“Lift As You Climb: Morning Keynote”: Carin Taylor with Workday (Video + Transcript)

June 2, 2020

As the head of D&I for a Fortune 1000 company, one of Carin Taylor’s practical tips for creating an inclusive environment is “focus on helping each other thrive.” Join Carin as she shares how we can create an environment of inclusion, belonging and equity within our own organizations.


Transcript of Elevate 2020 Session

Gretchen DeKnikker: We are ready to kick off the morning. Carin Taylor, our keynote speaker, is the Chief Diversity Officer of Workday, where she has global responsibility for the development and execution of Workday’s inclusion and diversity strategy. Prior to joining Workday, she was the head of diversity, inclusion and innovation at Genentech, where she was responsible for strategic initiatives, including executive coaching, building, and leading highly effective teams and increasing play engagement. She is here to kick us off with our theme today, Lift as You Climb.

Gretchen DeKnikker: We are so, so, so excited to have you, Carin.

Carin Taylor: Good morning. Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you so much, Girl Geek X for actually having me. It’s my pleasure to be here, obviously being your keynote speaker, but also just really as a sponsor as well. I’m going to go ahead and share my screen. What I’m going to talk about today is I’m actually going to talk about building a culture that vibes for all. You’ll find out what that means in a few minutes, but I’d like to start off with just a couple of things. First of all, thank you again for having me. Happy International Women’s Day or weekend.

Carin Taylor: Most of us, or a lot of us, are starting to celebrate today, but a lot of folks will be celebrating on Monday and next week as well. But thank you all for actually being here. I’m going to talk about something that is important to me as I think about this work around belonging and diversity, and how it actually impacts us, not–as women, but also our entire work environment in the world that we’re in. So I’m going to talk a little bit about that. And I’m going to start talking about the fact that a culture that vibes is a culture that thrives.

Carin Taylor: But I also want to acknowledge that it starts with you. It starts with me. It starts with us understanding what is our journey and who are we in the context of this conversation. For me, I was born and raised in California. Obviously, grew up as an African-American girl. I was in a family with three other brothers, so I grew up in a really competitive environment, have lived in Silicon Valley my entire life. I’ve worked for some pretty big Silicon Valley companies, as you heard from Gretchen. Doing that and being a lesbian, an African American, a mother of two beautiful biracial kids, that has shaped how I actually see the world and how I think about this work.

Carin Taylor: It wasn’t until I started doing work on myself and understanding my points of view around this that I really began to be able to have a perspective that actually was able to help other people. I’ll share a quick story with you. These experiences have shaped my life. One of the things I had an opportunity to do is live and travel all around the world. And so, being acknowledged as someone who was very different while I would be traveling in different countries was something that really stuck with me. But one of the real pertinent and impactful situations that I was involved in was actually an experience with bias.

Carin Taylor: Ad so, I’ll paint the picture for you. I was at a sales conference, there were about 200 or so people there. I was one of about 10 women. I was one of two African Americans, and I was the only African-American woman in the room that day. The topic of conversation that day just happened to be diversity and this was long before I started doing diversity work. But as I sat in the front row listening to the speaker, a typical-looking executive, white male, I had a really adverse reaction to looking at him talk to me, African American, traveled the world, etc., etc., talking to me about diversity.

Carin Taylor: It was really bothering me. It was like kind of hitting me in the gut. So I walked up to him during a break, and his name was Mike, and I said, “Mike, look, I’m really sorry, but I can’t receive your message.” And he said, “Why not?” I said, “Because of what you look like. I just couldn’t get past that.” I had cut off everything. I couldn’t even hear what he was saying anymore. And he said, “Why not?” I said, “Because of what you look like.” He said, “I’m gay.” It was the first time that unconscious bias really, really hit me upside the head.

Carin Taylor: But it wasn’t until later that evening that I really understood the impact of that story and that interaction that had happened. What happened was I was sitting at home and all of a sudden I burst into tears. Because what I realized is that what I had done to Mike, people had been doing to me my entire life. They had been judging me simply by what I look like and I in turn had started to do it to other people. I share that because that experience really kind of kickstarted my personal journey around understanding who I was as a person,. understand how I viewed the world.

Carin Taylor: But it wasn’t until I had very similar experiences in addition to that one, that really led me to believe that there was something about how I saw people and how I saw the world that I needed to work on and that again shapes why I feel so passionately about this topic. So let me go ahead and get started. So, VIBE. VIBE, if you VIBE, you can thrive. Vibe for us at Workday stands for value, inclusion, belonging, and equity for all. It’s really important that we put that for all on top of this conversation, because, as we’re doing this work and you talk about inclusion, and you talk about belonging, it has to be in the context of every single person that you interact with.

Carin Taylor: It can’t just be for women. It can’t just be for black women. It can’t just be for certain categories of people. You have to think about how you are inclusive of every single person within your workforce, and that’s what VIBE means to us. If we break it down in the areas that we focus on, it’s these areas that you’re seeing on the screen right here. So the inclusion, belonging, and equity, I’ll kind of go a little bit deeper into, but I want to kind of just lay this out for you. VIBE means that we value diverse representation.

Carin Taylor: It means that we look across our organization and want to make sure that there is a healthy balance of the workers that are actually in our workplace. Uniqueness is about how, how does my individual uniquely–uniqueness play a part in the environment and helping our company thrive. Inclusion is about the environment and the conditions that are being created for you to have a culture and a place of belonging for everyone. And so it’s interesting because inclusion, that environment, can be really healthy and you think you’re doing all the right things, but not everyone may necessarily feel like they belong in that culture.

Carin Taylor: So it’s important that you provide different ways of building inclusion so that everyone has an opportunity to feel as if they belong. Belonging is a bit different. Belonging is personal. Belonging is about how am I, or how are you personally feeling in that environment of inclusion that’s been created for you. And I’ll talk about that a little bit more. And then there’s equity. The way that we look at equity is really from a standpoint of does everyone have an opportunity to succeed in our company, and I’ll talk about equity a little bit more as well.

Carin Taylor: So here’s why belonging matters and at the end of the day, it really kind of gets to the bottom point there. And that is when you feel like you belong, you perform at your best, you are your best person. So think about situations where you feel like you have not belonged and think about the emotional capital that you demonstrate in terms of whether or not you’re showing up with imposter syndrome, whether or not you’re giving your full self, whether or not you’re being as creative as you can possibly be. If you don’t feel like you truly belong in an environment, you’re really not giving your best.

Carin Taylor: And so, as we think about this transition that we’ve seen within the diversity space, where back in the ’60s, it was about affirmative action and equal opportunity to today how we’re talking about inclusion and belonging, this thread of how we want to make sure that everyone feels as if they’re included is really a critical part to the work that we’re doing. Obviously not just myself, but all the belonging and diversity HR practitioners out there that are really striving to make strides in this particular area that we’re working in.

Carin Taylor: So let’s talk a little bit about equality versus equity. So you can see from this pictorial, the equality, it really gets to sameness. It kind of assumes that everyone is starting from the same level of platform. The reality is we would love to think that that were true across the board, but the realities are, is that we’re not all starting from the same place. And so when we think about the difference between equality and sameness and making sure that everyone is treated exactly the same, that doesn’t necessarily lead to equity. And so, as you see, what’s depicted on the right hand side, equity really is about fairness.

Carin Taylor: It’s about giving everyone that opportunity to succeed. And sometimes as you can see here, it means adjusting the way that you do things or how you provide opportunities for people in the workplace. And so we think about those things. We want to strive to make sure that there is equity in the workplace, but in reality, until there is equity, there really can’t be equality. So why does this matter to us? Why should this matter and why does this matter to us really as a culture and as a society? Well, it’s because of this $16 billion a year stress that it’s causing corporations. And this $16 billion, this is from a study that was done by the Kapor Center.

Carin Taylor: And what they found out is that when people feel like they don’t belong, they feel like they can’t thrive within a particular culture, there’s a ton of turnover, which means that it’s impacting retention. And the interesting thing is it’s not just impacting underrepresented groups of people. It is really impacting everyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re male, female, white, black, gay, straight, in tech or not. This is a $16 billion a year issue in Silicon Valley. So think about that around the world. Think about the complexity of what this really means when we have cultures that do not strive to do something like value, inclusion, belonging, and equity for everyone.

Carin Taylor: So I wanted to leave you with some tips to, as you’re thinking about how do you build a culture that really vibes, and I want to share some things and really think about this from some learnings that I’ve actually found. So the first one is really around leadership buy-in and accountability. And what that means is you have to have your leaders not just buy into what you’re doing from a diversity standpoint, but they’ve got to participate as well. They’ve got to be executive sponsors, they’ve got to be parts of councils. They’ve got to be talking about diversity and inclusion, both internally and externally, as you think about the impact of this on your business.

Carin Taylor: They have to do things like model behaviors so that those behaviors are demonstrated in the workplace and other people can actually see that they’re modeling those behaviors and benefit. One thing that’s super important though, it’s not just the verbal buy-in that’s super important. One of the also critical things is how do you get your leaders to document and really ultimately document to your CEO that they are committed to this work and making sure that the workplace for all, and particularly for women, is really a place that thrives.

Carin Taylor: The next thing is approaching this through a learning lens. And so I have found that one of the real important things is how you view this work. And the more that you accept that we all come from different backgrounds, perspectives, experiences, and you leverage those things as a way to do better for your business, you’re looking through a learning lens. And so you’re doing things like starting from a place of curiosity and empathy and forgiveness. We’re currently in a state where we’re fearful of saying the wrong thing or doing the wrong thing and therefore, in some cases we don’t do anything.

Carin Taylor: And so approach it really from a learning lens and allow for stumbles, allow for stumbles and resets. Don’t take this as if you do it wrong the first time, you’re going to continue to do it wrong, or don’t not move forward with asking questions because you may not know how to ask the questions, but really look at it through a learning lens. The next one is around sharing data. So as you all know, one of the things that really resonates with people is sharing data. So whether or not you’re looking at that data from a gender or race, a generation, a location perspective, a leadership perspective, it doesn’t matter, sharing data so people can actually see what’s happening, see what the trends are is super important.

Carin Taylor: But what’s equally important are the stories, the personal stories that come along with that data. It’s really important to attach personal stories, people, to the data that’s actually happening because data for most of us is just data and there’s no personalization to it. But when you attach it to a story, something that’s real life happening for people, then it tends to resonate a lot, a lot more. It’s really important that you have to look beyond just the numbers. So the next thing is ensure everyone is aligned. And what this is about is this is, what’s your one strategy that you may have?

Carin Taylor: So for us, it’s VIBE. Regardless of where you are at in the company, VIBE is really what we strive for and everyone at our company understands that. But I also have to make sure that there is some flexibility based on the region, the organization that you may be in, because there could be differences. And I’ll give you a quick example. If you’re working in a typical engineering environment, we all know that engineering is more dominated by men than it is by women. And so when you’re having those conversations, everyone’s trying to VIBE to make sure that this is an inclusive culture for everyone.

Carin Taylor: But in engineering, you may need to put more of a focus on how you’re inclusive of women. If I flip that story, and I think about an organization like human resources, they almost have the opposite problem. They have the issue of they are more dominated by women. And so their organization may think, may need to think about how did they create more of a balance when it comes to gender diversity, but on the male side. So you have to allow for that flexibility as well. The one other thing that I’ll talk about here is making sure that you’re able to differentiate the difference between your personal values and your company values.

Carin Taylor: And I share this because one of the things is sometimes those things can conflict. Sometimes when my personal values come in conflict with my company’s values, I need to know which one is on top, which one takes precedence. And if you’re working in a corporation, it should be your company’s values. And so, even though I like to share that, if I decide on Monday mornings I want to be a really nasty person and every Monday I come in and I’m a real B. Well, that doesn’t necessarily align with my company’s values around integrity and valuing people.

Carin Taylor: And so I have to leave that part of me outside. I can’t bring that side of me in. And if we talk about this in real terms, we’re talking about the things that really damage our relationships in our culture, such as people being homophobic, people being sexist, people being racist. Those types of things that crumble your culture are things that you want to make sure don’t impact your company culture, even if that conflicts with a person’s personal values. The next thing that I’ll talk about here is provide clarity because words matter.

Carin Taylor: So people need to know if you’re in a corporation like we are of 10, 12,000 people, we have to be aligned on what matters and how we’re talking about things. And so if everyone has a very different definition of what diversity and representation are, or inclusion and belonging, and they don’t understand the difference, or equity and equality, or visible and invisible differences, you have to often define what those things mean in your culture so that everyone has more of a common understanding and lens in which they’re looking through those things.

Carin Taylor: And so know that words really matter. The next thing that I’ll talk about is, you have to talk about the hard stuff. This is a one that makes us feel most uncomfortable, but it’s also the one that’s probably one of the most important. So whether or not you’re talking about Black Lives Matter, or the Me Too Movement, or immigration or race or politics, or lack of diversity in leadership within your company, these are the hard topics that we need to overcome that we need to talk about. And I say, don’t ignore them because these are the things that our employees are thinking about.

Carin Taylor: These are the things that they’re talking about at the water cooler, in the bathroom, when they’re going for walks on breaks. Our employees are talking about this, which means that we need to have much more of a lens of how do we appreciate the fact that we have all these social issues going on and they are impacting the productivity and mind share of our employees. And so we really have to make sure that we’re not throwing the hard stuff under the rug, but that we’re really taking the opportunity to talk about them. The next thing that I’ll share around building a culture that vibes is around getting everyone involved.

Carin Taylor: How do you find ways to make sure that all of your employees can participate, regardless of the level in which they are at? So whether or not it’s getting involved in employee resource groups or councils or functional diversity councils, or how do you get your remote employees involved, how do you think about what this means from a global perspective, find ways to get people involved. And I’ll talk about that around a couple of things that Workday has done to really make an improvement in that area. You’ve got to measure progress.

Carin Taylor: So I talked about sharing data and stories before, but you have to measure how you were actually doing and measurements go up and down. And I’ll talk about this in a couple bullets, but this is a journey. This is not a destination. There are going to be stumbles. There are going to be resets, but as long as you’re measuring progress and then putting things in place to continue to build upon that, then you’re actually headed in the right direction. The next thing is to celebrate the big and the small. Remember that we’ve been doing this work for a really long time and creating a culture that vibes for all people requires not just that every one of us participate, but it also means that there are great things, big things, big wins that you’re going to have and then there are also small things that are going to happen as well.

Carin Taylor: But at the end of the day, the thing to remember is that this is a journey. It’s going to take you a long time to get there. No matter where you’re starting is–wherever you start is where you start. But the fact that you continue to make progress and look at it as a journey is really important. So that’s what you can do in reference to a culture of vibing. Let me switch a little bit to what you can do as a person before I wrap up and open this up to some questions. So one of the things is, understand your story. So I shared part of my story in the beginning.

Carin Taylor: In order for you to expect that other people are going to share their story and lean into the difficulties of this conversation sometime, you have to understand your story first. So that’s the one thing. Welcome difference. Make sure that you’re looking for different perspectives and experiences and ways that people think as a way to do better in the work that you’re doing. Lead from a place of curiosity, empathy, and forgiveness. I talked about this a little bit earlier, but we can’t have an environment where people are afraid to speak or afraid to ask questions and think that we’re going to make progress if we shut people down.

Carin Taylor: I’ll share a quick story. I was in a meeting one day and an employee says to me, Carin, I don’t believe in diversity and I don’t believe in equal pay for women. And so as a head of diversity and as a woman, you can only imagine how that kind of took me back a little bit. But the beauty in the conversation was two things. One is we had a culture where an employee could share what they were truly feeling about this work, even to someone like myself. The other piece of that is I didn’t jump on this person and shut them down and go, oh my God, why, why am I having this conversation?

Carin Taylor: I listened. I asked questions. I led from a place of empathy and understanding so that I could better understand what the perspective was from this person. And at the end of the conversation, we got to a really happy place, so that’s great. Demonstrate inclusive behaviors, demonstrate them for all, speak up, speak up for people who don’t have a voice, whose voices are not heard. When you’re sitting in a meeting and you’re listening to someone steal someone’s idea or repeat something that someone else just said. This happens a lot to us as women.

Carin Taylor: Make sure that you are being brave and stepping up for that person. Engage in a difficult conversation, share your experiences, actively participate in making your culture better. Whether or not you’re calling it VIBE, whether or not you’re calling it DEI, whether or not you’re calling it diversity and inclusion, it doesn’t matter. But in order for us to make significant progress in this space, everyone’s got to participate. Again, provide that space and airtime for others. And if you are in a position, mentor others, sponsor others.

Carin Taylor: Help give each other that leg up so that we can all survive in the workplace. This really is just a quick little picture of how Workday vibes. And this is what we call, this is a day that we had last June called VIBE Week. But you can just see how multiple people around the world are getting involved in the activities to help us build a culture of inclusion. And then lastly, what I’ll do is just share this quick little video and then I’ll wrap it up.

Speaker: Our love gets better every day.

Speaker: Our friendship has no religion.

Speaker: Love is about who you are and not what you are.

Speaker: I don’t see a wheelchair. I see the love of my life.

Speaker: Our love is greater than anyone’s hate.

Carin Taylor: And so with that, I leave you with this question of what can you do to make sure that you’re building a culture around you that values inclusion, belonging, and equity, and what steps can you personally take to make sure that you’re creating an environment where everyone around you can thrive as well? So with that, I’ll go ahead and open it up to some Q&A. Gretchen.

Gretchen DeKnikker: Thank you so much, Carin. That was amazing. We have tons of questions. We just have a few minutes, but we’re going to get through as many as we can. So first, this is the one I really want to hear your answer to. Where do you find your inner strength to standing up to bias?

Carin Taylor: To standing up to what?

Gretchen DeKnikker: Bias.

Carin Taylor: Yeah. That’s a …

Gretchen DeKnikker: It’s a good one, right?

Carin Taylor: That’s a fantastic question. So I think a lot of it has to do with almost that story that I talked about with Mike in the beginning and having been someone who demonstrated bias and actually seeing it on both sides. And for me, what I thought was I felt the pain and the hurt and the damage that it meant to me and then I felt the hurt and the pain and the damage as I witnessed myself doing it to someone else. And having both of those perspectives and being able to then say, oh my God, how do I compartmentalize this and how do I never make another person feel undervalued for who they were was something that was just so prevalent in my life in terms of how I personally can translate when I see bias happening, how I kind of like try to just kind of shut it down.

Carin Taylor: And so for me, I think that’s where that inner strength comes from is really thinking about it and feeling it from both different sides.

Gretchen DeKnikker: All right. Okay. So our next question, thank you for the brilliant insights. How do you measure belonging at Workday and what aspirational goals have you set?

Carin Taylor: Yeah, that’s a fantastic question.

Gretchen DeKnikker: And this one comes from Dublin, also. Okay.

Carin Taylor: Fantastic.

Gretchen DeKnikker: That could be like Dublin, not Dublin, but okay.

Carin Taylor: Ireland, Dublin, California.

Gretchen DeKnikker: Yeah. I could have like got really dumb excited for a second.

Carin Taylor: So we measure belonging at Workday through something that we call a belonging index. And the belonging index is a subset of really kind of 34 questions that are a part of what we call our Best Workday Survey. And so we survey our employees every Friday. As a matter of fact, I took my survey this morning, but we survey our employees every Friday with only two questions from this set of 34 questions. But part of that, what we’ve pulled out are six questions that go directly to belonging. And that’s how we measure belonging in the workplace.

Carin Taylor: We measure it by gender, generation, race, location, and level that you are within the company. So individual contributor, manager, executive, etc. But that’s how we measure it. And it’s a part of that entire Best Workday Survey that we leveraged.

Gretchen DeKnikker: Okay. This is a good one too. Is leadership buy-in and ultimate accountability dependent on the organization style, like flat, hierarchical?

Carin Taylor: No, not necessary. Not necessarily. So if you think about leadership and who actually sits in leadership today, it can be hierarchical. But even if it’s not, making sure that the key point there was about making sure that people, that your leaders are talking about it and that they are participating in it. They can’t just go out and say, oh yes, I believe in diversity and not do anything about it and not do anything to support it and not build it into their organizational structure. It’s got to be a piece of what they do.

Carin Taylor: And part of it is hierarchical because if you have it coming from your very top leaders, and they’re saying that this is important, it certainly is going to spill down to the rest of the organization. But if you think about almost everyone being a leader within your company, also everyone having an opportunity to lead in some way, whether or not it’s on a project, it’s on a team, everyone can really play that leadership role. Everyone can take accountability and certainly everyone can participate.

Gretchen DeKnikker: Wonderful. Well, thank you so much for joining us this morning. This has been amazing. Again, everyone we have recorded this, so if you missed any part of it, it will be available later. And, Carin, thank you for your support, both personally, and from Workday.

Carin Taylor: This has been my pleasure. Have a fantastic day.

Gretchen DeKnikker: Thank you.

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