This April, Reverend angel Kyodo Williams spoke at Naropa’s Authentic Leadership Center as part of their Mindfulness in the Workplace Series. Williams has been called “the most vocal and intriguing African-American Buddhist in America.” Following are some excerpts of her talk and conversation with the audience.
The quest for leadership is very much the quest for “What is it I am unaware of? And how can I become a fuller individual?”
For me, that’s what our topic this evening is about— about how it is that we create inclusivity in the workplace. But I think before we get to how we create inclusivity, it’s important to think a little bit about why. I am not an expert in any way on diversity in the workplace, but I picked up a few little statistics just to ground the conversation. Generally, science believes that it is in fact better to have diversity, to have a variety of opinions and perspectives and worldviews, not just because it’s good, but because it actually improves performance. It improves innovation. It even improves financial performance, which isn’t usually the marker that I look at but I know that people in business do consider that important.…
At a performance level, we can see that diversity is important. The reason that inclusivity and diversity are challenging is two sides of the same coin. It’s harder and so people work harder when they expect there is going to be a different perspective. Automatically, if I get in a group and I am like, “Oh, there is a South Asian woman in this group,” I have to begin to think differently than if I am with a group of sister girls. Right? So I get a bunch of sister girls and I’m like, “Oh, you know, we all know we are talking the same language and code switch around the language that I am using.” I have to actually think differently if there is an Asian man in the group.… I actually have to work harder, and working harder is both what creates space for innovation and a much broader perspective in terms of how we are thinking, but it is also the thing that makes people resist. Because we just don’t want to work hard—we’re lazy.