Dee McDougal, SVP Diversity and Inclusion, Pacific Western Bank

In the first episode of the Diversity Beyond the Checkbox Podcast, Dee McDougal, SVP of Diversity and Inclusion at Pacific Western Bank, talks to host Donald Thompson about Black Wall Street, the unconscious biases we all have, micro-behaviors and micro-aggressions, how marketing shapes the way we think about minorities, and why “Can I pick your brain?” is a horrible way to network.

Dee McDougal, Senior VP Diversity and Inclusion, Pacific Western Bank

Diversity Beyond the Checkbox is hosted by Donald Thompson, Diversity and Inclusion Consultant and CEO of Walk West in Raleigh North Carolina. For more information including the online course, head over to Podcast production by Earfluence.

Donald Thompson: My guest today is Dee McDougal, Senior Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion at Pacific Western Bank.  I’ve gotten to know Dee a bit over the years, and she is an absolute rising star both in the D&I space and the overall professional landscape.

And one of the most powerful initiatives she’s involved with is the Black Wall Street Homecoming, where in 2015 she sponsored the first event while working with Square One Bank, and since then has helped founders Jessica Averhart, Talib Graves-Manns, and Tobias Rose take it to the next level…

Dee McDougal: for a lot of us, who either attended HBCUs or who have friends who have attended HBCUs, the homecoming experience is really a thing. You get to see people that you haven’t seen in a long time and you connect and you have a really great time. And so the three of them thought initially, wouldn’t it be great to inject some conversation around doing deals in business? Let’s not just party. Let’s not just catch up around each other’s personal lives at homecoming. Let’s talk about business as well.   We do really feel strongly about the importance of leveraging Durham’s rich history of entrepreneurship within the black community,  but through the lens of how companies are built today. And typically those companies that are uber successful are technology companies or tech enabled.

Donald Thompson: The work that Dee is doing for both Black Wall Street and Pacific Western Bank are so important, and I’m excited to share my conversation with her. On the show today, I talk to Dee about what exactly she does as an SVP of D&I, unconscious bias and the microbehaviors that come from that bias, how marketing shapes the way we think about minorities, and why using the question “can I pick your brain?” is an awful way to network.

But to start, I asked Dee about how she grew up and what were some of her early experiences that shaped her view of the world.

Tell me a little bit about your background growing up, brothers, sisters, and then intertwine that in the secondary component of the question is how has race relations and gender been a part of your growing up and then moving towards your professional endeavors?

Dee McDougal: it’s always an interesting story for me to share. My family was the only black family on our street and one of a couple of black families in our whole you know, neighborhood and neighboring communities as well. So I was used to being the only, and in the world of diversity and inclusion, you know, you talk about the only, all the time, and that’s just, you know, a single person that represents any background. So I was the only little brown girl in most instances so I got really comfortable in that environment, but I was also raised by parents who taught me to be proud of who I am.  I was proud to be a young black woman. I was proud of my heritage. I was proud of, you know, just the skin that I was in and my hair and all of the things that made me me. But I was just physically situated in an environment where I was surrounded by white families all the time. It’s just kinda how it was. And so at a very young age, I had, you know, more white friends than I did black friends. And I went, you know, to be honest, I went through a lot of the challenges that I hear some of my peers talk about my black peers, where when I did mee t black friends, for a lot of times it was, I wasn’t black enough because in my family they demanded that we speak the King’s English, and it was, you speak like a white girl or you do this like a white girl. And I just never got it right because in my family we just were taught to appreciate who we are. And still, you know had cultural ties and I was just as black as the next black person, but I just happened to enjoy English.

If we didn’t know a word, my dad would make us look it up in the dictionary. So it was more academic in pursuit of excellence then it had to do with cultural challenges. And so for me, that was weird growing up, but I was just used to it. And so I would just was the, I was just the one, I was the one that when I was little, you know, my white friends, when they had questions about why black people did things and it was innocent.  You just don’t know, you know. And I was the same way. Like in my family we didn’t just eat macaroni and cheese for dinner. Like it was a side. It wasn’t, it wasn’t a main. And for them it was, you know, they wash their hair every day, and we didn’t. And it was just, you know, through that, and you understand that there are some cultural differences. And when people ask questions, they’re just asking because they don’t know. And so, you know, growing up in the neighborhood that I grew up in, I went to, again, neighborhood schools, never really went cross town. I grew up with the same kids K through 12. I’ll never forget when I was a senior in high school I had a car it was a two door Honda Prelude and I had, um, two friends.

Donald Thompson: Those were hot back then! You were ballin’ in the Honda Prelude!

Dee McDougal: I will say my dad did come through with the come through. It was red. It was amazing. So I’ll never forget, I dropping some friends off. I had one black friend and one white friend and I was dropping the white friend off first, and my black friend just said there was a hatchback. She just happened to be sitting in the back seat, and so white friend gets out first and I go around to let the black friend out, she’s like, where are you going? I was like going in to say Hey to my friend’s mom. She’s like, you’re going in a white person’s house? This was 1998 I was like, what planet do you live on? But that was just her existence. She had never, she knew white people from school. But she didn’t have any deep relationships. And so when we talk about race relations and, you know, like how I’ve grown into my career, I’ve always been okay either being the only, or asking questions or just talking about things that for some people make them uncomfortable. And so, you know, that’s just something that has always been a part of my life. I go back to how I was raised with m y mom and my dad, they taught me to be proud of who I am. So it in a lot of situations, people who grow up like me, they don’t necessarily embrace their culture. They try to assimilate into whiteness or to whatever the dominant culture is. But I never, that was never me. I was proud to be who I am. I’m still am very proud to be a black woman, but I’m just also very open and receptive and I understand that sometimes people just don’t know, so they ask. That’s kind of how it, that’s kinda just how it’s been. And so, went to school in Greensboro, studied communications. and that was because I love to talk and I love to present and, and I love and I love to write. And so that was just what I was drawn to. And so from there, my career has done a bunch of different things and it’s taken its own course, but that’s kind of the origin story of Dee.

Donald Thompson: No, that is phenomenal. And I want to touch on a couple of points that are just really, really powerful. One, you can just tell in your demeanor the way that you come across, the way that you present a lot of it is education, but a lot of it is mom and dad. And just the, the confidence is bestowed and having that family network that lets you know that you’re valuable and that you’re powerful. And as an African American male, I’ve heard many a times, you speak white. And, uh, this for me on the football field, I was like, I’m still gonna knock you out though. Even if I speak white, like, cause we got, let’s not get it fooled. Or, or one of the ones that would hit me that was more subtle, but it’s still condescending. You speak so well.

Dee McDougal: Oh yeah. That’s my favorite,

Donald Thompson: Like it’s a surprising thing that like, I can use this English language.

Dee McDougal: It’s funny, right? But it’s also annoying, and I talk to people about that a lot. You know, I actually just did a training session on micro behaviors and you know, the whole, you’re so articulate. That’s how it shows up in the professional space, right? Or you speak so well, but there’s this air of surprise, that’s included in that. And so sometimes people don’t realize that it isn’t necessarily just the words that you use. What are you implying? Are you implying that you’re surprised that I speak well? Why? Because I’m a black woman? What is it, that you’re trying to say? Is it that I communicated a particular idea so well or, you know, let’s dig deeper and find better ways to extend a compliment if that’s what we want to do. But otherwise it just comes off as you’re surprised that, you know, a black man or a black woman can speak in a way that is clear and concise. And to me that’s not a compliment because that should be the expectation for everyone, irrespective of their background.

Donald Thompson: No, I think that’s exactly right. And one of the things that, you know, I wanted you to speak on, and as we evolve this conversation, how do you suggest we make change to some of those micro behaviors? And some of those things that people, those subtle digs, because a lot of it is, it is that surprise because people are unaware, their experiences are shallow. What do we do to help? What do we do to be helpful? What do we do to educate, push that forward?

Dee McDougal: Yeah. So I think that, you know, the biggest thing, and it requires the most patience on our part, and when I say our, I’m talking about the people who experience these micro behaviors. It requires patience because sometimes you just have to accept that people don’t know what they don’t know. And so the first step is awareness building. And so it does take the work of, you know, diversity and inclusion practitioners or people who are skilled in helping people to understand what is actually happening. So some folks don’t even know what a micro behavior or microaggression is. So you have to start there and give people examples. You also have to say that just because you don’t think it should be offensive doesn’t mean that it isn’t offensive. Because in this environment, sometimes it can be because of the political environment or other things that are going on in society or popular culture, people think that folks are too sensitive and get offended by every little thing. But when we talk about micro behaviors and microaggressions, they call it like death by a thousand paper cuts, right? It’s those subtle little digs every single day. You’re just trying to move through life and someone’s kind of calling you out about every little thing. So I think it’s the awareness building first. And then it’s the empowering others to say something. The most powerful thing is that not me as the victim of the microaggression or the micro behavior, I don’t always need to be the one pointing it out, because then I get put in the bucket of being too sensitive or not understanding. But if, let’s just say, and not to pick on a white man, but if a white male counterpart is the one who is doling out the micro behavior, nothing is more powerful than his white male colleague calling that out. That way, you know that person isn’t saying anything because they’re personally offended. They’re saying something because they’ve identified a behavior that needs to be changed. So I think you have to build awareness and you have to empower people to be able to call these things out and really call on allies to say, Hey, it’s really up to all of us to make these changes. But it’s really most powerful when you can call someone out who looks like you.

Donald Thompson: One of the things I would seize on is for those of us that are trying to develop that better understanding to not stay silent. Not to just say, Oh, that’s just Bob. Don’t take anything from it. But Bob needs somebody to let him know that, you know what? It may be something that’s just in your personality, but Sally feels a little bit uncomfortable when you speak that way. And having the strength of character just to… What I found when I’ve done that, is that Bob, in this case, he doesn’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings. And that knowing means that typically he’ll be a little bit more careful next time. Cause most people, my experience, most people are not at work every day to piss other people off. It just isn’t. Like any company has a percentage of people that just have a way about them. But most people just want to do a good job. They want to get promoted, they want to see the company do well. They want to make more money. The same things we all want.

Dee McDougal: Absolutely. And a lot of times what I’ve learned, and in my experience a lot of times the micro behavior or microaggression is a way to make the speaker feel more comfortable. It’s not to, to your point, it’s not to piss someone off. It’s to identify some way that they can sort of connect. So it’s to extend a compliment, or if we’re talking about, you know, one of my favorites is if you’re talking to someone who has shared that they’re gay. And they say, Oh, well, I have, the speaker says, Oh, well I have a gay cousin. That’s not helpful, but what the speaker is trying to do is to make themselves appear to be more inclusive. Right. It doesn’t, it’s not intended to hurt the other person’s feelings or to, you know, belittle their existence, but they just don’t understand, you know, how these little micro behaviors and the things that you say can trivialize a person’s existence. And I know that at face value, people think that’s way too deep, but really that’s what happens.

Donald Thompson: No, that’s really good stuff. Let me ask this. When we look at, Diversity & Inclusion, and we look at how do we mature as a society. One of the things that still impacts us in a huge way is the marketing, the messages that are portrayed on what is beautiful, on what is handsome, on what is smart. How do we make change and infuse more thoughtfulness in the marketing that we see?

Dee McDougal: I think you have to be intentional about it. And it is happening more and more, you know, I work in banking and I actually just saw during a football game last night, I saw Bank of America’s  new promo for their sort of diversity and inclusion campaign. And so I can’t remember the tagline but it basically says that we see you. And so the representation that is included in that marketing piece, I mean, you have people from all walks of life and backgrounds that are represented in this marketing piece. And it’s because people identify with what they can see. So if your marketing materials only show a certain demographic, people and consumers and prospective employees aren’t going to be able to see themselves in your organization or as customers of your product. So I think what we have to do is really be intentional about it and again, understand that the demographics of the U S specifically are changing, certainly globally. But I think sometimes when we speak about global changes, folks in the U S try to opt out of those conversations. So we have to be specific when we’re talking about the changing demographics in the U S.

And say that over time andinthe not too short of a time, we’re going to be a majority, as they say, minority country. And what does that mean? So, you know, for brands and companies that are building out their marketing plans, we just have to be intentional about addressing the changing demographics of our communities. I think it’s also important that we demonstrate that representation is important beyond entertainment.  Diverse cultures drive entertainment. So if we look at music, we look at fashion. If we look at all the things that we see and enjoy, a lot of times there’s a lot of diversity there, right? But then when we look behind the scenes and we look at the companies that are driving these campaigns or that own these brands, that diversity is not replicated within the corporate part of that company. And so I think we have to, again, think differently about that. We’ve all heard of a lot of different scenarios and issues where  campaigns were run. But somebody missed the boat on identifying how this might offend people. So whether it’s the most recent issue with Peloton, or if it’s H&M, or if it’s Gucci or whatever other luxury brand. Somewhere along the way, they missed opportunity to include some diversity in their decision making process. And so that’s where we have to, you know, again, be intentional about how we’re building our teams.

Donald Thompson: That is really, really powerful. One of the things I would give a shout out to the folks at Bank of America, I’ve been invited to speak at a couple of their corporate events, for some of their leadership. And one of the things that was really powerful is when I was sitting down with some of their executives here locally, the CEO and chairman of this billion dollar company runs their global diversity initiative. And that to me is a great testament to what a company is striving to become. It doesn’t mean they have all the answers. It doesn’t mean that my company does. It means that it’s top of mind and it is a real issue that leverages the value of all the different types of people in your organization. And it’s something that’s taken seriously or intentional, as you described. And I think that’s where leaders in all different backgrounds, in different size companies, it’s not necessarily that you have the budget of a larger organization, but you can have the commitment of one.

Dee McDougal: Absolutely. And you know, I do a lot of talking about this very point, People who work in, either corporate spaces or startup spaces or even nonprofits, they look at large Fortune 100 companies, they look at their diversity and inclusion programs, and they say, Oh, well, they’ve got a really big budget. And so then that sort of gives them the out for not starting where they are, if that makes sense.  So what we talk about a lot is that you just start from where you are with what you have, and you can still make an impact. But that intentionality is really the most important part because there’s a lot of conversation about diversity and inclusion and equity and belonging and togetherness. There are a lot of buzzwords, right? And they’re really important now. They’re important sometimes because people think it’s the right thing to do for business. And then other times it’s because it’s required. So, you know, investors are starting to ask more about companies’ diversity and inclusion programs. People are,  if they own businesses are leading or are leading businesses and regulated industries, you have regulators and the government asking about diversity and inclusion. So sometimes it’s because it’s a homegrown effort. But others, it’s because it’s been forced from outside interests. So with all of that, it can’t just be talk like you have to do something and really  you’ve gotta be intentional about whatever your programs are going to be. I think another thing is that, and I heard this along the way, is that you can’t boil the ocean, right? So there’s so many different aspects of diversity and inclusion, that if you try to do everything at the same time, you won’t be impactful at all. I think it’s just helpful when we start to think about it, that we start at the top with a commitment from leadership to your point, that this is something that a company’s going to pay attention to you, and then you work to create a strategy that aligns with your business objectives. Otherwise you’re just like taking a shot in the dark and hoping that it works.

Donald Thompson: No, it’s powerful. So you’re a Senior Vice president, D&I, Pacific Western Bank. What does that mean? What does that job mean? What do you do each day? Like,

Dee McDougal: um, you know, it’s interesting. So I, yep. So my title as VP of D&I, I started in this role in January of 2018 and, you know, it’s just interesting to me how it all came about. As I mentioned before, I was leading marketing and communications at Square One, and in October, 2015 Square One was acquired by Pacific Western bank. I got to give a shout out to my former CEO at Square One. He was a former, actually former Bank of America exec. But he is what I call like the best sponsor on the face of the planet. Like he gave me access to a lot of opportunity and exposure to just understanding how business works and really being able to, to tie the work that I was passionate about to business outcomes so that I could get the buy in to do what I needed to do. And so my interest in diversity and inclusion aside from being someone that’s definitely been impacted throughout my career and throughout my life by my background and sort of being an only, my interest really kinda started when I  was working in marketing and working in the startup and VC ecosystem. So a lot of the events that we would do to generate business, like the same profile of person would attend. So in that startup culture, it’s just historically been a bro culture, not a lot of gender diversity and not a lot of ethnic diversity either and or racial or ethnic diversity. So I started, there making sure that we were doing things to increase our exposure within those communities, within the VC and startup space. Once we got acquired I was still doing marketing stuff, and I heard internally that we had a diversity and inclusion steering committee. And so, the organization itself is not very diverse at the top of the house, like most organizations. And so when I heard that we had this committee, I reached out to the person who was leading it and I said, Oh my goodness, I’m super passionate about this. Like, I would love to help out, you know, just let me know how I can help. And from that conversation and from me reaching out to the executive who was a sponsor for this committee, that he saw my interest, understood my background. And when it was time to build out the program, he said, Dee, are you interested in doing this? And so I of course jumped at the opportunity and we started from scratch. My role, what I did initially was I developed a strategy for our diversity inclusion program because I have a marketing background. I branded it, it’s called Inclusion at Work. And the reason I call it Inclusion at Work and it being a double entendre, it’s because a lot of times  individual contributors or through middle management, they’ll see diversity and inclusion as something that’s just set at the top of the house that doesn’t require anyone else’s input or effort. And I needed to dispel that myth in the very beginning. You know, inclusion in the process of creating a culture where everyone feels like they belong. It’s something that we all do every day. And so there’s that part. And then of course, there’s the inclusion at work because this is where we come to get a paycheck. So I set out to create our strategy, and identified six stakeholder groups, and I work to either build awareness or create some education opportunities or do  engagement and outreach,  across those six stakeholder groups. So it’s a lot of external outreach. It’s a lot of internal partnering across the organization. So that’s what I do.

Donald Thompson: That is awesome. That is super good and super excited for what you’re doing. I mean, I, I’ve seen a lot of different folks that are, that are talking the talk and I’m super proud to cheer for you as you’re walking the walk because I see you out there promoting what you’re doing, but also putting that meat behind it to where people can actually see change. One of the things that is still a challenge, and I’d like you to speak on this as African American women in particular have the toughest time getting funding in the VC environment. And I’m wanting to get your perspective on why you think that is what we need to do about it and  you know, how we can help.

Dee McDougal: Sure. One of the big things is, we hear a lot about access to capital. And so that’s huge, right? Because you can’t. You typically can’t build a business without money. But I think also, part of that is when we think about access to opportunity and access to resources, and that really includes networks as well, because a lot of times, investors, even other service providers, accountants, lawyers, they take business off referrals and, you know, they want to know, they’ll pick up the phone and call their peer or a colleague and say, Hey, have you heard of this person? Because I think a lot of times, with African American women, other people of color and women in general, we just aren’t part of those same networks. So  it’s hard because you don’t have sort of that anyone to back you up for the referral and you are not part of the network to know sort of what’s going on and who to even call. So I think that there are things that we can all do. We can help our founders with whatever skillset they need to create the best company, right? So there’s that piece of it. And then we can also all be better about opening up our networks and making referrals where we can. I was at an event and we had a very candid and open conversation around diversity and inclusion in this very topic within the startup ecosystem. And there were some investors there and I said, well, there’s a pipeline problem. That’s what they say. That’s what typically happens when you bring up diversity. people will say, Oh, well, I don’t have any diversity in my pipeline. And so I said, well, have you extended yourself beyond your existing referral sources? And a light bulb went off for several of them. You can’t expect to get different results if you keep mining in the same place. So I think it’s important that not only, I mean, and we can’t expect the founders to find the funders all the time. And so I think that it’s important that whether it’s through use of a scout or through hiring different people at your firm. Or if you’re not an investor, but, are an ecosystem supporter, just really being intentional about expanding your network so that people will have access to you and the people who you know. So I think that that’s really important for us to do because it doesn’t just happen organically because if it was going to happen organically, it would have happened by now.

Donald Thompson: No, I think that’s right. And one of the things you talked about in terms of your network, and you know, a phrase I’ve heard is your network is your net worth. One of the things that in order to bridge that gap is who in our particular networks belongs to both. Right? And so you and I would be in that camp now n our careers. And so how do we pull from one pool and merge to another? And I was on a call yesterday, and long and the short a business owner was there and wanted some more information on some marketing and consulting. And so we thought about a couple people that we knew in common, and before our call to actually talk business, he said, yeah, talk to so-and-so. They gave you a high recommendation. And that’s one of the reasons I followed up so quickly. And so it didn’t matter that. Yes, I’m incredible. Yes, I speak so well. Right. And did my thing. Everybody wants that third party validation before they really take a meeting or the next step commitment seriously. But I don’t think it’s  something that’s unsolvable if people create the right intention to do it.

Dee McDougal: Right. Absolutely. I totally agree. And you know, that same sort of challenge, if you will, that you just described, it’s the same thing that we face when we’re talking about diversifying the talent pipeline. So when we, you know, a lot of companies have diversity challenges, right? Where they’re staff is sort of homogenous in a certain, in a certain space, and then they’ll have a referral program. And so then they wonder why they’re not getting diversity in their talent pipeline. It’s because we encourage more of the same. So it’s, if you look at your existing network, and there’s some people who have diverse networks, some. But data shows that we typically seem to hang out with people who are like us. It’s just what we do. So more times than not, your personal network is going to be reflective of your own personal demographics. And so if we continue to encourage, referrals out of the same pool, we’re going to get the same result. And again, on the investing side or on building businesses, if we continue to look at the same networks, we’re going to get the same results. So you’re right. How can we blow this up a little bit? And disrupt this in the, in the spirit of, you know, working, in and adjacent to the technology ecosystem. How can we make this better? And I think that is, you know, by cross-pollinating and providing opportunities for our networks to open up, and really just giving people access to who we know and letting it take, letting it take its course from there.  Because we think if I opened my network to you, then I’m going to be validating whatever it is that you’ve got going on. And I think that that’s not always the case. I think it’s fine to make a connection, and then let that conversation take its own shape and course and whatever comes of it is great. You’ve at least started that conversation. I’m making a recommendation, comes with a whole different set of responsibilities.

Donald Thompson: And I think, to echo on your, on your point, and I’d like to get your feedback here, let’s brainstorm for a minute, real time. Like what are a couple of things we’d recommend or that we could do to foster that interconnection slash recommendation slash grow in networks? Like what would we advise that young entrepreneur of color, that female African American entrepreneur to do?

Dee McDougal: So first step, I would say, is have a really clear understanding of what it is that you’re trying to build and what you need to make it happen. Often what we see, and not just from black entrepreneurs or women entrepreneurs, but just in general, people who are building businesses,  they just say, Hey, can I pick your brain? That’s what people lead with. And that’s not an, an  enticing invitation for someone who is busy. Because I need to know upfront how can I help you? And so I think that what we can do is help people understand that you need to get crystal clear on what you’re trying to build and how someone can help you. That way you’ll know what the ask is. And so if we can know those three things, then I think we can have our network open and then make connections where it makes sense. I am always reluctant to just blindly connect people when they just want to have a conversation. Because I know that as someone who is starting to value my time more, that sometimes can be a waste of time. So those are things that I would advise; know what you’re building, know what you need and get your ask together.

Donald Thompson: So I want to extend on that cause that’s super important cause I’ll have a cup of coffee with most anyone that I understand why they want to do that. And pick your brain is vague. But networking is an intentional activity for successful people. And so people typically don’t mind spending time with someone, even if they’re on the come up with a new business, new idea. But you’re talking about what I believe firmly is the framing. I’ve got a new startup that is a competitor to HubSpot. I’m looking for information on how small businesses view managing their client information. Love to talk to you about that.

Like it’s crystal clear what you want. You’re telling me a little bit about what you’re doing. I may want to, as an angel investor, I may want to be into that idea like it’s not an elevator pitch, it’s that one or two sentences to say, at least this coffee’s going to be interesting, even if it’s not going to be income generating, and then I’ll be like, Oh yeah, I’d love to. I’d love to hear about that. I’d love to do that.

Dee McDougal: Right. Also, based on what the person shares, there may be someone better, or different for you to connect them to you, right? Like you may know someone who used to work at HubSpot that just relocated to the, Triangle area. That might be a better connection. But at least the person has given you a framework for you to understand what they need, what they’re building. But Hey, I saw you on that interview at the Raleigh Chamber. You did a great job on stage at the Raleigh Chamber. I just kind of wanted to talk to you about some things. That’s not helpful. You don’t know where to go with that.

Donald Thompson: And it’s not appreciating the fact that that person is super busy, right? So it’s like, wait a minute. So you saw me speaking at an event and you want me to give you time for free? How serious can you be? Because you don’t under, it’s like, like you’ve not, you’ve not answered the basic question of what’s in it for me? And everybody has to have that question answered, even if we’re good people, right? Because our, our time is our business. If somebody is talking to me, the other thing that I really love and it makes me want to help people more is I’ll chat with somebody over coffee, give them a little piece of advice, and if that person says, Don, I don’t know if I’m able, but if there’s anything I can do for you, I want you to let me know. Just the fact of reciprocating the give back makes me listen intently more with that person. Because you know what? You never know who people know.

Dee McDougal: Absolutely. I mean, and then I’ll be candid here and say that sometimes within the African American community, sometimes when you ask for, when you offer the advice that you just shared of, getting a little bit more clarity around what your ask is and understanding the value of people’s time and that sort of thing. Then the feedback that I have heard is that, Oh, well, like they’re just too good. They’re just, and that that’s troubling, right? Because at the end of the day, this is about business, right? I want to see everybody win. I want to see and especially want to see people who look like me, right? And the best thing I can do is to help people understand how business works. And so I want to help people understand that this is what I require of you because this is what the industry is going to require of you. This is what someone who doesn’t look like me is going to require of you. If I don’t put you on game, as they say, then I’m not doing a good job because I’m not helping you prepare for whatever this next step is.

Donald Thompson: That’s exactly right that your parents sometimes can pat you on the back just for the love of your game. The industry requires that you’re ready for results. A nd our job is as stewards of, of growth in our community is how do we create an environment where we create the mindset shift that there’s a difference between you and I hanging out and you get in my time between eight o’clock and six o’clock.

Dee McDougal: Absolutely.

Donald Thompson: Those are, those are radically different conversations, and one of the things that as I’ve observed your career and the different things that, that you guys are doing both with Black Wall Street, but then when you’re working  for the bank, it’s a very  hopeful aspirational message  that you’re sharing. How do you as an individual stay so positive? Life’s not perfect for any of us. I don’t know you well, but we all got stuff. So how do we, so, but every time I’d see, and here it’s just a very energetic, forward looking forward push vibe. Where does that come from? How do you maintain that? How do you push through, even though maybe there’s occasional days or weeks or months that, that aren’t as good as they could be.

Dee McDougal: You know,  I get paid to do work that I’m very passionate about and I think has impact and there’s value in the work that I do. And that value is not just for the business, but for the community at large and for people who look like me. So it’s hard to, it’s hard to complain when I get to do this work. Now, granted, there are days that I feel like I’m beating my head against a brick wall, and there are times where I just can’t believe I’m having to have this conversation again. You know, change is slow.  And so a lot of what I do, I have to be, you know, aspirational and forward looking because if I was to just focus on today, then I would feel defeated because we are not yet where we should be. But I do know, you know, that that change will come and. At a recent event where I moderated a conversation, a gentleman shared something that isn’t profound for those of us who come from this background, but it’s like, you know, systems have been put in place, for centuries to keep people, certain people at an advantage and others at a disadvantage. So we can’t necessarily expect that those changes are going to happen overnight. And so I think, you know, the work that I do, the fact that I get to be out and talking about this stuff and having these conversations, the fact that I’m able to do this, it makes me happy. I do feel strongly about, you know, the whole, when you’re given, you know, when you are granted abundance that you really do need to be a good steward of that. I believe in living a life of service to others. And I think that that’s what keeps me going and keeps me happy. I’m very fortunate to do the work that I do and you know, so those are the things that I think about. There are days where I call people who do this work and I am like, you are not going to believe what I just heard. You know, the only people who are. You know, close to diversity and inclusion work, will understand it. And so I do, I have a healthy community of people who do this work, and I’ll call them and I’ll just have to vent. And you know, you vent, you get it out, and then you move on to the next thing. But it isn’t for the faint of heart. I tell people that all the time. A lot of the inquiries that I get about, you know, networking or having coffee is people wanting to understand how to get into diversity and inclusion work. And the first thing I share is,  it isn’t easy. You know, you have to be okay havin  g leading people through uncomfortable situations. Some of the feedback that I’ve received from some of my speaking engagements is that people enjoy   talking about this stuff with me because I make it approachable and I am not intimidating when I have these conversations. And so it’s a lot, but I’m very lucky to be able to do this work so that’s how I kind of keep my positive attitude and I’m just generally an extrovert, happy person. So

Donald Thompson: Yeah, that is super, super helpful. Well, listen, I literally could talk to you all day. I’ve got a page full of notes and I’m super curious cause I, I love learning and, and also just understanding different perspectives and that’s one of the things that, that has helped me grow continually, is just hanging out with really bright people that are passionate about what they do. But I thank you very much for spending time with us. I really appreciate it.

Dee McDougal: Oh, actually, thanks so much for the invitation.

Donald Thompson: That was Dee McDougal, SVP of D&I at Pacific Western Bank. Such an amazing discussion and always a positive burst of energy and I certainly appreciate her time.

Dee mentioned Black Wall Street at the top of the show, and if you’d like more information on that, be sure to head on over to

See Full Transcript

Podcast Production
About the Author
We believe in sharing amazing stories, providing knowledge to the world, and celebrating diverse voices. Through podcasting, our clients are amplifying their expertise, expanding their networks, building a content engine, and growing their influence. If you're interested in podcasting, we'd love to hear from you! Schedule your free 15 minute podcast consult today.