The Work-Life Equation: Minda Harts, Workplace & Equity Consultant, Best-selling Author

Minda Harts

In this episode of The Work-Life Equation, Minda Harts shares her experience as a black woman in the corporate workplace and how she founded The Memo to help women of color advocate for themselves. The conversation digs deeper into workplace trauma, diversity initiatives, and the impact of the pandemic on women of color. Don't miss this thought-provoking episode that will leave you wanting more answers. 

Minda Harts is a renowned author, entrepreneur, and diversity, equity, and inclusion consultant. With a passion for empowering women of color in the corporate world, Minda has dedicated her career to addressing workplace trauma and advocating for a more inclusive and equitable environment. Her insightful book, The Memo: What Women of Color Need to Know to Secure a Seat at the Table, has become a must-read for those navigating the challenges of the professional world. As the CEO of The Memo LLC, a career development company, Minda also offers guidance and support for women of color looking to excel in their careers.

 



Read the full transcript

00:00:01 - Christine Michel Carter

Welcome to another episode of the Work Life Equation. I am one of your co-hosts, Christine Michele Carter.

00:00:18 – Priya Krishnan

And Priya Krishnan from Bright Horizons.

00:00:20 – Christine Michel Carter

This is the only podcast that features candid conversations, stories and strategies from corporate leaders, public figures, and everyday people like you and me trying to make life happen and put the pieces together. How have you been, Priya?

00:00:35 – Priya Krishnan

I’ve been great. It's been great spending so much time.

00:00:37 – Christine Michel Carter

With we're almost done. We're almost out of LA. I can't believe it. We've spent a full day.

00:00:43 – Priya Krishnan

Yeah, and it's been great just meeting you, Minda, and we've just had a fun day. It feels so energizing. Eve spoke about our unicorn space and this feels like a culmination to our unicorn space. So thank you for being here.

00:01:00 – Christine Michel Carter

Absolutely. Before we get into asking you questions, Priya, I want to have our here we go conversation. So for those who haven't joined us in, our here we go conversation is the dinner table conversation that we would have with children, but nobody eats around dinner tables anymore. So these are the conversations that make you say, oh, how am I going to talk about this with my kids? How am I going to break this down to their level? And my dinner table or my here we go moment is really around my daughter and how she sees it's very similar to when we were talking with Minda, how she sees the success that I have. But she seems to think related to this conversation that we're having now, she seems to think that that's the case for so many multicultural women in the workplace, and it's just not. So I had to explain to her what the broken rung was and how at the senior manager or the director level, multicultural females in the workforce tend to drop. So her mother is a unicorn. Going back to what Eve said, and that wasn't it was a hard pill for her to swallow, I think.

00:02:02 – Priya Krishnan

Yeah. So I think in my case, the boys have been they were born in the UK, they grew up in India, they lived in Singapore, and now they're in the US. I didn't know there was a term called third generation children. But they assume that they will be accepted and that this life that they've seen, where they're included. But it's also a process of sort of introducing them into these environments, which has been great for them. They haven't seen the other side, which perhaps you and I have seen. And this isn't the normal world, and there are things that take place in the outside world. So some of our here we go moments are you do not realize how much of a first world privilege yeah.

00:02:51 – Christine Michel Carter

How about it? How about it? So let's, I think, just get right into it with you if you're all right with it Minda.

00:02:58 - Minda Harts

Okay.

00:02:59 – Christine Michel Carter

Today's guest is the author of one of my favorite books, but she is a multi book author. I don't even know if that's what you would say if it was a Grammy, if it was music, it would be a multiplatinum artist. She's the multiplatinum artist of books, the first one being a cult classic, I think, for black women in the workplace and is as smart as she is confident and beautiful. I have to say she's done speaking engagements for Amazon, Google, Twitter, Ally WarnerMedia, LinkedIn, Nike, J, p. Morgan, Capital One, Estee Lauder, and more. So welcome, Minda Harts, to The Work-Life Equation podcast.

00:03:39 – Minda Harts

Happy to be here with you both. Thank you for having me.

00:03:41 – Christine Michel Carter

Absolutely. So what was your motivation behind The Memo?

00:03:47 – Minda Harts

Where do we start?

00:03:47 – Christine Michel Carter

I know.

00:03:50 – Minda Harts

For me, it really was a lot of people. I mean, I'm not a unicorn in this way, but I am a first generation college student, first person in my family to get into a corporate role. So I didn't always know what I didn't know, right? But I was under the assumption that we worked in a meritocracy, meaning if you work hard, you get the spot, right, regardless of what you look like, how old you are, all the things. And once I entered into that first role, I was the only black woman, the only woman of color, sometimes the only woman in the room, and I was not prepared for the isolation that would come with that. When I started in my job, we didn't have the word microaggressions or macro aggressions. You just knew, okay, I'm not experiencing the workplace like my peers. Wrong. Right? But I settled into that. I thought, okay, well, this must be the way the workplace works for women who look like me, and so at least I'm getting paid decently. Let me just put the seatbelt on and make it work, right? We get advanced degrees and trying to make everything work. And over time, I realized how it slowly started chipping away at who I was, who I entered the workplace as, who I had to settle into things to make other people comfortable and all the concessions I had made at the expense of my own well being. And eventually all that racism, sexism, all the ism started to affect my mental health. And I remember vividly in 2014, I was sitting in my car. It was a Friday. I cried in the car that day. A lot of women cried in the bathroom, the car, and I just was like, God, I've done everything that I was supposed to do. I have advanced degrees. I've changed my name. I've done everything, and still no humanity for me in the workplace. And I just said, in that car, I said, I don't know what it's going to look like, but I will commit the rest of my career if that's what it takes, to make sure that women who look like me or identify as someone on the margins feel seen, heard, and respected in the workplace. And that was the birth. I didn't have any answers that day, just lashes on the floor. But I knew that I had to do something different, and that was the impetus for writing the Memo.

00:05:53 – Priya Krishnan

And what made you write it, and how have you then propagated the message from that point on? You talked about the fact that there was an inflection point, but it's a whole journey from thinking about it and getting there. And then how have you continued keeping the momentum up?

00:06:10 – Minda Harts

Yeah, that's a good question, because in that car that day, I never said, you know what? I'm going to write a book. That wasn't the idea that came to me. But I said, I want to create resources. I want to create curriculum around what it's like to be a woman of color in the workplace. So the following year, I started my company, The Memo, and I was living in New York City, and I was hosting career boot camps on the weekends, like, teaching other women of color how to advocate for themselves in the workplace, reminding them that they didn't make this stuff up right, that these are our experiences and they matter. But you have a choice, right? You can decide where you want to be or what table you want to build. And so I just started doing what I needed to do, which was create. And I still had my old job, but I was still doing that because I wanted to make the workplace better than I found it. And then eventually, all the Memos, the Monday Memos in my newsletter that I was writing since 2015, eventually had the opportunity to create The Memo, so I was working on it. Tony Morrison said, write the book you want to read. And that's what I did.

00:07:07 – Christine Michel Carter

And what about the second and the third book? Because, again, multiplatinum artists here with us today.

00:07:12 – Minda Harts

Thank you for that. But again, just centering the experiences of women of color. I, at the time had the microphone, in a sense, to be able to talk about these things. And so I said, I could be courageous or I could be cautious, and nobody benefits when we're cautious, so how many more people benefit when you're courageous? And so I wanted to write a second book right within that talks about all the traumas that we experience when we are in these situations as the only or one of few. And so that was the second book and then my first young adult book, You Are More Than Magic.

00:07:45 – Priya Krishnan

I was just saying that each one of these, you sort of also increase the range of audiences that you've touched and reached. And it's wonderful that you're writing it for young adults, because I think as young girls, how we see this young women of color, it goes a long way. How have people received the books, and have you had a lot of young people come to you saying, thank you for that shared experience.

00:08:09 – Minda Harts

I appreciate that question, because to be honest with you both, I only thought I was going to write the memo. I'm like, you know what? I'm a one hit wonder. This is what I'm doing. Because what a lot of people don't know is I'm very much an introvert. So I was like, okay, I didn't realize the success of this book. I'm glad it's helping and impacting, but I just was not prepared for it. And so I'm like, okay, this is good. But then as I started to kind of marinate on things, I thought about my own experiences of 15 years in the workforce, and I said, I have a lot of pain, some broken hearts, right? And there was a lot of healing that I needed to overcome from those environments that I should have never been exposed to some of that toxicity. And so from there, I realized there's another group of women who are hurting, right, or scarred, and I wanted them to find that. And so that was another angle that I wanted to be able to impact. And then when I thought about it even more, when I thought I was done with Right Within, I said, you know what? We actually need these messages before we get to the workplace. And so what did Little Minda need at 15? What did I need at 18? What did I need at twelve? And so I wanted to write as a big sister, right? And it's been a lot of fun for women to reach out to me and say, three generations are reading our books. My granddaughter's reading You Are More Than Magic. My daughter's reading Right Within. I've just read The Memo, and it's just been such a beautiful thing to be able to write for us in these ways.

00:09:30 – Christine Michel Carter

You have the ability to touch all these generations, and I'm curious about your thoughts on the younger generation. I just did a piece about how they're so much better at advocating for themselves in the workplace than we were and negotiating than we were. And you're teaching right now as a professor. Some of these younger generations. What are your thoughts around that?

 

00:09:50 – Minda Harts

I love it. I love it so much that they have found their voice at a very early age. And it's funny, Christine, because I was just doing a workshop recently, and I was talking about self advocacy, and a lady in the audience said, well, what about the gen Z? Don't they advocate too much? And I'm like, Wait a second. They got it right way before I said, so don't push that voice down. I said, they might need some coaching and some mentoring, but they found their voice, and they're asking for things, not waiting for 15 years like some of the rest of us. So use them as a role model and finesse it. So I think it's great that they found their voice. And to be honest, we all have a voice. We just have to decide how we want to use it. And those are boundaries. So I'm glad they know their worth and what they're not going to accept or tolerate. I wish I would have had that same energy and gave myself permission to do the same thing at their how about it?

00:10:39 – Christine Michel Carter

Before we had to go through the scars, right?

00:10:42 - Priya Krishnan

Yeah. You speak about the fact that you were mistaken for a delivery person in your apartment building. I had a similar experience when I founded my business. I was 35, a little close to your age, and I was mistaken for the admin or the admin assistant of the person who was behind me. And I was like, no, I'm the founder of the company, and I took that as a positive moment. But I don't know how you reacted. And what is your message for people who get mistaken in these situations?

00:11:21 – Minda Harts

Well, first of all, I'm sorry that you experienced that, because that is something that many of us do experience often, unfortunately. But for me, when it happened more recently, I had tools in my toolkit not to totally melt down, right. Because if it would have happened five years ago, ten years ago, I would have been ruminating on that thing. Why did they think that? What was I doing that made her think that I couldn't have lived in the building and I would have took it on as my issue, but because I have had some good therapy, I understand my worth. That when she said that, I just very frankly said, no, actually live here. And then I just kept walking. And I chose, when I walked into my door, not to bring her baggage with me. I left her baggage with her at her door, wondering what just happened. So for me, I realized my worth, and it took a long time to get to that point. And I don't dictate who somebody sees me as or any of those things. And for me, it was really empowering. And then a week after, I had a news outlet say, you want to write about it? And I'm like, yes, I do. That's how I want to get it off my chest. But it was really interesting because even when that happened, I had told myself, at some point, someone in this building is probably going to say this to you. And I hated to even have to admit that in my mind, because I just know that this is the world we live in, right? And there's not a because of the biases that are out there, people are just going to assume that you can't possibly live here. So it's interesting you talk about the.

 

00:12:57 – Christine Michel Carter

Trauma and you just talked about some of the trauma that women of color experience at work. And I think a lot of people who listen to this podcast might think that that's like a broken leg or something very severe. Can you educate folks on what workplace trauma looks like and some of the examples that you've heard from women?

00:13:14 – Minda Harts

Yes. So it's funny that you say that, because people will say, Isn't that kind of dramatic?

00:13:19 – Christine Michel Carter

Exactly. No, it's not.

00:13:21 – Minda Harts

Yeah. No, it's not. Trust me. I have these invisible wounds that you might see anymore. But we have to use very revolutionary language to get the point across, right. Because diversity, inclusion, equity, that type of work has been around for over 50 years. So, yes, I need to use trauma for you to understand how important it is for people to be safe in the workplace. And so, for me, any type of exposure to inhumane situations. So, for example, one of my first managers, I write about him, we'll call him Chad for today. And Chad saw that I had it on burnt orange fingernail polish, and he said, you people love your bright colors. And he joked around for 15 minutes about how black people like bright colors. Right. And I'm 23 years old. He's my first manager in the workplace. And I couldn't say anything because I didn't know what to say. I was shocked, right. But I would go on to work with him for many years, and he would say things like that every single day, several times a day, right. And so after a while, it didn't hurt anymore because I become numb to it. Right, but it still was ugly, it still was traumatic. And I didn't realize that those little cuts, they catch up with you later down the line, right. And it did start to impact how I saw myself. I wanted to assimilate more because I didn't want to be seen as this outsider or didn't belong. And you don't realize what we accept the treatment that we normalize, right? And so we normalize bad behavior, and we say, oh, that's just Chad being Chad, or he didn't mean any harm, but we never take into account the person that's always on the receiving end of that who's feeling that harm and has to navigate that. And that's traumatic. Right. Any type of experience that strips away your dignity. And we spend a lot of time at work, right. So when all of us will probably know this, but when we get mistaken for the wrong woman of color in the workplace, right. I see you every day, but yet you can't remember my name. That's traumatic, right? That is traumatic. And that's trauma. Just like if you fall down and hurt your leg, right. We have to get back up and get back to the office. And that's trauma. And so I no longer wanted us to normalize bad behavior in the workplace because at some point, that catches up to us, and it can be damaging for many of us, and it could end an early career for us because of all of that.

00:15:48 – Priya Krishnan

It reminds me of this, actually. You realize it is trauma because the first job I interviewed for, right out of B School, the HR manager said, you're 23 years old, and you will get married soon, and will you take some time off? And I was like, with all due respect. So with my husband, I'm 100% sure what this question was, but it was just so offensive at so many levels. And I laugh about it, but the reality is there are all these you will get married. You will have a child, you will leave. We're investing so much in you. But I also invested in my education, and I do want to work. So I know it sort of surfaces memories of how this has taken place. And you're right. We normalize that behavior and that conversation.

00:16:38 – Mind Harts

Every single person, even if you're not of color, right? Just any person in the workplace has experienced any inequity. It can be traumatic.

00:16:47 – Christine Michel Carter

It totally can. You work with a lot of companies, and an article from Insider, and I have to quote it, stated that you are one of the most sought after experts when CEOs turn to consultants for help regarding DEI efforts due to the demand from employees. Tell us what Apple is like behind the scenes. No, I'm kidding. But what were some of the experiences that you had when you were working with some companies? What were some common themes that you saw?

00:17:14 – Minda Harts

Right now, I'm definitely hearing this diversity fatigue. Like, people are tired of talking about DEI. They're tired of, Why do we have to have these programs? Why do we have to have these initiatives? And it was really cool for me to be able to say, we can't solve this in a Zoom meeting. This is something that we're not going to solve in two workshops. This has to be a lifestyle. This has to be part of culture. So to be able to be a voice in the room, to kind of say, hey, this is not optional. This is mandatory. And to kind of see the look on their faces like, okay, this isn't going anywhere. And if you want an inclusive environment, then it has to be embedded .And for me, it's not necessarily about diversity, inclusion in all of the letters. It's about humanity. And when we can humanize the workplace, and when I talk about it from that perspective, then CEOs, then leaders are like, oh, okay, that's true. Don't we all just want to do the best work of our career without barriers? So if there are barriers, don't you want to remove those for your staff? Don't you want to do that? So if you don't want to do that, then I'll walk out of the door, and then they're like, no. Okay. We do want that. I'm like that's. That's what we're here to do. And I think once people realize that every one of us has a piece and a part to play to make the workplace better than we found it. And when we talk about equity, I also remind them when we talk about equity, it's not musical chairs. Your chair is not pulled, Chad. Your chair is not pulled. Brenda. We all get a seat when we talk about equity, right? And I think it's just the way in which sometimes people see it from over here. But when you actually sit down and get to explain why this is important and it benefits each and every one of us, then it really takes the stigma away from any kind of, like, fake propaganda around the work.

00:18:59 – Priya Krishnan

So Bright Horizons is very intentional about DEI. It's something one of the things that I'm truly proud of, and it starts with inclusion, and it's been a big part of our culture. Is that something that you see? Is it token lip service with some of these bigger firms, or is it truly intentional? And is it something I think it has to be every single person's responsibility to say, I am inclusive, I embrace diversity, I respect the differences and appreciate the similarities. But how do people actually inculcate that? And how do you work with organizations to make that happen?

00:19:36 – Minda Harts

That's a great question. And inclusion is important because, again, two things can be true at the same time. We can all be working at the same place and experience that workplace differently. So if I say I'm experiencing something as a black woman, my white counterparts may not ever experience that, but it doesn't mean that we don't both need to do the work to make sure that we remove this barrier, right? Or however someone might identify. And so I am seeing that people are starting to get it a little bit more, but what I come in and do is said, okay, now that we know that this is important, how do we hold people accountable? Because trust has to be at the foundation of this, because we can have all these trainings. I can come in and give a great talk, but if everybody goes back to doing what they were doing and oppressing people and talking down to people right. When I walk out of the door, then what good is it? So we have to hold people accountable. Is it tied to their bonuses? Is it tied? Let's make it real for people, right? So that, again, it's not optional. It's mandatory.

00:20:32 – Christine Michel Carter

I want to switch gears and talk about the pandemic. I feel like so many people of color, especially women of color, especially black women, were hitting their strides before the pandemic. Like, we really felt like we were going to surpass that senior Manager broken rung issue, which is where most women of color just drop out of being able to be in leadership roles, be it for whatever reason. And then the pandemic hit. Right. And then so many women were pushed out of the workforce, and we're trying to get back to pre pandemic levels in a lot of different industries. What advice would you have for those women of color who were pushed out and worked so hard and then ended up getting pushed out? How can they get back to where they were?

00:21:16 – Minda Harts

Yeah, I mean, that's a real thing. A lot of people worked really hard, and by no, nothing that they've done wrong, a lot of the landscape has changed, and even now, a lot of people are getting laid off who've worked very hard to get to this point. But the one thing that I always encourage women, women of color, black women, is that, again, you have your voice. You just have to decide how you want to use it. You can decide. You can't control who hires you. You can't control what rung you get to get to. But what you can control is what you do. So how are you articulating your value? How are you quantifying your worth? How are you building out your network? And then I don't know about a lot of you, but I know for me, I had a really hard time with asking for help, tapping into my network. And now is the time that we I know sometimes as black women in particular, we feel like we have to do it all ourselves, because in many cases, we've had to do a lot of things ourself. But tap on your resource. Success is not a solo sport. If you want something, let people know that you want it. Right. Let them know that you're interested in this. If you want to go back to school, you want to pivot, go for it. Do it. You belong in every room. But not every room deserves to have you. We have to own what our skill set is. Just because we get laid off or maybe we had to go a different direction, doesn't mean that our goals aren't still our goals. Right. It may just be at another place. And so I invite you to redefine what success could look like by your own terms. And I know for me, when I thought my career died in that car that day, why, I cried my eyes out and wasn't sure what to do next, I realized that I still had power. I may have felt like I'd given it away or someone had taken it away from me, but I, at any point, can redefine what success is. And the seat that I cried for, now my seat is better. Right. So there's beauty on the other side of the struggle.

00:23:04 – Priya Krishnan

I think a lot of it was also just the caregiving burden. As an Indian, I can say it's expected of me, almost society, that I take care of my kids, I take care of my parents. We're a sandwich generation. Christina and I speak about this all the time. What is the role of employers in all of this? So when you talk about di initiatives within organizations, I argue with employers all the time about the fact that you can strive for equity in the workforce, but you have to think about inequitable benefits because, you know, women of color have higher debt burden, men of color have higher debt burdens. Care responsibilities are different, societal expectations are different. So if you want to attract these people, how you're thinking about it, is that part of your strategy and conversation with these employers?

00:23:54 – Minda Harts

It absolutely is. And I again always say that we might all work at the same place, but everyone is experiencing that differently. So when you say even we do this for women in the workplace, what women are you talking about? Be very specific about what women you're talking about. So who is it really benefiting? Right? Is it all women? Is it trans women? Who are we talking about? And so once we're able to be honest about who we're talking about, then we can plan for who is missing from this conversation, right? So even when we say, let's close the pay gap for women, are we talking about all women at work? We're talking about black women, are we talking about women who only have partners? Or are we talking about women who are also maybe single, breadwinner and caretaking for? Where's the flexibility for those women? And so in order to understand how to solve problems, you have to talk to people and you have to build relationships. And so as leaders, we cannot be in our towers making decisions for people that we haven't asked them. What do you need from me to do the best work of your career while you're here? That's a simple question, but a profound answer.

00:25:03 – Christine Michel Carter

Follow up question, Minda, because I'm in the space. Who is doing it right? Who do you think is actually asking those questions and has that data? Because I often see that companies don't. They give you those general answers like, we're committed to DEI…for who? For the shareholders, like, for who?

00:25:25 – Minda Harts

So I won't say who, but there are a lot of companies that are doing better, right? And what I will say is I do appreciate companies like, they're not perfect, but I appreciate companies like Google, for example, or the Apples, who put out diversity reports because at least we have some data to show. Like, this is working here's where we're going. Because before they would just say, nothing to see here, we're not keeping track. So before then, we would just have our feelings. We feel like we're not getting amplified. We feel like we're not getting C suite roles, but now we actually have data to support what the issues really are. And so I appreciate companies who are transparent, also companies like LinkedIn, who. Are giving their employee resource group leaders stipends or bonuses because that's unpaid labor in the workforce. That's not your day to day job. And so those are the ways in which we can be equitable, right. In house. And so sometimes leaders, they say, well, we need the billion dollar initiative. No, you need the day to day. How do we make people's day to day job better? And those are the types of things that we do have control over.

00:26:32 – Priya Krishnan

And do you think employees have had more agencies since the Pandemic? You said that I went out there and I made a difference and I occupied that seat, which is now significantly better than the one I left behind. But has this shaken people's confidence, especially women of color? Or do you think it's fortified the agency within them?

00:26:54 – Minda Harts

Now, I could be wrong, and we have another black woman who can. But from where I sit, I actually feel like black women in particular. We have our voice and we are using it, and we're taking agency and we're taking up space in ways that we probably haven't given ourselves permission to do before. And it's still scary doing it because it's a new frontier for many of us. But what I love is that we're using our voices, we're advocating for ourself, and we realize, okay, I've been here for X amount of years. I'm not getting what I want. You know what? I'm going to go see what's across the street or I'm going to build my own table. So I actually feel like maybe statistically things might not have changed a whole lot, but for our well being, we are centering our well being in ways and that will get us the careers we want because that will make sure that we have longevity. Right. We are not beholden to the high blood pressures and the stress that comes with being in these toxic workplaces. We're saying, you know what? I value myself. I love myself enough, and I'm good day. We’re okay.

00:27:56 – Christine Michel Carter

Not a lot of people know that you have a background in fundraising, too, before you started your own company. So what did that transition look like as being your own black female CEO?

00:28:11 – Minda Harts

I thank God every day that I'm still standing because it's not easy to be your own founder, right, to be your own CEO. And so it was a struggle. It was a journey. Because when I first started back in 2015, I would have people say, why are you talking about women of color? Just talk about women, right? Just talk about all women. I even had someone offer to buy my company at the time if I would stop talking about women of color. And I said, that's not what I'm here for. I'm here, I'll struggle and keep doing what I need to do until we get the results and the respect that we need. And that's what I continued to do. And I'm glad that I did, because eventually it did pay off. Robbing Peter to pay Paul to figure it out. And at the time, having career platforms was not sexy, so I wasn't getting any money. So I was my own founder, our own fundraiser, doing those things. But I will say that it's the resilience and the grit that I thank my parents for just growing up, for humble beginnings that allows you to just turn your lemons into lemonade. But it was tough. But the one thing I'll say, when you understand the vision and you understand where you're headed and the impact that you can make in a world and in a society and in a workplace that fuels you to keep going. And I think about not just from an ego place, but what I was able to do in the last five years, think about what we can all do in the next year. Right. In the next five years. And so for me, that just keeps me going. Even on those days when I read the articles and they want to blame things on diversity. I understand the importance of the work that we're doing because it's going to benefit our next generations to come and they'll be happy that we fought through.

00:30:00 – Priya Krishan

And I think it's a different kind of lonely journey, right. When you're a woman and a woman of color in the workplace, it's different. And then when you're a founder and an entrepreneur and then you have to pay the paychecks, that's a different lonely. But what a transition you've made to say that. I've taken struggles into a positive message and it's going to impact the next 15 to 20 years. It's very inspiring.

00:30:21 – Minda Harts

Thank you.

00:30:22 – Christine Michel Carter

This will be my last question, but I just have to ask you this and have it on the record. How hard did you throw your mouse when they said that Silicon Valley Bank fell because of investing in DEI. I can't even imagine.

00:30:40 – Minda Harts

Listen, I was I felt like one of the housewives from New Jersey, I wanted to flip the table over because there's no data to support that narrative. Right. If you look at the About US pages, you look at the governance, that's not true. Right. And so it's unfortunate that some people will pedal that narrative, but we know, and those who understand and want humanity, equity and respect in the workplace will do what it takes to do that. And for me, it's not my job to convince people who don't understand it. We're past trying to convince people the business case. And the companies that win at the end of the day are the ones that understand that it's no longer an option, that this has to be part of company culture. But I did I was very upset. I'm like, are we really doing this.

00:31:32 – Christine Michel Carter

Like you couldn't think of anything else? Like pull something out of your PR book like nothing else, we're going to blame it on DEI. I just I had to ask.

00:31:42 - Christine Michel Carter

It was too easy.

00:31:43 – Minda Harts

It was too easy.

 

00:31:47 – Priya Krishnan

Go there. It's ironical, right? Because the business case has been there for forever. I take India as an example. It has 21% women workforce participation, and we're equally educated, but it's just the environment, the child's birth and expectations to move out. And you're actually tapping into an incredible demographic. And that has to be the case we're talking about, not the fact that investing in that is mind boggling for me. We read articles like this.

00:32:24 – Minda Harts

Mind boggling.

00:32:25 – Priya Krishnan

And there's also enough evidence of women leaders who run companies much more successfully. The New Zealand Prime Minister was one of my favorites in terms of how she took the country through the pandemic. So there's also enough positive narratives.

00:32:39 – Christine Michel Carter

There absolutely is. I invest in many women owned businesses. One is a woman who came from India to California, now runs one of Times’ Inventions of the Year, and she's in California. You're going to tell me that she caused the end of the SVB? I don't think so. And black women, fastest growing group of entrepreneurs always get it done. So I find DEI just to be such a cop out. I mean, just really in your whole.

00:33:03 – Priya Krishnan

Conversation, you mentioned a name change. What was that about and why did you think about changing your name?

00:33:08 – Minda Harts

Yeah, the things that we have to think about when we want to apply for our dream jobs or those sorts of things, when representation isn't there. So, very long story short, my government name is Yasminda, but at the time I'm going to date myself a little bit. You would send your resume or mail it in or whatever the case, and when people would see my name on the top of the resume, they couldn't pronounce it, so they would sometimes not give me a call. And I knew that that would be an issue. And so I just decided to go by Minda throughout my career because it sounded like Minda was easy to say and I've just been doing that. You don't realize, again, normalizing certain decisions that we make, you don't realize who that harms in the end. Right. It might have made things a little bit easier at certain points, but in the long run, we deny ourselves. Our names are our first bit of equity. Right. And we should be able to hold on to that if we choose.

00:34:04 - Priya Krishnan

A beautiful name, though.

00:34:06 – Christine Michel Carter

Beautiful.

00:34:07 – Minda Harts

Thank you.

00:34:08 – Priya Krishnan

I run one of the ERG groups at Bright Horizons. It's the Asia Pacific Islander group. And they actually ran a session on what's in a name. And people from different cultures and backgrounds came and said, this is my name and this is why my parents named me this way. And we're going to spend some time getting you to pronounce it right. And it made people really purposeful about it. And it's inspiring that, again, Gen Z's they have the gumption to say, sorry, you're not doing this right. My mom named me the way she did for a reason.

00:34:47 – Christine Michel Carter

So when you sat in the car, the lashes came off and you cried and you knew that perhaps corporate America wasn't for you, or at least you had to make a change in your life. Talk about the steps that you took. They don't have to be literal, but the steps that you took to change your perspective from becoming an employee to an entrepreneur.

00:35:11 – Minda Harts

Yes. Well, my guilty pleasure is Sour Patch Kids. So I ate a bunch of those when I left the car. But I realized what I couldn't do was quit. I was not in a position even though I was at my wits end, I was not able to quit. But what I did decide was that I'm going to move forward and figure out how to create a business, but I need to fund my business first myself. And so I continued to navigate the waters that I was in. And then I started saving because one of the things that I also knew is that when I leave my job, I want to be financially secure because that's a whole other road that I don't want to have to travel down because I'm too old and I can't run back. My parents would probably like me to come back home, but I was not prepared to do that. So I worked for another four years while I was saving money to make sure that I could land on my feet if need be. And so that was number one for me. I wanted to be secure in what I was doing. So I had a savings account. And then number two, I started to go to meetup groups and networking events because I also wanted to hear, what were other founders doing, what can I learn from their experiences? And I need a community because being an entrepreneur can be lonely. And so I was really just immersed myself in the community of entrepreneurship. I was going to every networking event, meetup group you could find. I was watching people watching people pitch. So I'd go to pitch competitions. I just wanted to soak everything in. And I read like crazy. I wrote my business plan. I entered business pitch competitions. I just tried to create more space so that I was ready to implement not just this practice or theory, but put it into practice. And so for me, I'm like, what part of this equation can I solve? I can't control if I win these things or not, but I can control how I'm navigating. And one of the people this is really important. You just never know who you're going to come across. This gentleman that I met at one of my networking events, like the first year of my company. He ended up giving me my first investment five years later. You just never know who's going to help you along that way. And so I'm just glad that I took the time to invest in myself because you are your best advocate and asset, and it really helped as I navigated those waters and I could tap into the network that was already there.

00:37:28 – Christine Michel Carter

You mentioned that five years later, the person that you met at a meetup was your, one of your biggest investors. That's, to me, an example of an ally that perhaps might not have been who you thought could have been an ally. Has that ever happened in your career before where actually a white male was your ally or someone else who you didn't think would be your ally actually turned out to be an ally?

00:37:55 – Minda Harts

Yes. So a white man, he was my first investor, the guy that I had met, and the reason why he gave me the money, I asked him, I said, Why did you decide to do this? He's like, you know, my mother was really big on women empowerment, and when she died, she said, make sure that you always invest in women who are helping other women. And he made right on that. It made me cry that day, too. My lashes then fell to the ground again. But it has been I've been very blessed to have really great allies, even in the workplace. On some of my hardest times, it was white men who had power and privilege, who put me in, who spoke my name in rooms I wasn't in. And it's interesting because even when I had pushback from even some women about the work that I was doing and they didn't understand, funny enough, it was a lot of white men who were like, you know what? I don't fully understand it, but I think you should be doing this. I think this is important. And it was an educational moment, and sometimes it is the least likely of people. And that's why relationships are so important. You can just never count anybody out. And the power of relationships is priceless.

00:39:02 – Christine Michel Carter

100%. You preaching to the choir, because I know that McKinsey says the same thing, that white men tend to advocate for women of color in the workplace.

00:39:10 – Priya Krishnan

And it's also incredible that women of color can be detractors. Women can be detractors for women. So, yeah, you find allies in the absolute surprising places but isn't the world a better place when people advocate for each other?

00:39:26 – Christine Michel Carter

Priya, what resources does Bright Horizons have to help guide these de and I conversations in the workplace?

00:39:35 – Priya Krishnan

You know, we have a lot of resources on BrightHorizons.com. You can always find them on BrightHorizons.com/resources. But for Yasmin episode, we have a few that I think absolutely makes sense for our audience to listen to. One is our co-podcast, Teach. Play. Love. And it’s the 38th episode in there which talk about difficult conversations around race and then teaching children about diversity. I was so excited to hear about how you're doing this for emerging adults. And part of what we try to do at Bright Horizons is teach children about diversity. So there's a great webinar which is recorded, which is teaching children about diversity, inclusion, equity and inclusion. So those would be things that I think people will find useful.

00:40:26 – Christine Michel Carter

For me, this week's takeaway is the importance of having allies, and that allies might not necessarily look how you would expect them to look, but the one place that they should always be is within. And you should have the preparation and you should have the dedication and the passion for yourself to be able to see yourself open doors that you thought maybe were closed to you at some point. What was your takeaway this week?

00:40:51 – Priya Krishnan

Mine was I think two. So one, I think introverts rock because I feel I'm an introvert as well. But the fact that you're here and we're able to have these conversations is incredible. But I love what you say about progress and the fact that it is incremental and we should celebrate that success. There is distance to cover, but the more your moment, your movement, sort of takes power and course, the next five years will be more impactful than the past five. And that was just really heartwarming and I think it was my takeaway from the conversation.

00:41:30 – Christine Michel Carter

Thank you so much for being on the Work-Life Equation podcast. Where can listeners learn more about you?

00:41:37 – Minda Harts

We're done. Thank you both. Such a good time. Mindahearts.com, find me on your favorite social platform.

00:41:44 – Christine Michel Cater

Pick up the books, all three books, please. I always have people say, like, I like your book, but I like the memo. I'm like, Good. You shouldn't like the memo more. I'm not putting any money in your pocket. The memo puts money in your pocket. Absolutely.

00:41:58 – Priya Krishnan

Bright Horizons is the world's most trusted education and care company. We partner with employers to provide exceptional early learning, family care and workforce education that transforms lives and organizations because we believe education and care can change the world. One child, one family, one organization at a time. Are you looking for a job? Visit Careers BrightHorizons.com where you can join our talent community and receive the most up to date news and events at Bright Horizons. And don't forget to subscribe to Teach. Play. Love., our Parenting podcast, where you'll get expert advice from our education team and learn what really matters and what doesn't in your child's earliest years of learning, growth and develop. Follow us on our social media and stay up to date on company news. Join live events and see what's happening at our centers. Join us by following Bright Horizons on LinkedIn and at Bright Horizons on Instagram.


Priya Krishnan, Senior Vice President, Client Relations and Growth Operations
About the Author
PRIYA KRISHNAN
Chief Digital and Transformation Officer
Priya Krishnan comes to Bright Horizons after founding and running India's largest childcare business. She is the winner of many awards for her work in the space, including Woman Entrepreneur of the Year, Young Turk, FT1000 for Asia, and Red Herring Asia.
Minda Harts