Inclusion means you hear someone. We as black women also have a role that we're making sure that we put our opinions out there, that we're taking risks. But you have to be in an environment that also invites that and wants that.
Welcome back to season four of the Women on the Move Podcast. I'm your host, Sam Saperstein. Women on the Move is a global initiative at JPMorgan Chase, designed to help women grow their businesses, improve their financial health, and build their careers. This season, we're taking you inside JPMorgan Chase's annual Women's Leadership Conference, where we addressed critical issues affecting women. Our diverse speakers shared leadership lessons and career tips, and taught us how to take care of our wellbeing. Overall, they had one thing in common, optimism about the future and unwavering positivity. It's a fascinating season you won't want to miss.
During this pandemic, women have been hard hit by job losses, additional responsibilities at home, and added stress. With this crisis compounded by a national reckoning over racial injustice, there's no room for silence or complacency. Women on the Move will continue to support the professional growth and financial health of all women.
In this episode, we'll hear from three amazing leaders about the work that they do to advance a more inclusive society. In our first segment, you'll hear a conversation between JPMorgan Chase's head of human resources, Robin Leopold, and Mellody Hobson, co-CEO of Ariel Investments and a JPMorgan Chase board member. Mellody talks about diversity and inclusivity in the workplace, and other lessons she's learned throughout her career.
Robin Leopold :
Hello, and welcome. I'm Robin Leopold, head of human resources, and I am absolutely delighted to be here interviewing, today, Mellody Hobson. Many of you know, Mellody as a board member of JPMorgan Chase. She is co-CEO of Ariel Investments, and also a board member of Starbucks. Mellody, as a little girl growing up in Chicago, what were your dreams?
My dreams as a child were very simple, I wanted to be financially secure. I grew up the youngest of six kids and my mom was a single mom. And we had some really challenging experiences when I was growing up. And in many ways, my story is the story of the American Dream. But those early days really left a deep, deep impression on me, because we would get evicted, or our car would get repossessed, or our lights would get turned off. We sometimes lived in an abandoned building. And all of that really just made me yearn for security, particularly financial security. Which is why I don't think it's an accident that I'm in the investment business.
So they say the average American has 11 jobs in their lifetime, I've only ever had one. The reason I've stayed at my firm is I've been so fulfilled by the work, and I've been challenged by the people. And that's a winning combination. I've had the opportunity to work alongside the founder of Ariel, who's now my co-CEO, John Rogers. And John, from the very beginning, just poured his heart and soul into helping me be a better leader and a better teammate. And really just invested a lot in me. I just found an ethical person who really had my best interests at heart. And we shared a common mission in terms of what we wanted for our company, and what we wanted for the individuals that work with us, as well as what we wanted, certainly, for our customers.
I love the work. I love the challenge of the day-to-day. I love getting clients. I love explaining to them what we do. I love watching the markets. I love learning about great leaders and great companies. And all of that really has fulfilled me. And then last but not least, but probably equally important, is the idea that we do something that makes people's lives better. And that for me, drives me to want to work harder and do better.
Robin Leopold :
Well, speaking of working hard, I did hear that you have stated in other forums that nobody can outwork you. Maybe you can talk a little bit about that.
Well, you try to think about what are your competitive advantages in life. And I think that's very important to try to identify. And for me, there are going to be people who are smarter, richer, better, they're all those things, but I said, "You can't outwork me. I can have the resilience and the stamina to outwork someone." And I do. And so hard work, I'm not afraid of it. I embrace it
Robin Leopold :
Obviously, this year in particular, the topic of systemic racism has been front and center. And at JPMorgan, we have had lots of conversations about race and our desire to have a more inclusive workforce. What's your advice to companies as they think about advancing women, specifically black women? Is there any advice that you would give corporations to think about and build into their plans?
Yes. So we do this conference called the Black Corporate Directors Conference. And we've been doing it for two decades. And we talk about the 3Ps, people, purchasing, and philanthropy. And when we think about anything in business, I have the same, math has no opinion. And in business, we know if it matters, it counts. And so counting means, look at your organization from the very top all the way through.
And then look at your organization by ethnicity, African-American, Latinx, Asian, et cetera. Don't put us all under some multi-cultural umbrella that masks the inequality that might exist in the numbers. So start with knowing where do you stand and how do those numbers look, versus the overall population, our demographics and the society. Then you can see where your shortfalls are.
I think it's very important people talk about having diverse slates when they interview people. When I started working at Ariel, the first day, John Rogers told me, "Mellody," I was 22-years-old, "You are going to be in rooms with people who have big titles and make a lot of money, it doesn't mean they have better ideas." He was listening to me. He said, "I want your ideas."
Inclusion means you hear someone that they live in an environment where they can speak their truth. Now we, as black women also have a role, and we have to make sure we're leaning into the opportunity that, we're speaking up, that, we're making sure that we put our opinions out there, that we're taking risks. I know that's in us, but you have to be in an environment that also invites that and wants that.
Robin Leopold :
Let's touch on childcare. What would you say to the parent, the woman, who's listening to this, where they are feeling overwhelmed, anxious, trying to juggle work and family at this particular time?
Well, I'm one of them too, and I have a full-time job every single day and have a seven-year-old. And this is what I would say, three things, because it's what I tell myself. One, it will end. This will be a distant memory at some point. It'll be that crazy year when we were all locked in. The second thing is, which I think is super, super, super important, we have to tell ourselves just to do our best. The last thing I'd say, I think you just have to ask for help on a regular basis, wherever you can get it. I think we have to raise our hand and say, "This is not going well." And ask for help when we need it. I think that's the only way we're going to get through this.
Robin Leopold :
Yeah. And take the help. Let me ask you to just speak to the audience around just a nugget or two in terms of career advice at this point in time. What should they be thinking about?
A lot of people at all stages of life reevaluate what they're doing and how they're doing it. The one thing I would say that I think is very important, I wouldn't make any rash decisions. I see people having knee-jerk decisions in this environment. This is a moment in time, before I did anything major. If I was going to make a change, I would wait to wear out of this warm moment and see if I still felt that way. Don't make any important decision based on money, especially when it comes to your career.
The second piece of advice I got from a woman who was the president of Motorola Canada, she was the only woman president of a Motorola Country at the time. But she said to me, "Smile a lot. People want to work with people they like." And she's like, "Be likable. And one way to be likable is to smile." And so I'm very intentional about putting out positive energy and smiling. Because I think people want to work with optimistic people. And we all run to that optimism, and we run away from pessimism.
I've now heard Mellody speak several times at JPMorgan Chase. And I always learn something new from her. She shared some powerful advice. And I'll keep her 3PS, people, purchasing, and philanthropy, top of mind in my work. Our next guest is Mikki Kendall, the author of this year's New York Times Bestseller, Hood Feminism. I read Mikki's book over the summer, and the message of her work really resonated with me. Listening to her presentation should give you a much better appreciation of how feminism must address and include the needs of all women.
Hi, my name is Mikki Kendall. I'm a writer. I am an activist. I am a mom. I am a wife. I am every identity that you can include. And I am also one of those kids. I'm one of those black girls that grew up poor on the South side of Chicago. I had government cheese, and food stamps, and all of those things. I am one of those people. I am also sitting here in front of you today to talk about a book that I've wrote. I am the author of Hood Feminism. That's a New York Times Bestseller.
And you might be thinking, "Okay, well, how did you get from there to here?" And the answer is that I got lucky. I made some good choices, I got some opportunities, but more than anything else, I am no different than everyone else that I grew up with, except I had a couple of right turns, a couple of extra chances. And as an adult, I am able to look back and see that I am no different, but I know that the narrative could easily be that I am exceptional, that I could do it. Anyone could do it. But there are things that anyone doesn't have access to.
So let's talk for a minute about money, power, and how that impacts your future could. Hood Feminism is explicitly about the lived work that women in the inner city are doing to take care of themselves. And women in rural areas are doing to take care of themselves. And that they are doing to take care of their communities. Because fundamentally, their choices for their communities are about, let's make sure everyone has enough to survive. And don't have time to think about whether or not they're going to be a CEO, because they're busy trying to make sure that they can keep their schools open, that they can eat themselves, they can get to the jobs that they have, even if those jobs don't pay enough, that their health care needs are tended to. And in many cases, they are in those positions because of the impact of policies like redlining and gentrification.
So when we're talking about community funding, community prospects, how people in this community make decisions and why aren't they making better decisions, what we're really talking about is whether or not that community had the money in the first place to determine what was going to happen to it. Was that community able to access keeping their schools open? Or was it like my community, Chicago, where under one mayor we lost 50 schools. But collectively, over 20 years, we lost more than 200 schools.
We lost so many schools that right now in the time of COVID, we can't socially distance children because there just aren't enough buildings. Our kids are going to have to go to school at home, regardless of whether or not their parents can afford for them to be at home while their parents are trying to go to work because there's no way to safely send kids in Chicago back to school. And for a lot of communities, it looks just like that.
And then on top of those concerns, we know that hunger is a problem in America. We know that something between five and 10%, on average per year, of Americans are going hungry. Many of them are children. Sometimes as many as 30% in some communities. I grew up going to a school where more than 90% of us were receiving food assistance. The reason we were receiving that assistance is because we were in a neighborhood that had been disinvested.
When I was getting out of my situation of leaving a bad marriage, of moving on as a single parent and later going to college, I was able to benefit from public housing that doesn't exist anymore. I was able to get food stamps and a medical card because I'm in a state that didn't make that completely impossible. But I couldn't be cash. So I had to figure out being a single parent, going to college, and working part-time. And I was able to do those things because I had friends, I had support, I had my community. But I am not exceptional because of who I am, what was exceptional was the amount of help I could rely on.
If you never had access to opportunity, you never have access to create opportunity. If you've never been able, as a woman working in the world, to get your foot in the door in the first place of the good job that pays well, how then are you going to be concerned with your promotion for vigil? With breaking that glass ceiling? You got to climb over a concrete wall and bust down a door in the first place in order to get there, so then you can say, well, those people should vote for better politicians.
Well, how are they going to vote? Are their voting rights being limited? Is their access to polls at polling places limited? What's happening when they go to vote, whether their choices in front or back? Hood Feminism is about making sure you take care of yourself and your community, that everyone has what they need to survive even if they cannot yet thrive. So if your feminism doesn't include looking at those who have less or those who are marginalized in other ways, then your feminism is failing to meet the standard of being present and supportive of all that.
You can have a generational impact, right? Feminism, isn't just supposed to be, "Well, I got mine, now you get yours." It's supposed to be, "We have brought equity to the table for all of us." So how will we build that equity? How do we build the access? And the ways that we build it might mean that we don't all get to have every single thing, but you might look around and realize that the world you live in is a better place. Because everyone in it can afford to eat, they have a safe home, they have access to medical care, and they have access to education.
The solutions are in front of us to solve our problems. It's just that it would mean sometimes being slightly less comfortable, and you're a lot more uncomfortable, and sitting with that discomfort long enough to know I can help here or I've done harm here, how can I change the path that we are on? Keeping up with the Joneses isn't what's important, making sure that you and the Joneses have everything that you need to survive is.
Mickey Kendall is a strong advocate of true inclusion. Her personal story of overcoming adversity really is the American Dream. And her community played a huge part in it. And finally, we have Saru Jayaraman, a widely-recognized leader in the fight for workers' rights in the restaurant industry. She's the president of One Fair Wage, and director of the of Food Labor Research Center at the University of Californian, Berkeley. Saru's work highlights the massive inequity in the restaurant industry, which impacts over 13 million workers in the U.S, many of them women of color.
Hi, my name is Saru Jayaraman, I'm the president of One Fair Wage and the director of the Food Labor Research Center at the university of California, Berkeley. I've been organizing and fighting to raise wages and working conditions in the restaurant industry for the last 20 years. And the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in just utter devastation for workers in the restaurant industry, and in particular women of color in the restaurant industry over the last many months.
This situation faced by about 10 million workers nationwide, really dates back to a very historical inequity that really comes from slavery. It turns out that tipping, when it came to the states, it came right around the time of Emancipation, and the restaurant industry wanted the right to hire newly-freed slaves, not pay them anything, and have them live entirely on tips. The original concept of tipping, which was always an extra or a bonus on top of a wage, rather than the wage itself. We went from a $0 wage at Emancipation, all the way to $2 and 13 cents an hour, the current federal minimum wage for tipped workers in the United States.
The restaurant industry has become the nation's second largest and absolute fastest growing sector of the U.S economy, with over 13 million workers. Today, 70% of the workers who earn that ridiculous sub-minimum wage of $2 or $3, depending on the state they're in, are women. They're largely women of color, single mothers, women struggling to survive. So this disparity, seven states that required workers to be paid a full minimum wage, and 43 states that allowed workers to be paid as little as $2 and $3, resulted in a horrifically disparate experience for millions of workers who lost their jobs with the COVID 19 pandemic and shut down. 60% were told, your wages and tips are too low to meet the minimum state threshold to qualify for unemployment benefits.
In many cases, women, single mothers, women of color, were told, "Because we gave you a sub-minimum wage of $2 or $3 and tips, you cannot qualify for benefits that you paid taxes to receive." Many workers were left destitute, and now are being recalled back to work for takeout, or delivery, or in some cases, outdoor dining, in some cases in our dining. And being told, "If you don't come back for that sub-minimum wage of $2 or $3, you will lose any benefits you got."
Now, lots of workers are questioning in this moment, "Should I take a $2 or $3 job, exposing myself and my children to the coronavirus?" For a sub-minimum wage, when tips are down across the country, 50 to 75%, depending on the state, these women have been rising up to say, "We're not going to go back to work for $2 and $3." And fortunately employers are hearing them. My organization, One Fair Wage, has been approached by literally hundreds of restaurant owners across the country, that have said, "This is actually the time for change." We've seen, finally, that actually the system of paying people $2 and $3 doesn't work.
And so there are three things you can do to help these millions and millions of workers across the country. The first is that we've actually created an emergency relief fund for all of the workers who've lost their jobs in the industry. We've raised about $23 million, and about 200,000 workers have flied. Second, we've created a program called High Road Kitchens that provides cash grants to amazing, often, black and brown-owned restaurants around the country, that are committing to transition to a full-minimum wage with tips on top.
Third, you can contact your legislator and say, "Enough is enough. Let's end this legacy of slavery. Let's enact one fair wage now." You as consumers have enormous power, both to get legislators to do the right thing and to get employers to transition away from a legacy of slavery, and towards a model that will help all of us have a better dining experience. Thank you.
Thanks to Mellody Hobson, Mikki Kendall, and Saru Jayaraman, for joining us at Women's Leadership Day 2020, and for all the work they do to advance a more inclusive society. Hearing their perspectives is so valuable to us at JPMorgan Chase as we continue our path forward toward equality for all. If you'd like to see more from our event, visit jpmorganchase.com/leadershipday for the replays and additional content.
The mission of Women on the Move is to help women in their professional and personal lives. Our goal is to introduce you to people with great ideas, inspiring stories, and a passion to make a difference. If you enjoyed this episode, please rate, review, and subscribe so you won't miss any others. For JPMorgan Chase's Women on the Move, I'm Samantha Saperstein. JPMorgan Chase Bank, NA, is a member of the FDIC.