Diversity at Work: Fighting for a Seat at the Table
Jackie Glenn
Author,  Diversity & Inclusion Leader

Working your way up to the C-suite as a mom, an immigrant, and a woman of color takes boldness and resilience. This is Jackie Glenn's story. At just 19 years old, she emigrated from Jamaica to America to work as a nanny. She got married, had kids, and eventually became Vice President & Global Chief Diversity Officer at Dell EMC. Today, Jackie has her own company, and she remains dedicated to giving voice to the underrepresented and building more diverse and inclusive workplace cultures. Jackie shares lessons from her life and book, Lift As I Climb: An Immigrant Girl's Journey Through Corporate America. She paints an inspiring picture of the obstacles, sacrifices, and successes she's experienced throughout her journey as an immigrant, a woman of color, a working mom, a wife, a daughter, and a C-suite executive.

Listen to this episode to learn:

  • Why working moms and underrepresented minorities need to be bold, speak up, and "A.S.K. to G.E.T."
  • How women can shake the doubts and fears of managing a career while raising a family
  • Advice for immigrants and minorities on how to build a career in corporate America
  • Why having a personal "board of directors" is a great source of support, perspective, and ideas for working women

For more information, visit: https://glenndiversity.com/.

Click here to read the full episode. 

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Full Transcript

Diversity at Work: Fighting for a Seat at the Table

Intro: Welcome to the Equal Parts podcast, brought to you by Care@Work. 

Emily Paisner: Being a working parent is hard, but when you have to fight for a seat at the table, that requires perseverance. My guest today is Jackie Glenn. Jackie's story embodies the American dream with all the great determination and obstacles that come along with it. Jackie was 19 when she emigrated from Jamaica to the United States, where she earned two degrees, raised a family and worked her way up to the C-suite of a global Fortune 500 company. She's worked as the Chief Global Diversity Officer at EMC and now she runs her own Diversity, Inclusion, and HR consultancy. 

Jackie is also the author of a book called Lift as I Climb: An Immigrant Girl’s Journey Through Corporate America. Jackie's story is really inspiring and I know will inspire you too. Have a listen. Thank you so much for being here today. 

Jackie Glenn: It's my pleasure to be here. Thank you for having me. 

Emily Paisner: Jackie, the subtitle of your book, I feel is really important. It's An Immigrant Girl’s Journey Through Corporate America. There are a lot of immigrants that are trying to build careers here in the United States. What advice can you give an immigrant whether it's a man or a woman trying to really thrive and advance their careers here? 

Jackie Glenn: Embrace your immigrant status. I truly believe that we're all immigrants and if anyone who's listening, disagree, all you have to do is send for that kit from ancestry.com and you'll find out where you're from and where your ancestors are from. Embrace your immigrant status, be proud of it. I wrote in my book that when I first came to this country and was promoted to Chief Diversity Officer, one of the biggest thing that I had to do is speak publicly and I didn't like my accent so I ended up getting a coach and one of the first advice she gave me was to own my accent and slow it down. 

Help people to understand your journey. I think the more people get to know you, the more people are authentically curious about your background, the better they'll understand you. What I mean by that is, I talk a lot about my background growing up in Jamaica, so people understand the culture a little bit more, or understand why we do some of the things that we do. Always be proud of sharing your culture. 

Emily Paisner: I would love for you to tell our listeners a little bit about your journey as an immigrant, a woman of color and your career path, ranging from being a nanny to being a C-suite executive at a global Fortune 500 company. 

Jackie Glenn: I came to this country at the age of 19. Was sponsored to come into the US by friends of my mom who lived in Shawnee Mission, Kansas, so I came to this country as a nanny. My first entry into the country, when I got to the airport, there was my name on a piece of plaque waiting for me, and I remember this to this day, and it's been quite a few years, I started crying because it was just new at 1920 and I had left everything I knew, my culture, my family, and if you think back to being a 20-year old, I just don't even know how I did it but I did. My obligation was two years. I did two and a half years and relocated to Boston with my dad's side of the family. 

Emily Paisner: How did you manage working so much, having and raising young kids while trying to build your career? 

Jackie Glenn: I know you've heard this saying, "It takes a village." I know that there's a lot of your listener that might not have a village because they moved to a state where they might not have family but I did lean on my family a lot. My mom was here, my mother in law was here and my husband was a great partner and so I figured it out by just making sure that the kids were covered, that my husband and I communication was on point that we were literally saying, "Who's going to pick up? Who's going to drop off?" 

"Are you working late?" "Are you going to school tonight?" There were days when I had to take my daughter to the library with me when I was in graduate school and have her sit down with her little coloring book while I did what I had to do. 

Emily Paisner: You started working at EMC, which is a big global tech company. What were some of your fears and doubts as you began to work your way up there? 

Jackie Glenn: I think one of my biggest fear to start out, was changing jobs as a working mom. I was at one company where I was doing great. Everyone liked me. I knew the job, why bother? As someone would say, why fix it if it's not broken? Change, even when it feels uncomfortable, it's always good. 

As an HR practitioner, I knew in order for me to grow, I would have to move and change. One of my biggest fears, am I biting off too much? Am I taking on a bigger job? Will I be able to do the job? 

Emily Paisner: I've been there. I've been in situations where my kids were babies. In fact, when I was pregnant, I got hired at a new job and that was very uncertain and I changed jobs and they were toddlers. Again, more recently when they were a little bit older, but I can relate to not wanting to change but needing to- 

Jackie Glenn: Do it for you. 

Emily Paisner: -push yourself in order to open up new opportunities. In your book, a lot of what you wrote was centered around the theme of perseverance in the face of adversity. What is your advice to some of our listeners and employees who are struggling right now to be heard within their organizations? 

Jackie Glenn: Resilience to me is persevering in spite of. One of the things that I wrote in the book is, sometimes you're in a situation at work, where the first instinct is to just throw in the towel, write your resignation letter and leave. I always say to people that sometimes you have to be resilient, and you have to stay uncomfortable until you become comfortable. What do I mean by that? A lot of times, you don't know how it's going to end if you bow out too quickly before you see the end game. 

I say that a lot to my two daughters, that sometimes you just have to stay uncomfortable sitting in that space that doesn't feel good. When you come out of it, you come on with a lot of learnings. 

Emily Paisner: Let's face it, there's not a lot of diversity in corporate America. What advice would you give others who are trying to work their way up the corporate ladder in environments that are not very diverse? 

Jackie Glenn: Assume positive intent. What do I mean by that? Assume they want you at the table they just didn't ask you. You're going to assume, "You know what? You forgot to ask me." There's a ton of research out there that shows that diversity breeds innovation. Without innovation, these companies are not going to last, they're going to die. I go at it from a business standpoint. You might not be comfortable having me at the table, but guess what? If you bring me to the table, we can drive innovation together because we come from different backgrounds, different thought process. 

I always say it's far better to be respected than to be liked. If I come into a situation, I'm always offering what I can do for companies to add them scale, have them transform, and have them move the needle. Not necessarily, "Oh, I want to be at the table because I want to be liked." Yes, I want to be liked, but that's always secondary to me than helping to drive the business. What I always advise anyone to do, but especially women and underrepresented minority, is to be relentless. 

Emily Paisner: From your perspective, being a woman and a woman of color, can you talk a little bit about making room at that table for yourself? 

Jackie Glenn: You have to be bold, bold in knowing what you need, asking for it and asking for your seat at the table. In a lot of environment at work, there is not necessarily a deliberately intention to exclude women and underrepresented minority, but it happens. I worked for a technology company, there wasn't a lot of people that look like me, so I had instances where I was invited in the room to do a presentation or be a part of it but when I looked around the table, there was not a seat. 

I gave an example of taking my chair and going next to my CEO and asking him to just small up himself and move over so I could get a seat at the table. To me, that was important for me to do not just for me, but also for the other women that will come behind me. 

Emily Paisner: I love that boldness. [laughs] 

Jackie Glenn: Emily, one of my say, and I say this a lot to my daughters, "You have to A-S-K to G-E-T." I started spelling that out for them from they were little just to get them to spell, but I mean it. If you don't ask, you won't get. My daughter to this day, at 28, use that on me because she always said, "Mom you said we have to ask to get." I do a lot of executive coaching and just coaching for the next generation executives. I feel that one of the biggest thing that I hear from our next generation is, "Nobody's asking me to come and I didn't get the promotion", and I always say to them, "Did you ask?" 

 Emily Paisner: So simple. 

Jackie Glenn: That doesn't mean they're going to say yes, but I always say to people, "Put it out there. Make your intentions known." 

 Emily Paisner: Jackie, I know that you are a mentor and coach to many people in the workplace. What advice would you give to women in the workplace right now to help them advance in their roles, in their career goals, as well as being moms? 

Jackie Glenn: This advice could go both ways, both male and female, but the first advice I always give to working moms is, have a board of directors. It sounds so fancy, but basically, it's just a group of people, maybe internal to your organization, definitely external that you can call to do a sanity check with, to bounce things off of. People that you really value and even people that you think they're-- 

How do I put these? People that you think might not be as easy on you as you'd like them to be. Those are some of the people, believe it or not, I ask for advice. Get a board of director. The board of director could serve as simply as just, "Here's what I'm thinking of doing." "Here's what I have a dilemma with, my childcare." "Here's what my boss is doing to me." Instead of you just sitting by yourself and trying to figure it out, you have a whole board. I always say, get a board of directors. 

 Emily Paisner: I love that. 

Jackie Glenn: The second advice I would give is, if your company pay for it, get a coach. People think that you have to be a big old executive to have a coach. The best thing that happened to me earlier in my career that someone suggest the coach and I had someone who'd call me out on my name when I was being a little snotty and, "Oh my God, they're doing this to me because I'm this." My coach would call me out on it, so get a coach. A lot of company have coach you just have to ask for it. If you want to invest in yourself, get a coach. 

The third thing I would ask for is that-- I advise that everybody gets all the time but the point here is Emily, if use the advice, don't be so hard on yourself. You might see a job and you want it but you're thinking, "I'm not ready for it yet because I only have four of the eight stuff they're asking for. Let me wait until I get to almost all eight before I apply for it." Apply for it anyway. Even if you only have three out of the eight, because what will happen if you don't get the job, you're getting experience in applying for the job. 

 Emily Paisner: Jackie, you were one of 11 children raised by a single mother. 

Jackie Glenn: Yes. 

 Emily Paisner: I cannot even imagine what a strong and amazing person she must have been. 

Jackie Glenn: Yes, she was amazing. 

Emily Paisner: You credit your mom with instilling a lot of your core values and principles that you live and work by today. What are some of those key lessons that you learned from her that I'm sure you've now passed on to your kids as well? 

Jackie Glenn: My mom has been gone now for almost 20 years, and I still remember some of those words like integrity, resilience, being self-aware. What my mom instill in me, was work hard, operating in integrity always, always exhibit empathy no matter who or the situation that you're dealing with. Every time I speak of my mom, I always get a little emotional because even though she's been gone for so long, I miss her because I don't think I would be sitting here today speaking to you and giving out advice if I didn't have a mom like her who always tell me that I can do anything I put my mind to. 

 Emily Paisner: Jackie, thank you so much for being here today. 

Jackie Glenn: Thanks for having me. 

Emily Paisner: Your book Lift As I Climb was really a great read and I found a lot of inspiration in it. Thank you so much. 

Jackie Glenn: Thank you for having me. 

Outro: Thanks for listening to this episode of Equal Parts. See you next time. 

Emily Paisner: Wait, before you go, I just want to tell you a little bit about Care@Work by Care.com. They work with some of the world's largest companies to offer family care benefits to their employees. If you're one of the lucky ones who already has care benefits at work, use them. If you don't, ask for them. It's a real lifesaver. To learn more, visit care.com/careatwork. Again, that's care.com/careatwork.