This month on the See It To Be It podcast Melinda talks with Dr. Shirley Davis, who is the CEO of SDS Enterprises, a woman and minority-owned C-Corporation that provides strategic development solutions that enable organizational leaders to build high performing and inclusive cultures that thrive in a competitive and changing environment. When Dr. Davis was a child, she had a very vivid imagination. She had no fears or limitations, and dreamed of being either an allstar athlete, lawyer, fashion model or actress. She talks about how as children, we don't have any of those experiences that cause hurt, rejection or pain which causes us to have fears and limitations. She explains however that once she went to college and got out in the real world, she did start to have those experiences that brought about feelings of self-doubt and caused her to "shrink". Now, her doubts and fears have been minimized almost completley, but like anyone still seep through from time to time. For example, when she was asked to be on a national board, she thought "they want me?" and almost talked herself out of the oppurtunity. She then reminded herself of how wonderful, educated and deserving of this oppurtunity she was. This prompted her book, "Living Beyond Your What Ifs", which tells the story that we can all relate to of having those fears and overcoming them to be the best version of yourself. Her inspiration for the book was to inspire other people to live beyond their what ifs, she says "we have an obligation, responsibility and even an oppurtunity to help other people who may be facing the same things too". In the book, she shares personal stories as well as stories of other people, who she mentored and were also stuck in their what ifs and overcame them. The book is full of tips and tricks to feel your best self and live in confidence and peace, sounds like a must-read to us!
Dr. Davis spent 30 years in corporate america and mentions her career found her. As a child she never dreamed of being in HR or being a Chief Diversity Officer but she says "I do believe that in life your past will collide, you collide with destiny". She believes that the things she learned in early childhood were preparing her for her career. Companies would say to her that they needed someone for DEI, and she fit the bill being a woman of color. As for how business is doing post-COVID, Dr. Davis claims that ever since the murder of George Floyd last year her firm been overhwlemed and has not slowed down. They have been on the forefront as a full service firm, they did more listening sessions in the last year than in the past 20 years. Dr. Davis doesn't believe DEI is going anywhere, it has been a relevant hot topic for a number of years because of the pervasive demographic shift we are seeing today. When the new generation of talent comes into the workforce, they have expectations, and if companies don't accomodate them, they will miss out on top talent. She mentions that in 2020, some of the top words used were "pivot" and "you are muted" (LOL). When people pivoted last year, they not only reinvented themselves, they reinvented work places and relationships and looked at life saying "is this what I want to do?" 3.9 million people in June and July quit their jobs, and we're calling this "the great resignation", because people are choosing a different path in their lives. People now ask themselves "is this where I want to work? Is my boss toxic, is this workplace toxic?" and are choosing hapiness and quitting their jobs, so employers must get with the program or they will miss out.
As far as the mass resgination, women are a lot of the ones leaving the workforce. Currently, women make up nearly half of the workforce, says Dr. Davis, and companies need to do something to retain them. Women are overwhelmed with not only work responsibilites, but also child care and other home responsibilities. She calls out to companies to make their workplace cultures and policies more flexible, and to create the enviorment that allows women to excel. She belives women were leaving the workforce in higher droves this past year because not only were they many of them laid off, they made choices to leave because childcare centers were shut down and children were home from school. Her firm has been overwhelmed with a lot of calls about implicit bias training, because at the core of it, women still have biases that keep us from being payed fairly, hired in certain positions or being promoted as fast as men. She even brings up that out of the fortune 500 companies, only 41 of the heads of those corporations are women. We have work to do! It starts with equity, inclusion, bias training, but then it goes to accountability: change your policies, update your strategies and put programs in place that are much more flexibile and accomidating to bring women in.
But what about things like the new requirement by Wall Street about mandating women on boards, is it enough? Will it bring about enough change (since it only specifies women and not race or sexual orientation)? Dr. Davis thinks its a start for boards to diversify, but it needs to trickle down to not just women but people of color and those that have different experiences, thoughts, perspectives and ideas. Talent comes from a lot of places, and companies need to know to look for leaders that have transferable skills and recognize that talent comes from all different backgrounds, you HAVE to look outside your traditional network, cast your net broader. She brings up that when she is asked to be on a board, even if they are all white men, she knows that she may be the first and may even be the only, but she won't be the last.
As for Dr. Davis' mentors, she has a great network of other senior executive women. She also finds people who are five to ten years ahead of her in their careers, and emulates some of what they do, even if they are not formal mentors. A lot of our podcast guest bring up a network of other women, Melinda mentions the statistic that when women have a network of other women, they get further, and even more so when they have a mixed network of men and women. The most powerful thing we can do is to share our networks with other women. Dr. Davis says relationships are the new currency. A lot of her business comes from referrals and recomendations. People do business with people they like, trust and know.
To learn more about Dr. Shirley Davis, check out her YouTube channel or buy her book on Amazon "Living Beyond Your What Ifs", follow her on social media. Dr. Shirley Davis is the author of the new book Living Beyond “What If?” Release the Limits and Realize Your Dreams (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, August 10, 2021, Available for order at Amazon.com). She’s also the author of the books Reinvent Yourself: Strategies for Achieving Success in Every Area of Your Life and The Seat: How to Get Invited to the Table When You're Over-Performing but Undervalued. Additionally, she is a popular author for several LinkedIn Learning courses on Leadership and DEI.
"Challenges are brilliantly disguised as oppurtunities for us to take them on by the horn, not be afraid and make a difference"
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