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Stereotyping? Mental models? How to ferret them out and stop them (#136)

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Jean Latting
February 14, 2024
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How do you self-identify? Our identities affect our allyship with those who are being marginalized because of one or more of their identities.


You're about to meet the author, Bärí Williams, who has worked in different industries, tech, media, legal, and others. She has written Diversity in the workplace: Eye-opening interviews to jumpstart conversations about identity, privilege, and bias. The book is about 25 interviews with people from different marginalized communities. Here she is prepared to think about a world where people are categorized into different groups, yet everyone is an individual.

Jean 3:40 

Why did you write the book?

Bärí 3:52 

A lot of people tend to put people in one or two buckets, they usually break things down either through race or gender.

You're also thinking about religion and culture and sexuality and all sorts of things. And I felt like a lot of those potential areas had not been quite as covered and the intersectionality of them hadn't really been covered at all.

Jean 4:39 

Did those you interview favor one dominant identity? two or more?

Bärí 5:19 

Only two had one singular identity that they thought was their marginalized identity. The other 23 had two or three of them.

Bärí 10:45 

A lot of these folks in these stories were the only Muslim or they were the only person that was LGBTQ or they were the only Asian or they were the only Black person.

Jean 11:35 

What’s the feeling of being an only?

Bärí 11:57 

I think it's a both/and not an either/or. So I think that it's definitely something that has to do with that particular space and place. And it has to do with the culture of wherever you happen to find yourself. And I think that there's also something different about a level of expectation of people either expecting to see you or expecting for you not to be there at all.

Bärí 13:34 

Working in tech, they don't expect to see Black folks, especially Black women. And so to be both, you already come into a situation of expectations to be a certain way. So you're not going to meet that person, you're going to be meeting the little things you want to pick apart that confirm what you already thought this person would be like.

Jean 17:31 

When that happens to you, you say you’re not offended?

Bärí 18:06 

There's a level of intentionality that will kind of create the difference between whether you're offended by a comment or you're not.

If I assume good intent the first time and then I corrected you, and then you do it a second time. And I correct you again, by the third time that's not happening. So it's the intentionality behind it.

Jean 27:23 

There's wanting to be accepted for who you are, and the challenge of wanting to change the culture. How do you stand on that? What did your interviews say?

Bärí 28:10 

Some of the Black women had hit a point where they just said, you know what, I'm tired of having to do this for other people's comfort, what about my own comfort, I'm tired of doing this for other people's comfort. And they left and started their own businesses.

Bärí 33:04 

I started to see more people coming into workplaces embracing the idea of come as you are.

I distinctly remember going through an entire interview process with straight flat ironed hair. I showed up on my first day with curly hair.

I was very deliberate about it.

Jean 35:25 

What does it take for a person to make a suggestion to change the culture? If you're the target, in the target group?

Bärí 35:42 

Courage. And two it's also knowing your audience and knowing how someone will best receive information.

You have to understand what is the best way to connect you to your audience and the audience being the person you're giving the suggestion to.

Jean 39:24 

Many people don't even know that they're supposed to pay attention to stuff like that.

Bärí 39:57 

If you're so consumed with how someone else is going to perceive you, you're not thinking about how do they want to receive you?

Jean 42:59 

Talk about the long game and the short game.

Bärí 43:17 

There were things at Facebook that I would want to do there and my colleague would just tell me, "Bärí, just wait, just slow down a little bit, pump your brakes, we'll get there." And I would be so frustrated. Like, "Why are you not going to sign on for this? Why don't you think this is a great idea?"

He was playing the long game. And I was playing a short game. It has worked for him, not necessarily for everyone else.

If we're tolerating this on the inside, then how can we say anything about keeping people safe that are using the platform on the outside?

We can do something larger for the community later, if we just kind of stockpile all of these microaggressions and slides and we just build a piggy bank of them, and then we can cash them all in for something big. But the problem is, that doesn't affect this person's day to day.

Jean 50:21 

Several places in the book, you say don't ask what somebody's background is. And another place pronouns are important.

Bärí 51:36 

People will tell you what they want you to know.

It's always safer to allow someone to correct you than it is for you to presume. Err on the side of caution.

Jean 57:58 

This is why we have wars. We don't know how to talk to each other.

Bärí 58:25 

This subject is about putting yourself in other people's shoes. And sometimes you're going to be the person that's seeking correction. And sometimes you're going to be the person that is correcting. And because you're going to be in each of those different positions, remember what that feels like when you have to do it.

Allyship costs you nothing. It doesn't cost anything to be kind to somebody or to understand somebody's personal perspective.

Bärí 1:00:09 

Allyship to me, I feel like ally is a verb. A lot of people feel that ally is a noun. I don't think that it is just a noun. Yes, that can describe that as a person who is empathetic to your plight and may want to find a way to help. But ally as a verb, that is someone that is actively engaged in the process of helping those marginalized communities that they are in allyship with.

Bärí 1:02:15 

I think there are myriad ways you can have privilege. It's essentially just a special advantage of some sort.

When I graduated from Berkeley, Michael Eric Dyson was our Black graduation speaker. And he ended his speech by telling us to be Trojan horses.

He said that it was our job to go into these places where other people that were like us did not have our privilege, it's your job to go in and represent those people that don't have the ability to be in there with you.

Jean 1:05:27 

How can people get in touch with you?

Bärí 1:05:35 

Bäríawilliams all one word on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram.


Jean 1:11:12 

In my intro, I said prepare to think about a world where people are categorized into groups, yet everyone is an individual. This is my main takeaway. We really can just suspend judgment when meeting someone and see them as an individual with multiple identifications and personality characteristics.

My second takeaway is the whole question of how to talk about differences when meeting someone.

My third takeaway is she was taught at a young age by her mother and grandmother to pay attention to how people receive information so you can better get your message across.

The fourth and last takeaway is that for her ally is a verb. It's something you do.


Thank you for being here and for listening.

picture of Bari A Williams

Bärí A. Williams

Bärí is an attorney and startup advisor and cofounder of The Runda Lab. She currently serves as an advisor to Vera, and fractional GC for Career Karma.

Her primary practice areas include emerging technology transactions, privacy and data protection, IP licensing, and terms of service. She is also a published author with bylines in the New York Times, WIRED, Fortune, and Fast Company.

She is the former Head of Business Operations Management for North America at StubHub, where she was responsible for business planning and operations to manage and oversee technical internal and external metrics, product innovation, and partnerships and drive P&L results across the company.

Prior to StubHub, she served as Lead Counsel at Facebook doing legal work supporting Connectivity Labs to build drones, lasers, and satellites. During her Facebook tenure, she also built the company's Supplier Diversity Program.

She has served as an advisor to startups in the enterprise and e-commerce space, including Blavity (and AfroTech), Bandwagon, Owl (acquired by CallPass), and Telepath. She recently gave congressional testimony on bias in AI in financial services in Feb. 2020.

Her book, Diversity in the Workplace: Eye-Opening Interviews to Jumpstart Conversations About Identity, Privilege, and Bias, was released on March 31, 2020, and she is awaiting her second book to be published, detailing her experience as a Black woman from Oakland working in tech in the Valley.

Bärí is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley (BA, Mass Communications), St. Mary’s College of California (MBA), the University of California, Los Angeles (MA, African-American Studies), and the University of California, Hastings College of Law (JD).

Questions to ask yourself about this week’s podcast

  1. Think of your assumptions about other people when you meet them. Are you making assumptions? How can you train yourself to suspend stereotyping?
  2. What are your multiple identities? Which are not obvious to new people?

Conscious Change skills
covered in this podcast

  • Test negative assumptions
    • Check to see if you are making cultural assumptions
  • Build effective relationships
    • Develop skills in inquiry and openness
    • Learn how to give, receive, and seek feedback
  • Bridge differences
    • Address underlying systemic biases
    • Learn to recognize dominant/nondominant dynamics
    • Sustain chronic unease toward exclusionary behaviors

#MultipleIdentities    #ChronicUnease    #Allyship 

We are a leadership development firm that helps people and organizations create resilient, sustainable, multicultural, and inclusive settings. The ability to lead consciously can help you gain true awareness and earn the respect and trust of others.    

It’s the assumptions we have about people’s lives that are the biggest obstacles to growth, awareness, and success. We help you understand how those assumptions are preventing you from becoming the best you can be as an organization, an inclusive leader, and a person.

Let’s start a conversation. Email us at jeanLC@leadingconsciously.com