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Intersectionality: The Impact of Identity at Work

Humans are more enterprising when organizations make space for them to be their authentic selves. You can’t stop being yourself at work, so when you can bring your full self, your contributions can create an impact. On this month’s Subject to Talent podcast, Head of Getting Hired Amanda Burke and guest host Audra Woods, AGS client executive for marketplace diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), discuss the intersectionality of identity and how accessibility changes can set up your workforce for success.

Transcript:

Bruce Morton: Hi, I'm Bruce Morton, the host of Allegis Global Solutions' Subject to Talent Podcast. Today I'll be handing over the microphone to my good friend and colleague, Audra Woods. Audra is the client executive for marketplace diversity, equity and inclusion here at Allegis Global Solutions in North America. Audra has significant knowledge and expertise in this area, with over 10 years’ experience in the staffing industry. She'll be joined by Amanda Burke, the head of Getting Hired, a leading platform for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the workforce. Similar to AGS, Getting Hired is part of the wider Allegis Group. Together they're going to discuss the significant impacts that DEI initiatives have already had on the market and the need to expand efforts to include an intersection of multiple identifiers when serving candidate and organizations. Let's listen in.

Audra Woods: Hello, everyone. I am Audra Woods, the DEI marketplace solution leader at Allegis Global Solutions (AGS). I’m very excited to guest host this Subject to Talent podcast episode to share with you insights from my colleague and my great friend, Amanda Burke, DEI game changer, the head of Getting Hired. A little bit about Getting Hired; Getting Hired's mission is to build and promote inclusive workforce and connect diverse talent to employers for cultivating accommodating environments. Also, Amanda was named a 2022 Staffing Industry Analyst (SIA), Diversity, Equity Inclusion Influencer, and is a fierce leader within DEI. I will say, Amanda, being your battle buddy within this space is not only inspiring, but I'm very excited for you to just share your expertise with our audience today. So, Amanda, welcome and thank you for joining us.

Amanda Burke: I am so unbelievably excited to be here today. I'm so excited to have this conversation. You're spot on. When it comes to being a battle buddy in this space, being able to talk about how DEI has evolved, how it’s evolving in the marketplace, and then why everybody's here today, learning about Getting Hired and sourcing. So super excited about this conversation.

Audra Woods: Yes, yes, yes. Love it. I do want to just kind of ask you a few questions. So, one of the few things with AGS in our Subject to Talent podcast, we always ask everyone the first question, so how did you get into the workforce industry? What was your journey? What was Amanda Burke’s journey from just starting within your career to where you are today?

Amanda Burke: Man, what a great question and what an awesome story to be able to talk about and share with people because I feel like I've had a really neat story to be able to get to where I am as the head of Getting Hired. I've been in people management for about the last 20 years. It's been really exciting to be able to work with different organizations in different capacities where I've been able to manage people, support individuals, have customer service.

About 12 years ago, I got into workforce solutions specifically outside of just management, and it kind of happened randomly. I was out on short-term disability and knowing that I was looking for another opportunity, I got a random phone call from a recruiter who said, "Hey, are you interested in maybe doing recruitment?" And I had no idea what it was. I thought recruiting was separating bolts into buckets 12 years ago.

Now 12 years later, I get to do direct sourcing, FTE, contingent managed services, you name it, all these really neat things where I get to impact the core of an individual's needs, which is food and shelter. And how do you get that? More often than not, it's through your job. And so I even thought about, throughout my career, it probably starts before you get a job. I went back to my ACTs and I feel like that's the one you went to learn like, what are you going to be when you grow up? I reviewed everything on that just a few years ago when I was interviewing for a couple different jobs. And the three things it told me that I was going to be when I grew up was, one, it was going to have a personal impact. So this one-on-one feeling of being able to impact somebody. Two, there's going to be community involvement, something that has to do with community. And third, employment.

So I've realized even in high school that I'm the same Amanda or the same person that I've always been the last 20 years doing the work that I've been doing because it's just ingrained in who I am. I just get a really unique opportunity to be able to utilize all my experiences as well as my own self-identity. That's one thing that comes up and honestly didn't come up a lot until probably the last five years or so about how I personally identify in the world. I'm a woman who is Black biracial and I have a disability, I have cerebral palsy (CP), but I didn't share that in my previous 20 years of experience with people. I really kept it close to the chest because it was one of those things where in today's society I felt like, am I a burden? Am I something that could be considered weak because I have these intersections of identities? Which I know we'll get to later. But if I share that now, will I be taken seriously in the workspace?

So when I think about now being the head of Getting Hired and then looking at what kind of got me here, man, it's been a really awesome ride. I mentioned the community involvement too. So, before I even got with Getting Hired, I was a part of nine or 10 or 11 different boards, the American Red Cross, associate boards, naturalization ceremonies, the National Center of Community Justice, national diversity councils. I was a part of all these different groups, even though my job was more focused in on recruitment because I wanted to see the person and realize that, hey, I want to help you find an opportunity no matter who you are. It just so happens I specialized for a long time in engineering.

So that's like, I guess kind of how I got into the space in general. But I guess if you think about how I got started in Getting Hired... For those people who don't know, Getting Hired is part of the Allegis Group companies. And so in, I guess it was 2022, I was working for an Allegis Group company or 2020, my apologies. I was working for an Allegis company, and we were all at home because of the pandemic. So I didn't know that Getting Hired existed until around the pandemic because we were at home in front of our computers. I didn't know that Allegis Group had a company like this.

But I reached out via LinkedIn to somebody because I knew I had a disability and I was in the workforce space, and I wanted to try to bridge those gaps and try to figure out how can I create opportunity and accessibility for different underrepresented groups. I reached out to them, told them, Getting Hired, my story of not disclosing that I had a disability until my early to mid-30s and how I wanted to be the change because there was no representation for an individual that says, "Hi, I have CP," or, "Hi, I have ‘insert whatever disability here’ and I'm wearing it with pride." And then I didn't know if I could talk about it. Is it legal? EEOC. You're not supposed to ask me those questions. I'm not supposed to say anything about that. No one has representation. I don't know the rules and the laws. I hear the word accommodation and I don't know about you, but I think about burden. What's that? I don't want to be somebody's burden. I want to have the opportunity for me to be me and be successful no matter what that might look like.

So for me, taking this role was like I can be the person that I needed, like I mentioned before, representation from a person who sees their disability as a strength and not a limitation. I actually call disability variability, something that I utilize often. Because have you ever dissed something and it been a good thing? We think about the vernacular and the way we use words, and I think sometimes you say disabled, you could also say your car is disabled. I don't want you to compare me to something like that when you think about disability. So often throughout this podcast, you might hear me say variability, and that's my equivalent of disability because I believe every person, regardless if you're non-disabled or disabled, you do things in varied ways and you need success optimizers in order to be successful.

My very first day with Getting Hired was July 26, and the reason why I share that day all the time is because that is the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Look at the universe, right?

Audra Woods: Wow. Wow.

Amanda Burke: That was not on purpose. That was not planned. That was just the universe realizing, hey, when you have this experience and you know what you want to do and you have this purpose, I feel like all that stuff starts to align.

My first day is the [anniversary of the] ADA landmark decision, I don't know if our viewers know what the ADA is, but it was passed in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act. It was landmark legislation that prohibits the discrimination of people with disabilities in all areas of public life. That includes jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public. The ADA gives civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities similar to those provided to individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age and religion. So being able to have that be my first day at Getting Hired after all the experience that I have, as well as my multidimensional identity, what a gift to be able to be here to sit here and talk about it. It's awesome.

Audra Woods: Amanda, I'm just so taken aback. One of the thing first things when we met is that I said, "This individual is probably one of the most authentic individuals I've ever met." And everything that you just said, I mean, I heard so many things from how you started. I mean, we all trip and fall into staffing. I mean, that's kind of the same thing that happened to me. But I heard just your passion, the impact, and how you were able to go through adversity and always just be yourself and honestly thinking of disabled. And you're right, because when you hear something you kind of think of, I really like your term where you said it's a variability.

Amanda Burke: Variability. Yeah.

Audra Woods: Variability. I love that term, right? Because I love the fact that you are embracing “who I am”. “This is me,” and it's not going to impact anything as far as how can I be successful. Honestly, there were so many mic drops in that.

Amanda Burke: We're just getting started.

Audra Woods: I mean, hey, I feel like you’ve said five or six things that we can literally put on a T-shirt. Thinking of just all of that and your transition to Getting Hired because I've learned so much just working with you, but can you tell us a little bit about Getting Hired, how it got started? And I know that you've made a lot of impact there. I've already seen some of the things that you've done, so just definitely tell our listeners a little bit about that.

Amanda Burke: Oh, I would love to. Getting Hired has been around clearly longer than I've been around as the head of Getting Hired. So this year we’re actually celebrating its 15-year anniversary, which is so exciting.

Audra Woods: Wow.

Amanda Burke: Yes. And it's our one-year anniversary of our kind of rebranding with our expansion from just being focused entirely on disability to now the expansion of the different identities, which we'll definitely get into later as well. So in 2008 it started, and it actually started off as a video resume company. Think about that, 15 years ago. Not a lot of companies are even doing that now, but it started off as a video resume company.

Audra Woods: Wait, did you say video resume company?

Amanda Burke: Yes.

Audra Woods: Wow.

Amanda Burke: Yes. So I remember probably about 10 years ago, we used to get some individuals within the tech space that would give us a DVD. Some of our listeners who don't know what that might be, a DVD or a CD, that had them talking about their resume. And it was more of a video-like interactive type thing. So it wasn't just reading on paper to set yourself apart. And so the thought process was for the individuals who started it, their financier had a son who had auditory and hearing loss so that there was this layer of personal impact of, hey, my child isn't able to get opportunities. Well, what if we did a video resume to be able to show them what they are capable of doing, the value that they bring in the workforce regardless of what they are.

In this case I'm saying more so it was focused in on auditory, but it ended up growing beyond that, far beyond that to where, when they first put it up, companies were saying, "Hey, could there be potential discriminatory practices that could pop up if our company and teams aren't trained and supported, and then we're visually seeing individuals who are in the identity space of having a disability? Could there be a risk here?" And so they did a very large evolving at that time in the beginning to be able to say, "Hey, you're right. Instead of just making a video resume website, let's create a network of service providers. Let's have talent be able to register who are maybe a part of, let's say, the Ticket to Work program or have different accommodation needs that they could share if they would like, to where talent and employers can get resource and support with disability inclusion." And so that's how it started back then in 2008. And essentially we do very much similar things. We've just expanded since 2008.

In 2012, Allegis Group ended up purchasing or bringing Getting Hired onto its group. And as you know, Allegis Group is one of the largest workforce solutions groups. So how awesome to be able to say, "Hey, we're going to get very intentional on making impacts and making sure that underrepresented talent is truly served versus being underserved." How it has been for many, many years if you look at the statistics, and even still today, if we want to be real. I know you and I live the space all the time, but that's why we're here. The goal is to try to make it even just 1% better based upon what organizations are defining as diversity.

But going back into the reason why Getting Hired started, 1 in 6 people globally or 1.3 billion people live with some form of disability.

Audra Woods: Wow.

Amanda Burke: In the US, it's 1 in 4 or 26%. Some other stats there, 80% of disabilities happen to you over time. Only 20% of disabilities are congenital. My disability of cerebral palsy, congenital, so I was born with mine. But if you think about that 80%, everyone will either temporarily or permanently experience some form of disability in their lifetime, and yet we don't necessarily think about that on the front end. It's the largest minority group worldwide. It's 17% of our population having a disability. Even so, per an Ernst & Young (EY) report that was done earlier this year, only 4% of businesses are focused on making offerings inclusive of disability.

To me, hearing that number, 4% of businesses focusing on making things more inclusive of disability, really makes me think of two different things. It makes me think of why we expanded in 2022 to focus on the intersection of identity, not just one single part of our multidimensional selves. We now have veterans. We have BIPOC, which is Black, Indigenous, People of Color. We have LGBTQ+ and advancing women communities, and we're continuing to add those onto our site, www.GettingHired.com, and we'll talk about that more later in our conversation.

But it also makes me think of the late Judy Heumann. Judy just recently passed away this last weekend. If you do not know Judy Heumann, I strongly suggest you look her up. She is the mother of disability rights and activism. Check out Crip Camp to see how a group of individuals changed accessibility as we know it today. Again, this last weekend she passed away, but my favorite quote from her is, "It is no longer acceptable to not have a woman at the table. It is no longer acceptable to not have a person of color at the table. But no one thinks to see if the table is accessible." Getting Hired was set up and has continued to evolve to be a place where we are thinking about the accessibility of the table no matter how you identify.

Audra Woods: Wow, that's such a powerful quote, and I definitely want to offer my condolences in regard to Judy Heumann in her passing this past weekend. But one of the data points that you really highlighted was just around the accessibility and the accommodations, right? Because one of the things that of course you know, that what we hear in the industry is how people want to increase their variability talent within their organizations. However, it really goes down to how are you really taking the time to make that investment and spend the money as far as spending the additional money for the infrastructure around the building or spending the additional money investment around the interpreters that may be needed. So that's some really, really interesting topics that you mentioned in there.

One of the things as I do want to transition to how Getting Hired has really grown to serve an intersection of identity. So one of the terms that we always hear within DEI is intersectionality, right? So can you share a little bit about what is intersectionality? How Getting Hired has grown to serve the intersection of identity? Because when I hear you speak to it, it's very, very impactful. So definitely share that with our audience today.

Amanda Burke: Yeah, you actually in your question, have a lot of things I can address there too. So you talked about the cost of disability inclusion and those investments that clients make. We partner with Job Accommodation Network. The average accommodation is probably around $300. It's not a lot of money at all, but again, what is an accommodation? If you think about the money that we invest on coffee machines or we invest in water coolers or different things, those are essentially accommodations if you kind of think about it, sort of. People get more access, better access to water or different things that you need to have your success optimized.

So you're spot on. It takes more than just saying, where do I go to find someone who has an underrepresented identity? For us, intersectionality, at least how I would define it in lots of different ways, is the acknowledgement of simultaneous experience of social categories like gender, race, variability or disability, sexual orientation, even generational alignment. Think about socioeconomic status. All those things interact and can create systems of oppression, domination and/or discrimination. And so oftentimes, if you think about even me, right? I am a woman who is a person of color, I’m mixed, and I also have a disability. I don't necessarily want to bring all three of those parts to work every single day. I might just want to be Amanda and what does that look like? And I also come from a family of an Air Force veteran. Veteran work is so important to me and military spouses knowing that 38% are unemployed.

At the end of the day, there are so many different things that come together with your identity. You can't stop being you at work. Everything that makes you who you are allows you to be successful. In 2023, it's beyond job descriptions. It's beyond resumes. In 2020, we got sent home, and as I mentioned before, that's one of the largest categories that caused a disability. When you think about long COVID-19, which is now categorized as a disability, we showed that you can have accessible workspaces in places by having people be in a place where they can optimize their own success because they're in their homes for the most part. Now, it truly just comes down to being able to say, what do we want to do to give success to our employees? But even more so, how are we creating options for our employees to want to self-identify and say they need success optimizers? Because if I'm happy, my company's happy as well. There are things that they're going to be able to get because of things I'm getting in return or an individual's getting in return because they feel supported.

Audra Woods: I totally understand. So I do want to transition a little bit just based off of our next topic, because you mentioned as far as bringing yourself to work. I'm a military spouse, and my husband, he just recently exited out of the Air Force, so I saw what that transition looked like for him and what his job search looked like as well. So, one of the things as far as just the key to building a solid DEI workforce plan and what it looks like for the organization or getting guidance on what a more diverse workplace can look like for your organization, because everyone does define diverse talent differently. I've learned that. A lot of people or in the industry, they may focus on what they can see, but there's a lot of additional factors as far as what you can't see, geographic, age. There's so many additional things. So can you share a little bit as far as just the various factors that can determine the multiple identities?

Amanda Burke: Oh, 100%. And I think you hit the nail on the head when you think about when clients say, "I want diverse talent, but what does that even mean?" There are so many layers there. I think that diversity, equity, inclusion is almost like an onion. It's very layered. You have your own personal experiences on how you navigate the world. You have your close personal circle. You have your department at work. You have your company's perspective of diversity. You have the neighborhood that you grew up in or the space that you live now. There are so many different factors on how we see diversity that oftentimes when we have these conversations or when I'm with my team or we're working with employers, you don't quite know what that means to them. So that's sometimes the first question. Hey, let's define what your talent base looks like right now. Let's get a gauge of where your focus currently is and see where we can help, add, support or amplify your efforts within diversity, equity, and inclusion recruiting and talent lifecycle.

So, for us, we look at sourcing. We're looking at where are you currently creating and nurturing talent pipelines, we're looking at screening with AI and ChatGPT and all these really cool things out there. Let's think about assistive technology. You talked about accommodations and how much that costs. Some of these things that employers are investing in are stopping individuals with, let's say, a screen reader or additional assistive technology from being able to apply or have access to those opportunities. We're looking at screenings inside of the interview process as well.

So what are your panels looking like? What kind of words are you using on your job descriptions? Are you saying that you have accommodation statements, that you have a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, that you have a commitment to accessibility? Are those even words that you have tied in somewhere to be able to say, "Hey, if you want diverse talent, what do you currently have right now that is reflecting the representation that said diverse talent is seeking to know that if they choose your organization, that you will optimize their success over the other employer or the other person?" Which in the last few years, I know everybody who has had to hire experienced with unemployment rates being the lowest they had ever been in the last couple of years.

Whenever it gets to that, that it's just job descriptions and resumes, a person wants to know that a company is investing in them. Do you have employee resource groups (ERGs)? Do you have business resource groups (BRGs)? Do you have benefits that align to my own unique needs, either being in the LGBTQ+ community or wanting to be a parent or being a caregiver because I may have elderly family members or friends that I have to care for. All of these things are so much more important to your individual looking for a job now. And as we all know, everyone is pretty much passively looking for a job at any given time. And as an employer, if you realize it's more about how I can optimize the success of not only my existing talent, but also talent pipelines that are going to come to my website or come to my career portal or come and see the partners that I have, to see DEI is going to continue to evolve.

The way that we see diversity in the world is going to continue to evolve over the next couple of years. Our jobs are going to continue to evolve as being DEI practitioners, but as long as you're aligning with individuals who see that and realize that and keep that thought leadership and that process to say, how do I successfully optimize all of the talents and skills and competencies that the individuals that are in my workforce have? How do I do that and make them truly, truly, truly successful? And a lot of it does come down to that DEI strategy that you talked about. And how is it being integrated into every single aspect of how a client does business? I know now we're talking about sourcing, but there are so many different ways that you can add accessibility on the front end.

Audra Woods: And you made a lot of good points, as you always do, and I think one of the things that some of the employers forget is the why is diversity important for your actual company? And I think it's important to stay rooted in the why, because you always hear, "Oh, it's the right thing to do." But, no, it's the thing that you must do and it's a business imperative.

I do want to share just very quickly just some data. I was actually looking at something in the Harvard Business Review and how diversity is tied to our performance. I saw that companies that really embrace diversity and really push it from the executive level, and it's ingrained within the culture that 36% of those companies are more profitable. So having a diverse atmosphere and diverse strategy within your workforce, it is tied to performance, it is tied to profit, and it is tied to you being the employer of choice.

But great podcast. I'm going to wrap it up. One final question for you. One of the things that we do like to do within our Subject to Talent podcast is we like to end our episodes just looking a few years into the future. So, Amanda, if you had a crystal ball, where do you see DEI, let's say, within the next five years? What would success look like in comparison to today?

Amanda Burke: What a great question, Audra, and I feel like as DEI practitioners, we probably get asked this often, and I wish that there was a way for us to truly see what it's going to look like in five years. But just like you shared some stats, I'm going to share some more just to be able to give people an idea that I believe that we are more diverse than we could even imagine. But I think it comes down to living in a world where we have always had kind of binary options. Let's think about this Census 2020. This was the first time, just this last 2020 that they gave people like myself the opportunity to select more than one race. So [from] 2010, we increased over 238% of the number of individuals who identify as having two or more races. We went from, I think 8 million to 33.8 million people. Our population only went up 7%. So if our population's only going up 7%, but people are realizing that there is a multidimensional view to their identity, what does that mean for DEI? What does that mean for the people that are already in their roles working? I mentioned before that 26% of individuals in the US have a disability. Only 4% are disclosing at work.

Audra Woods: Oh, wow.

Amanda Burke: It's about giving people the opportunity to disclose and show those parts of themselves. In five years it's about having options, getting away from the binary. If you come to the GettingHired.com website and you register as talent on our board, we have self-ID options that give you things that you likely have not seen on a career portal before.

Audra Woods: Nice.

Amanda Burke: When it comes to your veteran status, when it comes to your gender identity, when it comes to your sexual orientation, and we also have on there, those success optimizers I mentioned a few times, which are our accommodations. So in five years, I believe that we're going to be in a place where organizations are realizing and people are realizing we don't have to have the answers, but we have to have the options so that we can create accessibility for all.

Audra Woods: Well, there you have it, everyone. Thank you, Amanda Burke, DEI game changer, 2022 DEI SIA Influencer. Thank you so much for your time, and thank you for joining me today. One last thing, what should listeners do if they want to learn more about Getting Hired?

Amanda Burke: Go over to our website. Let's go to www.GettingHired.com. We always have awesome webinars going on. We have In Action Panel series where employers are talking about what they're doing to support, amplify and empower their underrepresented and underserved talent pipelines and employees. So come check us out, www.GettingHired.com.

Audra Woods: Awesome. Well, thank you everyone, and thank you, Amanda. Have a good day.

Amanda Burke: Thank you. You too. Bye, Audra.

Audra Woods: Bye.

Bruce Morton: To learn more about AGS, please check us out at AllegisGlobalSolutions.com. You can also send questions for me or our guests. Just tweet us here @AllegisGlobal with the hashtag Subject to Talent or email us at SubjectToTalent@AllegisGlobalSolutions.com. And if you enjoyed our podcast today, please subscribe, rate us, and leave a review. Until next time, cheers.