It’s time for Women Crushing It Wednesday, where we sit down with a woman in our community and celebrate how she is crushing it! This month we’re welcoming Diversity, Equity & Belonging Champion, Christine Moses!
Tell us about yourself! Who are you, what do you do, and what motivates you?
I’m Christine Moses, a bi-racial, cisgender female who identifies as Black. To write that sentence has been a life-long journey in and of itself. Having been born in the early 60’s before the Loving v. Virginia (1967) case that legalized interracial marriage between White and Black people was an isolating experience. My identity – who I think I am – versus who the world tells me I am are very different things. The process of reconciling, healing and finding liberation by constructing my identity gives me the motivation and courage to have conversations about race, equity, and how to dismantle white supremacy culture every day. Again, it has been a process. I still make mistakes and then make amends. I give grace and forgiveness and I ask for grace and forgiveness, and in the process, I hope I am healing our country. My stated purpose is to end racism by 2040.
As CEO of Buffalo Cloud Consulting, a diversity, equity, and inclusion training and management consulting firm, where do you begin when crafting equity and inclusion training for a new client? What are common challenges you see in leadership?
Healing from white supremacy culture is a lifelong process. It requires a willingness to sit with very uncomfortable truths. I’ll use myself as an example: As a bi-racial woman, both Black and White, I recognize that my history is one of oppressed and oppressor. Slave owner and slave. Understanding the historic and familiar trauma that is passed down on both sides is where I find my healing, compassion, and understanding for leading equity trainings. I invite my clients on that journey. It is a personal and an institutional journey that requires centering our humanity within a professional setting. These skills are not taught in business school. They have their roots in trauma informed practices, social psychology and a critical understanding of this country’s founding documents and history. We must be willing to make the personal changes in order to then focus on culture and systemic change within our organizations.
When I have the initial discussion with potential clients about their proposed equity journey if they say they want to build awareness, I have found they don’t actually want to change. That is one of the most dangerous places to be in an organization. They think they want to do the work, check the box, and make things better, but they don’t actually want to change their power structures… which is what is required in authentic equity work. I use the Nine Whys from Liberating Structures as a strategy to identify if an organization is ready for the work. The leadership must be on board and their “why” must be much deeper than creating awareness. The leadership must be willing to change themselves first.
An essential ingredient in equity work is trust. Leadership within the organization must demonstrate vulnerability in order to foster the trust that is necessary to carry the organization through the restructuring of its culture, programs, processes, policies, and sometimes people. It is a three-to-five-year process that will examine every facet of the organization and ultimately change the power structure and decision-making process in order to center, follow, and empower historically minoritized voices. I’ve had the privilege of working with an agency whose leader decided that the organization needs to be led by a person of color and has therefore chosen to step down. In the process they are demonstrating the deep learning that has occurred within themselves, and are now actually living the values they have developed. This is an example of what true equity leadership looks like.
Equitable, inclusive, and welcoming organizations do not believe that this is a zero-sum game with losers and winners. Everyone is a winner when we center our humanity. Everyone has the ability to support and be supported within an organization. We get to play to our strengths and be valued for what we bring to the table, no matter our identity.
Women of color, particularly Black women, are recently being asked to lead “diversity initiatives” for their companies without any extra help or compensation. What is your advice for women who are put in this position?
Ask leadership why they want to launch into an equity journey. Use the Nine Whys. If you are satisfied with the answer, then move forward. If not, then don’t take the job. It is a very tricky place to be put in when an organization says you are the only one who can lead us…we value your lived experience. Yes, I have lived racism for more than 50 years, but what resources are leaders going to give me in order to do the work? What are the leaders willing to change in themselves and in the organization? How much time and money will leaders invest in organizational and cultural change? What is the desired outcome? Without clear goals and a clear vision of what the Promised Land looks like, organizations will create a great deal of harm fumbling around in the dark.
I also think it is presumptuous and disingenuous of organizations to turn to Black women and say, “lead us.” White leaders have the obligation to do their own learning and leading from beside with the support and guidance of Black leaders. When White leaders abdicate responsibility of the equity journey to a Black woman without changing the power structure and without doing the self-reflection, they are setting the organization and the Black woman up for failure.
I have stepped into that role before and have been harmed deeply while causing harm to other people of color within the organization. It is a strong, resilient, and self-actualized woman who takes this position and then has the ability to make the necessary changes on so many different levels. It is also having the ability to play the long game and not get lost in the weeds of self-doubt, perfectionism, and the lack of time to make change happen.
Leading this work within an organization is a noble endeavor and having a thought partner like me to think through and build strategic initiatives and infrastructures that can support staff through a huge transition can be a blessing.
Where does equitable change start in an organization? What are actions that an employee can do to start these changes and have difficult conversations with leadership?
There are many organizational assessments that can help an organization know where they need to address barriers to equity. That is the natural, tactical place to start… but it is the wrong place to start.
The place to start is within the leadership’s heart. Deeply reflecting on what it means to be a person without the privileges of being White or the detriments of being a person of color or labeled as disabled or LGBTQA+ is critical. We each bring to work our identities, privileges, norms, behaviors, unspoken codes of conduct, unexamined assumptions, and biases. Therein lies each person’s lived experience and culture. The goal is to create organizations so each of us can show up, develop our talents, and be duly compensated for our gifts in order to co-create our future.
As individuals within organizations, it is our responsibility to reflect on, address and disrupt our own biases. If we can hold at bay and disrupt the need to be perfect, the need to create change without reflection, the need to not have conflict, the need for comfort, the need for feeling that there is only one way, the worship of the written word, the belief that “I am the only one that has the answer,” then we can bring others into the conversation and honor everyone’s gifts. Only then can we create a new organization that is better for everyone, more innovative, more creative, more agile, and more financially stable. We are now all collectively invested in our shared future.
Do you have any recommended readings, podcasts, workshops, etc for leadership to start doing the work in addressing their implicit biases?
I bring a trauma informed, multifaceted perspective to equity coaching and training. I am not a therapist, yet I ask people to reflect deeply on what they assume is true. I ask for personal and institutional change in a system that has multiple layers that need to be addressed. Here is what informs my work and is on my bedside table at the moment…and yes, it is a big bedside table. I always recommend starting with the Racial Healing Handbook by Anneliese Singh.
Personal Growth Equity Readings
- Racial Healing Handbook by Anneliese Singh (understanding racial identity)
- This Book is Anti-racist by Tiffany Jewell (an equity primer)
- My Grandmother’s Hands by Resmaa Menakem (understanding racial trauma)
- Characteristics of White Supremacy Culture by Tema Okun (the deconstruction of white norms and behaviors)
- Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice that Shapes What we See, Think and Do by Jennifer L. Eberhardt
- Mindful of Race by Ruth King (understanding race from a mindfulness perspective)
- Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
- White Ally Toolkit Workbook and Discussion Group Leaders Guide by David Campt
- Why are all the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? By Beverly Daniel Tatum
- Healing the Soul Wound; trauma informed counseling for Indigenous communities by Eduardo Duran
- Culturally Sustaining Pedagogies; Teaching and Learning for Justice in a Changing World by Django Paris and H. Samy Alim
- Caste by Isabel Wilkerson
Novels and Memoirs for learning as individuals or book groups
- Gender Queer; A Memoir by Maia Kobabe
- There There by Tommy Orange
- Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
- The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
- The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Systems Change and Change Management from Equity Perspectives
- Beyond Inclusion, Beyond Empowerment by Leticia Nieto with Margo Boyer (understanding Agent/Target relationships)
- Prosocial by Atkins, Wilson, and Hayes (understanding the science behind equitable and collaborative group behaviors)
- The Mindful and Effective Employee (acknowledging and working through personal trauma in the workplace)
Change Management Resources
- Crucial Conversations; Tools for talking when the stakes are high by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzler
- Co-Active Leadership by Karen and Henry Kimsey-House (five different ways of leading)
- 5 Behaviors of Cohesive Teams by Patrick Lencioni
- Culture Code by Danial Coyle (creating cultures of inclusion)
- Design Thinking for Strategic Innovation by Idris Mootee (How to create something different that does not yet exist)
- The Surprising Power of Liberating Structures by Henri Lipmanowicz and Keith McCandless (how to engage lots of ppl in different ways)
- Leading Change by John Kotter (creating change through a shared vision)
- The Art of Possibilities by Rosamund Stone Zander (creating conditions for change)
Video and Audio Resources
- Nice White Parents , Podcast(Demonstrates how damaging white saviorism can be in a school)
- We the People, YouTube (Demonstrates how the constitution is not written for all who live in the US)
- Birth of a White Nation, YouTube (How and why the label White was created in our legal system)
- 13th, YouTube (How the prison industrial complex represents modern slavery and the continued oppression of Black and Brown people)
- The Antiracist Table (30 day challenge for learning how to be antiracist)