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Lumumba Seegars on inequality and agency in ERGs

Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), also referred to as affinity groups, have been a staple of many organizational cultures for over 50 years. Typically organized around a shared identity, such as race, gender, or sexual orientation, they can serve as a benefit to employees by offering a safe space to express organizational concerns or frustrations, a dynamic network for professional growth, as well as a more secure platform for advocacy. For organizational leadership, ERGs can help to identify and develop internal talent, broaden and target recruiting goals, and support retention efforts. However, there are various tensions between employees and leadership, as well as within the groups themselves that limit their potential.

In this episode, our hosts Colleen Ammerman and David Homa speak with Lumumba Seegars about the challenges and limitations employees face when participating in Employee Resource Groups, how organizational leaders can be more effective allies, and the critical importance of intersectional approaches to any work involving change. Lumumba is a PhD candidate in organizational behavior at Harvard Business School, and his dissertation research focuses on how women and racial minorities collectively organize around their identities at work and try to make their workplaces more inclusive.

Watch the episode with Lumumba Seegars

Read the transcript, which is lightly edited for clarity.

Colleen Ammerman (Gender Initiative director): So, today, we’re talking with Lumumba Seegars. Lumumba is a PhD candidate in organizational behavior at Harvard Business School, and his dissertation research focuses on how women and racial minorities collectively organize around their identities at work and try to make their workplaces more inclusive. Thank you so much for joining us today, Lumumba.

Lumumba Seegars (Harvard Business School PhD candidate): Thank you so much. I’m excited to be here.

David Homa (Digital Initiative director): Lumumba, good to see you again.

LS: Great to see you as well. Thank you.

DH: So, Lumumba, you’ve actually written a little bit about leadership, because there’s a big push, especially in the tech industry, to get representation into leadership. But that is not necessarily — that doesn’t solve things. It’s not a silver bullet for sure. Tell us a little bit about the complications there.

LS: So, I recently wrote this article with Lakshmi Ramarajan called “Blacks Leading Whites” in this broader book about race, work, and leadership that was edited by Laura Morgan Roberts, Anthony Mayo, and David Thomas. And, in this book, there’s this fundamental kind of tension that we think about, which you alluded to, where like representation, we say, “isn’t emancipation, right?” Just because you’re getting more people there doesn’t mean you’re actually kind of like dismantling the structures that are leading to these inequalities. And, one of the key problems is that, if you look at organizations, and we think about who is in charge — especially in these predominantly white organizations — the same issues, the same traits, the same characteristics that might make somebody rise in this company, particularly a Black person, are not actually the same things that will make them want to more broadly challenge inequality.

And so, let’s think about this for a second, right? If I’m in a company, if I have to be a leader, right? Leadership is both granted, right — people have to give it to me and say that you are going to be the leader — and then I have to accept it, okay? I have to say, “yes, I want to do this.” And so, we built this theory we call a dual and mutual identification. Basically, we say that as a Black leader in this predominantly white organization, I have to want to stay in this organization if I’m going to be a leader, right? For example, let’s think about even at HBS. Like, I have to say I want to be in this environment, to a certain extent. And so, there’s identification: I can be here. But then also, if I want to continuously challenge inequality, a part of that is me thinking and still identifying with Black people as a Black leader, in terms of people who have been marginalized in this, and saying, not only do I want to stay in this environment, but I have a strong identification with the people who are marginalized within this environment. And so, that’s going to give me motivation — two different types of motivations. Motivation to access resources and motivation to use those resources to challenge inequality.

“Just because you’re getting more people there doesn’t mean you’re actually dismantling the structures that are leading to these inequalities.”

Now, we say that, once I’m here, and if the white majority in this organization is saying, “you know what, we think you’re a leader, you should progress,” right? That is that mutual identification. But once you get up there, we talk about that there are four different types of leaders. Basically, you say there’s this Black leader who has identification with the white majority, wants to stay in the organization, wants to challenge inequality. Then we look at how do people look at him?

And so, you can think about the Black leader to the extent that they can have identification from both the white majority and the Black minority in the organization. We actually say that they are more likely to be able to effect more lasting change and more systemic change because the people in power are saying, “yes, you can stay here.” But also — we don’t often think about this — is that that Black minority, they can protect them more. There’s much more of a sense of, like, we got you, we have your back, and you’re one of us. And so, you can’t just get rid of that person.

So, I study employee resource groups (ERGs) in my dissertation — there are these groups of people around a particular social identity. So, it’ll be like women@ or Black@ [or] something like that. And, one of the Black ERG members was talking about a Black leader saying, “we have to protect this person, we have to make sure that they know that we have their back.” And, that’s important because that gives that person a little more breathing room, right? I’m not on a tightrope. I don’t have to just do what the people in power say I have to do. That, if I kind of step out on the limb, there are people who are going to be here with me. That’s important. And, that’s where you kind of say representation isn’t enough, because you might have people up there rising, but they may not have that same identification with the people who are still marginalized in the company. And, that’s something that companies have to think about.

CA: It occurs to me, if I’m thinking about it the right way, that it matters then, how that Black leader positions themselves in relation to the Black employees. Because I can imagine that an ERG, say Black@ whatever the company is, is probably more interested and willing to say, “hey, like, we’ve got your back, we want to support your leadership,” if they feel as though that leader is invested in them, right?

LS: Exactly.

CA: We sort of don’t feel like that leader is going to bat for their needs and interests. Then they might say, “well, you know, we don’t really feel like this is something that we have such a strong stake in.” So, [it] just seems like there would be an interplay there. Is that right?

LS: That’s exactly right. And, this is what can be confusing for people who just think about representation. They’re like, “oh, we gave you this person, why aren’t you happy?” and they’re like, “uh? That’s not really a person who’s on our side.” And, we use this quotation from Zora Neale Hurston, “All my skinfolk ain’t kinfolk.” And, that’s important to think about.

So, I think a lot about slavery. And, I think a lot about slavery and capitalism and the relationships within organizations, especially if we think about how much of our interracial relationships are based, came out of, the master-slave relationship. One thing I think about is that if you take a very kind of hard stance, if you go to the extreme and think about a plantation and think about leadership on a plantation. If you think about their enslaved people, their masters, then enslaved people aren’t saying, “if we could only have more Black overseers, we would feel better.” The context — there’s something structurally wrong with the context. And so, if we look at a lot of our companies, and if we say that the way that we’ve engaged in practices, we’ve talked about external to the environment. Internal, we say there are structural issues, there is racialization, there is this white standard of neutrality. We talk about there’s a standard of a man being the ideal type, that you can’t just put people in, and places, and not look at what is the structure of these work relationships.

DH: And yet the structures are put and kept in place by the people who organize the company or found them. So, we end up in a bit of an impasse there. Any advice for that? Are we just waiting for founders to wake up, or do we need a different system?

LS: I wouldn’t say wait. If we wait on people to wake up, that’s going to take a long time. I think you can persuade people. I think there are some people… I think there’s variance, right? There are people who just don’t care. There are people at one extreme who say, “I don’t care. I want to make more money the way that I need to make it.” Then there are the people who are going to say, “look, if there were a better way, I would be happy to try that.” And so, I think that’s where some of the persuasion comes in. If there were a better way, and you have these founders, and [they] say, “can I start?” And, that’s where you say, look, you can’t wait to do diversity, equity, and inclusion once you start making money. You have to kind of bake it [into] your strategy as a company, and say, look, we’re going to be an equitable place. That means we’re going to have to take more time in how we think about hiring people. That means we’re going to have to constantly be challenging our assumptions about who can do the work and what type of work they can do, where they can do that [work] from. So, that’s one set of people.

I think there’s another set of people who doesn’t have the access to the same resources that most founders have had, and you have to say, how can we activate those people and make sure they have resources to start organizations that we haven’t imagined? Like, I’m in the business of scholarship, right? I do research for a living. I’m creating new ideas. Fundamentally, it’s a creative task. So, when I think about the knowledge that we have now, every paper I read, I’m like, “oh, something we didn’t know. That’s something we hadn’t seen.” I think the same thing is possible in business, right? There are people who will create new forms, new things that we haven’t seen or imagined. We just have to make sure that they have the resources and that they’re able to use that creativity. So, I think there’s a lot of talk about persuading those who have power. But what about providing people without resources a chance to actually build their own power and to self-determine for themselves? And, I think that also has to be a part of the discussion.

DH: You mentioned pipeline before — people are worried about pipeline, but it’s really about what’s happening inside organizations. There are actually some people now looking at what’s happening inside of universities. I know there are a couple of different programs. Northeastern, in particular, has one called the Align program. It looks to people who are typically underrepresented in computer science and actually has master’s degree programs for people who actually don’t have undergrad STEM degrees because they realize, well, the pipeline hasn’t served these people well. But, that doesn’t mean that they don’t realize when they’re a little older or a little more mature, like, wow, I can do this. So, providing the opportunity there is really critically important.

LS: And, providing the opportunity, but also saying that you can do something different. If we can’t just say, all right, you have not had access, and we are going to assimilate you and make you good enough to fit into this program and to fit into the system the way we’ve thought about doing things that has structurally marginalized people like you. Now you, you individual, you come through, and you be successful. That actually doesn’t change the nature of communities and groups of people that are being marginalized. You have to also say, all right, you can come here, and how [are] we going to learn from you? And, what type of creativity and what types of new insights can you bring?

And, I think that’s almost a larger scale. If you think about Robin Ely and David Thomas’s work — this idea of integration and learning. It’s like you almost think about taking that out of the context in which they study within teams and organizations, and think about an intervention for communities learning, where it’s like, we’re not just going to say, come in here and do what we want you to do. We can actually learn, and you will bring new insights, not because there’s some essential difference between us. Like, there are no essential biological differences between races or people of different genders. But because you have had different social experiences, can we kind of open the way that we think about the world? Because you are coming from a new perspective.

All change has to be intersectional, and we have to think about it that way.”

And so, that type of thinking, I think, opens up for new creativity, for new ways of creativity, for people to say, all right, this is how it’s affected me and people like me. How can we think about engaging in a new way of doing business, a new way of building organizations, new ways of building communities? Not just, oh, we’re going to let you into the Harvard Business School or to Northeastern, and we’re going to just… we want you to do what we do, and we want you to get good at what we’re good at, when what we have been good at, to be quite honest, has been perpetuating the same systems of hierarchy and marginalization. Maybe we want to be able to learn from the people who we’re bringing in — more than just making them do what we’ve always been good at. When I say “we,” I’m talking about institutionally, looking at some of these universities as well.

CA: I want to use that kind of segue a little bit to this idea of changing organizations or changing the system, changing the context, and give you an opportunity to share with us a little bit about the research you did for your dissertation and what you found. As you said before, it’s on these employee resource groups. Sometimes they were called affinity groups, right? But it’s these women’s networks or Black employees or LatinX employees. And, they’re pretty prominent in the tech sector, like big companies pretty much all have them. So, I just would love for you to tell us a little bit about what you found. What are these groups doing? How effective are they at actually changing organizations, making them more equitable? What are the challenges they’re facing? So, would love you to share some of those findings with us.

LS: I went into a couple of companies, and I looked at just their Black and their women and their Asian employee resource groups. I focused on that. And right now, on my dissertation, I’m focusing on the Black versus the women’s group. And it’s just in one company. And, what I saw, really, is that one of the things that shaped what these employees were doing was actually that their relationships with the leaders of the organization were actually very much resonant with the historical and cultural power relations between white men, who were the main people in charge of the organization, and white women — and, white women were the main group within the women ERG — and between white men and Black people. And so, what does that look like?

I found that, actually, the women ERG have this relationship with the organizational leaders of dependency, whereas the Black ERG have this relationship of deprivation. And, what this looked like was that, for the women ERG, there was actually this… Well, first of all, nothing happened for a while, then scandals happen, as they do in tech. And, then there was this, all right, let’s start pouring in resources, after this sense of threat. So, let’s acknowledge that both groups were being ignored, at first. And so, when the resources started to come in, there were more resources within the women ERG. And, there was a lot of talk about, also, this familial dependence. We can’t do things without men. We need them. We need allies — very much like we have to get allies in here. And, there’s a lot of talk about allyship. But at the same time, the white men in the company, as they gave more resources, they also were able to co-opt what the ERG did. And, they were like, this is what you’re going to do, like what’s effective. And, the women ERG had to [say] these were the goals, this is what we want to do. So, there was this kind of tension, in the sense that they were dependent on these resources if they wanted to do much.

I think both ERGs started off with these two broad goals. One was a sense of emotional and psychological safety. This is a safe space, where I can just come in and check on other people. I want to make sure that I’m not the only woman feeling this way. I want to make sure that I’m not the only Black person feeling this way, right? And, then there is also advocacy, where they wanted to advocate and change the company. I think that this relationship of dependency really shaped the women ERG, because it became less about “are we advocating or are we feeling safe,” but more like, “all right, how can we get allies involved and how can we show opportunities for women to be successful within this particular system?” Again, not changing the system — they’re dependent on these men who are in charge of the system for the very resources.

And, what I then saw in response was what I called collusion. In the sense that white women actually prioritized the relationship with the white men in power in the organization, and actually deprioritized other women of color, particularly the Black women in the group. And so, you saw this collusion. We have to get allies, and allies are important because we’re not alone. But when you asked, “how do you think about the racial issues that Black women in the group are having?” Oh, well, there’s a Black ERG for that. And so, you saw this juxtaposition of prioritization and deprioritization. And I call this “latent privilege” based on race. And, a lot of times, we think about privilege as this thing that is actually invisible or latent. But, I really highlight this latent [aspect], because you’re talking about a group of people that was being actively subordinated, they were being actively marginalized within this company. It’s still tech, right? And, to combat this marginalization, they were getting access to resources. But, a lot of that was shared through their shared racial privilege with white men. And so, there was a prioritization of like, all right, we can kind of pool these resources together, as long as white men still control the resources, but we have access to that.

Now, let’s take that aside and look at the Black group. The Black group was often deprived of resources, and it was like, well, we’re not going to deal with these Black issues. They’re not relevant. We’re not going to really talk about this, right? And so, as the Black group was trying to do stuff, they often felt like their goals ended up being dismissed. And so, you have them trying to talk about “these are the issues we’re facing,” and people [are] like, “why are we talking about that? That’s not relevant here.” And, this is even after the same scandals. There was both a gender scandal and a race scandal, where [there was] this kind of dismissal of racial issues as important, which we, again, often see in society. And so, in response, whereas the women ERG was mostly white women colluded to maintain this access to resources, you saw the Black ERG separating itself. They were like, you know what? We’re not getting any resources. What we can do is create a safe space.

What the Black ERG then actually ended up doing was creating and maintaining this private chat room, where they could support each other, and even [during] their office hours, they talked about it being a safe space away from white people where they could actually speak honestly and candidly. And, I call that a sanctuary. And then, within that, you saw Black women, actually, they were being marginalized in the women ERG, and then in the Black ERG, there was still some sexism as well. And so, what do they do? I saw them actually build an inner sanctum within this Black ERG where they were still involved, but they were centering both their race and their gender.

“in order to actually help people create these more equitable systems and organizations, you have to allow a level of self-determination that is beyond what we normally see.”

Ultimately, as I said, the Black group’s goals were dismissed. The women’s group’s goals were co-opted. And so, they both were able to do certain things. But, at the end of the day, the actual structural issues in the company that maintained the racial and gender hierarchy actually went unchallenged. And, that’s that lack of effectiveness that you often see, [which] is that there might be some reprieves from the inequality through these groups, but these relationships actually end up minimizing the actual effectiveness that can happen, because those structural relationships remain the same.

All change has to be intersectional, and we have to think about it that way. So, if you’re in a women’s group, it can’t just be like, all right, let’s figure this out, and let’s be on the same accord, and then let’s like deal with this later. It actually has to be like, how do we deal with this complexity? How do we deal? And, not just the complexity. A lot of times people say, “you know, white women face certain issues, and then women of color face these issues, and it’s different.” It’s not just different — there’s actual racial harm that’s happened between those groups and between those people that has to be accounted for.

And so, in my data, I see Black women not just saying, oh, we’re treated differently. It’s not that it’s irrelevant. It’s actually that they’ve heard white women say very harmful racialized things and racist things within the context of their relationships. And, I think the same thing will be said within the Black group. It’s just not that Black men and Black women have different experiences, it’s that we have to be conscious of the actual patriarchal elements that have been [in place], and how we organize and how we relate to each other. And so, to create more effective spaces, you actually have to deal with those issues, to deal with those tensions, to deal with the marginalization and complexities within groups.

And so, one way is thinking about intersectional spaces. And, I think subgrouping is a way to deal with that. I think the fact that Black women create this subgroup within the Black ERG, but are still members of it and a part of it, that’s super important. So, instead of saying have your own separate thing — that [subgrouping] gives you a way to share resources, but to also create a space of learning and safety and growth and development within those spaces. So, that’s one thing. Is it allowing that complexity — not just allowing it, centering that complexity in a way — to be a part of the group’s goals and missions and making that a part of it?

The second thing, and this is really for organizational leaders, is that, in order to actually help people create these more equitable systems and organizations, you have to allow a level of self-determination that is beyond what we normally see. So, for example, in one of the situations that I talk about [that] use co-optation, I talk about this white male leader. The white woman was talking about how he was a great ally, and he was, you know, making sure that they were on top of their professional relationship. And then she gives an example of them having this listening session, and he said, all right, this isn’t effective. We need to do something else. We need to do more things. And so, in the kind of early reading of that, it’s like, oh, okay, he’s just helping them be more effective. But the problem, actually, is that he is determining what is effective for this women’s group. Whether or not the outcome is the same is kind of beyond the point for me. It’s the fact that he, this man in charge, is determining what’s effective for them. And so, that relationship actually has to be different. People in charge actually have to say, “you know what? You need the space. How can we support your resources, and how can you do what’s important for you?” Now, that doesn’t mean that you’re always going to get a separate answer, because, again, a lot of us have been socialized within these same institutions within the same context. And, that’s where this intersection and that work has to get done, too. But, if you allow these groups to self-determine more, provide them with resources without trying to control them, and then the groups themselves take a much more intersectional approach of saying, “all right, who is most vulnerable in this group, and how do we make sure that they can succeed?” Then they can do that work without also saying, “all right, how do the white men in charge, how are they going to feel about this?” How are we going to make sure that we still get more resources next week and we can deal with our stuff as well? So, there has to be this letting go, but supporting, and then a chance to also deal with these intersectional complex spaces.

DH: It’s interesting that there may be a parallel, or at least something tech companies can identify with, which is that in technology companies, (and this is through sort of my own personal experience), there can be organizations that give a lot of autonomy to people inventing technology. And, the groups feel very empowered to say like, oh, we’re going to invent something that doesn’t exist. And, there’s a reasonable level of tolerance for leadership to let those companies, let those small groups explore. And, I just wonder if there’s any way for organizations to see the parallels sort of along these lines.

LS: I think one of the challenges with technology is what people feel is the hypocrisy of the field. I had one person I was talking to in an interview. She said, “We can do all this other stuff, but we can’t innovate here?” And, it’s supposed to be this very innovative field, but when it comes to race, gender, when it comes to hierarchy, it’s like, oh, we don’t know what to do when it’s hard. It’s like, it’s hard? You said you do hard things. Like, that’s why people came to work with you. Do hard things now. And so, the idea that it’s too hard for companies that [their] bread and butter is saying that they solve hard problems is completely hypocritical. And, the employees often recognize this.

And so, what you’re saying is something that I think is just a way of thinking, all right, this is how the industry works. But, then the question is, why is it so different for race and gender? I think there are two reasons, because these organizations, again, are very comfortable operating within these structures of racial and gender hierarchy. But, I think if we can move past that, we can, like, attack that head-on — not move past, but attack it head-on — and say, all right, this is how we deal with complexity in these other ways. How can we incorporate it here? Because again, at the end of the day, it is an organization that you are working [at] — you’re not just meeting up with friends outside of that. And so, there has to be some sort of compromise or balance of like, all right, we are employee resource groups, how are we contributing?

“people get scared when too many Black people get together in a company, too many women in a conference room. People in charge of companies have to get beyond that and say, let’s not be threatened by you getting together.”

But, what I’m saying is that you have to then bake in some sense of, like you said, autonomy. Some sense of self-determination for people to also say what’s important to us, and then to say, all right, then where’s the mutual kind of importance for the company? But, it can’t just be the people in charge want this. And, we have to make sure that we’re going to do this in order to get resources. And, if we don’t do that, we need to kind of hide, because we’re afraid. Because a lot of times, people get scared when too many Black people get together in a company. People start getting nervous of too many women in a conference room. People start making jokes, like you’re not… you know, those nervous jokes that are always inappropriate. You see that, and I think that just explains the psychology of that sense of threat. People in charge of companies have to get beyond that and say, let’s not be threatened by you getting together, but let’s support you getting together so that we can actually come up with new ways to embody these ideals that we say we believe in.

CA: It goes back to, Lumumba, about what we were saying, trying to adopt this integration and learning paradigm, or this learning mindset, right? So, for the company, when they see employees gathering around, kind of solidarity around, their race or gender, instead of viewing it as a threat, viewing that as a resource, as “oh, well, they’re probably going to come up with some ideas that teach us about how we can be a better organization.” It’s just a learning mindset. I think it underscores your earlier point about that.

LS: Exactly. And, then sometimes just saying that even if they don’t come up with ideas in that meeting, like, we know that we’re an organization that exists, again, within this external environment… and we’ve made money and built in this environment. Sometimes, they’re going to need to get together to process what it’s like just dealing with this. And that’s what I mean — it’s like that balance of, yes, there are times I think instrumentally of what we can do, but then there are also times to just process and allow the space for the humanity of people. A lot of people come together within these groups because they just want a sense of dignity, because that’s been denied in the company and outside of the company.

CA: So, I wanted to ask you a little bit about how you came to this work. So, you’re a scholar of race and gender inequality, trying to understand how that operates in organizations, and how we can change that. You’re doing this work at a business school, and [I’m] just curious about how it is that you ended up at HBS, and how you think about the goals that you’re trying to accomplish with your work in the context of where you’re doing it.

LS: I would say that I never thought I’d be at Harvard Business School. It wasn’t something that I was applying for. I didn’t know organizational behavior programs existed until maybe, like, five months before I applied. And, the only reason why I applied to HBS is because Harvard has this weird thing where the organizational behavior program was joint with [the] psychology and sociology department. I didn’t know it was because Harvard just says only the Faculty of Arts and Sciences can give out PhDs. I was like, oh, okay, it’s joint with the psychology and sociology department. So, I won’t just be at the business school all the time, I can talk to some people who think about inequality. That’s the only reason. So, HBS was the only business school that I applied to. Because I was just like, I can’t be in a business school. So I applied to it — but I cared a lot in my application about not just doing the research, but like, how is this research going to be used by people?

Even once I got to HBS, I was like, what is this? [laughter] I spent a lot of time, my first year, year and a half… But two things changed in my second year. One, I took a course with Robin Ely, and I was like, oh, my God, yes, this is amazing. This is so… [laughter] you are thinking about this? And, then I went to the Gender and Work Symposium, and I was like, all right, these are my people. These are people who are thinking about these issues. They are here. It’s not perfect, you know, but there are people who are thinking about this and I’m not alone. And, I think that opened me up to the world of some of the scholars who are doing this work around race and gender in this field. But, it took me a while to find them. And, there was a lot of time at first, where I was like, I don’t think I should be doing this. I think, like most grad students, I always have the times where I was like, maybe I should… this is too slow. The inequality and hierarchy and anarchy is moving too quickly and my typing is moving too slowly. But, I think a lot of times it’s also kind of, all right, where do I fit in? What are some of the skills that I have and how can that contribute to the change I want to see? And, to me, being able to, like, step back and think kind of rigorously and slowly, and be able to say what’s going on here? That’s what I’ve also really come to appreciate.

That’s what I loved about my research process of doing field research. It wasn’t like, let me come out and give you an answer real quick. It was like, there are a lot of people thinking about [it] that way. But if I can step back, and actually be able to think, and not have the people that I’m thinking about controlling what I think about, right? That, to me, was what I needed. Because as much as I talk about these controlling relationships in my data, like, the people are controlling them, I feel that. And, it’s hard not to feel that, even in this field. You know, I’m a Black man not just talking about race, I’m also talking about gender. And so, that is a part of who I am and shaped me. Because I’m somebody who, I have to not only check, how am I doing talking about racism, is this okay? But, I also have to check and see, because me, I know somebody who’s participated in a patriarchy myself, and has had to check myself, and I’ve learned a lot, and I’m grateful for the people who have helped me learn and grow. And, I think as I do this work, I try to also take that growth mindset for other people. That shapes my ability to look at the imperfections at a place like HBS and in a field like it is, and say, all right, where are the opportunities for growth and development, and how do we understand this better?

CA: So, our final question is just what you might like to leave folks with. You know, for those who are thinking about these issues, want to be change agents — resources, things to read, what advice do you have for people?

LS: Yeah, I would say, there’s so much, and people are talking about a bunch of books and podcasts, so I’ll just give one, just so you can focus on one thing. And, I mentioned earlier, the book that I have a chapter in, the Race, Work & Leadership book, which is edited by Laura Morgan Roberts, Anthony Mayo, and David Thomas. But the reason why I recommend that book is not just because they’re a bunch of chapters by different scholars, but it will also introduce you to more scholars, and then you can also follow up on their work that they’re doing. So, I think that book is a great entry point into thinking about race and leadership. But also, I would encourage you, as you read their chapters, to also look up some of their broader work as well.

DH: Lumumba, thanks for being here today and for your perspectives. It’s been really great speaking with you.

LS: Thanks so much for having me. It was great to be here.

CA: Thank you for joining us, Lumumba. This has been a really fascinating and also inspiring conversation. We really appreciate your time.

DH: That’s a wrap on the interview, but the conversation continues.

CA: And, we want to hear from you. Send your comments, ideas, and suggestions to justdigital@hbs.edu.

Featuring

  • Lumumba Seegars

    Lumumba is a PhD candidate in the organizational behavior unit at Harvard Business School.

  • HBS Gender Initiative

    The HBS Gender Initiative drives change and eradicates gender, race, & other forms of inequality in business and society through research.

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