Walking our Diversity Talk
By: Janine Davis
One of the most impactful concepts I learned about during my coaching certification program is called “self as coach” which essentially means we can’t expect our clients to go where we are unwilling to go ourselves. It starts at home. Increasingly at Evolution we are coaching our clients surrounding issues of diversity and inclusion. There is some black and white in this arena – there are some egregious acts where the consequences are (or should be) obvious. But there is an enormous gray area. Our clients are unclear even about the fundamentals of what they should be looking at in their organizations, let alone how to address change. There is also a huge amount of fear, confusion and shame about how to even have conversations on these topics. This fear seems to manifest itself mostly in avoidance and separation, when what we want is clarification and connection.
The past couple of years have brought to light the severity of issues surrounding inequality. We all knew it was bad, but had no idea how bad. So now we have the opportunity to face it, by concurrently acknowledging the fear, confusion and shame, while forging ahead to have the difficult conversations and taking action towards change. This point in history is a call to action for us all.
Our Honest Self-Assessment
In the spirit of “self as coach”, Evolution is looking inward first. What are we doing to ensure equality, diversity and inclusion? Are we walking our own talk?
When we took that look inside, we found that our hearts were in the right place, however, we found some shadows lurking:
We looked at our cadre of leadership and coaches, and found the diversity lacking. We were a bit homogenous in both categories.
During a Partner offsite, an issue sparked some really heated conversation around gender dynamics, and we realized there was some work to do to process this as a team.
How We Want to Be & What We’re Doing About It
True to our own methodology, we’ve dug deep into our BE level – our beliefs surrounding diversity, inclusion and gender dynamics, in order to yield new actions, and in turn new results. Some of this work is still in process, as is the case with effecting most sustainable change. But here are some of the steps we’ve taken to make shifts internally:
We have increased the diversity of our coaches, adding more women and people of color into our troops. This shift has noticeably altered the flow and dynamics of our work as a team (in a good way).
We’ve added a female Managing Partner to the core leadership team, and the addition of feminine energy at that level is palpable.
We have proudly become a member of PledgeLA, a collaboration between the Annenberg Foundation, Mayor Eric Garcetti and the Los Angeles Tech and VC community. PledgeLA’s mission is to actively increase diversity, and then gather data to track our collective success.
We are a Platinum sponsor of Women Founders Network, a Venture Catalyst intent on getting more VC funds into the hands of women, providing leadership coaching and 360s to early stage female founders.
Many of us recently completed a course on having difficult conversations around racism, which was incredibly painful and difficult, but necessary.
Finally, in the aftermath of the Partner offsite issue cited above, the male coaches at Evolution self-organized into a peer group to process issues around male/female dynamics.
This work is not easy. It can be awkward and painful, and set off infinite triggers. However, we’re at an inflection point in history where we can play a part in leveling the playing field, and bringing more balance to society.
What can you do to bring more awareness about diversity issues to light?