The Pavilion Podcast
The Pavilion Podcast

Episode · 3 months ago

Ep 259: Sustainable DEI Cultures w/ Meiko Takayama


Sustainable DEI Cultures w/ Meiko Takayama

Part of the "Is This A Good Time?" series hosted by Brandon Barton.

Hello everyone, and welcome back to the Pavilion Podcast. I'm your host, Brandon Barton. You are listening to Is This a Good Time? The show where I put Pavilion members on the hot seat for fifteen minutes we hear their incredible stories. Shows are out on Monday and hit subscribe so you don't miss hearing episodes like today's. Because today's was such a banger make Mako taki Yama, the founder and CEO of AWE, is here with us today and we talk about how to create sustainable d I cultures. But we get into what privileges and why I might need to even change up some of the questions I asked. This month's sponsor is six cents, the leading platform for B two B organizations generating predictable revenue. Two years ago, six cents wrote the playbook for modern B two B sales and marketing. In the book, No Forms, Don't Spanned, No Cold Calls. Thousands of practitioners have implemented the book and now on updated versions out. The expanded second edition includes a new chapter just for sales leaders and even more. Visits six cents dot com slash the book to order your copy today. All right, let's do this episode one. Is this a good time? All right? I'm so excited to have our guest today, Mako Tachi Yama. She is the CEO and founder of AWE. I'll let her come in and explain what is. It's a really amazing company. Make a so great to have you on the pod. Thank you so much, Brandon. I'm so incredibly excited to be here today, so I appreciate the opportunity. Oh yeah, we're gonna talk about a lot of stuff. I'll meet no fellow. Le's jump into the questions. Tell us about all start there, tell us about how you decided to know to to to to start the company, to found the company, and then bring us back a little bit into some of this you have. You have such an interesting resume passed and I want to get into some of it from the art stuff. So but start us at the start us at the today, and then bring us back absolutely so today. I am the founder and CEO of AWE, which actually originally started as Advancing Women executives were using the name, although because across the past few years, starting in about two thou eighteen, we expanded our focus beyond women to also look at what is the representation from an underrepresented community within organizations? And so we go with all our ur l is in AWE dot com um and what we do is that we work with enterprise companies, large companies, mostly fortunate one thousand companies, and we help them create what we've coined sustainable workplace cultures. And this is through our learning solutions, through our employee resources groups or e r G solutions, and we call it sustainable workplace cultures because what we've actually seen is is that across time, companies are getting much better at recruiting women and underrepresented minorities within the organization. But typically within five years, that kind of influx of women and underrepresented minorities starts to leave. And so what we are doing is we're working with companies to try to ensure that the numbers continue to rise so that there's greater equity within organizations. Let's get right to it. What would you say it is like the number one thing a company can do to instill the proper culture that would not only just attract, but I'm saying more on the keep side, keep and maintain a culture that is inviting to underrepresented Like what is the one thing people are just not doing. So I think one of the things that people are not doing is is that the focus tends to be on how do we actually help women and underrepresented communities to fit into the current culture. Which is not a bad way to think about it, right, because as we look at things like unconscious bias within the workplace in the world, it's not just the dominant culture that actually has that bias. It is society overall. So, but what is actually often not done within organizations is that the teaching or the opportunity need to create cultural change is not within the dominant...

...culture. So that's actually part of the problem, right, which is that you're gonna change, You have to change instead of having people assimilate to this broken culture, change the culture, right and so, and you can do it both ways, right, So, but typically it's just one or the other, and it really needs to be a mirror, a match of both, and they need to be kind of working in tandem. Um, you know, I think that that's one of the biggest things. And at the end of the day, the companies that understand it the most are the companies that view equity as being a real value to the organization. Most organizations. Though, what we found is is that it's a little bit of that kind of the most kind of extreme way to think of it is it's a little bit of like the savior complex. Oh, we're doing it because I want to give back. I want to support an underrepresented community. And there isn't that sense of actually, by supporting this, it means that it's not only going to help the community, but it's gonna help me too. It's going to help everybody. And so when you kind of have that charitable aspect of why companies do diversity d E, I, um, you know, it's not going to ever be a real driver for growth for the organization. It's going to be a check the box. Yeah, and and and that mind shift has to shift. He has to, it has to. But it's it's it's a really really hard one. I mean, it's gonna you know, it's it's it's gonna take a long time. Sure, Sure, that makes a lot of sense. And Okay, so bring us back. Why did you start doing this? So I haven't had like to your point, I've had a very varied career, so not your traditional career in business. I was an art history major. I went to brinmar College. I went to a women's college. Actually started my career in museums UM and so I worked at the Victorian Albert Museum in London. I worked at the Peggy Giggenham Collection in Venice, Italy, which got me to the Guggenheim in New York, and then Museum of Modern Art or in New York. So that was chapter one. UM and then I always love to say, And at that point I sold my soul and I went into consulting. So I decided, you know what great love it, I actually want to think about what's next. I want to see what's going on in the broader world. I ended up getting a job at a company that I'm sure you know fairly well, which is CEB, which is now owned by Gartner. So I worked at CEB slash Gartner for many years UM and I got to a point in my career where I thought, gosh, you know what's next. I didn't actually see that next opportunity within the organization. I had also had been predominantly on the I T side of the business, and so I actually didn't understand this concept of human capital within companies. So I decided, you know what, I've got a really great network, why do I go into executive recruiting? So I've got a better understanding of why do companies recruit certain people? What is the culture of human capital within organizations? And as I did that, it was fascinating because I started seeing these amazing behavioral differences in candidates from a gender perspective between women and men and so uh and you know, some of the gender differences these are some gross generalizations, but you know what I found was that men were much more open to kind of networking. It was the great you know, I may not have an opportunity to partner with you now, but let's just get to know each other. Um. And that was fantastic. And I started to kind of see also the numbers, right. So again I had been in such a kind of I T bubble that I kind of didn't get the sense of what is the broader perspective around numbers, what do they look like? And so I started looking into that and realized, Wow, there's the number of women at the top is incredibly low. The fact that it's low actually doesn't logically makes sense. Women make up fifty percent of the population. Why is it that we only make up now of senior management of board seats, five percent of fortune, percent of fortune five CEOs, it's you know. And so I started to get a better understanding...

...of that and realized, well, I think that there's a different way that we can actually start to look at this problem. And you know you're an entrepreneur, right, so you know that we're so naive in our perspective, so we're we often think, well, I don't know who else is gonna do it, so I'm gonna do it. So that's exactly where I was, where I thought, I don't know if anyone else is going to do it, so let me go ahead and start that. So I started this company called AWE. It initially was a networking group for senior executive women VP level and above. But then as we started to get in and start to understand what the challenges were, leave expanded our services. We are really a training and development company and an e ERG support solutions company, and so that's who we are today. And uh, we work with companies, enterprise companies. They will hire us to work across the board, not only within the America's but also in Amia and Asia pac and and and just for for people listening. I mean, you inder this company in two thousand twelve, I mean, the world was in a very different and and and certainly um much uh you know, to me, that's like ancient history when it comes to how much perhaps has happened over even the last two years in d E. I. I mean, I just even wonder how much resistance a company like yours had in the early twelve two fifteen, for example, trying to say this is important when when it was, it was not yet important to the world, even though it was so important to these folks who are underrepresented and so forth. I mean, what resistance did you face in in these companies at the time, and and has that changed in the way that I think perhaps it has maybe in the past two three or four or five years. Yeah, that's such a good question. So um, I think that I was really fortunate, I was really apprecient and seeing that there was going to be an opportunity here to create change. And so um, I saw the world change immediately. So in two thousand thirteen is when Sheryl Sandberg came out with Lehman, and so all of a sudden, the world said, oh, well, we need to actually hire a lot more women, right, so there's this mad scramble for women. The challenge that I found as a company was that there were bubbles. There were bubbles throughout the country, and the bubbles were not surprisingly on the coasts. And the way that it actually manifested it was that the companies that were on the coasts kind of understood it, right, And so when I say the coast, it's actually specifically the Bay Area, Silicon Valley, and New York and so a lot of other cities across the country though we're actually not quite there. And the way that it manifested it was that executives would say to us, you know, I'm actually fine, but it's the next generation that I want to help. And so there wasn't this kind of concept of I see that there's opportunity for me to be an agent of change for myself at this level. And so that's what we saw from the gender or perspective, and so we started saying, wow, this it's not quite this concept of oh, I might be able to become a C level executive. I might be able to become on a board of directors after I retire. Right, that was not in the vernacular for a lot of senior women. At that point, there was also still this concept of what's called second generation gender bias, which is, you know, hey, I had to work really hard to get here, so everyone else should too, and and so. But what we started seeing was is that the focus did change, and broader d e I focus of course changed dramatically with George Floyd's murder and companies all of a sudden thought, gosh, we need to do it. You know. It's still a big challenge though, and so even though it is much more of a topic that companies are talking about now, again, the question that is always kind of at the top of mind of any d e I practitioner is how much is this because I fundamentally believe that it's right for the world, versus is because I need... be doing it to check the box? Yeah, and and and this is where the sustainability comes in, because checking the boxes short term and sustainability, you know, having a sustainable culture for this is obviously the long term. It's fascinating. I feel like we could talk for a long time on it. I'm gonna, I'm gonna, I'm gonna keep rolling here, you know, given your career there. There obviously have been moments of somewhat you know, you went through kind of these leaps that you've taken, there had to be moments of luck that went along with the hard work. I wonder if there's any kind of stories you can pull of moments that that really became a sea change for you. Yeah. You know, I think that that this concept of success is made up of hard work and and luck. Um is not necessarily something that I personally prescribed to, and it's actually part of the reason why it was really one of the drivers for me to start the company. Um. You know, as I think about kind of what has been my luck, I see that I've been very lucky because I was born of immigrants that were fortunate enough and have the resources and drive to actually move from Japan to the United States to find a new life. Um. I found myself very lucky that they ended up in a suburb of Chicago that has an incredible school system that basically expects that of the students that graduate from high school will go to college. So you know, that was like, incredibly I was very lucky on that front. I was very lucky that I ended up going to college and my parents paid for it, and I didn't have any student graduated very lucky. Yeah, I think that I was very fortunate because I'm part of the model minority. So people look at me and say, oh, she's Asian, which means that she's a hard worker and she's probably not going to store a lot of trouble, which is actually one of my problems, which is that I am I am definitely a hard worker, and yet I do stir up some trouble. I have a voice, right, I'm not going to just sit in the background. Um. Which again, then, is this thing called stereotyped by um Oh wait, I can't remember what it's actually called, but it's it's basically where because I'm now not representing the stereotype of my community or my ethnicity, I am now kind of, you know, changing all the norms, and people don't feel comfortable with that. Sure, sure, it's even it's even more uncomfortable than if you were somebody who had they expected to be loud and then you were louder than they expected. I understand, Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. You know, I think that I was really fortunate that I grew up in a time when you know, I have had access to birth control and abortions if I needed them, right, and so I basically had the ability to be able to have, uh, kind of create my own future the choice to do that. I also think that I was incredibly fortunate that I found a partner who was very comfortable with leaving the workforce and he became a stay at home primary caregiver to our sons and so that I could actually focus on my career. So I think about kind of all of the privilege that I had and kind of the sense of abundance that allowed me to get to where I am today, because UM, I saw that that really was one of the biggest drivers for me to have grit, right, So I basically came with this abundance, allowed me to have grit, and then it allowed me to be successful in launching this company. And that's actually again one of the reasons why I launched this company was because I realized this, the sense of privilege, the sense of of where we are today is not something that's recognized, um, and that if there's a way where we can start to change the language of well, you know, we know you got there because you did a lot of hard work and you're really lucky. Um. If we can change that language, I think it's going to really start to change the perspective of Oh wow, other people, you know need to do that in order to get there. Yeah, it's funny. I'm sitting here thinking, you know, Buck, thirty episodes into this podcast, and maybe I should change the style of this question. Asked it so many times, but point to some someplace...

...where you were getting were privileged, right, like I mean like it's it's in some ways the question of luck as your UM leaning towards perhaps or breaking down your past. You're saying, Hey, you could change the word luck to privilege and say I was privileged to be able to have my um, you know, parents, to be able to pay for college or land in a suburb of Chicago that probably was more affluent than other places in Chicago given their expectations of their students. I'm good. I like, we're gonna change up the podcast. I love this. Yes, you know it is great because you know what I think that because if you if you have to think about the concept of success equals hard work plus luck, right, then we have to fundamentally recognize well, then that must mean that there are a lot of incredibly unlucky people out there because a lot of people are working really hard and are not success. Well, I mean, in my defense, I say, I say that it's it's it's a combination of those things, not not solely those things. But you know, when I when I, when I have thought about the questions that I asked people and interview people with the reason for that question is actually more towards what you're saying, which is recognition that it's not just hard work that gets people places. And I think you're you're you're really keying in on a missing component there. It is like things like white privilege, male privilege, and so forth. And I think I've done a pretty good job of perhaps having a balance of voices on the pod. I'm sure I can do better, but I know that it's been underrepresented people at the very minimum. But still, you know, I would bet the overwhelming majority are white males on this You know that that have been there but been on the pod well, and also remember even if they are not white men, right, it could be white women, it could be a male person of color, and so there's a lot of different communities. Then you have to start to think about, Okay, So if I'm actually interviewing somebody who's got a different kind of race, ethnicity, or gender, um, what is their socio economic background? Right, So then it comes down to, okay, so did you really experience hardship or did you have a lot of privilege? So you're absolutely right. I used the word luck, but it is actually really not luck. It is you know, I I think of it as totally privileged. And I think about success actually stems from privilege or a sense of abundance. Right, So that's the sense of like I can actually afford to even feel like I can do something. Um, it's an incredibly strong network, which again often had in hand. Strong network comes from place of privilege, and it's then grit on top of it. It's it is and this is this is a little bit of my story. You know. I don't share much of this publicly, but I grew up in a household that didn't have a lot. And so even though I am white and male, UM, I always have this chip on my shoulder as it relates to the opportunities that have been put in front of me and and and as opposed to other folks that let's say I went to college with who just seemed to have everything handed to them. So I I hear this really loud and clear. I love it, and make this is awesome. Alright, let's you are you hiring it all? Uh? You know there are folks out here that probably are listening to this going while you're inspiring. Is there anyone you're hiring for. Yeah, We're always looking for really strong salespeople who can uh sell, who can manage a relationship with a client. We are always looking because what we find is that, you know, there's very few people who are going to say, Okay, I don't believe in equity in the workplace. But at the same time, it is hard to find people who actually want to make a career out of it, and so and actually want to make a career out of it with a for profit based company as opposed to a nonprofit perspective. And so that is actually something where we are. You know, we're always looking for people to join the company.

I love that, and I'm sure I hope that there are people out there listening, going, Man, this would be a way to join something that I'm passionate about and and and also obviously advanced my career. So I hope so too. Yeah, call anybody, call me, please call exactly anybody who you can point to, who you follow and find inspiration and and and and you know where you're learning from in terms of these initiatives, are just running a company and so forth? Who who who would you want to give a shout out to? You know, I do a lot of readings specifically in the and and listening in the space, and so there's two things that I would always love to share. So one is the book The Some of Us by Heather McGhee. I think it is one of the best. I actually think it's the best book right now that's been written about the impact of systemic racism in the US. And it is incredibly sobering and also incredibly inspirational to see what kind of potential change could be made. Um. That's number one. So The Some of Us by Heather McGhee. Number two is everyone the world should be listening to. Season two of the podcast Scene on Radio on Radio is spelled s C E and E UM and season two is it's called Seeing White um and it is. It is amazing. It is so well produced, it is Uh. It is one of those things where I literally think it's when you stop listening, when it ends you, you want to start listening to it again. I call it like the like the you know Golden gate Bridge paint job. You know, right when they start painting the Golden gate Bridge. By the time they finished, they have to start all over again. It's like the same thing with this podcast because it is so so powerful. Um. There's this one quote that I would love to share with you because it's a quote that um that I think it should have a lot of impact for anybody who hears it. It's by one of them the hosts. His name is Genderi Kamenica and he's an assistant for Faster at n y U now um and he said, the experience of living as white is a lot about being an individual to even be lumped into group. When you call someone as white, they'll say, I'm not a part of a group, I'm me. I'm an individual and then change a right. Communica says, I gotta get into that club so I can be a full human. Wow. It's incredible, and that's that's what drives us. That's what drives us. We want to stop having people put women under represented communities into buckets, right, if I do something wrong, I am viewed as oh, that's she did that because she's a woman, or she did that because she's Asian. Right, if you do something wrong, and I'm not just calling you out because this is again the dominant culture, people are like, it's Brandon or not even boys me, that's just branded he had a bad day. Not wow, is that what all guys do? It's it really, it really, I mean all of this stuff is so impactful and and and and it's um it's very easy to hear this and immediately go towards incidences or or things in your life where you're like, man, I you know, I really was treated differently in this moment um. It's powerful stuff. I thank you for sharing that. That's um that that that's an incredible quote. And I'm gonna get seen on radio popped up and and and Heather McGee's book. By the way, Um, well, this this has been awesome. I'm leaving you on this question which I ask everyone we got to know give me a restaurant recommendation. I feel like you've got an interesting one with with with all that you all that you're doing. Oh I love foods. So thank you for asking me because I love love foods. So I live in l A and my favorite restaurant right now is a restaurant called Chiefa,...

...which is a Peruvian Chinese restaurant. It's an eagle Rock. Uh. It's a little bit out there, but it's run, don't walk. It's started by Umberto Leone, who is one of the designers. Opening ceremony. Wow, so it's got to be cool. Interior, oh, gorgeous, gorgeous. But as a family affair, he started with his sister Rica, their mother. Rica's husband John is the chef. It is so good. They have this Lomo saltado plate that is just unbelievable. They have this black pepper prawn. It's my mouth is watering just thinking about it. I gotta love the Lomo, especially in l A. Um, that's incredible, Makom. So great to have you on. I mean, I'm just excited that that I now know you and and and can can learn from you. I mean, there's so much to learn there. Um. You know, obviously we'll have you back. I'm gonna have you back on next year. Well every six months, we're gonna have you on to get an update on what's going on. In the world of annable d I and and how we can better ourselves and better our companies. Love it, I can't wait. Love, love the conversation, and let's continue to move forward. All right, that's a show. I hope you loved it. I love today. Thank you for listening. If you did like it, why not rape? Why not review it? Why not give it five stars in some app so that people find it and make it more popular. Do all that stuff, and then smash the subscribe button while you're at it. This episode was brought to you by six cents, powered by AI and predictive analytics. Six cents help you to unite your entire revenue team with a shared set of data to achieve predictable revenue. Group. Like I said, I had fun today. I hope you did too. Now get out and crush that fourth quarter.

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