Devin: What do you see as your superpower?
Nika: There are a lot of areas where I feel like I am skilled that relate to my profession, but one that is not spoken of as often, which I do very much consider to be a superpower, is my ability to hold the middle, to appreciate the nuance, to be that bridge builder.
In a historic ruling In June, the Supreme Court decided that college admissions could not be guided by affirmative action. The ruling has left corporate professionals engaged in diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) anxious.
Dr. Nika White, author of Inclusion Uncomplicated: A Transformative Guide to Simplify DEI, joined me to talk about the implications of the ruling.
“Don’t panic,” she says to those who work in corporate DEI and human resources. “Nika: this is a time for organizations to realign and reassess their why. Why did they, in the first place, have such a deepened commitment to DEI?”
“This is time for leadership, in particular, to show that leadership,” Nika says. “Equity and inclusion is all about leadership and not finding this news as a crutch or an excuse or a reason to abandon the work.”
She also explained the broad appeal of her new book, Inclusion Uncomplicated.”Nika: this is a book that helps everyone, regardless of your position, your title, where you are within your journey of deepening your understanding of DEI, to really think about, ‘What is my role now, and what type of influence do I have within the circles that I belong to; where I can take a more active part, a more intentional part of fostering equity and inclusion?”
AI Episode Summary
Devin and Nika discuss the recent Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action and its impact on academia and corporate environments.
The ruling currently only applies to higher learning institutions but could potentially affect corporate environments in the future.
Nika advises organizations to remain committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) values despite the ruling.
She recommends organizations realign their DEI strategies and have open conversations about the impact of the ruling.
Leadership should show support for DEI initiatives and not use the ruling as an excuse to abandon the work.
Nika is the author of "Inclusion Uncomplicated: A Transformative Guide to Simplify DEI," which helps individuals understand their role in fostering equity and inclusion.
She believes that resistance to DEI often stems from a lack of clarity and suggests demystifying the complexity of DEI to engage more people.
Nika emphasizes the importance of listening and asking thoughtful questions to facilitate conversations about DEI.
She advises individuals to hold the middle, appreciate nuance, and bridge divides to foster understanding and acceptance.
Nika's superpower is her ability to hold the middle, bridge gaps, and appreciate both sides to address divisions within society and organizations.
She suggests developing curiosity, active listening skills, tolerance for difference, and deliberate intention to improve listening abilities.
How to Develop Holding the Middle Ground As a Superpower
Nika’s career highlights her ability to hold the middle ground, allowing people of differing opinions to see each other more fully and respectfully. She shared an anecdote that illustrates this especially well.
I remember this was years ago. I am based in Greenville, South Carolina. And Greenville County was the last county in the nation to recognize MLK, Dr. King [Day] as an official holiday. That news left a stain on Greenville. And there were a lot of protests, a lot of division.
Finally, once the holiday was passed, they needed a lot of healing. So, I would say that the “both-and” was being a convener of different individuals within the community, different leaders and influencers, and just giving space for people to express their frustration, to express their dismay, but then also to turn that into, say, “How can we now let this work for our good?”
When I think about the outcome that I'm really proud of, we went on–a group of us–served as founders of what became known as MLK Dream Weekend for ten years. We curated these special events and different types of initiatives in honor of Dr. King's legacy. One of those initiatives was a diversity banquet.
The very first year after the holiday was passed, we convened hundreds of people for this banquet and this celebration. We were fortunate enough to be able to get the attention of Dr. Bernice King to come and be our keynote speaker.
The reason that I reflect on that is when you think about MLK weekend–where the children, the voice, the legacy of Dr. King could be anywhere delivering any type of message–that Dr. Bernice King saw fit to come to Greenville and to share a message with us. And that message was “the last shall be first.”
When I think about holding the middle, and the “both-and,” we could have waddled in that disappointment; we could have let that define us. We could have just not taken the initiative to really try to see the other side of it–the “both-and.”
That is something that I'm proud to say that I was a part of is bringing that level of healing through these specially curated events in honor of Dr. King.
After sharing that powerful example of holding the middle and its impact, she offered a few tips for developing that superpower.
First, she encouraged viewers to foster their curiosity, attributing her ability to hold the middle, in part, to her curiosity. “Asking questions is a great way to learn and to form a perspective–not judgment.”
Second, she encouraged the audience to practice accepting what people say. “Acceptance doesn't always mean agreement,” she says. It simply means acknowledging that others hold a different perspective or opinion.
Finally, she encourages everyone to listen with intention. Focus on listening to “respond” rather than “react.”
By following her example and advice, you can strengthen your ability to hold the middle, potentially making it a superpower that enables you to do more good in the world.
Dr. Nika White (she/her):
Dr. Nika White, founder, CEO of Nika White Consulting and author of Inclusion Uncomplicated.
About Nika White Consulting: Nika White Consulting is a diversity, equity, and inclusion boutique consulting firm with recognized authority on strategic diversity, intentional inclusion, and organizational effectiveness.
Company Facebook Page: facebook.com/nikacwhite
Biographical Information: Dr. Nika White, the author of Inclusion Uncomplicated: A Transformative Guide to Simplify DEI, is president and CEO of Nika White Consulting (www.nikawhite.com). Dr. White is an award-winning management and leadership consultant, keynote speaker, published author, and executive practitioner for DEI efforts in the areas of business, government, non-profit and education. Her work helping organizations break barriers and integrate DEI into their business frameworks led to her being recognized by Forbes as a Top 10 Diversity and Inclusion Trailblazer. The focus of Dr. White’s consulting work is to create professional spaces where people can collaborate through a lens of compassion, empathy, and understanding.
Twitter Handle: @NikaWhite
Instagram Handle: instagram.com/nikacwhite/
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