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Ep N° 19: The critical link between equity and customer success (with Deborah Pickett)

Sonia: Hey, Debra. Thank you so much for joining me today. How are you?

Deborah: I’m doing great. Thank you.

Sonia: All right. Well, let’s go ahead and dive right in. Well, before we get started, I just want to let everybody know full disclosure. This is not something that I get to do every day. I get to talk with my sister, but also an expert, right? So you are my sister. You are an expert and you are the perfect person to talk about this topic today. We’re talking all about equity, but first, before we dive into this, because it’s going to be really good. Tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do.

Deborah: All right. So I am Deborah Pickett. I have spent 17 years in the classroom as the seventh and eighth grade math teacher. And so my bachelor’s degree is in secondary math education, but about nine or 10 years into that process, I realized that I needed to do no more in order to meet the needs of my students, specifically students with disabilities. So I went back to school to get my master’s in exceptional student education. And I’ve spent the last six years as an instructional coach, which basically means that I train and support teachers as they extend and refine their practice.

Sonia: That’s a lot of stuff. And I find the thing that you mentioned about exceptional student education. It’s just amazing the power of the different words that we use, how words can make people feel included. They can make them feel excluded and just, you know, how that label is. I just, it’s a fascinating one. Anyway, let’s dig in, let’s start right into this equity.

Deborah: So equity is making sure that we give everybody what they need and that doesn’t necessarily mean giving everybody the same thing, but making sure that we give people what they need. So in essence, I would say that equity is not equality.

Sonia: Okay. So let’s illustrate this a little bit. Cause I do know there people sometimes mix up the terms and whenever equity is present, sometimes people are upset because it’s not equal and vice versa. So can you explain a little bit better? Like what these two things look like in practice in terms of why they are different?

Deborah: Sure. So let’s think about something that we can all relate to. And that is the rollout of the COVID 19 vaccine. And we know that in many places, seniors were first in line after our essential workers, of course, in healthcare workers. And part of the problems that were discovered was that the signup process was online only. And for our seniors, that was a barrier. And so that’s equality. Everybody has to sign up online. Equity says, know what? Like maybe we need to have in-person sign up. Maybe we need to have sign up by phone. Maybe we can also have online sign up, but we want to make sure that we’re meeting the needs of people. Also thinking about the vaccine. Some places only have drive up options. Well, what if you don’t drive? What if you’re in a city that mainly has public transportation, you know, thinking about drive up plus walk up. Plus in many cases, you know, we have people that cannot get to these sites for many reasons and some cities that are doing it right. They’re going into people’s homes as needed. The idea is that we have options to make sure that we’re meeting the needs of all of our stakeholders.

Sonia: Got it. Okay. So that, that helps us basically. It means that giving everybody the same thing all the time, no matter what, same options, same priority, same order. But I guess even with the example that you use for equity, it’s about making sure that you are not really treating people as a one size fits all type of thing. So in the case of, yeah, it makes sense that we would give healthcare workers first priority with a vaccine. Is that a form?

Deborah: Well, if they’re on the front line, so obviously yes, they, they need that vaccine first, but then as you start rolling out to other groups of people and, you know, especially like I said, with the seniors, you know, you have to take into consideration, well, what are those unique needs of our senior population that might not fit with our, with our version of how things should be, or what’s going to work.

Sonia: Okay. And we’re talking about equity in of course we’re using examples that make sense that everybody’s is applicable, but we want to, we’re using these to help really illustrate the concepts so that we can have a better idea how to apply them for your business and for your teams. So once we’ve got, we’ve got that grounding of what equity is, what equality is, what happens when equity isn’t prioritized, because basically this is a word that has been around for a long time. Like you’ve been, you know, you’ve got a degree in ways in which equity is, is practiced on a regular basis. But from a business standpoint, this is sort of a newer buzzword over the past year. People are starting to prioritize it. So, but what happens whenever it isn’t prioritized?

Deborah: So it’s short form. That means somebody is not getting what they need. And when that happens, we end up with predictable outcomes. And so I’ll give you an education example this time. So a student’s gender, zip code, disability status, their race. It should not predict the quality of education that they receive, but unfortunately, sometimes that happens. And that’s why we are still continuing to work on equity, but in the same way that those things shouldn’t impact or predict outcomes for students, those things shouldn’t impact outcomes for anyone else, either whether it’s your, your customer, whether it’s your ability to get a vaccine, you know, we have to make sure that we are looking at all perspectives in all needs in order to make sure that everybody is getting what they need.

Sonia: So basically what you’re saying is we need equity because again, a one size fits all approach doesn’t work. And if we treated everyone the same, then be some outcomes that are pretty predictable in terms of what the result is going to be in an a lot of instances, those outcomes, aren’t going to be what we want.

Deborah: Exactly. Exactly.

Sonia: Okay. So from a business standpoint, if you don’t prioritize equity, say for instance, you might look at the data because I know you’re a big on data and that might show that percentage wise, the likelihood of you having a truly diverse team that was representative of the population or the people that you serve doesn’t happen. If you don’t put equity measures in place based upon a particular track record, is that right?

Deborah: Absolutely. Absolutely. It’s recognizing that there is a problem, but then also willing to do the work and do the digging and look at the numbers to see, okay, how do I go about fixing this?

Sonia: Is there an instance where things sort of work out on their own without you having to prioritize equity? Like this is the data. Do you, have you seen any data where that it just all works out

Deborah: Rarely, rarely, you know, and, and I think in those areas where communities, companies are diverse naturally, then you might see some of those things. But unfortunately there are many places around the world in our country and our communities even where it’s not naturally. So you have to make sure that you’re intentional about it.

Sonia: Okay. And it sounds like the first step in getting there is really taking a look back, taking a look at the data to know your numbers.

Deborah: Absolutely. Absolutely. And I don’t say that just because I’m a math teacher.

Sonia: Okay. Quick question on that. Is there a recommendation on where to start? Where for people like, in terms of looking at, or going even to get data and figuring, figuring out where to sort of start thinking about where equity, where there might be an equity problem that exists in your business internally, externally?

Deborah: I think we, you know, one, one place to begin is to just look at data that you already have available to you and really looking at it and focusing on, you know, what is it telling you? But then on the other side of it is thinking beyond the data that you have and going to get the data that you never thought you need.  And, and sometimes that is where, you know, that’s where the good stuff lies. Because if we are only thinking in one direction, our data’s going to confirm everything that we believe. But if we go and actively look for where are those places where maybe I’m not as aware, where are those things where I need to do more work? That’s when you realize, oh, you know, I could do better in this area because nobody’s perfect. No system does it right. All the time, every time. But it’s about being willing to find those places where maybe you can do better.

Sonia: Got it. I like that. All right. What would you say is the link between equity and access?

Deborah: Oh, okay. So, so without access, there’s no equity, but equity and access are not the same thing. So I’m going to give you another example, which kind of ties together education and the coven together. Cause you know, that’s the world we’re living in right now. So last year, this time schools shut down across the nation. And you know, as they were planning, but the challenge was is that you can put devices in the hands of students and families. But if you don’t also think about their internet access, we still have an access problem. And, and that was a barrier that popped up because that wasn’t at the forefront of everyone’s mind. And yet it was a true barrier to many students being able to access that remote content and access their teachers remotely. And so I think, you know, when we think about access, so, you know, a common phrase is when we talk about, you know, we need to make sure everybody has a seat at the table, but again, access is an equity. If you’re sitting at the table and nobody’s asking your opinion and or, or you offer your opinion and nobody’s listening or acting upon your unique perspective, then we still don’t have equity. And so we need access, but access alone is not going to do it for us.

Sonia: Got it. I think so the way I like to think about this and let me know if, is an example of it. So Jonathan, my husband speaks Spanish. He’s in the process of learning English. So since we’ve been here in the US we’ve had a lot more encounters with things that are trying to find resources, that he can do things and in Spanish. So we found a, he was taking a certification and online certification and he took all the study materials. They were all available in Spanish. He found a place online to take the actual test, the certification test, and that was going to be administered in Spanish. But I feel like we ran into a bit of an access issue because the part that you had to do to like get set up the day of the exam, the Proctor didn’t speak Spanish, the instructions that he had to give Jonathan to verify everything we’re of course we’re all in English. So then I had to run in and scurry and like translate. And it was just a very frustrating experience because there was access to a degree, but then there was a break in access. So even though they were trying to be inclusive and make sure that people who don’t speak English are still able to get this certification, the process wasn’t quite fully thought through that wasn’t fully available in Spanish. So it impacted the experience. And ultimately, I just think it w that could have an impact on people from an equity standpoint. Is that kind of what you’re referring to?

Deborah: Yeah. I attended a training a few years ago through Unbound ed or Unbound EDU, and one of their phrases that I just absolutely love is they say that justice is in the details. And so, you know, you think, oh, we’re going to offer this in Spanish. Oh, you know, we’re going to, you know, you can take the training and you can take the course, you know, all of that. But if, if the actual way to access those things actually take the exam. Doesn’t provide that on-ramp then somewhere we’ve missed it. And so, you know, in that instance, you know, and, and people, you know, they, they meant well, and that’s, that’s the thing we all mean, well, we all want to do right by everyone, but sometimes we miss the mark and it’s recognizing, Hey, you know what? I missed it on this. And I, I tried, but I missed it in this area. And I needed to work on doing better, because again, justice is in the details,

Sonia: Those details, for sure. We’re talking about this to help us think through those details that we might easily miss, or to figure out how to enlist, help, who with other people where needed, whose whole thing is to help us see those details that we might not clearly see. What do equitable practices look like?

Deborah: So again, in short, it really means doing whatever it takes to meet the needs of your audience. Not just so they’re getting by, but so they can thrive just like everyone else. And, you know, thinking again with education, you know, for us, we want all students to have not only have access to grade level work, but to become proficient with grade level work. And so, you know, that’s a great idea, but we also recognize within that, that some students are going to need more time and more support to be able to be successful with those grade level standards. And so recognizing that that’s going to be a need is great, but that means you also have a plan. What am I going to do to provide that extra time in those extra resources so that students can be successful so that all students can be successful.

Sonia: All right. So it’s mainly like don’t put limits on what something being equitable means, because it might mean something different for every person, but it’s all about really focusing on the end goal. How do we get to the place where everybody thrives or in this instance where I talk a lot about from a business standpoint is belonging is your end goal. How do you get to the place where the customers, what, what types of equitable programs or practices that you do need to put in place to make sure that the customers that you serve feel like they belong with you and that the team members that you bring into your organization, or you partner with feel like they belong with you. So whatever, like you said, whatever it takes, is really?

Deborah: Absolutely

Sonia: All right, whose job is equity?

Debora: Well, that’s an easy one. It’s everybody’s job. It’s usually, especially if you are providing a service, I attended a training last week, actually. And they were saying how, you know, schools have their systems and they have their programs, and this is how we work. But if we never take the time to reflect on, are we meeting the needs of students and their families, then something’s wrong. And so we need to make sure that we are always mindful of looking for equitable practices and always looking to do better.

Sonia: So I guess, I guess, what you say to people who would say, all right, it’s not really my job. Like, my job is a very specific Devon defined set. My job is recruiting. My job is marketing my job. Like, I’m not the diversity person. I’m not like, you know, how do you answer that?

Deborah: Well, first thing, why isn’t it your job? You know, why isn’t it your job to focus? If you’re the recruiting manager to think about equitable practices for, you know, whoever you may want to hire. And so if you think about it, if you have something to offer, then you should be mindful of providing the tools so that people can access it. Because otherwise what you’re really saying is, well, maybe they don’t need what you have to offer after all.

Sonia: Yeah. Yeah. So I guess the point, I guess, here to reiterate too, is these are the people that you choose to serve a lot of times. So it’s different in a school environment because you serve everybody that comes to the school. Right. But from a business standpoint and a marketing standpoint, the idea isn’t to serve everybody, you know, you can’t like you just, you just can’t, it’s, it’s very difficult to do that. And you, you set yourself up for a lot of difficulty whenever you do. So from an equity standpoint, it sounds like just continuing along those same lines of deciding who it is that you’re going to serve, who it is that you want to serve, like and how understanding how they might be different and what means they might need, what needs they might have that would help them or position them to be able to thrive.

 Deborah: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely.

Sonia: Basically, it’s, it’s thinking about it always from a customer success standpoint, right. And whoever your customer, it is, where there is somebody internal to your team or an actual customer that you wanting to serve. Equities always is really at the heart of it. It’s all about success.

Deborah: Yeah. Yeah. You know, one thing they entire us as educators, you know, the start of a school year is, you know, you get your room set up and we spend all the time trying to make it pretty, make it inviting and all of this. But they’re like sit in every seat, sit in every single seat and make sure that those child that’s sitting in this seat can see everything and engage in everything just as well as the person sitting in this other seat. And, you know, because sometimes you might realize, oh, you know what, if I sit in this seat, there’s this big, giant column that’s going to block the view. Or, oh, if I’m sitting in this seat back here in the back of the room, well, you know what, I can’t see because I’m too far away for whatever may be on the screen or on the board, or what have you. And, you know, it’s that mindfulness of saying, I want to make sure that every child that walks through my door is getting the same type of experience, you know, also meeting their individual needs. But simple things like, let me sit in every seat and make sure that there’s nothing that’s going to be a barrier.

Sonia: Which is really at the heart of that is empathy. Right? So sit in every seat, walk in their shoes, because like you said, at the beginning, sometimes there’s no way to know what somebody else is experiencing, how their needs might be different because people aren’t always raising their hands to tell you what they need. Sometimes they don’t even know what they need. They just, they’re not getting what they, they’re not thriving for some reason. Right. So I think that what you’re bringing up here is it’s all about empathy and empathy provides so many clues. Right. And it provides clues because you know, what is acceptable from your standard. And that helps to do that. So I just have a little thing. You and I are both left-handed right. I like to tell this story about feeling like I had this very complicated relationship with scissors because growing up there weren’t, left-handed scissors in school. Now, I think they’ve got like pretty universal scissors or it doesn’t matter what hand, but they’re scissors that exist like this. But I, I feel like just something as simple as like the scissors don’t work very well and what that would do to my psyche. Like, I’m just not a person who can cut very well. Like my paper, always with the hot mess, like just feeling hesitant about wanting to cut and switching, like, but it was, I think if somebody would’ve just taken the time to cut with both hands, like, you know what I mean? Like I think that they would’ve been able to see there’s a difference in how we relate or how we cut or the results that we get our success level is not the same whenever you’re not equipped with the right materials, but that comes from empathy and taking the time to really experience what the people that you’re serving the beds, the best of your ability to try and really experience what they are from their points of view rather than your own.

Deborah: Yes, yes. I’d say scissors and kitchen appliances like can openers and things like that. Definitely like it’s things are designed for a right-handed world. And we ended up having to adapt and adjust rather than making access available for us that, you know, have a different lived experience.

Sonia: So what are your so sitting in every seat, that’s a great thing that is advice for teachers? Do you have any other thoughts around how people might be able to sit in every seat, so to speak when it comes to the people that they’re serving on their team or the customers?

Deborah: So that’s a, that’s a good question. And I hate to keep going back to education and COVID, but I feel like education one is my reality, but COVID right now, it has been everybody’s reality for the last year. And when school shut down last spring, and then we were in the process of reopening and re like, literally re-inventing the way that we do our jobs every day. You know, there were some themes that came up at one of them was compassion. They said, you need to give yourself compassion, not only yourself, but your colleagues, but your students and their parents and their families. Because although everyone was living through the pandemic, everyone was experiencing the pandemic in different ways. And so being mindful of that allowed us to recognize that, you know what we may think, because we were at home, you know, that all parents were at home too. Well, no, there were some parents that were essential workers, but had to go out and be on the front lines. And so they weren’t there at home to support their students in this new uncharted territory. And so, you know, they told us too that, you know, compassion, which often people mistake, compassion and empathy. But what they reminded us is that compassion is empathy. Plus action. It’s not only saying like, let me sit in every seat, but then what am I going to do about it? If there’s a barrier that I’ve identified from sitting in every seat, you’ve gotta be willing to act on what it is that you find or what you uncover as you go on this journey.

Sonia: There’s this term in Spanish that we say, oh, “pobrecita”, which means like, oh, poor thing, right? Like, so we often referred to Mora, that’s our dog. She wants to do something. Let’s say it’s raining outside. And she can’t go outside “oh pobrecita”. But I think that a lot of times when people go through and they identify that maybe some groups of people have challenges, more challenges than others they might respond with. Oh my god, that’s so terrible. That’s like, so unfortunate. It shouldn’t be that way. Like this is an injustice. Oh, pobrecita. But unless you do like, so basically what you’re saying is unless you have compassion and like use your power to make a change for them, it will stay at oh pobrecita and it won’t be let’s fix this.

Deborah: Right. Right. Absolutely.

Sonia: Okay. All right. How do you keep empathy? Top-notch empathy. How do you keep equity top of mind so that you can develop that attitude of compassion and action and empathy so that you’re ready to actually make positive change so people can start to have more success more often?

Debora: I think, you know, the other thing to keep kind of at the forefront of your mind to be in this was our second theme. They told us compassion, but they also said grace, and it’s that grace, you know, because it’s easy to beat yourself up and be, oh my gosh, like I did, you know, I didn’t know. And how could I have not known? And you know, the idea is give yourself some grace, but at the same time learn and when you know, better than do better. And it’s important to recognize we are not always gonna get it. Right. Like we’re just not and recognizing that, but always working to do better. That’s what’s most important.

Sonia: Got it. Okay. Is there, as you’re looking at the data, you might identify that there are a number of areas that need work. How do you figure out where to start?

Deborah: Oh, I’d say, probably start with the biggest need. Like if there’s an area that’s just absolutely glaring focus on, on rectifying that first, but then also, still recognizing that you can’t just focus on one area and say, yup, check. I did equity today. Like, you’ve got a to, to do what you can in that moment, but over time you’re continuing to always do better. Always it’s so it’s a lifelong process.

Sonia: ’cause that’s what’s we’re going to ask you, can you ever be done with equity?

Deborah: No, no. Like it, because it’s not something you can check off. It’s not something that you can say. Okay, well, I’ve, you know, checked off everything in this box, so, yep. I’m good that that’s not, it’s not about just doing something. It’s about a way of being it’s. It’s how you see the world and recognizing that there’s always something that can be done better. And how do we work on making things better?

Sonia: Yeah. I like that. And I have a hunch, but I want to ask this what happens whenever, like, let’s say for instance, because resources shift, focus, areas, shift. What happens if you focus on equity and then you take your foot off the pedal, have you seen things like revert or, or can you put systems in place to kind of keep things going?

Deborah: So is it that kind of thing? Like, is that like you put, you put systems in place because you know, you recognize that policies and practices may not be equitable, but you can’t, again, you can’t say, okay. Yep. I put this new system in place. I put this new policy in place. Okay. Now I don’t have to think about it anymore. You constantly have to look at it. You have to look back, you know, we said, look at the data, look at the numbers. You have to know like, okay, am I sustaining this over time? Do I need to recalibrate? Do I need to adjust? Do I need a new plan? You always have reflect and monitor and think about, am I, am I doing enough? But then if you’re not, then how do I, how do I change course? And how do I become better?

Sonia: All right. So you can look at the data, like that’s the place, a good starting point, but your data might be showing you, Hey, we’ve got we’re underrepresented in certain areas, right? How do you know when that is an equity problem and that you need to implement equitable, equitable practices as the remedy?

Deborah: So we actually, this school year, we have been working on a project and it came about because we identified that we had disproportionate representation in our accelerated math courses. And a lot of that came about just by looking at the process and looking at

Sonia: how we meaning like more explain that.

Debora: Okay. So about half of our student population at my school are students of color. And yet we had maybe 20 to 30% of our students in our accelerated courses were students of color. And so there was a mismatch it’s like, okay, well, something something’s not right here. And so we had to not only like, look at that and identify, okay, clearly we have a problem here. And then how do we fix it? Okay. Well, instead of relying on just teacher recommendation or teacher lists, we began the process of universal screening. We looked at data for every single incoming sixth grader to see, okay, is this student a strong candidate for the accelerated math pathway? And by doing that, and also recognizing that again, it’s not about checking boxes. Oh, this kid checked off every single box that we’re looking for, but really looking at the whole picture of every single child in terms of the information we had available to us. Not only were we able to get proportionate representation, but all of our students were thriving.

Sonia: Yeah. Because I think that that you bring up a good point right? I think sometimes people focus it just on representation and representation. We’ve got the numbers, like the numbers make sense. I, you know, like we’ve got like our numbers match the population. I never met the people we want to serve, but it’s not just about the numbers. It’s how are those people performing? What is your level of success? Is, are they thriving? Why or why not? Because I think sometimes people feel like once you get the representation, you’re done. Sounds like there’s a story there. Right?

Deborah: Well, it’s just thinking about, you know, we often talk about, you know, giving students access to grade level work is, you know, the first thing you need to do is you need a high quality curriculum. Okay. We can go purchase a high quality curriculum, but have we trained teachers and how to, to implement that high quality curriculum, have we shared the reasoning? Why, what we have now is better than what we had before. Like if you just throw money at a problem, if you just, oh, we bought it, check, you know, you still end up in the same predicament that you were before. So you got to make sure that you are very intentional about implementing processes. Like it’s not enough just to say, okay, yeah, I did this. You’ve got to actually, you know, think long-term, what are the steps I’m going to take a long term to make this a reality.

Sonia: Got it. Okay. I want to talk a little about what might be a bit of a controversial topic. Let’s talk about the water versus the fish principle. Can you explain what that is? And, and let’s, yeah. Let’s just dig into this one.

Deborah: So, you know, many people have lots of thoughts about the education system as a whole, you know, and depending on who you talk to, you know, they may say it’s, you know, it’s, it’s the fish meaning, oh, it’s the students or it’s the teachers, or it’s the parents, you know, always trying to say, well, well, they’re to blame for this problem. Right? It’s, it’s a fish problem, not a water problem. And, you know, thinking beyond that, you’re really just saying, something’s wrong with the people something’s wrong with the customer. Something’s wrong with the community versus really looking at the water and saying, what systems, what policies, what practices do we have in place that are causing the types of results that we’re getting? So it’s not the fish, it’s the water. And we’ve got a cure that the water is. Right.

Sonia: So basically, so I’m going to give you an example of, I think something that kind of played the way this played out this whole principle last year, the, I think the CEO of Wells Fargo got into trouble because right after the murder of George Floyd, everybody was making statements. They were talking about their commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and belonging. And one of the things that he said was we, Wells Fargo had had trouble finding sufficient black talent and the financial services industry. And that was one of the reasons why they weren’t really representative. So it sounded like he was putting the onus on the fish. There are not enough qualified people. And that’s what the problem is. It’s not that our water is dirty and we don’t have the environment or we haven’t done enough. Or the practices that we go through recruiting aren’t enough. He eventually apologized and said, we haven’t done enough to make sure that we bring in talent in, but I’m guessing is this, that sounds like an example of one of those things, right?

Deborah: Like Absolutely like it it’s, it’s really, you know, he’s, he’s blaming the fish, you know, rather than saying, well, what systems are in place? Well, where have you looked, first of all, you know, but if you realize, even after doing, you know, how casting a wide net, pardon the pun there casting a wide net and you realize, okay, maybe there isn’t then what are you going to do about it? What systems are you going to put in place to get more diverse representation in these fields so that you then have a more diverse population of people to choose from? You know, and, and again, when we think about fish and water, some PE some fish need, you know, salt water, some need fresh water, some need warm water, some need Colwell. You just, you know, you’ve got to focus on the water, not the fish. You know, we can’t blame the fish for problems with the water.

Sonia: One of the things that I talk about all the time is that if you want to create an inclusive brand, you first have to create an inclusive culture. Like you can’t do one without the other, because you one, how will you be able to make diverse and niche, consumers feel like they belong if you don’t have that team and how can you make that team feel like they belong? If you’ve got this culture that just feels like, ah, this isn’t for me. Right? You’ve got to work really hard to make sure that your water is clean and in order it inviting.

Deborah: The right temperature Sonia: Place that the fish want to be. Debora: Yes, absolutely.

Sonia: Yeah. Not we’re on where they come to die

Deborah: And needs to be because that’s important to.

Sonia: Okay. So one other kind of thing is everybody. Isn’t a supporter of equity? And I think that’s a real thing that people, especially as they’re getting started with this work and implementing in business, it’s a real thing to face. So great example of this, since we’ve been talking about COVID, I saw that there are like the, the black and Latin, Latin X communities have been hit harder by COVID in terms of rates of getting it rates and dying. And also now that the vaccines available, they have been, they are less vaccinated than other groups of people. I’m sure there’s some equity issues. There, there have been some government, some healthcare organizations who have seen this and have been trying to implement equitable practices by earmarking funds, particularly to help these specific communities get vaccinated, to help minimize or close these disparities. What happened? There are people who weren’t part of these groups who were saying this isn’t fair, I’m being discriminated against. And so I find that that that’s happening with the vaccine that happens whenever companies are starting to implement more equitable practices and work, there are people who were like this, isn’t cool. I’m being discriminated against, and they’re not on board with it. So how do you handle, how do you handle that? Like, have you experienced this? I’m sure. I know there’s tons of stories that you got from a school standpoint, but just like, what are your thoughts on how to even handle that?

Debora: So I think it goes back to that idea that equity is giving everybody what they need. It doesn’t mean you’re giving everybody the same thing. And so people look at that as being not fair, but how is it fair that people aren’t getting what they need? I mean, and so, again, going back to my perspective on education, when we look at students with disabilities, we provide accommodations to give them that Aqua access and that time, and that support to meet grade level standards. And so, you know, oftentimes you may hear people say, well, it’s not fair to give this student extra time. It’s not fair to, to give this student verbal encouragement. But at the same time, we have to understand that accommodations are leveling the playing field. It is not giving an advantage. If you don’t need it, then you don’t need it. For example, my glasses helped me see just as well as someone with 2020 vision, it doesn’t make me see better than them. It gives me a level playing field, you know, but at the same time, we’re not just going to go around and hand out glasses to everybody because that doesn’t make any sense that might be seen as fair, but that doesn’t make any sense. We’ve got to make sure that we’re leveling the playing field and we have to be intentional about equity because for too long, we have been too intentional about inequity, those systems and those policies and those practices. So we need to level the playing field because it’s always been like this. We need to focus on equity to make sure that we’re leveling that playing field to make sure that everybody is getting what they need. And I know a lot of times people feel like, oh, well, I’m not getting something that I’m used to having, going back to that idea of, you know, the seat at the table. And it’s not about limiting the table to only succeeds or eight seats or however, big your table. Is it saying, you know what, maybe we need a bigger table because we need to make sure that we have all voices, all perspectives represented and taken care of, because that is what make sure that we have a level playing field, not one or the other, having an advantage over someone else?

Sonia: That’s good. And you just said something and I wanted to follow up with a quick question on it. As you all have been focusing on equitable practices, have you seen what is the impact on the organization as a whole? So is it safe to say, and I don’t know was what I wanted to ask? Is it a good assumption to say whenever you implement equitable practices, overall, the organization performs better. Is that, does that

Deborah: Yes. You know, so you like it or not, you know, we have standardized testing. And so we analyze our data and we see that we have pockets of students that are not as successful as other pockets of students. And so when we put that equity lens on, when we focus on making sure that everyone gets what they need, guess what our outcomes for all students, student achievement increases for everyone, not just some, but for everyone. And so it’s important to make sure that we’re not satisfied with good enough. We’re not gonna stop until everybody is doing great.

Sonia: <inaudible> one of my favorite, not one of my, my absolute favorite line from a book comes from the book. Good to great by Jim Collins. And it’s the very first sentence. Good is the enemy of great, good is going to be a great. And why is it? So I love that you said that, why is it that outcomes or student achievement at all levels increases? Is it because why, why is that Well?

Deborah: Because, because you’re meeting the needs of everyone and you know, a lot of times when we look at school data and it’s like, oh, you know what? We’ve got 75% of our kids that are meeting, you know, grade level standards. Like we don’t need any help, like everybody else is in the fifties. And it’s like, but what about that other 25%? Like, why are you not concerned about that other 25% of the students that aren’t meeting the proficiency? And so, like you said, we can’t be satisfied with, oh, well, we’re good enough. We got to make sure we keep working until everybody’s doing great.

Sonia: And I think, I think that, it sounds kinda like whenever you’re closing success gaps, it’s kind of like iron sharpens iron, right. Is that kind of the principle that whenever you have more people thriving, there is more opportunity for the organization to thrive because everyone is making everybody better in the process versus the halves and sort of the they’re the underperformers over here? Right. Is that kind of like the principle at play there?

Debora: Right. You know, because even, you know, in my focus on students with disabilities, it helps me to again, think about, well, there may be a student that may not be identified as a student with disabilities, but you know what, the, the things that I have learned and the tools that I have gained are going to help me to better meet the needs of this student disability or not. And so it’s important to make sure that we are always, always striving to do better.

Sonia: Got it. What would you say is in the tool kit of someone who does a good job of practicing equity? I think Like learning. So even somebody who’s like just getting started with it, what are the things that they need to pull their tool put into their toolkit to start to be able to do that?

Deborah: I think one is just continuous learning and reflection and that, that focus on always trying to be better and that, you know, good or great is not enough. Like you’ve got to always keep wanting to do better. And recognizing that, even with that lens, you’re not going to be perfect. Nobody is a hundred percent doing it right when it comes to equity. Because again, it’s not a box to be checked off, but also building relationships with people that have diverse backgrounds, experiences, and needs compared to yours, and then amplifying those voices because that’s, you know, it’s not enough to just listen and talk to people that have differing experiences or backgrounds. You need the need to amplify those voices so that more and more people can recognize that, you know, there isn’t a one size fits all. It’s not an, okay, like everybody, we’re just gonna do it this way and that’s going to be enough. And, and the more that you build those relationships, you’re going to be able to put the name and the face with those details. You know, we said earlier justice is in the details. So that’s, what’s going to continue to drive you. It’s not just, oh, you know, I’ve got to, you know, be better about equity, but it’s like, no, I’ve got to do this because I know this person that has this need. I know that I met someone that has experienced this. And the more that you make that personal, it’s not just a, oh, you know, what’s good, good to know, but you know, I don’t need to do it. It’s like, no, no, no. Like I actually know people that are going to be impacted by this. And that’s, what’s going to drive you to continue to strive for that excellence.

Sonia: Love it. Super cool. Any parting words of wisdom for people who are working hard, trying to be inclusive, trying to be equitable, trying to make people feel like they belong as they are starting to do this for their brand, for their business, for their team.

Deborah: So I’ll give you an example from my first job, I was a cashier in a grocery store and you know, my very first shift, it was like a five-hour shift. And I think for the first four hours of that shift, all I was doing was watching the person that was training me because in my mind, I wanted to make sure that I was perfect. When I took over that register. I had to make sure I knew everything. You can’t learn everything and for a new role, you know, but, but using your words, that was no bueno, I know you love that phrase. And it was a wrong move because I recognized later that you just got to jump in and do it. And it was I going to know how to do everything as far as that register and in terms of interacting with customers and every situation that would arise. Absolutely not, but I wasn’t going to figure it out. And so I was the one Manning that registered that I had to use with my right hand, by the way, until you can’t sit back on the sidelines, you, because you’re never going to have a perfect plan. You have to make sure that you get in and do the work and it might be messy and that’s okay, but get messy so that eventually somebody else doesn’t have to walk through that mess. And, you know, we have a phrase, you know, as math teachers, we say that we learn the math. We teach by doing the math we teach. And so for people that are focused on equity, like you earn, you learn the work of equity by doing the work of equity. You can’t just wait until you know, enough or so you learned enough or until you’ve taken just, you know, oh, if I just take this one course, like you’ve got to make it a way of work. It has to be a focus. It’s a lifelong journey. And so you gotta get in there, you gotta do it and give yourself some grace focus on compassion, that empathy plus action. And you’ll be on the right path.

Sonia: Okay. Again, thank you so much for coming to hang out with us your years and years and years of wisdom and experience with us and just really enlightening us. Cause this is an important conversation. And I really love what you just said, like go through, what does it work on your mess? So other People don’t have to walk. No, get what? Say it again.

Deborah: because you got to it’s okay. To, for it to be a mess. But if you go through the mess that means somebody else may not have to walk through that.

Sonia: This that’s, it that’s, it lets clean this mess up so people can feel like they belong.

Deborah: Yeah, absolutely. Well, thank you for having me. I’m so glad that I got the invite.

Sonia: All right. Catch you later.

Deborah: All right, bye.