Hey guys! Let’s talk workplace diversity today – Sounds like a boring topic, right? Nothing could be further from the truth! It’s so critical for so many reasons! Join Joseph Cephas and me today and learn why!

“You’re just hiring the best candidate. Yes. You should be hiring the best candidate. But where is your pool of candidates coming from? That’s what you have to look at. Is your lack of diversity in your pool of candidates due to the lack of access that the potential candidates have to your business? So.. are you posting in all the same places and getting a lack of diversity in the people that are applying? Are you posting in different places where there might be different types of people? … It’s just like if you had a different job… like if you went from looking for an HR Manager, to maybe a Social Marketing Manager… you wouldn’t be looking at the exact same places or on the same job boards for both of those positions. Are you looking in different areas for diverse candidates and then picking from that pool, who the best candidate is? … There are so many things that we have to understand. We say systemic racism and problems are happening in the systems that exist. There’s there’s a real pipeline problem that is happening for many different industries of people not entering, and not having access to proper education and school systems and things like that. And this is a problem that Black people did not create, you know…but they’re called upon to fix these problems.”

– Joseph Cephas


September 16. 2020. Hey guys, Peter Shankman, good to have you here again for another 20 minutes and locked down. I am live this day, not from my kitchen where I’ve been for the best six months, my bedroom, because when you homeschool, you don’t have control over what part of the apartment you get. And what used to be, uh, my daughter at, uh, at her desk in her office is now my daughter, well, I need the living room, daddy. Cause it’s the only place we can do our gymnastics cause they have gymnastics class. So there we go. Okay. Enough about me. Let’s introduce Joseph C. Joseph is the SVP over in Novita PR uh, an agency in New York and he is talking primarily, they were here about diversity in all its forms, diversity in skin, color, diversity and sexual orientation, diversity in the brain, neurodiversity, things like that.

Welcome Joseph. Good to have you, man. Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it. So you’re here today at a Brooklyn. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Out of Brooklyn, Fort green, Brooklyn recording live. And he’s these guys over there that I got looking out my window as well. So that’s all. Yes. Yes. Hazy skies. Yeah. It’s weird.

So tell me about diversity. Tell me why it’s important to you. Tell me how you sort of got how that became sort of your niche as it were.

Sure. Sure. So I’m, I’ve been in PR our marketing, um, my entire career. I was doing it for many different associations working out of Washington DC. Um, and then, uh, I came into the American society of interior designers where I was their VP of marketing and branding and the design community was very large. You know, we had over 25,000 members, you know, the design community of every sector of residential, to commercial, doing things like airports and design of all types of buildings, you know, and, and that conversation of we spend 93% of our time indoors was, you know, which is crazy to think about that; we spend that much of our lives and doors, and now we’re even more than he didn’t say

And that was previous, right? Yeah. Yeah. That was, I mean, if you think that 93% of our lives are spent indoors and then this year is going to throw that number off even more, but. The way that that space affects you. Um, it is it’s huge, you know, and it’s something that a lot of people don’t think about, but then when I looked at designers and I looked at the architecture community, There’s a real lack of diversity, um, in the people that are creating these spaces. So that under-representation, um, it was a real issue. And that really started to become what I was speaking about of like, trying to dissect that issue of why that’s the case, the people building these spaces, why are only 2% of ASID members? Why were they black? You know, like, like why was that number so low and the entire design community? Why was it only 6% architects? You know, why was it down around 4% then when you look at black women only make a 0.3% of licensed architects. So I’m like the importance of these buildings. Why is there such a lack of diversity? Um, so I, then when I, when I moved to Novita um, you know, the. While we are, we’re a PR firm, but we specialize in architecture and design, both on the manufacturing side and architects and designers in addition to other sectors as well, but, um, you know, this was something that really. Hit home for me. Um, especially actually, uh, after, uh, the murder of George Floyd, you know, so like after that, I immediately, within 48 hours, I turned around and put together a panel discussion with leaders in the design community and we got over 500 people that register really quickly, um, and that really started me on the path of really like I’m, I’m like, I haven’t changed what I’ve been saying, but now people are listening because of what happened to George Floyd

And, you know, in, in, from an architecture perspective, you know, it’s, it’s a legacy that lasts hundreds of years. I mean, if you look at, I’m looking out my window right now, and I’m seeing everything from the worldwide Plaza to the new, the two middle fingers on 57th street, um, you know, to the Time Warner center and all those, all those buildings have gone up in the past 20, 25 years. And there’ll be at well , uh, uh, or worldwide Plaza with up in the seventies, but everything else has been going to pass one years and I’ll be here for the next 50. And so, you know, it’s a legacy that lives and, and I’m not very diverse one at that.

Yeah. Yeah. And that’s in, you know, when you think about that and you, and you try to, you try to dissect, why is that this, you, you know, why is it the issue? And, you know, The lack of diversity is an in every industry, every industry has been wrestling with this problem for many years, but I’m like, why is it so much worse in that when it comes to this and the buildings that we live in, you know, that lack of diversity, lack of representation, um, because there’s so much of the space that we live in, it’s storytelling. There’s so many stories that are told through those buildings and then you get even deeper into there’s so many the buildings that were built that, um, black people help create, um, you know, that going back into the 1700’s and 1800’s, even go back to the 1600’s that they have no credit for, you know, that, that black people play a significant role in that. There’s just no credit.

So what did you, you discover, you know, in, in, in, in the research that you’ve done and had been doing?

Yeah. So, I mean, it’s, it’s many, many, many different issues. Um, you know, I think one of it is one of the biggest things is um, the lack of presenting it as an option at a young age, you know, I think that, um, architecture and design is not presented to different, diverse communities as an option as a career, you know, so like that, in that pipeline, building that pipeline for years to come. And then there’s the, there’s the lack of representation in leadership roles right now. So young black kids don’t see people that look like them in the leadership positions in this sector, so and they’re not going to go after that because they’re like, there’s no opportunities there. I always say that, you know, no matter what your political affiliation is, you know, there’s, there’s a huge group of kids who once they saw president Obama, they were like, Oh, I can be president. Like, like they were like, I can do that; cause somebody that looks like me has actually done that, you know? And that’s why it’s so important. And that’s why we celebrate so much diverse people that have been pioneers because then there’s a whole group of people behind them that are like, Oh, I can actually do this.

Well. I mean, it’s the same aspect. When, when Sally Ride became our first female astronaut. You know, the, the numbers of, um, uh, applications over the next five years of females to NASA, uh, was, was something like 72% higher than it’s ever been. Right. You know, same thing when, when the first Asian I believe was Ellison Onizuka, unfortunately he was on Challenger, but it was, it was again, you saw those numbers go up. So that’s a very, very sharp point, you know, but you look at the lines of what do, what can companies today, small businesses who are out there who say, okay, I have been watching, everything’s been going on. I’m not okay with it and I want to make change. What do I do?

Yeah. Yeah. And that’s something that we’ve been trying to answer that question as much as possible. Um, you know, it’s just, there’s been so many questions of, okay, what do we do now? Like, like where your attention has been grabbed, you’re you’re starting to recognize the issue and you’re like, okay, what can I do? Um, and I think it always starts with hiring practices, you know, and some is there there’s. There’s even been that question of people that are saying, you know what I want to do better. I haven’t been getting any applicants, you know the positions that are diverse? And I’m like, well, part of it is, you know, is that true? We’re not looking in different places. There’s so many hiring. There’s so much hiring that happens. That’s word of mouth, friends of friends, you know, somebody knows somebody coming out of school, um, internships, even, you know, like, are you looking at schools and programs that have diverse backgrounds? Um, and, and you know, when hiring and when looking at black candidates, it’s so it’s so often that people, um, I, I don’t always think it’s intentional, but they look at with black candidates, what they can’t do when, when it’s white candidates, they look at what they can do. You know, they focus on the streets it’s and they’re like, okay, they can do this. They might have some short falls here, but it doesn’t matter. Look at these strengths when it’s a black candidate, they’re like, okay, are there weaknesses? There’s, you know, and don’t focus on those strengths. So it’s just like, you have to start looking in different places and you have to look at the strengths because the strengths may be different than the traditional client, uh, the traditional. Um, potential hire that you’ve had in the past.

It’s a really interesting point. I remember I was working with a, uh, with a bank. Um, they were trying to improve their, their, uh, market share in, uh, lower income. They rep primarily middle income and they were looking to expand the lower income, that’s how they wanted to help. And they said, but we don’t know, you know, we can’t get any idea of what they’re looking for. And I said, well, create an advisory board, create an advisory board of people. And so I come back and I’d finished, we will implement that. I came back a few months later. I’m like, so you know, show me the advisory board. It was like 15 white kids from the most, the most expensive college in the area. I’m like, Oh my God, how stupid are you!? That’s sitting right there in front of you and I think that if you just, if you take off the glasses and look just a little bit further than, than, than, than where you were sort of, you know, it’s funny, I used to call it. Um, so I, I went to high school in Manhattan and I slept on Staten Island cause my parents, for some reason, lived there and, um, I always, I take a ferry and I joke that all the people that took the ferry and step out from stepping out in Manhattan, knew the ferry and the four blocks around their office. They knew nothing else about Manhattan. And it was incredibly narrow minded way of thinking. Right. You have the arts opera. You have, you have the museums, but all you know is that video store and Nelly around your office. Right? So moving, moving, and a little bit open and opening up your eyes a little bit more, or an actually had a question I want to post. What is more important? Diversity, gender, age, race, we’re blindly hiring the best candidate, knowing person to be based on resume and telephone conversations. So should diversity be equally proportional of society or not.

So this, and this is a question that often comes up, you know, it’s just like, okay, you know, you just hiring the best candidate, just hiring the best candidate. You’re just hiring the best candidate. Yes. You should be hiring the best candidate, you know, but where is your pool of candidates coming from? Right. That’s what you have to look at is your lack of diversity in your pool of candidates, due to the lack of access that the potential candidates have to your business, you know? So it’s just like, You’re like, okay, I’m posting in all the same places. I’m getting the lack of diversity in the people, um, um, that are applying. Are you posting in different places where there might be different types of people. It’s just like if you had a different job, you know, like if you had a different job posting, you know, like if you went from looking for an HR manager to a, maybe a social marketing manager and somebody who’s specialized social media, you won’t be looking at the exact same place isn’t posting on the same job boards for both of those positions. Are you looking in different areas for diverse candidates? Do you know? And then. Picking from that pool who the best candidate is, because, and then also like, this is one of my big issues is that, um, you know, there are so many things that we have to understand. We say, you know, systemic racism and problems that are happening in the systems that exist. Like. There’s there’s a real pipeline problem that is happening for many different industries of people not entering and not having access to proper education and the school systems and things like that. And this is a problem that black people did not create. You know, it’s not like black, we put they’re called upon to fix this problem. And it’s like, okay, well, so it’s like, what are you doing to go back and fix the pipeline problem as well? Because this is not a says that, you know, so it’s like, Fix that pipeline plus then look for a pool of candidates in different places. Cause that’s, then you can still say I’m hiring the best person, but you’re increasing your pool, you know? Like, and that’s that, I think that’s one of the biggest issues.

What is Novita doing specifically? What would it be implemented there?

Yeah, so we’ve done multiple things. One of the big things that we did is that we started this pledge, um, with us and, uh, we’ve had about 30 other PR agencies that have, um, that have signed on to it. You know, some of the competitors and, you know, people that we’ve worked directly with partnered with in the past and this pledge one, some of the things that we look at, we look at our own hiring practices where we’re going to start looking at if there is a diverse candidate that somebody. Ultimately did not hire that week; we said we will share that candidate with others. We’ll start looking at pro bono work that we can do for small businesses that are diverse business owners. Um, so you know, there, this pledge has many different steps of ways that we can both use our expertise and changing our hiring practices to diversify our staffs in the and give small businesses and different businesses that are doing good and doing social good. Um, the, the, the, the access to PR.

Very smart. Orin had a follow up question was earlier one, which is how do you do that based on what you were saying about it’s widening the pool. How do you do that past indeed and glass partnering with different schools?

You know, like, I mean, historically black colleges and universities, they have their own job boards that they have that they look at. Have you, you know, look at those that the schools that have programs in whatever field it is, like if somebody has a, for me, somebody has a strong communications or PR um, you know, the department, you know, I’m like, I want to look at that. Yeah. As well, you know, so that’s one thing that you can do, and that does not take a lot more work. That’s like an extra looking at a different job or looking at new job boards, um, you know, looking at the different schools that have strong programs. It’s like 30 more minutes of work, you know, that’s the thing that, you know, it’s not a lot more work. Um, but yeah, it’s one of those things that I think it’s no different than if you were hiring. I always say to that, like when people will start to change their hiring practices, you know, they’re, they’re like, okay, I don’t know where to start. And the re and, and, you know, get, they get kind of paralyzed by that, you know, they’re like, they’re like, I don’t know what direction to go. And it’s like, There’s ton of resources out there just Googling where to find diverse candidates or where to find black candidates. If that, you know, like, and there’s a ton of results that will come up and historically black colleges and universities are one first places to always start.

I had my hat, I had head of diversity for Adobe on my other podcast a couple of weeks ago. And she said, literally word for word, it was the exact same thing. She goes, look out there. They’re there. They do it. Yes. Anything surprised you since you’ve really started doing this? Uh, what is, what has surprise you more than anything else?

Yeah. So, I mean, I have been, you know, over the recent years I’ve been pretty jaded on diversity issues. You know, I’ve been, I I’ve done a lot of work in it, but I’ve been pretty pessimistic, you know, but, but, over the past few months, I’ve been a little more, I was a little more optimistic, um, you know, than I had been. I’m like, you know what? I think real change might actually start to happen, that we might start to make progress on these issues. Um, you know, of diversity, uh, and, and not just diversity, but then once people get in, um, the discrimination that they feel like, I think there’s a lot of eye opening that’s happening. That’s happening with the, um, and one of the things that I’m pleasantly surprised at is that we’re starting to look at the mental health effects of racism. That’s one of the things that I’m really pleasantly surprised about. Cause I mean, it’s, the feeling that I feel, um, you know, when I see a police officer is a lot different than a lot of people- in the stress and the anxiety that comes from that. Um, and then there’s just, you know, that sounds a very macro level, but then when you start to look at the workplace, you know, there’s so many microaggressions that happen. There’s so much discrimination that happens that people don’t even realize, um, you know, and. For black people, there was, it was for so long, there was no outlet to even talk about it, you know, like you couldn’t even bring it up. The only time she brought it up is amongst your friends. And, you know, like, and, and, and amongst maybe your black colleagues and things like that, that was the only safe space to talk about it. And that, and that wears on you. You know, like, and I think the, now we’re starting to address some of that discrimination as an HR issue and start to, and the actual impact that it has on black people. It’s like, Hey, this, this is an HR issue, like many other issues that we’ve addressed in the workplace. Um, that there’s still so many. There’s still some discriminations and things that happen to workplace that we still need to work on, but this is one of the ones that you like, you know what, let’s put it in the same, but let’s start to really look at it and examine it the same way that we look at, you know, women’s issues, you know, in the workplace, you know, where that it took so long for us to make any progress on that. and we still have so far to go, you know, but recognizing that there’s a problem here, I think is a big first step.

A lot of the, my other sort of life is I’m massively ADHD. And I host a podcast called Faster Than Normal, which focuses on neurodiversity is a gift, not a curse. And, uh, one of the things I found is that when I talked to companies big and small, and I say, Hey, you know, studies are out that say close to 25% of your workforce in the next 10 years is going to be neurodiverse. How are you planning on hiring them? How are you planning on keeping them, how are you selling to your audience? You know, and all of a sudden that all of a sudden becomes a real monetary issue. And I find that the second because of monetary issue. They listen even more. Yeah, a little bit a while I was talking to a restauranteur who said, well, we really want to improve, you know, we, we, we did everything for our doors can fit, um, can fit mobility, scooters into that. And I go to there and you know how we want to attract neurodiverse. I go to their menu and they have 125 items on a rotating digital menu with ads that overlay I wanted to shoot myself in the hand I’m like, no, this is. Yeah, let’s put it in and out burger where they have the hamburger, cheeseburger, fries, and you’re done. Right. You know, so, so it’s that same thing when they realize Holy crap, this could be costing us millions, if not billions, it was a wake up call.

Yeah. And that, and that goes to policy and practice, both things need to happen. One thing for the practice, these to follow that policy. Like there’s so there’s companies that have done well, I actually heard about company that, um, you know, one of my friends would had, um, they were consulting for the, for a company that had started paternity leave, you know? And they’re like, you know, they, it was the big thing. They were like, yes, yes. We’re, we’re really touting it. You know, it’s paternity leave. We’re going to have it w you know, like, And then a year later they went back and said, so how’s it going? Not one person had used it because they did not feel comfortable and thought that it would be used against them in the future. And it’s like, okay, you established a policy, but have you created an environment where it can actually be used, allows for it? Yeah. So it’s just like, so no, it’s the same thing that you were saying where people were like, okay, we’re going to make some changes. We’re going to do some things to the policy, but then when it came to actually implementing something, they were like, they fell short, you know.

Same thing in the customer experience world where companies, you know, we put our customer centric customer first and you can do anything to make the customer happy except no one does it, cause they’re afraid they’re gonna get fired.

Yeah. Great.

This has been a phenomenal conversation. I definitely want to have you back again. I saw, I heard your decision interview a couple of last month. I think it was, it was really good as well. So yeah. Do people find more? Where can they find you? So I’m on Instagram, a J_Cephas, and also you can follow our, uh, my company @NovitaPR

Awesome. Thank you so much, guys. Thanks for watching 20 Minutes In Lockdown. We will see you again probably next week with another interview from someone who is more than likely at their home in their office, in their living room. Alright, thanks guys. We’ll talk to you soon.

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