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Carolyn Slaski of EY in Conversations with Tina Tchen, President & CEO of TIME'S UP

In this episode, Carolyn Slaski, EY Americas Vice Chair – Talent speaks in conversation with Tina Tchen, President & CEO of TIME’S UP on how EY as an organization shares TIME'S UP mission to create workplace cultures where everyone in the workplace can feel safe, respected and able to reach their full potential. Slaski and Tchen speak on what it takes to make employees feel like they really belong. They discuss how gender equality will only exist when transformation leaders make it their mission, as well as all employees must be willing and vulnerable to do the work. Caring about, talking about and actively working on gender equality all the time is an enterprise imperative. Listen to their stirring conversation for inspiration and hope.

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Show Transcript
Christopher Tkaczyk:

Welcome to Better, by Great Place To Work®. We're coming to you today from the 2020 Great Place To Work For All Summit in San Francisco.

I am joined by Carolyn Slaski, the Americas Vice Chair for Talent at EY, as well as Tina Tchen, the President and CEO of the TIME'S UP Foundation.

Tina spent eight years at the White House where she worked as the Chief of Staff to First Lady Michelle Obama, as an assistant to President Barack Obama and Executive Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls, leading the first ever White House Summit on Working Families and the first ever United States of Women Summit. I said that correctly?

Tina Tchen:

You did. You did.

Christopher Tkaczyk:

Okay. My first question is I'd like for both of you to share about your thoughts around what it means to create a culture of belonging and culture of belonging in the workplace, and the steps that we need to take within organizations to make it become a reality. Whoever wants to go first.

Tina Tchen:

Well, that's one of our missions at TIME'S UP, is to create workplace cultures where everyone in the workplace can feel safe, respected and able to reach their full potential. To really belong,. That’s what it means to have a culture of belonging.

And one of the key things that I think it requires is for the people at the top to see this as a corporate governance imperative. Not just something that our diversity and inclusion professionals have to worry about, or the HR professionals, or the talent folks like Carolyn have to worry about, but something the entire enterprise from the very top, all the way down through the wage scale, should be caring about and talking about and actively working on all the time.

Because creating that workplace culture we're seeing now in this knowledge economy, in the way our economy is going to work for the future, in the way you have this millennial generation who you're trying to attract as talent, but you're also trying to get them to buy your goods and services and they care about those values. This is a key component to how companies are going to succeed in the future. My big takeaway for folks is from the very top, tone at the top matters and make this a corporate governance imperative.

Carolyn Slaski:

Yep. I couldn't agree more with Tina. You do have to make it part of everyone's job every day to create this.

One of the things that we have really talked to our people about and how do you create that is to really just ask people the question, like just have a dialogue with people, so get to know each... it's that human element that is so critically important in our world and it's what people crave, and people crave the desire to belong someplace that people care about them. And the way to do that is to have a dialogue with someone that just asks, "Let's get some common ground. What do I know about you? What do you want to know about me?"

By doing that, you create that trust factor amongst people and then that's creates the culture, and that culture that feet, people feel like they can come to work and be themselves at work. That feeling of belonging.

Christopher Tkaczyk:

It's interesting to me, you mentioned that talking about appealing to the next generation of workers and leaders. Right?

Tina Tchen:

Right.

Christopher Tkaczyk:

I've interviewed a lot of folks who are focusing on diversity and inclusion, and they've said that they are finding that many young people entering the workforce for the first time have become much more concerned about the quality of the culture in the workplace. And so it's the younger generation that's forcing the top leaders at organizations to actually make those changes, which is great.

Tina Tchen:

All of our studies around millennial workers and millennial consumers, are that they care about the values that the companies that they either work for or buy goods and services from. What are the values that those companies represent? And I will say there are companies who actually get that on the consumer side and you see them on International Wednesday doing initiatives for gender.

But I will tell you the other thing about this millennial generation is they can see authenticity and a lack of authenticity. I often tell folks, "Look, if you're going to do that and appeal to your women consumers out there, people care about gender equality, you can't do that authentically if that's not what you're doing back at the workplace,” right?

If you're not living that value out with your workforce, if you're not looking at fair pay and promotion, and equal pay, and things like paid leave and paid sick days, and really the kinds of conditions and culture that you're providing for your workforce, that's going to show through when you try to project a different value up to the consuming world.

Christopher Tkaczyk:

Why is it important, do you think, to take that holistic view of quality and equity in the workplace?

Carolyn Slaski:

Well, the whole idea of a holistic view is that it permeates the whole organization. That gets back to what Tina mentioned, right? On the onset, it is culture, right? It has to permeate the whole organization. It has come from the top. It's what gets set at the top, the expectations, the accountability that that permeates throughout the organization around that, that you make sure that there's sponsorship, equitable sponsorship for all of our people and that there's this sense of belonging.

And so how do you do that? Our CEO has actually said to all of our leaders, "Culture is your job. This is not my job, this is not HR's job. But it's incumbent upon all of you as leaders to create this culture that is a culture of living our values each and every day."

Christopher Tkaczyk:

That's Kelly Grier.

Carolyn Slaski:

That's Kelly Grier. And she makes it perfectly clear that that's their job to do that, and there'll be accountability if you don't do that.

Christopher Tkaczyk:

It's interesting because she comes from the background of working around human resources and culture. And it's very rare to see a CEO of a global company like EY have that pedigree of about caring about people.

Carolyn Slaski:

Yeah. She actually comes from the business, did a rotation in talent, and what she would say is it really was an anchor to who she is as a CEO. And when you put that lens on it and the criticality of how you take care of your people each and every day.

Christopher Tkaczyk:

Yeah. But it's not often that a CEO has spent time in the trenches of working in talent.

Carolyn Slaski:

Absolutely.

Tina Tchen:

Well, and I've seen Kelly, as Carolyn knows, I've seen Kelly in operation and how she talks about these issues with her workforce. And it's really powerful.

What's particularly powerful when I've seen Kelly do is … it's not just to the women at EY, it is importantly to the partners. I've seen her do this with her most senior partners who are running the business units, and having them own that. And that's really key because what Carolyn is saying about the holistic viewpoint is, workers experience their workplace culture in totality, right? They're experiencing their pay and promotion, they're experiencing their onboarding, they're experiencing what their review process looks like, where their office is going to get set, what the work assignments are holistically.

Too often, and I've been doing diversity inclusion work in my profession, in the legal profession for three decades, and we really did treat them as silos. Right? There was a diversity and inclusion coordinator or there was HR in one place, and then the legal team did something else around sexual harassment and compliance work, and then operations unit are the ones who are really doing evaluations.

That siloed effect meant that we weren't paying attention to the full range of culture and how each of those things interact with one another and how our employees are really experiencing, because they experience it holistically. That's the entirety of their work experience.

Christopher Tkaczyk:

Is there something you want to say?

Carolyn Slaski:

No, I've heard Tina actually say this and I couldn't agree more, is sometimes people think about where you draw the line, and lots of times we'd let the lawyers do that. Right? And they draw the line.

Tina Tchen:

That's Carolyn knows I have a whole lawyer speech we could go into.

Christopher Tkaczyk:

Go ahead.

Tina Tchen:

Yeah.

Carolyn Slaski:

It's a really low bar. And what we have to do as organizations is set a high bar: this is our culture, these are our values and that will be our values each and every day. And just because some microaggression may not break a law, it's not acceptable in your culture to have that. And how do you ensure that people understand that and that the line is being set higher than what the legal requirements are? Right.

Tina Tchen:

Yeah, no, my point is, and speaking from my perch here now as CEO of TIME'S UP, we were born out of the human reaction to the Harvey Weinstein and sexual harassment in the workplace.

As I started doing this work, when I was doing it in private practice for the prior two years before I landed at TIME'S UP, at that point, when you looked around the sexual harassment policies, probably for every major company in America, I probably could've recited to my heart because they all looked exactly the same. They were all written based on the Supreme Court law around sexual harassment, which as, Carolyn says, sets a really low bar for bad behavior. But that's what was viewed as unacceptable.

Example, I always say the equal opportunity, bullet. It is perfectly legal. And in fact, a lot of times when people are sued for sexual harassment under federal law, the defense is, "Oh, I don't just harass women, I harass everybody." And that wins. It is a winning defense under the law because actually, the law only bars you from harassing or bullying based on gender or race, or protected category. If you're just doing to everyone, you're actually not doing something illegal. But I would submit it is not something as an employer you want to have, right? That is not the culture.

Christopher Tkaczyk:

Makes you an asshole.

Tina Tchen:

That's right. And that's not what you want. Most managers don't want that.

And that's Carolyn's point, is that what companies need to do is not... and what we did for so many years, this is everybody, not just any one company, we all set the bar, at what the lawyers, and I say this as a lawyer, what we were telling our clients: "This is all you're legally required to do, so don't take out any more risk.” Right? “Don't take any more obligations than you're legally required to do." But that has created the conditions, therefore, for terrible culture, right?

Companies now are realizing, EY is a good example, there are others where you were setting codes of conduct [2] that set the real values for you, what you want. We will not tolerate bullying or harassing behavior by anyone against anyone, for example.

Yes, that may buy you a lawsuit from a white male who's gotten bullied, who may not have had a lawsuit under federal law before. But I think more and more companies are seeing that that risk is worth taking, because I run a much higher risk if I have a toxic workplace culture where people don't want to work for me. Or worse, that we have lawsuits that will commence for sexual harassment or worse. And importantly that we are not really getting the best work out of our people because they're not happy. They're not invested, they don't belong, to look at that word of belonging.

Carolyn Slaski:

We implemented an anti-bullying policy. And really we just really want to take that head on and said that there's harassment, sexual harassment, but this is bullying, and what we don't want is people feeling that they can be jerks in the workplace.

And I think it's terrific. I mean, we have seen people feel much more comfortable now raising their hand and saying, "You know what? I'm being treated like I don't want to be treated. And then we have a place to go and we can actually make sure that we eradicate that behavior."

Tina Tchen:

And the other piece about eradicating that behavior and looking at not the far into the extreme, not the Harvey Weinstein actually sexual assaults happening in the workplace, but there's a whole lot of other behaviors that are far at the opposite end of the spectrum but are still toxic: the microaggressions, the bullying.

If you can address those early on, then people can get better. Right? This isn't all about having people dismissed from their jobs. This is about having people get better and learn to be better managers, better coworkers, better supporters of one another. That's also what it means, it's to create a workplace culture of belonging, is a place where people can learn from their mistakes, can have better behavior, and we can set better standards for everyone.

Christopher Tkaczyk:

Because you mentioned Harvey Weinstein, what was your reaction when you heard the news about the fact that he's guilty?

Tina Tchen:

My public statement was, and I believe it, it was a new era of justice that happened when the jury verdict came back. Because what we know about these cases is according to RAINN, for every 1000 perpetrators, 995 go free, right? Because they're either not charged ever, they're not investigated, let alone actually go to trial, let alone be found guilty.

We were fully braced for the possibility that this case would go like those 995 do out of 1,000. And especially given what the defense threw at these survivors who testified, that they had a relationship with them, that they were still emailing him, and happily I think the prosecution did a great job. I think the jury saw through the fact that most of the time when sexual assault and definitely when sexual harassment occurs, it's by people who know each other. It's the exertion of power. Of course, they stayed in touch with him. He's the person who could control their career that they were trying to launch. And the fact that the jury saw through all of this usual tropes about victims of sexual assault that the defense tried to throw up, like “the women put themselves in that position,” or, “of course it couldn't have been sexual assault because they were still in touch with him.” They saw through that, was pretty important and represented a real breakthrough.

I hope it means for survivors who are out there that they know if they speak up, they can be believed and to tell prosecutors, "If you believe these women and you bring charges, you can win them."

Christopher Tkaczyk:

The TIME'S UP movement and the #MeToo era are powerful in the sense that they have created this ripple effect. It's not just the entertainment industry, it's opened up exposure of the abuse of privilege and power, and basically privilege.

Tina Tchen:

Right. No absolutely.

Christopher Tkaczyk:

I mean in the restaurant industry for instance, great example, in the classical music industry, James Leviathan, because of harassment and aggressive sexual assault behavior, and men affecting men or it's just about the immense of use of power in general. That's what I think is amazing about this movement and in the work that you're doing.

Can you talk a little bit more for the folks that don't know enough about the TIME'S UP Foundation, about what day to day for you is?

Tina Tchen:

Oh, absolutely. Well, thank you for the question. We were started in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein revelations in 2017, famously launched on the red carpet at the Golden Globes in 2018.

Our first initiative right then, because it was the immediate need, was to launch the TIME'S UP Legal Defense Fund, which is housed in the National Women's Law Center. It's still operating today. The $24 million that we raised in incredibly that first year, all 100% went to the TIME'S UP Legal Defense Fund to provide legal services and PR services where survivors need them, to people who are suffering from sexual harassment in the workplace.

To date, in the two years that we've been in operation, over 4,800 people have received services. They come from, to your point, over 70 different industries. And importantly, three quarters of them are low income, because that's one of the things that we wanted and I give a lot of credit to the women of Hollywood when we formed TIME'S UP. They really knew this was an issue that went far beyond their industry and that they were women of privilege and have power, but they really wanted to help the farm worker, the hotel worker, the fast food restaurant worker who's suffering from sexual harassment and really doesn't have any access to help or services.

We're really pleased that the TIME'S UP Legal Defense Fund is there and we're still operating. But then we've expanded because we want to deal not just with the aftermath of sexual harassment when it happens, but we want to prevent it from happening at all. And to do that, you have to build the workplaces that we're talking about today. at Great Place to Work.[4]  You have to build workplaces that are safe, respectful for everyone, where everyone can belong, where everyone can reach their full potential.

And to do that, then that has to look at the whole range of issues that affect workplaces. It's the structural issues, like a lack of paid leave or the lack of equal pay, the lack of fair pay and promotion that don't allow women and LGBTQ, and disabled, and people of color to succeed in the workplace. It's the things that keep us from really having true diversity inclusion up and down the wage scale. Because we know if we do that and we have that diversity inclusion, we're going to have fair workplaces. We're going to have workplaces where everyone feels that belonging and sexual harassment won't occur.

It also means making sure that we have sexual harassment policies that are broad, that we have codes of conduct that represent the values that companies want to have. And so we're doing that. We're working in all sorts of industries, not just entertainment. Our mission is to build these better workplaces by changing culture, company and laws. We're working with companies to do that. We're working to change public policy. There are 17 States that actually have changed their aspects of their employment law to provide better coverage, like including contractors, for example, who aren't covered under federal law.

We want to change culture. I'm really excited because we have TIME'S UP Advertising and we have TIME'S UP Entertainment where we have people who are shaping our culture through advertising, through the movies and T.V. Shows that we watch really being part of our work and trying to reshape what those cultural moments are and dialogue is. We're working across all those fronts. My day, any day can be really different from one to the other, but we're really working in all those domains.

Christopher Tkaczyk:

All right, so we've been talking a lot about big picture and how there could be a trickle down effect from top leadership at a company to affect policy change. Right? What smaller actions do companies need to take to ensure that women have an equal shot at success and security?

Tina Tchen:

I talk a lot about the small things, right? Culture change comes from the big moves, right? Big changes in policy, big leadership from the C-suite and from the board.

But it's also in everybody's day interactions, daily interactions with one another, right? How we're treating each other, recognizing the moments. And one of the things I often say to people is one really quick thing that people can do, like the minute they go back from here in San Francisco to their workplace, is they will all be in a meeting. They will either chair a meeting or we are participate in a meeting come Monday morning. And watch for the thing that happens inevitably in meetings where there are both men and women there, where a woman says something and it gets ignored until the man says something 10 minutes later, and it's a great idea.

Well, when that happens and you're in that meeting, if you're the chair, you can call it out and you can say, "No, no. I'm going to go back to what Carolyn just said and I want to from her." And you could actually even do it if you're not the chair of the meeting. If you're a fellow participant in the meeting, you can say, "All right. Actually I want to hear it from Carolyn again cause I think she just said the same thing.”

And it's those kinds of small being aware of what's happening around you. Because when it happens right now, actually I think the men in the room just don't even notice it. They don't know what happened and yet the women in the room all notice it. And it's part of what makes you feel like you don't belong, that when you're not being heard.

And so the more we can make everyone in the workplace aware of those small moments, those small interactions, and then do something pretty simple to correct it, the more you will start to change culture in the small ways as well as in the big ways.

Christopher Tkaczyk:

Okay. Did you want to any more?

Carolyn Slaski:

Nope, that's fine.

Christopher Tkaczyk:

Okay. No, I mean, please speak it. You got something you want to say.

Carolyn Slaski:

I think clearly everybody can make those little things, those little... Calling them out I think is important. Because I don't think anybody does it with malice. I don't think they realize that they're doing it. But demonstrating and saying, "Let me bring Tina into the conversation." I think people will realize that.

I do get back to the importance of making sure that everybody feels like they can bring their whole self. And I think we talk about gender equity and gender equity. How do we fix the gender equity? I would say I think gender equity would be the solution. Let's make it not a problem, but the solution. Let's make sure everybody realizes that by having this equity, by having all the very people at the table, we're going to get the better solutions. I mean, I can't think of a leader that says, “By having diverse opinions around the table, I don't get a better answer.”

Tina Tchen:

I agree. I mean, in my private practice, I was doing some work with the hospitality industry, and I remember attending a meeting with a whole bunch of people were folks from that hospitality industry. They had just done a survey that showed that women represent something like in the order of 805 to 85% of the purchasing decisions in the travel industry. And that, surprise, women put safety as the first thing that they think about when they're making their travel decisions. And of course, whenever I tell this story, all the women in the room like nod their heads because we all do that. We're thinking about how do I get to the meeting? How do I go?

Christopher Tkaczyk:

It's a conscious decision.

Tina Tchen:

And I sat at that meeting of this summit of hospitality industry leaders. I said, "Look, if you had had women at your tables, you wouldn't have had to do the survey. You would have known, you would have known when you decided where to put that hotel that you just built, or how to map out the transportation plan that you just entered into. You would have known that that was what women cared about and been able to take that into consideration because that is an example and a reason why you need to have diverse viewpoints sitting around your key decision tables."

Christopher Tkaczyk:

The theme of this year's summit is For All™ Leadership. And so I think that we have to talk about when companies decided to embrace diversity, inclusion and belonging, how is it creating those for all leaders as better top leaders of your company in general?

Carolyn Slaski:

We've just actually refreshed the way we talk about leaders and we say that leaders, transformative leaders are ones that create an environment of belonging. They're innovative, they're agile. All these things that we're talking about are different ways that we're asking our leaders to start to act.

Creating an environment where everyone brings their whole self to work, feels that they belong, is a key attribute of what we are saying a leader does. And so I think something like that is like by calling out what you think a leader is and a leader is one that creates an environment for all, I think is critical.

As an organization, you create accountability related to that. How do you measure people and how do you build that into your evaluation system on how people treat each other, how they create that environment?

Tina Tchen:

I think a quality that we don't often talk about when we talk about leaders, especially in the business environment is vulnerability. I think one of the things about belonging and about truly being intersectional about dealing with race issues, as well as gender identity issues, disability issues in addition to gender, is these are not things that most of us... I'm 64, this is not something that I grew up learning and wasn't part of the culture that I absorbed through my entire adult life on a lot of these issues. And even for me, for somebody who's focused on diversity, inclusion and gender equity issues for a long time, I have taken to saying to some of my younger colleagues now, "I will acknowledge that I am very binary."

And now I think about gender identity and non-binary is a whole new thing that I'm learning and a whole new language I'm learning, and we have to be vulnerable and admitting those things. And I think leadership now in this new era, which is really not something you do in the business world, right? Is to, at some point, admit some of that vulnerability, admit some of those limitations in what our own backgrounds bring to us.

And then I think we have to collectively give each other some space. We have to cut each other some slack. Maybe somebody will say the wrong word at the wrong moment, but we have to actually allow that to happen and allow a conversation to occur in those places.

And I think that's the other piece of belonging. That's something that leaders can only actually do. If a leader does that and sets the tone of, “I'm going to be really honest about myself and my own limitations, and what I understand and what I don't understand,” will give permission then down the chain of command for that to happen throughout the organization. And it can be a really transformative moment when that occurs.

Christopher Tkaczyk:

Okay. Anything you want to add?

Carolyn Slaski:

Nope, that's all.

Christopher Tkaczyk:

In the work that you're doing and for both of your organizations, how are you inspiring the leaders that you're mentoring to become For All leaders, as I said earlier, who can help their own teams into all those necessary qualities to become transformative to the culture and to ensure that gender equity?

Carolyn Slaski:

One of the ways I mentioned is by actually defining what we think this transformative leader looks like. And what we've done a lot of is try to showcase what that looks like. We have asked each one of our leaders, for example, to come up and discover their personal purpose. Like what is it that makes them tick? And then to actually articulate that and tell people what it is. And by doing that, it creates this vulnerability that Tina just mentioned. It makes them real. And so what that does is allows other people to see themselves in that person and that transformative leader.

I just did a podcast where they asked me about what were the things in my younger formative years that made me who I am as a leader? And you end up sharing things, and this got shared with the entire organization.

What it did is people felt like they could come to me and say, "Thank you." Or somebody actually told me that they went and it helped them have a conversation with their team that they would never have had before because it opened the door. I do think organizations have an ability to create this space for people to be human, to be vulnerable, and to let themselves be shown so that it's okay for other people to do that as well.

Christopher Tkaczyk:

Well, we actually have to go. I see Maggie's here and she was saying, let's wrap it up. If there's something you quickly want to say-

Tina Tchen:

Here's one thing I did want to say, I have to say, because we really want people to join us in making this change happen at TIME'S UP. We're not a membership organization, we're a movement that really wants to actually have everyone be a part of this.

If you're interested or if you need help from the TIME'S UP Legal Defense Fund, or if you're a lawyer and you want to volunteer to be helpful, or you just want to learn more about how to make these changes in workplace culture, you can just text TIME'S UP to 30644.

Christopher Tkaczyk:

30644, and what's the website?

Tina Tchen:

The website is timesupnow.org.

Christopher Tkaczyk:

There you go. Thank you. Tina and Carolyn, it's been great.

Carolyn Slaski:

Our pleasure.

Tina Tchen:

Thank you.

Speakers

Carolyn Slaski

EY, Americas Vice Chair - Talent

Tina Tchen

TIME's UP, President & CEO