Women Who Own It, a WBENC Podcast for and by women entrepreneurs and their supporters, is your key to the insights of incredible female founders and business leaders.

Read below for an excerpt from latest episode with special guest Jennifer Brown, Founder & CEO of Jennifer Brown Consulting and an expert on DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion). Jennifer Brown Consulting is a leadership and diversity consulting firm that coaches business leaders worldwide on critical issues of talent and workplace strategy.

Jennifer is an award-winning entrepreneur and a dynamic speaker. A passionate advocate for social equality in the workplace, Jennifer helps organizations create highly productive work environments through DEI practices. Find her two books, Inclusion: Diversity, the New Workplace & the Will to Change and How To Be an Inclusive Leader to gain valuable insights and inspiration on how to lead with inclusion and embrace diversity.

What I say is, we will never have workplaces and workforces that look like the world we do business in if we don’t really make it a priority to diversify whom we are hiring and whom we are promoting and advancing. It is a very clear business case — diverse teams are better for innovation.

– Jennifer Brown

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Podcast Excerpt

Allison Maslan: What are the most common challenges with DEI that you see with the businesses that you work with?

Jennifer Brown: It is the resistance to change; the fear that if I am generous with others and prioritize them, that makes less for me. There is a scarcity mentality around a zero-sum game. And nobody, particularly Americans, like to be forced to make certain decisions around hiring and promotions.

What I say is, we will never have workplaces and workforces that look like the world we do business in if we don’t really make it a priority to diversify whom we are hiring and whom we are promoting and advancing. It is a very clear business case — diverse teams are better for innovation.

Allison Maslan: How can people tap more into their team and create more of a diverse team?

Jennifer Brown: We really have to examine where we’re looking for talent. Our personal networks are homogeneous; in fact, in some cases the workplace is actually a place where we have our our first exposure to levels of difference. Our communities and our neighborhoods and our places of worship may not have that diversity and then the reverse may be true as well. I do think that we hire in our own image because we are in a hurry sometimes to fill something and we are very meritocracy-minded which means that we’re going to hire whoever can do the job fastest and exactly like we do.

I would argue that others will solve problems differently than we will and that we should be welcoming that because we’re only one person. Just because we’re the boss or the owner, doesn’t mean that we have all the right answers. In fact, I have very few of the right answers. I lean on my team extraordinarily and feel I work for them and they direct me where I need to be. They support me so that I can be everything I am.

I think it is important to get out of our own biases and our lens around what we are comfortable with and try to interrupt those behaviors when we see ourselves doing it. A diverse team does not just mean gender and race and ethnicity, it also means cognitive diversity, diversity of background, veterans, socio-economic, industry, etc. What we can see is just the tip of the iceberg.

Allison Maslan: How do you utilize your WBENC Certification?

Jennifer Brown: Get involved with your local groups. Being around a table with other founders and CEOs is invaluable. Specifically knowledge-sharing about scaling, that’s where you really need the guidance and more, asking what are you paying this person, who should I hire first, how do I raise money, how do I get a line of credit, etc.

We have actually been in RFP processes because we’ve been identified as a woman-owned and LGBT-owned company. We have gotten a bunch of our corporate relationships because we’ve won RFPs where they were specifically seeking diverse-owned businesses. The Corporate Members of WBENC are the folks that get supplier diversity; they understand. It’s this perfect marriage I think when you combine these bidding opportunities and you really put the time in to navigate the supplier portals if you’re a B2B company. If you’re seeking those dollars from big businesses that have supplier diversity goals, WBENC is a perfect spot to be. It is hard work; I’m not saying it’s not hard work to keep all of your information updated and networking your way in with the right supplier diversity people and then getting to a decision-maker beyond that’s a higher diversity person.

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