Tech Leader Chats: How to foster belonging and inclusion with Ellen Pao

Title of talk with photo of speaker

We know that fostering belonging and inclusion at work is not only good for people, it’s good for team outcomes (as one example: when people feel a strong sense of belonging, job performance can improve by up to 56%).

But doing so is easier said than done. How do managers and leaders build belonging and inclusion into how their teams work? And how can they advocate for it even in tough times like right now – where some point to the market contraction as a reason to focus on output rather than culture and people?

With a topic this big, we wanted to bring in a global expert – so we’re thrilled to share that Ellen Pao will be leading this session! Ellen has spent her career working on these issues, including co-founding Project Include, a non-profit that uses data and advocacy to accelerate diversity and inclusion solutions in the tech industry.

Ellen will speak to topics including:

  • The approach she takes to building more diverse and inclusive tech companies
  • In her work advising companies, what approaches she’s seen be most effective at inspiring change
  • Resources available at Project Include to support you on your journey

We’ll have plenty of time for Q&A with Ellen too – you’re welcome to send us your questions in advance or bring them on the day of the event.

About the speaker
Ellen Pao
is an activist and co-founder and CEO of the award-winning diversity and inclusion nonprofit Project Include. A long-time entrepreneur and investor, she is the former Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at the Kapor Center and a former venture capitalist for Kleiner Perkins and Kapor Capital. With over two decades in the tech industry, Pao is a frequent advisor and keynote speaker with practical and effective solutions to promote diversity and inclusion.

How to foster belonging and inclusion

See below for:

  • Key takeaways from the talk
  • The recording
  • Resources noted in the talk
  • A transcript of the talk
Key takeaways
3-part strategy to foster belonging and inclusion
Think long term - start today!

Do the work - it's not that hard!

Make space for others

Recording and slides

See below for the full recording



Lauren Peate  0:00  
You have questions along the way. Thanks, James. If you have questions, stick them in the chat. We'll aggregate those. And we'll ask them at the end. James will be helping watch the chat. So he's our head of operations here at multitudes. And that, I think, is it in terms of admin. So let me go ahead and there's not any questions, I will dive in and introduce Ellen. And I want to start actually, by kind of sharing how I first heard about Ellen. So it was back in 2012, when Ellen in many ways started the conversation about toxic culture in Silicon Valley, with a really landmark lawsuit that she brought against a venture capital firm. And I thought that was kind of the first I heard and was very curious about what would happen very impressed that someone was was being brave enough to speak truth to power in that way. And then I read her book a few years later, and it was really pivotal in a career choice that I was making, and actually influenced me to take the leap and go deeper into making dei diversity, equity inclusion, a bigger part of my own work. And then fast forward. And Ellen, I've had the chance now to meet her she's invested multitudes. And so I'm feel so fortunate to get to counter not just as a role model, which has been for so long now, but also a mentor. And something that I really admire about Ellen, in addition to our ability to speak truth to power is that she still is so kind and supportive. But she's got a backbone, you know, and she hasn't let the the hard conversations that she's gotten into or the hard things she's faced, she hasn't let that take away kind of, you know, her her kindness and the warmth of who she is as a person. So anyway, just I'm so excited for this talk. So grateful to have you as a mentor, Ellen. And just to round out the intro, I should also mention Ellen's, very storied career. So she's the former chief diversity and inclusion officer at the Kapor Centre, former venture capitalists for Kleiner Perkins and Kapor Capital. And she has now decades of experience in tech and as a frequent adviser and keynote speaker and investor about practical tips to promote diversity and inclusion. So I'll stop there and hand it over to you.

Ellen Pao  2:16  
Thank you so much, Lauren. I'm like such a happy investor in you and your company. It's like, it's just always so pleasant and enjoyable to hear what you're doing, I think your work is really important. And I'm so glad to be a part of it. I think, you know, one of the reasons why it's so important is the tech industry really needs a reset. And I think we all know, we have a problem. companies aren't hiring, retaining or promoting people from historically underrepresented groups in tech. But it's also this is also a problem in academia in all areas of business. We know there's a lot of bias based on gender on race or ethnicity on LGBTQ identity on based on ableism, ageism, xenophobia, you know, and more. And there are a lot of even greater obstacles faced by people who hold two or more of these identities. So what we're doing now, I feel like, you know, what my lawsuit was over a decade ago, you know, project includes started eight years ago, it's a lot of it is just, it's, it's, it's making a little bit of progress, but then you have to step back. So a lot of it is just keeping focused. And, and a big part of it is really thinking of it as a reset. Like, you know, it's not these incremental changes, but it's really changing the way you think about things and how you build a culture and build a company and how you manage people. I think we are in a state right now, where we're having some backsliding, I think there are basically three groups of three types of leaders and people. One are the people who are really interested in change and doing their best to get the change in the world that they want to see that fosters inclusion, justice, equity, and belonging. There's a set of people who want to do that, but don't know how are they might be afraid, or they might be, you know, just not not as educated on some of these issues to understand what they're doing wrong, but they're kind of in the area where they're influenceable. And if you give them enough information, they'll start doing more of the right thing. And then there's a group that's just going to not going to come in to this area of change without a big fight. So, you know, what I've seen recently is like this middle group is really growing. And some of them have moved into a group where they're actually more active and they have learned that you're reading books or talking to people, they're listening and trying to change. And I think that's great. I think the big companies have kind of retrenched a little bit. I think, you know, looking for an excuse. And in seeing the change in administration in 2016, we had a lot more backsliding. And I think if you look at the companies, the diversity reports are becoming scarcer, there's less transparency, the, the, it's less granular, I think the numbers are going down. I, you know, so what we really need, you know, I think part of it is regulation, I think there's some interesting regulation in California, that is going to require venture capital firms to share the diversity demographics of their founders. And that I think, is going to call attention to the fact that very few founders are not white men, and that's going to hopefully, cause people in these first two groups to really change and push for change. I think each and every one of us can accelerate change, and, and that's what's going to be required. It's everybody working together to push for change, I think, um, you know, I run a nonprofit now called Project include, and we advocate for change, we use data and people's experiences, we tell people stories, and we try to frame it in a set of recommendations, like we know people are, are interested in changing, and here are some of the things you can do. And as part of that, we really try to ground everything and three core values. And for some of you, you'll be familiar or already use these values, but just to kind of help people understand how we work, we really focus on these three core values. And one is that inclusion means everyone, I think it's intersectional. A lot of people don't think about it that way. It's, that means like, you have to think about different groups, and people who belong to more than one group are often affected the most negatively. So how do you change so that the people who are harmed the most are actually impacted by the changes that you're making? There's a shift from, you know, when when we started project included in 2015, people were very much focused on women. And it was mostly white woman who benefited from the change. And if you think about that form of inclusion, it was really exclusion, but with one or two tokenize women as part of it, so everything was still very exclusionary, but they let open the door in a few of these exclusive groups to a few more people, but the cultures were still exclusionary, it wasn't really a change towards inclusion. The second part is, you know, it has to be comprehensive. So it's not just including one or two people on a committee, it's really thinking about, you know, how do you hire, what pulls the people? Are you looking at? Who's doing the hiring? Who's meeting with people who are doing the hiring? How are you promoting people? How are you paying people? How are you giving out raises? How are you thinking about every event that you do every Zoom meeting, everything that you're doing should be inclusive, and that isn't actually a lot of work once you get it going? Right? So you think about some of the things that you want to do like, for this meeting, there's a code of conduct, there's a request for pronouns, if you're interested in, you know, inviting you to use your pronouns, but not requiring so this, these small things are signals of, of inclusion, like we're interested in, in people who, too, we're interested in people feeling safe. And we want to make that send that message out. And hopefully that safe with that safety comes better conversations and better feedback for what are some of the things that we could be doing to make this environment and community even more safe and, and more and get more feedback and continuously continued to improve? I think one of the parts of being comprehensive is to treat inclusion as a priority to make sure that you're actually resourcing it that you have staff people on it, that you have the funding for it instead of, you know, saying, Okay, we want to be inclusive, but, you know, try to do this on your spare time, or, you know, can't you get those services for free from somebody, right? Like, it should be a core part of the business and should be treated as a core part of a business. And that leads to the third value metrics, right? In every area of business for most companies, there's a measurement, right? We have a goal to do, to to achieve, and we're going to measure it and track our progress towards that goal. And if we're not making progress, then we need to consider you know, changing what we're doing or if we are making progress, maybe we want to do more of what we're doing. So it's, you know, giving you some accountability towards reaching those goals and towards figuring out you know, allowing you to experiment, find out what works and what doesn't don't work because you have a way of tracking those experiments and then learning from them. So those are the pieces where I think if that forms the core of your thinking within your company, you're going to have a much better culture, you're going to have a much better workforce. And you're going to have, you know, everything that comes with that, which is better decision making better financial results, better workplace satisfaction. And, and that seems like pretty simple. But in almost a decade of activism, this change has been really slow. And it's hard to change people's mindsets and attitudes, I think we've had a lot of data out there that is starting to get more people to change. But it takes people continually doing the work to remind folks and to bring up ideas in even if the ideas aren't accepted, at first to continue to encourage those ideas or to find a way to, you know, experiment with a smaller, you know, maybe a smaller group or a smaller set of ideas until you can get the change that you need to keep moving forward.

I think there are three ways of doing this, that we're really thinking about, in how to approach this problem. And one is really focusing on the long term, I think it's easy to say, Oh, well, I don't need to make sure that this new hire is from, you know, from a different group, because I'll do that with the next hire. And then you just end up in this bad situation where you're thinking about the short term, oh, I have a candidate now. But I don't haven't looked around, but I just need to fill this gap. But if you start thinking about well, we worked with one CTO who's like, I've got six white men in engineering. And I know, I have seven that I could hire, but I haven't really looked. And I know, if I hire seven, then it'll be that much harder to bring in somebody different for the eighth roll. So he made an effort, he found a better candidate who wasn't a white man. And he said, it was like a flywheel effect. Like once you had somebody who wasn't in that group, and other people felt more safe, they felt comfortable, they felt like they were wanted, and that they would have a good experience. And that kind of started shifting the culture from being more of like a drinking party, ping pong table culture, to something that was more friendly, and more open to people who didn't play ping pong, who weren't drinking, you know, he was, he said, One day, he just looked at the website. And he was like, we have like pictures of a ping pong table, we have pictures of things that were very, you know, like tech bro. And once he started thinking about how other people would perceive it, and he started changing it to be more reflective of more of the things that were happening, he said it was a much it was it ended up being very easy. And then hiring became so much easier. And that became a place where he felt really comfortable going, like, there were times before where he was like, you know, it didn't feel that comfortable to him either. And he would go in and it boots like reluctant to go into work. And once he made these changes and made it more inclusive, and more open to people who wanted behave in different ways, he felt more comfortable going to the office. And that was really interesting to me, where, you know, he had started a company with all of his friends, but it wasn't even that comfortable for him. Um, I think that's, you know, I think, you know, like another example of how people deal with the short term is how people deal with harassment. I think a lot of companies want to kind of blame the messengers. So when something happens, they push out the person who filed the complaint, and they consider that to be a good outcome, because now the problem has disappeared. But if you really think about how these problems happen, it's not one at a time. They're usually, you know, problematic people or problematic culture. And it's not this. It's not the one incident that got reported. It's it's not the only incident most likely. I've never heard of a case where there's only a company where it only happens once. We had these problems at Reddit. And we, you know, we had to make major changes we had. We're doing a lot of changes to culture to change the way we operated. And one of the big things that we learned was that there was a lot of verbal harassment around inappropriate conversations that made people uncomfortable of inappropriate language, inappropriate discussions, and some unprofessional and drunken behaviour. And we needed to completely reset that culture. So we had a lot of comfortable and uncomfortable discussions. We talked about what change looks like we talked about Um, you know, it was me going top down. But it was also bottom up, we had a committee of employees come together to talk about, like, what the culture should be and what our core values should be. And none of them was it, we should be able to say whatever we want, and to solve for co workers, and none of it was we should be able to drink as much as we want, whenever we want those, you know, those are not like core values for any company, really, or at least they shouldn't be. And that was a committee that was did not include me, I said, this is something for the team to decide and the team to work on. And they came up with, I think it was seven or eight different values, not exactly what I would have done. But this was something that they believed strongly in and that I wanted to let them own. And we shared them publicly, we had an off site where we brought in respected leaders from industry, we had different Lunch and Learns where we had CEOs of different companies that they viewed as being very successful and admirable come in to talk about what you know about change and about inclusion, why it was important, kind of being the strong again, and again, and again. And at the end of the offset, we encourage people we talked about, like why inclusive cultures are important. And then we encourage people to talk to HR if they had experienced problems, and a lot of people came forward, and they shared the problems that they had experienced. And, you know, we, we, and they said, who had done it to them so that we could go back to these employees who had had the inappropriate behaviour and have a conversation with them and tell them, you know, why it doesn't fit in with our culture, or why what they did was wrong, and then also let them know that it wasn't acceptable. And that, you know, while it was part of the earlier culture, we were shifting culture, and so we're not going to punish them or fire them for what was kind of ramped up before we would in the future. And part of that is, you know, it's great. But we also did the follow up, right? So it's not just one and done, we went back, and we talked to the all employees, like was this problem solved six months later, or was it still happening? Excuse me, for the most part, it was solved. According to the employees, there was one employee who was a problem, he could not stop using inappropriate language, and we ended up having him leave. So it was something that were holding people accountable, we were making sure that people were understood the rules, and we set these boundaries. And if you insisted on crossing the boundary, we took we, we, we, it wasn't the right place for you, and we took care of it. So I think, you know, so in that sense, you know, thinking about that long term, you know, that set us up for success, where we didn't have to deal with these problems coming up again, and again, and again, where we were able to hire from a much broader pool of candidates, and people were willing to come and work for a place that was, you know, at the time, continues to be like a highly misogynistic site and problematic, but we were able to get people who really believe that we could build better communities, we could have a better culture at the company, and we can have a better culture on the site. I think the second way to address the problem is to kind of do that work to do those, you know, some of the it's, it feels very hard, like these hard conversations feel very hard, but it's not, you know, doesn't require a tonne of resources, it doesn't require a tonne of time, it doesn't require it's actually not that hard. And there's a huge return if you actually go through with that process with carefully and thoughtfully. So, you know, do the work, don't avoid, you know, a lot of people ask, you know, if I can do want only one thing, what should it be? There is no one thing, right? The whole thing is like, you need to reset everything and everyone, I think the big part is like bringing in a more empathetic approach, you know, giving people setting expectations of behaviour and of interactions. And, and that and that your value, what you're letting people know that you value inclusion, and that and that you expect others to behave that way. And that I think a lot of people just don't know what to do. They don't know what acceptable behaviour is because they've been surrounded by a different culture, they've been surrounded by a different way of doing things. And when you need to change things, you need to be very specific about what's allowed and what's not allowed and try to kind of guide people in the right direction because they just don't know maybe some of them do. No, and they, you know, try to take advantage of the grey areas. But for the most part, I think once you set the boundary and people know that you're serious about it, they'll follow the boundaries or you know, or they're quiet But it's like you, they want to know what the boundaries are. So they can live by them. And most people are rule followers and they want to do well at their job, they want to be promoted, they want to keep their job, they want to get paid. And they'll follow the rules if they if they know them. I think I'm understanding that is helpful, I think, you know, we did some research a couple of years ago at project include, to look at what happened during COVID. And when we found like 97% of people ended up working remotely. And we wanted to understand the impact of remote work on the workforce. And what we found was that,

contrary to kind of the opinion at the time, which was, it'd be harder to harass people, it'd be harder to have these problems, there's actually more than, you know, people, you people will find a way around one off solutions, right, you think that it's solved, then you don't pay attention to it, and it's actually going to get worse. And what we found was that some people thought changing the tools for online work would improve the solution. So we're not no longer meeting a person, you're meeting on Zoom, you're doing work on Google Docs, or over slack, we found that people would find a way to be harassing or hostile to their co workers, they, you know, not being in an office gave them you know, made them feel empowered to start, you know, to have screaming, like hostile conversations with their co workers, over video over the phone, you know, and at all times of day night. So, you know, the tools better reporting tools won't fix it, people don't report problems being physically separated and stop the harassment, you know, more, one in four people experienced an increase in gender based harassment, and one in 10 people experiencing an increase in race based harassment. So you really need to think about how are you building teams? How are you building the connections between the team members, we interviewed psychiatrists at Stanford, who looks at the workforce and, and, and the brain. And one of the things that she said that, like, I remember and think about a lot is that during COVID, like the brain was overloaded, right, so these zoom meetings can be extremely draining. And one of the things that your brain really needs is time to recover and tools for recovery. One of the things that really stuck with me is she said that, like, when you have connections with people, that's actually a very healing process for your brain. And what we learned from COVID is that during during the Zoom meetings, often you get on and then you get off and you go to another meeting, or you lose kind of that soft before meeting and after meeting time. And there was a another manager that we interviewed who said, like, you know, she tries to set up times for casual interactions, where it's like, kind of watercooler time where you can have those conversations, because you've lost this, you know, like going into the meeting, kind of asking people how their weekends were or walking out from the meeting, saying, hey, I really thought you had a really good point there. Or I really liked that slide where you put that chart of, you know, our results over time, like that made me think of things in the new way. But you don't get any of that feedback. And it's really hard for people to build that kind of connection when you know, it's one, you're one in 10 on a screen versus, you know, you have that one on one interaction. So, you know, trying to find ways to build those connections among the teams in ways that aren't forced, right, making, making sure you do time for your one on ones, if you're a manager, like just because a person is doing well at their work doesn't mean that they're not creating some of the connection that is actually healing for them. And then the third part of you know how to deal with this problem is thinking about ways that you can have a direct impact maybe through giving up some of your opportunities. So sharing opportunities or stepping back from opportunities that, you know, might be very, you know, appealing to you, but thinking about how many opportunities you have and how maybe other people can benefit from those opportunities as well. One of the things that I try very hard to do is to like, you know, share any kind of press that opportunities that I have I you know, I've tried to give other people an opportunity to share their perspectives or People who have like deeper perspectives and different experiences than I do. And so giving the reporter a list of names of other people who would be, you know, more qualified, and more helpful for their, for their work or being on a panel about making sure that it's a panel that has a lot of diversity on it. And sometimes that means stepping back from the panel, allowing other people to participate. I think it's really, I think it's really important to think about, like the weight, the things that you can do, and stepping back, it feels so uncomfortable, because we don't, we don't have a culture where we do that, but it's actually quite easy, right? Like, it's, you know, not doing that is, is actually you're not doing something, it should be easier than actually doing that thing. So those are, like, the three ways, I think, think long term, make sure you're, you know, doing the work, and then make sure that you're thinking about opportunities that you can give to other people. You know, I think it's hard to start thinking in this other way, but I think it's necessary because people are starting to change the workplace through collective action. And that's been the most powerful lever for change in the last five, maybe even 10 years. And the challenge is to come to companies, from workers, organising individuals suing or speaking up, and media coverage, right. So you know, there are going to be more protests that are going to be more walkouts, to call out harm, and to push for solutions. That are, you know, now there's the push for regulation of the tech industry, I think more people are talking publicly about their experiences, and more people are stepping back to make room for change. Their example of after example of the walkout at Google, one that you may not have heard of is when Instacart would not provide sick pay for workers who got COVID Vanessa Bane let her walk out that caused the company to change its policy and start making sure that workers got sick pay. So I think you know, to start thinking like differently and start thinking about, you know, the small things that you can do the ways that you can think about being more empathetic towards the person who might not be included, like, it's less about like, am I do I feel good about this event? Or is it more about is everybody going to feel good about this event? Or this activity? Are we trying new things? Are we experimenting? Are we willing to take risks? Are we willing to step back from opportunities and share them? I think we need to make room for these ideas to make room for these changes. And, you know, as an individual, like, you should think about, like, do you want to be the person in that third group who does nothing and who just, you know, prevents change from happening and doesn't want to change? Or do you want to be, like, hurt, and you want to be part of this change, which, you know, if you look at that new generation of workers, 75% care and love care about diversity in their workplace, they're whether, regardless of their demographic, even, you know, even the white people don't want to work in a place that looks only like them. It's something that is coming. It's something that you can be ready for, and something that you can embrace and, and that will help you longer term, I think, by the end of this hour that you decide on something that you want to do to change by the end of this week that you actually do it. And by the end of this year, you can point to a set of actions that were impactful to reset things and that gave you, you know, kind of a different perspective and a willingness to do even more going forward. I wanted to answer some of the questions that have already come in which I think we're all great questions, I think, you know, I think I answered a little bit this question of belonging if, like, if you have only one group of people, and but they all feel like they belong is that, you know, is that enough? And I think it goes back to the story of the CEO who had this group of people who all felt comfortable with each other, but then they realised when they had even more people from different backgrounds, they felt even more comfortable and it was a better feeling. Because, you know, all of a sudden you have inclusion and you don't feel like you have to kind of push yourself into that one type of behaviour for that one group that is very homogeneous. I think doing that work and making sure that you're inclusive, from the very beginning is going to help you set you up for the future. And I think it is it is kind of infectious where people when they feel like they're included and that inclusion is important, then they will find ways to include other people. And it becomes less of a top down and more of a bottoms up, because that's just how people start thinking. I think, you know, allies, I think that term, some people find it problematic. Now, I think it's this idea that like people should be doing the work and and it's not new work, it's work that they should have been doing all along. So, yes, it feels like more work, but it's just doing your job properly incorrectly. So thinking about that I think we're allies is a slightly different framing that might make it easier and might make them understand more why it's important for them to really step up and to do some of this work.

Let me see, I think, I think one of the big things to think about when it comes to like kind of these patterns for building inclusion is that all of that is evolving. Like the language we use the types of inclusion that we think about, I think, there's still so much to learn, we did a report recently on ableism in the workplace, and how disabled employees are often excluded. And there are just a lot of very basic ways that ableism sit sits in our society and in our culture, and manifests in our workplace policies and our lack of belief that somebody actually is disabled, or that they can't recover, or they can't, you know, just try harder, or work longer hours and do the same job. It's a, it's a very, it's a, it's another area that we have so much work to do. And I think I think people are paying more attention to it, we are all likely to become disabled, as we get older, you know, you start having a harder time hearing have a harder time with mobility, affordability. I think that, you know, that should encourage us all to be thinking longer term about how we treat our workers who are disabled, but I think we don't, and I think that's going to be something that gets more and more important as our workforce continues to age. And I think with COVID, I think a lot of people have had some serious health impact from having COVID or long COVID. And that's going to change our workforce to another question was on difficult personalities, like how do you manage them? I think it's important not to give them free passes, right? Because they're difficult, often it's easier to avoid that conversation and say, All right, like, I just don't want to have this big fight with this person who's going to, you know, get very agitated, and I'll just, like, let it go. But what that teaches your company is that, oh, if you are annoying enough, if you have this, you know, personality trait where you want to command a lot of attention, I think they used narcissists, as an example. That's how you, you know, it's okay. Right. So it encourages, it's like, a small thing, but that people will pay attention to, and they learned that it's okay to be difficult, it's okay to be to try to command all the attention, it's okay not to listen to the rules and follow them. And that can be very harmful for your, for your environment. And I think, you know, part of part of kind of managing that difficult personality is making sure that they are part of the work that you're doing in building your culture, and in setting standards for your team. It's not easy, I don't pretend that like, oh, just go and do this. But I think it's, it's important that you, you try to do the work to be, you know, to preserve your culture. Um, I think those were the questions that I noticed. I don't know if there are, I think there are a bunch of questions. Let me say, what the best way?

Lauren Peate  33:56  
Yeah, we're happy. Well, um, what we can do is James can will reflect them back to you from the chat. So yep, first. Thank you. So we might shift gears now and jump to the q&a part. So those who have questions, you can start typing them in the chat. But yeah, first of all, thank you so much for sharing that so many great takeaways, and a couple I want to call out so one, I love your call to action of at the top of the hour, if we can all think of something that we could do this week, a change that we want to see. So take that away, and I'm going to at the end of this, come back and give everyone a nudge on that and see if anyone wants to share what they're thinking of as their key action. And and to kick it off. I know James will be kind of pulling in the ones in the chat. But a question I wanted to ask is I know, you know this, this change by being the person who's raising these issues and encouraging change. The blowback can also come at you and I know you've experienced that I'm sure many people who are listening today have also experienced it at their moments of advocating for change. And so I'm curious to hear how do you and you know, you've been doing this work for years now? And so what keeps you going? And I'm particularly curious in about, like, what are the bright spots? Or what are the things that give you hope, as you know, to have the endurance to kind of keep having those bytes?

Ellen Pao  35:20  
I think one thing is like, if I didn't do it, I would be regretting it, right? If I didn't push for the change, it would like weigh on me, like, oh, I should have done that. I wished I'd done that, why didn't I do that, and it kind of, kind of, I find that some, in some ways more exhausting than trying to do the right thing, and not being rewarded for it or being punished for it. So, you know, it's kind of like taking control of your own actions, and feeling less tied to the consequences, but knowing that, hey, my house is clean, like, my house is in order, and I did what I should, and I can't control these other folks, and what they do, and if they're not doing the right thing, you know, that sucks, but I did my best, and my hands are clean. And you know, I'm gonna keep trying, and sometimes, and sometimes it does work. And sometimes people notice, like I saw you tried to do that, it wasn't fair, that that that thing happened to you, but I appreciate you. And I appreciate that, you know, that wasn't right. And I'm going to speak up in the future like you, you can have an amazing ripple effect. Even if you're not successful in what you're trying to do. It's just, it makes people feel supported. And it gives people the courage to do the similar things. And, you know, and then just to, to be able to come out of that without having been kind of crushed, or, you know, getting rejected is very powerful as a role model, and just you continuing doing the work. So I feel like a responsibility, like, I need to continue because I can't let people think that I got, you know, that that you know that once you do something and fail, it's a disaster, and you just hide and run away. It's you know, you can keep doing things and you can make a difference. And either way. I think, like, I do feel very connected to a lot of people I you know, I feel connected to you more and from the work that we do together. And that gives me a lot of sustenance. And I didn't realise how much it was until I talked with the Stanford psychiatrist. It's just I think, you know, when you when you are doing this kind of work, and you meet other people who are trying to do the same thing, it's incredibly rewarding. And I enjoy that so much.

Lauren Peate  37:43  
What a wonderful answer. And back at you love that call, you know, thinking about the connections that sustain us and keep us going. James, I'll pass to you do you want to start pulling through some of the questions that have come through in the chat or any others from meetup?

James Dong  37:59  
Yeah, absolutely. Thank you so much, Ellen. So this first question I'll pull in is a combination of one that Sylvie asked in the chat. And then Someone also asked in our online group, which is, are there actions initiatives, or common patterns that you're seeing people do when they're well intentioned, but that actually are harmful?

Ellen Pao  38:25  
I think the big one would be like, making assumptions, like assuming that this is the right way of solving the problem, or this is what somebody wants, without paying attention without listening without letting people decide what they want to have happen. I think it's complicated, because sometimes you just need to do things like if somebody is being harassed, like you need to stop the harassment, and it's not up to the person who's reporting it to decide what happens to the person who's doing the harm, you need to go and do that. So it's not a question of listening or not listening there. But it might feel like that, but it's really kind of, like, you know, I guess it's like trying not to be like that saviour or the white knight and trying to solve all the problems, but understanding like, what would be a good solution for that person? If that's my goal is to help that person, right. So I think that's something that it doesn't feel good when you're like, Oh, I think I know the answer. But actually, it's not the answer, and I did something bad. But that's how we learn. Right? So to also not be too hard on yourself, I think it's important to you know, it's important, like I think intentions do matter a little bit like it's not enough, but if you have a good intention and you're willing to learn and you're willing to do the work, it can make a huge difference, but just to understand that you're going to make mistakes and you need to try had to learn before you make those mistakes. And if you do make a mistake, you need to you need to repair the harm that you've caused, and not to cause that again.

James Dong  40:13  
That's great. And then this next question is from Martin in the chat. This is a key measure of psychological safety is the degree to which people have an equal voice. So curious to learn more about how we might balance enforcement and compliance through rules and changing behaviour that way versus creating an environment where everyone has a voice to help engender more collaborative change? And what are some what might be some examples of facilitating opportunities for everyone to be heard and gaining empathy and then leading through change that way?

Ellen Pao  40:49  
This is a hard one, because I haven't heard that. It requires everyone to have an equal voice, I think.

I think it's something that you learn as you manage that. Sometimes the management experience does, you learn a lot of mistakes that people make, and you learn a lot of things that don't work. And sometimes, you do need to have a bigger voice, like, No, I don't think having alcohol freely in the, in the company is a good idea. Like we had that at Reddit, it was like a free for all, you could have alcohol, you know, open tap whenever and it, it didn't work, but it's something that, you know, people had wanted at one point until they realised until you know, we realised like, it's actually causing a lot of harassment, it's like enabling people to drink, you know, somebody who was, you know, had a bottle of vodka and was pouring straight vodka at noon, right and going to their desk, and it was just like, that doesn't seem like a type of behaviour that we should be enabling. And that doesn't seem like healthy for, for us to have that in our office when, you know, we're actually a workplace. So. So I'm, I think, the hard part is helping people understand that sometimes these decisions that are not popular with the entire, you know, most of the workforce are actually for your own. Good. And it's because we've seen Mistakes happen in other worlds. So I'm a little bit like, I know, that's not what people want to hear. But it's true, sometimes you have to be the grown up, and you have to put in rules that people don't want. And but, but you try it tie it to the values, you try to tie it to the culture. And that can be a very strong reinforcing point, like, as long as people feel like they've had a voice in the culture, and they have had a voice in the values, it can be very powerful in, you know, hey, we want a respectful workplace, we want to create quality product and, you know, is having like this alcohol, which actually tends to make it harder for people to get along, because they're not actually talking to each other often when they're like really drunk. And often people will do embarrassing things, they, they not want to talk to their co workers the next day, because they are so embarrassed about their their behaviour. So you can tie specific, specific rules to desired outcomes that are aligned with the values and the culture that everybody agrees with. But they may not agree with that specific policy. So I think that's one way of thinking about how you implement these these rules that might not have had an equal voice by every every, for everybody affected.

James Dong  43:45  
Great, thank you. I'm going to combine a question that came in online from Scotland, Brendan. And this really goes to that case study you were saying earlier of the CEO, start a company with our friends, but still didn't really feel that included until they had more diversity hires. So it's a two part a little bit it's diving in and trying to understand what why do you think that person still wasn't comfortable even though they're with their friends? And then the second part is until they had made more hires in diversified their company, what were things that they could have done in the interim to kind of be that change that they wanted to see and invite more folks given that they didn't have that representation? Initially?

Ellen Pao  44:26  
Yeah, I think, um, I think there was a certain type of behaviour that he thought was expected, right? So like, we have this culture where it's like, we play ping pong every week, we drink and we, you know, and, and I think, I don't like my guesses that you know, you sometimes you might feel stuck in a certain type of behaviour, right, where everybody's doing it. Everybody's expecting to do it. Maybe nobody wants to do it, but we now set this tone, and there's so much baggage with this identity in this group that we're kind of forced to participate in stuff that we don't really want to participate in. And once you bring in other people, and you have different activities, and everybody's not expected to do every activity together, because, you know, not everybody wants to play ping pong, all of a sudden, it opens it up to, oh, I don't have to do ping pong every week, you know, I can go and do something else that I want to do. But I felt like I had to, because it was like the thing that everybody expected everybody to do. I think that kind of listening up makes a big difference. And I think it's, you know, one of the things that somebody did was, like, somebody said, was like, my friends are not all white men. Like, I just need to, like, think outside of that, and go through my LinkedIn. And I know, you know, like to school, half the people were women, I went to school. And you know, there are a lot of people from different backgrounds. And just like, Now sift through that set of people that haven't come top to mind in hiring, and think about well, I do have a lot of friends who don't look like me, and I should now start looking into that network. And, and maybe they know people, if they're if they're not interested. So this idea that you only have to hire from, from your best friends is limited. And also you run out of best friends, right? So you get to a certain point where like, I've hired all the friends that I know, I've memorised the phone numbers for and now I need to like think more broadly. So how do I how do you do that?

James Dong  46:33  
Great. This next question is from Lola in the chat, do you think authenticity is important in building inclusion and diversity, and what's the advice for showing up authentically to work, bring your whole self and then encouraging teammates to do the same?

Ellen Pao  46:50  
I've always had a little bit of a problem with like this, bring your whole self to work. Like I agree with being authentic, but like, I don't want to know about your sex life. Right. Like, you know, there are things that are private and that are personal. And there are things that are, you know, more appropriate for work and more like coworker friendly, so kind of, you know, bring your professional or self to work, that's great. Like, if you want to talk about different ways that, you know, different, different hobbies, you know, as long as they're the kind of workplace appropriate, that's great, but but, you know, remember, like you're at a place of business. So it's not, you know, it's, there are certain things that might make other people uncomfortable, because of just the, you know, because of a sexual nature or, you know, I think there is a line, you know, there was a set of companies where it's like, you can no longer talk about politics. And I think that's a little bit. I think that's too extreme. Like, I think there were things in that were going on in the political arena, in that timeframe that were like core to people's identity, like the ability to get married for a person who's gay or lesbian, like that is core to their identity and not being able to talk about that might. I don't think that is a good decision. Right? So and there were certain things that maybe you shouldn't talk about, but certain things that you should be allowed to talk about, and that that line is fuzzy, but it but it's like, how do you be inclusive of people who are struggling and who are historically marginalised, and be supportive, in a way that, you know, in a way that makes them feel more included? And more comfortable?

James Dong  48:40  
Great, awesome. Laura has a question.

Lauren Peate  48:43  
Yeah, I was gonna, I want to name another hard thing, which I know is coming up in conversations that people are having now, which is, with the economy, the way that it is, there are lots of people and organisations who are saying, Hey, we have this market contraction recession now. And so we don't have time to care about this stuff. We don't time and of energy. I've even heard some people say things like, you know, now that there's fewer, they didn't quite say this way, but now that there's fewer jobs going around with all the layoffs, we don't have to worry so much about this culture stuff. And so, you know, and equally, obviously, it's it's important that we have a whole virtual group of us here who care and so any thoughts, like either advice or encouragement for folks who are still trying to have these conversations today, when there's even more, you know, as you pointed out, what feels like even more kind of resistance to it?

Ellen Pao  49:40  
Yeah, I think like, those are the people on the third group, right? They were never committed to it ever. Right? But they felt like they had to go through the motions. So now they're all being flushed out as, hey, we don't really care and now we're dropping it because we never cared. Right? So it's telling and I think, you know, there's gonna be a whole set of people that they alienate, and who don't want to work there and who, you know, you look at Twitter, like so many people left, right. So if that's what you're comfortable with, then go Go ahead. And, you know, and find that small subset of people who are comfortable working in a really exclusive environment where you're not gonna be able to hire from the majority of the workforce population. I think for people, like once you start that flywheel going, once you start with kind of that, in terms of what's the word somebody uses was, oh, that infectious behaviour, it is kind of hard to roll back, right? Like, oh, let's bring back in the ping pong table. Let's bring it you know, like, No, we enjoy doing many other things. Like, we don't want to force everybody played ping pong. Now, it doesn't make sense. It doesn't feel good to me as the CEO. So I think it's, like, I think the changes that people have made generally, you know, I think they make everybody feel better, like who doesn't want to be included? They should make everybody feel better. I agree that there are some people who won't feel better. But you know, and that, I think, is something that you want to continue, right? You want people to feel like they belong. And just because you can hire like there are more people have been laid off. Why do you want to only hire like one small segment of them, you want to be able to hire from all the people who have been laid off? Right? So think again, it's like very short sighted, it's kind of lazy thinking and, and kind of avoiding, like these bigger changes that are coming demographics, and values and attitude was, so it's kind of tempting for people, maybe even in the second group, like I don't really know what to do. So I'm nervous. I'm just going to avoid it some more. But I think it's again, it's like short sighted, it's not thinking about the long game, and it's not setting your company up to succeed.

James Dong  52:00  
Great. I have one final question. That wraps up a couple of the elements we've been discussing. So now in a more distributed workforce across multiple cultures and multiple geographies have any advice for welcoming diversity and building inclusion and belonging when people are from groups that distinctly clash. So you can think of it as two different warring factions, even to different countries that are literally at war? The situation we just talked about where someone might be buried in a queer relationship, but that is against someone else's beliefs? How do we deal with that situation?

Ellen Pao  52:41  
I think it's important that people are respectful of each other as workers. So, you know, I may not agree with your religious belief, but maybe in those interactions, I'm going to focus on less building connection, and more on like getting the work done. And you'll be part of that group of co workers that I don't feel like connected to, but I hope that they're like a majority of co workers I do feel more connected to so maybe it's, you know, it's finding ways to connect outside of that core belief, but I think it's hard. Like, if you don't believe that I should be made up, you don't believe I should exist, it's very hard to say you need to have a good set of interactions with that person. And if you know, so, so I'm, I am kind of reluctant to say you need to find ways to connect with this person who doesn't think you should exist. It's, it's hard, I think. I think trying to, to find ways to connect around the work overall, can build bridges and other forms of connection, but also trying to get some of that one on one interaction where, where people are less extreme and maybe just like more ignorant, or you know, you know, building those connections, and those relationships can help them also learn and be more open minded and more inclusive. But that's a hard question. I don't have an easy answer for that. I'm, I'm, I wish I could wrap it up with something really nice and pretty, but those are hard situations. And it's, and we're at a time where there is a lot of there are a lot of like conflicting ideas. There's a lot of fake information out there. And it's hard to you know, it's hard to deal with, you know, changing people's minds around things that that they've been kind of indoctrinated around.

Lauren Peate  54:41  
And it's a great point to have, you know, if someone doesn't believe in your identity, then you don't need to there's that other person doesn't need to flex to the person who doesn't believe in their identity is so such a good point. We're, it's time this hour has flown by. So I'm gonna The shift to wrap up, just huge. Thank you, again, Ellen for sharing your stories and your insights and your wisdom.

Transcribed by

James Dong
James Dong
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