In episode 158, Erik and Kerel talk with Mita Mallick, Head of Inclusion, Equity, and Impact at Carta, for her second time as a guest on MRP, about her new book coming out October 3rd, “Reimagine Inclusion: Debunking 13 Myths to Transform Your Workplace” and her podcast, “Brown Table Talk” with friend and co-host, Dee C. Marshall. Mita dives into the firsthand experiences she’s had with prejudice in the workplace, being rejected from many agents for her writing before recently being picked up by Wiley and the lessons she’s learned along the way.
Mita also shares her intentions for talking to leaders within organizations, what it means to be a leader, and questions leaders need to be asking themselves within the workplace. She gives her perspective as to the lessons we have learned as a society as well as organizations over the pandemic and how we can use those lessons to move forward in a more diverse, inclusive and successful way for all. Mita also gives us the inside scoop on what’s in her music rotation right now and even how that really fits hand in hand with her professional career.
“As I coach, leaders and people over the years will say to me, "Well, Mita, I don't know if I should say something, it's political." And I always try to coach people and say, "Well, isn't it through the lens of privilege that we can say something's political?” Because for most of these things, they seem very clearly human rights issues.”
We do you want to welcome all of our listeners to another episode of MRP, Minority Report Podcast with Erik and Kerel. Each episode, we talk with real operators and leaders in digital media. And today joining us is Mita Mallick, who is the Head of Inclusion, Equity and Impact at Carta. And a lot of you listeners and viewers may remember Mita from a previous episode. We had a lot of fun with Anita on episode, I think, 57 for those who want to go back and hear an awesome conversation then, but we're excited to have you, so welcome back.
Mita Mallick 00:40
Awesome, you're dating me, lucky 57. Thank you for having me back. I'm excited.
(laughs) We're excited, too, because it's fascinating to sort of think about, you know, a lot has changed since then in a kind of short period of time, but it feels like a lot has changed in the world, a lot has changed, you know, in the work. Tell us a little bit about like what you're up to these days, well past episode 57.
Mita Mallick 01:06
Yeah, I feel like on some days everything's changed and nothing's changed. I think many people would agree with that in that progress is still slow, although I still continue to do the work I do because I want the world to be different for all of our children and so I'm a half glass full person. I joke my husband's half glass empty, which is why we're good pair, but progress is there, but it's still slow. What has happened, I've moved to the suburbs, so I'm adulting. So that's been really, wow, with young children and trying to make friends. That's an episode for another time. I switched jobs in the pandemic, so I left Unilever and like many people, moved jobs in the pandemic and went from a large public company, very large public company to a late stage tech startup, Fintech startup. And I started a podcast, so I joined you all. I'm also, like, fellow podcasting with my friend Dee C. Marshall, Brown Table Talk. And I have a book coming out, which I'm really excited to talk about. So yeah, a lot of great things that I'm really excited about, a lot of great things.
I love that, that there's so much happening. And I want to ask you about the book. Tell us about the book.
Yeah, well, thank you. The book is called Reimagine Inclusion: Debunking 13 Myths to Transform Your Workplace. It's available right now on Amazon for pre order, so go check it out, especially if you love Brown Table Talk podcast, you're gonna love the book. And I wanted to say all the quiet parts out loud of what holds us back from making meaningful progress in this work, there are a lot of great books in the marketplace on leadership, diversity, equity, and inclusion. And I wanted to talk about these myths and stories we hold on to that aren't true, and that we start to think are true and then just stops us from changing our behavior and showing up differently tomorrow. And so, as you probably can all tell, I have a little bit of a sense of humor. I think I'm funny, my family doesn't.
Mita Mallick 03:07
I think I'm funny. I think I'm a great storyteller. So every myth opens up with a really powerful story of something that has happened somewhere in our workplaces. I know when you all read it, you'll be like, "Yep, I've heard that before." And then I unpack the myth, debunk it, and talk about really actionable ways, how leaders can show up to do better and be better.
Have you experienced most of the myths in your book firsthand? Yes. Oooh, I love that. Okay, I'm going to share, I'll share some of the myths. This is like choosing between my kids, right? People are like, "Why 13?" And I'm like, it's my lucky number, that's why. There's more than 13, but I was like, let me do 13 and let me think about- like, I don't know if you all have this, but I encourage people do this, I have career journals. So I write down a lot of experiences happened in my career, I find it to be healing, but I also like to document things that I'm experiencing. And so I use that to a lot of the material in there to write the book and observations. So one of my myths is, drumroll please, "Why are you asking for a raise, your husband makes more than enough money? Why are you asking for a raise your husband makes more than enough money?" And this myth starts with a personal story. When I had a former manager, I was up for my performance review. And I did a lot of the things we're taught to do, which is, knew what points I had put on the board, the value I was adding, understood how much I was making versus what I had researched in the marketplace, I knew that new talent had joined the team and they were making more than me. I did all the research, I went in with a smile and asked for my compensation to be reviewed, pretty pleased and that was the response I got. And the myth I'm trying to debunk there is that white women and women of color do negotiate. And oftentimes they're gaslit dismissed and minimized. And so in that myth, I really talk about our relationship with money. And so a lot of these things start at home like how we were raised to talk about money, not talking about money. I was raised to trust the system by my parents, like, don't ask for more, they will give you what you are owed and deserved, which we know isn't always true. And so the bias really starts from within. Am I really like triggered when Erik comes and asks for a pay review? What to me is triggering about that? Why do I get upset if he's just asking for my pay to be reviewed and how we look at men and women differently in terms of how we value them. One other story and then I'll move on, but I was going to a leadership off site many years ago. And I remember being up for a pay review and I liked my jewelry. And my husband's like, "Why don't you have your wedding ring on?" And I said, "I don't want to give them any reason to pay me less." And I've had other friends and girlfriends that say, "Yeah, keep the logo bags at home. You don't need it," because then all of a sudden people aren't like valuing you on the work you're doing. Right.
Mita Mallick 05:58
They're bringing their biases on how they think they should value or they think how much you make, what your husband makes. So that's a little bit of the tea on that myth.
Well, that's awesome. And when does the book come out?
Mita Mallick 06:10
October 3, awesome. Awesome. Has it always been a career goal of yours to write a book? It has been. My mother reminded me ever since I could hold a crayon, I wanted to write a book. I actually, right out of undergrad, wrote three novels, had an agent. My agent dumped me really brutally over email. And then I went to graduate school and I wrote another novel. And that didn't get published. And I buried you know, interestingly, my dream of writing, like you bury a seed and what happens the seed grows. And so I went into this very corporate track, but I always enjoyed writing. And so I am really excited that dream is finally coming to fruition. Okay, so this isn't the first book you've written, but it's the first one that's getting published.
Mita Mallick 06:57
That's correct. Yes.
Got ya. So now I'm even more curious, what are some lessons learned that you have in there from the experience of writing a book since this is your third one? Well, no, it's my fifth one. I shouldn't say it's embarrassing. It's not embarrassing. It's your fifth one? Wow. Okay. All right. No not embarrassing at all.
Mita Mallick 07:14
Rejection is redirection, right? I just, I actually wrote this book four years ago. It took me that long to get published because I also was rejected along the way. I have an agent, I had people give me lots of feedback, "Come back to me when she has a book more like Sheryl Sandberg." "There are a lot of people who look like Mita writing books like this." "Mita's writings amazing, it pops off the page, but I don't know who's gonna buy her book, she has no followers." And so how do I know all this, you'll ask because you know how people have like a rainy day folder of like, all the love notes they sent, I have a rejections folder. Yes, I do. I saved all those rejections for my agent. And I go back and I look at them. I'm like, wow, you've come a long way. And so for me, I was really so devastated that I couldn't get this book published, that a good friend of mine, Lan Phan, CEO and Founder of community SEVEN said to me, "Just do what you enjoy doing, which is do community do conversations, keep doing you, and the book deal is going to come" and then I started a podcast, I just continued writing and then like she said, the deal came through Wiley. But I just, it's a reminder that like you don't give up on your dreams. Every time you're rejected, you're directed to something else. And like, now I have a pretty strong community of individuals who will buy the book where I think four years ago, interesting, like if I published the book, I'm not sure who would have bought it.
And shout out to Lan because she's also been a guest on the podcast as well. Lan! I love Lan.
I love it. Rejection is just redirection. That's also an episode of one of your podcasts.
Mita Mallick 08:47
From Brown Table Talk. Tell us about the podcast. Tell us about what it's like now to have the microphone in front of you and also have an awesome partner doing that with you.
Yeah. So I have known my good friend Dee C. Marshall, I measure things in how long my kids have been on the earth. So my daughter has been on the earth for eight years. And I met Dee, so yes, six and a half years I've known Dee. And we did a lot of business together. She was my coach. I also hired her to coach people on my team. We just became good friends over time. And we would have all these conversations about the real things that were happening to us in our workplaces, for her with clients, right? She has an amazing business she runs. And I think it was during right before the pandemic, like we should do a podcast and then a friend was like "you should call it Brown Table Talk." We're like "haha"! And then you know, pandemic happens. And then you just start to reset priorities. And I thought, well, I could do a podcast, why not? I can and I didn't want to upskill myself on all the technical capabilities and we have Rich Cardona, Cardona Media and his team helping us with that but we wanted to take all of our audio messages, dinner conversations, late night texts, and share them with the world. And I just keep saying this podcast is a love letter to my younger self for all the things she experienced in the workplace that we wouldn't talk about or say out loud. And so it's really about how women of color need to stop surviving and start thriving in their workplaces and how allies can step up and help. So we talk a lot about topics like, I can't count how many times people have asked me where I'm really from, how to get rid of my accent. I mean, Dee in terms of like, one of the episodes we did around like, what does it mean for black women to have their hair repeatedly touched? And why does that happen? Black women in particular being told they're taking up too much space. Me, I'm are always told I'm not taking up enough space, I fall into like the stereotype of like, the quiet South Asian woman. Sometimes that is true. Sometimes that's not, so we wanted to bring my view as a South Asian woman and her view as a black woman, and all the things that we're facing in the workplace. And so actually rejection is redirection, that episode, my podcast helped me land the book deal because Dee has a deal with Wiley. And that podcast episode I talk about one day she and her assistant are like FaceTiming me and I'm like, "Why are you guys FaceTiming me, only my mom FaceTimes me." And then I finally talked to them and they're both like crying and they show me this email and it's from our editor now at Wiley and it says 'Mita Malik' in the subject line and it says "Your podcast co-host sounds amazing. Does she have a book deal by chance? I'd like to talk to her." And so that was like pretty amazing about how, as Lan said, like, what's meant for you will come to you if you continue to do the work. And then just a story of like women continuing to lift and support women because Dee was integral in making that introduction for me.
Yeah, I want to read some of the titles because I love them. "Stop saying 'you don't look ethnic'", also, "How to respond when they resend an offer" right? I mean, you've got so many different great subjects to sort of talk about, right? "What to do when you run into your former toxic boss." Right? Also, "What to do after you've survived the layoffs." So there's lots of great episodes that looks like you know, where you're just covering so much. You took us through kind of the process and like, kind of like letters to yourself a little bit later. What's that been like, now trying to figure out, you know, you've got a lot of great episodes, I think you've got, what 60 plus episodes?
Mita Mallick 12:33
Something like that, yeah.
Fantastic. So congratulations.
Mita Mallick 12:36
What kind of inspires you now? Where do you find new subject matter to sort of incorporate into the show?
Well, we're not running out of topics, that's for sure. But what's really interesting is we have a really engaged community, we get a lot of DMs from women of color. And it's really, some of them are painful, like "I'm being gaslit at work, I'm being targeted, I'm being bullied, these things are happening to me, your conversations mean so much. I can't publicly post a like or a comment because I don't feel comfortable, but I wanted to share this with you." People reach out to us for advice, and we turn it into a podcast episode. I can think of a few, there's one around "What to do when you're asked for a reference," that came directly from our community. There's another one around "Are office politics good or bad?" "social anxiety at networking events." And so what's really interesting now is we've moved in the stage of, we're obviously watching what's happening in the marketplace, what people are talking about, what we're experiencing in our lives, but also people coming to us and saying, "We really want you to talk about this, we need advice and help." So that's been really powerful and really humbling because I think that there's so much healing and community and conversation and storytelling, and there's certainly healing for me as I'm sharing these, but I also know there's the power of a community healing over things that they have experienced. And so that's really extraordinary. Obviously I see your messages on LinkedIn and read them a lot. Thank you for all the great content you push out on LinkedIn, I tend to see a lot of your posts are aimed at leaders and other organizations, right? And obviously, that is intentional. And I'm just curious if you can explain that a little bit more as to why you're intentional about speaking to leaders within organizations?
Mita Mallick 14:19
That's a great question. I'm a leader and I've made a lot of mistakes. I still make mistakes. And I think there's humility in that, we have to be. And I think there's this perhaps old school way of thinking about leadership of how maybe in like my father's generation, or even that seeped into my generation of like, we always have to be right, we have to have the answers. And I think the pandemic proved all of that to be wrong. When I post things to leaders, it's like questions like, "Are you thinking about this? Did you think about this?" Like, if you have labeled someone a poor performer, I have labeled someone a poor performer, what responsibility do I have in that? Or if somebody suddenly who was the famous quote, "passionate" and has suddenly gone quiet, it's very easy for me to say, "Oh, Eric's just quiet now." Okay, but what role did I play? Did I play a role? And why all of a sudden he seems disengaged at work? And so there's just a lot of self reflection I want leaders to do to think about, and for myself, like, what's my accountability and responsibility in this? Because we often think that like, the employees and the company, or like the people in the company are two separate things. They're one in the same.
Mita Mallick 15:30
And I think even more than the CEO, we always point to "What's the CEO gonna do?" The leaders, right? Middle managers, they have so much power, they're the ones like running the organization. So that's why a lot of things, I ask leaders like, "Have you thought about this? What are you thinking about?" Because there's certainly things I've struggled with in my career, absolutely.
I think that's great and you're right. Leaders within an org that sort of, like you said, senior and middle management layer, have so much responsibility for the day to day and the success of the organization, the culture that the organization breeds, and I feel that more leaders need to make sure that they are aware of the influence that they can have, and the responsibility. And I think a lot of your LinkedIn posts remind people of the responsibility that they have. Yeah, and listen, it's a privilege and an honor to lead, certainly not a right, right that I have. Like, for me, it's a privilege and honor to lead other people and to coach and care for their careers. And I hope more people think about it that way.
Mita, I have to ask you, you mentioned during the pandemic it like blew up so many ideas that we thought we knew or had, you know, what are some other kind of like, big lessons, you think that maybe we all learned or that you observed or that companies learned, because of the pandemic? What are some other kind of big lessons that you think we've learned about sort of work and life?
Mita Mallick 17:05
How much time do we have? I think the sense of control, I mean, you're seeing the market dynamics and the pendulum, working from home, not working from home, you need to be in the office five days a week, we're going to track your badges, are you productive from home, are you not? And here's the thing, we're not asking the right questions, because if like either of you as my leader had an issue with my productivity and my output, that's the conversation, the conversation is not well then Mita is not in the office, that's why that's happening. There's something deeper underlying and so I think it's pretty easy to just make it so binary, to say it's remote, or it's in the office, when I think there are underlying issues of what's happening. I think there, for many people still is a real sense of loss of community, and how that's impacting mental health, and how that's impacted many of our children, I would say, particularly, you know, middle school, high school who were cut off from their communities and now, what does that mean, also, with the continued rise of social media, and how people are connected more than before, but also disconnected? I think all of those things. I also think with Gen Z entering the workforce, you're going to see a real bifurcation in the market of employers and organizations who are going to stand up for values, and not just post it on Instagram, but stand up for them in the moments that matter for communities. And then you're going to see a whole other crop of companies who will say, "No, this is politics. I'm not going to say anything, I'm going to stay silent." And I do think it's interesting, you know as I coach leaders, and people over the years will say to me, "Well, Mita, I don't know if I should say something, it's political." And I always try to coach people and say, "Well, isn't it through the lens of privilege that we can say something's political, because for most of these things, they seem very clearly human rights issues, right?" If a community is being hurt or harmed, whether it's the Black community, Asian community, LGBTQ+ community, I mean, I could probably go through every historical marginalized community group, and intersections of diversity of how people are being hurt and harmed. And so I think it's very easy to then weaponize and say, this is political, this is too woke, right, this is this is, because it scares us because we don't maybe know about that experience. So it's really easy to just like other it and put it over there. And I do think with Gen Z coming to the marketplace, and other individuals who are like "I want to work for an employer who understands my values and leads with values," you will see people making different decisions on where they want to work.
Fascinating. I want to ask you, because you work in the field that you work specifically with DEI, right, and leadership every day, what are some things that you've seen sort of change and improve, you know, over the last couple years?
I do think because the demographics from a US perspective are quickly shifting, rapidly shifting, there is more of a focus on diversity, equity inclusion efforts, right? I think across companies, right? I do see so many people leading this work. We've also seen a cut back from the recession. Are we in a recession? Are we not in a recession, right? People are looking at priorities. But listen, inclusion is a driver of the business. I talk about this a lot in Reimagine Inclusion. One study from Nielsen shows it's over $3.3 trillion of spending power with the multicultural consumer. And it's rising, I've seen upwards of 5 trillion. And so you can no longer ignore this consumer base, they need to be reflected in your business. And if you want to sell authentically to different communities, you also have to understand insights and understand the lived experience of the community. So I see that rapidly changing. And you know, one of my myths is our ad wasn't racist, it was simply a mistake. And so you'll continue to see things that are out in the marketplace in terms of content products and services that are causing hurt and harm to communities, whether it was intentional or unintentional. And part of that is this need to follow where the growth is, but you actually don't have the right insights to serve the community, right? So there's that piece as well, where you're seeing a bit of check the box - "It's Black History Month, it's Pride, it's Hispanic Heritage Month!" right? "So like, what should we do?" And I always advise brands, it's like, don't do anything. Like if you don't know what to do, it's not your [inaudible]. Do the real work and then come back and think about how you want to show up in the marketplace, right? And so that's a little bit of what I've seen change and hasn't changed, right? But I do see much more of a focus on companies eager, you know, if you're eager for growth, you are going to look for where that growth is, and communities you've ignored up until now. But you have to actually understand that you can serve that community authentically. Right. Absolutely. Alright, Mita, fun question that I love asking every guest we have on the podcast, which is different than the question I probably asked you two years ago, but what's in your music rotation these days?
Mita Mallick 22:26
Oh, my music rotation. I listen to what my kids listen to. And so my eight year old is obsessed with Taylor Swift. And she's obsessed with Antihero. And there's a line in the song I keep thinking about where Taylor Swift says, "It's me. Hi, it's me. I'm the problem. It's me." And I have to tell you, connects to our conversation today, because for most of my life, I've been chasing inclusion. And I always thought it was me, I'm problem, it's me. And I think there's been a recognition for me in the last like, several years that I have been working in many spaces and places that weren't designed or built for people who look like me. And so that's been sort of this season of my life thinking about that, and how do we change that for other people?
Very cool. Thanks so much for hanging with us today. It's been a lot of fun, getting all the updates, and then also learning about a whole lot more. I want you to tell the audience the name of your book again.
Mita Mallick 23:25
And then where they can go get it
Mita Mallick 23:27
Reimagine Inclusion: Debunking 13 Myths to Transform Your Workplace. Go check it out on Amazon for preorder. I really appreciate you all looking at it and preordering.
Awesome and also, be sure to check out Brown Table Talk where you can find all kinds of great episodes. And thanks everyone to listening for another episode with Kerel and myself and you can find all kinds of other episodes wherever you find all of your audio and video, just search Minority Report Podcast and look for the logo. Thanks everyone.