From CEO & Founder, Jessica Zweig
The month of February holds a deep yet unsettling significance in our country. And the degree of this significance and discomfort has evolved, to say the least, in recent years.
Let’s take it back to 2020.
The year 2020 represents not only the beginning of a pandemic that would quite literally change the world we live in, but it also represents a pivot in history. A true break-down to break-through around the topic of race in our country.
I recognize I am not an expert on this topic, and in fact, I am far from it. But one thing I am, is committed to the struggle, the idea of hope and using my influence for good.
Following George Floyd’s murder, there was an explosion and swirl of messaging regarding allyship and advocacy. There was countless rhetoric from organizations and companies with declarations of stances surrounding racial issues and claims around DEI priorities as well as unification with the BIPOC community. Although overdue, it was quite beautiful just how switched on the world had become. And I wouldn’t say that that’s completely faded… but in a way, it has.
So where are we now?
For us, at SimplyBe., we like to believe it hasn’t faded. We are building an agency where Diversity, Equity and Inclusion are not a universal “initiative” but a specific and intentional lens through which we look at our entire business.
We are committed to doing the work, personally, professionally, emotionally, spiritually, financially, societally, in micro and macro ways, from the outside in, and the inside out.
The ‘Work’, In Question
My entire message as a brand and platform is around the concept of authenticity. And just a few years ago, when reflecting on my own intentionality with DEI work and commitments, I saw a total imposter. As so many individuals do with platforms and influence, I wanted to talk about it, sure, but I certainly didn’t feel confident about my own message around privilege and discomfort. I was truly terrified of being judged or even canceled out of fear of not having the language to reflect my own humanity and commitments.
And I have learned in the pursuit of diversity, equity and inclusion and in the commitment to the struggle that we have to own that most of us don’t know what we’re doing—that language is not a destination. We have to acknowledge this is an ongoing, never-ending evolution of knowing oneself and growing oneself.
That is authenticity.
Brené Brown said it beautifully in that “authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we are supposed to be, and embracing who we are.”
For instance, as a white woman, I can’t know nor can I claim to fully understand the Black experience. I don’t know how to always stick the landing when it comes to showing up as an ally. But I commit to making every time I show up stronger than the last.
What I choose to do, every day, in every action, is to create a new relationship with this conversation and with myself. And own it out loud.
This is the work of any great leader right now.
And this work is hard.
A friend, colleague and now client of mine, Xavier Ramey, recently held up a powerful mirror to me.
He shared that, although I am a confident woman and put myself out there unapologetically on my public platforms, when I discuss topics regarding DEI, I become a different version of myself. I shy away, I stutter, I talk softly, I skirt the hard topics, and I slap a whole bunch of butter (AKA: demonstrative emotion) on the toast before I feed it to my audience.
But nobody wants the butter. The butter is just another obstacle blocking what is underneath—the truth that we don’t live in an equitable world.
The key is to stick to the toast. Truly be yourself—at all times, and especially when it’s uncomfortable—and show up knowing that you don’t have all the answers. I am a privileged white woman who has a lot of blind spots, but I’m also a human who is here on this earth to do my part and to learn and grow.
Own your full self.
That is authenticity.
DEI isn’t just about hiring people that look different than you.
It’s about creating an environment and a space in which everyone feels included, and in which things are truly fair and equitable.
Diversity isn’t just a pretty picture of your team that’s part brown, part other and part white. And I think too many companies are doing that in order to feel that they’ve checked the proverbial box.
The most authentic, human thing that we can be focused on as leaders is incorporating a growth mindset (read: being open to getting it wrong a lot of the time) and owning the commitment to DEI into everything that we do.
We cannot talk about authenticity without talking about DEI.
They are not mutually exclusive. We can’t be so afraid of getting it wrong that we stop showing up as ourselves altogether in the moments that count.
For more on this conversation, listen to the latest episode of The SimplyBe. Podcast with special guest and Founder of Justice Informed, Xavier Ramey.