March 8, 2021

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Joy Johnson-Carruthers is a Master Trainer, Workforce Development Leader and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion advocate with over twenty years of experience developing high performing teams across the United States and abroad. Most recently named Diversity and Inclusion Professional of the Year, Joy is a Middle Tennessee Society for Human Resource Management board member and serves as the director of Diversity and Inclusion and the winner of the 2019 Diversity and Inclusion award and the 2020 Leadership Award. Joy is a workforce learning & development leader and the recipient of the HCA, HealthTrust Supply Chain 2020 Impact award.

Joy’s career began in the United States Army, and later as a police officer in St. Louis, Missouri. Her law enforcement career ended when a drunk driver rear-ended her patrol car. Joy went on to find her passion in education and workforce training, working as an adjunct professor of Humanities and Cultural Studies for over ten years and studying abroad in West Africa and South Korea. Joy holds a Master’s degree from UCLA, she’s a DDI certified facilitator and a SHRM certified HR professional.



Chris  Nichols 00:14

Hello and welcome to The Talent Tide Podcast – the show that ensures you have the information you need to adapt and evolve your workplace culture as you ride the wave of change in talent management. I’m your host, Chris Nichols, and today we’re going to talk Diversity, Equity and Inclusion with my friend and fellow Middle Tennessee SHRM board member, Joy Johnson-Carruthers. We’ll discuss what DEI really is and how to manage it, and how to manage change and the future of work.

Joy Johnson-Carruthers is a Master Trainer, Workforce Development Leader and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion advocate with over twenty years of experience developing high performing teams across the United States and abroad. Most recently named Diversity and Inclusion Professional of the Year, Joy is a Middle Tennessee Society for Human Resource Management board member and serves as the director of Diversity and Inclusion and the winner of the 2019 Diversity and Inclusion award and the 2020 Leadership Award. Joy is a workforce learning & development leader and the recipient of the HCA, HealthTrust Supply Chain 2020 Impact award.  Joy’s career began in the United States Army, and later as a police officer in St. Louis, Missouri. Her law enforcement career ended when a drunk driver rear-ended her patrol car. Joy went on to find her passion in education and workforce training, working as an adjunct professor of Humanities and Cultural Studies for over ten years and studying abroad in West Africa and South Korea. Joy holds a Master’s degree from UCLA, she’s a DDI certified facilitator and a SHRM certified HR professional.  Welcome, joy. Thank you for being on the show. And is there anything that you haven’t done?

Joy Johnson-Carruthers  01:54

I know, right. That’s a lot. I tell people sometimes, like I, you know, I’m like a cat with nine lives. And I’m on life number seven, which is the great – the best one, right?

Chris  02:05

Yeah, you just keep reinventing yourself. And it’s awesome. And to be honest, I’ve known you for three years. And I don’t know that I knew, I think I knew some of the things when I got your bio, but now reading through it, like man, she’s just done everything and such a varied career and, you know, military, police, UCLA, St. Louis, I mean, you’ve been all over the place – South Korea. So, I don’t know that I know anybody that should be more well versed to speak on diversity than you Joy.

Joy  02:37

Right. And, and, you know, the strange thing as I was kind of, you know, living my life and going through these different things, when I started out, when I graduated from undergraduate, I went to a historically black college university, and I had my whole future planned out, and it was going to be in law enforcement. And so when that ended, it was really hard to, you know, kind of pivot and transition to the next, what I call the next best thing, because law enforcement, you know, I had dreams of going to the FBI and just being this great investigator. But what I found is that I’m still an investigator, but I investigate communities and culture and how we can come together, and I look at our past, our present and have hope for a future. And so, everything that I’ve done, even though it’s kind of all over the map, it’s all come together and help me to see the world through a very different lens than if I had only stayed in law enforcement.

Chris  03:45

Well, it’s cool that you found ways that your hard skills that you potentially learned, as a police officer and in the military, were transferable because I think that so many companies do a terrible job of looking at transferable hard skills and realizing that what I do in this particular industry, they always look at it, they say they look at the soft skills, right. And what they don’t realize is that the majority of hard skills are transferable across industry and across jobs. Right. And so it’s, I think it’s great that you make that parallel of your investigative skills and kind of repurposing them. Maybe a more broader scope. Right.

Joy  04:26

Right. And, and looking for answers, you know, not just showing up, you know, it’s the same with a crime scene, you know, and that’s some of the, you know, the struggle that we continue to have in, in law enforcement in the workforce, wherever – is you show up to, you know, a scene and you initially, whatever you see, your bias kicks in and all of a sudden, oh, it’s a problem, you know, oh, they’re raising their voice. They’re angry. Well, maybe they’re raising their voice because they’re having a great time. You know, it’s okay to shout and scream and get excited when you’re watching a football game, but what about if you get excited because a subject or a topic we’re talking about makes me excited, and so my voice raises. Or if I’m excited about a project that we’re working on, and we’re discussing ideas, and I might write like, yeah, that’s, you know, but all of a sudden, you know, we’re, we’re bringing our bias into a situation, and maybe we perceive danger where there is none or maybe we perceive differences where there really isn’t. We just have to get to a point where we can communicate clearly with each other, and kind of sift through our bias,  sift through our, you know, maybe assumptions about one another. And so just like in law enforcement, to be good at it, you’ve got to show up and be willing to look at the whole scene, ask questions, investigate to find out what really happened. Because there’s, you know, this person’s side, that person’s side, and somewhere in the middle, there’s the truth. And there’s also a solution. But if you just listen to one person, or if you, you know, don’t do a good job of investigating and speaking to everyone involved, and that’s when we’re talking about inclusion, right? Everyone has to be involved to get the true picture and the true answer, but when you’re only talking to the people at the top, or you’re only talking to people who look and think like you, then you’re only going to get half of the answer, half of the picture.

Chris  06:32

And that is, it’s funny that you mentioned that because it brings me back to our third podcast episode. And I actually had Daniel Risen on with me, and we were talking about the, because he does health and benefits. He’s a health and fitness professional, right. And we were just talking about how, how often the people that are making the health and benefits choices for an organization are so far removed from like, who the majority of the people are, that are getting those services, right? And, and that’s something that – that can just be like an age difference, right? So, what somebody that might be an HR director, VP of HR feels as important to them, is not even relevant to a 25 or 35-year-old, professional. And I think this is such a great segue, you really kick things off, you’re already a professional at this Joy. Because I think when we think diversity, equity inclusion, we get so hung up on race and gender. And that’s so frustrating to me because there are so many differences that we all have. And race and gender are just a very, it’s the most noticeable, but probably the smallest difference that the majority of us have between each other.

Joy  07:47

Right, exactly. And, you know, I can circle back, you know, when I talked about, you know, my background, my experience, kind of coming full circle, and everything working together, because from law enforcement, learning how to investigate learning how to ask those questions. But then when I left law enforcement, I went into education. And I found out how important it is to educate, education opens doors for opportunity, but also education opens our minds, to be willing to adapt and to adjust and to, you know, be willing to accept that my reality, my facts, my way of living, my way of doing may not be the only way, but it requires education. If I’m not educated, then I look at the person next to me, “Well, you don’t eat dinner at the table, you eat dinner…” You know, I remember when my kids were growing up, my daughter brought one of her friends from school, and she gets the dinner plate and goes to sit on the sofa to watch TV and my daughter’s like, “Oh, no, no, we have to eat at the table.” And I remember this, the young lady said, “Your mom’s a freak.” She… you know, and I was really proud of the fact that every night I cooked dinner and my family, we sat at the table and ate. And I just had an assumption that everybody valued that. But here was a little girl who lived, you know, just a few blocks away. And she thought the notion of sitting at the kitchen table eating together, and not being able to take your food and watch TV while it’s in your lap, made me a freak. And you know, my first reaction was, you know, I’m gonna kill this little girl. But I had to kind of take a deep breath. And because I was in an education space, I had to take a deep breath and say, “You know what, that’s a great lesson for me that everybody doesn’t, you know, come from the same environment or don’t have the same values or the same experience.” And so, it was important to explain to her and to you know, help her to understand this is why eating at the time was important to us. It gives us a time to talk together, it gives, you know, I’m working, they’re in school. So, this is the one time of the day that we can get together and do something together. And the young lady who just a minute ago called me a freak, she’s like, “Well, man, I’m gonna tell my mom maybe cuz we never get to talk to each other”, right? But it was a teachable moment, but I had to slow down enough and investigate first, right? And then get my education hat on not only to educate myself to be patient in that situation, but also be willing to share and educate others rather than just get offended. And it stopped right there.

Chris  10:40

Yeah, to be offended and react, right? Because that is the world we live in today.

Joy  10:45

Today, exactly. And that’s the other thing. You know, when people ask me, you know, well, what makes you a subject matter expert? Well, number one, I’ve been doing it for 20 years, even when Diversity, Equity and Inclusion was definitely not popular. You know, they didn’t want to see me coming. You would have thought that I was an encyclopedia salesman, right? Anytime I try to talk to somebody, they’d be slamming doors! Like here she comes! You know, like, it’s like a Kirby vacuum cleaner salesman or something, right? They did not want to hear it. But I hung in there because it was something that was important to me. And, I’m grateful that I’ve lived long enough to see this topic kind of move from a taboo subject to kind of the top of it. Because I saw years ago, looked at the data that said, you know, our communities are gonna continue to change and evolve and become more and more diverse. And when you get these different cultures, these different backgrounds, some who eat at the table, and some who eats at the, at the sofa in front of TV, right? You get all these people in the room, if you don’t educate, if you don’t investigate, if you don’t stop, and, you know, kind of get away from your preconceived notions about, you know, my way is the only way, right, you know, my culture, my background, my, you know, worldview is it. Once we get past that, now we can start talking, now we can start working together. That’s when real innovation is gonna take place. You know, companies are always talking about innovation and, what is it, being resilient and all that – not until you include everyone, you’re not even getting close to that. Innovation will start when we start working together.

Chris  12:35

I love it. I love it. So, we have these three words: diversity, equity inclusion. And we’ve kind of already mentioned that diversity is always the one that gets thrown to the very top, because that’s the easiest one to think about and see. Because we’re really terrible thinkers in reality right, and humans are terrible at thinking. So, would you mind giving our audience and our listeners, like a general non dictionary definition of diversity, equity, and inclusion?

Joy  13:06

And so, there’s a lot of them that are out there, right. So what I would say with diversity is just like we talked about, you know, it’s not just about race, it’s about, you know, diversity of thought, you know, like, the way I approach something, diversity in terms of our economic status. You know, I might be from a, you know, a lower middle-class background, which is going to inform the way I think about like, stuff like grocery shopping. Like Whole Foods, for me – when I first started shopping at Whole Foods, and I’m embarrassed to say it now I’ve gotten, my friends would call it “boujee-er”. But initially, you know, to see an apple for two or three dollars at Whole Foods? You know, I’m in the store, like WHAT. You know, and they’re ready to call security because like, “this lady is in here, you know, what is wrong with her”, but I was just like, sticker shocked. Because, you know, for me, $2 should buy you a whole barrel of apples based on how I was raised and where I came from. Where other people are like, “what’s your problem, right? Why are you here if a $2 apple is a problem?”

Joy  14:16

So just diversity in you know, male, female, what you know, who you love diversity in, you know, how much you’ve traveled.  You know, I’ve met people who think that they know everything about the world, but they’ve never left their county. Not the state, but they’ve never left their county. I have people right here in Nashville who’ve never been four hours away. But yet they have opinions and thoughts about you know, what the world should be doing, right? So, diversity is all in every difference that you could possibly think of. You know, a fashionista versus someone who only wear sneakers, that’s diversity. So when you start talking about dress codes and different things, you know, or when you start talking about business casual – well casual to me, you know, might be a pair of jeans, someone else, it might be flip flops. Because they’re from, you know, maybe a warmer state where flip flops was the, you know, the national uniform, right? So, it just, you know, so diversity is so many different things seen and unseen diversity. I’m a veteran, maybe you’re not. So my, my thoughts on the military are going to be totally different from someone who’s never served. So again, diversity is just all these different things. But we look at people, and we see what we see, we think what we think. But there’s so many layers to even just you and I on this call that we could check boxes, where we fit in so many different categories. Right, right. Yeah. I might just say, white man, black woman, right, we’re so much more than that.

Chris  16:01

Sure. And if I look at like your bio, knowing that you were a police officer in St. Louis. I grew up two hours from St. Louis, in the middle of nowhere, but St. Louis, but like, that’s my city. I was from like, a little bitty farm town. People from St. Louis are like, “Where are you from?” But like, I grew up, and I was like, Nellie, he’s my rapper, because he’s from St. Louis. Like, I go to a Cardinals baseball game twice a year. And I think that St. Louis is my city. Right? But

Joy  16:25

Yeah, you’ll hear a little bit of that country grammar coming out sometimes when I really get excited. Okay. You’ll hear some of that Nellie.

Chris  16:32

I like it, I like it. What about equity? What about equity? What is equity?

Joy  16:36

You know, equity is something that’s new, that’s kind of come on the scene. Um, you know, I’m still kind of warming up to equity. Because, you know, equity is more about making things, you know, level or making them congruent or what some people might call fair, right? But how do you do that. So, if you come in and say, “We’re going to give everybody in the company $20 a month for gas. For some people that’s, “Oh, that’s great. $20 for gas I could fill up for the whole week.” But let’s say someone who lives an hour and a half away, $20 doesn’t even you know, scratch the surface of what it’s going to cost them to get in. Or we would say to someone, “Well, we’re going to give everyone as a benefit. You know, tuition reimbursement.” “Well, I graduated several years ago, I don’t need tuition. So, what do I get?” Right? We’re all paying for these benefits. But I don’t get to use any of them. Right. So how is that equitable? You know, so it’s really hard. You, you – it’s something that if you just look and say, we’re just going to give everybody the same thing, but everybody’s not starting at the same place. I might need a little more to get me up to the person who can spend $2 on an apple at Whole Foods, right?

Chris  18:06

Yeah, absolutely.

Joy  18:07

So how do we really tackle equity? So I think that that’s a, that’s a really a very complex, and I think we’re in a society where everybody wants to push that easy button, you know, they want to just say, “Okay, let’s just make it equitable, everybody’s gonna get the same thing.” Everybody doesn’t need the same thing. I don’t need tuition reimbursement. I spent almost 15 years paying off my student loans. Give me something I can use now, right, like people pay off my house note, you can help me out. Um, so again, there’s just, you know, I think there’s some – equity needs a very deeper dive, and you can’t address equity unless you address institutional racism. Unless you address these laws and, and different voting and different things that are in place that that help to suppress marginalized society, you’ll never get to equity until you deal with that. I don’t think that that’s something that the workplace can really address.

Chris  19:16


Joy  19:17

You know, you can give everybody $20 but you can’t – the workplace can’t help where I live. Right? And so, where one person, you know, they’re safe, and they’re good, but I may be an employee who’s still struggling with food, shelter, clothing, and maybe even my own personal safety, depending on where I live. And so how do you deal with equity when you’re offering everybody $20 for gas, and I’m struggling to pay my electricity bill?

Chris  19:48

Certainly. It’s kind of the qualitative right. Whereas diversity is quantitative right? You can list diversity items. Yeah. But equity is so much more challenging because it -you know, to your point, the sti- right now it’s mid-February as we’re recording this and stimulus checks are still a big topic of conversation and for my family that still lives in the middle of nowhere in rural Illinois $600 is totally different value to even me here in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, right? Those numbers are not the same for both of us and you can’t make it across the board. Right.

Joy  20:25

And even in the workplace, you know, some careers, you know, they I’ve gone on different jobs as a, as a development trainer. And different companies have said, “Well, you know, we need you to travel – show up here, here, here, and we’ll pay you at the end of the month.” Well, there’s, there’s a whole plethora of qualified individuals who could have accepted that job. But everybody can’t afford to travel and pay for food and hotel, and then you reimburse me 30 to 45 days later. So, you just knocked me out of the running for this particular position or this opportunity because you haven’t taken into account that maybe I’m not at the same economic level as my colleagues. And how embarrassing for me to have to come and tell you that?

Chris  21:18


Joy  21:20

Yeah, equity… like I said, equity has a lot of different layers to it that is a deeper dive, and maybe, you know, something that as a community, and as you know, government and states and everything, it’s – I don’t think equity is something that the workplace can really truly dig into, unless they start with diversity – recognizing diversity, and then working towards inclusion. And then I think equity is like the last, you know, layer, the foundation is diversity, recognizing that we’re not all the same, right? Because companies want this cookie cutter answer to everything. And that doesn’t always work, right. And then to meet inclusion. Now, first, you recognize my humanity, you recognize my differences, you recognize the value of that, and you’re not trying to make me assimilate and be, you know, like Jimmy and John in the room, like, everybody can bring their whole self right. And then once you do that you recognize and you respect the differences, then we start including the different voices, we start including the different perspectives, and then once you recognize and can include and hear from everyone. Now, when you start talking about equity, those individuals are in a safe space to say, “Hey, $2 to you, is very different than $2 for this group in that group”, and you’re in a space where because you’ve already tackled diversity and inclusion, now you can think and act on equity.

Chris  23:05

Right. So, inclusion, let’s go there, what is that?

Joy  23:10

inclusion is just that allowing spaces where differences, individuals are respected, celebrated, and allowed to, you know, be their authentic selves. And I know we say that, and it sounds good. But in reality, you know, there, I remember when, and I was in California, which I’ve never lived a place more forward thinking and more inclusive than Los Angeles, California, when I went to UCLA. That was just, you know, that was the best seven years of my life. I wasn’t in grad school that long, but I stayed in LA because I thought it was just neat to live there. It was the most inclusive place -and I remember when I graduated from UCLA, I just got back from about four months in West Africa. And I had gotten a grant to travel to Africa. So, I had a presentation to do to kind of talk about my research and, and my master’s thesis, and I was on top of the world. And I applied for some great jobs. And every one of them, I showed up, and then I was rejected. And I couldn’t understand why. And I remember, you know, and I am a person of faith. So, I remember praying about it. And it’s like, it’s like, you need to cut your hair. I was like, what, and at the time I had locks and they were very neat, and I had them curled, and I had them pulled back and so, you know, went to these interviews, very polished with my three piece suit on so to speak. And I couldn’t understand why because I had all the background. And I cut my hair, and I kid you not and I cut it short like this, the very next interview, I went on, I was offered a job. It had everything to do with my hair. And that was in California. Right? And, and I vowed ever since then I’ve cut my hair, and I made that compromise. But I said, I would not go back to straight hair again. So ever since that situation, I promised myself that I would keep my hair natural. And I’ve done that ever since. And this short style seems to be acceptable. But braids, I remember when you couldn’t wear braids. Even in the military, I remember having to take my braids out. And I remember, as a – in high school, I was actually a debutante at a prestigious African American church in St. Louis, Missouri. And you know, my elders, people I looked up to, when it was time for the debutante ball, I had beautiful long braids, they said you got to cut those braids and straighten your hair. And those things stuck with me, even for my own community.

Chris  26:02

Sure. Right. And that’s a generational difference. Right. And that it’s, it’s so challenging for people to see all the things that different individuals deal within their, their own little bubble of life, right.

Joy  26:20

And even, you know, and I’m talking about myself, because it makes it you know, I try not to talk in “they” and “them” and most people I try to keep, you know, the focus on what I know, and what I’ve experienced, because I don’t want to offend anyone, because we all you know, come from different spaces. But even my own daughter, my oldest daughter decided that she was going to be a pescatarian. And Sunday dinners are this big deal for us. And my husband’s like this gourmet cook, but we throw down Southern style, right. And everything we had, she wouldn’t – couldn’t eat. And we were just annoyed with her. But again, inclusion means that we had to first respect her choice to be a pescatarian, you know, not to make fun of it, and jokes. And because we did, we did a little of that. But respect, you know, the choice that she had made, respect the fact that she had a right to make that choice, right. And that also, if we wanted her and valued her participation in those family dinners, we had to make those adjustments. And so, we began to and actually some of the dishes that she introduced, we actually like and we still eat. But again, that inclusion piece, it wasn’t just, “Well, here’s some fish over here for you, Miss Special. You know, that wasn’t making her feel welcome, right. So, inclusion really meant not only acknowledging the difference, respecting the difference, but then making those adjustments so that she could fully participate in dinner, and not feel like the other. And I will admit for a while, for almost a year, we treated her like other and I’m thankful that she didn’t just walk away, but she kept coming with what we call her “weird dishes”. And, you know, over time, she won us over and we made some adjustments as well.

Chris  28:19

I love that story. Joy. That’s, that’s a good one. Because I – there’s so many things that you especially like in your family setting, right, that you get irritated or annoyed with just a family member’s like habits or their things, right? You realize that you know, at the end of the day, you’re just not being accepting to who they are or who they want to be. Right. And that’s a family member. So that’s where they should feel most accepted. Right.

Joy  28:46

Right. Right. And so, if you transpose, that you know, how we treat our own family who we love and care for going to the workplace, and now you’re having a potluck. Exactly, right. So, it’s like, well, you can’t eat it, you know, keep moving, kick rocks, right? You know, we’re here for pizza. And we don’t think about, you know, should we maybe do a vegan dish, or should we? And I found, you know, in my last position I did, I worked with a leadership group. And so, I would be a part of ordering for our conferences, and I would order vegan dishes and gluten free. And those who didn’t subscribe to it, were the first ones to grab it. But I’m like, wait a minute, you didn’t put that you had any, you know, type of food. And I found out that a lot of individuals, even millennials, were reluctant to say that they had either food allergies or specific dietary because they didn’t want to draw attention to themselves.

Chris  29:47

Absolutely. I can think of a situation where just – so my kids had Valentine’s parties and stuff recently and our oldest daughter has some issues with like dairy and things of that nature. So they were having pizza at school and one and one of her other friends also had some dairy issues and their – her mom chose to, to get them a pizza that was dairy and gluten free to bring to school and we kind of gave her a hard time about it. And now I’m looking back on it being like, you know what we should just like, we shouldn’t be that way. Right?

Joy  30:21

You know, and don’t beat ourselves up about it. But again, each day is a new opportunity to grow. Right?

Chris  30:30

Cuz we’re always like, can’t you just toughen up, like, come on, figure it out, right? And that’s not the right way to be at all. I’m gonna go – I’m gonna go put my nose in the corner after this.

Joy  30:41

No, and see – and that’s what I’ve learned to in training. And having 20 years of this, I’ve learned, you know, I’ve gone through different iterations of diversity and inclusion training. And one of the things that was done early on was to kind of go in and shake your finger, like you’re, you’re bad, you’ve done this. And that, that doesn’t work, you know, people have spent their whole lives in a certain mindset or in a certain space. And so, when you go in and tell them, you’re a bad person, a lot of us, you’re attacking my humanity. You know, a lot of us see ourselves as good people. And once we start holding up a mirror saying, No, you’re not so good. You’re you’ve done, you know, that’s not how people learn. You know, we’ve learned that positive reinforcement. And so what I try to tell individuals is that, you know, this week, we spent however many years learning certain habits and, and, you know, thinking and being a certain way, and so when new things are introduced to us, sometimes it takes time it takes practice, we have to first be conscious of it, right? Realize that we that, that that’s something that we can improve, and then work toward improvement. Like I said, my first introduction to Whole Foods was like, “Mmm mmm. That is not for me.”  But now I go to Whole Foods happily, and I just walk past the two-dollar apple, but there are some things there that I can purchase, and I’m happy about it. But before it was like, “Oh, ugh. Whole Foods” but um, you know, I had to open up my mind to other, you know, ways of thinking and being and now the word organic is not foreign to me. But I had to be open to embrace that. And not just “Well, that’s for those boujee people.” No, organic is for everybody.

Chris  32:31

Right? And it’s tough because we all do have our own set of learned norms, values, and behaviors, right? And a lot of that’s based upon who you grew up around. And so, you really don’t even have a choice to a certain degree.

Joy  32:44

Oh, no, you don’t. And people say, well, kids don’t have biases. Yes, they do. Because they’re watching us as adults. They’re watching the shows that we watch. They’re listening to the music that we listen to, and they take cues from us. And so, when something happens on the news, and we’re going, you know, that person’s a “rah rah”, you know, why don’t they have COVID? You know, the kids are li- they hear that, and they’re picking up on that. And you’d be surprised, you know, and I’m always surprised that, you know, a lot of younger adults have the same kind of mindset, as, you know, parents and grandparents that they grew up around.

Chris  33:24

Yeah, absolutely. So, we’ve talked a lot about how this is a societal thing. But like D&I is definitely societal, right? And how we make these issues change. But it’s, it’s obviously a massive workplace initiative, point of emphasis, depending on you know, your word of choice in the – in your organization. So, like, what should a company set as goals because oftentimes, we get, being in the recruitment world we’ll have, we’ve had projects before, where people have come and said, “Hey, we want to be more diverse, we want, you know, we want to hire 100 non white male engineers this year”, you know, things like that, but, and while that that might be a helpful initiative, it may not even scratch the surface of being a change agent right in in your organization. So why should diversity maybe not just be the primary goal and what should it be? Maybe it should but what should be an organizational goal, or what are some goals that an organization could put in place that are not like the things that you would immediately think of?

Joy  34:34

Right? I’m gonna kind of pivot a little bit on that question, to kind of  give some context to my answer. I get a lot of companies that call me and they go, “What can we do” and what I’ve found is hiding underneath that thin layer of “what can we do” is “what can we do quickly?” You know, because everybody again, wants that easy button. They want like, “What is this 123 magic trick that I can do.” And all of a sudden, you know, diversity is, you know, problem solved, boxes checked. And I tell individuals all the time that especially an organization, that you have to be patient with the process, because for a lot of organizations we’re talking about, especially if they’re more than five years old, saying, there’s some institutional norms that are in place that, you know, maybe more investigation into not just diversity, but what are some roadblocks that might be in place that stop us from hiring a diverse group of people? And then more importantly, are there some roadblocks to maintaining and keeping those individuals? Because there’s a lot of companies that are diverse if you just look at race and gender, right. But are you diverse in skillset? Are you diverse in who you are listening to and taking guidance from? Or when you look in the C suite? Are you looking the leaders that are making decisions? Are they all homogenous? And so a lot of companies will say, “Well, if you look at our demographics, we’re very diverse.” Are you? Are you diverse in thought? Are you diverse in background? Are you diverse and is everyone part of the Fortune 500 club? Or do you have some individuals in that group, like you said, would benefit who represent those individuals who are actually going to be using? And so, I think for the answer that I tell companies all the time is that it’s gonna be work, it’s not an easy button for this. And don’t try to boil the ocean, that you’ve got to find those little wins that you can accomplish along the way. And maybe one small step that you can take is looking at your recruiting process, you know, looking at what barriers might there be? Or what other things could we do to you know, be more welcoming? But then once you look at your infrastructure, and you look at your recruiting, then okay, once we get here, how do we onboard? You know, who do we partner? Who do we assign to train them? Is this a good trainer or is this someone who runs everybody out the door? Right?

Chris  37:35


Joy  37:36

And then, you know, once they get into their role, how do we continue to support them? How do we continue to let them know that you’re welcome, and you can bring your whole self? And then also, what do we put in place to make sure that they can grow and, and move, you know, into leadership roles? And we – and nobody wants to do that work? And then they start, you know, we make excuses like, “Well, you know, they need to be qualified, and everything has to be fair and equitable.” But again, we don’t all start at the same place. If you got your job, because the CEO is your cousin, you’re going to have a different route to leadership than somebody like me. And if you’re not willing to look at that, and take that into account, then you know, we’re going to not deal with facts and truth. And, be honest and courageous about what we have and the work that we need to do. You’re never gonna be successful, because you have to be able, you know, just like someone who has an addiction problem, you’re not going to solve it until you’re willing to admit that you have an issue.

Chris  38:50

Absolutely. And you’re right because companies – they want – everything’s a metric for organizations, right? KPI, it’s a goal. And so, it all, it always comes back to a number. And I think this is one of those topics that it’s, it’s not a number.

Joy  39:09

It’s not, it’s about your culture. And, for some of them it’s like, well we’re making money, we’re doing good, okay. But the companies that are outpacing you, are the companies that are looking at this and doing something about it. And it’s going to be the difference. And what companies don’t realize is that it’s going to be the difference between Netflix and Blockbuster. And I use that analogy all the time, keep doing what you’re doing. But Blockbuster was at the top of the world, and they said to themselves, “You know, we’re good. You know, we’re winning. We’re the heavyweight champions of the world.” Look at them now.

Chris  39:42

Yeah. There’s so many examples of that. I mean, there’s so many companies that are sitting there right now that we have no idea and to be honest, they don’t know either, right. Like they may not be able to see what threats exist for them.

Joy  39:57

Yes, yes. And again, Know you bring, you know, I see all the time is I’ve gone on to LinkedIn and individuals who’ve been in the training and development space or consulting for years, all of a sudden, since the murder of George Floyd, they’ve got DEI as part of their specialty. And I’m just like, “Really? Are you serious right now?” And so, there’s a whole host of, you know, vendors and people out there who say, that’s what they do. And companies don’t even know what questions to ask to find a, you know, a good person to deliver that. So, they’re like well, you know, look good, you know, and, but a lot of damage can be done, if you come in there with the wrong approach.

Chris  40:47

So, what are those questions? What are some questions for our listeners, you know, if I’m an HR leader, because that’s who this normally falls on? But what if I am the very forward and progressive thinking CEO? And I’m saying we need to do better? What are the questions that I should be asking either my team or external vendors on how to move forward, Joy?

Joy  41:08

I think the first thing that I would say to organizations, if they really care about their culture, is to ask their internal people. Do a survey but do an anonymous and an honest survey. And also, if people aren’t willing to take that survey, if you get like 10% or 20%, then that tells you something right there, that they don’t feel safe. Right? But ask them that question, what are some ways and there’s a lot of surveys that are out there free now with questions for DEI, and I mean, I do this for a living, so I’m not gonna like give away the – what do they call a giveaway the cow.

Chris  41:46

The secret sauce… We call it the secret sauce at endevis.

Joy  41:47

But you know, there’s a lot of surveys that are out there that you can get. And I think starting with, you know, just like in my, in your household or in your community and in your workplace, you start by asking those, those hard questions, right? and be willing to take the feedback. And you can you’ll see that where do we need to start? You know, maybe in the CEO’s mind, we need to start with recruitment. But why recruit new people into a culture or a workplace community that is toxic? That is not conducive to a diverse work environment, right? So maybe you need to start with your internal group, right? Based on that feedback, maybe you need to start with some of your managers who keep running people out the door. Yeah, maybe you need to go back to some of those exit interviews. Or maybe if you’re not doing exit interviews, you might want to start

Chris  42:46

and evaluate the questions you’re asking in the exit interview, right?

Joy  42:49

Yes. That information on you know, I get that all the time. What can we do? Well, start asking yourself, start asking your team. And then a lot of times I get it, you know, from HR especially, well, how do we get C suite or executives involved? Yeah, you want to keep working on that. But if you have a team, if you have a workspace, and you start making changes, and you start, you know, moving forward and winning awards, you don’t think the other groups are going to start paying attention? You know, a lot of people are waiting on the next person, you do it, you start it within your little group, even if you’ve got five direct reports, you all start changing and building that culture, those five people are going to start talking. And the next manager is going to come and say, what are you and so you can grow from where you are. And I know that sounds like a cliche, but I think so many people like there has to be some big grand gesture, when really start where you are.

Chris  43:51

And that goes with anything in business joy, right? Because the biggest challenge that I see across any organization is somebody says, “Well, I can’t do this, or they won’t let me do that, or this isn’t, they aren’t doing this.” And it’s just like, the only change agent is, is you right? Like, if you want something, do it, nobody’s really ever gonna stop you from doing something in an organization. I can’t think of any time that I’ve been told, “No, you shouldn’t do that.” Because if I care about something, if I’m passionate about it, maybe that’s a side project for me being something bigger, right? So it only comes down to you and your willpower and what you actually do care about, because if you care about peacing out at 4:30, so you can get home and watching Netflix all night. That’s, you know, that’s a you thing. Right? Don’t blame it on someone else.

Joy  44:44

Right. So I think the worst and the most ironic thing that I’ve seen and there’s been quite a few articles about this, too, is that there’s a lot of companies who will start these employee resource groups and different things, but the very people who are struggling -you’re asking them to solve your problem. Like, are you serious right now, because I’m the person of color or because I’m the, you know, the gender neutral or, you know, whatever group that I find myself for military, that I’m supposed to form a group and inform you of what to do? Come on. And then they’re the real leaders, the real change agents, they’re not part of it. And if you’re going to bring about change, you’ve got to find your people leaders, and they aren’t always the ones with the title. You know, I worked at a college in Texas, and we had an office manager who had been there for 30 years, and she didn’t have a title, but I’m telling you, she was a superintendent. You know, and if she said, you know, hey, this isn’t gonna fly – you, if you went through her and got her buy in, she, if you want to have a meeting and get people together, they were in those seats, but if you didn’t get her buy in, and so again, I think we sometimes look at who’s got what title or who’s over this, but you got to find people who are passionate about it. And also, it’s not just the C suite that you’re trying to convince, but those influencers in your organization like that office manager, or those different people that if you don’t get them on board, your idea, or your initiative is going to tank. And that’s the same with diversity, equity, and inclusion. And they don’t look at you know, they look at it as this foreign or exotic problem they have to solve. But companies have been solving problems forever. They’ve been bringing in change and innovation forever, right? And how do you do that? How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. And so, I tell companies all the time, you know, this isn’t something that’s, you know, strange and new. I’m sure you’ve brought in a policy, even something as simple as now everybody has to wear their name tag. And I’m sure you had people who were against it said, “I’m never wearing a name tag”, right? Yeah. What if you as a company said, “Nope, we’re committed to this, this is why we’re going to do it, and we’re giving you to XYZ date, and then you’re going to start getting written up for it.” I bet you everybody has a name tag, and you might have lost a few people along the way. But over time, everybody had a name tag. And that’s the same thing that can happen with diversity, equity and inclusion, if you’re serious about it, you bring about that change, you message it like you have any other new initiative that you brought on board. Trust me if people want to work there, they’ll get on board, or they’ll get off.

Chris  47:37

Absolutely. So, as we’re getting close on time, Joy…

Joy  47:42

See, you are getting me started, I’m getting…

Chris  47:45

I already… I have questions for podcast number two with Joy. So, the brain is just rolling right here. So but, um, what changes occurred in 2020? And this is a softball – what changes occurred in 2020, that you believe are here to stay? And second part, what concerns you the most about the future of D, E and I?

Joy  48:10

Well, of course, like everyone is saying, technology is here to stay. I believe also that the idea of a pandemic, and future, you know, health concerns and social distancing. I hear a lot of individuals who are saying, even if this dies down, they’re going to continue to wear a mask. And if you – you’ll see in a lot of other countries, particularly I traveled to South Korea, back in 2000, and they were wearing masks on the subway then, and have continued to. And so, I think things like that, and being, you know, not feeling so invincible. I think it’s going to continue. And the need to think collectively because again, to stop this pandemic, we’ve got to stop thinking as individuals and being selfish. And I think for some of us, that’s how we’ve been cultured, it’s about…

Chris  49:13

me, it’s almost un-American, right? Because the American culture is individuality.

Joy  49:17

Yes! Remember our president who said, “Ask not what you can do, but you know, what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” And all of a sudden, you know, you ask somebody to wear a mask, and all of a sudden, you’re taking away their rights. I mean, how do those two go together? And so again, I think that this whole notion of community and collective responsibility, I think it’s, you know, it’s got to come back in order for us to really move forward because, you know, global warming and a lot of these different things that are affecting our health and our ability to move forward. We’ve got to think collectively about that. Not just what’s good for me. You know, like Texas right now, um, I used I lived there for nine years. I’m glad I’m not there right now. But at the same time, I care about those people in Texas, you know, I can’t sit here in all good conscience and say, “Well, my powers on I’m nice and warm, and I get to work from home”, I care about people whose pipes are bursting right now. You know, I care about people who are sleeping in their car, because the car has more heat than their house. And until we really get serious about that, and companies, you know, with these catchy phrases like caring, like family, do you really? You know, are we making sure that our employees, you know, I’ve had people call me and say, “Well, you know, there’s a big storm or there’s something going on”, and all they want to know is, can you log in? Instead of the question of, are you and your family okay, can we help you in any way? Can we bring groceries or whatever it is that we’re doing? So yeah, I think those are things that we that will say that we have to think about. And my concern for DE&I, again, I’ve been at this for 20 years when it wasn’t popular. And I see slowly that, you know, the conversations are still there, but they’re not as intense as they were when George Floyd was murdered, when Ahmaud Arbery was, you know, gunned down in his neighborhood, when the protests were going on, when it was starting to affect the downtown, and the people weren’t so comfortable driving, and, you know, going to the bar that night, but you know, I’m concerned that it’s not going through a 15 minute of fame situation, and that over time, it will just die down. So, I’m hoping that this is a conversation that we’ll continue to have, and companies will continue to recognize the value and not just the tree hugging, you know, Kumbaya aspect of it. But the, you know that there is a value, there is a business, you know, case for improving diversity, and inclusion in the workplace.

Chris  52:15

Joy, as always, I really appreciate our conversations. I love learning from you. It’s always you know, I’m always looking to educate myself. And so, today’s been a great conversation. And I do think that there’s definitely a podcast two and three, probably in our future at some point in the future. So, thank you for being on. How can our listeners if they’re looking to learn more about what you do? Or about DE&I? How can they reach you?

Joy  52:42

So, I actually, as you see, in the back of me: J Training Solutions is my consulting firm. And actually, I’ve been kind of doing it part time kind of on the side, but I am launching full time in April. So, you can reach me at: And that is my new email address that will go live. And also, I’m available on LinkedIn. That’s the best way to reach me right now. Because my website and everything is still in production. So contact me, send me a message via LinkedIn: Joy Johnson-Carruthers under JTraining Solutions. Thank you for having me here!

Chris  53:28

The Carruthers is what, with 2 r’s?

Joy  53:30

Yeah, “CA” –  you know here in Nashville, Carruthers seems to be a CO because there’s a street in Franklin, but our – my husband’s last name Carruthers is C-A-R-R-U-T-H-E-R-S. So, it’s Joy Johnson Carruthers. And like I said, LinkedIn for now is probably the easiest way. And I do get back with people because I love connecting.

Chris  53:52

And love talking to people. Yeah, exactly. If you have trouble finding Joy, I’d be glad to make the introduction. I get to – I get to speak with her every month on our monthly board meeting. So, I’m forced to have these conversations with her then, but I actually enjoyed the involuntary ones as well. So that’s a wrap on another podcast and another episode of the Talent Tide Podcast. Please be sure to like and subscribe and rate wherever you listen or watch the podcast from Apple to Spotify to YouTube. We’re going to be coming up with some cool gifts for those of you that do rate and like the podcast. Hopefully we’ll have some coffee cups coming soon for you. And remember, go win the day and the success is on the other side of fear. Thank you and see you soon.

Joy  54:34