Join us as we journey deep into the world of classical music—how we define it, how we enjoy it, and how we ensure everyone feels welcome and represented in our concert halls. This conversation is just the start of breaking down barriers to attendance and ensuring classical arts organizations connect with audiences for generations to come.
In This EpisodeIn the summer of 2020, George Floyd’s murder and the protests that followed sparked crucial conversations about racial equity and social justice. Many arts organizations made public commitments to do better—both in their programming and behind the scenes. It’s been three years since that pivotal moment, and it’s still imperative to hold ourselves accountable to move the needle on diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, and accessibility (DEIBA) in the arts. In this episode, Dan sits down with social psychologist Dr. Evelyn Carter to discuss the unique DEIBA challenges and opportunities we face in the arts and entertainment industry. Dr. Carter shares expert tips for living our values, creating welcoming environments, and addressing implicit bias in the workplace and beyond.
Dan Titmuss: Live from New York, it’s Boot Camp 2023! Capacity Interactive is back with another two day conference one hundred percent focused around the arts. In this time of perpetual change, build a holistic foundation that’s anchored in impact. Our expert-led sessions offer cutting-edge data, thought leadership, and transformative digital strategies to help your team drive results. Join us at the Times Center in New York City, October 26th and 27th, to become a stronger arts marketer, leader, and champion for our industry. Save your seat by registering at capacityinteractivebootcamp.com. That’s capacityinteractivebootcamp.com. See you there!
Hi everyone. Dan here, and welcome back to CI to Eye. In the summer of 2020, George Floyd’s murder and the protests that followed sparked crucial conversations about racial equality and social justice. Many arts organizations made public commitments to do better, both in their programming and behind the scenes. It’s been three years since that pivotal moment, and it’s still imperative to hold ourselves accountable and to move the needle on diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, and accessibility commitments. I’m gonna sit down with Dr. Evelyn Carter, a social psychologist, to discuss the unique DEIBA challenges and opportunities we face in the arts and entertainment world. A quick note about acronyms. In this episode, you’ll hear us say DEIBA, or “deeba” for short. That stands for diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, and accessibility—belonging and accessibility being two more recent additions to the acronym as folks working in this space continue to expand and refine the focus of this work. Let’s dive in, shall we? Our guest is a social psychologist and self-described data geek. She researches how to detect, discuss, and confront racial bias, and she currently serves as the president of Paradigm, a consulting firm that works with high profile brands like the NFL, Warner Brothers, and American Express to design impactful DEIBA strategies. Evelyn Carter, welcome to CI o Eye!
Dr. Evelyn Carter: Thanks so much for having me, Dan. Happy to be here.
Dan Titmuss: Uh, I’m so excited about our, uh, conversation today. Um, so you’ve worked extensively with entertainment industry clients. How would you describe the entertainment industry’s DEIBA journey over the past few years?
Dr. Evelyn Carter: I think the journey has been an interesting one. So I’ve been working with the entertainment industry in particular around 2018, and at the time, I would say that the industry was starting to really take seriously the idea that there was more that could be done, right? So this was, um, I think following around the same time as, um, hashtag Oscars so white, there was a lot of conversation, um, about what it could look like to have a more diverse, equitable, inclusive entertainment industry. Um, and so what I’ve really enjoyed working with the entertainment industry clients that I’ve had over the last several years is on helping them understand the gaps that they have in terms of representation within their or organizations in terms of the policies that they have that are making it harder for other voices, uh, who are from marginalized communities to be heard. And using that to really influence the massive responsibility that entertainment industry has, which is putting content out that makes people think differently about the world around them and the people who live in it. And so I think the way that I would describe the journey is as one that, you know, five-ish years later is looking better. I think there are more entertainment industry clients that I’m talking to that are aware of the different gaps that exist in their organizations, that have done some trainings, that are really starting to put into practice some of the things that, you know, five years ago were just blossoming ideas for many.
Dan Titmuss: Yeah. It feels like this, uh, this kinda stuff is now part of the corporate dialogue that happens, at least like, it’s at least in people’s vocabulary, whereas five years ago, we might have to very, very much like explain what that meant sort of thing.
Dr. Evelyn Carter: Yeah, and I think the thing that’s interesting about it being a part of the vocabulary is that we have started to, I think, really make clear that there are unique ways that DEIBA relates to the entertainment industry. So let’s take an example of something that I often talk to my clients outside of entertainment about in terms of DEI, which is hiring. And one of the things that we know is that the best way to ensure an equitable hiring process is to invest in getting a diverse pool of talent at the earliest stages of your hiring process. And then track how that the, those folks are follow, are going throughout the, um, throughout the hiring process. Right? So at the interview stage, at the take home exam stage, all of that. And when I use those examples of my entertainment clients, I say, well, Evelyn, that’s not how our industry works, right? If I’m waiting to get a show green lit, I don’t find out until that moment right, that it’s green lit and then I gotta put together a writer’s room. I gotta find a showrunner. I don’t have time to go through this lengthy process. And so something as simple as being able to tailor what some of those best in class recommendations for inclusion and equity might look like for the unique way that the entertainment industry operates is a really important, um, piece of my work to help make it applicable and to help make sure that DEIBA remains a part of the conversation in entertainment.
Dan Titmuss: Yeah. A lot of entertainment companies made public commitments to accountability back in 2020. Um, we’re now three years in. Do you think you’re seeing fundamental changes across the industry?
Dr. Evelyn Carter: No.
Dan Titmuss: And why is that, you reckon?
Dr. Evelyn Carter: Because it’s been three years. Right? Uh, when you think about the legacy of slavery, right? So I highly recommend to listeners The 1619 Project, it is a book. There’s also a documentary or docu-series, um, on Hulu that’s available. And there’s also a children’s book called Born on the Water that I’ve been reading my five month old. So highly recommend. But that, but The 1619 Project really talks about the legacy of slavery within the United States and how that has permeated our culture even, yes, until today, 2023. And so if we think about how long ago 1619 was, there’s no way that three years worth of work is going to provide a fundamental shift in anything. And that’s okay. And I think a lot of the issue is when people expect, I’ve talked to people a year following George Floyd’s murder saying, I’m tired. And I said, oh, honey, you gotta buck up buttercup. We’ve got a lot more work to do. I think what can happen in three years is laying the groundwork for what some of those fundamental changes are going to look like. Right? So it means having conversations about the categories that we are using. Um, I was, I’m following a lot of the conversation, um, that is sparked by, there are lots of actors who are non-binary saying like, listen, there is no category for me in the awards ceremonies. Right. I’m, I’m not a male actor, I’m not a female actress. Where do I belong? Yeah.
Dan Titmuss: It’s very prevalent in the Tony’s right now. Right, exactly. Yes. There’s, um, is it Shucked? And there’s another, there’s another musical as well that stars non-binary performers and yes. Like, does that necessarily apply like in the Tony’s?
Dr. Evelyn Carter: Exactly. And so this is the conversation that I don’t know that we would’ve had five years ago, 10 years ago. Right? I don’t know that we, that we as a society would have been willing, although we should have been, but I don’t know if we would’ve been willing to entertain what it really means to change something that seems as canonical as the categories we use to provide awards in these different arenas. And yet that is a conversation that we are now having because of the foundational work that has been done. And so I remain optimistic that it won’t take, you know, 400 years to get that fundamental change, but three years not so much.
Dan Titmuss: Yeah, that makes sense. What are some of the common pain points for entertainment clients when it comes to DEIBA?
Dr. Evelyn Carter: One of the pain points that I think is common is trying to figure out who your audience is and what you’re responsible for curating for them, right? So I describe the entertainment industry as being able to influence how people think and feel about the world around them, but it’s also just a place for people to kind of, you know, like take a load off of their mind. And so a lot of times when I’m talking to my clients, they’re asking me like, how much of it is our responsibility to put stuff out there that just allows people to escape versus make people think so much all the time. And so this pain point of understanding the push and pull between influencing the way people think and also showcasing the world as people already believe it is or want it to be, is a, is a pain point. And I think a lot of, I think this is true across industries actually, but one of the things that organizations are really struggling with right now is what does it mean to serve a diverse community of viewers of customers, what have you, right? And so, for example, um, you know, I work with clients who are responsible for lots of different brands of like, uh, different, uh, you know, cartoon characters or things like that. And I think it’s an interesting thought experiment to think about what it looks like for, um, Mario and Luigi to observe or to acknowledge that Ramadan is happening, right? Is that a thing that Super Mario Brothers are supposed to do, right? Is it a thing that is in line with their brand? Well, if we know that there are Muslim children who are watching this movie, who are engaging with this content, maybe it’s meaningful for them to see two of their most iconic characters, right? Acknowledging this, um, really important day in their calendar and, and in their religion. And so it’s just an example of some of the things that I think are unique, right? That other industries don’t necessarily have to think about what it means for the content we create, um, and, and kind of the, the brands that we are a part of how they really live on and take meaning in a variety of different spaces. And so, um, I think that’s a unique challenge.
Dan Titmuss: Yeah, totally. And like knowing your audience is never a bad thing. Like knowing more about them and being able to relate to them is never a bad thing.
Dr. Evelyn Carter: Yeah. And I think something else that I’ll just add that is interesting, and that is certainly unique to the entertainment industry, is the volume of live feedback that that industry gets for whatever they’re putting out. So when you think about the, I mean, really this is something I, I love the TV show Scandal. And I think Scandal really began this idea of live tweeting through a show or through a movie or an experience that we’re watching, right? And so what that has meant is that there are actually examples of creators who have responded in real time to feedback that they’ve gotten about episodes or storylines and adjusted them as they’ve been going. And I think on the one hand that can be incredibly cool to say I’m hearing directly from my audience, I know what they’re asking for. On the other hand, it can be very daunting to say, how am I supposed to decide what direction I want to go in right? When I’ve got all of this feedback coming my way? And that is, again, a unique challenge that I think entertainment creators face.
Dan Titmuss: I um, I love that example cause I just did the, um, Shonda Rhimes masterclass on TV writing and it’s phenomenal. Yeah. And like, she very much talks about how to be agile in, in a writer’s room, like every single season of Grey’s Anatomy. She’s like, yeah. Changes how they write entirely. Like it’s almost like a different TV show.
Dr. Evelyn Carter: Yeah. That’s so cool.
Dan Titmuss: Something that might be unique to our industry is the push and pull between DEIBA commitments and programming. Plenty of artists want to preserve the historical accuracy of a work, even if it’s problematic by today’s standards. And you wrote that intention doesn’t matter nearly as much as impact. Creators need to have a certain level of accountability for what happens after they put their content into the world. Can you tell us a bit more about that perspective and how it applies to arts organizations?
Dr. Evelyn Carter: Absolutely. I think one of the powerful things about art is that it gives you an opportunity to expose people to experiences, perspectives, identities, people that they have, places that they have never seen, been to, and may never be and, and, and may never go to. That’s also profound responsibility. If you are creating content, you are shaping the way that people think about folks in the world around them, right? Um, so I grew up in the Midwest and I have taught at universities in the Midwest. Many of those were predominantly white spaces where I literally interacted with white people who had never seen a black person before, save for what they saw on television. And so when you think about the fact that whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, right? Um, scripted or unscripted, you are socializing people into how to think about other groups. So in that respect, I do think that content creators should be thoughtful about what messages you are putting into people’s heads about the folks that are in their environment. And recognizing that for many of us, our only quote unquote interaction with people who are different from us in various ways is going to be through what we see depicted through entertainment. And so that is a really heavy responsibility. I think, in terms of the first part of your question, in terms of preserving the historical accuracy of work, there’s been like a few different conversations lately about kind of changing language in previous books or texts or whatnot. Yeah.
Dan Titmuss: There’s a lot of, um, I remember Roald Dahl was a big one. And like, Roald Dahl is—there’s a lot of, a lot of like love for Roald Dahl. So people naturally, when we wanna change it, they have a gut reaction to that, you know?
Dr. Evelyn Carter: Yeah. So I think it’s an interesting conversation because I also, if I had to, you know, draw a line in the sand, would be one of the don’t change the works people, but the reason is not for historical accuracy. But the reason is because I think changing it absolves us of the responsibility of having a conversation about how things were then, how they are now, how much has changed or not changed, and what that makes us feel and what our responsibility is to do differently.
Dan Titmuss: And there was, um, uh, I don’t know what studio it was, I can’t remember off the top of my head, but they had cartoons, which, you know, were appropriate at the time and not now. And then instead of taking them off the, the platform or changing them, they put a sort of warning at the start, or not even a warning, an explanation at the start of like, this is what people thought at the time.
Dr. Evelyn Carter: Yeah. I think that’s great. And what it does is it allows people to still engage with the content, um, and then have a conversation. So if I were, you know, putting out that content, what I would also want to do is to curate a list of discussion questions that would go along with whatever the material was, right. And tailor it to different ages or levels or whatnot, um, so that people can really engage in a conversation critically, um, as, as a way to advance their learning. My concern is that we as a society have not really learned how to have hard conversations about racism and a lot of other biases as well, but especially racism. And that if we miss the opportunity to practice those discussions in a conversation about how things used to be, we are never going to fix how things are now and how we want them to be in the future.
Dan Titmuss: So you’ve done a lot of research on implicit bias and how it shows up in workplace settings. How does implicit bias stall DEIBA progress?
Dr. Evelyn Carter: So implicit bias, or you might have heard of it referred to as unconscious bias, or there’s a variety of different kind of terms, right? Um, but the, the fundamental thing that we’re talking about here is really the quick associations or shortcuts that I have that are related to different groups in society, right? So, um, kind of in the same way that if I ask you to think about what goes with bread, you might say butter maybe, I don’t know, maybe you say sandwich ‘cause it’s lunchtime and you’re hungry. But there’s a quick association that comes to mind, and we have all kinds of quick associations about a variety of groups. Those are stereotypes. And when they happen quickly without our conscious awareness, almost like it just kind of comes from nowhere. We all had that moment of, oh my goodness, I didn’t, I didn’t even realize that that was, that that was there, right?
Um, it is what leads you or might lead you if you see a, uh, black man walking down the street at night towards you to clutch your bag or cross the street. And you might be doing that without realizing why. And it’s only until you pause that you realize, oh my gosh, there is an automatic association that I had with this black man of being unsafe and therefore I did this action. Right? That’s the implicit bias that we’re talking about. Now when it comes to, um, how this implicit bias can stall DEIBA progress, one of the ways it can stall progress is people not being willing to admit and acknowledge and accept that they have bias, right? Bias is a fundamental element of what it means to be human because we are socialized, we’re raised in society that tells us to make those associations, right?
So, and I think of every opportunity that we have to craft those associations for folks. For example, I, uh, remember driving around in Los Angeles, uh, with my niece, and my niece was let’s say seven or eight at the time, and she was pointing out that there were a lot of people living in tents along the street, right? So people who were homeless or unhoused, as you might hear, uh, referred to now. And she said, auntie, why is it that, um, there are people who are living in tents? And I said, well, they don’t have homes. And she said, well, why not? And that is a moment of socialization, right? Her question why not could be answered in so many ways by me. It could be answered in a way that helps her connect homelessness to a social problem that we are responsible for solving, right?
A failure of our society to make good on the promise, to provide basic access to things like housing and whatnot, to every member of our community. Or I could respond in a way that is going to create a connection to her, um, about, um, you know, uh, a person’s work ethic or whatnot. And if we’re not willing to acknowledge those moments where we have these messages that we’re either ingrained in us or that we’re delivering to others that can stall progress. Because if you refuse to be aware of the biases you have, you can’t do anything about them. There’s actually a study that was done by the Center for Talent Innovation that found that there’s something called the Mini me syndrome, that for leaders, they were about 76% more likely to mentor or sponsor people who shared their same race and gender. And the reason for that is that people would say, Ugh, you just remind me of myself when I was your age.
Well, if everyone at the top is a white guy and they’re all mentoring or sponsoring people who look like them and remind ’em of their themselves, well, you can see how we have created an issue that is going to make it harder for people who are not white and male to get into some of these roles. And so, our lack of awareness of how our own preferences are leading us down a path that is excluding others, and that is favoring, um, favoring others, is one of the ways that it can stall progress. Um, another way that implicit bias can stall progress is when it comes to deciding how we evaluate work products. There was this really interesting study that was done that looked at how people evaluated, I believe it was a play. And the cover, um, sheet on the play indicated that it was written by a man or a woman, and they asked people to evaluate how successful do you think this play is going to be?
And what they essentially found is that they, um, on average the people evaluating the play thought that it would be, uh, bring in more money, run longer. All of the metrics of success for a play were endorsed when they thought that it was written by a man versus when they thought that it was written by a woman. To be clear, it was the exact same play. And so that’s another example of implicit bias coming in, right? That our belief or our, our association that, uh, men are more successful in these particular roles leads us to erroneously conclude that they are going to be better in these roles versus a woman. And I will just add a note because I can hear some people saying, well, Evelyn, if you look at the data, you know, maybe it is the fact, the case that male playwrights have more successful, um, you know, runs than female playwrights do.
But then I would challenge you to ask yourselves whether that is because you are not putting as much effort and energy into promoting plays that are written by women into, um, marketing them so that they do have the same kind of success. Right? So implicit bias is really the thing that keeps us from allowing everyone to live to their full potential because we kind of sit back and say, yeah, the status quo is how things are supposed to be without challenging whether we are doing enough to change the status quo for the better. And I think a lot of people avoid acknowledging the biases they have because they worry that saying, yes, I have bias, whether it’s implicit or otherwise, makes me a bad person. Rather than recognizing that the biases that you have mean that you’re a person that pays attention to patterns in the world.
And what we need to get you to do is to question whether those patterns are real and two challenge, whether those need to be the patterns that you repeat again and again, this work takes time and effort. Yeah. And when you’re moving quickly, right? It can be really hard to ask people to slow down because what we know is that one of the best ways to impact the way that implicit bias is going to affect their decisions is to simply slow down. Because a lot of what we’re doing are routinized proc practices that are just like second nature. And part of what we have to do to mitigate implicit bias is to stop that process is to, is to really, you know, kind of stall things. Asking people to slow down, especially in the entertainment industry where things are so go, go, go, go, go is a very challenging thing to do. And so, um, sometimes people buck at being asked to slow and do things differently, but my approach is to show them the benefits that can happen when you slow down at first and how you can actually develop a new process, um, that can allow you to go much more quickly, um, later on.
Dan Titmuss: Yeah. I love that example of you talking to your niece because it, that just shows how quickly it could, could be passed down as well. So like that slowing down is like, would be so essential then, because it just shows how quickly that answer and that learned behavior just immediately would appear, you know?
Dr. Evelyn Carter: Exactly. And we don’t necessarily, we, we don’t necessarily hold on to the kind of those moments like, who said it and why did they say it? What we remember is the overall, right. So my niece, yeah. If she were to tell that story, might not remember. Well, I was in the car with my aunt when she said this. She just might remember people who are unhoused are blank and that’s the core message that’s going to stick with her. And so, um, yeah, it’s really important to think about all of those moments. And again, it’s a little bit daunting, but we really are shaping the patterns that we are providing for, um, you know, in those cases for children.
Dan Titmuss: Yeah. I love, um, I’m gonna quote you to you right now, uh, admitting to what you don’t know is hard. In fact, it goes against our fundamental human desires to be liked and accurate. And I think that resonates so much with, I think everyone I’ve ever known, right? Yes. That no one likes to be wrong. Um, so how can we put our egos aside and start to identify our own biases so we can be better colleagues?
Dr. Evelyn Carter: So, so if I have as my self-concept that I am a perfectly unbiased person, well, anytime I do something that challenges that, I am going to feel an a per like, truly, it’s gonna feel like a personal attack, right? Yeah. So if you tell me, Evelyn, you did something that was biased, I’m going to probably lash out at you because you have just broken apart my idea of who I am as a person. A large part of that also means having more of a, uh, so one, having a broader understanding of who I am. So I’m not just a perfectly unbiased person, not perfectly unbiased person at all. Um, but there are lots of different components of who I am. I’m a person who likes to learn. I’m a person who values taking care of others and who values making sure that other people feel supported.
And so as I lean on more of those definitions of myself, then I can say, all right, maybe the part of me that wants to be perfectly unbiased is feeling a little bit attacked by this feedback. Yeah. But the part of me that cares about other humans wants to lean in. So I think reminding yourself of all of the things that you hope to be, not just the one that’s being challenged, that moment is really important. And then the second thing that I would say is that it’s important to have a growth mindset and growth mindset and fixed mindset are kind of two opposite ends of a spectrum. That was, uh, first identified by Dr. Carol Dweck, who is a psychologist at Stanford. And in her early research actually, she identified that there’s kind of two ways that you think about where intelligence comes from.
One is that intelligence is in, is innate. You were born with a certain level of intelligence, nothing you can do to fix it. Or you might believe that intelligence is something that you have as a starting point, but that can grow and shape over time. Yeah. Now that research has been applied to any number of domains, including bias. And what research by, um, folks such as Jessica Neal and Janessa Shapiro and others have found is that when people believe that bias is a fundamental characteristic that cannot be changed, they respond especially negatively to critical feedback about their behavior compared to people who think that bias something that can be malleable. And so what I often re remind people of is that the more you have a growth mindset about bias, the more that you believe that biases can change, the less you will feel threatened by any single piece of critical feedback about bias that you have displayed. Because it’s not gonna be an indictment on your character. It’s actually just gonna be an opportunity for you to learn.
Dan Titmuss: How to improve, right? It’s like an opportunity. It’s very much an opportunity rather than like a shutting down of, of someone, you know? How—about how you approach that? I love that you said like fixed and growth mindset, because we talk about that a lot, uh, whenever we talk about like the management or sort of self-improvement a lot. And I’ve never thought about it in a bias way. So that’s really interesting. Yeah.
Dr. Evelyn Carter: And I actually saw this happen, um, on steroids. Actually. I was just having a conversation with a client today actually who was telling me about an event that they were running. And suffice it to say the short version is at this event, there was a panel that was going on, and the moderator realized that there was a person in the audience who had expertise related to what the panel was talking about. That person had not been invited to be a part of the panel. It was a huge miss. And so they did everything they could to rectify it, including inviting that person to be on the panel in real time, right. For that conversation. And when the person that I was talking to was telling me about this, they were almost overflowing with excitement. And they said it was bad. Evelyn, like the person who was invited to join the panel, said that they felt othered and that they felt left out.
And that this often happens to them because of their identities as marginalized in a variety of ways. And, you know, like the people who were in the audience felt uncomfortable. And, you know, I saw some of our leaders saying like, Ugh, this is kind of going in a direction we didn’t expect. And I said to them, I said, but you’re saying all of this to me and you’re smiling and you seem excited. And they said yes, because we got a chance to learn. And I think that our company, because of what we value, needs to be able to show what it means and how you recover when you mess up. Even when that mess up is really stink. And, and so I love that because I, and I said to them, I was like, this is really what it means to have a growth mindset.
Right? It does not mean that… it doesn’t mean that everything is going to work out in the end and you feel better. But it means accepting the fact that even as you’re in the kind of, uh, messiness of it all, you’re recognizing the learning moment and knowing that that learning is what’s important. And also repairing harm that’s done as you learn, right? Um, but in this case really leaning into the fact that this is an opportunity to learn and do better. And I know they will not make that same mistake again because they are so committed to embracing that growth mindset. Feels
Dan Titmuss: Like it’s so important to like sit in that uncomfortableness, right? Yes. Yes. You wrote about the need for signals of belonging in the workplace in order to retain employees. What does that look like in practice?
Dr. Evelyn Carter: So I think it can look like a variety of things, right? So one of them is recognizing the different cues to belonging that people are going to look out for. So I’ve told this story before, um, ‘cause it’s one of my favorites, but when I was in high school and considering which university I was going to go to, my mom and I would go on college tours and we would count the number of black people that we saw. And the reason for this was that my mom rational, my mom’s rationale was that if we saw a lot of black people that would signal that there was a critical amount of, uh, you know, critical mass of people who looks like me and that, that therefore would signal that I would be safe there, right? Because if there weren’t a lot of black people, the question might be where are they?
Were they here and left? If they left, why were they never here to begin with? And if not, why? Right? And the answers to those questions could mean that I as a black female student wouldn’t be welcomed psychologically or physically safe in that space. And so one of those cues, belongings simply is are there people in this space who look like me? And even if there’s, even if the answer to that is not yes. Another question is, are there people here who look different? I think we’ve all seen the examples of going to a company’s, you know, page, um, where they show their employees and like every other person is a white guy with, you know, the same haircut. I think I literally saw once they were all wearing a white shirt and black or blue ties. And I was like, this is actually ridiculous.
Right? So when you see a variety in any kind of setting, it signals that that you will be accepted potentially, right? E even if you don’t fit into kind of the cookie cutter idea of what’s expected to be there. So that diversity can be really important. Another thing that is really important in terms of signaling belonging, um, are little things like not just who occupies the space, but kind of what occupies the space. So what I also would encourage you to think about is, you know, in your theaters, what are the posters of the productions that you are celebrating and that it might be hanging on your walls if you’ve got pictures of your board members or patrons, who are those people? And if they are, you know, every other one as a white guy with the same haircut and a white shirt and a black uh, or blue tie, maybe it’s time to consider what signal that sends about who is welcome in your space. When you are having your, um, your ushers Greek people, are they using binary terms like Mr or Ms for whom somebody who is gender nonconforming or non-binary might not feel seen? Right. There are so many of these kinds of things based upon how we occupy the space and how we design a space that can really send me messages about who belongs and who doesn’t. Yeah.
Dan Titmuss: Like is the door open or is the door closed? But it, it’s not necessarily locked, but it’s not open, if that makes sense.
Dr. Evelyn Carter: Exactly. Exactly. Yeah. And to extend that, it’s like there’s a difference between expecting somebody to come up to a closed door and knock versus the door being open versus you standing outside an open door saying, I would love for you to come in. Yeah.
Dan Titmuss: So many companies have conducted surveys or listening tours to identify their biggest areas for improvement, and employee feedback hasn’t always been favorable. If you are a senior leader, how do you present these findings to the board in a way that feels optimistic rather than discouraging?
Dr. Evelyn Carter: So that’s an interesting question because, um, and I’m gonna do an annoying researcher thing, which is I would challenge the premise of the question to begin with, right? I think that too often we want this work to feel immediately optimistic when the reality is maybe it’s not, maybe it’s bad. Right? When I think about some of the employee feedback that I as a consultant have helped to, to, to deliver or even been a conduit for, I am hearing real experiences from people about how they felt left out, undervalued, devalued, entirely hurt physically, psychologically because of the things that they encountered at work. And for those people, I think it is important that we don’t rush when presenting their very real experiences to saying, well, it’s bad, but it’s gonna get better. Right? Because what we actually should do, to your point earlier, Dan, is say it’s really bad, and what is our role in how we created this environment?
And that’s not going to feel great. The reason it’s so important to stick there though, is that one, you are acknowledging the harm that was done. And that’s really important. If you’re gonna change anything, you need to acknowledge the reality of the situation that you have helped to create. And then what it’s going to allow you to do is say, because we are sitting in this and we are taking with the gravity that it requires the seriousness of the claims that we are hearing, we know how bad it is, and we never want to feel this way again. I would then say, all right, we know the landscape of what it is now, and because we have a growth mindset, we are going to think about what it’s going to require for us to do things differently.
Dan Titmuss: Yeah. If you don’t know, like where you’ve been, you, you’ve got no, no chance of knowing where you’re going.
Dr. Evelyn Carter: Exactly.
Dan Titmuss: Um, what’s the best way to bring employees into the conversation and encourage organization-wide involvement?
Dr. Evelyn Carter: Getting employees into the conversation is as sometimes as simple as saying, this is something that our organization cares about, and we want to hear from you about where there are gaps and what we could be doing differently. Um, something that I consistently see is that when you ask employees about what they have seen and what they want to see differently, you will almost have a fire hose worth of, uh, of ideas, right? So simply signaling to folks, we are listening to you and we care is a great way to get started. I think another way to bring employees into the conversation is to show them what it looks like to really live your organization’s values of diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, and accessibility, right? So telling them here are ways that you can change your behavior in order to live this value. Here is how you can share your pronouns. Here is how, um, you know, you can be thoughtful about the way that you’re interacting with, um, you know, people who walk through our doors. Those are some of the things that I think are really helpful. And then encouraging organization-wide involvement, I think is about having a strategy for what this work looks like, and then being really clear about how you want people to get plugged in.
Dan Titmuss: How do we avoid putting the onus on employees of color to lead the change?
Dr. Evelyn Carter: So in all of the examples that I just gave, I think really the strategic initiatives are being driven by leaders at the top, right? Um, so it is the leaders of the organization who are saying, we want to be committed to these values and here is how we believe this should look. And then they’re being clear on what the involvement is from their employees. They’re saying, employees, we want to hear from you about these particular things. Or, you know, it, it’s, it is being very clear about when you want people to be involved. And that helped put the, helps prevent putting the onus on people of color because you are getting everyone in an organization involved. You’re not just saying people of color. We know that there is an issue with how you are experiencing this, so please tell us what we should be doing differently. It’s taking a strategic, uh, perspective in the same way that you would take a strategic perspective around your, uh, fiscal spending, for example. Right? And then saying, because this is important to our company, we are going to, as the leaders set the plan for what we want to d want to do, and then activate people who are employees alongside those goals accordingly.
Dan Titmuss: Yeah. I think it’s important to not let it be like an extracurricular, you know, like I think there’s a lot of, a lot of companies have that where it is this extra thing that happens rather than the day-to-day work because day-to-day work in terms of DEIBA often winds up low on people’s priority lists. Like, how do we ensure the proper amount of intention is paid to that work?
Dr. Evelyn Carter: Yeah. So I I absolutely agree that, you know, for most people, they have a job that is not necessarily explicitly tied to advancing a company’s diversity, equity, and inclusion goals. I would argue that everyone indirectly has a role to play in those, but what are ways that you can make participating in and caring about advancing DEIBA something that is really important and essential for everyone? Um, some something that that can look like, or if you are doing, um, performance evaluations or performance reviews of any kind, right? Um, asking people about the ways that they have been involved in advancing company values that for that term. That’s one example of how you might do it. Um, if you are an organization that hosts lots of different events that are, you know, um, targeting different areas of the community that you are hoping to bring through your doors, then maybe it means that you expect every person who is an employee of your organization to attend a certain number of those events, right? So thinking about what it can look like to really activate people around this goal and then making sure that there’s accountability put in place is the way to make sure that this doesn’t feel like an extracurricular and that people are providing the proper amount of attention to the work that it deserves.
Dan Titmuss: It makes you think of, um, if one of the values your company has is innovation. It’s not like you have innovation in this 10% of the company. Right? Right. You have innovation everywhere. And sometimes we can say that things are of value, but not necessarily infuse that throughout the entire organization, in which case, you know, you really have to examine like, is this a value? And if it should be, then it’s about making it actively throughout every level and every sort of place it can permeate. Yeah. Um, what are some metrics that can help us measure progress?
Dr. Evelyn Carter: Yeah. So at the beginning of the conversation, you noted that I am a self-described data geek. I love data. This is a place where I will say your metrics should be closely tied to what your initial data points are telling you. For example, I worked with a client that said to me, Evelyn, we wanna do a revamped hiring process because we want to increase our diversity within our organization. And I said, that sounds cool. I’m excited that you’re excited, but how do you know that hiring is a pain point for your organization? And they looked at me and they said, Ooh, we don’t know because we don’t have any data. So what we actually did is began our engagement, looking at data from hiring, broken down by a variety of demographics, and then looking at, um, other areas like retention and attrition, right? So not just who was coming in, but who was staying and who was leaving.
What we found is that on hiring, they were actually doing a really great job of bringing in a consistently diverse in terms of gender and race and ethnicity, uh, group of employees. But what we actually found is that when it came to retention, they were hemorrhaging people of color at rates that were more than twice the rate that they were bringing them in through hiring. So with that organization, I said, you don’t have a hiring problem, you have a retention issue. And so the metrics that you should be focused on are how you are going to improve retention for folks of color. And when you start digging into why they’re leaving, that might tell you some other metrics. Maybe they’re leaving because the benefits that you offer are not ones that, uh, work for this organization. Maybe you’re, um, losing people of color because you’re leaders aren’t speaking up about issues that are affecting communities of color, and so they don’t feel supported by your organization.
Maybe you’re losing people of color because of biased incidents by your managers who are, you know, consistently saying micro and macroaggressions to these folks and so they’re leaving, right? And so when you start to dig into the data, then you can see, all right, here are the different elements that will tell me that change is actually happening. And so I think, you know, staff and audience demographics or employee retention, those are all great examples of things. And if the data that you’re looking at to begin with are telling you, um, we’ve got an issue here, then I would say yeah, continue looking at those metrics. I will just add one more thing, which is that I love quantitative data, right? Which is the numbers, but do not discount the benefit of qualitative data as well. So if you have people who are telling you stories, narratives, um, if you’ve got an assortment of quotes from, you know, feedback on forms and things like that, that is data as well.
Dan Titmuss: Yeah. There’s been a lot of legislation passed recently that’s been pretty disheartening across the us. Um, especially in Florida. Many organizations, especially schools, find themselves contending with new restrictions on DEIBA initiatives. What can someone do if they suddenly find their DEIBA budget slashed?
Dr. Evelyn Carter: So if found that your DEIBA budget is slashed, that probably means that you don’t have the financial resources necessarily to put on kind of bigger learning events, right? So you might not be able to hire in an external speaker or, or whatnot, but there are so many other things that you can do, and those other things begin with your individual actions. So just because your DEIBA budget is slashed does not mean that you need to stop holding people accountable for using inclusive language, right? So I think that personal responsibility is always something that should be a part of the plan in terms of advancing diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, and accessibility. Um, hopefully we would have, you know, literally state and federal sponsored, uh, support as well. But in the absence of that, the personal responsibility doesn’t need to go away. If books are being banned in schools, then seek out resources about how to talk about racism and gender identity and sexual orientation around the dinner table with your family, right? There’s so many other ways that we can continue to have these conversations and simply expose ourselves to different stories, ideas, and perspectives. And that, again, is where entertainment comes in.
Dan Titmuss: You mentioned in an NPR interview that if a company truly takes DEIBA seriously, it should look fundamentally different in five to six years because that deep important work will inevitably change hiring practices and organizational culture. Can you say more about what fundamentally different might look like in this case?
Dr. Evelyn Carter: Yeah. So earlier I said that a company, you know, three years later isn’t gonna look fundamentally different. What’s happening in that two to three years after? I’m kidding. But, um, so I think there are some ways in which it will look fundamentally different. It’s not gonna have solved racism, but some things that will, that I think should be different, the leadership of that organization should be more diverse than it was when it first started, um, for a few reasons. One, because a lot of times we gravitate toward people who are like us and our biases lead us to incorrectly assume that people who are stereo from groups that are stereotyped, be intelligent are the only ones that have the skills or capability to lead in various arenas. And so, if you are interrogating your biases, if you are really living DEIBA is your values, then you should be challenging yourself to say, why is it that I’m only valuing, you know, input from people who look a certain way or who come from a certain university or what have you?
So that awareness should change your behavior. And one of the reasons your leaders should look different is because you have put into place practices such as more equitable hiring, um, and promotion practices that are going to make sure that people who would have otherwise been passed over for promotions or for, um, hiring in your company are given a fair chance at being evaluated. Another way in which your organization is gonna look different is it’s going to have, um, a different perspective on how you acknowledge and address bias in the workplace. A lot of organizations have, in my opinion, outdated HR policies around bias that are only looking for overt evidence of bias at work.
I absolutely want a company to be able to address what happens when somebody uses a racial slur against an employee at their company. And yet that’s not the only way that bias is going to show up. So what we need organizations to do is understand how do we help people when they have been repeatedly misgendered by a coworker who shows no remorse whatsoever? What are the steps that you were going to take to support the misgendered person? And what are the steps you’re going to take to educate and or address the person who is insist who is insisting on misgendering them, right? So having a playbook for how you respond to the ways that bias is going to show up, the ways that exclusion is going to show up is going to be really important, and that’s gonna be something that organizations are gonna do differently.
And then I think the third thing, which is really more of this kind of like fundamental mindset shift is that organizations that have been doing this work for, you know, several years are going to take seriously their role in creating a more inclusive and equitable society. Um, because we are in a capitalistic society, usually whatever I do as a business owner is going to be motivated by one thing, making as much money as possible. And while I’m not, you know, so bold is to believe that capitalism is going to end anytime soon, at least not in, uh, in our current, uh, makeup of society. I do believe that organizations can say, all right, I got two goals, make money and take care of people. Yeah. And those goals don’t have to be in conflict. And what I have seen is the difference that can happen when an organization believes that their job is to take care of people. And so that fundamental difference comes from a mindset shift and that belief in taking care of people leads you to make different decisions than you would if you didn’t have that as one of the core tenants of we are responsible of what, of what you’re responsible for. Yeah.
Dan Titmuss: It’s really interesting to think about like these two different values of like making money and also creating an equitable society. Um, they can often feel like naturally opposed, but I don’t think that is necessarily true all the time, right? Like it can often feel tacky to sort of talk about how it can be profitable to be more diverse. But I think that’s a really important aspect of this that I think a lot of time we don’t mention. Yeah.
Dr. Evelyn Carter: Yeah. So I think what you’re talking about is the business case for Right, right. Yeah. That that that companies and organizations that are more diverse, outperform financially, they’re more homogenous competitors. And I think that that is a good reason to pursue this. But what I, to pursue d e I ba what I think happens when you only pursue it is that that capitalism lens is telling you, well then I just need to get a bunch of people from different backgrounds in a room cuz that’s gonna help me make more money. But that’s not really the, the, the way to do it. Right? So thinking about my job as an organization is to take care of people, well then that means that I can’t just bring a bunch of people who look different into one room. I have to really listen to them. I have to value them, I have to include
Dan Titmuss: Them like a genuine place.
Dr. Evelyn Carter: Exactly. Exactly. And that’s how you get those two goals of making money and taking care of people to work together. That the right thing to do is also the business savvy thing to do. And it’s really cool when that’s true and that is definitely true in the case of DEIBA.
Dan Titmuss: Yeah. Um, let’s talk about the Writers Guild of America strike. Yeah. It’s easy to think the strike is only relevant to entertainment studios, but you’ve said that there’re actually lessons to be learned by all industries. What do you think are the broader philosophical implications here?
Dr. Evelyn Carter: I think what we’ve been seeing over the past decade in particular is a, an increase in employees saying, I am more than just quote unquote a resource. I am a person, I have value and I deserve to be treated as such. And I think that part of the push for inclusion has meant that we have listened to people who are sharing their extort, their stories and experiences of being marginalized. We’re taking them seriously and saying we have to do business differently. And so I think the writer’s field strike is a, is is one example of what it looks like when a group of people say, we are not going to stand for being mistreated a anymore and we are going to demand that we are seen as full-fledged human beings who have rights. And that might seem to some like a very, uh, uh, kind of, uh, a big way to think about the strike. But I do believe that at its core that’s really what this fight is about. It’s a, it’s people demanding to be seen as full humans who have rights and who should not just be seen as these interchangeable resources by the powers that be.
Dan Titmuss: Mm. Yeah. If you could broadcast one message to the executive directors, leadership teams, staff and boards of a thousand arts organizations, what would it be?
Dr. Evelyn Carter: If I had one message for all of those groups, it would be that we are seeing evidence that it is not enough now to simply proactively state your organization’s values for inclusion, for example, you have be willing and prepared to fight for those values. We are seeing an unprecedented attack against LGBTQ plus individuals and particularly against trans folks in our society. And so if you are an organization that says, we welcome trans people, or we are going to showcase, uh, trans folks in our, in our plays, in our productions, what have you, and you don’t have a plan for how you are going to protect those same individuals from fascists who are protesting outside your doors, if you don’t have a plan for how you are going to protect them when they are walking to their car at the end of your production, if you don’t have a plan for how you are going to address the bigoted comments that might come in the reviews following whatever the event is, then you are not doing the work that is required of upholding that value in today’s society. And so it is imperative that you think not just about what it means to quote unquote live that value, but if you have to fight because you know that it is right, what will it look like for you to do that? And having a plan for that, that everyone is aligned with and ready to take action on is what’s going to be required in this next frontier of DEIBA.
Dan Titmuss: That is an excellent point to end on. Evelyn, thank you so much for joining us.
Dr. Evelyn Carter: Thanks for having me. It was a pleasure.
Dan Titmuss: Thank you for listening to CI to Eye. This episode was edited and produced by Karen McConarty and co-written by Karen McConarty and Krisi Packer. Stephanie Medina and Jess Berube are CI to Eye’s designers and video editors, and all four work together to create CI’s digital content. Our music is by whoisuzo. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube for regular content to help you market smarter. You can also sign up for our newsletter at capacityinteractive.com so you never miss an update. And if you haven’t already, please click the subscribe button wherever you get your podcasts. Until next time, stay nerdy.
About Our Guests
Dr. Evelyn Carter
Dr. Evelyn Carter (she/her) is a social psychologist who has conducted cutting-edge research on how to detect and discuss racial bias. Dr. Carter’s research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, and in 2018, she was featured on the Indiana University College of Arts and Sciences “20 Under 40” list. In addition to her peer-reviewed scholarship, Evelyn is a highly sought-after thought leader. Her work and insights have been published in popular press outlets such as The Atlantic, Bloomberg, CBS This Morning, CNBC, Fast Company, Harvard Business Review, and NPR. She also self-publishes a blog series, “Let’s Break it Down,” which merges her love of research, pop culture, and corporate DEI practices. Dr. Carter is focused on evolving and advancing the practice of diversity, equity, and inclusion, which she currently does as the President of Paradigm, the leading DEI firm in the country. Dr. Carter holds a doctorate from Indiana University, a master’s degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and a bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University.
We’re swiftly approaching one of the busiest times of year for arts marketers… and with it, holiday programs, gift campaigns, end-of-year donation pushes, and—to top it all off—strategic planning for next season.