Podcast Transcripts

Mita Mallick, Head of Inclusion, Equity, and Impact at Carta.

Colin Hunter 0:07
Hi, this is Colin Hunter, and welcome to another episode of the leadership tales podcast delighted to be joined by Mita Mallick Today. Mita and I connected through an exercise. I was trying to find new voices to listen to and wanted to remove my echo chamber terms, particularly around equity and diversity. And it was recommended to talk to me to Mita Mallick runs a podcast, very successful podcast we’ll talk about today with Dee as her co-host. But she’s got a very different for me take on the diversity and equity challenges regard she works as a head of diversity or chief diversity officer, an organization and therefore comes from being a mother, her background experience of being an immigrant to the US. Therefore, the story she’s got that and the bullying but also the stories about that she brings from her experience of changing that. And she says there’s progress being made but still a lot of work to be done. She’s vocal; she gets tired of shouting, as she will say in the podcast today. But it’s a fascinating exploration of some of the terms that we use around this area, some of the stories, but also some shocking stuff in terms of, you know, when I listen to this, it always gets me in that mode of thinking that I’m a good person, but I need to do more for what I believe in, which is that equity needs to be for everybody in the opportunity to change. So it’s great for Dr. Mita. And I’m sure that we are going to be having many conversations like this. But here’s 40 minutes of me talking about her story and background and some of the challenges there; enjoy.

Colin Hunter 1:53
So tell me, how are you telling me what’s apart from your microphone not working? How do things go?

Mita Mallick 1:58
Things were going well. I was telling a friend that it’s like, for many of us, the last two and a half years have been a blur, kids are both back in school, and everyone’s happy and healthy. And I am feeling optimistic today.

Colin Hunter 2:14

Mita Mallick 2:14
But I also feel that you still watch the news, and the pandemic has really sort of shown the inequalities in the world. Has it not because some of us are going back to our lives are what we would like our lives to be from for, and there are others in parts of the world where that’s not the case. And so that is really that’s it’s heavy on me.

Colin Hunter 2:36
I would agree. I think also the latest surge is in China. But I think you know, you look at Ukraine and what’s happening in Ukraine and even, you know, people celebrating the fact that Macron won in France, against the far right, there’s still the underlying 43 or whatever it is a percent that voted for far. Right. So yeah, it’s out there. But again, it’s about what you can do, but it isn’t, and then you talk about lets.

Mita Mallick 3:03
Yes, it is.

Colin Hunter 3:04
I’m reading an amazing book. I don’t know if you have read it, and I would love your views and whether you like it or not. Dolly Chugh, the person you mean to be?

Mita Mallick 3:13
Oh, wow. No, I have not read that book. That title sparked me, though. So.

Colin Hunter 3:17
Yeah. Laszlo Bock is the other co-author of it. So it’s a really nice book; it’s about somebody who feels they’re a good person but actually wants to act as a good person. How do you do it? And that’s her whole premise.

Mita Mallick 3:32
Well, Colin, here’s my secret. The last book I read was Harry Potter. Sorcerer’s Stone.

Colin Hunter 3:37
Yes, Great book.

Mita Mallick 3:39
I have not been reading any adult books, I read a lot of short forms, and I write quite a lot. But

Colin Hunter 3:45

Mita Mallick 3:45
With books, you got to read it in one sitting, at least for me, I’ll read it. And then I forget what I read. So there you go. Maybe this next chapter, I’ll start reading books. Again.

Colin Hunter 3:55
I plug it in the audio. So I did my walk or went out for the walk this morning. And even if it’s early.

Mita Mallick 4:01
that’s a great idea.

Colin Hunter 4:02
Plug an hour and a half. And so tell us a bit about you in the background because you’ve got a fascinating story. And as you said, we had a brilliant conversation the last time.

Mita Mallick 4:10

Colin Hunter 4:10
But it’s to get the richness of your background would be useful for people listening.

Mita Mallick 4:16
Yeah, so my background starts with I’m the proud daughter of Indian immigrant parents. My younger brother and I were born and raised in the United States and spent most of our time in Massachusetts. And when we talk about gender inequities, Colin, for me, it’s not theoretical or academic. My parents left everyone they knew behind to start a new life for themselves. I would say, in many ways, the classic immigrant story. My dad’s mother was married when she was 12 years old.

Colin Hunter 4:51

Mita Mallick 4:51
My mother’s mother was married when she was ten years old. They had very large families and were simply remarkable women. I don’t think until I was older that I had an understanding of what it meant to be married when you were ten years old. And as my son is now nine, turnings 10, you start to think, wow, I am living proof of what progress when it comes to gender equity looks like in less than just three generations. And that’s still happening in many parts of the world. So that’s actually something I talked about more. But that’s always been a part of who I am since I was born. And now, as an adult, it’s heavier for me to think, wow, like, this is what progress can look like with education and opportunities.

Colin Hunter 5:37
Tell me about the education and opportunities because that’s a story of your mother and everything else and your experience here. But there’s been progress, but it’s been difficult from what I understood from you.

Mita Mallick 5:49
Yeah, I mean, for me, so that’s the backdrop of my family history. But.

Colin Hunter 5:53

Mita Mallick 5:53
I always say the funny-looking, dark-skinned girl with a long funny looking grade whose parents spoke funny English until it wasn’t funny anymore. And I was a lot, both verbally and physically, growing up by my peers; they made me know every day that I did not belong in that community. And that’s when I say, Colin, that when people ask me, like, what is the toughest part about this work, inclusion starts at home, it starts at our kitchen tables when we think things are funny, strange, lazy, odd, weird. That is when we start to stereotype individuals. And that becomes the gateway to hate. And so now, as I’m trying to raise kind, inclusive human beings, and I have a lot of children in my life, through family and friends, that matters a lot, how we speak in front of and to the next generation. And so that’s what I think about from my days of growing up is that I don’t ever want anyone to feel like they don’t belong. And that has been whether I realized it or not, probably later in life, that’s my life mission and journey, like, I want everyone to find their voice and to use it.

Colin Hunter 7:01
And tell me about your story from then. So the braids, the bullying. And because I think for me, one of the things about reading this book, we’ve just been talking about that, you get the so many aspects of diversity, equity, bullying, everything else that goes into it, and actually for certain people to go into a room and identify with other people in the room is almost to the exclusion of others. So everybody’s individual story is a powerful one. Tell us a bit more about your story from that.

Mita Mallick 7:30
So I mean, growing up, I was teased, you know, called things to my face, I think when I was probably around 11, or 12. I remember having racial slurs painted in front of our house. And I don’t remember. I didn’t understand what the N-word meant or what the s meant; I just knew that they were not kind words, but my parents couldn’t afford to repave the driveway. So we just had to wait for the New England weather to wash those words away. And so I thought to myself, Wow, now as an adult, that’s a hate crime, isn’t it?

Colin Hunter 8:08

Mita Mallick 8:08
Someone in the town should have come and actually removed those words, which they did not. I mean, many things happened in my upbringing. But one of the things that were the most painful and pivotal was that I was in my freshman year of high school in ninth grade and was really excited about a class called Intro to physical sciences. And there were two white boys who I had become their target. They had they were bullying me for some time. I had hair down to my knees; they would pull me like a horse in the hallway, one of them sat behind me, and he would yank my head back down with my braid if I didn’t pass the papers back fast enough. And one day, during the lab portion of the class, they decided to set my hair on fire. And they were standing behind me, and they were lighting matches, and they were throwing them into my braid. And I actually what’s what I remember about that moment, as well as like Snickers, but that was not like the snickering and the laughing, but that was not unusual. And I didn’t know it was happening until my lab partner, who hadn’t spoken to me in the entire time we worked together, said your hair is on fire. And so that smell to this day, I can remember and what Colin, I think is so important for me about that moment is that I was meant to feel like I had done something wrong. I also went to the principal’s office with the two boys. We all sat together outside; they were suspended for one day, which is a podcast for another time. They came to terrorize me in that class, and I had a guidance counselor who really stepped up for me; that was the first time I saw an ally ship outside of my own home. And I think he had a sense that I could run fast. I’m not coordinated, but I can run fast, Colin. And So he

Colin Hunter 9:55

Mita Mallick 9:55
Asked me to join at the time, cross country and track, and it was for the first time I felt that I was equal on the plane, that I wasn’t super fast, and I wasn’t super slow, but I could certainly hold my own. And he saw that in me. And so that was a way for me to find community. But what I will say to you is that experience of having my hair set on fire is what’s happening in our corporate workplaces. Today. It’s an analogy because this is what happens to women of color all day, every day. And some of those things are visible and not that happening. And so, I never imagined that those bullies from the schoolyards would follow me into corporate America; no one prepared me for that. None of my education, none of my training prepared me for what would happen when I started my career.

Colin Hunter 10:46
So that brings us to your work now. And I’m fascinated, just tell people a bit about the work that you do now. Because it’s based on your experiences is based on that finding that the bullies have joined you in the corporate work, but something in there.

Mita Mallick 11:00
Yeah, I mean, the other thing that I didn’t bring up at the beginning of my story is that when I didn’t feel like I belonged in my community. But I also didn’t feel like I belonged in the greater world; I did not grow up in the Instagrammer. So I never thought of products or services that reflected me. I never saw. I always wondered, like, who gets chosen and why? Like, why does everyone look the same who’s on screen or in books or on television? And that was why, and to this day, why I’m passionate about storytelling; I went into marketing. And so, right now, I’m the Head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Carta, which is a Fintech start-up based out of San Francisco. And prior to that, I have had a long career in consumer product goods, no surprise, and marketing, telling, you know, on a mission to include more people who look like me,

Colin Hunter 11:48

Mita Mallick 11:48
Instantly telling. And so I think what’s really changed Colin about diversity, equity, and inclusion in the last two years is that it is about workforce and more, no longer ignoring how products and services show up in the marketplace, we can no longer ignore supplier diversity and who we decide to write checks to and why in which communities we start to support and we can no longer just post a Black Lives Matter image on Instagram and check the boxes accompany and say, Okay, we’re done.

Colin Hunter 12:18

Mita Mallick 12:18
I mean, you can say you stand for values, but when you’re ready to stand up for them, and whether it’s from the US or global perspective, we’ve seen there’s a reckoning happening.

Colin Hunter 12:27

Mita Mallick 12:27
And he’s who are pretending to stand up or not standing up.

Colin Hunter 12:32
And for those organizations, those people, I mean, for me, one of the releasing bits that I found one was I did design thinking, I did look to the start-up, I looked at that world. And I started to look at the user of the center. There’s a really useful piece there that gets a lot of corporates and organizations to move forward. But without almost doing the work and their own bias, their own views, and their own thoughts behind it, it’s almost a checkbox, and we are our purpose of removing those tick boxes.

Mita Mallick 13:03
No, absolutely.

Colin Hunter 13:04

Mita Mallick 13:06
I mean, we spend billions and billions. I don’t know what the recent number is; I have to look up US Global on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Just think about it, especially as my co-host of our brown Table Talk podcast, Dee C. Marshall, coined the diversity tipping point of May 2020. When corporate America finally said, Yes, we understand that black lives matter. And we spend so much money; there’s so much innovation in this space. And yet I tell you, this work is personal and starts at home. This is what we’re doing a carta; it is inclusive cultures like this. Unicorn we’re chasing, and we’re like you inclusive cultures like companies are made of people. So it starts with inclusive leadership; it starts with how I need to show up every single day at work, right? And I have to realize that how I show up has a ripple effect on my team in the organization. And so that’s the perspective I like to take inclusive culture does not happen without holding individuals accountable. And so that’s really my job is thinking about Colin, like you as a leader, what is your day look like? And all the things that you do, how can I interrupt bias? Where can I help you think about things differently, and as a result, maybe you take a different decision or action that day?

Colin Hunter 14:26
Yeah. Because even without layering on Equity Diversity, there are some simple pieces for me; I hold my hand up. I had a moment in a board meeting where I was using sarcasm which is a British comedy tool, doing sarcasm, and there was a lady brilliant Lady Mary was a good friend who called me on it and called not only me but a group of us on it and said you know sarcasm is was the lexicon of ripping flesh. But it was only when I came off that call, go talk to my daughter, and she said you do it all the time and you do it to my sister, and Suddenly, I just had that moment of going,

Mita Mallick 15:02

Colin Hunter 15:02
I think I’m a good person. But it’s basic behavior in my context, and mindset causes it.

Mita Mallick 15:11
Well, glad you had that revelation? See, that’s important. Those are the revelations people need to have. Because once you have that aha moment, only you can choose to do something different, right? Like, I cannot force you to do something different; you have to choose to do something different.

Colin Hunter 15:25
And then you become a bit of an evangelist on the back end of it, and you start to go alright; sarcasm needs to be removed for everybody. (inaudible) and I quite enjoy a bit of sarcasm.

Mita Mallick 15:33

Colin Hunter 13:34
So there is this bit about even when you get self-awareness, and I love it here. It begins at home because even as self-awareness, I chat with my daughters, that will use sarcasm all the time.

Mita Mallick 15:44

Colin Hunter 15:44
Back to me, it is about, and this is where some of the arguments about well, we are trying to make it too good. I don’t believe that. But we have got to start somewhere with ourselves and start to change what person we want to be in that context. Is that how you see it?

Mita Mallick 15:59
I do. I mean, I agree with you context matters. Suppose you’re sarcastic at home with your daughters and your family, who know you and love you. There’s a relationship there; you have to work to build that relationship at work, right. And so we’re meeting for the first time, and I don’t really know you that well. And you start using sarcasm; it is about intent versus impact. Isn’t it common?

Colin Hunter 16:18

Mita Mallick 16:18
Like your intent, it isn’t that, but it’s how I felt at the end that matters. And that’s what I coach leaders on. It’s no sometimes, you know, I like to live my life thinking 99% of people actually have good intentions. And there are the 1% of people who must move on and get help.

Colin Hunter 16:33

Mita Mallick 13:34
Right, who wants to move on and get help. But most people don’t enter situations. I like to think, and that’s why I do this work. Because I’m half classical, my husband jokes, he’s half glass empty, but I’m half class full.

Colin Hunter 16:46
Love it. I am half class full.

Mita Mallick 16:47
Just love it, but I am not Entering this conversation; Colin is thinking, Oh, Colin did that intentionally. Now, if Colin does it repeatedly, then we need to have a conversation. But oftentimes, it’s not as you shared an example with your colleague, the impact was, Wow, that was a really what was the statement she said, ripping off?

Colin Hunter 17:07
rip is the lexicon of ripping of flesh. And that, for me, made it because I respect her and love her. And actually, and the way she did it was beautiful because she just was direct, blunt, straight to the point.

Mita Mallick 17:19
Well, also, what’s great about that example is the psychological safety that exists in that relationship. So it was someone knew you were meeting they might not have felt comfortable that to you, and then that you might have continued on that track with that individual without understanding how they were feeling. But it’s amazing that you have that relationship. she could tell you something that you weren’t seeing and how you were showing up, which is awesome.

Colin Hunter 17:43
Yeah. So come back to your role, because it’s a fascinating role for me, and it’s almost, there’s some tickbox in quite a few organizations, they set up an ID, D and I, and they put somebody in who’s either, you know, during the side that skin colors, right, where the background is right, and then put it in, and then they say, right, we’ve taken care of that. So how would you go about your work being one of those people to daily to get this to change in the culture?

Mita Mallick 18:14
Well, I want to respond to what you just said, I think it’s fascinating, you know, the role of Chief Diversity Officer, I don’t know the exact stat, but if you look over the last year or two years, LinkedIn report, it’s like doubled, tripled. It’s you could Google it right now. And there’s like 100 roles open, in one part of the market or globe for chief diversity officers and I had written two years ago, an article for Harvard Business Review, which is still quite relevant called, do you know why you need a chief diversity officer because I was tired of getting calls for roles in the market, which were like, hey, Mita, you’re going to report into Colin, who’s the president, and you’re going to have access to the board. But guess what, you’re going to have no team or resources, and you’re going to pay to get paid what I paid you out of undergrad? I’m like, what? I think that there’s also a big reckoning for organizations who, as you said, there’s this check the box and just need to get in a CDO. So I can say I have one. And so you know, when I took this role at the card, I had a lot of conversations to say, which is what I talked about in this piece is that if you’re going to hire somebody, let them know what they’re walking into their crisis. What do you need help with? What’s the budget going to be? What’s the team going to be? Are they going to have access to the exact team? Where does the role sit? And also, I feel more and more, and this is a big part of what I do is chief diversity officers have to have a seat at the table because inclusion is a driver of the business, so I cannot silo them into another part of the organization, I promise you no matter what you’re selling, if it’s a pen, lipstick, coffee software, you are selling something to be profitable, and whatever you’re selling should Have an inclusion lens.

Colin Hunter 20:01
I agree. And it goes into the other aspect, isn’t it because you’re talking about neurodiversity, you’re talking about, you know, even just think about the great migration, people leaving the culture of an organization, everything now so that it’s almost like people equity and people blend and people are the core asset of your organization. You got to do that. Yeah, it’s fascinating. So coming back to your role, and because you’re doing this role, and then you’re doing a podcast, tell us a bit about the podcast, because that’s quite risky to be this is this and then to go into a voice piece, which is starting to talk about all these stories. But you’re conscious about that. Yeah,

Mita Mallick 20:38
I am. And I have to be true to myself. And I also say this to people, people say, How are you so vocal and active in social media? How are you sharing all of your thoughts, and you’re working full time? And I say, Yeah, I would never indict my employer. I love working work. And this is my advice to people. The moment you have something negative to say about your company is the moment you should no longer work there.

Colin Hunter 21:02
Yeah. Good

Mita Mallick 21:04
No, for me, it’s like I have had a long career at this point. I’m talking about things that happened a long time ago; my podcast roundtable talk, which is with my dear friend, Dee C . Marshall, is a love letter to my younger self, things that happened in my career stories I’m sharing now. But also, Colin, more importantly, to have white men in my life reach out and say, Wow, I didn’t know these things happened. I wish I could have shown up for you differently then. And I was like, Well, I wasn’t willing to share. So we have many women of color. This podcast is really about helping women of color thrive in their workplaces; we share lots of stories and tips. In the end, I have had women of color say to us; it’s like you’re reading my personal journal. And then allies say, I didn’t know any of these stories; I have never been privy to them. And so for them to understand how they can do better and be better. So it is from a positive place. Like I don’t want other people to have these experiences. And so that’s how I think for me; it’s all about putting out positivity into the world and leaving people with lessons to learn.

Colin Hunter 22:11
So your stories plus other people’s stories, basically, you’re bringing.

Mita Mallick 22:15
Yes, my stories and D’s stories. Yeah, and you know, they’re not my stories; there are stories.

Colin Hunter 22:19

Mita Mallick 22:20
You know, talk about my work getting stolen or detox about as a black woman, her hair being touched, and how often black women’s hair is touched in workplaces and outside of work without permission. More, you know, the challenges I faced in getting promoted, we did a recent episode, which caused quite a stir when people from a US context constantly complimented me on how well I speak English. And so it’s interesting because some of these topics are universal. If you went through our podcast episodes, you say, Yeah, everyone has been through that. I think what we are trying to share with people is that there is a difference between a South Asian woman and a black woman and what those experiences are like because context and perspective matter.

Colin Hunter 23:09
And I presume that this angle is about giving people stories that actually resonate and go; well, I’m not alone. And then there’s a positive action, you know, if for change to happen. So how do you blend that because storytelling, and everybody, there’s this worry that there’s a lot of sympathies goes on, but not a lot of action or empathy plus action on the back end of it from people? So it’s useful to hear.

Mita Mallick 23:32
Yeah, our podcast is the podcast I would want to listen to because I’m a busy mom of a six and 9-year-old, so I recreated it; I created it for myself and recreated it for she’s also quite busy. So they’re usually less than 30 minutes. We share some stories at the beginning, there’s a topic, and then we really leave tips at the end. Like,

Colin Hunter 23:54

Mita Mallick 23:54
If you saw this happen in the workplace, what could you do differently? What can women of color do differently? What can allies do differently? And the first season Colin, we self-funded and did ourselves, and then LinkedIn came knocking, which was pretty cool. And so we’re now LinkedIn Podcast Network. And so it was really exciting. And what’s really interesting, Colin is, and I know as a podcaster, you would get this is that you put this material out there. And then it’s kind of like a book club. Something really resonates with people, and they want to continue the conversation. So we have been doing audio rooms on LinkedIn; LinkedIn has given us access to their beta product. So we have been after we drop an episode, we gather people to do an audit.

Colin Hunter 24:38

Mita Mallick 24:38
And what’s really interesting about this is that the brown tabletop community has taken off in a way we didn’t expect that this is not we don’t run this community. We are a part of it. We show up to the audio room, which is 30 minutes Dee and I say a few things, and let me tell you, there’s a line of people waiting to talk like we don’t need to say anything.

Colin Hunter 25:00

Mita Mallick 25:01
Like (inaudible) saying, I heard the story on this episode you were all talking about, I want to share my story, or Colin comes up to ask for advice. And then someone else is giving you advice like Dee, and I are just like there. Like, that’s when you know, it’s like you’ve hit on a community like other people are there for each other.

Colin Hunter 25:17
And it sounds like a real mixture of the community as well, for people who are allies. Don’t talk to me about the allies, because for some people listening who don’t know this space, and then hopefully it’s a few people, but I think there are quite a few build another space, then the allies, for me has been a core part of the work that you have been doing, and other people have been doing this space.

Mita Mallick 25:35
So I always say this, I’ll use myself as an example; I am on an ally to be a journey for the black community. My friend Dee who identifies as black, she’s the only one or anyone who is a black friend or colleague. They are the only ones who can say I have been an ally for them. Like, I have no idea I’m working hard at it. But if you ask her, is Mita an ally for the black community? She’s going to say yes or no, or she has more work to do. So there’s humility in being an ally. It’s not a card. Hey, I’m an ally. No, it’s this humility of learning and trying to do better. And I think what’s been fascinating, Colin, especially as I have had allies reach out to me as they have listened to an episode and said, I didn’t realize that black women had their hair disproportionately touched. And I didn’t realize they received all this, all these comments about their hairstyle. Or I had no idea you were the target of gas lighting. And all of the everyday aggressions that you face. So part of it is for allies in the education awareness. Like, let’s just be quite frank, if you’ve been self-segregating most of your life, and that happens, right? You would not have access to these stories. And so, we are giving you unfiltered access to stories you might not have listened to or heard before. And then we’re asking you if you show up at work the next day, or in the next few weeks, and you see these things happening, just be more aware. And think about how you can check in on the person who’s being impacted. But then also, what can you do? Like how can you help and intervene?

Colin Hunter 27:12
Yeah, there’s a lady called Gloria Cotton who did a piece, and she talks about being positive, inclusive, positively, and working, because I think a lot of people would say, Well, I’m good, but actually, the action is it’s a core bit. So signing up as an ally is one thing, but actually, you’re right. And understanding and being able to really be on the side of really understanding what’s going on is a difficult piece.

Mita Mallick 27:35
I will. Like one of the stories that we talked about that I shared on the podcast, and this happened many years ago, what to do if you are renamed at work, or your name is mispronounced. So my full name is actually Madhumita. A lot of different reasons I wrote about this, and Fast Company, I ended up coming into the corporate world with Mita. And I’m very happy that my name is Mita Mallick, but my full name is Madhumita. And years ago, when I graduated from graduate school, I entered the workforce like, I’m going to reclaim my name because my name has been a source of pride, shame, and exhaustion. Love. It’s been hard, right? Being raised in a country where people can’t pronounce your name or don’t want to. So I remember starting this job, and I wanted to go by madhumita; my manager couldn’t pronounce it, which was fine. So I gave him the option of Mita. He decided he thought it would be funny to rename me Muhammad. And so for about, I don’t know, six, seven months, I don’t remember. I’m even embarrassed as I share this with you. I responded to a name. It was not my own. Muhammad. It’s time for lunch, Muhammad. Let’s get the sales samples, Muhammad, the agencies here. And so that’s a moment where I talk about the power dynamics. This was my manager; I was a junior. I didn’t feel comfortable saying to him to stop calling me Muhammad. I was embarrassed and mortified. Here’s my question, Colin, where were his peers?

Colin Hunter 29:05

Mita Mallick 29:05
Where were all those people who heard him calling me Muhammad and thought it was funny and laughed, so that’s what I talk about in terms of, like, Ally ship and advocacy? Right. So if Colin had been there many years ago, she might have gone up to this person, pulled him aside separately said, hey, what can you call her, Mita? This is not as simple. Like, you might think this is funny. This is not.

Colin Hunter 29:28

Mita Mallick 29:28
Right. And so that’s what I tried to shed light on. Right is that, you know, I hope I know that’s happening to other people right now. And so can someone else intervene when that person is in a position where they can’t, like I wasn’t in a position I was the most junior person on the team.

Colin Hunter 29:47
It’s an interesting one for me because I have got a good client friend I have known for years and I have always called him Mustapha, sorry Mustafa, I have always called him Mustafa. And it was only another person, a black man I worked for this company who came and he was talking to me. So do you realize you’ve been mispronouncing this? Suppose a person that is your best friend for years and years? And I went, No. Wow. And he said, Okay, this is Mustafa. That is how you should pronounce it. I was like, okay, so it took me a while. I fumbled over it, and I became really embarrassed. But there was a shame to that there was a shame to work in. So I have tried to count on the book, again, picked up a story of somebody, his name couldn’t be pronounced the first time somebody actually tries to do it. This lady burst into tears because it was the first time anybody had ever tried at least to pronounce it.

Mita Mallick 30:35
That’s so beautiful. That’s what I want people listening to take away is that trying matters, the showing up matters. And anyone who consistently tries and says keeps calling me Mita but says they are trying to get it better. I’m like, Great, I’m here for it right now. Like, at least you keep saying that you’re trying.

Colin Hunter 30:53

Mita Mallick 30:54
And that’s what matters rather than consistently, you know, doing it on purpose, right?

Colin Hunter 31:00

Mita Mallick 31:00
We have been there because what it signals to me is if you don’t want to learn how to pronounce my name, or by the way, Colin, my latest pet peeve, do not misspell my name. There’s no excuse to autocorrect one or two times, but after that, no, there’s no excuse. It shows that I’m not valued. And you don’t respect me, right? That I am not worthy enough of you even bothering to learn how to pronounce my name and to acknowledge me, and here’s what it is; it goes back to names that were given to us by people who had big hopes and dreams for us. So let’s honor that. Let’s honor someone who gave us the name.

Colin Hunter 31:41

Mita Mallick 31:41
Like, isn’t that a wonderful thing to think about? Like all of us,

Colin Hunter 31:44
That is.

Mita Mallick 31:44
Stand by people who were like, wow, this person is going to be meaningful in this world. And this is why I’m choosing Colin or Mita, whatever.

Colin Hunter 31:51
Yeah. And it’s funny how just even take my daughter’s we gave her daughter’s name Mary Elise hyphen, Marye hyphen, Elise. And it became so difficult for people to pronounce it when they first came in French name and sort of how would you so, you know, and I used to have this stack, which was, it’s like, Mary.

Mita Mallick 32:09

Colin Hunter 32:09
With the lotus Elise car, you know, and you would have this, but it was for a reason. And now, Mary Elise, we love it.

Mita Mallick 32:17

Colin Hunter 32:10
But actually, a lot of her friends have called her Remy. So it shorteners. But that’s her choice.

Mita Mallick 32:21
That’s her choice.

Colin Hunter 32:22
That’s her choice to live with it. I want to come back to this other bit that you are talking about in terms of calling some behavior because I had an amazing conversation with somebody because of a lot of people’s reactions from my place. And for those who are not looking at this and don’t know, I’m a white, heterosexual male, 57 years old. I have the privilege of all of those things. And some of our reaction is when I hear racist or see racist behavior. And I saw it from somebody I know very, very closely. My immediate choice was that I was not going to be their friend anymore. Yeah, I’m going to walk away from this. And I was always quite proud of being a good person for walking away. And it was the same person who called me on the name, who said, No, you shouldn’t, you got to stay in there. You know, what’s the point of view on wasting that relationship as an opportunity to change? So what are your views on that, because you must get quite a bit of that

Mita Mallick 33:16
I think that it’s easier to walk away. And if you have an established relationship with this person, you have an opportunity and a window to help them change. Now, at some point, you have to protect your own mental energy, right? Depends on how much. Now listen, this is what I talk about. From a US perspective, our companies are just as divided as our families can’t sometimes; it’s easier to walk away from friendships than you can’t from family, right? You can’t.

Colin Hunter 33:43

Mita Mallick 44:43
But it’s harder sometimes. And so that is why, you know, I choose to do this work within the system. I have been working for corporations my entire career; I have friends who work in the nonprofit sector, the public sector, government sector, and I have friends who are working outside the system; when you choose to work within the system, you get a paycheck from a company as a CTO, you have to meet people where they are I don’t have a choice to walk away. And so I also like that challenge. I want to find a window and help move people on their journey. Because if I get to know someone really well and know their story, I think I can move them.

Colin Hunter 34:25
Yeah, And it’s interesting using storytelling to shift their story.

Mita Mallick 34:30
Several years ago, I had somebody who was on the exec team who was really was not interested in the Dee and I agenda was one of the people who, you know, would show up when I presented at board meetings and things like that but didn’t really have much of an interest. And it was one day that he showed up in my office to say I’m actually really interested in sponsoring the ERG for individuals with disabilities. I said Oh, really, why Tell me more? And his father had recently started using a wheelchair. He had confided that story in me and all of a sudden showed up as one of the biggest sponsors as one of our employee resource groups. And so every one’s story is being constantly rewritten. Colin, we have seen that in the last two years, everything we thought was a story was erased and rewritten. And so just watch for that. As you get to know people and life experiences, things change. And so people’s connection to this work changes as well.

Colin Hunter 35:29
Yeah. And if somebody asks you the question about how do you define diversity, yeah and equity, what I mean two words, but let’s take diversity first because I was chatting to somebody the other day, and even just gender specific, but there was a diversity of agenda with a woman with children and family versus one without. And then there was a conversation around menopause, which, you know, in certain societies like Asia or India, menopause is not mentioned that isn’t talked about. So how do you define your role?

Mita Mallick 36:01
I think diversity is multi-dimensional right now. People can’t see us; they can hear us. But if you see me or Google me, I appear as a brown woman as a woman of color. I’m a mother; I’m very vocal about that. I was raised Hindu. I mean, I could go on and on about, you know, how I identify, and also the privilege I have hold held throughout my career because oftentimes, we think about that’s a conversation for another time, Colin, but like.

Colin Hunter 36:32

Mita Mallick 36:32
You know, when we used to hear the words white privilege, people often would shut down. But we all have had the privilege in our life. For me, it hasn’t had to do with race, right? The privilege I hold hasn’t had to do with race. But I have gotten to two top universities; I have had access and opportunity, right? So it just depends on your life story. But diversity. There are so many dimensions now. And there are things that you can’t see. Right?

Colin Hunter 36:58

Mita Mallick 36:58
I will say, though, that I do find that diversity of thought has become coded language. So, diversity of thought doesn’t happen without diversity of representation. And I think the real reckoning right now for corporations is the lack of black talent, the lack of voice that black voices, specifically in rooms. And so that’s why I choose to be specific, because we don’t want to use coded language, or we don’t want to sugarcoat. No, it is about.

Colin Hunter 37:27

Mita Mallick 37:28
Black voices, Latinx Hispanic, and even as we’re seeing with the rise of Asian hate crimes, right, and that connection to corporate America that, you know, Asian colleagues might appear to have the majority but statistics will show that many of them are not also represented in the exec team report rooms and their career stall very early in some cases when you think about the model minority myth, so anyways, I like to be specific.

Colin Hunter 37:56
Yeah, No, I love it. Well, it’s, I mean, unless you’re getting specific, it’s very difficult to tell a story around it and focus in, so it’s important part so if anybody wants to reach out and what one episode a podcast because I’m always asked this what’s the one episode you listened to have your own boss, and we always talked at the beginning that what we talked to the beginning about, we never listened to our own episode. But if there was one episode that you can remember, you just think this is passion.

Mita Mallick 38:25
Oh god, that’s like asking me to choose who my favorite kid is, which might do to me often.

Colin Hunter 38:31
I’m just about to say.

Mita Mallick 38:33
Often they do that to me. That’s not fair. Colin.

Colin Hunter 38:36
Okay, one topic, then let me do a topic.

Mita Mallick 38:38
You know what, here’s an interesting one I will have people listen to. It’s called How to stop being indispensable. And it’s actually a piece I wrote in the Harvard Business Review that we ended up talking about in the podcast, but I was trained Colin to be dispensable. You’re my boss; I show up for you. I go above and beyond; I will do anything and everything. And that actually, in my career, temporarily killed him. Because I could not get off this person’s team because I would become so valuable. And also, I had taken on all the wrong things like I was doing everything in anything and not strategic thinking that I just wanted to get promoted. I just want to get to my next opportunity. And I do think there is the struggle for women of color who were always the number two, right? Always the deputy, always next in line. And so what happens when you become indispensable? And you have people who are talent hoarders like they don’t want you to move on because, quite frankly, I make your life easier. So that’s interesting; what I like to do is I like to take topics that we have talked about for a while but then flip it right because my entire life, I was raised to be indispensable. And now I’m like; actually, I don’t know if it served me all that well.

Colin Hunter 39:58
So cultural knowledge, Isn’t it? I mean, you know, from your parent’s background, that’s what I will talk to a lot of my coaches are from an Indian background they will talk about as long as they got my degree and I’m.

Mita Mallick 40:10

Colin Hunter 40:10
knowledge. But actually, the flip around for them to get be coaches and show wisdom and listen.

Mita Mallick 40:15

Colin Hunter 40:15
It is an engaging piece; isn’t it fascinating?

Mita Mallick 40:17
Yes. Yes, it is.

Colin Hunter 40:20
Yeah. I love our conversation, and you say we are probably about this is version one; we’ll do version two, version three because there’s so much to talk about.

Mita Mallick 40:28
Yes, please.

Colin Hunter 40:28
If there was one thing that you are working on this year that is in your mind with everything going on in the world, what do you think is the one thing that is, is going to be really critical this year, and the work that you do that you want people to pay attention to?

Mita Mallick 40:43
And there are so many things the thing that I will say, people, ask me what’s critical? What’s on top of my mind for Dee and me? What keeps me up at night? I am just Colin shocked that more people are not talking about the devastating impact the pandemic has had on women and the women workforce. And I will only quote the US stats right now. It is widely reported and known that women’s workforce participation in the US is down to levels that we haven’t seen since the 1980s. Colin 1980s. That’s four decades of progress. White. And we know for white women, women of color, as we talked about diversity, intersectionality women, ageism, women over 50, who are unable to get back into the workforce jobs that have disappeared. And also, what I talk about is the pandemic gap and your bias. If I left two years ago, and I’m trying to get back now into the workforce, we know statistically, I am less likely to get called back for interviews. And so that is what I’m just sort of baffled. I mean, listen, I’m tired. I’m tired of screaming.

Colin Hunter 41:55

Mita Mallick 41:56
Some rest. And I’ll scream again, but I just can’t for the life of me why more companies and leaders aren’t talking about this. I’m talking about it. But what can we all be doing? And I’m telling you, Colin, it just takes each of us if you can just find one woman to mentor to help her get back into the workforce. Imagine the tipping point.

Colin Hunter 42:14
There’s a brilliant place to live this. I would love to invite you back. Let’s pick up on the next piece. If people want to find you, where would they find you? Where would they find the podcast? Just so

Mita Mallick 42:25
yeah, thank you for asking. Please follow me on LinkedIn. I would love to have a conversation there. I’m on Twitter and Instagram; I started a ticktok channel off if I’m trying to get it.

Colin Hunter 42:35
Ohh, you did.

Mita Mallick 42:36
video is not. I love writing, right? If I could write all day, writing is my format. Yeah, I have a little ticktok channel. I also would love for you to go to Apple or Spotify and listen to the roundtable talk. Thank you so much for having me, Colin.

Colin Hunter 42:50
Oh, please, really good to speak to you and speak to you soon. Hopefully.

Mita Mallick 42:54

Colin Hunter 42:54
Thank you

Colin Hunter 43:02
Well, folks, that was Mita Mallick, and When I talk to certain people who I know that I want to keep in my life because of the guide. They can be the advisor, the mentor, and the coach they can be for me; then she’s one of those people who loved our conversation felt very, very natural. Also, just some of the sharing from my side, hopefully, was useful for those who are listening, who come from that, inverted commas wanting to be a good person and wanting to do something positive in the way of action, hopefully, bring that from today’s conversation. What I always am shocked and but it’s so good to hear is some of the stories that we can use to start to change the conversations that people are having and some of the work that she’s doing in our organization, but also with a brand table podcast, which is fantastic. Well worth a listen, as she says she’s a mother who has very little time. So she keeps them under 24, half an hour, 24 minutes of time. And if you get to listen to them, they are well worth listening to in terms of topics and stories and tips that are very useful in terms of whether you’re an ally you are somebody going through what they are talking about in there. So I loved our conversation today. And as I say, I will be welcoming me back at some point soon, and I will welcome you back for another episode of the Leadership Tales Podcasts very shortly.