How to cultivate courage and authenticity: Conversation with Dr. Charles Shaw, Part 1 (#55)

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Jean Latting
May 23, 2023
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Charles speaks about exploring generational identity and professional lives of Black women. No one has heard any of their stories.

Highlights from this week’s interview

This week Jean interviews Charles Damien Shaw, PhD. Below are some of the highlights. 

Charles Shaw (he/him/his) is global director for learning for diversity and inclusion at Facebook. He says his specialty is organizational development, leadership and workforce development, performance management, diversity and inclusion. Charles got his PhD from Alliant International University-San Francisco Bay with a focus on organizational psychology.

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Jean asks: How did you get to corporate America from Third Ward? And what was your awareness around race?

Charles: I grew up in Third Ward, Houston, which is almost exclusively Black. My mother taught me resourcefulness and structure, and made sure we were taken care of. Even though everyone in school was Black, the teachers and the people on TV were White. I thought of White people of having authority and power, being better, having more. I understood there were fundamental differences.

Jean: tell us about your dissertation.

Charles: It was about exploring generational identity and professional lives of African American women. Their perspective was missing from important periods in history. What did they think about the Iranian hostage crisis? During the assassination of JFK? How does this differ among the different generations of Black women? No one heard any of their stories.

I think the biggest difference between White women’s experience and Black, across all generations, was about hair. All the Black women talked about the ongoing negotiation around their hair, and the comments made – likely in all innocence – by clueless White women who thought it was okay to touch other women’s hair. Physically, symbolically, and culturally, it was “don’t touch my hair.” 


Cultivating the courage to think differently

Jean: You’re known as a different thinker. There are a lot of people who are toying with in the workplace, wanting to conform, wanting to fit in. But fitting in is contradictory with being a different thinker.

Charles: The first step is to get your ideas out there. They don’t have to be fully formed; they can be half-baked but they need to get out there. Others can help flesh them out, and a good leader can pick out the essence and go from there. And don’t take it personally if they’re rejected. 

Jean:  Let's shift to L&D and D&I (for learning and development, diversity and inclusion).

Charles: My role is to look at how do we build an inclusive culture through the education and development of people? How do we tap into mindsets, cultivate behaviors, get people to think and behave differently so that the people who work at the company feel a sense of being included, feel a sense of working on a team, feel a sense that they belong at the company. And that's very intentionally done.

Jean: is it really possible to have an inclusive culture? You know, there are a lot of people out there who just think this is impossible in today's age. 

Charles: I think it is possible. I think it takes more than words on a website. I think it takes deep, fundamental and intentional intentionality, for people to really come to work committed to creating an inclusive environment in their interactions, in their decision makings.

I think when people start to educate themselves a little more about these experiences, you're like, more often than not, that informs a different way of engagement, of building relationships of having friends and family members, that if you didn't have it, it wouldn't produce the same outcome or the same relationship.

Jean asked about Pride Month and Juneteenth

Charles: Well, Juneteenth has been celebrated in Texas for years, and I'm so glad it's now a federally recognized holiday. And as much as we celebrate the atrocity, we need to celebrate the emancipation and the freedom that comes along with what this holiday means. I think Pride Month is a public recognition of members of the LGBTQ plus community, being visible, living, thriving, and celebrating the different aspects of their identity. At the intersection of Juneteenth and Pride, is the recognition of LGBTQ plus people of color and Black people who sit at those intersections living authentically and as wonderfully as they know how. And for other people to see them living these incredibly glorious lives.

close up of colorful hot air balloon

Jean:  Looking forward to Part II.  Thank you, Charles.

Charles Shaw headshot

Dr. Charles D. Shaw

Global Director, Learning for Diversity and Inclusion at Facebook

His expertise spans a variety of areas with a particular focus on organizational development, talent management and leadership development. He’s coached and developed thousands of leaders around the world through his work as an internal consultant within mid to large size companies. Combining an educational background in organizational psychology with his hands-on business experience in a number of Fortune 500 companies, Charles brings real-world application to his work.

Charles lives and works between the Bay Area and Houston, Texas.


The views and opinions expressed in this or other blog posts at are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Leading Consciously. Any content provided by our bloggers or authors are of their opinion, and are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, organization, company, individual, or anyone or anything.

Questions to ask yourself

  1. What challenges do you face in speaking up in public or work settings?
  2. What do you believe it takes to build an inclusive culture?

Leading Consciously concepts and skills
covered in this blog post:

  • Bridging differences
    • Learn to recognize dominant/nondominant dynamics
    • Address underlying systemic biases
    • As a dominant
      • Recognize that you may have blind spots as to your own behavior and systemic biases
      • Provide support to nondominants in your group
    • As a nondominant
      • Recognize that dominants may have blind spots about the impact of their behavior on nondominants
  • Initiating workplace change
    • Emphasize changing systems, not just individuals
    • Gain support for the change one person or small group at a time

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