October 29, 2021

Global DE&I Strategist Torin Ellis – who helped kick-off season two of Inside your Brand with Get-Optimal.com – was the special guest star for the season’s finale.

“A year goes by quickly! And you have lived up to every single thing you said and you continue to live up to everything you said - and so I am happy to be here again with you,” Torin told Dan by way of introduction.

The duo used the 25-minute episode to look back at some of the standout moments and talking points from the eye-opening series.

Not pulling any punches, Dan launched the review by touching on the term “white privilege” which had arisen in season two's inaugural episode.

“A lot of people get scared of white privilege,” said Dan. “White privilege doesn’t mean life hasn’t been hard -  it just means it hasn’t been made harder based on the colour of your skin.” IYB’s host asked Torin: “Are employers and employees making progress on the notion of white privilege since we last spoke?”

Torin replied: “Yes. More people are having conversations around race and leaning in but there’s still a long way to go. We had an uprising on Jan 6 in the US – individuals are being subpoenaed and ignoring the subpoenas, and the justice system is grappling with what to do with them  [...]

“We have an NFL coach [Jon Gruden] who recently resigned because people looked into his email history over last 10 years and he has used racist, homophobic, and misogynistic language. Well, how does that happen for so long with so many people being silent?

“So what I would say to you is that while I think we have made progress because I am optimistic, I certainly wouldn’t in any way put out a celebratory message as if we can take a day off or as if we can pause. [...] DE&I has no finish line. Humanity has no finish line.”

Moving on, Dan highlighted how in episodes six, 13, and 16,  Joanne Lockwood, Et Halstead, and Chikere Igbokwe had respectively spoken about allyship. IYB’s host was keen to know what allyship looked like to Torin as an influencer and mentor to many?

“It’s an action,” said Torin decisively. “It’s not about changing an image on social media to a particular square or showing a flag etc. It’s about consistency and lending privilege if you have that. [...] It’s about not being part of a system that supported that NFL coach over years of inflammatory email content. You can’t be part of that system and be an ally.”

Torin elaborated: “An ally doesn’t always mean agreeing. I have convictions and opinions and am firm in my beliefs but just because I don’t agree with you, that doesn’t mean I am not an ally. I want more activity. Less allyship, more action.”

Shaking his head, Dan remarked: “And to think he [Jon Gruden] only got caught by people going through his emails....”

In episode four of season two of IYB, Dan was joined by Julie Sowash, executive director at Disability Solutions, DEIB lead at Ability Stronger, and Torin’s Crazy and the King podcast co-host!  Julie talked honestly about her own hidden disabilities and how companies need to “build for the whole, not the few.”

It’s a stance that was shared by Jane Hatton, founder, and CEO at Evenbreak – an award-winning not-for-profit social enterprise, run by and for disabled people, which connects inclusive employers with talented disabled people – in episode nine.

All of which led Dan to put the question to Torin: “How do businesses fully wrap their arms around inclusive hiring?”

Torin responded: “There are no shortcuts. [...] Companies need to explore DE&I at every point in their organisation. Too many are attempting to throw unconscious bias training in and are then clapping their hands together as if they have done something. [...]

“We have to be willing to submit ourselves to the arduous process of evaluating all connections in our organisations. It’s the only way to do DE&I better. Anything else smoking mirrors, looking for fairy dust, it’s being lazy.”

“It sure is. 100 percent. There are no shortcuts,” concurred Dan before pointing out the positives. He revealed: “The best part of my job is meeting folks like you, and Nadia Edwards Dashti – Chief Customer Officer at Harrington Starr – and Marcus Sawyerr, the founder & CEO of EQ Community.

Dan told of how both Nadia (episode 11)  and Marcus (episode 18) were optimistic for the future of DE&I and sang the praises of the companies and organisations who have addressed or ramped up their commitment to DE&I, implementing initiatives, setting targets, creating employee groups, and hiring dedicated D&I personnel.  

With this in mind, Dan wondered whether there were any companies Torin wanted to single out for their impactful DE&I initiatives?

“Absolutely.  I want everyone to look at a small company here in Baltimore called Allovue. I adore the work they are doing. They are trying to better democratise financial allocation within the education space [...]

“From the beginning, they said ‘DE&I is important to our organisation – they did it when they had less than 10 people, and with a staff of 100 they are still committed.”

The season finale concluded with Dan thanking Torin for “ taking the time and believing in us and challenging us. It’s been thrilling spending time in Baltimore, Sydney, Argentina, and of course the UK and Ireland too.

Torin added: “And thank-you for the various voices you hosted this year, and the direction the show took this year versus last year. I can only look forward to what season three holds. I am rooting for you and the whole Optimal team and am humbled that you have me as part of your advisory team so thank you very much.”

Catch episode 20, season two of IYB over on Optimal’s YouTube channel.

*Photo by Xan White on Unsplash