Supporting Women of Color in the Workplace


In this episode we talk to Stephanie LeBlanc-Godfrey, Global Head of Inclusion Programs for Women of Color at Google about different ways we can support, promote, and invest in women of color not just in the workplace but at home and in our communities.


Stephanie LeBlanc-Godfrey is Global Head of Inclusion Programs for Women of Color at Google and the founder of Parenting Backwards.


Stephanie has a deep passion for investing in the growth and success of women by intentionally building community in areas they don't naturally occur. This work includes the co-creation of a portfolio of women of color summits (Asian, Indigenous and Latinas), including the State of Black Women Google Summit and Collective, an initiative designed for black women Googlers, globally, to have dedicated space for community, conversation and connection.


Her career started in infrastructure engineering within the finance industry and shifted to digital media, where she spent over 10 years leading inventory forecasting and yield analysis for major media conglomerates such as Forbes Media, FOX News Digital, and NBC News Digital. Most notably she worked on the divestiture of NBC digital media properties from Microsoft, bringing their top digital media sites back under the NBC Universal umbrella.


Stephanie is a graduate of Stevens Institute of Technology, graduating with a Bachelor's of Engineering in Electrical Engineering and a New York native. She's married and a mom of three.


Special thanks to VEST Member Dr. Mautra Jones, President of Oklahoma City Community College for moderating this session.


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Show references:

A Blessing: Women of Color Teaming Up to Lead by Bonita Steward


Transcript

Stephanie LeBlanc

Erika Lucas00:03

Hey everyone. This is Erica Lucas, your host and founding member of vest, an organization, connecting women across industries, regions, and career levels so that together we can expedite the pipeline of more women in positions of power and influence. Welcome to another episode of the Vester podcast, where we explore the investible barriers, holding women back in the workplace and share stories of women building.


Dr. Mautra Jones00:40

What are three actionable things we can do to support women of color in our workplaces and communities.


Stephanie Le-Blanc Godfrey00:48

So one, believe them period. I think a lot of women of color exp when they, when they are finally able to share their experiences, because a lot of the time they are, uh, experiencing challenges and not sharing it with anyone.

And so when they finally do get that courage to say a thing in front of a manager or in a team meeting, don't try to pick it apart. Like it's not an episode for you to analyze and like find the hole in it. Believe them period.


Erika Lucas01:32

In this episode, we talked to Stephanie LeBlond Godfrey global head of inclusion programs for women of color at Google about all the different ways we can support, promote and invest in women of color, not just in the workplace, but at home and in our communities for Stephanie's full bio and resources mentioned on this episode, go to www.bestor.co forward slash podcasts.


Special, thanks to best member Dr. Mautra Jones, precedent of Oklahoma city community college for moderating this session, this recording was part of a more intimate coaching session with best members and has been repurposed to accommodate this episode.


Dr. Mautra Jones02:22

. Given your role at Google, I'm sure. Last week's labor report showcasing the job loss for women came to ne came as no surprise to you. Have you seen women dropping out of Google or have you been able to mitigate, um, this

occurrence?


Stephanie Le-Blanc Godfrey02:35

So I think the numbers that are getting published month after month are mind numbing and.

You know, if I could just speak personally I'm I don't want those numbers shared. I don't like that. It's on every Instagram post and every article, like it's, it's embarrassing. It's demoralizing and it's just painful. Like the reality of, of these numbers. And I understand it has to be shared, but that's always my, my gut reaction to seeing this.


Um, and, and so for, for me, in terms of doing the work of being in service of parents and caregivers, It's exacerbating what was already happening during, um, before COVID so childcare, visibility, career progression, all of these things have been topics. Um, the likes of which I've been talking about at Google, the likes of which you all have been talking about in terms of, in service of women and lifting them up and, and progressing their careers.

So this is not new to. It's just even worse now that we, the resources that we typically have, have been stripped from us in like 24 hours, right? No school, um, no access to be able to appropriately plan for our family life so that we have that dedicated space to do the work, um, that, that we need to. And so again, a lot of us who are in service of this work one, we're like, yeah, we told you so two we're like dusting off the, the proposals that we had already to kind of address these problems for, for companies and leaders who are like, what can we do about it?


Yeah, we got that. Are you going to listen to us? Are you going to listen to us now? Um, and, and so, you know, it's. Something that, that we can address that needs to be addressed. That is bigger than just this conversation, bigger than just companies, but just a government. Backed plan for how we address both parents and caregivers, because it's affecting those who take care of family members as well.


Um, and who are scared to put them in a nursing home who don't have access to nurses to come to the house because of, uh, the impact that, that, that, that could have. And so what are the resources that, that as a nation, as a world nation, particularly cause. Services and in other countries, but like, what can we do to address that in a way that's not like, well, if you've got the money, you'll be able to figure it out better.

And if you don't, then you're forced out of, out of the work.


Dr. Mautra Jones05:29

Thank you. Thank you. We'll move on to the next question. Cause we have a lot that we want to kind of dive into. And so Google was the first major tech company that extended its work from home policy until the summer of 2021, which ran now, what has been the feedback from women and, and what other policies or programs have you put in place to support women during this

time?


Stephanie Le-Blanc Godfrey05:50

Yeah. Um, it's helpful. Uh, but it's not a silver bullet. Uh, you know, Again, with the work that I do, I'm like, I've got to stay and, you know, help everyone out. And I did not have on my oxygen mask. Right. And so, uh, last year, probably around October. I started having anxiety, never had that before heart palpitations consistently throughout the day, migraines that were lasting three to four days at a time.


And so thankfully I was able to finally utilize and practice what I preach about taking leave. That, that are, that my company, um, Offered, um, which is, is the care is leave, uh, in addition to the work from home policy. And so while I think it helps. The work from home policy to say like, okay, cool. At least I know from now, until now we have September is our return to work date that I'll be home.


I can at least figure out what my plan is going to be to deal with with my work and personal situation. Um, but then you still have. All the other folks around you who are home, or you have the isolation of not being able to, to connect with, with people as well. And that's just as devastating. We're seeing depression numbers going up, they've shared, um, just suicide and all of these things that, that impact, you know, our lives and our ability to thrive because we don't have access and connection to.


To people. Um, and so, you know, the ability to work from home is great, but it's also like, can we just get back to work? Can I just go into the office and complain about my commute again? I'll say a little bit of normal, same routine, a little bit of normalcy would be great. A lot of

women, particularly young women, um, going into the workforce for the first, they see Google as a dream place to work.


Has it been a dream for you and how did you end up at Google doing what you do?

Sure. So I, from when I was 10, I knew that I wanted to be an engineer. And so my mom put me in every stem program and summer program, uh, all throughout. School, um, that, that she could find. And so I knew I wanted to be on this path.

And so went to, um, to college Steven Institute of technology, got my degree in electrical engineering and like started in the world of infrastructure engineering. And I got there and it was super isolating. Um, I didn't see or connect with anyone. No one. Tapped me on the shoulder and said, Hey, young black girl, let me show you how this corporate world is done.

It was my first experience in the corporate world, my first experience in my family to be in the corporate world. So then I also didn't have that, that support there. I didn't know what mentors and sponsors were. Um, and the people that I worked with were, you know, in a different family stage, in a different life stage than I was that I was.


And so I left. I left, even though I was so passionate about the work that I was doing, I just couldn't thrive there because I just didn't know what that, what that looked like. Um, and so like fast forward to now me being back at like an engineering tech company, um, has been a full circle moment. Uh, the impact that Google has had on me has been more personal.

Um, then professional. When I got there, I was like, mama, I made it I'm at Google. Like I'm done, I can retire here. Uh, and the opposite is what I found from most of the people that work there that saw that said, you know, Google's great as paying some bills and some more, uh, but it's a stepping stone to my journey.


It's giving me access to X it's, you know, paying for my school is doing these things. For me to then move on to what my next goal is. And so that was like, whoa, I want that. What do I want to do? And so it sent me on this whole personal journey of, okay. I'm automatic did all the things that my Caribbean.


Wanted me to do checked off all of those boxes now, what, what do I want to do? And what does success and happiness looks like, look like. And even then in having kids, what do I want to role model for them as to what working looks like, what success looks like? Uh, and so Google gave me. All of that in terms of the people the mind share that's in the building, um, to make me think past what I thought was, um, was possible.


Dr. Mautra Jones10:57

Thank you. Thank you for that. What does parenting backwards means?


Stephanie Le-Blanc Godfrey11:02

Yeah. So parenting backwards is my brain child. I work at Google, have three kids, and I was like, you know what, I need a side hustle,

but yes, but this is, this is my, my baby in terms of my. Uh, mom, friends, my oldest, um, is older about two to three years older than like my main group of friends whose kids are around like four to eight. That, that range, my oldest is 10. Um, and so they would always come to me and say like, okay, How do I find a stroller?


How do I talk to my manager about coming back? Like the spectrum was wide and the way in which I shared the information with them, um, just resonated so much that they pushed me into this. So at the beginning of 2020, um, Set up an idea account and just started on this journey of sharing my, my parenting experiences.


And so parenting backwards, the name that I came up with three o'clock in the morning came to me, um, is, is really around looking backwards at, at who you are present day. Understanding where you're looking to go and then determining how you can bring kids on your journey with you, whether it's around finances, whether it's around DNI, whether it's just process processing your own.


Um, Uh, emotional, um, challenges, or just wanting to be just more, uh, within yourself and understanding of yourself, how can you teach those lessons to a four and eight, a 15 year old so that they're not trying to figure it out at 30, 40, 50 year old? Like, what is this feeling that I'm feeling nicely? Yes.


And then, and then the other piece of that is, um, The way in which I do, this is sharing our experiences, right? I don't have degrees in child psychology or anything. I'm a parent of three sharing how I've done it. It seems to resonate with people. And that's the type of dialogue that's missing, particularly for professional women as professional women, we've got the mentors, the sponsors, the conferences, the books, all of these things that we can read and kind of bolster up our, our, um, Careers, but where's that investment in our, our parenting, our parenting life with everything that's going on in the world, I feel that we should all be humble enough to admit we are all still learning how to be a good ally to women of color.


Dr. Mautra Jones13:43

Sometimes colleagues try to be helpful and well intentioned, but ended up being on the exact opposite. What are three actionable things we can do to support women of color in our workplaces?


Stephanie Le-Blanc Godfrey13:55

And. So one, believe them, period. I think a lot of women of color exp when they sh, when they are finally able to share their experiences, because a lot of the time they are S uh, Experiencing challenges and not sharing it with anyone.


And so when they finally do get that courage to say a thing in front of a manager or in a team meeting, Don't try to pick it apart. Like it's not an episode for you to analyze and like find the holes in it. Believe them, period. Um, the second is one of my, um, my mentors, her name is Benita Stewart. She's a VP at Google and she wrote a book called, uh, a blessing.

For women of color and allies. And she said that in, in the business sense that women of color need 40 allies and a stretch assignment. And so this is a play on the 40 acres and a mule. You need 40 acres and a stretch assigned. And what type of change and impact would that lead to for women of color to get that stretch assignment, to prove them to get the skills that they need, instead of always, um, instead of oftentimes being the admin person, the one setting up the offsite, the one that's kind of like getting the team events together, but like a serious stretch assignment, um, that can really show that.


Um, showcase what they have. And then the third is asked for permission when it comes to touching our hair, sharing our stories, uh, putting us, uh, on the stand to share our experiences in team meetings or in large public settings, ask for permission first, believe

them 40 allies in a stretch assignment asked for permission.

Yes.


Dr. Mautra Jones16:00

Thank you. What are some things that we should avoid or what are, yeah, what are things we should avoid?


Stephanie Le-Blanc Godfrey16:05

Yeah, it's the gaslighting, the, the picking apart of, of the situation. Um, and the opposite of what I'm sharing, right. Of not asking for permission and ignoring that's the big one, ignoring what is happening.


I've had teams where we talk, especially in COVID. All been in each other's homes, looking in the background, seeing kids, dogs, all, all the things that are in the background. Um, our books are dying plants, right? Like we've seen some things in each other's home yet. And still when race based killings are happening in the media, our colleagues are silent.

And so how was it that just yesterday? You saw me dealing with my kid on something and the next day something happens. I'm like George Floyd. And you say absolutely nothing about it. So avoid avoiding things, right. Let's have a conversation. I don't know what to say, but what happened yesterday was just shitty and terrible.


Right and not, well, how are you feeling? What do you think? But like, I'm just going to say that piece and if you want to engage, you can, uh, if you don't, that's fine, but I'm going to let you know that. I, I know you, I know this has to impact you in, in some way, and I recognize that and I'm going to say something about it instead of avoiding it.


Dr. Mautra Jones17:43

Absolutely. One last question because everybody just can't wait to dive into questions. Yeah. The members are excited and we have a lot of questions we want to ask, but before we get to that being equitable, um, you know, being an equitable places, it benefits everyone, including men, yet most of the time diversity and inclusion efforts are seen as women issues. How have male peers at Google responded to your efforts to support women of color?


Stephanie Le-Blanc Godfrey18:13

Yeah. So. Even thinking my DNI team, which is probably close to 200 folks is majority women, majority women of color. Um, but I do have a number of, of men on my DNI team that, uh, that I do work with, um, daily and the way in which they show up is.


Is I think everyone can, can take a page out of it. And so. One of, one of the ways in which they show up is recognizing their, their bias and calling it out and then making space for others in the room. So I'll give you two examples. Um, I have, um, a white passing Latino man that's on my team. And so when we're having conversations with our community, uh, he will always lead with that in certain conversations.


Here's my experience as a white pastor. Latino man. Um, so that it calls out that elephant in the room when people are ready to dismiss what he has to share. When they're like, but you're not really Latino or you don't, you don't have the same experience because of the way you look. He's like, before you even say it, I'm a call it out.


And I'm a say this, and I can still have an opinion about this because I'm in service of, and because I'm a white passing Latino, man, I can have conversations up the chain or across with other stakeholders that you may not be able to, but I can bring along. What it is that, that you need to fight for. And I can, I could have that fight because of the way that I look and so love, love, love the way that he always shows up in that way.

Um, and then the second I have a black male that I work closely with and he is like the master facilitator. He creates the space, he brings people together and then he steps all the way back. Right. And so a master facilitator, someone that can come in, drop a question, drop something, and then completely take themselves out of the dialogue, um, that, that happens there.


And so those are two really critical examples of how men can show up in these spaces and not take all the air out of the room, but truly be in service of what do you need? How can I help? What do you, what do you need me to bring to, to leadership? What's the tech support you need I'll do that. You need copies, may I'll do that so that the high value work, um, can take place with the, with the women and women of color in, in that.


Dr. Mautra Jones20:55

Awesome.

We appreciate everything that you've shared. Um, I'm going to open up the floor for people to ask questions. Um, I'm going to do that. Um, we could, we could spend all day on this call really could, this is, this is, you know, a very interesting and very, you know, uh, Multifaceted topic that a lot of people have questions about.


And I don't think we spend enough time talking about it personally, but that said, do anybody have, does anyone have questions? And if not, I'll open the floor because I do have a question while we're waiting on people to kind of gather the thoughts. I have a question. How do you deal with the people who say diversity doesn't matter. I'm tired of hearing about. And here we go with the race stuff again, because I hear that so much. How do you, how, how does one approach that mindset? Someone with a mindset.


Stephanie Le-Blanc Godfrey21:45

Yes. So it is, it is prevalent and it is prevalent everywhere. I think oftentimes we like, particularly within my company, it's like, but it's Google, we're all progressive.

And like, we want the world to be amazing. It's still a microcosm for our society. So we're still going to butt up against those, um, types of opinions. Um, the answer is, it depends on the study. It depends on the setting and it depends on my current mental state. Right? So one, there are those people who just want to argue with you, right.


And want to be divisive and want to kind of cause that back and forth. I'm not going to engage with you. Right? Like I'm not going to waste, waste my energy on that. Um, in spaces where it's it's people that truly. I don't know. Okay. I'm going to introduce you to another non-minority person, another white person that you can have that conversation with because one, it's a Google search to talk to your own people about it.


Right. Um, would, would be the, would be the other thing. Um, and then third, you know, the thing that we are all pushing against, whether it's in our business and our companies and the society of like, we want to move things forward, but w we're we want it to look a certain way. Right? We get the question, but how can I help?


And then when we say, how can you help? Then the response is like, Ooh, That's not what I mean. All of anything that, you know, I want to help and not like that. What else do you have? Or can you just give me a checklist and I can just cope through that. It's not that it's something that we have to deal with every single day, every single moment.

Um, of how we show up and how we bring our biases, even as women of color, right. We have our own, our own biases and that's okay. But it's that level of self-awareness and the work that we're willing to put into to learn. So for my role, I'm lead women of color. That's defined as a black Latina and, and indigenous.


I identify as a black. And so I am also have, uh, close relationships with Latinas. So those two populations, I'm like, cool, I got this indigenous not so much. And so I've had to put in the work to learn what are their, their issues, their challenges, what is their experience and what is their history? Cause I can't just put that broad.

Oh, when I'm talking to women of color, I'm talking about all of you because it's three separate history. And then once you go drill down, it's even more nuanced than that. And so putting in that work to do the learning

questions, ladies, feel free to jump in.


GUEST24:48

I have a question. First of all, thank you for this conversation. It's, it's been really refreshing in, um, I'm enjoying learning about your experiences and your insight. What are some examples of some of the structures that you have put in place in your role to support women of color, especially for those of us who lead organizations and want to create spaces for women of color.


Can you give us some examples of some of the work that you've done there?


Stephanie Le-Blanc Godfrey25:12

Sure. So community building, um, It has been big and not in the performative sense, but like let's create a space where you can have real conversations. That it's just you and your people to, to have these conversations. And that got some pushback at the beginning of like, why is it only this?


Why can't we do all women are women of color because there are some conversations. Like, particularly within the black community, like you just, you gotta have these home conversations. Right. And that has been tremendously helpful. So like we had, um, uh, someone from dove come in and talk about the crown act.


We had a, you know, stylist come in and talk about even when we're on zoom, how we can put it together and feel some sense of normalcy. These may seem like really. Trivial conversations to some, but I think it's really important for those who are, who feel and are experiencing being the only within their team within their organization, that there is an outlet for them to have these types of conversations, to meet others, to hear people's ideas and ways of thinking that they can then say like, oh, I'm not.


All alone. I'm not by myself. I'm not the only one thinking this way or, or feeling this way. And that's really critical. And building that, that community space and, and addresses the question of like, how do I bring myself my authentic self to the corporate space? It doesn't always look like with your manager on your team.


And so, uh, corporation. Can choose to have the responsibility to create those spaces. So that those conversations though, those processings can happen. So they don't feel like when they don't have it with their team, that they're just completely isolated. I, it can't happen at all.


GUEST27:27

Hi, I'll jump in. Um, thank you, Stephanie, for doing this. Um, really appreciate your time. Um, I just wanted to ask you maybe just your, your experience or, um, your recommendations on, um, being better allies for each other. Um, something that I think is important to hear from is, you know, in the professional setting, how to.


You know, bring these conversations while also, you know, approaching the corporate setting. And then also making sure you're still true to your community, because like you said earlier, it's, we're in that middle, you know, you still have to fit in, in both sides, but how are we still, how can we be better allies for each other in that corporate setting while still advocating?


Stephanie Le-Blanc Godfrey28:13

Yeah, I think that's a huge, um, Something that that weighs on me all the time. Right? So like identify as a black woman. But my experience, my childhood, my upbringing is different from the next person. That's different from the next person. That's different from the next. So it's really important to be careful about generality.


And to have that relationship of like, oh, black one, a black woman. Oh, Latina to Latina. I know, I know you don't have to say right. And then diminishing their voice and their experience, um, in these spaces. And so when we have male allies that, that step back and create space, Um, for women as women amongst each other, we also need to take a step back and make sure that we're, we're hearing from around the room so that we can get that full holistic, um, Outlook on, on what the community is, is really feeling.


So, even in, as an example, in, in the way that I facilitate conversations, uh, for work to help introverted people. And so this was something that I wasn't aware of. It's like, okay, questions. Like, let's go and everyone's talking to the da. And then it's like, all right, bye. See you next week. Right there, there needs to be a space of silence that that is created so that people who need time to process can process.


Okay. Processing processing and to the rest of us, it's like, oh my God, awkward silence. I just want to vomit words at you. Um, but to create that space and name that you're creating that space, um, for those that need it to then come in and, and join the conversation. So it's, it's, especially if you're doing this work, it's super intentional and always learn.


And maybe putting your foot in your mouth or before a meeting, as I'm engaging more with the trans and non-binary communities. And I talk with folks beforehand, um, to understand and make sure that I'm naming things. Appropriately and not, um, calling, calling it out in a way that that is more harmful to them.


So it takes work and it takes the decision to do this. And every single day and not assume like, okay, talk to one person. I got it. No, every time I engage with that community, cause it's not a strong muscle within me yet. And so I need to learn the nuances of even how they see themselves within the trans community is that I was born this way or this was a medical procedure.


Like all these things. I'm like, whoa, that I did not know. And so. Consistently being on that learning journey so that you can step back and not make assumptions on the, on behalf of an entire community.


Erika Lucas31:21

How do you avoid burnout? Both in the professional setting and personal stuff.


Stephanie Le-Blanc Godfrey31:26

Child. I don't have an answer to that. Like I said earlier, I was having back-to-back migraines that lasted three to four days. And then on top of that heart palpitations. And so I went to, um, my, uh, uh, manager and said like, look, this is what's happening. I think I need to take a week or so off. And she was like,