Get Reworked Podcast: How to Take Your Diversity Strategy From Intention to Impact
Corporate social responsibility gets thrown around a lot in business today. Organizations regularly tout the steps they take to make the world a better place and how they're endeavoring to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace.
How much of that is real? In this episode of Get Reworked, Malia Lazu breaks it down for us. She's a diversity and inclusion strategist, founder of consulting firm The Lazu Group, lecturer on innovation at MIT Sloan School of Management, and a former banker and community organizer. Suffice it to say, she sees the issue from many perspectives.
"Right now, I think a lot of what we're seeing is performative," Malia said. "And you know, that's great. Performative is a start, but it's not going to be enough to actually have an impact. We have to move from intention to impact. And once we start doing that, I think we can all take off our skepticism hat a little bit. But right now, there's no reason to."
Highlights of the conversation include:
- How to know when a company is serious about making a real impact.
- Why equity is the workplace standard that companies should measure themselves against.
- Why CSR and diversity and inclusion work takes practice.
- The Three L Process (listen, learn and loving action) for how to make a difference.
- The power of employee resource groups and how to ensure women don't continue to bear the brunt of the remote work downside.
Plus, co-hosts Siobhan Fagan and Mike Prokopeak talk about why corporate social responsibility is top of mind for businesses today. Listen in for more.
Have a suggestion, comment or topic for a future episode? Drop us a line at [email protected].
- Malia Lazu on Twitter and LinkedIn
- Ben & Jerry's statement on the murder of George Floyd (June 2020)
- Malia's column on women on the workforce in Banker & Tradesmen
- Book: Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality
Note: This transcript has been edited for space and clarity.
Mike Prokopeak: Hello and welcome to Get Reworked, your guide to the revolution of work. My name is Mike Prokopeak and I'm editor-in-chief at Reworked.co.
Siobhan Fagan: And I'm Siobhan Fagan, managing editor for Reworked. At Reworked.co, we're dedicated to covering the people, the culture, the technology and the infrastructure that makes up our quickly evolving workplaces.
Mike: Get Reworked is our podcast, brought to you by Simpler Media Group, where you'll hear from industry pioneers leading the way into the future of work, reshaping not just how we work, but also why. We're excited to bring you conversations about best practices, workplace trends and key technologies that support the modern distributed workforce.
Siobhan: Hi, Mike. How's it going?
Mike: It's going well. So we've been doing this podcast for a while now. We're now in Episode 18. And one of the topics that you've been wanting to bring into this for a while now is the topic of corporate social responsibility. Why is it something that you really wanted to bring in?
Siobhan: Honestly, Mike, it's something that I want somebody who knows much more about it than I do to speak on, because I have a lot of questions. It's something that in theory sounds good, you know, help society create better workplaces, etc. But then I see examples of like, the social media campaigns where they changed the flag that they're showing every month, or things along those lines, and I just start feeling skeptical.
Mike: And I think too, there's also the question of what's happened over the last year and a half — this radical transformation of work but also a societal transformation. And I don't think we're seeing quite what the effects are of that, but that that has fundamentally shifted a lot of people's lives and the role of companies in those lives is now much more prominent. So there's definitely a technological angle to this as well.
Siobhan: Very much so, which is why I am so excited to be bringing in our guest today. We have Malia Lazu. She is an award-winning tenured strategist in diversity and inclusion. She is the founder of The Lazu Group, which transforms the way people, places and companies are so that it creates a more inclusive world. She's also a lecturer at MIT on innovation and inclusion. And if that's not enough, she was also an executive vice president and regional president at Berkshire Bank, and a community organizer. So I can't wait to hear what Malia has to say on this topic. How about you, Mike?
Mike: Yeah, from community organizer to banker, this will be pretty interesting.
Siobhan: Total normal trajectory. Completely normal.
Mike: Alright, let's Get Reworked.
Siobhan: Welcome to the show, Malia.
Malia Lazu: Thank you so much for having me.
Siobhan: So we're here today to talk about corporate social responsibility. And I admit, sometimes I get confused when I see different brands saying that what they're practicing is corporate social responsibility. So I want to start, just basically, how do you define corporate social responsibility?
Malia: Well, I think the definition of corporate social responsibility leads to its amorphous nature of how it shows up. But really, corporate social responsibility is a way for companies to self regulate toward social accountability. So it's a tool of self definition, self measurement, that in hopes will lead to better and more equitable and sustainable corporate behavior.
Mike: What are some of the areas when you think about corporate social responsibility that fall under that?
Malia: Well, I think there's a couple of general pockets, one being the environment and sustainability. And the second being people, whether that be equity towards people, but also equity just in how you value your labor. There's a new kid in the alphabet soup and that's ESG, which gets a little more specific in environment, social and governance, I think. But really what I think about when I think about corporate social responsibility is, it's a chance for corporations to stop and to think of how they can be better global neighbors, partners and really start looking at how to come up with a triple bottom-line business solution.
Mike: So triple bottom line, can you just a high level overview of that?
Malia: Yes. So triple bottom line is looking for more than profits. I mean, and I think that's something that Mother Earth, right Mother Nature, is asking us to do. You know, I think for far too long corporations and companies really had a blank check because profits seemed like the most important thing and we're just seeing that that's not true now, and so it's important for companies to not only look at the financial bottom line, but look at also, you know, what they're doing in the world and, and how they're leaving the world a better place than it was when they were here. You know, ideally.
You're seeing this a lot in ways for large corporations, you know, whether that be McDonald's or Starbucks, really trying to take some steps forward around the environmental piece. But honestly, I think that when we look at all of these efforts, as long as they're self regulated and defined by the company, I think we should always be a little leery and want to kick the tires a little bit.
Siobhan: So you're bringing up skepticism, which I have to say, I think that's the role I play on this podcast quite a bit.
Malia: Oh good, you and I are friends then. Although I'm an optimist too, I'm like, oh, they don't mean it, let's try it.
Siobhan: And I have to say, Mike plays a part too, we're two skeptics on the podcast.
Mike: I guess this means I've got to be the optimist this time? Great.
Siobhan: But I'm curious because we look at a lot of these corporations taking these efforts. And I'm thinking now of say Philip Morris, although I know they go by another name, and them investing deeply into the arts and things like that. So, A., how skeptical should we be with these companies taking these steps? And B., How big a role should these companies be playing in correcting problems in society?
Malia: Yes. So you should be completely skeptical. And I think you should be skeptical for years, you know, I think the black community should be skeptical and not just take Juneteenth holiday as a thing, right? Charitable commitments should always make you skeptical because the thing about charity is that it means that you will always have, and I will always have not. So, therefore, I depend on your benevolence for my dignity. And so when you see companies digging into charity, it's just how they're choosing to hold their tax burden, right? It actually, for me, isn't a sign of cultural shifting.
I think when you see companies that start aligning their bonuses and management evaluations to these numbers, when you start seeing these companies entering new markets, banking people with dignity, building with dignity, selling with dignity, then you can start getting a little less skeptical. But right now, I think a lot of what we're seeing is performative. And you know, that's great. Performative is a start but it's not going to be enough to actually have an impact, right, we have to move from intention to impact. And once we start doing that, I think we can all take off our skepticism hat a little bit. But right now, there's no reason to.
Siobhan: We can turn them into skepticism berets, maybe.
Malia: Yeah, or visors.
Siobhan: So I'm glad that you bring up the cultural change that has to happen in the workplace for this to go through because the first thing that you said that struck me was one of the ways that CSR is demonstrated is how they value their people internally. So what does a culture like that look like in the workplace? What kind of practices do those businesses show?
Malia: I think the term here is equity. And so what you see for any company that's looking at future proofing and moving into the 21st century, the idea is equity, not fairness, right, not that we are not equality, that we all get the same thing, but that we really all get what we need to thrive. And so what you're seeing for companies, yes, they're absolutely making efforts around hiring and building different networks to be able to hire differently, look at internal hires, and do some smart promotions of people who may be underlooked because of implicit bias.
But what you're also seeing are shifts in vacation, shifts in the minimum wage, shifts in types of benefits offered, shifts in things like college degrees. And I think that's really when we start getting equitable when we understand that diversity and different experiences will shift culture. And that meritocracy can be found in all of them, not just in a certain definition of meritocracy. The businesses that are really doing that work, I would say are on the cutting edge of what's happening.
But I also think and this is new for a lot of us, right, most of us weren't leading companies during you know, Martin Luther King's era, right and trying to figure out where are we going to be company that had an integrated office in the south, or were we going to maintain segregation, or whatever it was. And some companies like IBM made certain decisions and saw a lot of growth and a lot of profitability and a lot of benefits to being diverse. And I think we're going to see that here as well. You know, you're seeing a lot of companies really question, what makes a good team. And once you ask that question, well, it's differing experiences, right? There's no better team than different people. So you can't really deny that anymore, but you know some companies are, and that's why I say stay kicking tires.
Mike: The question I have for you, Malia, now is, what's the benefit of bringing all of this together under one umbrella, you know, DEI, CSR? Why is it beneficial, because I think in past these have been kind of segmented and in maybe with, particularly with diversity work inside of organizations, there was sort of some energy that would get going there. And then if you kind of lump it together into this bigger umbrella, is there a chance that you dilute the energy that you're trying to create there inside your company?
Malia: Sure, there's always a chance, and there will definitely be fatigue, no matter how effectively you place it into your company. I think once you move out of the performative, of saying we do CSR so look at our own blue ribbon that we bought ourselves that we're putting on our company, what you see is that if a company really starts embracing these practices, they're going to have to start changing other things. I think KeyBank is a really good example of a bank that started pulling the thread in one place, which was around hiring and is now a very different bank, culturally, and in a lot of aspects. I think lumping in movement work where there are benefits, right, so environmental justice, social justice, all of these issues, I think, have a lot in common when it comes to who is most affected, and who is least affected, which also matters.
And you know, there's a human-ness to all of these areas — whether that be the environment, whether that be human rights, whether that be workplace dignity and culture — that there's an empathy that is needed to work on these things effectively. And so I think that there is some sense in having the right people to do the job. And while you don't always find that there's absolute crossover between, environmental folks and folks who care about LGBTQ rights. What you do find is people who have a deeper empathy for this world, and who has access to it how, and so there's definitely some benefits. But at the end of the day, you can place it anywhere and start unraveling the problems and the barriers that you have in your company. Or you can place it in the best place and still choose not to do anything.
And so what I tell companies a lot is don't get caught up in how do we do this perfectly. This is actually a practice. It's like yoga, like the first time you bend down to touch your toes, that's not it. But if you continue to practice, you'll get it. And that's really what this work is. It doesn't matter where you place it, as long as you place it there with a budget. And with some power, it'll get to all the places it needs to go.
Siobhan: So you actually just raise two points. I was sitting here thinking, how will these businesses know when they go beyond the performative level, like what are the signs that show that their intentions are clear? And so budget, corporate or higher leadership support, changes in internal hiring. Are there any other signs that businesses are taking this seriously and are taking the practice seriously?
Malia: So there's a couple of things, as I said before, I think again, tying it to bonuses. We like to say if you want something changed, you have to measure it. I'm like, nah, you just have to make someone's bonus be attached to it, and the change will come. There needs to be some real skin in the game for the leadership, which is also why self-regulation can sometimes be ineffective.
But I think one of the most effective signs is how tied to your brand it is. I can bring up a couple of examples here that I think might be worth noting. So Ben & Jerry's is one example of a brand that was doing CSR back when we called it like hippie Vermont people's ice cream, like when there wasn't even CSR. We're like, oh, look at that, right. I think Bernie Sanders was probably a city councilor or something in Vermont at that point, right. And they were doing the work.
And then they sell to Unilever, and what was evident was that this mission-driven work that these two hippies had from Vermont was baked so deeply into their DNA, that even when they got bought by a larger parent company, it was very hard to move away from. I was actually talking to Ben Cohen right after the George Floyd incident. And I said, Wow, I didn't realize that they would let you write that letter." And he was like, no, we didn't write that letter. He was like, that was actually basically Unilever and Ben and Jerry's. And that's an outcome, right? That's a sign that you want to get to, because that means that this work is so inextricably linked to what your product is and who your brand is in the world that it becomes very hard to back away from that.
Another example, that's definitely not as embedded but I think a good one nonetheless, is Nike, and the gamble that they took on Colin Kaepernick. Like here, the NFL was being boycotted. Colin Kaepernick was being loved and hated. And Nike not only stood by him as he was getting kicked out of the NFL and being held accountable for his First Amendment rights, however you want to put it, Nike put out one of the most powerful ads that not only included Colin Kaepernick, but included some of the most powerful black athletes and other athletes and athletes with differing abilities. And they sort of doubled-down on the otherness. Yes, right. They doubled-down on who their consumer was. Their consumer is young, right? What we know is that right now, the 16 and younger, what this census showed us is now whites are the minority, right? It's majority people of color. And so Nike knows what the future is. So they took this gamble, they backed Colin, they backed his protests, and they've estimated an increase of $5 billion in their brand.
So again, I think that these are examples of signs that now we're moving out of the intention. Impact is that I stand with this community because they're a part of my business model, not because I have a reputation risk if I don't.
Mike: Malia, I'm glad you brought up the athlete example, because there's some pretty stark conversations that happened around Colin Kaepernick and other high profile athletes who made statements, and the rejoinder from people who didn't like that was you should stay in your lane, i.e. your lane is play basketball, do whatever it is that you do.
Malia: Shut up and dribble.
Mike: Exactly. So that's ridiculous on its face, but the same argument can be made against companies, right? Your job isn't necessarily to contribute to society, your job is to make a profit for your shareholders or whatever your for-profit motive is, and you see companies that have actually put in place policies to avoid and actively stop hot button discussions around race or around politics at work. You know, Coinbase is one. Basecamp is another that's gotten a lot of press around that, what's your take, can a business really avoid talking politics?
Malia: Yeah, I think that there's a couple of flawed assumptions in the question, right, that we want to like, take out and wrestle with a little bit. The first is, we're now in the 21st century, thank goodness admitting that we're whole people, as individuals. So you absolutely don't just need to shut up and do your job anymore because we're moving further and further away from slavery, which is wonderful.
I think as far as corporations are concerned that, you know, when they ask for the bailout, when they ask for roads and transportation to get to them, they are absolutely a stakeholder in society and for them to say the only reason why we exist is for shareholders, then let's have a very different conversation around how society supports corporations. What we know is that societal social nets subsidize poor pay for some of the largest employers in this country, and that they benefit. When they were fighting against affirmative action when they were fighting, it's not that they've never been involved in politics before, right. Corporations wanted to be paid for the slaves they were losing, right. So corporations have always been involved in politics. I think the difference now is that they're being asked to play on the other side.
And that consumers and employees are saying, we actually care. You know, we're not just going to go into the coal mine anymore. That's not it. Thanks so much, love the concept but because this is just an agreement that we've all made to do, we're going to stop making that agreement. And corporations can ignore that if they want to. I don't think it behooves them to ignore that.
So I think that the question is one that made sense in the 1950s. But right now, when you see corporations completely creating brownfields and all of this kind of stuff to say that somehow their only role is to make profits for shareholders, I think it's their goal but it's not their role in society.
Mike: How did you come to this conclusion? Because we didn't talk much about your background but you were involved in banking. And it was there a moment when this sort of became a passion of yours? How did this all start for you as a focus for your work?
Malia: I think I was probably one of the few bankers that remain unconvinced about capitalism. But I started off as a community organizer. And so I actually started from the street side of this work. And I started off as a voting rights organizer, and then worked on a lot of cultural work with Harry Belafonte. And we started working with gangs to help gang start legitimate businesses. And it was really when I was going from Chicago to Little Rock, to Alabama, to Los Angeles, sometimes all in a month, you start to see the commonalities of the lack of access, and you start really seeing the systems that are complete, that consumes so much of our economy, and it became really hard to deny.
And so after doing that work, I started working with CEOs who wanted to continue to run a business, but just didn't feel right doing it on the backs of the earth and of people anymore. And we're really looking for a way to maybe balance out profits with people and the environment a little bit. So that's how I got started.
And then Berkshire Bank was a client of mine, and they brought me in to be a banker. And we were able to bring in some community underwriting, we actually, we had at COVID relief package ready to go before Governor Baker did, there was a lot of things that we were able to do, because I think I wasn't a banker, but I was coming at this understanding that I needed to hit my goals, and I far surpassed my goals, but also understanding that I could do it in a way that encompasses and includes, rather than excludes people.
So it was really great to be able to go into the bank and prove the point and then leave and become a lecturer at Sloan and continue on with my consultancy. And I continue to work for some of the largest banks here in New England and some of the largest developers. So there are people who are in real positions of power, who want to do more than just the performative and really want to figure out how do you produce for shareholders and also produce for shareholders children, you know, give them a future too.
Siobhan: So when you're dealing with these clients, who obviously have made the first step in that they're wanting to do more, they're acknowledging that their role in society is greater than just creating profits at all costs. Where do you suggest they start? I mean, how do you recommend they find the areas where they first focus?
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Malia: Girl, you know, I got 3 L's, I got three things y'all got to do now? Um, but I really do. We have this process that we love to call the 3 L's and, you know, I think that so often, especially people in power, right corporations with money, it's like, Okay, great, let's fix the problem. And the fact of the matter is, is that most leaders and most corporations, ethos, and culture does not fully understand the problem. So you're trying to solve a problem that you don't fully understand. And as we all know, that can be costly and dangerous.
And so the first L is to listen, just listen, just listen to what folks are saying, you know, get into different communities, listen to podcasts, read books, just really get embedded into the conversation because corporations are needing to play catch up, right? There has been conversations around what the people want from corporate accountability, long before Occupy, right but if you want to talk about what the millennials and younger are looking for, it starts with Occupy, right?
So the second L is learning, like learning about how your culture is counterintuitive to what you've heard from different communities, right. So if you hear that women want to be in the workplace and you don't have a maternity leave policy, you want to find that out, find out that you should have one that that's going to be a good way to start to let women know they're actually welcome here.
And then the third [l] is take loving action. And I know, for so many corporations, it's like, Don't even mention the word love unless we're talking about money. But at the end of the day, there's a reason why one of our founding cities is called Philadelphia, we decided when we created America, that there was going to be an interconnectedness between us and that we were going to, you know, support this country support one another through this United States of America. And as we were saying, corporations have really lost the brotherly love part of being a member of society. And so don't only take reactionary action, right, like, oh my God, George Floyd is killed, everyone's offered Juneteenth off, we're not racist, but what actually is an action that's going to make people feel that they belong, that's going to let people know that you're being authentic.
And so you know, normally, that means more than money, it actually means a shift in your culture. And that, ultimately, is where you'll lead. But you really want to start off from the community already knows what you should be doing with yourself, and they've probably already been talking about it. So that's where you want to start and then learn how you can change and then take loving action.
Siobhan: Let's flip the picture and say that we don't have leadership in the corporation who's aware that they should be doing these things, but you have this employee base who very much wants to be involved? How would you recommend employees go about letting their leadership know? What kind of argument do you think they should use? Or do you think that it's maybe not possible if the leadership isn't already recognizing this necessity?
Malia: Oh, it's absolutely possible. And there is so much power that sits in employee resource groups. And that's really where I think a lot of the leverage can sit, how you do it, the approach you take depends on the culture and things like that. I think that it can absolutely still be done. And there's also the question that I think employees should ask themselves of, do we need to start this off with leadership?
So when I think of employee resource groups, they actually have a lot of power. If the black employee resource group wants to hold a lunch & learn about something, they can do that, right. And they can invite everyone and they can put fliers up, and they can do that work. If the LGBTQ employee resource group for pride wants to buy every employee a book, if their employee resource groups have budgets, they can do that. Or they can find something free to share, right? So you can have those conversations without leadership involved. You can also, if you're the person who buys the coffee, you can make it a point to buy coffee from minority coffee shops. You can also just start taking equitable steps with the power that you have.
But then I think it's always best to go to leadership with a business argument that really explains what all the numbers are showing us, which is that if you want to be profitable 25 years from now, this stuff is kindergarten. Right? You know, we have folks ready to talk about reparations that there's a lot of conversations that are going to be happening and that this work is going to future proof your company and there's a ton of studies done by McKinsey, Deloitte, all the folks that companies pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for that are saying this.
Mike: You brought up Ben & Jerry's, and the example of Nike a little while ago, as well, as companies that kind of got this and are doing something real with it. Are there other companies that you've worked with that maybe didn't get it kind of in their DNA, but have actually kind of turned it around and transformed their culture to be more inclusive, and who are some of those companies that have not been native to this, or it hasn't been part of who they are, but have become more so and have been somewhat successful at it?
Malia: One of my clients is BioMed, they're the largest life sciences developer in Kendall Square, which is a large life science economy. They're attached to Blackstone, a very well funded company, and in so many ways, none of this was native. But because we're now looking now in order to build right in order to get permits, cities and states around the country are asking for minority team ownership, programming, welcoming, right, all of these things, BioMed got way into it and with the first development that we're doing with this model, they're building a lab.
But in the community, the community had been asking for theater for 16 years, and so BioMed is spending close to $50 million to build this theater and is setting up an infrastructure that the community is going to work with to help hire an executive director and, and all of this, and literally putting this new, beautiful 350-seat theater online in perpetuity for the community. That permitting process was voted on by the City Council to move forward unanimously, and at its first vote, which had never happened before for a lab space.
So, you know, I think that companies are trying new things, and the ones that get it right, start to see how good for business this actually is. And now BioMed is looking at this as this is how they develop now, that this is how they come into community, they come in right relationship, and they hear from the community on what is the best ways to respond, and figuring out how to do that.
Mike: The question I have, Malia, has to do with technology transformation that's happened over the last year-and-a-half almost now. This has been going on for a while but it's accelerated now. How have you seen the last year and the transformation of work by technology either positively or negatively affecting CSR and work on diversity in organizations?
Malia: That's a great question. You know, I think, right, positive, negative, this world is so much of both ends. Two steps forward, one step back, I actually think that, obviously, you know, starting with Arab Spring, like we saw the benefits of communities being able to find each other and that goes for either side, right, that goes for the Tea Party, right, also found each other around the same time that Arab Spring was happening. You know, I think that's been a definite help and benefit.
I think that you know, what we're seeing right with the rise of technology, and whether that be AI or whatever the other letters are, is that bias continues to sit in this technology. And I think the more that we get to a surveillance sort of society and things like that, certain communities have the right reasons to be concerned. But ultimately, I think just like the printing press, it's going to have benefits. It's going to have negativity and bad people will use it for bad things, right. And good people will use it for good things. And we all just sit and wait for Black Panther.
Mike: So related to that question about the digital transformation, the technology, transformation of work, and kind of the move to remote work, a lot of the statistics are showing that women have borne the brunt of a lot of the backlash or the downsides of the move to remote work and work from home. And there's been a an exodus of women from the workforce, and perhaps many of them may not be coming back. What can companies do to address that situation that's kind of come up over this last year-and-a-half?
Malia: So shameless plug, I have a column about this from this March in Banker & Tradesman. But I think it's horrible when we look at the exodus of women in the workplace. So shortly after getting there, literally I lived with generations, right, I mean, my grandmother was not a workplace person, and both of her daughters were, you know, and maybe it was because we haven't been in the workplace for long enough that this idea of caretaker and you know, the active role of motherhood, continued to take priority. But I think it's actually going to be damaging for us and that we're going to have to see another resurgence of bringing women back into the workplace.
Now, obviously, with remote work and with changes that way, hopefully we'll be able to keep women in the workplace. But I think we have to have a conversation in society about the role of parents and the role of aunties. And everyone. I mean, I think if COVID brought out anything is that our loss of community really fell on now the nuclear family and caretaking, which is how we haven't evolved that way, right, I mean, we've lived for thousands of years, much differently then to parents and some kids in a house alone and all of that, you know, and now that we're so far apart from one another, you know, the burden ends up falling on the mother and I think you know, work and women's contribution to work is going to obviously suffer.
Siobhan: There was a quote that recently came out by Saadia Zahidi. She's the managing director of the World Economic Forum, and she said there can be no economic recovery without a social one. And it just, listening to you, it's just bring so true that all of this is so deeply intertwined. Do you think that organizations that don't actually acknowledge that are going to disappear in the next few years?
Malia: I think that they're going to become irrelevant. I mean, disappearing sometimes is hard to do in capitalism, regardless of how well we think this laissez-faire thing works, right. But I do think that companies who don't get this are going to end up going the way of the icebox, right, versus the refrigerator, like, you're just not going to be able to maintain relevancy, you're going to keep on having more and more gaps. This is the part of the work that is not transactional, there is nothing transactional about CSR work. And if you try to make it that way, you will fail.
And you know, you just can't fight that because this work sits in human nature, and it has to be transformative work, you know. So, I love that quote, I think that, you know, we can't actually have more equity anywhere if we don't have it everywhere. And I know that that's a Martin Luther King paraphrase, you know, so I'll give him credit for it, but it's just so true. Martin Luther King had his other great quote, while he's on my mind right now, where he said, through our scientific genius, we made of the world a neighborhood, and he was talking about the airplane. And he said, but through our moral genius, we have failed to make it a brotherhood. He said that back in 1956, and it was just so prophetic, you know, with these conversations, even now that we're having around technology, and we can create all the things, but it's actually the choices we make about where we decide to live, how we decide to love and who we decide to accept into our sphere, that has to do with creating equity and creating a true sisterhood, brotherhood, personhood.
Siobhan: It's the technology, that's the easy part. It's the humans where it gets complicated.
Malia: Ain't that the way? You know, but if we can go from like, we're all, you know, move from concern to curious, you know, like one of the books that I actually use in my work a lot, as far as inspiration is called Sex at Dawn. And it's a book about how we evolved. And it's a book around female liberation and the role that women played in our evolution. But one of the things that they talk about is when we started studying chimps, and other apes that are cousins or whatever, on the tree, that we started studying chimps and chimps were very territorial, right, and so we started seeing ourselves like, oh, yeah, we're similar to chimpanzees, blah, blah, blah.
But what we didn't study was bonobos, and bonobos are more genetically tied to humans than chimps are. What bonobos do is, they're not protective at all. When a new bonobo family comes, they actually engage in a three-day orgy. And that's how they figure out who stays who goes, you know, and when I read that, I was like, oh, my God, like, we're being chimps and we have to be bonobos. You know, like, there's no reason to be like, oh, my God, you're gonna take my job, I'm not gonna have it like dadadada. It's like, no, let's hang out. Let's see what we can create together, so we can come at it differently. And we can be more curious about one another, rather than concern that we're going to lose ground.
Siobhan: I'm just picturing your clients at Berkshire, while you're advocating for bonobo orgies.
Mike: The conversation did not go where I expected it to go, but I like it.
Malia: Yeah, no, you know, and that's also part of the work, right? You know, I think if I show up like my client, then there's no need for me. But if I can actually model thought and thinking that is reflective, then that helps people get points, and that helps connect dots in different and creative ways. Like you're not going to forget that now. And you may be like, you know, what we should be, let me be more curious now. Right.
And so yeah, what you know, with my clients, we don't talk about bonobos a lot, but I do try to get them comfortable with being a little more accessible and with understanding that there's a certain corporate culture, there's a certain white hegemony, there's a certain comfort that is very reflective of the white middle class that also doesn't help culture at all.
Siobhan: So Malia, thank you so much for joining us. I know that our audience is going to want to learn more about you. I know they will want to be reading some of your articles. So what are the best places for them to find you online.
Siobhan: Fantastic. Thank you again, Malia.
Malia: Thank you for inviting me and letting me have some fun on your show, I appreciate it.
Mike: So many fascinating aspects to that conversation. I think Malia is definitely somebody that we're gonna want to bring back on this podcast, because I think we just scratched the surface on a lot of these things. And a lot of one-liners just a really nice encapsulations of a really complex and rich issue. Were there particular lines or turns-of-phrase that she had Siobhan that that you really liked?
Siobhan: There were so many, as you said, Mike, but one that I did write down and underline and put arrows towards was, 'We're in the 21st century. And we're finally admitting we're whole people.' And I think that's what it comes down to. I mean, at the end of the day, corporate social responsibility is just admitting that it's a whole person inside the company and in the communities in which they're acting.
Mike: And bonobos, I didn't think that we're going to go that route with this conversation. But it was actually the most fascinating part of the conversation to me, I just think, just that rich metaphor of how we approach interpersonal relations with one another and how we can all sort of try to work together versus in opposition with one another. Definitely a fascinating way to end this conversation.
Siobhan: We bring it back to the primates again, this is the second time in a podcast, I think.
Mike: Second time in the podcast, and we still have many more to go. So who knows, we're going to work our way through the primate world.
Siobhan: Well, it's good as always to talk to you, Mike.
Mike: Likewise. See you next time.
Mike: We encourage you to drop us a line at [email protected]. If you have a suggestion or a topic for a future conversation, we are all ears. Additionally, if you like what you hear, please post a review on Apple Podcasts or wherever you may be listening. And be sure to share Get Reworked with anyone that you think might benefit from these types of conversations. And then finally, be sure to follow us at Get Reworked on Twitter as well.
Thank you again for exploring the revolution of work with us and we'll see you next time.
About the Authors
Mike Prokopeak is editor in chief at Reworked, the premier publication covering the r/evolution of work, where he leads content development focused on the transformation of the workplace.
Siobhan is the editor in chief of Reworked, the premier publication covering the r/evolution of work published by Simpler Media Group, Inc. Siobhan leads the site's content strategy, with a focus on the transformation of the workplace.