The theory around why a diverse and inclusive workplace underpins high performance is well understood by most professional services firms. But there are fewer stories shared on how to affect change to build a diverse and inclusive culture.
My guest on S2 Ep 4 of the Performance Leaders podcast is Firm Diversity Partner, Dawn Rosemond. In a reflective and candid conversation, Dawn shares her experience as the first African-American female to make equity partner at Barnes & Thornburg, and how it informs the strategic initiatives and programs she champions as Firm Diversity Partner. I hope you enjoy listening to our podcast with Dawn as much as I enjoyed recording it.
Dawn Rosemond serves as Barnes & Thornburg's Firm Diversity Partner. In this role, Dawn is charged with activating the firm's longstanding commitment to diversity, inclusion and equity. Through the creation and implementation of delivery programming and strategic initiatives, Dawn leads the charge for cultivating and maintaining an environment that boldly promotes the training, sponsorship, empowerment and promotion of all firm talent, regardless of background.
Always positive, boundlessly energetic and refreshingly authentic, Dawn's people skills and innate personal drive to develop the strengths of everyone around her are bolstered by her tireless energy and work ethic. In her role as Director of Diversity, Dawn spearheads the firm's efforts to make bold, lasting change in an industry needing redirection.
Dawn is the first African-American female to make equity partner at Barnes & Thornburg and reportedly in the state of Indiana. She has been with the firm her entire legal career, representing business clients in virtually all stages of litigation, including pre-litigation counseling, ADR, trials and appeals.
Performance Leader helps your firm build a culture that engages, develops and rewards your partners and employees. Our market leading software is used by some of the world's leading professional firms. To learn more, talk to us or book a demo with our consulting & software team.
Ray: [01:32] Dawn, welcome to the Performance Leaders podcast.
Dawn: [01:35] Thanks for having me. I'm excited to be here.
Ray: [01:37] It's great to have you, too. Can you tell us about the role of a firm diversity partner?
Dawn: [01:45] My goodness, that's a big, loaded question to start with. You know, it's changed so much over the years I've been practicing for - my gosh - 25 years and I started in 1996. So my math could be a little off. But I'd never heard of such a thing growing up as a young lawyer. I never heard of such a thing. And even when our firm started certainly actively pursuing diversity and inclusion initiatives, I still didn't really glean what it was until certainly by the time I raised my hand and said, hey, I want to step into this role and incidentally, a role that I actually kind of I just kind of created, we never really had. We had a lot of diversity leads. We had one of one of my partners who led the effort in conjunction with support from an administrative side of house diversity professional. But we've never had an executive level diversity equity inclusion lead, if you will. So I created this position thinking I knew what it was, thinking I knew what the person in this role did and I found out pretty quickly that I was only scratching the surface. I think to sum it all up for me, at least the way I choose to show up in this space and its role is for me, it's the ultimate, the ultimate - what's the right word? Positioning to build people and empower people. And that actually, for me, again, other people may lead differently in this role. But for me, that's the main goal of this. The one I'm shooting for is to make sure that I leave the people I get to touch - through our programming, through any sort of initiatives, through any sort of training, what have you - to leave them elevated. But I also have an opportunity and the privilege of interfacing regularly with my partners, with our the leaders of our organization to help make sure that diversity, equity, inclusion is integrated into our business, which is critical, and making sure that we are actually, authentically driving change. That's probably the most important thing, I think, for any person in this role, is that whatever it is that you're whatever it is that you're saying to the public, whatever your whatever it is you're putting out there, any glossies and pretty pictures about diversity and equity, inclusion, you better make sure that you're actually trying to get after it and do those things. Otherwise, you're going to come up wanting and it's going to set back this really important, these really important efforts, not just for your organization, but it'll have a bit of a ripple effect. So authenticity is key. I hope that answered your question.
Ray: [04:43] It does, and I guess having the status of partner allows you to be representing those issues at the partnership level and also at the client level in a way that it might otherwise be difficult for someone in an admin role.
Dawn: [04:55] You're exactly right. And that was the, that was one of the biggest reasons why - the only reason it was attractive to me and why I proposed it in the manner in which I did. Before, the way again we approached it, was the way I think most people tend to approach it, they’ll have an admin, someone who reports up to HR, or some other function on that side of the house. And it's not diminishing those roles, it's just that when you do it and you set it up that way and they're not reporting up to the top, then by definition what you're saying is that their impact is limited. They're not in the right rooms. They don't have buy-in. They don't they, don't hear the right things. So, yes, in our firm structure, me being a partner, an equity partner, an owner, is another way to say that. I get to be in rooms that allow me to say things that I think of in a way that just wasn't available or would not be available if it were more of an administrative position. And so that was critical to me. And I think - I'm glad you brought it up. If, in fact, you're serious about diversity, equity, inclusion, then it has to come from the top and it needs to be empowered from the top and aligned in such a way that that that it sends the message that this is not just something we're interested in doing, but this is something for our company that's a business imperative. And we're putting our money where our mouth is.
Ray: [06:25] And are you expected to undertake this role in addition to your usual partnership responsibilities, your client facing responsibilities, or is there a recognition that you are double hatting and some sort of allowance for that.
Dawn: [06:39] I was making a decision, a career decision, a life decision that I wanted to show up differently every day professionally. And I when I created the role, I created it with the mindset and certainly with the structure that this would be a full time responsibility to our firm. I just don't think - and I think I didn't think at the time - I know now having four years or so under my belt. You can't really be halfway in with this and do it effectively because it changes so much, it shifts so much. And so for me, I structured it in such a way that I remained certainly a capital partner, which was important for the role and important for me, I worked for it and I didn't want to let that go. I retained certainly relationship and responsibility relative to my clients, although other folks, I get to port over to other folks to be able to handle the day to day. But at the end of the day I felt that it was important that this, that diversity and equity inclusion have our full attention, if that makes sense.
Ray: [07:46] It does, and that's fantastic to hear because I guess in so many firms there isn't a significant allowance for that. And it is expected in addition to 100% client load and therefore something's going to suffer.
Dawn: [08:01] It's going to suffer. And that thing is always the DEI efforts. They won't win because, you know, when they structure it that way. It's almost like a volunteer role, if you will, even if you get some credit for it or some bump in your compensation. You still know that the lion’s share of why you're getting compensated is based on your client work. So you focus there and clients, rightfully so, expect you to be all focused completely on them. They should. And so it's just a really hard thing to do. But what it's saying (and that's why I'm so proud of our firm), what it's saying in large part, a lot of times I don't think (maybe unbeknownst sometimes to the leader), I don't think their efforts are disingenuous. I'm simply saying. If it really, to really effect change, you're going to have to invest, that's true with anything you want to do. You want to know what a firm cares about? You want to know what any organization cares about? You want to know what an individual cares about, follow the money.
Ray: [09:01] Do you find yourself still having to argue for diversity and inclusion or does everyone now get it at a fundamental level?
Dawn: [09:14] I think I'm out of a job, right, if everyone gets it, I do. And, you know, that's a hard proposition in 2021. Hard for me. Not necessarily hard to do, but it's hard for me from a personal level just because some of the things and you can, you can just look at our national politics, and some things are just like I can't believe we're still talking about this. But the reality of it is, is that, yeah, we are. And you've got to do what you have to do. We have to do to bring people along. I will say this, though, Ray: yes, I find myself having to sometimes continue to make the business case depending on what we're doing. And that's all right. That's just part of the responsibility. There are some people, though, no matter what you say, no matter what you do, that will, who will never - they're just not coming along. They don't like it, they hear something very negative when you say the 'D' word - diversity - they're not going to do it. And while I know those folks are there and I certainly communicate with them, that's not where I spend my energy. I spend my time with those folks who are like, I get this and I want to help. Or those folks who are like, I don't know if I get it. I want to get it, help me. You know, that's to me where the energy is best well spent. But yeah, you still today, you still have to talk about this and convince, unfortunately, folks that this matters. Again, I'm proud of our firm that we're further down the road than some in this regard. But it's still a part of my job at times.
Ray: [10:50] Yeah, I mean, it does seem strange, doesn't it, that that we still have to have these arguments because, you know, at a human level, diversity and inclusion is a human right. It's a matter of dignity and equality and inclusion So when you hear the general counsel of Coca-Cola, Bradley Gayton, as he did 10 days ago, talk about withholding 30 per cent of fees from firms that fail to make diversity targets, that must be a tremendous spur and encouragement for the work you're doing and bringing people along with you.
Dawn: [11:30] Yes and no, I obviously saw it. There have been, many other, you know, open letters like that, whether it be from HP or Intel or other, there just been other notions or efforts like that. And I don't begrudge General Counsel and other corporate partners from doing those sorts of things. As a matter of fact, to your point least, this is the yes part, I applaud it in the sense that it it's the proverbial teeth, right. That you need to try and get some of these things across the finish line. The most begrudging of of folks who are like, I don't want to do this. I don't like this. Why do I have to do that? This sort of this sort of thing may certainly help because it's obviously something's going to happen at a certain point. You don't meet those metrics. They're going to lose the work. But the problem I have with those open these open letters (and I and I've said this in different panels and things of that nature) and especially and I'm saying this not so much as a diversity equity inclusion executive, but I'm saying it as a black female who's practiced for over 25 years as a black partner, a black equity partner. It's very frustrating when these types of things occur, these types of letters, because it's still doesn't really fix the fact, the reality that we oftentimes are left on the cutting room floor. So we're over here screaming oftentimes to these corporations who are saying, (you know, I'm black so I can only speak from my lived experience and I can say), you know, pick me as your relationship partner. Those kinds of letters, what hat they're doing is they're saying, hey, person, who is the relationship partner, which oftentimes, especially when you get the bigger companies oftentimes are not diverse individuals, we're going to punish you if you don't start giving some of your work away to people like me. That's fine. They may or may not do that, may respond. If they don't respond again, they may lose the work.
Dawn: [00:18:35] But to me, the more proactive and positive way to approach it if I'm general counsel... But if they're looking at this and saying, I'm going to look at who we're using and so I'm and I'm like, wait a minute, I have no women on my outside counsel teams. So we need to change that. And so I'm going to find me some relationship lawyers, relationship partners who are female. And I'm going to invest in them, not only black people and black women. I don't have any Latino women. I don't have any Asian women or men or whatever it may be, and empower us to be their relationship partner.
Dawn: [00:20:13] I struggle with those open letters, because at the end of the day, this is not that hard. I know I said this work is hard. But I want to make sure I'm clear that the work is hard because people are involved. And people, when you deal with people, you deal with emotions and you bring your own experiences and you got a lot of stuff to navigate through. And so it's hard when you bump up against those things and different comfort zones and all sorts of things. But what's not hard is hiring good people and empowering them. So there are countless databases and resources out there of people of color, of women, you know, of people who are identified, who are identified as diverse, who are able to handle these matters. Find them. Invest in them. If they don't do a good job, certainly move past them and then do it again. We normally don't get a shot at all to be a relationship lawyer. We've got to be so perfect before we're even selected. And when we get the shot, if we mess up, then we're done. You know, like “I know I shouldn't have bet on that black female. I'm going to go back to what I know.” And that's crazy talk to me. So I guess I just have problems, you see. I hope you…you probably saw my soapbox out a little bit, So that's my yes and no relative to these things.
Ray: [15:40] Dawn, let's talk about some ideas and initiatives that work in your experience. And I'm thinking particularly of ones that relate to hiring, retaining or promoting talent. Are there ideas or initiatives that you recommend or that you really passionate about?
Dawn: [16:00] Yeah, I mean, there's so many things. I mean, I think what I've learned (and I read this, I won't take credit for this), but I read this in some publication when I first came into the role that this kind of work, you have to do a lot of throwing things up on the wall just to see how what sticks. And you have to do that. And I took that (as I heard that) and felt comforted because you're going to have to trailblaze, you're going to have to get really comfortable trailblazing. And I think that you get in trouble when you spend your time just trying to see what every other firm is doing or every other organization is doing. So for us, for instance, you know, we wanted to develop a more robust pipeline of diverse talent coming into our new lawyer ranks, our new associate ranks. And so we created a 1L Diversity Scholarship. And it has had an incredible success record, Ray, in terms of the students who come to us, stay the two years and then ultimately become new associates for us. We realize that you have to get outside of the box. So we want to make sure that we're doing that in terms of where we are. If you fish, you can't say, man, there aren't enough (fill in the blank) -- women or diverse talent in wherever you're located. You just have to. That's like saying, again, that fish aren't biting right here. Well, the natural reaction would be then to broaden your net, go fish elsewhere. So we've done that deliberately through that program. And it's been, it's worked amazing for us. So I think that's something that you can look at. Two years ago we created, moved to a transformative parental leave benefits program that affords 16 weeks of leave to everyone, 100% pay to everyone, not just our lawyers, but to our business professional team as well. And that's critical because it's not just about race and gender and ethnicity and sexual orientation. Millennials are the dominating demographic within our workforce these days. And we need to make sure that we were making an investment in our firm, the firm, for tomorrow. And it's really critical then that we speak to, you know, having a family and being able to try to take in some of the pressure off of our team as they move into that space where they're starting to build out their families and that sort of thing. And it's so funny because we could have easily raised, you know, we could have easily just moved to 12 weeks or 16 weeks just for the lawyers; that would have been consistent with market. And market really didn't say much at all about bringing along business professional teams with them. That just really was kind of left out -- it was just conversations about lawyers. But I don't think you can talk about inclusion true inclusion if you're not talking about the whole team. And so, you know, that sort of thing when you're, where you're leading from the front, those types of issues where you're looking at not whether you’re behind relative to your peers, but asking yourself who do we want to be tomorrow? What kind of organization do we want to be? What kind of person? What kind of company? Whatever it is. What kind of firm do you want to leave to those who are going to be inheriting it and then making decisions from that vantage point? Our goal for our firm that I constantly keep in front of me is we want to be better. And not better than our peers, not better than some sort of market survey, not better than the firm across the street. We want to be better than we were yesterday, literally, and figuratively, we want to be constantly moving forward. And so those sorts of programs where you're trying to cultivate a pipeline, where you're trying to removed barriers. We have a robust now wellness program that's been critical for us with a therapist that's that that we've invested in to support and help our talent bring their whole selves to work. So there are a number of things in that regard. We just --we're just trying to look at it from every angle and trying to figure out what do we need to do to move the ball.
Ray: [20:20] They sound like some great initiatives when it comes to promoting talent and decision making around who's ready to move into a role. How does your work and D&I positively impact the promotion decisions?
Dawn: [20:40] It stands on three pillars sponsorship, integration, culture. And that integration pillar is about aligning the business of diversity, equity, inclusion with the business of the firm. And so when you talk about promotion decisions and things of that nature that gets at the heart of it. I interface with our recruiting leads relative to new people who come in the door. I'm on the interview teams for a lot of these folks and when we field teams to respond to client requests for information or RFP or as they call them, I vet those things to make sure that they're aligned with our commitment to diversity and inclusion, to make sure that we're not fielding homogenous teams. And then beyond that, once we get out in front of the client and say, hey, pick us, because our values align with your values. And if we're fortunate enough to win that work, then I have the, I have the vantage point of the responsibility of being able to say now are the people we put in front of them, are they actually getting that work? So we're policing ourselves and we'll keep doing that better and better every year, but policing ourselves to make sure that the folks who we held out in front of the client saying this is what this, this is our diverse bench, that they actually are being empowered and get actually good quality work, which helps them move forward. I interface with department leaders and I meet regularly with the Management Committee and talk about all of these sorts of decisions. So it's not one thing, Ray, it's a lot of things. But this elevated approach to DEI that we've taken has impacted deliberately and effectively impacted all sorts of decisions in that regard. You know, one program I didn't mention, Ray, that that is critical to this is we've also created a signature sponsorship program called Project Keymaker, and it sits under a professional development program VISION. Project Keymaker pairs, (you know, all the way through our management committee) pairs our partners with our associates at a minimum, proteges, but also some of our non-equity partners, but pairs them with folks who can help them, move forward in our system to promote their success journey. So our efforts, our commitment to diversity and equity, inclusion are critical to the way in which we are caring for, developing and ultimately promoting our talent.
Ray: [23:14] And I guess you've also got to, I imagine in your role, be comfortable with the idea of experimenting and failing and adjusting and trying again, right?
Dawn: [23:26] Without question, oh my gosh, all the time. Right. I mean, my goal is to fail faster. I mean, you've heard that before, but it's so true in this work. I mean, there's just no right answer in diversity, equity, inclusion work. And I think that's what drives a lot of people --- that they're kind of looking for 'I will get it right. How do I win?'. And I understand that, we're built that way, I'm a type A, you know, that's certainly, you know, as a practitioner, that's what you want, right? You want that for your clients. That's no different here. There's no ---there's no right answer. There's a better approach. And that changes with the circumstances. Then you just got to try to find it in the moment with all the information and knowledge that you have and make the best decision, grounded in integrity, grounded in authenticity. And then it's something – if you get more information that makes you have to go back and tweak that, then be willing and able to do that. But, yeah, it's just a necessary part of it. I didn't call it --- I don't even call it a failure, honestly, I take that back and kind of maybe correct myself, I actually call it either you win or you move the ball forward or you learn.
Ray: [24:43] That's a great philosophy. And are there's some long held practices, and I've got one in mind here, the whole evaluation process, which is a big part of our work, is helping firms with that process. So I'm interested whether there is some long held practices like that one, that we have to fundamentally rethink or redesign with D&I in mind, do you have a view on that that idea of long held practices - sacred cows - and in particular evaluations?
Dawn: [25:14] Well, I mean, certainly I think that that gets at the heart of these concepts. You've heard the phrase systemic racism or if you just, if you're grounded in that or, you know, systems that that negatively impact the underrepresented, they get to the heart of those things that we need. These processes, evaluations, hiring practices, promotion practices, things like that on their face. They seem objective, right? But then when you can start diving into them, you know, you oftentimes uncover that the pathway to get to this objective decision making point is not as objective as we thought. You know, when you think about things like, for instance, when we talked about recruiting earlier, just take that one, for example. You know, law firms certainly have a standard of who's going to be a successful lawyer. We're no different. I mean, in terms of, you know, whether it be grades, the law school they attended and all those sorts of things. Those things, though, sometimes can effectively be a bit of buzz, loaded terms or service buzzwords because when you say, like this person, I know that they are "qualified", put quotes around that, because they went to this school or what have you. You, by definition, may be leaving out a great segment of the population because, you know, the access to that school may be relegated to majority groups, if you will. And so, I mean, as an example, so you have to you have to start looking at real indicators of success in a system like whatever it is, whatever system you're in, as opposed to these kind of surface indicators. I personally don't think I mean, you can put someone in front of me and having practiced this long and tried cases or been in the trenches with a client or what have you - having a 3.9 or 4.0 GPA is not what makes you an amazing lawyer. You have to have an incredibly high EQ and also, you know, all these sorts of things that we don't tend to measure against. And so it leaves a lot of people on the cutting room floor. And so you have to do things to stand against that and give broader groups an opportunity. That's not a reduction in standard, which oftentimes people think, especially when they don't really like or don't understand, diversity equity and inclusion, work. You're not advocating for reduction in standards. And actually that suggestion is inappropriate.
Dawn: [00:36:34] What you're advocating for is equity: that I have access to compete on my merits for whatever the opportunity may be. And so, yeah, I mean, those, you know, way you evaluate, you know, when you interview, for instance, Ray, who's on the team, you can say the system is objective, but is your team diverse that's going out the interview? What type of training have they been provided? Otherwise if you don't provide them with training, then they're going to bring their own socialisations, their own biases that we all have them, myself included, into that interview process.
Ray: [28:22] And you're also talking about helping people change mindsets, because even though we're talking about systems, these systems are always applied by humans, aren't they? So we can't get away from the fact that there's no such thing as a perfect system. But equally, even if there was a great looking system in place that had been honed over years, we still need to give people the skills, the capabilities, the awareness to actually be applying those things. And an evaluation committee and the composition of an evaluation committee is probably a really good example of that, I imagine.
Dawn: [28:58] I'll give you another example, based on something I said, you know, I told you about our Project Keymaker program. Sponsorship works. It's always worked. It's not -- it's not new. I was sponsored. It's an amazing thing. There's all sorts of evidence that when someone is sponsored in a way, (my definition, my personal definition of sponsorship is when someone takes your career journey, your success path seriously, personally). And so it works, like it's wonderful. The problem with it is the reason why I created, why we created Project Keymaker. It’s because it's just never been afforded to everyone. They’re doing whatever they’re called to do within that system, and we need to get that tweaked and fixed so that, again, things are equitable.
Ray: [29:48] Dawn, do you think that there's a correlation between firms that are good at various elements of diversity? So if you if you're strong on gender diversity, does that mean that you might be better at handling racial diversity, for example, or do you think that, you know, firms end up focusing? And there priorities? Do we focus on one thing at the expense of the other? Or can we sort of lift all things together?
Dawn: [38:26] It's a good question. I don't think that one begets the other. I think that you have to make a decision at the top of what your definition of diversity is. I think some organizations have decided that they are going to diversify in limited fashion. They don't say it that way, but that's what happens. They cultivate programming and a work environment to be more appropriate or fitting and pleasing for instance, say to women, but a person of color feels completely disenfranchised in that same environment. So I think it starts with how you define diversity. For us, it’s broad. And our goal - my goal - is to, is to position all of our talent to win, not just select groups, but all of our talent. And so I think you have to – I mean everything about this work comes down to a decision. I mean, people do what they want to do, right? Not just in this work, but period. People do what they want to do. So if you really want to cultivate an environment that's pleasing and welcoming to people of color, you have to do some things to do that. You're going to have to make some decisions to do that, starting with your leadership structure: who's represented there? You cannot have a homogenous leadership structure. All white males or all white anything, but you then say, but we welcome everyone here. Because then you look like you're not telling me the truth. That's what you're seeing now with all these different, you know, calls for diversification of company boards and all sorts of things. Because they recognize that the reality doesn't match the picture. So I think you have to decide then that you're going to get after ---you're going to drive inclusion relative to everyone, and then you have to cultivate that actively and every day, because if you don't (whether you cultivate, whether you actively cultivate it or not), you're going to get something. So if you're talking about having a lot of high numbers, if you will, again, of women. They deliberately did something about that. And if they have no black partners or no Latino partners or what have you. That's on purpose. They may not like to say it that way. If you really, really want to change something, you'll go after it in a different way. It doesn't mean it changes overnight. But what you will see ---you've got to cultivate what you want to see deliberately and actively every day.
Ray: [33:08] Dawn, I'm interested in your personal story as well, and you've obviously had a lead in to this role, but can you be happy to share with us a bit more about your own journey into the law firm and through the law firm and how that shaped your attitude to this issue?
Dawn: [33:28] So I came to the firm, I was a summer associate back in 1995. This means I came in and clerked for a summer with this firm in the Fort Wayne, Indiana office, and then was fortunate to be offered a position, a full-time position after I finished that summer. And so obviously I have been there, been here ever since. And so I honestly, I, I have been treated, you know really well, by our firm. Don't get me wrong, there have been really, really hard times for me. There have been times when I have wanted to quit for a myriad of reasons, not because I'm Black or woman necessarily, but just because it got really hard. But I was I was able to work really hard and was able to position myself for partnership in 2005 and was, you know, honored to be voted into our partnership, into our into our equity partner ranks. And you know, it's so it's been you know, at least in terms of my journey from a, you know, just from an advancement standpoint, has been incredibly positive, notwithstanding the, you know, sometimes the really hard times, some of the things I had to navigate through. I will say, though, that I've had a lot of time and this is what I meant when I said, you know, I didn't count a lot of things, including what it would cost me to be in this role. And one of the biggest things that it’s cost me was a great deal of reflection and remembering. When you kind of got your head down and you're working and you're trying to achieve something, whatever that may be, stay on track as an associate, be partnership material, become a partner, be a productive partner, be a contributing partner, all those things, when you're focused in that regard, you tend to forget or just miss it sometimes or at least put it someplace so you can continue to move forward for yourself and for your clients. But what this role, which I came into at the end of October 2016, has caused is a lot of reflection. There's nothing like doing things and working on, working on initiatives and things in a, in the space that highlights some of the things that maybe I longed for, that I maybe I'd forgotten or lost or didn't know how to articulate. It was oftentimes, it was very lonely for me coming through this. And actually all this informs how I lead now in this role. It was very lonely. I am the first black female capital partner in our firm and that sounds really great on a resume. But it's a lonely proposition. I never really found much communion. I have amazing colleagues, don't get me wrong, but just didn't think it was safe, I didn't --I don't think I ever really felt safe, and so I showed up differently most of my years. And while I try not to regret anything, I just remember that as I work in this particular role now, it's hard for me at times. And so the way I've chosen to lead, (maybe I accidentally started a bit of healing myself, I don't know), but like, I chose to lead out of, you know, “what would I have wanted? What did I need? When I was growing up here, what would have mattered to me? I prayed for someone to see me. I didn't realize that.
Dawn: [37:22] And I, you know, I never felt like my blackness, if you will, was fully welcomed. I spent a good deal of my career toning it down, whatever that meant, to make it -- to make my colleagues, other folks in the industry (when I go to conferences or whatever) to make other folks comfortable. And that's really tiring. So I don't do that anymore. And so I show up differently than I ever have before and it's informed everything and everything that I do, my experience here, my walk within this firm, my walk in this industry, it has informed everything. It informs everything that I do in this role now and certainly informs how I show up day in and day out.
Ray: [38:24] That's such an interesting insight you've given us that that's suppressing some of your natural self can be more tiring than pushing for these changes. So I think that's a fascinating insight. I'm interested also then in the political context of this role in these issues. There's been a lot of things going on in the US, in your country in the past 12 months, some highs and lows, incredible highs and incredible lows, I imagine. How do you maintain your energy, resilience, positivity in a work context when you're looking at and absorbing and feeling these events that are going on?
Dawn: [39:11] These events that are going on are - they're new to our TV They're shocking, I guess, but not to me. I would say it this way - black people have been getting killed by the police long before George Floyd was murdered on May 25th. Nobody ever cared before. In terms of all these changes and statements and things like that, nobody really, nobody really - it didn't move them enough. But I remember, you know, I mean, we can go all the way back to Emmett Till. But I remember sitting down with my boys who were young then, crying in front of the screen when Trayvon Martin's killer got off. We can go back before that. So when you ask the question of, of (and I don't mean I don't want to be anything else but honest), I mean, when you ask, like, how do I deal with it? - I don't really know what another version of our world. It was just on the news now, and I just I just don't knowing another version. My mom raised me to navigate these waters, period. I understand that the profession I joined, that I desired, that I wanted to be ever since I was a little girl, was not made for me. And I'm used to walking into a store. It just happened last week. It's so funny. I'm used to walking in a store and they think I'm going to steal something. Last week I was going to buy vitamins and clearly, by just being, just by being in this skin, scared the crap out of - I was with my husband - scared the crap out of the teller, and when I walked in, I asked her what I wanted if she had something and they didn't have it. So I looked at some of the other things and then decided that that's not what I wanted. And so I finally decided to walk out. Clearly she's like, hey, hey, hey, lady, you couldn't have just walked in here and changed your mind, you must have taken something. And so I'm used to that. So you asked, like, how do you navigate? You're asking actually the wrong person, because I cannot survive if I don't know how to navigate this. That's the way -- my friend said it this way. To survive I have to know everything about white culture, how to talk, what's appropriate and what's not appropriate according to, according to those norms, how to dress, what my hair should look like, where I'm supposed to be, where I'm not supposed to be from the workplace and beyond. The converse is not true. If people want to know, if people want to learn about black people - and I can only speak about my own lived experience being black - if they come into these waters they do so for sport or curiosity or fancy or fantasy or something. But it's not to survive because you can literally live your entire life and not have to know at all what it's like to be black. And again, I'm not I'm not relegating diversity to being just about being black or white. I just can only talk about me. So when you ask that question, which is a very good one, about how do I deal with this political climate or all these things like that? It just is not terribly shocking to me. It's not -- it's just not. Some of it has been incredibly sad. It's been really sad. And it's sad that it took all of that’s happened in 2020 to get us to this place. But by the same token, you know, I am a firm believer that you can't clean up anything you can't see and so in the weirdest of ways, I, if that's what was necessary, then I shall embrace it because I'm hopeful that we can now finally, maybe get some place, get to higher ground, because up until now we have simply just been kicking the can down the road.
Ray: [43:41] Yeah, there's no point covering these things up, is there?
Dawn: [43:45] No.
Ray: [43:48] Dawn, it's been really interesting, it's been a pleasure talking to you and and listening to you on this subject that you're so knowledgeable about. Thank you for taking the time to be on our podcast.
Dawn: [44:00] I appreciate it. Thank you for having me.