An inclusive culture is one that celebrates and embraces the uniqueness and differences of everyone. There is evidence that companies or organizations with an inclusive culture tend to have people who are highly motivated, engaged, and productive at whatever they do. 

Listen to this week’s podcast episode as Victoria Meyer and Dr. Lauran Star, who is known for transforming leadership and organizational culture, talk about building an inclusive culture and what benefits it can give to all people in a company or organization and even to the quality of the working environment they’re in. 

Here are the interesting topics discussed this week:

  • The origin story of Dr. Lauran Star and the reason why she got interested in DE&I and specifically inclusion
  • The experiences and lessons that Dr. Lauran learned from joining the military
  • Equity and equality in the society 
  • Focusing on evidence-based DE&I 
  • How to grow inclusion in the companies
  • The difference between diversity and inclusion in a corporate environment
  • What’s the business case for inclusion? Why is it not the business case for diversity?
  • How do companies measure inclusion and know if they’re doing it right or not? 
  • Building your leadership bench strength in your industry

Don’t miss this exciting podcast episode. Tune in! 

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Building an Inclusive Culture with Dr. Lauran Star

Welcome back to another episode of The Chemical Show. This week’s episode is being published just prior to International Women’s Day. And this week’s guest is just perfect. Today, I’m speaking with Dr. Lauran Star. She is known for transforming leadership and organizational culture by pushing the edge of the status quo to achieve greater employee engagement, culture, inclusion, and diversity. As the first inclusion and diversity psychologist in the US, Dr. Star focuses on evidence-based inclusion, diversity, and equality. 

As you know, across the chemical industry, we love data and evidence. So this is great. With 20+ years as an executive leader, Lauran is driving measurable change within organizations through data-driven strategies. Her own affinities go beyond being a woman. She is a veteran of the US armed forces, having served in desert storms, She has a learning disability and was raised in a multicultural family. Prior to her corporate life, she performed on and off Broadway. Lauran, welcome to The Chemical Show.

Victoria, thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited to be here. 

I’m just really glad to have you here. Let’s just start with: what is your origin story? What got you really interested in DE&I and specifically inclusion?

Sitting back and looking at all that I have done, it really goes back to my time in the military. When I was in the army, the military has what I like to refer to as “forced inclusion”. In other words, you don’t get to pick your “battle buddy”. They give you your “battle buddy”. This is the person you have to rely on to keep you safe.

There’s no option that you can say “Wait a minute. I want someone else.”  “We’re sorry Lauran, that’s who you’ve got, so you get to fix the problem.” Recognize the strengths this person has. Let them see the strengths that you have, and then recognize where you can help. I didn’t realize this was going on. I was thinking that this is the military. It’s forced unconscious inclusion. I really thrived in that space. I felt I was heard. I was always heard. I always listened to. I did a ton of push-ups. I was always being dropped. I will say I was one of the first women in combat without getting combat pay.

That’s interesting.

Isn’t that interesting? We have to remember as we go back to the 1990s when women weren’t allowed in combat, yet I was a trauma medic. They throw me on a helicopter and send me in to go get someone that needs help. We had gunners, and I was carrying my own F-16. If we have to fire back, we fire back. I remember when they said to me that they were going to send me over, however, I’m not getting combat pay. But they’re going to send me into combat areas. My response to that was okay. I was getting paid. They clothed me, they feed me, they housed me, and I’m getting paid. There wasn’t this thought of, wait a minute. Women’s rights… You know about equity and equality. It just wasn’t there. I’m just going to go do my job. Whatever, it’ll work itself out. I did that for ten years. I’m not full-time because I went there as an inactive ready reserve. But when I went into the workplace, it was very different. 

I jumped into the workplace and it was in 1996 or 1997, it was different. We were just starting to talk about the “D” word: diversity. Affirmative action had run its semi-course, although it was still now being used more collegiately than in the workplace. I’m from the northeast. We’re looking at diversity hiring. Let’s hire diversity. Now, I still have this inclusive lens. It’s part of my foundation without having the word inclusion. My lens was inclusive. I really struggled in the workplace in the early years around this scapegoating. It’s like there’s this glass ceiling. We can’t get ahead. I’m like, well, then leave the company. You either shatter that glass ceiling, or you leave the company because it’s going to cost the company more money to replace you. I don’t think that’s rocket science, but apparently, it is. A lot of women were like, “Oh! I’d never get another job.”  I’m like, ”What are we talking about?”

Diversity is how we measure different affinity groups in an organization. Share on X

That’s an interesting one because I think there’s a lot of fear that is perpetuated. Like, you won’t get another job, you won’t get a job that pays you as well as you have, or you get labeled as a troublemaker. In reality, if I go back to that same timeframe in the early and mid-90s, I know some things that happened. I know some things that happened to my friends, and professionals in the chemical industry who reported bad actions. Let’s just leave it at that. Then, they were scapegoated.

Then, we’re scapegoated. Maybe that’s from the military as well, like I’m accountable for everything that happens in my day to day, including the harassment. Trust me. I’ve been there, done that. I have been harassed. I have probably harassed. When you recognize that it’s harassment, I’m the first one to step up and say, wait a minute. Time out! I’m not going to be the good girl. In the military, I didn’t have to be. 

Why do you say that? What does that mean?

I didn’t have to be a good girl in the military. I was treated just like the other guys. You’re not promoted in the military. Again, the advancement isn’t about if is he or she. The advancement is based on your skill set. Your salary is based on the level when you joined the military. As you build skills, you increase your salary. You increase your pay grade. I had to really approach it with my eyes wide open. 

With the first job I took, I come to find out that I was making a good $15,000 less than my male counterparts. Having this conflict over beers one night, I’m like, you’re an idiot. How did you get $15,000 more than me? He looked at me and said, “You are the idiot.” I bet you didn’t ask. I’m like, what? You can ask for more money? He’s like, “Yeah! Let me show you how.” So we sat there for a good two to three hours, talking about money and how to negotiate. We’re having those difficult money conversations that I’ve never been paid less than my worth since then. 

Good for you. I think many times, women and men but more so women aren’t shown the ways to negotiate. In fact, I speak to women’s groups and corporate groups on negotiating your success. It’s because if you don’t, who will? I think there are a whole lot of reasons behind it, and we won’t get into it today. But often women don’t understand how to negotiate that. It’s hard to have equity, equality, and inclusion when the playing field is so different

When society itself doesn’t allow for equity and equality… There is no level playing field. I think as soon as we recognize that there isn’t a level playing field, I’m never going to see that level playing field in my lifetime. I hope my daughters do. My twin girls are seniors in high school this year. They had a summer job. They were running the camp program. They found out that there was another camp that was offering more money. So they went to their manager and asked for more money. They asked for 50 cents more an hour. We just want to feel we’re valued for what we’re doing. They’re bright girls. The owner pulled them in and berated them. Who do you think you are asking for this? They went in there with what they are bringing to the organization. This is everything I’m doing outside my job description. His response was, “Does your mother know you’re in here talking to me?” 

That’s horrible. 

My girls were like, “No! I mean, she knows we want a raise. But what’s my mother have to do with this?” I was never so proud of my girls when push came to shove. He was like, I want you to think about this. Is that 50 cents worth your job? Both of my girls told him, yeah! Have fun. Good luck. We will find another job. It’s because there are other jobs out there. Then, he called me. I’m just like, where am I? Is this the 1940s or 1930s? So it’s still there. I think what we need to do is just to be teaching each other how to negotiate. That’s what I’ve learned from there. I did my time in corporate and then as DE&I was becoming more and more prevalent, that’s when the light bulb went off. And I was like, oh! This is what I’m missing. 

These organizations are missing that forced inclusion. That’s what we’re missing. I have phenomenal communication skills and problem-solving skills because of the diversity that the military provided. Everybody was heard sitting at that table when we were talking about projects, approaches, or anything that we were doing. We talked it out as a group. I had no glasses. There wasn’t that rose glass. That’s not the history of the military. This was the time that I was in. I just want the audience to know that trust me, the military has made a lot of mistakes around diversity.

Inclusive Culture: Let's look at diversity in an organization without 
inclusion. There's not one study that looks at that. What they were 
measuring actually are outcomes of inclusion. It's because when we 
were looking at inclusion, we see the exact same result without diversity.

 

How is this light bulb around diversity and inclusion in a corporate environment? First of all, maybe how do you differentiate between the two? I think we’ve been having this conversation, we, the industry, companies have been having this conversation for a long time, but we still struggle. So how do we distinguish between diversity and inclusion? Does one matter more than the other? 

I think that’s where we got it wrong. Diversity is how we measure different affinity groups in an organization. There are metrics. It’s a number.

Yeah! We like numbers. They’re tangible and we can measure them. 

The numbers are really good. If I open up a bag of Skittles, and I got red, yellow, green, blue, and purple, I can count how many of each color I have. That’s diversity. It will separate those groups. Now, inclusion is when we take all those Skittles, dump them back in the bag, shake the bag up, and eat a yellow, a green, and an orange together. You get a whole new flavor in your mouth. That’s inclusion. When your employees can come into the workplace and share their ideas and be heard and listened to when employees feel they’re valued, and they’re able to contribute to the organization’s goals, that’s inclusion. Victoria, let’s get back to the data. Where we went wrong is we’ve been selling organizations. I use the word “we” in the royal sense. All of the benefits of diversity are actually benefits of inclusion. They’re not the benefit of diversity.

What’s the business case for inclusion? Why is it not the business case for diversity? 

In all of the studies where the business cases argued for diversity, there was one inclusion-exclusion criterion. All companies that were looked at had to have an inclusive organizational culture.

Okay, how do you identify that?

They would go through that employees felt they belonged, employees felt that they were valued, employees felt they had a shared voice, a voice at the table, part of the decision-making process, and all of these studies. In my Ph.D. and my dissertation, trust me. I’ve read more than I care to ever read on this and evaluating surveys, and studies. There was not one study that looked at diversity as a standalone. So they didn’t go, wait a minute. Let’s look at diversity in an organization without inclusion. There’s not one study that looks at that. What they were measuring actually are outcomes of inclusion. It’s because when we were looking at inclusion, we see the exact same result without diversity. 

I’m gonna say that again. When we look at studies that focus on inclusion, their data results are the same as if they were focusing on diversity. The outcomes are the same. So what you are measuring truly was inclusion. The benefit of the business case for diversity is that you’ll have different perspectives and different thought processes. That’s the benefit of diversity. That is the only benefit of diversity. Now,  that diversity benefit thrives in the organization because that different perspective changes problem-solving, and selling to different clients and increased productivity, and increased job satisfaction. That’s all part of being inclusive.

How do we identify inclusive companies or inclusive cultures? It’s because it feels hard to measure. Again, I can measure diversity because you’re of a different gender, your skin color is different, you’re of different ethnicity, etc. Those are very identifiable things for me to measure. How do companies measure inclusion and know if they’re doing it right or not?

When I go into an organization, or when I’ve gone into an organization in the past, to measure inclusion, the first thing I look at is retention data. What’s your turnover numbers look like? Here’s what we know. When inclusion is not present, you will have a revolving door, especially around those that are marginalized or have strong diversity, like people of color, gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Those people will not stay. They leave. I look at retention data, and I don’t do it on a month-to-month basis from my HR people. I look at retention data from my year lens. How many people in the year left compared to what is your workplace size? Believe it or not, it tells me how inclusive an organization is right out of the gate. 

Recognize the strengths the person has. Let them see the strengths that you have, and then recognize where you can help. Share on X

Don’t you think it’s just about money? I feel like there’s a certain time and population. I say population just in the sense of the type of workplace that they’re in. I know certainly over the last couple of years, we’ve talked about how hard it is to retain employees and hire employees. There’s just been a turn as a result of the pandemic and all the changes that came about. Do you still think that’s a diversity or inclusion issue?

Absolutely! I’m looking at organizations that are strongly inclusive. They have a really strong inclusive culture. They’re not feeling the hit.

Can you give me an example that you’re able to share?

When we look at Anthem Falls, they’re not feeling the hit. I’ve got another company up here who I can’t say their name, but they are a chemical company in New Hampshire. They’re not inclusive. They can’t attract and keep their people. They have what I call the revolving door. They’re like, we want more diversity. I’m like, well, I can’t help you there. You’re in New Hampshire. Let’s talk about inclusion, build that inclusive workplace, and then from there, you will thrive.

Inclusion goes beyond demographics. It’s the whole composition of the workforce, feeling as if they matter, they contribute, their point of view is heard, their efforts are recognized, etc.

I also like to shake out traditionalists and generation Xers, the older generation Xers. If they’re leaving, it’s not so much of a culture issue. They might be retiring. They might be becoming entrepreneurs. Looking at numbers, that’s the age group we see leaving to become entrepreneurs, to retire, or to really start a whole new career plan. The rest stay. They don’t care if it’s inclusive or not. Because they are going to retire in the next 5 to 10 years. For millennials, if it’s not inclusive, they are not saying.

This inclusion means something different to millennials than it does to generation Xers.

No! We’re gonna see the same thing from Gen Z for my kids. Because I raised my kids and I talk a lot about how it’s important that you work for an organization that’s inclusive, and what it looks like. Millennials are so entitled. They’re not. They were raised by Gen Xers that were sick and tired of working 90 hours a week, and not feeling valued. They are much more sensitive to that inclusive feel. They also had a lot more exposure to it. Because millennials are our team generation, where they all played sports teams. Some of them got medals that they probably didn’t deserve. I don’t care. Moving on from that. They are used to that inclusive feeling. So now we send them out into the workplace that is focused on diversity, not inclusion. They get in there. Then, within three months, we see the millennials going, “I’m out of here.” This is not what I want. I’ll find another job because it is still a job market.

Yes, it is. 

I think organizations need to wake up and recognize that. It’s a culture issue. We know from the research that people leave because of culture first, and then their leaders next. Pay is number seven on that list as to why people leave. So back to measuring inclusion, we take a look at any survey data, engagement surveys, that you’ve done, are you measuring inclusion? Do I feel heard? Do I trust my managers or my leadership team? Am I part of the decision-making process? We can grab that data and look at that data, then I look at leadership bench strength.

Okay, what does that look like?

What does your succession planning look like? What is your bench strength look like? You’re not building your succession planning if you’re not building your leadership bench strength. You are going to be caught with your pants down because we have more leaders leaving organizations than we have talent. It’s a critical component. I like to look at leadership bench strength, and then I apply the diversity lens. What does that leadership bench strength look like? Does the leadership bench strength look the same as the overall employee talent pool?  Do those diversity numbers work? If they do, there’s inclusion. 

If they don’t, if your leadership bench strength is predominantly male are white, or females are white because I’ve seen that as well, so don’t think that it’s just a male. I’ve seen companies that will have a bench strength of all women. And I’m like, what about that man? There’s a huge perspective you’re missing there. We look at that leadership bench strength. How strong is it? How diversified is it? Then, I like to look at what they’re doing training-wise because training is for knowledge only. The only goal training should have in your organization is to build knowledge. That’s it. Build knowledge and build skills. It’s not going to drive diversity. It’s not going to drive inclusion, but it will provide a foundation for inclusion. It does not have for diverse.

Recognize the strengths the person has. Let them see the strengths that you have, and then recognize where you can help. Share on X

It starts to equalize skill sets, behaviors, etc. What strikes me, Lauran is if we look at what’s happened over the past three years during the pandemic, there’s one part of this where it feels like we’ve got this heightened focus on sustainability, sustainable development goals. A lot of which are around people, inclusion, bracing poverty, and all various things. At the same time, it kind of feels like we’ve gotten a bit less inclusive. When I look at the challenges of the pandemic, people working from home, greater pressures on child care, certainly in the first years or so and longer than that, depending on where you were during the pandemic, it has made many companies, in and out of the chemical industry. It kind of takes a step back in inclusivity, or at least the effectiveness of their inclusion efforts. Are you seeing the same thing?

Yeah! I think one of the upsides to the pandemic is the fact that it’s becoming clearer and clearer where organizations are spending their money and spending their efforts. Those organizations that are diversity-first, they’re falling apart. Any inclusion that they started has fallen apart. They don’t have that foundation in place. On the flip side, we’re now seeing much more diverse hiring because of this new normal. It’s because now I can hire someone from Alabama if I’m working in Boston. Also, if you can do those virtual or remote positions, it’s a great way to increase diversity. But you need to have foundation and inclusion. I don’t think organizations are really getting that you have to spend the time and the money to train your leaders or your managers. What inclusion looks like on a Zoom call? It’s very different.

I was about to bring that up. I also think about remote working. A lot of companies are coming back into the office, but many are not in the office full-time. You’re in the office two or three days a week while working at home or working remotely. I think, across the industry, we’ve often worked remotely when you’re traveling, you’re in a just different location, you’re visiting customers, or whatever it is that you’re doing. It’s hard to be inclusive when you’re used to just turning, swiveling your chair around, or walking around the corner to somebody else’s desk. And now you can’t.

Wow! I’m gonna challenge you, Victoria. 

Okay! Bring it on. 

It’s not that it’s hard to be inclusive, like walking around until I get more work done at home. I’m so much more productive working remotely than I am face-to-face. I’m quite the chatty one. I just walk around the office. First off, look at my office. What does it tell you about me? You don’t get to see that when we’re face-to-face all the time. I’ve got my books. I’ve got my diplomas. If you saw my whole office, you’d be like, oh, my God! She is spastic because it’s just crazy. It’s so much color down here. This is the tone-down wall.

Me too, actually. There’s a lot more color in my office than this. Absolutely!

Now, we’re getting a glance at your home life, and you’ve got a dog. We can have it right now. It’s a very different level. I’m noticing on strong teams and Zoom calls that these managers and leaders are doing icebreakers at every call.

Do people are still doing this? I hear collectively, people are fatigued. Are people still doing icebreakers? How do we break past that fatigue?

I think we’re stressed. I think we need to recognize, on the flip side, that we should stop having meetings just to have meetings to check on your people. That’s fatigue. If I get off of a meeting, and I’m like, I’ll never get those two hours back. That’s my comment to the leader. I never get these two hours back. Please, take me off this list. We have to take a little bit of ownership around that fatigue. You’re sitting in front of a computer screen all day.

A lot of times people show up in the office and then sit on Zoom or for teams, or whatever it is that they’re on. 

I also have to manage my own fatigue because I can sit at my desk for eight hours straight. I won’t eat anything. I drink my water. I have to put on my phone reminders every hour to get up and walk around for 10 minutes. I do that because I know my circadian rhythms start to downshift. So I try not to have any meetings longer than 20 minutes because I know at that 20-minute marker, you’re shifting your focus. You feel like you’re going to shift over. I’d much rather focus on team meetings that are one focus that we can hit in 20 minutes and then come back a week from now rather than being bogged down in these three to four-hour team meetings. That’s exhausting. That’s not inclusion. 

Coming back to teaching our leaders ways to be more inclusive, what are a couple of things that leaders can be doing to help foster inclusion in their organization?

Get to know your people. Work on your cultural intelligence.

What does that mean? We hear about emotional intelligence, but what’s cultural intelligence?

We have to have emotional intelligence first before we have cultural intelligence. Cultural intelligence is being aware of different cultures around you. I like to think of cultural intelligence as looking at the world without the rose-colored glasses on and having that wonder of a five-year-old. When my son was five, the neighbors that lived down the street from us were Hindu. They have the Buddha and they would celebrate their high holidays in October. My son wanted to go there and they do the fireworks. So I just picked up the phone and called them, hey! My son wants to come. Oh, come on down. The more, the merrier. And, my son can tell you everything about the Hindu religion, and the culture of those that follow it. Right now, he’s in college. He still has that one of a five-year-old. He’s like, these cultures are really unique and different.

How do you do that respectfully in the workplace? Again, at work, we have boundaries. Our boundaries are different at work than at home. Leaders need to be very mindful of boundaries. So how do you do that mindfully?

I highly encourage you to take a cultural intelligence course. That will teach you the knowledge and the social norms of different cultures and understanding those social norms so that you don’t make a fool of yourself. You understand what that scarf is called. You don’t touch another person’s braids. You start understanding those norms that each individual has come into the workplace, and then keep building upon that. There is a need for vulnerability from our leaders right now. They don’t want to appear that they’re wrong, or that they don’t know everything. I’m sorry. You don’t, and it’s okay to ask. I mean, I have my Ph.D. and DE&I, and I’m still asking all the time because I don’t know everything. 

I never will know everything, which is a good thing. That means I keep growing. So our leaders need to build those relationships with their teams where they can be vulnerable, where they can not only be vulnerable but open up the dialogue within their team to have social norms conversations. There’s nothing wrong with that. Provided that you’re not using racist terms, and you’re using workplace language, there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, I highly encourage it, whether you’re virtual or not, or if you’re face to face. I always feel that food and wine are the binders to humanity. If you have a very diverse team, thrive in that. That is so awesome. Let each person shine. There are boundaries. So you have to set those boundaries up for your team. But that’s the reminder of, we don’t want to overshare. We want to share what’s appropriate in the workplace.

That’s helpful. One of the things you talked about that really sparked with me is that we’d look at the chemical industry. It’s an old industry. It’s industrial, and it is STEM-focused. Because of its history, it can be really hard to recruit people, in particular, women and minorities into the industry, which makes it hard to be diverse, which is our measurement, which also affects inclusion. What are the opportunities to change? One that does this makes it harder given that we’re very STEM-focused. How do we create inclusion more effectively in the industry and bring more diversity into the industry? What do you observe? What do you see and what do your clients see?

In the chemical industry, it’s really fascinating. I will say that the majority of chemical companies I’ve worked with get it. I like to think of my chemical community as my critical thinkers. They get it. I don’t have to explain things 20 times. They get it the first time and we can move on. When we talk about increasing that diversity, inclusion is the way to increase that diversity and build an inclusive organizational culture. When I get a call that we want you to come in and increase diversity in the chemical company, the first question is how do you know you don’t have diversity in your company? If only 23% of graduates are female in chemical engineering, how many women do you have working for you? It’s because you can’t have 23%. Look at the numbers.

Inclusive Culture: When your employees can come into the workplace 
and share their ideas and be heard and listened to, and when employees 
feel they're valued, and they're able to contribute to the 
organization's goals, that's inclusion.  

 

I agree. You can’t change the demographics back to your earlier point. Match the demographic out that need to match the demographics along across the organization. 

That number is lower for people of color who are graduating. I think we need to step back and go, wait a minute. How many disabilities? How many veterans? Let’s look at the whole spectrum of diversity. I also want you to recognize that as humans, we are 99.9% similar in the DNA code. That leaves 0.01% for our specialization. That’s our unique and I am diverse from you, Victoria. We have different eye color. We live in different areas. We had different childhoods. So we already have some of that diversity. When you build that inclusive organizational culture, when everyone is feeling heard, then you bring up, how do we recruit? How do we drive attracting more diversity? Here’s why we want problem-solving. It’s understanding our customer base. Okay, how are we going to get that? 

This is where you utilize your ESG, Environment, Social, and Governance. Are you doing anything at the local university to attract women into STEM or minorities into STEM? I always come back and say, what are you doing to increase enrollment in your local university? But if we’re not doing anything, then you’re part of the problem. It’s because we just can’t manufacture diversity if we’re not showing the way. I have one organization here up in New Hampshire that actually created a STEM program for all in high school, but it was really geared and the language was geared towards women of color with low socioeconomics. 

One of my daughters is going into chemical engineering, and she’s going into chemical engineering tissue. It’s really cool. Your industry is changing. It’s no longer just chemical. She would not have gone into this program. It’s because we’re in a solid school district. They looked at a socio-economic area that had a lot of diversity in their student population, especially girls. They created a STEM light bulb program. They meet after school. They met with all kinds of chemical engineers. They met with a few other engineers as well, like mechanical, civil engineers, mechatronics, and robotics. Then, if you are part of the program, here was the dangle. If you’ve completed the program, they gave you $1,000 towards college. I am guaranteed an internship for your freshman year. 

That’s worth even more. That’s huge.

I just sit back and I was so amazed. There were 20 graduates last year. They’re all going to STEM colleges, and they’re all going to come back next year. They’re in their freshman summer and doing an internship with this company. It’s not a paid internship in their freshman year. They’re sure money of $20,000. That’s amazing! Now, we have loyalty. Because one thing we know about diverse candidates, they tend to be a lot more loyal. If the organization is inclusive, why would I ever want to wreck that boat? It’s because I’ve been kicked on the head enough in society. We don’t have the numbers we want right now. But in five years, we are going to be leading.

I think what’s interesting about that is it is a long game. To your point, it’s hard to get 50% women in leadership at a chemical company. You’re not hiring 50% of women. There are not 50% of women come out with STEM degrees. It takes a long time. There are a couple of organizations, one in particular, that I’ve done some work with Chemical Educational Foundation, CEF. We actually target students of all genders, races, et cetera. But it targets students in middle school to get them interested in chemicals and chemistry because you have to plant the seeds early. Because you can’t fix it at the tail end if you haven’t fixed it at the beginning.

When we think of STEM in general, in my generation, we were told that we weren’t good at math. We weren’t good at science. Well, I don’t rock at math. I rock at science. That’s not where girls went. You became nurses, or you became teachers.  That was our generation. Now, we have companies that grew up with my generation going. We want more diversity, but we haven’t done a whole lot. We have initiatives in place to get more people of color, but what are you really doing? Neurodiversity is hot right now. It is hot. One organization that I’m working with in Boston just started a neurodiversity program, and they’re all computer kids.

I don’t really know what neurodiversity is.

I am neurodivergent. I have a learning disorder. I am very dyslexic. My daughter is dyslexic. She’s the one that’s going into chemical engineering. So she can’t write stuff down. She visualizes it and then she’ll just give you the answer. It’s weird, but it works. She’s considered neurodivergent. She has a learning disability. ADHD is neurodivergent. On the spectrum is neurodivergent. Anybody with a brain that works differently, is what we consider neurodivergence. 

Somebody with high levels of anxiety, we now know that anxiety really is a brain disease. That’s neurodivergence. So we need to be looking at where can these individuals go to work. At the colleges up here, we’re starting to see in STEM, neurodivergent classes that are targeting these students who are on the spectrum. Because when you have a student that’s on the spectrum, what data has shown us is they tend to be very specific towards math and chemistry. We’re now creating engineers because the universities are teaching neurodivergently.

Then, we need to have companies.

That’s that inclusive lens. I work with managers when I spent a great deal of time training them, and the workplace to understand that, well, Scott may not want to talk to any of you. Scott is just going to be plugged into the computer and have his headset on. Here’s how you get Scott’s attention. Then, you have to recognize it’s not personal. Scott’s going to give you an answer and then go back to work. There’s nothing you can do. That’s just how his brain works. But if you have a problem, give it to Scott because he’s going to find the answer very quickly. Then, Scott, you did such a great job. He may not show it. But everybody wants to feel like they belong.

We know from the research that people leave because of culture first, and then their leaders next. Pay is number seven on that list as to why people leave. Share on X

Absolutely! What this tells me in this conversation, as well as our definitions of diversity, or our recognized definitions of diversity are expanding. Our types of inclusion are expanding. The importance is there. The importance is far more recognized now, maybe than it used to be. But it’s a continuous evolution.

It’s a continuous evolution. If we want to see change happen in the chemical industry, we have to be part of that change. We have to be sponsoring individuals who aren’t typical, or who are different from us. We have to go out of our way to create programs that are going to entice different thinkers. It’s because, in the 1980s and 1990s, we were fine with this linear thinking. But we are now in a globalized business frame. The problems that you’re solving here in the United States, those solutions won’t work anywhere else, but in the United States. We need to be thinking bigger, and we need to be expanding our own industry. As I said, my daughter’s going into tissue design and that’s under the Chemical Engineering umbrella. She’s going to be creating organs from a 3-D printer based on chemistry.

We couldn’t even imagine that.

We couldn’t even imagine that. She’s like, oh, my gosh! This is what I absolutely love. She just gets it and we need to recognize that. It’s changing. The world is changing as an industry change with it, or it will get replaced. 

Presumably, and I say presumably because, if we come back to the data, the data will show that ultimately, the companies that create the most long-term value will be the most inclusive of their own organization, their customers, suppliers, and business partners. At the end of the day, we have to believe it creates value. As humans, we know it creates value. As companies, it creates value.

You’ve got whole generations that are coming up now that expect it. It’s not like, I want to feel valued. That was my dad. My dad was like, you know, you need to get a job. Put on your 50 hours a week. You got a gold watch. Who cares if you were valued? You got a paycheck. Now, where’s my impact? Where am I valued?

Awesome! Well, Lauren, this has been great. I really appreciate you joining us. We’ve kind of gone through the whirlwind of diversity and inclusion. They are helpful. If people want to learn more about inclusion and diversity in the work that you do, where can they connect with you? How do they find that out? 

You can either find me on LinkedIn, Dr. Lauran Star, or you can go to my website, drlauranstar.com. Everything is right there.

Awesome! Well, thank you for joining us today. Thanks, everyone for joining us on The Chemical Show. We’ll talk to you again soon. 

 

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About Dr. Lauran Star:

Dr. Lauran Star’s known for transforming leadership and organizational culture, by pushing the edge of the status quo to achieve greater employee engagement, culture, inclusion, and diversity. As the first Inclusion & Diversity Psychologist in the United States, Dr. Star’s focus is Evidence Based Inclusion, Diversity & Equality (ID&E). With 20+ years as an executive leader, Dr. Star is raising the ID&E bar while driving measurable change within organizations through data-driven strategies. 

 

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