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Measuring success in DEI: Beyond the numbers

Episode #: 273
Measuring success in DEI: Beyond the numbers

Guest: Melina Cordero
Topics: Leadership training, management training, DEI, workplace culture, 

In this weeks episode, Chris sits down with Melina Cordero, founder of P20, a digital learning platform focused on helping Companies adjust to a post 2020 environment and facilitating DEI initiatives.

What You’ll Learn

  1. How are companies adjusting to the post-2020 environment?
  2. What services does P20 offer?
  3. How can companies expand recruitment strategies for diversity
  4. How important is inclusion and equity in DEI initiatives?
  5. What are the limitations of one-time DEI workshops
  6. How can we create spaces for uncomfortable questions?

About Retail Retold

The Retail Retold Podcast highlights community retailer stories from across the country and gives a behind-the-scenes perspective from business leaders in both retail and real estate industries. The show’s episodes contain valuable insights that help solve the needs of entrepreneurs and real estate pros. Join host Chris Ressa and new guests weekly for amazing insights and thought-provoking stories.


Chris Ressa  00:00

This is Retail Retold, the story of how that store ended up in your neighborhood. I’m your host, Chris Ressa. And I invite you to join my conversation with some of the retail industry’s biggest influencers. This podcast is brought to you by DLC Management.

Chris Ressa  00:02

Welcome to retail retold everyone. Today I am joined by Melina Cordero. Melina is the founder and president of p20. I’m excited for her to be here. Welcome to the show Melina.

Melina Cordero  00:13

Thanks, Chris. I’m excited to be here.

Chris Ressa  00:17

So where are you right now? Melina?

Melina Cordero  00:19

So at the moment I am in Mexico City. In my office.

Chris Ressa  00:24

You have an office in Mexico City?

Melina Cordero  00:26

Well, my home office.Yes.

Chris Ressa  00:27

Okay, so you have a home in Mexico City.

Melina Cordero  00:33

I do. So I split my time now fairly evenly between Washington DC and Mexico City. So that’s where I am right now and I go back pretty regularly. Most of my clients are based in the US. So Mexico turned out to be a really great launching pad for getting wherever I need to go in the States, even though it adds a couple hours.

Chris Ressa  00:56

We have to dig in what what why are you in Mexico City half of the time?

Melina Cordero  01:02

Well, I spent most of my 20s abroad, I’ve lived in Latin lived and worked in lots of different countries. And I’ve been in the States for about 10 years. And when I left my last corporate role at CBRE I had really been wanting that adventure of living abroad. But I also love Washington, DC, which is where I was born and raised and all of my business and a lot of my network is in the US right? So I wanted a place that was part adventure part logistically easy to have a sort of, two home life and Mexico City has turned out to be it and I love it. And I always offer we were just at the open-air conferenc the other week. And I think I convinced at least five people to plan a vacation to Mexico City. So anyone who needs travel tips, you know who to call.

Chris Ressa  01:54

Okay, and are you so give me the lay of the land? Do you have like, are you like downtown in an apartment? Are you like in the countryside and a house? What’s going on?

Melina Cordero  02:05

I’m a city girl. So I am in Mexico City, in a neighborhood called Roma, which many will probably recognize from the famous movie that took place here called Roma. And so it’s it’s pretty central there. It’s very international. It’s a lot of fun and plenty of good cafes. So that’s you know, what we need to fuel the business.

Chris Ressa  02:29

Did you have a lot of family or friends in Mexico City before you move there? Nothing.

Melina Cordero  02:34

Nothing. So it’s a funny story. But my cultural origins, my father’s side of the family is actually from Puerto Rico. And so I’ve always had roots in Latin America and been very kind of connected to it and interested in it. And wanted to move to Latin America for some time, at least this chunk of my life. And Mexico City just happens to have this sort of infrastructure and proximity to the US and really sort of friendly visa requirements, which is a whole other topic. And so this is where I landed,

Chris Ressa  03:08

We can’t go, we can’t go there.

Melina Cordero  03:15

I do pay taxes in the US if anyone is wondering. For the record.

Chris Ressa  03:21

So okay, so you’re in DC, your in Mexico City, what’s deciding, like when you’re going to spend time in Mexico City versus when you spend time in the US.

Melina Cordero  03:32

The business. So I oftentimes will plan trips around speaking engagements, I’m doing a lot of speaking for company retreats and events and, and industry events, in and outside of commercial real estate. So I, for example, if I’m invited to speak at a conference in New York, I will plan a chunk of time to be you know, on the east coast around that, see clients, meet with people. So it really is organized around around those kinds of events. I do workshops in person and virtually. So if there’s one in person, obviously, I will plan trip around that. So it really is in function of of the business and you know, major conferences that I might be attending.

Chris Ressa  04:16

So let’s talk about the business. So p20. So what do you do? Tell everybody.

Melina Cordero  04:22

The first question people always have is what what’s p20? I kind of get this this weird look of what is that? What does that mean? So p20 comes from this concept of post 2020. It stands for post 2020. And for me when I was in the industry, you know, steeped in retail commercial real estate. I really saw 2020 as a major turning point, not just for our industry, I think for every industry in every workplace. I think that the way that we work, how we work, where we work, why we work all the hows and whys and what’s of work fundamentally changed. I think anybody who’s a leader or people manager on the call can confirm that. And so what I wanted to do is create a business and services that supported companies adjusting to this post 2020 environment. And in my view, what we need in the post 2020 environment is much more conversation and support around leadership and management training which has really fallen off the map over the past 10 to 20 years. We need more support and innovation around this big trend in DEI, you know, how do we create inclusive environments, we have the most diverse workforce we’ve ever had. And that’s just growing. So how do we manage effectively teams that look, sound, speak differently. And third is around culture. You know, workplace culture has been a big conversation since 2020. Something that talent, especially younger talent is looking for. And it’s a big challenge to retention, which costs companies a lot of money. So what P20 does is it really takes these three pillars, and provides consulting advisory and some specific services to companies to help them create environments that are much more adapted to a post 2020 world.

Chris Ressa  06:14

So if you were to, what do you find from a business perspective that you end up like people end up hiring you for the most? And is that what you enjoy spending your time on? Or do you try to like, gear them towards something like, Okay, you’re hiring me for this? But like, we should really spend time on this?

Melina Cordero  06:34

Yeah, it’s a great question. And I’ve actually built out, so I’ve been doing this for about three years now. Right? And I’ve morphed and built out my services and my offering based on exactly what you just described, like, what do people have appetite for? And what do I want to take them to, because when it comes to workplace culture, or DEI, every organization is sort of in a different spot in their journey. There are some who are like, you know, we just can we can can you just tell us what it is, let’s start with the very, very basics. And there’s others who have been doing this work, and are very engaged in this work and are at sort of a more, you know, graduate level. And so what I wanted to do is create services that address each of those. So one of the most popular ones that’s really, really great, I think, for organizations at any level, but especially those that are just starting out, or doing a sort of reset on their strategy is what I call culture audits. So a lot of times, companies and leadership teams are saying, Okay, we need to do something about culture, or DEI. But we have no idea what to do or where to start. And what the culture added does is it comes in, and it’s sort of an engagement survey without all of the negatives of most engagement surveys that we’ve all ever taken, which are boring and sort of tedious and don’t actually result in any change. So what the culture audit does is it goes in and does a more in depth analysis of what an organization’s people want, what they feel, what they need. And what comes out of that is a really, I think, interesting and detailed report that I see as a compass for companies and leadership teams to say, Oh, this is where we should focus. This is where we start. And obviously, that comes with really specific recommendations to companies on what to do. And so I try and take away what I call throwing spaghetti at the wall that a lot of leaders and DEI committees are doing because they don’t really know where to start. So the culture audit has been something that’s really been beneficial and helpful to companies as a starting point.

Chris Ressa  08:35

So super interesting, what so far, three years in what’s your most proud business accomplishment?

Melina Cordero  08:46

I think building the business I think that has I mean, I think just starting it and doing it. I never saw myself as an entrepreneur and you know, me starting my business didn’t come from me wanting to be an entrepreneur per se. Me starting this business came from seeing a gap and a niche, and something I wanted to fill more innovatively. So I think that that has been my my little surprise journey. And I think the other thing that I’ve been really proud of is how much I’ve been able to take people who feel very resistant or uncomfortable around DEI and made them feel like okay, I can do this and I want to do this. That’s been one of that’s one of the most kind of rewarding parts of the job is developing an approach helping people go from this is overwhelming to me, to I’m an active participant in this conversation.

Chris Ressa  09:42

Got it. So the the business, is there a team, is it just Melina what’s going on in the business? What what’s going on?

Melina Cordero  09:51

So technically it’s Melina, hello. But what I’ve been building out is has been a really interesting network of what I’d call collaborators and partners. So I have been pulling in experts from a variety of fields, from wellness to unconscious bias and DEI. I pull in different experts and pool their expertise for clients. So one of the main products you asked me earlier, you know, where do I start with clients? And where do I try and take them? One thing that I’ve noticed in pretty much every organization I have ever worked with is that people, employees are asking for more support and learning, which may surprise people because they think, Well, you know, as much learning and development content is out there, it’s kind of overwhelming. And it’s not always the most practical. And so what I’ve found a lot of people asking for is more effective, more engaging, learning around these topics. And so one of the products I built out, which I’m super excited about is a digital learning platform. So it’s a learning and development platform that’s digital that focuses on leadership and DEI and provides short multimedia video based content that targets really specific topics, you know, what’s a gender pronoun and what does it mean? What’s the difference between Hispanic and Latinx? How do you be an ally to women in the workplace, really specific questions that come up a lot. And as we cover those questions I pull in experts from different fields. And so what it does is it gives a variety of voices, a diversity of voices, and content styles that allow people to engage with information in a way that’s less boring than it’s traditionally been.

Chris Ressa  11:37

So, so just real quick. So going back, you mentioned training and development. And then you went into what it sounded like, the training and development you were talking about is this DEI is all the stuff around DEI. So when you’re saying that, you find that company companies, people are looking for training and development? Are you talking about more like they’re looking like for mentorship around their job and training and development in that? Or they’re, they want to learn more about like gender pronouns and DEI stuff? More specifically what,  just so I’m clear. 

Melina Cordero  12:13

Yeah it’s a little bit of both, but more the second, right, so if we talk specifically, there are two things. One is around DEI. And when we talk about gender, or race, or neurodiversity. It’s really scary for a lot of people, because there’s all this terminology and new terminology. And it’s really confusing for a lot of people, and not everyone has had exposure to it. And there’s this huge fear that if I say the wrong thing, I’m gonna get canceled, or I’m gonna get in trouble, or I’m gonna offend a colleague. And so that’s been an area where people really want just learning support in a safe environment, where they feel they can sort of learn the things they need to learn to feel comfortable. And then the other aspect that leaders especially have been really searching for is, how do I lead in, as I mentioned before, a post 2020 environment? Like I have been leading teams for decades, but never hybrid. I don’t know how to run a meeting virtually versus in person, right. So there are all these new skill sets that are required of leaders, that there’s been big demand for that support.

Chris Ressa  13:21

Totally makes sense. The companies you work with what, what are like the size ranges that these companies are?

Melina Cordero  13:24

Yeah so I have targeted smaller and medium sized companies. So typically, I mean, I’ve worked with companies as little as 20 people, to small nonprofits that are very mission driven, and a lot of times quite advanced in what they’re doing and DEI. So they’re really fun to work with. But I’ve also worked with larger organizations 2,500, 5,000 that are either just starting out in DEI, or have been doing it since the pandemic but are ready for a reset. And the reason I focus on smaller or medium-sizedmedium sized companies is because I feel that that’s where the biggest gap is, I think that larger, public companies have mostly developed tools and foundations in this work because they’ve had to right because they’re publicly listed and they have to do this. And there’s this misconception around small or medium sized companies that they’re too small to do this work, to afford this work, or to build out and access the recent resources that are required for this work. And that’s where I feel there’s a misconception that we can create tools and resources and support for small or medium sized companies that can actually have a really big impact.

Chris Ressa  14:42

Got it. And you know, you come from the commercial real estate space. What percentage of the clients are in commercial real estate today?

Melina Cordero  14:51

I’d say 30%.

Chris Ressa  14:54

Yeah, so you have a lot, but you also have a lot that are out of commercial real estate.

Melina Cordero  14:59

Most are out of commercial real estate. Yeah.

Chris Ressa  15:01

And so how did they find you? How did you find them?

Melina Cordero  15:04

That’s a really good question. It’s a lot of sort of connecting dots, right? There are people I’ve worked with, who maybe were on a board of a nonprofit, and they said, this would be a great add on, it’s really one of these random connected dots. And I have connected with a lot of networks of entrepreneurs who work in different sectors. You know, commercial real estate is really related to finance. So some of my network has sort of led me through there. So it’s, I think it’s, it’s really random. How you land in these in these sectors and clients sometimes, but I think that what’s been interesting is the similarities between industries of what what the dynamics and the challenges are around this work.

Chris Ressa  15:50

So what topic in the space that you’re focused on gets you the most jazzed up? What are you most excited to, like consult on and talk to people about?

Melina Cordero  16:02

That’s a great question. I have developed a couple of

Chris Ressa  16:06

well i’m trying not to ask bad ones here.

Melina Cordero  16:08

No, these are great. There’s no bad question. And there is no bad question. So there are a couple things that I’ve really loved, that I’ve built out some some tools around. So one is a question I get from pretty much every organization, which is how do I hire diversity? How do I hire diversity? How do I find them? How do I recruit them? How do I retain them? And that question has come up so much in every industry, and especially in commercial real estate, that I built out a series of products and services specifically around that. So I run workshops on this, but I also created this digital toolbox that essentially walks through every step of how you as an organization, or a team, or a hiring manager can and should find, attract, and retain diverse talent. And so that’s an example of some of the things I think have been lacking.

Chris Ressa  17:05

I have a simple small, I’ve a simple direct answer for that.

Melina Cordero  17:11

Hit me

Chris Ressa  17:13

Don’t require a college degree.

Melina Cordero  17:15

Yes. So you and I talked about this years ago.

Chris Ressa  17:19

So I, went to the NRF conference, National Retail Federation, and I was one of the few ICSC members at this conference and the keynote was this guy, Ken Chenault, who’s the former CEO of Amex. And he like basically said to everyone in the room, and like, you know, there’s like, the top retailers in the world are here. So these are all there’s like, of the top 50 fortune 500, you’re talking about, you know, 20 of them are are here. And he was basically like, none of you have DEI programs, you all say you do, none of you do. And he was like, if you require college, or four year degree, then you really don’t, because majority of minorities, you know, are not majority, the percentage of minorities compared to the non minorities that don’t have a college degree is significant. So if you’re requiring a college degree, you’re putting, you’re putting a small box of people that you can actually hire from diverse backgrounds. And so I thought that was interesting. I don’t know the stats off the top of my head, I did at one point, but I’ve forgotten what they were. But they were, but it was quite remarkable. The stats, and it’s been something we’ve talked about internally and whatnot, and everyone gets very fixated on like, well, you know, can I actually hire this specific role without a college degree? And I think people get lost in it.

Melina Cordero  18:49

Yeah. So I think it’s an incredibly important point. And it’s actually a bigger point than just college degree or not college degree. It’s two things. One is this idea of in our job descriptions, and what we’re looking for, we need to shift our focus from specific skills or experience sets, like five years of commercial real estate experience in a specific kind of firm or Excel expertise, right? Those are skills or experiences, what we need to do is shift towards competencies, right? Focused, good communicator, eager, you know, core competencies to reform because let’s take the example of Excel. Are you going to spend a lot of time and energy trying to find someone who comes in as an Excel expert, when that’s something that they could easily learn on the job within a couple of weeks, right for free, because there are tons of free resources to do that. And so the issue is that when we put, when we stick to these specific skill set requirements, unless they are genuinely required for the job,

Melina Cordero  19:56

you’re a doctor , you have to go to medical school,

Melina Cordero  19:58

Of course of course. Absolutely. But to your point about commercial real estate, like let’s think about brokerage. Sure. Do you need a college degree to be a fantastic broker?

Chris Ressa  20:14

I would argue that most, I would argue there’s way more jobs in America, that you really don’t need the degree to actually perform the job. The greet tells a few things about someone. But I’m not sure it only tells whether someone and sometimes it doesn’t tell if they can do the job. Yes.

Melina Cordero  20:36

And so the I mean, the other research is interesting about the recruiting and hiring processes that we’re generally pretty bad at it. Yeah, right. So the stat that gets thrown around a lot is that when we hire, you know, despite all this effort and strategy we put into it like 50% of the time it works out and 50% of the time, it doesn’t. And so that’s something that I think we just need to be more strategic about, we need to think differently about how we write our job descriptions, I think we need to get a lot better about identifying what it is we really need in a role. I think a lot of times you just slap together this list of every possible, great thing we think we could use in that role, and it’s not really targeted. And and then we need to get better about being able to detect what we’re looking for in the interview process, which is hard, right? Because how do you get to know someone, you know, it’s like going on a million first dates, you don’t really get to know someone that well through a one or two hour interview. So what are some of the strategies in that time and space to really get to the core competencies and skills of an individual and there are strategies there, but I think that we’ve just been doing it the same way for so long that we miss a lot.

Chris Ressa  21:48

Yep, I agree. I agree. Well, the as it relates to the, you mentioned, the interview process, what I think, you know, companies trying to get more diverse. What

Chris Ressa  22:11

You put out, you put out a job ad job to do you put out your job description, you market it everywhere. And you don’t get diverse people look for the role. What what do you do? So

Melina Cordero  22:25

you go back to the drawing board, and you look a what’s in the job description. So that’s something I work with a lot of organizations on. And it’s really basic adjustments to the job description. You know, the length of it the format, the inclusionary language? Is there a value statement? Very simple adjustments? Actually, the clients I’ve worked with have reported like, this actually makes a huge difference in who’s applying. Second, where are you posting these jobs? So you mentioned, okay, you get the job description, and you put it out, you put it everywhere, where’s everywhere? Is it everywhere, you usually post the job description, which may be LinkedIn, and maybe your website, maybe, and deed, right. That’s not actually everywhere. And if we look at where diverse candidates tend to look for jobs, and what they look for in job descriptions, it’s not necessarily in the places, we always post our jobs. And so give me one. So one, secret sauce place I really like to post, when I advise clients or post in commercial real estate is with all of the major associations that have women’s groups, women and leadership, black real estate professionals, you need to have a targeted list of where those are, and I have that list. Anybody wants it. And that’s who you need to be sending your job descriptions to. There are websites there are job postings. Another really great source is LinkedIn groups. So rather than just putting your job description on your company’s LinkedIn page, do the search to identify a couple of LinkedIn groups such as women in real estate or black professionals in finance, right? If you’re looking for a CFO role, and put the job description there. I think the other little trick tip that I give folks is stop looking only in commercial real estate. There is an immense amount of transferable skills from other industries. I mentioned finance before, where you don’t necessarily need to have someone that’s got specific real estate experience to do certain roles or jobs. You know, I came from a technology space when I walked into CBRE to run retail real estate research, right? So and I did fine. So think about expanding what we’re looking for and where we’re looking for it and it makes a huge difference.

Chris Ressa  24:55

What do you say to the person that says, Well, I don’t want gonna alienate the non diverse candidates either.

Melina Cordero  25:04

You’re not? Okay. You’re not because you’re putting it everywhere so that the definition of inclusiveness is including everyone. And the challenge is that in just posting it in the traditional places, we’re actually not being inclusive, right? Because we’re kind of catering to the same universities, the same profiles, the same personalities. And if we’re just going to, for example, friends and family and networks for recruitments. Now, those can be very valuable because there are people who come vetted, who can hit the ground running, right. So there’s, they’re not necessarily inherently wrong. But truly posting it inclusively means making a little bit of an effort to get to spaces that you haven’t typically reached. And I also have to add that I think that, you know, hiring diversity is not just about ticking boxes and reaching quotas, if that’s why you’re doing it. Don’t.

Chris Ressa  26:02

Okay, sorry. Go ahead. Tell us why.

Melina Cordero  26:05

Because hiring diversity should not just be about hitting numbers, because if you’re hiring diversity without a sort of genuine appreciation for diversity and inclusion, those people are going to leave, and they’re not going to perform at their at their optimum, because they’re not really welcome and comfortable. You should want diversity, because diversity is really good for the business.

Chris Ressa  26:29

And go ahead, I got a question.

Melina Cordero  26:31

No, hit hit me with the question I’ll give.

Chris Ressa  26:34

So could you give the listeners so that that’s like a theory that a lot of people have had? Could you point the listeners of like, real stats, like Company A wasn’t diverse, they did this company B ended up or a company I wasn’t diverse, they became and their sales were x, then they got diverse, and now their sales are why and there’s a really tangible relationship between the diversity and the increased business success is there somewhere we can point people to to go look that

Melina Cordero  27:06

up. There are several places I can point people to, and I’m happy to, I’m happy to send you a couple links to the research and the articles on that.

Chris Ressa  27:12

And send me those and I’ll post them in the show notes. Perfect.

Melina Cordero  27:16

I’ll give you the quick overview, and then I’ll give you my additional take on it. So I don’t think that we have done a really great job of making the business case for diversity, equity inclusion, I’ll be really honest. So I’m gonna tell you what, I think we should be talking about it. But what the research has said is they’ve looked at public companies, and they’ve looked at the diversity of their C suite and their boards. And what they found over time is those with more diverse C suites and boards have higher profits and revenue growth. That is a stat that has been studied, that’s established. We also know, you know, why is that? How is that happening? You know, one, there’s a lot of link between the more diverse your teams and your decision makers, the more innovative because you’re getting people in with different perspectives who can attack a problem or, you know, approach a problem from really different experiences and skill sets. And so that, especially in a space, like retail, that is very consumer demographics driven, is especially important right? Now, the there are two other things that I’ve noticed in in this space, in particular, particular in commercial real estate, especially in retail. The advantage for an organization to have more diversity is that the clients and the customers are diversifying much faster than the industry is. I have now seen you know, when I was working in the brokerage space over the 10 years that I was working in it what I started to notice as more women were taking on the decision making roles, especially in the investment space. When brokers walked in to pitch a deal or business, they were now being asked different questions that they were being asked 10 years ago, which is what’s the makeup of your team? What’s your DTI strategy, who’s in the room who’s going to be working on this asset? So the requirements at the point of sale are changing. And especially in a space like commercial real estate, the customers and the clients are diversifying. So that is one point that sure there’s a business advantage to diversity.

Chris Ressa  29:25

That makes sense just so when when you’re saying diversity, what, who are we talking about?

Melina Cordero  29:34

So generally, when we talk about diversity, I think people tend to limit their, their mindset to race and gender. Right. I in my work with diversity conceive of it a little larger than that I think about nationality. I think about neuro diversity in addition to ethnic, cultural, racial and gender diversity, diversity in general is what’s in pour it in here. And when we talk about innovation, I think they neurodiversity, for example, is a huge advantage. However, in this space, when we talk about Dei, most of the focus is on gender and race, because that’s where the data has been strongest. That’s where the datasets and the research have been strongest. And so it’s easier to talk about that it’s easier to develop strategies, because there’s been more specific research on it. But it is changing, and it’s growing. And the neurodiversity for example, is is a big space of study right now.

Chris Ressa  30:33

I think the other thing that people struggle with is like, okay, when like, what’s like good numbers? Or like, how do I know that? Like, my company is like, diverse now?

Melina Cordero  30:46

Yeah. So diversity is one of the letters in the alphabet soup of Di Di, B, do, you know, pick your pick your alphabet, diversity is not the be all end, all right, and you can have diversity, but it sort of fails on the DEI from because you don’t have inclusion. So there are lots of practitioners who actually argue and I would sort of agree that the eye on the E, the inclusion and the equity are actually just as important, if not more important than than the diversity. So when we have companies out there, I think a lot in the space assume that the work in dei is around recruiting diversity. But then what happens is, if you’re not really hiring, then you can’t actually do anything. But actually the, you know, creating environments where everyone feels comfortable and feels like they have opportunity is really, really important. And so that’s something that that I work with organizations a lot on, and it doesn’t just come down to number. So when you say okay, well, what should my targets or metrics be? And Dei? Because that’s what everyone wants to know, right? How do we measure success? And my response is, it’s not just quantitative, it has to be a mix of numbers, short measure diversity, you know, what’s the representation of gender or race or ethnicity within your organization? And how has that changed over time? That’s an easy one. But the other thing that’s really important to measure, and this is what I do behind the culture audits is how do people feel? You know, feelings are not something that we’re used to talking about a lot in the workplace. And that can make us uncomfortable

Chris Ressa  32:25

talking about feelings. How do you feel right now? Melina?

Melina Cordero  32:27

I feel great, I’m happy. I’m talking about this. Right. And so when I say about feelings, there are a couple of things. So I’ll give you an example. Some of the questions I ask, and through the culture audit process of employees, right, like, do you feel comfortable raising an issue? If you have one? Do you feel you have a space to ask questions? If you don’t understand something? Do you feel you have opportunity for advancement? Do you feel that you are properly resourced to do your job? Do you fear that feel that workload in your team is distributed fairly and evenly? Right? That is just as important as how many people of color do we have on our team? Right. Got it. That’s how you measure success.

Chris Ressa  33:22

Okay. We’ve, you’ve dropped a lot of knowledge on people here on a topic that’s not normally talked about on this show. So what else can we leave people with that we haven’t discussed? Right now? What else is what else is hot topics out there?

Melina Cordero  33:42

I think the hot topic, one thing that I’ve been on a big mission to do is create spaces for people to ask uncomfortable questions. That is, I think the number one thing holding people back, especially in our space, where, you know, a lot of the leadership and people managers are white men. And that’s not a bad thing, right? That, that you are a white man, I think that there’s this misconception that they don’t get it or they’re not committed. What I found instead is that a lot of, you know, former colleagues and clients that I worked with, started calling me up after I left CBRE and saying, hey, you know, don’t judge me, but I have this question. You know, I’m on LinkedIn, and I see these gender pronouns everywhere. I just don’t get it. Can you just explain it to me? And I kept getting calls like that from colleagues, friends, clients I had in the space. And I realized that what was holding them back from you know, being dei champions, or even approaching this work is that they had questions they wanted to learn, but they didn’t have space to do that, where it felt safe. And so I built that space. And I started a project called uncomfortable questions, which is free, right? That’s not like a paid product or service. Where I literally have a survey that’s a no On a mess on my website, you go, you post your question and I respond. Yeah. And it’s been one of the most fun things that I’ve done since I started, what’s the website? Hold on. So if you go to Molina There’s a section on there called uncomfortable questions. And that’s where you can post it. I’ll send you the link, and you can share it.

Chris Ressa  35:25

I’m on it right now. I’m on it right now. I gotta put in my email.

Melina Cordero  35:29

Yes. And what I do is I take the questions, and I answer them in video form. So it’s super accessible, it’s very approachable. And I share it with everyone. So if you submit a question on there, I’m not going to know it’s you. I’m gonna know someone submitted a question and I answer it, and I share it with everyone, because one of the amazing things is if you have the question, very, very likely that lots of other people do too. And so I share these videos through my newsletter, and through which you can also sign up for on that page, and through my YouTube channel, which is p 20. Workplace. And so the the YouTube channel has been a really fun repository of all these different questions and answers, plus other tips and facts around this space. Because I’ve been trying to make this knowledge accessible. That’s my goal here. So I’m gonna ask a

Chris Ressa  36:14

question, I’ll let you know which one I asked. Okay, I’m gonna, I’m gonna ask a question. I don’t know what I’m going to ask just yet. I’ll try to, I’ll try to have some time and reflect and ask a

Melina Cordero  36:28

question. Yeah. And I can give some examples of ones that came through, right. I got a lot ahead of Hispanic Heritage Month of were really confused about whether to use the term Hispanic, Latino, Latina, Latin X, like, which ones right? So there’s a video on there on the YouTube channel. So I

Chris Ressa  36:45

don’t know the answer to that. Which one is right? It’s,

Melina Cordero  36:47

it’s such a good one, we’ll watch the video, it’s like three minutes long. So the answer is that it depends and that there is no one right answer. And depending on you know, your experience in Latin America, where you’re from, and also your generation, you know, Latin X has become really popular recently, because it’s seen as gender neutral, right? It takes away the O or the A, which is the gendered form of Latino or Latina. So Latin X, however, the issue with Latin X is that Spanish speakers do not put X’s at the end of a word of you know, consonant after a consonant. It’s not something that’s, that’s endemic to the Spanish language. So a lot of Spanish speakers see Latin X not as inclusive, but actually as this kind of Anglo American impose term. Right? So then you’re sitting there laughing, because you’re probably like, well, then what’s the answer? Right? Like, what do I do? And that’s the amazing thing about this space is that there very rarely is like a black and white and a right and a wrong. And so how do we then approach things like this, that we can say it’s inclusive, and we’re gonna say, instead of Hispanic Heritage Month or Latinx, Heritage Month, it is Hispanic and Latino, Latina, Latinx heritage might, you know, or you pick one, and you put a little disclaimer that says, you know, we recognize some people prefer their identity, you know, this term or that term? And we want to be clear that we include everyone in this designation, right.

Chris Ressa  38:12

Okay, I have two last, I’m gonna call them tougher questions. Okay. So question one. What is one thing most like there’s a consensus in the progressive dei community? That you don’t agree with?

Melina Cordero  38:38

That’s a great question. I have a couple ideas on that. You know, one, one thing that’s frustrated me is

Chris Ressa  38:51

I’m like, I’m moving my standing. I’m sure the team’s gonna, why did you do that in the middle of the podcast.

Melina Cordero  38:58

Um, I think there’s an overemphasis on what I would, what I call one and done workshops. So I facilitate workshops, I provide workshops, it’s not something I think that workshops as an education opportunity can be really great. But I don’t agree with the one and done come in, do a three hour workshop and walk away. Those are shown to be really ineffective and can sometimes cause more harm than good. So I encourage any organizations out there who are incorporating workshops into their sort of dei programming or initiatives. When you’re selecting vendors or experts who do these workshops, you know, like me, talk to them about, you know, what are the takeaways from this? What’s the is there an you know, what happens after are there resources are going to come with this? Is it a workshop series? So be wary of one and DUNS? I think for dei practitioners, it’s a great way to get a check right in and out but Is it going to is going to drive change? And are people going to walk away from that workshop feeling like, oh, you know, I have some follow ups.

Chris Ressa  40:06

Sure. That’s good one. Okay. Well, Melina, this has been great. I really appreciate it. I think this is gonna be very different. How do people find you?

Melina Cordero  40:21

Well, my website, Molina You can also email me I’m very active on LinkedIn. So I can share that as well with links to the newsletter, and the YouTube channel. And I’m very accessible. You know, my goal, like I said, a couple times in this space.

Chris Ressa  40:38

You’re in Mexico City right now.

Melina Cordero  40:42

We’re all online. And anybody who’s interested in coming to Mexico City, I have a great list of restaurants and museum recommendations. So

Chris Ressa  40:52

yeah, I’m visiting Mexico City. What timezone is Mexico, so

Melina Cordero  40:55

it is 145. So depending on the season, we are either one or two hours behind East Coast time, so it’s not too bad. It’s

Chris Ressa  41:02

right in the middle. Yeah. Awesome. Okay. So you’re very accessible. Virtually.

Melina Cordero  41:11

And in person. Okay. Yeah. Like I said, I’m in the states half the time and I travel, you know, we’ll travel for gigs.

Chris Ressa  41:22

So in Mexico City, what’s what’s a weekend looking like for you? Like, what do you do on a weekend?

Melina Cordero  41:28

Mexico City has the best weather. It’s very temperate. It’s it’s dry, which I like, and it’s always kind of sunny and 75 degrees. So it’s a lot of walking. It’s a lot of being outside. It’s a lot of going to museums. It’s just a really different energy than, you know, the cities where I’ve lived in New York, DC. So I really love it. So that’s

Chris Ressa  41:49

a different energy. So that’s interesting, right? Because when Yeah, if I were to ask someone outside of 75, and sunny around, which is not in New York, or DC, but you mentioned like walking around museums, that’s pretty typical for people who live in the,

Chris Ressa  42:03

I mean, in DC, that’s pretty typical. Yeah. So when you say different energy, what’s the energy like? It is.

Melina Cordero  42:10

So one, it feels calmer. Now Mexico City is a huge, and it’s polluted. And it’s a you know, there’s a lot going on, but there are almost like these little villages within the city that can feel really different. And so where I live, there’s a lot of green, sometimes you feel like you’re in a rain forest. You know, the plants or vegetation is really different. The birds are different. Everyone has five dogs. So it’s just like a different vibe. And it’s very, very, very international. Right. And so obviously, you know, the music sounds different, the soundscape is different. The food is incredible. Just the food alone is worth the trip. So it tastes different. It smells different, it sounds different. And that I think I always joke that cities are like, people or relationships, you sort of have different relationships with cities. You know, sometimes you get to a city, whether it’s for vacation, or to live there, and you’re like, Oh, I love this place. I can’t explain why. I just I it’s like love at first, I just Oh, I’m into it. And I think that’s how it is with cities. Sometimes you have cities where you’re like, I’m not really feeling it. I’m not gonna go on a second date with the city. And sometimes you have cities are like, I get you know, I’ll guess I’ll try it out. And then you know, you’re later you’re completely head over heels in love. So that’s my approach to cities. I treat them like relationships. Mexico and I are going to be together for a while. Okay.

Chris Ressa  43:36

Okay. Cool. Well, listen, Melina, this has been great. I really appreciate it. Thanks so much for the time, and we’ll catch up soon.

Melina Cordero  43:46

Yeah. And I’ll send you a couple links to the resources I mentioned. Yeah. And I’ll put them on up, put them in the show notes. Fabulous. Thanks for having me. Yep. Talk to you soon.

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