Harassment and advance equality in the workplace. And the amazing Dr. Anita Hill leads it. I was updating Anita one day about the projects and telling her I wasn’t sure about to do about next and wasn’t ready to go in-house yet. The offers I were receiving were a bit of the same old and she challenged she to go out on my own and to try to go places, to create and implement my own ideas, to finally have that space to do so, and Melinda you and I have talked about what that means because you have done that. I did and they were my first client and I didn’t look back. It was an amazing year. This was over a year ago. I was able to design my consultancy to focus on Fortune 500s which has been my lane for so long but also nonprofits. I serve on several boards and we can talk about that later and also startups. I caught the bug being in Silicon Valley and started, working and supporting a few.
MELINDA EPLER: Awesome. It is great to hear your experience and in that there are so many things. You touched on allyship and the people that were allies and supported you and sponsored you along that path and I had the same experiences along my journey. There is no way I would be where I am without those sponsors and those people that believed in me even when I didn’t necessarily believe in myself and shook me and said no, you have to do this and make this change. This is what you need to do right now and it has made all the difference. That’s great.
This is about the Latinx experience and you shared your own experience. What is the Latinx experience? What does that look like?
DAISY AUGER-DOMINGEZ you know, it funny. There isn’t one experience. When I talk to folks about amplifying the Latinx experience, something I feel deeply passionate about, I am clear in recognizing I don’t speak for the entire community of amazing Latin Americans and U.S.-Latinos. But I usually start, as I mentioned, with a little language class because we use a lot of terms, right? Because we are so complex. So I use the terms interchangeably. Hispanic, Latina, Latinx. Here is where they come from. Hispanic is the official term that began to be used in the 1970s by the U.S. government for anyone from Latin American or Spanish descent. Now, Latino, includes people only from Latin America, including Brazil but not Spain, or colonizers, if you will, and Latinx is a gender-neutral term that refers to people with heritage that ties to Latin America. I use all of them because I believe I am part of all of them. I believe the pieces that speak to different folks are generational, are situational, but also speak to the complexity of our community. I often say diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace is the most important business decision of our time but we can’t talk about that and not address the persistent barriers that affect Latinx employees in the workplace and to do that you have to understand where they come from, why they use the terms they use and what terms they prefer you to use. I often tell leaders don’t stumble. Just ask and then use that term. You will not go wrong. Some people may get offended or not, but that creates a space for dialogue and understanding a community and a group of folks for whom identity has been very layerful for a long time and continues to be that. Capturing the full breadth of being Latinx in America incorporates notions of ethnicity, race, culture, language, emotive attachments and affiliations among other things.
MELINDA EPLER: Absolutely. Thank you for that. I think that’s really important and something that a lot of people don’t use that language interchangably and the key for all of this and to be a better ally is to ask. To know. To allow people to define themselves.
DAISY AUGER-DOMINGEZ: Yeah, there is an agency in that. I didn’t really use the word Latinx until I went to Google and it is really tech and Silicon Valley and the younger generation of millennials and I am like if that’s what makes you feel comfortable, I am down with that. There is nothing negative to any of them. It is simply a form of comfort but if you don’t come from that community I think it creates a great opportunity to better understand where people are coming from and let me tell you, folks are usually really excited to talk about it.
MELINDA EPLER: How do you amplify? What are some of the ways to amplify Latinx people in particular? In the workplace and in our lives?
DAISY AUGER-DOMINGEZ: The first place is to begin with data and lift up the data that may feel hidden but it is right in your face. Hispanics represent America’s fastest and largest growing consumer segment and over 74% of workforce growth, and yet we only represent 2.1% of board members across fortune 1,000 and publicly traded companies. Despite being one of the fastest growing groups of women in the U.S. labor force, Latinas and Latinx represent 1% of executives. And Latinas are being paid 53 cents on the dollar to the man. I like to share this. It is information. I like to remind folks we trace our roots to Spain, Mexico, and Spanish speaking nations of south America and the Caribbean and some of us are immigrants that have been in this country since we were children, some are immigrants like I that came back here because I had an opposite migration experience as teenagers, some come here as full fleshed adults and to join the companies that we work in, we are in many different stages of that immigrant roadmap, if you will, and that all shapes who we are and you know, how we see ourselves in the American construct. And all of that shapes also the beliefs and the experiences of this really broad community in the workplace. Part of amplifying it is to understand the data and to dig deeper into the fact this is not a homogenous grouping of folks and their needs, wants, support structures are all very different. And then it is about thinking about what isn’t being said about this community. What are the particular challenges that exist for Latinos in the workplace? For example, you know, access to important social networks is really critical to succeeding in organizations. But when people are worried about even what term to call you, or how to approach you, it is going to be really hard for you to have access to the social circles that are critical to career progression and success. So that’s also one of the reasons why I like to say let’s demystify this community and let’s build closer proximity because that is the proximity that has been necessary for everyone to advance in their careers. The other piece is about how information gets shared. In most companies I have worked for, every Latina I speak for the most part there are flags on who gets access to information. And by information I mean do you understand the code of conduct for the organization? And not just the what’s on paper for behaving well or not but you know, what is the right way to approach a Zoom meeting? What is the right way to approach your manage for a conversation? If you don’t come from a culture and a community like I did where you know how to navigate corporate culture right away, if you don’t have folks to help you decode that in an organization, then you are going to fall behind much faster than others who really what they have ahead of you is just facility in how to navigate an environment and how to collaborate, how to access innovative ideas and tools. How to be aware of what career opportunities. How do you reduce those barriers? You do that by having a better understanding of this community. I can go on and on but I will stop.
MELINDA EPLER: One thing you have mentioned to me storytelling and creating spaces for people to tell their own stories and amplifying the stories I think as well.
DAISY AUGER-DOMINGEZ: Yeah, listen. I will say this, I think very little is generic to the entire Latin American diaspora but storytelling is such a critical piece of the way that culture gets passed on across the world. And so for me, I think when I think of storytelling in the workplace as such a critical piece of shedding light on what people don’t know, and challenging dominant views about what leadership could look like, and what relationships could look like, or even what difference feels like. Sometimes when we share stories, we find commonalities can each other that we didn’t know existed because we are operating from the general stereotypes we have been taught to think about but in storytelling we build that proximity and see each other through each other and we also tell the stories and find connection points that wouldn’t be there otherwise. So I think storytelling is a critical piece. And let’s be clear, different voices get different power in organizations. Different voices are heard differently. I, as I have moved in my career, have realized that in the early part of my career perhaps my voice didn’t have as much weight but it has more now as a senior executive, so I am very mindful of the fact that I have more freedom and opportunity to shed light and share stories that other folks may not have and so it may not be my experience right now, as let’s say a senior executive, that I am worried about speaking up in a meeting, but I have been there. So my job is to make sure that when we are in meetings I emphasize that and create a space for those who may be feeling uncomfortable and disconnected and that I explain why. That’s where the storytelling piece comes in. When I worked at Moody’s Investors Service in the early part of my career when I had an ally, a dear friend pull me aside, and he was sort of peeved which he usually wasn’t and he was like we don’t pay you to be silent. We pay you for your opinion. Here I am in a company that is supposed to be helping me hone my voice but here I am also being held back by my own sense of being the only woman, the only person of color, usually the youngest person in these meetings, the difference in power that I was very keen on, and also the stereotype threat that many of us feel. If I mess up then I mess up for everyone behind me. That’s whoa. It is so much pressure. It is like, you know, it locks us in so often. It was locking me in. I needed that ally, who was a white male, to call that out but I also needed something that was incredibly special in that moment. I needed him to listen to me and he did. He didn’t just say oh, you are being crazy. He didn’t mansplain it or culturesplain it. He listened and I engaged in a vulnerable exchange with him. I said here is why I am not talking. I don’t remember the exact words but something to the effect of I am scared, I am nervous, I am worried and I think I may have tapped into something that he remembered when he was younger but he heard me and instead of explaining me away, he said OK, here is what why going to do. At the next meeting, I need you to talk. I need you to say something and when you are worried, look at me, and I am going to be there. If you want, I can prompt you and I said no, no, don’t prompt me. But I promise you I will talk. What happened was that we not only built a really great relationship but I not only started talking one sentence, two sentences, then you couldn’t shut me up after that. That’s how I found my confidence. I am often told that I have all the confidence and how did I gain it and, you know, just like my smile, it was hard earned. It is not something that just came about. It happened over time but I do have to say for me, it was really critical in those early stages of my career, to have someone who heard me, who saw me, and who was willing to be there for me, and I have other examples of folks like that that were not Latinos because I didn’t have other Latinos around me but that helped me find and hone my voice and that helped create that space for me in a space where there wasn’t a lot of like for me, where I could create my own space in my language and that was really critical. So I share those stories to remind folks. I am not alone in that. There are so many of us that experience that, so many of us in my generation, but so many young Latinx employees now who are experiencing the exact same thing because guess what? Organizations have not changed. We have been at this for a really long time but we have the exact same systemic pressures, same systemic discriminations and same systemic failures that maintain workplaces that are predominantly white and predominantly male. That continues and continues to go unquestioned and people that look different, it could be Latinx, black, Asian, anything outside of the norm will always have a hard time finding their way through unless someone really trues and sees and values them.
MELINDA EPLER: And you have worked at several different companies on diversity, inclusion, belonging, culture. How do you create a culture where people feel like, and make even know how to be allies for each other in that way? That, you know, how do you create that culture that really opens up space for people to step in and be allies and help others become leaders?
DAISY AUGER-DOMINGEZ: It is certainly not easy and I have a lot of colleagues in the same place as you and I. I often talk about this is some of the hardest work you will ever do. Culture is what naturally happens whenever you bring a group of human beings together and have them work or live together for some time. It happens whether you know it is happening or not. I think that part of doing this work well is about being intentional. It is about being willing to ask the questions that we are not often trying to ask but that are really, you know, underneath, and here is the thing about culture and organizations. You have your senior leaders at the top and you have your junior folks at the bottom and your senior leaders are often operating with blind spots about what’s happening in an organization. Your more junior folks, the folks on the ground, are the ones that are heavily burdens by the sore spots, and the pains of what that power differential looks like. If you don’t reduce that gap between what the leadership thinks they know and what the folks on the ground are experiencing, you don’t get to change and that’s where culture change truly happens; when you reduce that distance between what you think you know and what the actual experience of your employees is. That comes from uncovering truth. That comes from asking really tough questions. It is hard. It is complex. It is triggering and fundamentally requires you to recognize your personal blind spots and your organization’s culture and systemic sore spots and they operate amongst themselves but also in different corners of the operation, so you will have to confront your deep seated believes and unconscious habits. We have been talking about unconscious bias for well over a decade but knowing they exist and confronting them are two separate things and digging into the why I operate the way I do and then being willing to take action that changes the way you have been operating — that’s the real crux of it. You know, it is about exploring your identity in relationship to others and asking for feedback you may not want to hear. It is about building these new muscles and that includes the capacity to interpret new information but also to sit in ambiguity and to sit in conflict and to sit in discomfort and then to determine what’s possible when you witness a workplace inequity and witness something that doesn’t feel right but you have to do all of that work to they can the action. We get stuck in the awareness piece, like surface awareness, I know inequities happening and I have unconscious bias but we don’t do the deep, deep work.
MELINDA EPLER: I have a few more questions for Daisy but if anybody have questions for Daisy, please, put it in a Q&A and we’ll get to those later.
So what you do you personally need from an ally right now? As a Latina, as a woman, as Daisy.
DAISY AUGER-DOMINGEZ: Yes, I think it is what we all need. We all have a fundamental need to be seen and to feel valued. I have many allies and they are the ones that see me. The ones that see me for the good, the bad and the ugly. The ones that can call me out when, you know, I am hiding, and when I am going into sort of whatever dark moment I want to go into, but they are also the ones that truly see me. It is not about, you know, I say this to my daughter a lot, my daughter is 11, and sometimes I see myself making the same mistakes that I think every mother has ever and certainly my mother of me wanting to behave n certainly way because that’s how I behave and how I am. So, you know, I am projecting on her in moments of clarity which are not, I would love to say they are often, you know, I stop myself from doing that, and say you know, she is her own person, and my job is to make sure that, she is clear from values and on character and on morals. The other behavioral pieces she can operate differently because she is her own person. To have an ally be able to help you find your way without projecting on you who you should be especially, especially when that projection, is about a white, male, sense of identity that is not only who you are, but that diminishes who you are, that erases who you are. The reason I use the word amplifying about the Latinx experience is we have been marginalized and silences for so long even in the diversity and inclusion conversation. What I often say and I was the executive sponsor for the Latinx ERG and that was one of the goals amplify the voice at Google. The resources is not the same, the engagement is not the same and the storytelling is not the same. Folks are not trying to understand who we are. So for me, it is ally that is willing to understand who you are, and then uses their power to help amplify your voice and story and to not always wait for you to be the one that has to bear the burden of the work but to actually be the one that says, I have just learned something interesting. Or I would love to plus one what Daisy just said. That was interesting. And even admitting, and I was like I don’t understand it, explain it a little bit more because it could probably be more me than you. It is showcasing is modeling that kind of behavior that signals to others that it is OK to do so and signals to others that you see them and value them and signals to others that those questions you may be having, it is perfectly OK to have them, and perfectly OK to voice them in the spirit of creating a more collaborative and engaged workforce.
MELINDA EPLER: We have a question from Briana Johnson. What would your advice be to a junior employee who is the only black woman in her entire workforce to get an ally?
DAISY AUGER-DOMINGEZ: You have an entire workforce to find allies. I mean, listen, part of finding allyship is about finding human connection. First of all, find individuals in the organization that you admire and respect. It doesn’t hurt if they have power or influence in the organization. That’s also a plus. I will share this story and I have shared this publicly. When I was at Google, I had a young Latinx woman from the Latino-ERG and she asked me for coffee and I said yes, why not. As we started chatting, we had this amazing experience. She had been in tech for far longer than I. I was learning about how to navigate Google and talking to her about my experience and I have written about this because afterwards she wrote a blog about us connecting. She wrote — I think she wrote on her diary about it and then shared it and in it she said the minute the elevator door closed on us she started crying because it was the first time she had seen herself reflected in a senior leader. It was the first time that she had actually breathed and thought I don’t have to be like the models that I am seeing every day that I have been rejecting, for some reason, I don’t have words but now I know why because that’s not who I want to be. I want to be this. This is who I am. And I can. I can actually succeed and see it. If you can see it, you can be it. It was so incredibly powerful and then she went on to talk about how I am doing now like I talk with my hands and back then I had really long hair and I just kept on flipping it like her Tias and her mother and I wore a dress which is different from how most Googlers dress but I am more comfortable wearing my dress and my heels. That I walked in being who I was and that gave her a real sense of who she could be and how powerful that was and that’s been for everyone one of my most powerful stories. But the other piece about that was towards the end, as I joked with her, I said you are burying the lead because she was so nervous about asking me for one simple thing which was if I could be the executive sponsor for the Latino ERG and I paused and said I have been waiting for you to find me. I know this ERG exists and no one has called me. I say that also because sometimes you think you are infringing on people’s time but folks want to be helpful. Folks want to be useful especially if you have a diversity and inclusion strategy in your company. You are doing them a favor and now have to say you are doing this. I coach executives and you have to say who are you coaching or sponsoring and they will tell you and you are like you have team people on your teams. I am always encouraging them to find them. I just had had this two weeks ago I had a male executive at a very large bank, who all of a sudden paused and said wait a second, I had this young black women who reached out to me in our ask me anything sessions and asked me if I could have coffee with her. This was pre-COVID-19 so I had to push it away but I just realized she reached out and I said well, we are Zooming coffees, so you can get back to her and have that coffee with her and he looked at me and goes I guess I can. It was this moment of realization for him. Like I have agency over doing that and there are people that I have already identified that I could be helpful to. For those who are looking, get in front of them. Let them know you are here and you are eager. Asking is, you know, it doesn’t cost you anything. You know, there is tons of expressions across the world that say if you don’t ask, you don’t get anything. Just ask. You don’t have to ask for even 30 minutes. I know we are all Zoomed out and everybody is stressed out. In 15 minutes, you can make a quick introduction, get to know each other, kind of high energy, and how are you, and if there is interest, can I now get 30 minutes and two weeks of your time and you can build into that without feeling so own onerous but most people love to talk about themselves. If you create a space for them to talk, there is so much learning for you and there is relationship building, and there is an opportunity for both of you to learn and grow.
MELINDA EPLER: Aubrey Williams asks what or who has helped you home in on your power and truth? You talked a little bit about that earlier. And where do you find inspiration?
DAISY AUGER-DOMINGEZ: I talked about my early allies and my grandma called them angels that showed up at different parts of my life to remind me when my voice is getting muted to remind me to lift it up a little bit. I still need that. You know, my biggest inspiration quite frankly, and I just realized I was having a conversation with someone the other day is my family. I am deeply loved and have always been deeply cared for and ferociously so. I joke with my grandma. She literally just sent me a WhatsApp. By the way, my grandmother calls me what’s up. She was asking me about an award I received because she wants to show it off to somebody. Every once in a while when I am having a down minute I think about how would my grandmother brag about me? That usually lifts me up. Like a lot of people, I keep these gratitude email boxes where I keep everything that people have sent me and I go to them, and those are moments where my heart feels depleted and it lifts me up and having conversations like this are actually inspiring to me because it allows me to connect to people and to be of service. I think for many of us service is self-care and giving to others but I have a lot of inspirations but I will say right here because you can’t hear her but I am listening to my daughter playing Minecraft behind me and she is my biggest inspiration. Being a mother for me, in the spirit of transparency and trust and storytelling, being a mother for me was something I dreaded. My mother abandoned me as a child and I didn’t realize all the baggage I had. I had my grandmother and two aunts who over-mothered me and I was over loved. I didn’t know if I was going to have a girl or boy. When they told me it was a girl I was terrified and was like how am I going to be a good mother? And I think I am a really great mother. I love my daughter. But there is this life that she emanates and this love and there is this hope that I have for her to be able to walk anywhere on this earth and feel seen, feel valued, feel respected, feel safe, and so that’s my inspiration because my daughter, and I don’t know if any of you are parents, when you become a parent, you become a global parent. Every child is your child. To me, I want every child to experience that. I want every little girl to be able to feel that sense of agency over her body and her future and every little boy as well. That’s my inspiration. When I see the organizations that I work with, when I see the employees that I work with, I think of who they are and the families they represent, and the hope they represent, and that’s inspiration for me.
MELINDA EPLER: Asking about tokenization. Have you ever felt tokenized and what do you do about it? How do you handle it in the moment? Her second question is do you leave the company if you are feeling tokenized consistently?
DAISY AUGER-DOMINGEZ: I have been the chief Latina in charge for a long time. Yes, we have all been tokenized. As amazing as the story I shared about being identified as the future head of diversity and Moody’s, I very much recognized I was being tokenized into that role as a young woman of color. It is, unfortunately, part of the existence of being a minority community working in majority culture. That is all I have ever worked with. I have friends and I sit down and go what’s it like to work in an all-black or all-Latino organization? Talk to me. Those are not perfect either, because, again, they are just human beings but I think in part, to answer your question, I have had to, like I have said earlier, I have found a way of voicing my sense of discomfort, the sense of lack of fairness in being tokenized over the course of my career, so what I say now is very different. I was actually very silent in the early part of my career. I did what my father told me. I put my head down and I did my work. And by the way, my father still says that to me before any job I take and I like to remind him pappi, my job is to be loud and change. And he is like no, no, just keep your head down and do your job. But I have worked in organizations whereas I have become wiser and gained more equity and power in organizations I have been able to challenge where and what I have been placed. I no longer accept being just the voice of diversity and I know I have been in places. That was part of the conversation with Dr. Hill when I decided to go out on my own and that is I had some great offers in front of me but I kept on thinking I have seen that movie play out before. You want me to be the face of this work but I am not going have the institutional power to actually change things. I am no longer willing to do that. But I have been able to earn that place and I appreciate and want to recognize it is harder when you are more junior and in more precarious situations where you can’t get up in the middle of a meeting and say hey, y’all, I am feeling tokenized and you have to change your ways because that would endanger people and I don’t want to endanger anybody. I want to create spaces where you can succeed but there is space and time and opportunities to speak and educate people about not just what the word tokenization means but how it feels and impacts your wellbeing, psyche and productivity and I have seen white male and female leaders reckon with that and recognize that and challenge themselves to drive change. It is not easy again. It is a continual amount of work. I sit on the board of planned parenthood and I am the vice-chair and I don’t know if the chair is listening but the chair is an amazing white woman but when she asked me to be her vice-chair I didn’t have much of a relationship with her at that point and I looked at her and I said I am not going to be your Latina wife sitting next to you in board meetings and she paused and was like, oh, no, let me tell you what this is about and she talked to me about the reason she selected me was because of hard work I did and the voice I had on the board and we just celebrated or one-year chair and vice-chair anniversary yesterday and we were talking about what an amazing relationship we have built but she remembers that was the first thing I said. I am not going to be tokenized. I am not going to be sort of like your side piece, if you will, to give you cred. To her credit, that was not at all where she was going, but I felt confident enough, and you know, secure in myself to say that’s not what I want, if you want to drive change, I am here for that, this is what you are going to get from me. And she knows that because that’s the relationship we had and it has been an amazing relationship. It is calling out the truth about tokenism and it is knowing that the right time to do. Sometimes it is in piecemeal. Sometimes it is just calling something in a meeting like wasn’t this interesting and then something else? Did you hear that? And, you know, I do really believe in the power of calling in versus calling out. By the way, I think calling out is a perfectly good tactic and works in many ways, but I also do believe, I will share another example. I have a — I am in many groups of women’s circles if you will and networks, and a member of that network was launching a connect for initiative for women. She had challenged all of us to try and connect for women every day for a week. We got this invitation and I said how do you make sure you are connecting across difference? And she was like, oh, I just assumed it would happen. So then that went into an exchange. I love you are inviting me but am I only the only Latina on the list and are the other women going to be challenged to find other people of color and not in a tokenizing way and paving the way for women of color that have a path that has not been paved for them before and that turned into an amazing conversation. She actually said that in a session that we had. Then she said thank you for calling me out. And I said no, no, let me be clear, I called you in. Calling me out would have been for me to email the entire group and say here is why I am not joining and here is what is wrong. I said I emailed you privately, had the conversation and helped you change the description and went through it. She used that afterwards and it was a moment where I was able to talk about tokenization in a way she could understand and hopefully in a way she operates going forward.
MELINDA EPLER: Awesome. There are so many more great questions and, unfortunately, we can’t get to them all. Sorry we didn’t get to your questions. We’ll try to address those in the future. Daisy, quickly, is there anything you would like to amplify right now?
DAISY AUGER-DOMINGEZ: There is so much. Every day it changes. Today I will talk about one of the causes near and dear to my heart which is Planned Parenthood. In these days and times where we know that marginalized communities are being further marginalized, where so many of the benefits that so many of us take for granted are being taken away from so many of us, I am seeing the huge, the huge impact that this pandemic is having on states and counties and communities where it is about health care. It is about agency over your body and choice and women of color are being disproportionately impacted. If any of you can support a Planned Parenthood facility near you or write to a Congressman. It is our health. It is how women can survive and thrive. That has a special place for me today.
MELINDA EPLER: Thank you. Thank you, Daisy. Thank you so much for all of this.
DAISY AUGER-DOMINGEZ: Thank you, everyone. Take care.
MELINDA EPLER: Thank you everyone for joining us. Keep this going. We have been talking for an hour about this and so much good stuff here. Keep the conversations going. Keep the learning going. Be brave. Be courageous. Take action. Take action. Thank you for joining us. Join us each week for Leading with Empathy & Allyship. You can sign up for attend with live audience Q&A or catch the podcast or the video. And you can stay in the loop by going to changecatalyst.co and signing up for your newsletter. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to our podcast and YouTube channel. See you next time, everybody. Thank you.
Host: Melinda Briana Epler
Melinda Briana Epler has over 25 years of experience developing business innovation and inclusion strategies for startups, Fortune 500 companies, and global NGOs.
As CEO of Change Catalyst, Melinda currently works with the tech industry to solve diversity and inclusion together. Using her background in storytelling and large-scale culture change, she is a strategic advisor for tech companies, tech hubs, and governments around the world. She co-leads a series of global solutions-focused conferences called Tech Inclusion, where she has partnered with over 450 tech companies and community organizations and hosted 43 solutions-focused diversity and inclusion events around the world.
Previously, Melinda was a Marketing and Culture Executive and award-winning documentary filmmaker – her film and television work includes projects that exposed the AIDS crisis in South Africa, explored women’s rights in Turkey, and prepared communities for the effects of climate change. She has worked on several television shows, including NBC’s The West Wing.
Melinda is a TED speaker. She speaks, mentors and writes about diversity and inclusion in tech, allyship, social entrepreneurship, underrepresented entrepreneurs and investing. She has spoken on hundreds of stages around the world, including SXSW, Grace Hopper, Wisdom 2.0, the World Bank, Obama White House, Clinton Foundation, Black Enterprise, Google, Indeed, Capital One and McKinsey.
Watch Melinda’s TED Talk
Change Catalyst Co-Founder Melinda Briana Epler has spoken across the globe in hundreds of venues and virtual events. Empathy, Allyship, Advocacy, Microaggressions, Inclusive Leadership, and Building Inclusive Teams are just some of the topics Melinda has spoken on. Let us know about your next speaking engagement needs! Melinda has also spoken on how to build organizational capacity to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion, such as how to lead behavior change or how to build allies and advocates.
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