Join Change Catalyst Founder & CEO Melinda Briana Epler (she/her) with Sloan Leo (they/them), Max Masure (they/them) and Madelena Mak (she/her) to discuss Being a Great Ally for Trans and Gender Nonconforming Colleagues.
- “Why I Put Pronouns on my Email Signature (and LinkedIn profile) and You Should Too” by Max Masure
- “Remembering Lorena Borjas, The Mother of A Trans Latinx Community” by Masha Gessen
- Healing Resistance by Kazu Haga
- Learn more about gender identity at Planned Parenthood
- “Dismantling a Culture of Violence: Understanding Anti-Transgender Violence and Ending the Crisis” by Human Rights Campaign
- “Being African American and LGBTQ+: An Introduction” by HRC
Founder & CEO at FLOX Studio Inc.
Sloan Leo (they/them) has over 15 years of experience leading and managing social impact staff & volunteer teams. Leo’s early career was as a relationship management strategist working within the non-profit sector where they raised $20M for a wide range of organizations. Including the world’s only international LGBTQ+ human rights foundation, direct service organizations focused on housing for formerly incarcerated individuals and runaway and homeless youth, and Dream Corps, a social justice impact accelerator founded by Van Jones. They then went on to specialize in non-profit board engagement and operations, as the Director of Board Relations for the Environmental Defense Fund, where they managed the boards of EDF, EDFAction, EDF Europe and EDF China. Subsequently joining the Trust for Public Land as the Chief of Staff, where they facilitated the development of the 2020-2025 strategic plan, “The Power of Land For People”.
In their consulting practice, Sloan has worked with, The Wikimedia Foundation, The Ms. Foundation , The New York Women’s Foundation and The Vaid Group to advance equitable, durable and inclusive approaches to strategy and systems design with boards of directors, executive teams and grantee/fellow cohorts. As a facilitator and strategist, their practice is rooted in community facilitation methodologies informed by their experiences with groups ranging from The Audre Lorde Project to Resource Generation.
In January 2020 they were appointed as inaugural Designer-in-Residence at the School of Visual Arts Design for Social Innovation Master’s program. Currently they are on faculty at NYU Wagner’s Graduate School of Public Service, The School of Visual Arts (SVA) Design for Social Innovation Master’s Program, and SVA’s Products of Design Program. Their writing has been featured in The Journal of Governmental Finance and Public Policy, The Stanford Social Innovation Review and The European Business Review.
As a mixed media artist they were awarded a September 2020 Queer.Archive.Work residency, where they produced QUEERBOOK, a small batch RISO printed, crowd sourced anthology creatively archiving stories of queer community building in era of COVID19 and America’s great reckoning and they have a new mixed-media installation exhibition, “A Watermelon For Leo” on view at Pen & Brush Gallery (NY, NY).
Formerly the Board of Directors, Governance Chair for The Ms. Foundation For Women, Sloan serves on the board of the Institute for Afrofuturist Ecology. And is a weekly Forbes contributor.
Senior Product Designer and Inclusion Consultant
Senior Director at StartupBus
Hi, everyone, welcome. We’ll get started in a few minutes. In the meantime, please introduce yourself as you join so we can look who you are and where you’re coming in from.
>> Hey, everyone, welcome, hi, Won Jim, thank you for introducing yourself. Everyone joining, introduce yourself in the chat. Let us know who you are and where you’re tuning in from. And I’m going to, this is the video and podcast series Leading with Empathy and Alliship, a photo of many diverse people. This is being a great Ally For Trans and Gender Nonconforming colleagues. The slides are going too fast. But we’ll introduce them in a moment. Created by changecatalyst.co.
And ASL interpretation is sponsored by Interpreter Now with Jasmine Paul. We do have a code of conduct. You can find it at tcin.co/COC. In the next coming up, there’s two coming up, one with Ritu Bhasin and the other with Tonia Laputo in the next coming weeks. The podcast is live now and you can find it on most podcast platforms.
All right. In the interest of time, let’s get started. I know others will join over the next few minutes, but let’s get started if we could take down the slides. Awesome. Great. Well, welcome everyone. Welcome to Leading with Empathy and Alliship. I’m Melinda BrianaEpler, in this series, we’re building empathy for underrepresented and marginalized people and providing tangible, actionable steps to be better allies and advocates for each other.
This week, we’re discussing how to be a good ally for trans and gender nonconforming colleagues. With Madelena, Max and Sloan. Hello you three. So good to see you all, and thank you for joining us. I’m going to say a few quick words, logistics wise, and we’ll come back and get started. Just on screen, we have Jasmine, an ASL interpreter today. The interpretation is sponsored by Interpreter Now, a company we’re provide to be partnering with and it’s being captioned by White Coat Captioning, click on the closed captioning, and you can change the size of the text there. Thanks to the team, Renzo, and the team who will be monitoring the chat and the Q&A, and we do have a code of conduct.
Y’all know this, but focus on being radically inclusive there. We’d love to hear your thoughts, what you’re learning, what you’re thinking. Helps us know what’s resonating. And then, if you have questions for the panelists, use the Q&A function at the bottom of your screen. And we’ll have a little time at the end to address those.
All right. Let’s get started. Y’all ready? Cool. All right. So, first off, thank you, Sloan, for joining us at the last minute. We really appreciate you taking the time and appreciate you sharing your thoughts here.
>> Happy to be here.
>> Awesome. So first, let’s just, if you could each take a few moments to introduce yourselves and say a bit about your story. Maybe Sloan, if you don’t mind.
>> Sure. So thank you, Melinda for the introduction and the welcome. Special thanks to Max because I think it’s the best way to start is to start with gratitude. And I was asked to do this panel about an hour and a half ago. And I want to actually talk about why I said yes as my introduction because, I said yes because I see Max as a comrade and not only an ally, which is what this work is about for me.
Max and I met, you know, somewhere sometime before Corona when we got to see each other in person. Even though it was last minute and I don’t currently believe in free black labor, I do believe in comradeship. And meeting me where I see the struggle and providing opportunity to create relief. So I thank you for that, Max. I’m the director of social innovation at the VAD group and my practice is community design, which means I’m working to be of service to help facilitate conversations that are difficult and create action that is durable, emergent and collectively valuable. I’m really excited to be here today. Max?
>> Should I go next?
>> Go for it, yeah.
>> Well, my name is Madelena, my pronoun is she/her. I’m, well, once again, thank you so much for organizing this series for us to talk about transgender and gender nonconforming folks. How to be a leader that helps a community and also have an ally that supports our community.
Max and I, we all actually know each other from a different community, which is sort of funny. But we all, like, know each other because they are allies through making space that helps, you know, all of us to connect with each other and makes space for us to be able to have a voice and speak up. So for my work, I have two things. So one is that I’m the National Senior Director, a tech entrepreneurship camp that helps foster the next generation of tech talents. They take 200 people on buses and do road trips. And Melinda was one of our great judges last year, as well.
And I’m also a product designer and do a lot of user research as well as, you know, user interface designs to help create products for, like, communications health care and a lot of other tasks. Thanks for having me here.
>> Thank you, Madelena, thank you, Sloan. I appreciate both of you taking the time to have this conversation with me. So I’m Max, I use they/them pronouns. I’m UX research senior product designer, I’ve done that for many, many years. For the past two, three years, I put that work a bit aside and around collective as one of the cofounders. And we came up with trainings and workshops to help tech companies, mostly, and schools, as well, to be more inclusive, more inclusive and using practical, tactical way to do it. A lot into empathy, compassion. I’m using the past tense, because for the past six months and roughly a bit coming from last year, I, myself, got burned out on, like, burning those workshops and trainings into companies where the leadership were not onboard.
And I think that’s something to address. The people I met, people on the ground, people doing the work, they want the training, want to get better. They want to have tools. And a lot of the time we were ready to do the training and receiving silence or the leadership suddenly decided they don’t want to put time and money towards that. That made me reconsider my purpose and my skills with product design and design in UX research, I decided to go into bringing that as my own skills I can actually bring for more impact. Now, I’m working, again, in two different companies, mostly health care, mental health care for underserved communities. And that’s where I really, really find more satisfaction and, like, helping people to get more awareness, compassion and build with the communities.
So I… I’m very interested in that discussion of where I see the limitation from the work I did. I’m very excited and very proud for this panel to happen today. Thank you.
>> Thank you. Thank you all. Thank you all for being here and for sharing your experience and your stories and I want to take a moment to say the names and acknowledge the lives of Tony McDade and Nina Pop, and well, first, let’s, I just want to sit for a moment in that and make sure that we recognize them. And recognize what’s happening now. And along those lines, so we are a couple of global pandemics right now. And I’m going to start off a little bit differently than what I said to you all the last couple of days because I want to leave space for talking about that with COVID19, the transgender community has been hit hard there.
And also, in the second pandemic of racism and globally coming to terms with that. A way I don’t think we have for a long time or ever. Can we go around and talk about what’s on your mind at the moment? And, yeah, let’s all just stop there. So, whatever you’re feeling and whatever you want to kind of rise to the surface in this community.
>> I think Melinda, the phrase, rises in this conversation is really important. Thinking about how designers, we understand layers, you go into Adobe, and we build in layers. And I think that’s true as a metaphor to understand the moment we’re in. So I think in my own reflection, particularly as a black person, racism isn’t new, and the pandemic is, does have disproportionate impacts on black people because of racism. It’s like, the dialog is both, this is new in terms of mainstream narrative, this is the first time in my 35 years and I grew up with social justice organizers. This is the first time in my life that CNN is like, we’ve got to fight for social justice. I don’t know where I am. That’s a conversation layer happening that gives me joy. It makes me feel like, oh my God, people are going to fight for Black trans lives and I can stay my Black trans self at home. And there are layers below that, people in the interpersonal and internal self are trying to figure out what the work means and understanding where are the limitations of our practices right now to do this work?
What are the limitations of empathy? And I don’t have all of those answers, but I know that there’s a layered conversation that we’re all trying to have together on Instagram and these Zooms. And I think a lot about the power in that and the acknowledgment there’s a different sense of urgency for different people. Max, what are you thinking about at this moment?
>> Let’s have Madelena and I can have my own thoughts.
>> Thank you. From the lens of Coronavirus, there’s definitely a lot of things on mind. One, the pandemic and the crisis happens that affects the entire population. The people who are more vulnerable become even more precarious than they even were before.
So there’s a lot of resources that transgender and gender nonconforming folks rely on. For example, there’s health care, right? So now that their healthcare system is already strained, folks like me that depends on hormone replacement therapy. It becomes more difficult for me to get the medication that I need for my own transition. So that’s one.
A lot of transgender folks and gender nonconforming folks, they’re not necessarily accepted by their own family, they might not have a home to go back to where, well, during this time where everybody are advised to stay home, or during the curfew, everyone has to stay home. Where can they go?
There’s not a lot of places where they can go. And there’s, like, as a trans person, there’s, I wish, I really wish I had more power and resources to do more for my community rather than just speaking. So that’s another one.
There’s also, there’s a lot of tragic deaths, tragic, like, deaths that have happened during the Coronavirus outbreak. A lot of brilliant minds and community leaders that are affected, hospitalized or have their lives taken away from us because of that.
I’ve been reading articles in the “New York Times” for the past few days, actually, for the past few weeks, months and years, actually. Following through this crisis, recently, in April, there’s a community leader within Queens in the community, Lorena Bojas, I hope I didn’t butcher the name. But here’s her story, and I think it needs to be heard. Being a Latin trans immigrant, she arrived in the 1980s. And being an immigrant is very difficult when you’re undocumented hard to get jobs and money to survive.
President Reagan allowed her to achieve citizenship in the United States. However, six years later, the things that happened, things she did when she was younger were charged against her. And she was at risk of losing the citizenship. And for the 40 years she stayed in the United States, she was constantly on the verge of crisis and constantly being threatened by police, being suspected of prostituting at this point, that’s just a common misconception of transgender people. And constantly had the fear of being deported because she was doing work for the community.
And I felt that is, that’s so much, but the suffering that she has is unjust, and only in 2017 she got by the Governor, she finally got pardoned, and received her citizenship. And then, two years later, in April in 2020, three years later, she was affected by the Coronavirus and passed away. She has a great community that loves her. And the money she raised, even though it’s just $45,000. And I was thinking about that. I mean, for starters, I raised more money and in a way, that’s kind of ridiculous. $45,000 can help with the transgender health care within the entire community in Jackson Heights. Help them with needles for hormone injection, help them with the bail fund if they get arrested by police unfairly. It can go a long way.
And every year for Pride Parade, we waste money on, like, superficial things. Like, hundreds of thousands of dollars on, like, parade floats. Just to put a giant T Mobile logo, like, for what reason? When we can spend a lot more to really actually directly impact and help communities.
And that’s what I want our leaders, people who have power in power really think about how to use the power and spend them in ways that will have direct and crucial impact on transgender and gender nonconforming communities. So that’s what’s in mind right now.
>> Madelena, thank you for sharing such a candid and personal story. I think this work doesn’t happen without all of us having dialog about the stories of the folks we’ve gained and folks that we lose. Thank you for offering that as a place to start.
>> Thank you, Madelena. OK. I need to follow that. Thank you. What’s on my mind? I’ve been learning a lot. So, and I realize that’s, I thought because I was an immigrant, I grew up in France, moved here eight, nine years ago, that my lack of education around Black history was coming from my way I was raised in France and also with a very racist culture. So when I moved here, and I thought I didn’t know all of the Black history because that was my fault of being an immigrant and I have to take some to learn. I’m doing that with so much pleasure. Now having the facts, not just how history was whitewashed.
And I took with my friends here, some of the, some of my white friends, oh, I didn’t know that in school, either. This is when I realized, me, I was thinking I didn’t know enough because I was not in high school in the US. And I realize what is in books in high school in any type of school is actually not even the truth. So everything from even, like, everything, from how Europeans when they arrived in the US, they flew from Europe and they were oppressed. And so they came here and their way of dealing with it was to oppress more people.
And even from that moment, everything is who can I oppress to feel a better kind of thing? And how, I’m learning so much. I’m learning how race has been decided very arbitrarily and from the get go, there were five races and Black was definitely described as less than. So I’m learning all of that. And that’s what I’m doing on my time. And it’s, for more me, such a critical thing to do as a white person.
And I started to think about what I can do actively, what is my own way of protesting. So I have immunodeficient health. I’m unable to go into the protests on the streets. I cannot be using my body to be facing cops, instead, what can I do? What I’m thinking now is more clarity is really my goal here is really to hold conversations with white folks. We did not start their own detox from white supremacy. I see it as we need a detox. And the same way you would need 12 steps to get out of any type of addiction and coming to meetings, it’s the same thing.
And when I talk with white folks around me, there’s a lot of discomfort. And if you have a lot of privilege, white being one of them, being uncomfortable is very, very triggering and very difficult. Because we never had to be uncomfortable. As trans white person, I had to go through, like, against the flow by coming out. I came out at 36. I had to live, I was born a girl, raised a girl, I lived for 36 years. And it took me to be at the end of the end and push myself to try to survive and try one more thing. I realized, oh, I am, actually, I’m feeling more like a masculine person and nonbinary, but I need that energy to get out and I finally came out at 36. And I lost so many people, so many things because I was against the grain
I know what it is to be uncomfortable. And actually, I’m healing and everything, I love being uncomfortable because I know what’s on the other side is growth and more community, more collectiveness. But as a practice, like, for a lot of people who are waking up now, which is great. I love that I see so many white folks at the protest. This is great. This is also normally what people are facing with the discomfort. They ask them how to change.
So I want to be that person of, like, helping white folks to learn how to be uncomfortable. I don’t want to talk with Black folks and telling them what to do. I’m not trying to build new programs and new ways of, like, defunding the police. There are decades of people doing it, they know what they’re doing. I want to focus on where I can find a spot where I use my own purpose. And I’m actually helping white folks to be anti racists, also. And I’m so proud of seeing all the communities.
I trust black people. And I think that’s something a lot of people don’t. Like, if an organization, like, Movement for Black people, Black Lives Matter, they know what they’re doing. And I trust them 100%. And I think the problem I can see in the tech industry, like, I work in the tech industry for 15 years. I still feel, I still see people don’t trust. In one of the projects I was working on recently, cannot agree on hiring more black women engineers, but the email is sent to let the team know, but let’s make sure we don’t lower the bar. And this for me is disgusting. We’re still there. We’re still there with that concept that has been created for 500 years ago that the white race is better than any type of other race. And that’s just something I want to really challenge and debunk. And I see that as. And just to finish my own, kind of, rant.
What I got from the other, I get some strength and get out of the paralyzing moment, what can I do? Like when I read the book Hailing Resistance. And he explained a lot of communities are working towards reconciliation, reparation and discrimination. And he explained those communities are, like, working around 250 years roadmap.
So this is terrifying, 250 years. But at the same time, it’s so hurtful. Again, like, OK, what do I have maximum? 50 more years to live? I’m 39, so maybe. Like, what can I do to move that needle as far as I can? What can I do for other generations to continue? I have a kid who is 5, almost 6, and the power I’m giving him is going to continue. Either he doesn’t have to wait 36 or 39 years to be aware of what racism is. He’s aware of people on the streets, why people are fighting for black lives and why Black Lives Matter sign. I just tell him, hey, that’s why people are out there. There are some cops who are killing black folks and that’s why people are angry. What do you think? And he’s like, oh, that’s terrible. They shouldn’t do that.
So this sign was already, like, there’s a problem. What if we don’t have the people to other people? He knows more than I do 5 years ago. And that means those 250 years, that’s doable. Like, we have to do what we can while we are still here.
>> Thank you. So Max, and thank you for sharing your path to Alliship. . Let’s talk about what is needed from people now. How can people be better allies for transgender and nonconforming people? I know you have ideas and thoughts here. If you wouldn’t mind sharing yours, that would be fantastic.
>> Well, I’ll first say that all of my approach to social justice is informed by black and trans theorists, organizers, writers and activists going back to the beginning of this uncan. So whether you’re talking about Harriet Tubman or more current for me Belle Hooks, theory is practice. I really invite all of us. I invite in my work, and including now to say, like, I’m not going to give answers, I’m going to give the questions that I have found and the resources I have found to give me some clarity.
So part of it is just this understanding of community. And at work, it’s really hard to see it as community. But in community, it’s easier to show up as your full self to be empathetic, to think about power and privilege and positionality. One of the things worthy asking of the question, if the only thing that matters to us as a country right now is healing the wound of white supremacy on our culture and psyche, what’s the first step? And the first step I have found is, like, what conversation are we trying to have?
We’re trying to have a conversation about how we can make sure that people who look like me, people who have a shared experience of this kind of violence can heal. So, I think it’s about moving on beyond empathy to gentleness, also. I ask the question of myself of, like, how do I when I’m facilitating a team meeting or a client meeting, I ask questions, like, who is going to be making decisions about how we come together? How are we deciding this agenda together for the topic of the conversation in the metaway and literal way?
How are we going to share resources? How will we learn together? And how will we address harm? And how will we understand harm? So those questions, I’ve been framing with our consulting clients, and it’s the same questions I ask myself. It allows us to enter a dialog from the place of, like, consent. And I feel like a lot of what has been experienced by Black folks at work is trauma, which is pain without consent. And it’s the pain of respectability, of microaggressions.
I was talking to a friend about how her boss was like, oh, microaggressions are a thing that millennials made up because they’re so delicate. And I think it’s partly that the liberal understanding of violence is very physical, very material, which is also a type of supremacist thinking. That the physical real is all that is. Where, for me, I have felt the most realness in my spirit or my inner self and the violence that I’ve experienced as a black person, as a trans person. As someone who is, you know, has struggled with depression. I think about violence a lot. If this moment is about how do we move forward with less violence on black people, as defined by black people, it starts with asking that question: How are you defining violence and your experience? And it may not be that the police are hitting you, it may be that they’re not killing your friend, it may be the white woman in your office is asserting power, like Amy Cooper did during the standoff in Central Park. It is the weaponization of whiteness that is violence. And so, how does that show up at work is something that, maybe that’s the certain question, is like, how are we weaponizing our whiteness? And you know that by understanding the pain of black people.
>> I mean, it still amazes me in a lot of ways that the media, I don’t want to say general media, but even for liberal media, they don’t hesitate on, like, just like overriding or defining what they think violence is. It’s amazing how quickly, like, they jump to the destruction of property and all of this stuff as violence while simultaneous we have police brutality and also years and decades of systematic racism that is going on.
That is not just equally violence, but a lot more way more violence just like destruction of property. So, yeah?
>> I agree with you, Madelena, but there’s a lot of data, acts of enthusiastic habit. And I feel like that the data is that we have visible data that the cops are killing black people. We know that now. No question. Everyone knows. The jig is up. And we know because of Amy Cooper’s action in the park. The white people can be weaponizing their violence at work. Years of lack of ownership of anything, housing, teams, businesses, political office. Like, if you look at all of those data points for 400 years, black people have been saying, this does not work for me. And it is only when we are physically killed or brutalized, especially black trans folks, our lives matters. I would like my life to matter not at death, but at the first part of it. When I’m still alive.
And so, if we’re going to look at that. How will people communicate if their life is OK? Can I take care of myself? Can I have the $45,000 I need for my care? So it’s like, we have to really reapproach this. The information of, like, black people are in pain is already there. The data on trans people in pain is there. Are you empathetic enough to listen and brave enough to, then, act? And that feels like the opportunity right now.
>> Yeah. And listening is the first step, acting is a much bigger step. And the sharing of power, as well. I think a lot of people like to say, ‘I don’t have any power to do it, I’m not in charge of this.’ Like, I’m just following the rules, what else can I do?
But I think, like, something that really, like, especially when we start examining, like, the nature, we realize it’s not just the police that are performing the violence but also the people who are complicit with the violence. They are also equally responsible for, like, the situation and the conditions that underprivileged folks and black people are in. So, something that I think people need to really, I think as an ally, they need to really take a deep look, right. And understand what power they really actually have.
The irony, really, is that for cases like we just talked about Amy Cooper. She knows, like, deep down she knows what power she has. She knows that, like, a white person on the upper west side, she can call the police and have the power to influence what she sees. That’s it, right? But she might not realize in the situation where if she were on a decision table where if she were asked, like what can you do to help with the black community? What can you do to help with the transgender and gender nonconformity. I don’t know. I could donate money or whatever.
People know what the power is, but they don’t actually act on it. One great example was that happened during the protests was MTA workers who were asked by NYPD to transport people who got arrested to jail. And the bus driver knows what the power is. The bus driver knows the power is to drive a bus, a license to drive a bus and carry people from one place to another. And so, they put their foot down and refused to drive the people that got arrested to jail. And that’s how they reassert their power.
And there’s a lot of creative ways, like, if we really look deep inside us of what the power is. There’s actually a lot of different ways to help our communities rather than just the usual ways that you are being preached about. Like, you know, we all know using the right gender pronoun, things like that. But there’s a lot more you can do as a person with power to help people.
>> Yeah, I would like to share a few thoughts, if you don’t mind, Sloan.
>> In that Amy Cooper, what I realized by being the white person. I can’t imagine myself being in the situation, by the way, I’ve been raised and how black bodies have been, like, treated as like a threat. And what I see is, like, in that situation in the white perspective of, like, this person reacted so aggressive way by calling the cops.
Just because someone asked her to follow the rules by putting her dog on the leash. That’s the only thing she felt attacked by just following the rules. And as we asked by a black person, a black man. And I think this is where for her, I’m pretty sure it felt unacceptable that she was reminded of following the rules and I think there’s a lot of white fragility here. The need of being humble, like, my bad, I made a mistake.
But for someone who has been raised as the top of the chain, this is a lot of work to do. And this is, for me, what the white people, we have to work on. Like, be OK when you make a mistake. And this is something I practice and I see a lot by misgendering for trans people. The thing of when someone uses the wrong pronoun for me. That’s the reaction is, like, either dismissive or going to so many apologies that I am feeling now very uncomfortable. Sorry, sorry, I don’t mean to, blah blah blah. And learning to be OK with discomfort of having made a mistake or, like, oh, my bad, they.
And that’s how, that person is able to do that, that means they worked on themselves. They worked on their own fear of failure. Their fear of not being seen as a good person. And I think it’s a lot of self work and healing and it’s nothing to do with the workplace. It’s like, individual work and I think the workplace can warm them to that. Someone didn’t meet a deadline, someone is working from home, and they cannot be on the call or like very, very sad and not OK that day. And being OK with being human and being OK with making mistakes and learning from mistakes. And a way of leading a team with that. Like, we don’t point people for the mistake, turn it into a learning moment. Oh, we learned that we should meet up one hour before a call with the client so everyone knows what they have to say instead of, like, well, you said something that was stupid.
I think this is all about learning to make mistakes as a way to grow. And I don’t think it’s part of, like, how we’ve been raised. We’re exceptional, we’re the best. So how could someone ask me to put the leash on my dog? And this person is black, I have to protect myself. And it’s a lot about the illusion of power. And what I wanted to add was Madelena, you were saying about everyone has power. Everyone has power. And especially white people. The way I’ve seen it, I can’t talk for all industries, but as a designer, I think we went through what I could, past tense, 10, 15 years slippery slope of saying yes to everything as a designer and saying yes to build products that are harmful for a certain type of people.
And what I’m really building for the past two years was this fire inside of me and designers should, especially white citizens of the US, have less and less things at risk. Those designers should learn to say no. No because it’s going to harm this community, in a nice way, how can we make it better? But to say no, and why, and why, again, and why, again. And going into, oh, you don’t know what the community needs. Why don’t we do a codesign with the community? Know what they need so we can actually help them build it? Instead of, we know what they need. Let us build it and give them to them and they’re going to be very happy.
This is a really super messy way of building products, like, we know best, they don’t know what they need. We can tell them because we’re the white saviors. And I think there’s a way, now, I can feel it in the design field that’s burning a bit more. And me, like for the past year, I had multiple projects because I’m speaking up. And of course, people in leadership are like, we’re going to continue to make money to please our investors. So that’s the way of codesigning communities, we’ll go away from that. It’s like building for the community will make a better product.
And the investors, maybe not the right investors. Why would you have people invest the money and capitalism success where you could, like, get more of, like, the actual care for the community.
>> Yeah. Sorry, I’m going to jump in because we don’t have a lot of time left, already. I think we could talk a long time on the subject. I just, I want to get to one more question here. And maybe you’re already going there. I know Sloan and Madelena, you’re both, like, you have things you want to say here.
Jessica asked a question. And it’s similar to a question I have, which is, just how in the workplace. So there’s a huge gap between the murder of black people and the murder of black transgender people. And unconscious bias training, which is what I’m seeing as a company, a lot of companies are going from here and saying, well, we need to train our people around biases. And there’s a huge gap in there that I think is important that not enough companies are addressing.
So what can companies do? And maybe each of you can just say one thing here because we don’t have a lot of time around structural changes internally and creating psychological safety for trans and gender nonconforming people.
>> I have a short one before you want to jump in. My short one is just, hire trans people.
>> Pay us. Pay, hire transgender people, hire black transgender people, hire them to be the CEO, the COO, get them on your board. If you don’t have the power to do that, for some reason, then, perhaps, you can invite one of us on this call to come do a panel someplace and pay us for that. If the value, if the emotional education is important, pay for it.
>> And, like when it comes to hiring, I find a lot of these hiring processes to be very much chicken and egg. They’re looking for, well, we need more representation here. We need more black people, we need to have more transgender and gender nonconforming people in leadership. I just looked it up a few days ago, even for liberal organizations, such as “New York Times”, 0% of the leadership is gender nonconforming folks.
So, and it’s a shame, in a way. They’re looking for, like, well, we need to have someone with this, this, and this leadership abilities. But yet, you know, how you’re going to find these people. You’re not willing to take them into the fold and get them the training you need. They already are, like a lot of us already are being discriminated in the workplace, we’re not as promoted as often because they don’t trust our abilities. People who transitioned earlier, they might get dropped out of college because of, like, domestic violence or discrimination or harassment.
We have already tried to run this race. Catch up. If the companies use the exact same standards as a white cis male, they’ll hire a black transgender people, there’s no way you’ll find a suitable candidate for that purpose. And I find that pretty much ridiculous. And I think something Max and I talked about earlier, it’s not about, like, the skill set that you’re looking for.
You’re looking at their humanity and experiences when they hire them. And I think Max, you could add to that, that would be great.
>> Yeah. I think that’s like if you are in a position of hiring people, I think, like, it’s a very, very important position. And I think this is more of a problem than we think. There are ways to write the job listings in a way that’s going to be less gendered and welcome more values. Like, you want to have, to bring values to the company.
>> Which used to be culture fit. This is the opposite. You want to have values that perspectives allow you to experience that are not part of the company yet. If you’re in a huge company, this is even harder because then you have to connect so many people.
This is for me where the protests and the COVID19 gave me. Like, we all have the corporate, and as much as we can in the company you’re in now, if you’re met over and over again by walls, maybe it’s time to make a move into where can I actually express my full power in a different company? And I don’t want people to take all of the risk and just quit. But that’s a good thinking, slow process of thinking, where can I be more valued myself as a person hiring? I believe in more trans people, but it’s not something I manage to make happen in the big company that was built for decades. And I think people in small companies and still building a team, the first hires should be people who are underserved people.
It should be part of the first, one of the first people in leadership should be part of the underserved community. That’s going to make the work so much easier moving on to build, like, an actual actively diverse team and then, the product’s going to be so much better. And it’s hard to change from, like, a big company. I want people to try and educate and read stuff and find tactics.
There’s a different, even more problem for a small company, we can bring the change from the beginning.
>> OK. We are nearing the end of our time here. Can we just quickly go around the room and in just a minute or so, tell people how they can learn more about you and your work. And any one last thought you have to, you wanted to make sure it was contributed to the conversation?
>> You can find me at therealSloanLeo on Instagram or SloanLeo.com. And I would say in this unprecedented time, how are you taking unprecedented actions?
>> Love that.
>> So, yeah, you can find my design work and a lot of case studies and product design I’ve done and my website, which is my name MadelenaMak.com. That’s always available for user experience design case, as well, if you need any help with that.
My last take for this is, I think allies need to be aware that they’re here to help make spaces, not to take spaces. That can be something as simple as your Facebook feed, right? Make spaces for people that need to speak right now. Instead of posting how great you are about attending the Black Lives Matter protest. Why not repost a great speech from a black speaker from the Black Lives Matter protest, instead. It’s about making space, not taking space. You all have the power to do that.
And that’s, like, this quote that goes around social media for the past few years now, it’s about diversity is being invited to the party and inclusion is being asked to dance. And actually, I’d argue that inclusion is a lot more. We need to go beyond the next level of inclusion. Not just being asked to dance, but also giving and sharing your power. To have the underrepresented folks, you know, to become one of the party organizers. That’s what being an ally is. It’s being able to let go and being able to see that you have a lot of power to make changes and you have the power to share your power so that other people can help make changes.
>> I love that. That’s something that when Sloan, I invited them, my goal here, I wanted to make room for more voices for Sloan who is already doing a fantastic job. And, I think this is all about our own discomfort of giving up space. And for me, I can share how grateful and I feel like, in my body, my sensation to have Sloan accepting and being there, I feel so much bigger and healed and I feel supported myself because I have this strong person with Sloan and strong person with Madelena. We are together in this. And I would, like, myself on that panel, I would not have said as amazing things. And that’s the part of being collectiveness.
And people can find me on LinkedIn, Max Masure. And if we don’t have time for further questions, find me on LinkedIn, I’m always happy to add people to the team, have a quick Zoom call. Actually, that’s the only one I use now. So I have more to say. Find me on LinkedIn, MaxMasure.com. I’m happy to talk to people who have difficulties in that moment of discomfort and how they can find their own inner power.
Yeah. And to finish with that dance party analogy, I think now it’s time to have underserved people, trans black, POC, indigenous people, older folks to host a party and just ask white folks, cis people could also come to the party but that’s not their party and be OK with that. The work that has to be done.
>> Thanks for being a good example of allyship by hosting a party and bringing us all to it. We’ll dance our way through the revolution.
>> Yes. I love it. I love it. Thank you, three, so much. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
>> Bye, everyone.
>> Yeah. And just to close on we just scratched the surface here. And there’s so much more to learn. And also, don’t let learning be a barrier to action. Because really, this is about learning and then taking action. So keep the conversations going, keep the learning going, and also, be brave and take new action. Thanks everybody for joining us today. Join us each week for Meeting with Empathy and Allyship. Sign up like this or catch the podcast or video afterwards, and you can stay in the loop by going to ChangeCatalyst.co and signing up for the newsletter. And subscribe to the podcast and YouTube channel. And we’ll see you next time. Thanks, everybody. Bye.
>> Thank you, everyone.
>> 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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