June 25, 2021

Discussing Racial Diversity in the Workplace with Diversity and Inclusion Specialist, Dr. Lisa Chen

Dana Safa Bernardino

1Huddle Podcast Episode #12

On this Bring It In podcast episode, 1Huddle’s VP of Sales Kirk Madsen sat down with Dr. Lisa Chen, Research Consultant, Diversity and Inclusion specialist, and Principal of Crossroads Insights. Dr. Chen has a P.h.D in Developmental Psychology and has specialized in diversity, equity, and inclusion, as well as youth and education for 20 years. 

On this episode of Bring It In season one, Dr. Chen sat down with 1Huddle’s VP of Sales Kirk Madsen and discussed education during the pandemic, racial diversity, AI systems, and the future of work and education.

Audio available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts. 


Below are some of the insights Dr. Chen shared during our chat, edited for length and clarity. You can find more Bring It In podcast episodes here.

  • “I think you need to get used to disruption and every way, shape, or form.”
  • “I think education needs to be no longer teacher-centered, but learner-centered.”
  • “Talent and ability is not a forever label.”


Kirk: First general question is, and maybe we’ll get the COVID question out of the way, how do you feel work and sort of the preparation for work is changing in light of everything that’s going on right now around COVID-19?

Lisa: Yeah, I think it definitely has fundamentally changed the nature of work. People and companies being, realizing that remote working is going to be the wave of the future.

I think you need to get used to disruption and every way, shape or form. And organizations have to be ready to have agile intelligence now more than ever. I mean, obviously, with the digital revolution, that’s changed the nature of work for the past decade or so, but now even more so than ever.

What you guys do, 1Huddle for your trainings and getting people effective coping strategies for being able to turn on a dime and to deliver just in time problem solving and solutions to challenges. It’s something that we all face and need to learn about.

Kirk: When you think about what the future might hold, what do you think has to change to better prepare the next generation of workers for the future and what the future might hold?

Lisa: Yeah, that’s a huge question that we’re grappling with. You know, I mean, it’s my hope that all of these events that have been going on recently are really opening eyes up to organizations and really getting rid of all those glass ceilings that have been there in the past. So for example, the Me Too movement, the George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor tragedies, really taking a close look at diversity equity and inclusion within your organization, taking a look at communication channels, and really making sure that things are transparent and clear so that raw talent and ability has the chance to arise and really take the stronghold moving forward.

But also knowing that, for example, talent and ability is not a forever label. Thinking about how, in my preparations for this interview, I was a child that grew up through elementary school, you know, in the early eighties. And I was a part of a gifted program. 

In third grade, I took an IQ test and passed and got into this gifted program. That meant I was going to be with the same cohort of kids in fourth, fifth, and sixth grade. And we had like, you know, special field trips and special funding for accelerated curriculums and every single subject across the board, we had the best master teachers that our district provided at the time.

We were able to ask the smart kids, and it was at one time snapshot on that testing day in third grade, they gave us this crown to wear for the next three years of our lives and actually followed us throughout our high school careers, as you can imagine, it launched us on a pathway.

But now when you look at gifted programs, they realize, well, you’re not just smart or not. It’s not black or white. There’s all different kinds of learners that have expertise in different kinds of subjects. It works far differently than this kind of ordained label of being smart or not. And that’s the way organizations need to think though, too.

It’s not just somebody who’s been there and knows how to push something through for the past 30 years. They’re not necessarily the expert. It could be Kirk who comes in and there’s three months old in an organization who through all his other experiences really knows how to do that one thing special. 

And how do we get there? Like tacit knowledge and harness it, harness it as an organization and  push it through for this agile intelligence in the future.

Kirk: You talk a lot about so it’s interesting that there’s some progress, obviously, right? In both the inclusivity of learning and education, especially when you talk about different tiers of education and different tiers of access, what do you feel like is missing from the conversation still is missing from the process still on the education side first off?  And then second, as you think about the conversations that are being had about, you know, you mentioned earlier company brands and company messages around everything that’s happened across a number of different social movements, like where are those missing as well? So maybe we could start with the education side, but love to hear your thoughts on the company side as well. 

Lisa: I think there’s a lot to be said in revamping our education system. My kids go to public school here in upstate New York. I don’t want to give a grade out loud, but I think remote learning is really, really tough.

I had one in middle school, one in high school and one in college, and I think that actually the one in college probably fared the best. Although he’s a biomedical engineering major, so he had lab courses and things like you do a liver that in a virtual environment, well, you really can’t, right?

I think the biggest thing that educators and all of us parents and students themselves need to realize is that the school model of kind of broadcast learning. The knowledge goes from the teacher directly to the students in a one way unidirectional kind of format, that’s not going to work anymore.

I think education needs to be no longer teacher centered, but learner centered. And how best to have the kids or the employees, whoever the learners are, give directionality is to engage them, right. It’s not just giving a lecture and being that quote unquote Sage on the stage, but it’s involving them in How do you research things? How do you not just Google something and come up with the first answer and know that that’s the truth, right? Problem solve and learn how to understand the mechanics of an answer rather than knowing that something’s right or wrong. I mean, even in the math problems that my youngest child gets are so different from my oldest who they’re only six years apart, you know, old school math is you get the problem right or wrong, new school math as the kid writes a paragraph or two on the way that they’re approaching, solving the answer so that the teachers realize where the thinking might’ve gone off the path to then put them in the right direction.

Kirk: How does, maybe the gap that’s there for kids then translate to the gap that presents in the future when you’re at work? 

Lisa: Exactly. Well, when you go to work, it’s the same thing with like that the first 90 days buck, when you get trained up to acclimate to a company is normally it. That’s all you get in terms of training, right? It’s not this lifelong learning model that really we as individuals need to embrace all the way around from our youngest learners to our oldest learners.

Kirk: How, how would you maybe guide a company that you’re supporting to better reach their customers today through their employees? And then likewise, how would you guide a company on engaging their employees?

Lisa: I think communication is the key all the way around, right? So, when COVID hit, everybody’s buying things online, shipping was lagging and Amazon was, at the beginning at least, no longer that two day, door to door, but I’ve got prime and pay my $99 a year.

And some companies, I feel like, aside from Amazon, did a really good job of communicating, “Hey, we’ve had to cut back on our workforce, you know, no longer we, um, the normal path for our shipping and everything, please be patient and bear with us”, which is cool. You can understand that. But if companies weren’t doing that and I paid $18 for one $40 sweatshirt to come to me and it’s three weeks later, I’m pissed!

Kirk:  It’s funny. You bring up, maybe one or two more questions here that I’ll have for you as we think about technology. Right? You talk about chatbots and telemedicine and things like that. There are pluses and minuses. Like how do you see technology maybe making a positive impact and/or a negative impact on the skills that are necessary to succeed in the workforce?

Lisa: Absolutely. I think it can make…technology is a great thing. It can make such an impact back in the day, when an administrative assistant had a job interview, you had to list how many words per minute you could do. And in my field market research where I do interviews for a living, and then I need to get these all transcribed, I used to have to wait like a week for a transcript and that’s holding up my final report. Now it’s a day. Cost, you know, goes way down. I guess that’s a benefit for me as the one who’s looking for that service for all those people who were transcriptionists and typists and experts in the area, they got to come up with…

Kirk: Yeah, they’ve got to find a new hustle, right. There’s a need to keep evolving there and that’s an interesting one. Cause you, you mentioned that exact idea of AI automation, you know, and having an impact. Like what do you think? Cause you’ve, you’ve mentioned it just for your own, your own business.What, what about, what, what is your point of view on, on the impact of things like automation and AI on work, as you think about that in the future? 

Lisa: I mean, I obviously see a ton of benefits, but I do see some drawbacks. I mean, one of the drawbacks that I would caution about is when you think about AI, AI is all based on the input that you put in, right? And we’ve got to examine the inherent biases of who’s inputting that data and what it’s being shown. So the majority of American computer programmers are white or Asian men. So if you put in a query of “what is the college professor?” You’re most likely to come back with a photo of a white dude. Certain age.

If you put in a query, “what does a party look like?” my bet is more likely than not, you’re not going to have a lot of pictures of people who have brown and black skin in it. You know, it’s either going to be a ladies night cocktails or an old school frat party with solo cups.

What you put in is what you come out with. And I guess the solution to that is making AI intelligent enough to come up with a logic and to search all means of what’s out there and, our cloud, I guess I’ll call it, rather than just the input that’s being put in during the design stage of how you learn what the definition of a party is.

Kirk: Technical or non-technical right, your background and the number of things that you’ve done, both in diversity and inclusion, and also just market research, all the different places  you have your hands in, as you think of the future of work, what are your hopes for the future or what do you hope the future of work looks like? 

Lisa: Right. I do hope that it’s absolutely a more inclusive environment, that is understanding of people of all different abilities, you know, in my area, the space that I work in, dealing with Asian-Americans I hope that we come out of this quote, unquote, China virus being more sensitive of the diversity of Asian-Americans not only as a racial group, but looking at the nuance and intricacies of different ethnic groups within the Pan-Asian umbrella. So for example, when you look at the George Floyd incident, one of the officers, is actually of the Hmong people. H M O N G. There’s about 64,000 Hmong that immigrated to the Minneapolis area. You know, who are there now immigrating in the seventies, the hmong are an ethnic group who come out of Vietnam, Laos, and parts of China.

Like when you think of Asian-Americans I think of the traditional stereotype business model minority stereotype. So you’re educated. You make a lot of money and you’re probably going to come out pretty successful, right? If there’s no quote, unquote bamboo ceiling in your workplace, however, the Hmong people, they do not share that same kind of stereotype, where they were plopped down in Minneapolis, if you’ll allow me to use that term, how crass it is is, the least expensive neighborhoods of Minneapolis. So yes, they were placed in poverty. And many have not gotten out of that cycle of poverty. And to realize that different people, although all Asian Americans come from very different backgrounds.

So, I know for my personal, for my son, who’s in college now, we debated “do we put down that he is both of Chinese descent and white?”. I mean, that’s not working for him when you’re applying to competitive engineering schools, and we really did think about that. Do we have him put down that racial, ethnic label, because every college class and once is that diversity as well.

I think that people also, my hopes for the future of the workplace, sticks up diversity of thought now with, you know, politics coming into play and gearing up so much more for this upcoming election. I hope that people can be respectful of other people’s opinions and be able to work together, but also not to hide it to have fruitful productive discussions about things that they might disagree about and find a path for moving forward in your work and the collaboration that you have to be able to embrace to move forward, 

Kirk: With that we’ll thank you and appreciate you spending the time with us this afternoon. Thanks so much, Eric.

Lisa: I really appreciate the opportunity, looking forward to great things. 

Topics Discussed: Education, Race, Diversity, Inclusion, Equity, AI, Innovation

Dana Safa Bernardino, Manager of Digital Marketing at 1Huddle

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