S02 EP05: Using Your Privilege as a White Woman

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How do you spend your privilege?

It’s a tough question to answer - and in this episode, Sonya Dreizler and Arlene Moss tackle it. As two white women, Sonya and Arlene have dedicated themselves to supporting diversity and inclusion conversations in the financial planning profession and beyond. They’ve pushed through the fear of saying the wrong thing, or acting in an unconsciously racist way, and continually work to do better and encourage their colleagues, friends, and families, to do the same.

In this episode, we cover a lot of ground. We’re talking about what it means to have empathy for marginalized groups, how to start uncomfortable conversations, and how to be an advocate and an ally even when you’re dealing with the fear of doing it “wrong.” Are you ready? Let’s dive in.

What You'll Learn:

  • How to start conversations with colleagues about diversity and inclusion

  • How to learn from your mistakes, and why gently calling out colleagues, family, and friends when they say/do something insensitive is incredibly important

  • How to be welcoming in a conference, work, or social environment when you notice people who don’t look like everyone else in the room

  • How networking with people of color and other marginalized individuals expands your network, and makes you a more effective business person (and human being)

  • Why empathy matters

  • How to “spend your privilege” to lift others up at conferences, in your day-to-day, when you participate in panels and speaking events, and so much more

  • Why advocating for people of color as a white woman can take some of the pressure away from charging people of color with always having the conversation about diversity and inclusion - and why that’s an important part of allyship

Show Notes:

Episode Transcript

Rianka: 00:00:00 Sonya, Arlene, welcome to 2050 trailblazers.

Arlene: 00:00:04 Thanks for having us.

Sonya: 00:00:06 Thank you. I am so glad to be on your podcast.

Rianka: 00:00:11 Thank you. I'm very excited to chat with you two because you two are shining examples of what I hope would happen with this podcast. And let me explain what I mean. The reason why I asked Arlene and Sonya to come on is yes, they have a phenomenal career. Sonya, she has her own consulting firm Solutions with Sonya where she offers expertise in impact investing, um, to financial services. Uh, you know, the firms and Arlene, she's an executive business coach over at the xy planning network. You two are doing phenomenal. No, but, and however, today we're not talking about anything technical. So if we ever have a podcast about executive business coaching and, or impact investing, I know who to call. Um, but for this episode, you know, what I hope will happen, happened with you two and let me stop beating around the bush.

Rianka: 00:01:23 So Arlene, uh, I, we met a few years ago, um, but Arlene was one of the first women to come up to me and um, mentioned that, you know, she listens to the podcast and it made her sad. Um, and I was like, well, what do you mean Arlene? She was like, well, you can't be yourself like you mentioned on one of the episodes that you couldn't be yourself. And so Arlene and I had a really great conversation that we'll go into depth with here on this episode. And then with Sonya still to this day, I have not met Sonya and we are trying to work this out so we can finally meet in person. But with Sonya, very similar, uh, you know, because of the conversations we're having because of some twitter trolls that I have, you know, she reached, she saw it and she reached out and said, hey listen, I'm willing to throw a lifeline out there and, you know, speak up for you. Just let me know. I know, don't feed the trolls, but I'm here to help. And Arlene and and Sonya, because this is not video, there are two white women willing and wanting to speak up for diversity and as we know, there's many facets of diversity. There's gender diversity, sexual orientation diversity and racial diversity, so many other facets as well. However, for here today, you know, we're talking about gender and race and I just want to say thank you to both of you for stepping up and allowing people who look like me in this industry feel heard.

Sonya: 00:03:02 Yeah. So can I just say one quick thing about diversity and diversity programs?

Rianka: 00:03:08 Yeah.

Sonya: 00:03:09 So one of them, one of the main beneficiaries of diversity programs has been white women, which is great for us white women, but it's really time that we extend that to be really diversity that's reflected of the communities we serve. We, what I've seen often is a group of typically a group of white men to be quite frank add one white woman to their group and call that a diverse group because there are women represented and that's not enough. That's not diversity. What I would really like to see is diversity that's reflective of the communities we serve in terms of race, sexual orientation, yes. Also gender and socioeconomic background because we can really do better business that way if we are. If we look like the communities that we serve and it's the right thing to do.

Arlene: 00:04:07 Yeah, it's so true. I love hearing you say that you know white women need to sort of take their turn to stand up because we've had our time when we were not able to stand up and you can't see me, but I'm older than a lot of the folks that I work with and so I can remember some really solid sexism in the workplace. When you know you got interviewed and even though it was illegal, they still said, oh, I noticed you have a ring on your finger. When are you going to have kids? And they basically tell you like, well we don't usually hire women. We don't know if you can handle it and things like that. So it's. we've been through it on a certain level and so it's time to help. I guess we hold the door open and say, yeah, I get it and now I'm going to hold the door open for you and you're going to come through after me and I'm going to help you. I'm going to use the, I think Sonya actually is the one that you said like spend your privilege. I'm going to spend a little of my privilege on helping you.

Rianka: 00:05:13 That really great point. It's like, you know, how are you spending your privilege and um, you know, as we know this season, season two is all about allyship, which is, you know, the reason why I asked both of you to be on, um, on this episode and because you two are shining examples of what I mean by allyship and how it's not an noun, it's just not a person. It is what we, what you actively do. Um, it's, it's, it's a daily practice and it's not just waving a flag or putting on a sticker saying, hey, yeah, I'm an ally. I support you. But it's like, all right, well, well how are you?

Arlene: 00:05:53 But if you have stickers, send them to me. I do love them

Rianka: 00:05:58 I know you love stickers, Arlene.

Arlene: 00:06:00 and I don't, I don't want people to feel like they can't. The sticker is the starting point. The tee shirt is the starting point, you know on the, on the way here I. Oh, I'm sorry. You don't know where here is. I'm in Bozeman this week, so I'm recording this from Bozeman, but I don't live in Bozeman, so I flew through DIA and my travel ware that I chose was my black CFPs matter tee shirt because I don't get out of my house much. So what I wear doesn't matter very often and I thought, you know what? This is when I'm going to see the most people and I kind of hoped someone would be like, what the heck? What's that shirt all about? Okay, well no one did. Spoiler alert. Looks Very. I know, I know. I was very in tune to the looks and the reactions because I was really watching for it, so it made an impact.

Arlene: 00:06:57 Not a huge, like I couldn't stand on the moving sidewalk and preach to people about why black cfps matter, but there was eye contact. There were people that I could tell their brains were jogged and they were thinking, so the sticker, the sticker does matter. We can't completely dismiss the sticker, but there's so much more. you talking about. I want to get back to us talking about how we met and that conversation because those two things are actually two separate things and it kind of sounds like I walked up to you and was like, hi, nice to meet you. I'm sad. That wasn't how it went. Very much

Rianka: 00:07:37 Alright, explain Arlene.

Arlene: 00:07:40 Let me tell my version of that story. Like we met. I don't remember exactly how we met where we met, but we met and I was like, yeah, and my friend Rianka, she's young and hip and this is, you know, she's doing her thing. And so I, we had even talked I think at that point about coaching and just all kinds of fun stuff and then you start the podcast and I'm listening to that and like, oh my gosh, my friend Rianka has podcast yay her. And then I heard that episode where you were talking about how great it was to go to Quad A and be able to bring your full self and show up. All of you was there. And suddenly I realized, wait, like I know I don't know all of you like your conference friends. You never know all of them because you're not hanging out at the pool or going out to the bar on Friday night or sitting around on the deck, have a having a cookout, but you are. You still feel like you know a pretty good portion of them. And all of a sudden I realized there was a huge part of you that you didn't get to bring to to my friendship with you. And that was what made me sad. It's like, wow. And I didn't know. I think for how I threw myself at your mercy was how do I make it clear to you that I want to see all of you, that I want you to feel comfortable bringing your whole self. And I think that's how the conversation began.

Sonya: 00:09:09 That's a beautiful story.

Rianka: 00:09:11 I tell you, I'm surrounded by some amazing women for sure. And yeah, that's, thank you for the long version, Arlene, because my abbreviated was very brief and short, but yet, so Arlene and I have known each other for more than a couple of years and so, um, yes and, and it, and it was true and I'm still finding myself and learning honestly this, this podcast is helping me, learn, myself and, and step in to my authentic self and I go back to the episode with Phuong of just my brain was on fire speaking with her because she helped me understand that I was code switching my entire career and I've been in the profession for almost a decade and I've been code switching and that's. And so Arlene, that's probably why you have never met the authentic Rianka that would say, hey, I want to invite you to the cookout.

Arlene: 00:10:12 We are not very far in and you already got. to the cookout

Rianka: 00:10:16 We already got to the cookout. So it's funny. It's funny because that's that some, you know, culture talk right there. That's that colloquialism that is like, you know what, you two are so cool. You're invited to the cookout and Arlene She. She was like, what does that mean? She was like, is this like a picnic or something? Arlene: 00:10:41 I'm just like, Oh, is this a literal cookout, I love hamburgers.

Rianka: 00:10:49 Which was hilarious to me, but it allowed me because. Okay, a couple things. It goes back to permission, right? I think there are a lot of people who want to step up and become allies and really truly speak up on behalf of black and brown people. Um, on behalf of, um, you know, uh, planners who are LGBTQ but don't know how. And what I appreciated about our conversation even between Sonya and Arlene is that you asked how and so over the summertime that, that was the major during break between season one and season two. So many white women and white men, dm'ed me sent me emails, reached out and was like, listen, I hear you. How can I help? And so I, I want to definitely make sure we touch on that because this is the how, is it I think we moved past, do we need to have this conversation about D&I and why it's important is more so. Okay, how can we help?

Sonya: 00:12:00 That's great. To move from to how I'd love that transition and can I, I'd like to say that, you know, I'm pretty, I may sound comfortable talking about this because I am, I have a lot of practice talking about this but it is still uncomfortable and I know that for a lot of white people and I don't want to speak for other races, but it's, it's a, it's a taboo subject and it's really hard at first to even say the words like call myself a white person, which clearly I am. I know this is audio only. It's very clear I'm quite pale.

Sonya: 00:12:43 Initially it was really hard to call out white people or even say something like my friend who is a black woman and that's like that my friend is a black woman, is part of her identity and it's important to her and me just skipping over it because it's uncomfortable for me is first of all, not very kind, but it just took, it takes practice to be able to have these conversations and you know, also I know that I'm going to mess up. Sometimes I might say the wrong thing or put my foot in the mouth in my mouth, but I feel like getting it right or at least getting it better, 90 percent of the time is a vast improvement on being silent or doing nothing. And when I stumble, I apologize. I learn, I do better next time and one of the things I've gotten to be good at is asking people like you, Rianka, giving you permission to check me when I've said something that's totally wrong or I use the wrong word or the wrong term, or something that, or say make some huge assumption because of my narrow, limited life experience viewpoint. Um, I am willing to hear that and listen without being defensive as much as possible and do better next time. And I think just saying that to the people around me who I trust to help me grow here has been really helpful because then I feel like I really can learn when I screw up even. And maybe especially when I screw up.

Arlene: 00:14:23 Oh my gosh, Sonya that's interesting to me. Cause you mentioned I'm going to back up a ways. So when you mentioned, you know, your friend who is a black woman and as soon as you said that, I'm like, oh no, we're not supposed to do that. Like you don't, unless it's pertinent to the story, because I get, I lose my mind when we go places and I'm not going to call people anything, but I know, I know people will tell a story and it's always, you know, it's fill in ethnicity, you know, so this blank guy who works on my lawn, oh, this blank woman who, who I met at the grocery store and I'm like, get to the part where their ethnicity mattered to me, but then you filled in that space and you're like, it's important to her identity. I'm like, oh crud, that's hard. Like how do I make sure

Sonya: 00:15:15 Well it's context really and I think like you're saying really is, it sounds to me like those things might be take conflating ethnicity or race and some sort of blame or social class or something negative. And in that case I don't, I don't know the answer. I'm going to turn it over to, you know, maybe maybe Rianka has a better answer here, but that feels different to me and I can't articulate exactly why then.

Arlene: 00:15:43 Oh, and yeah, I didn't want to call you out on it. Like, Hey, let's, let's figure that out. It's more like an Aha moment of there's more depth to it. I can't just say I will never use a racial adjective. I can't make a blanket statement. And that is a challenge we face. It is interesting. You talked about, you know, having people that you trust and know to call you out when you stumble and maybe call out. That's kind of a harsh word. I shouldn't say it that way, but help you. They, they, they reach out their figurative arm and grabbed your elbow when you stumble. And I love it when people do that. I think I told you guys on the precall, thinking about a friend of mine who watched me do something at a conference that I had, and I'm not going to bore you with the whole story because it's not, it's a little tedious, but the bottom line is I said something that I did not mean to be racist at all.

Arlene: 00:16:43 Like I like, oh my gosh, I still have my stomach hurts as I tell this. My stomach just knotted up. But it was the bottom line is it was, and he called me out like as the person I had been rude to left, he just looked at me and he goes, interesting to just sit here and watch you be so casually racist. And I of course went through the classic. No, no, you know, I didn't say some of my best friends are Hispanic, but I was so close to that cliche. It is embarrassing to admit, but I flailed and stumbled and felt horrible. And then it just sat there and I and days later I finally got brave enough to reach out to the person and just throw myself on their mercy. And just say I'm so sorry. Like I'm. So I got nothing except I'm so sorry. I've learned something it will never happen again. But unfortunately it probably will because it's so. It's just a weird ingrained thing that you don't even realize you have casual racism. Maybe that's the thing I've learned from you, Rianka is that as much as you can grow up in a family that quote doesn't see color, you have things and all of a sudden they pop up and you're like, oh my God, that just happened and you have to acknowledge it and fix it. Not just acknowledge it, move along, but acknowledge it. Take a step to fix it, learn from it, and then go.

Rianka: 00:18:17 Right. And then that person that you mentioned that you've, that was, you know, that you made a comment towards and that person left. You also mentioned that he was very appreciative of you reaching out to him.

Arlene: 00:18:30 He was. He was and what was interesting almost said funny, but it's not funny. It's interesting. Fascinating to me is he didn't feel particularly offended on his front. He was like, yeah, stupid white chick, but whatever. Like he, he definitely. He definitely knew what that, what I'd done and acknowledged, Yep, you were racist, but he wasn't as horrified as he could have been or should have been. Maybe. But his wife apparently experiences a lot more racism than he does and so that he knows how rarely that happens and so he went on this whole divergent like, oh my God, I'm so happy you are trying. Like it was a. It was a fascinating development and the conversation was for him to bring this extra layer of, of experiencing racism in another person and I think that was how he related to the person who called me out because he's like, yeah, it hurts to watch.

Arlene: 00:19:28 It's almost more painful for them to watch it and not be able to stop the train wreck than to be the person. And it was so fascinating. I guess I learned so much from from that concept and I guess I've sort of tried to pull that in. I noticed at FPA I was watching some students interact from a school that had, again, and I'm not gonna call anybody out, but they had a contingent they had some students of color and they had a fair solid contingent of white students and to watch the dynamic of all those students over the course of the week was painful because there was definitely some division but also helped me stand back and say, okay, what do I do? Here's the next generation, where do I step in? How do I have conversations? And that is also like the mom in me. Like, Oh God, if you're within arms reach. I am gonna parent the crap out of you. I'm sorry. So

Rianka: 00:20:35 this is really interesting Arlene. So with you, it sounds like you've had some experiences to learn from and well one you were willing to learn from these experiences and so you're able to empathize and maybe that's why you were comfortable coming up to me saying Rianka, I heard that episode and it's like I thought I knew you, but I want to know all of you. And then with Sonya, Sonya, what? What has happened in your life where you as a white woman is so woke and, and, and the listeners, the listeners, and that's another colloquialism is, is not, it does not mean that she's awake in, in like in literal terms. It means that she's woke in a sense of, she's familiar with her, surrounding she, she knows the climate and the culture. Um etc. I'll, I will put, um, woke in the show notes if you want to learn more, want to learn more about it.

Sonya: 00:21:39 I was gonna say, you might wanna put code switching in the, in the show notes as well because I don't think most white people will know what that means.

Rianka: 00:21:44 I will definitely put code switching and woke.

Sonya: 00:21:47 I learned that in Chicana lit class in college, but,

Arlene: 00:21:53 Aw, man, you're so far ahead of me,

Sonya: 00:21:55 although I don't know, maybe it's more common now. It's been a long time since I've been in college.

Arlene: 00:22:00 I learned it when I listened to the Code Switch podcast, and I was multiple episodes in, and I don't understand the name, but this stuff's amazing.

Sonya: 00:22:13 So yeah, I think to answer your question, Rianka, there's a few different things I'll, I can touch on each of them. And if you want me to expand, feel free to ask questions. Um, so I grew up with very, you know, pretty liberal parents and in a pretty open household, but still it kind of like Arlene mentioned, colorblind household. We didn't talk about race because that's just sort of how I think that's how white families raised their kids for the most part in the, you know, in the early eighties.

Sonya: 00:22:45 So, um, we had, uh, I went to a very diverse schools from kindergarten all the way through high school. I was in pretty diverse schools.

Rianka: 00:22:54 Where did you grow up?

Sonya: 00:22:54 But I don't feel like... Sacramento, actually in Sacramento proper, not in the suburbs. I don't know. I didn't feel any. I don't feel like it came from the wokeness came from there particularly, although maybe it was nascent then, uh, during one summer in college though I was, I took a job with a job on campus and it was only a couple of weeks, but I was the only white person at the job. And this group of 30 or so college students, we were all. We're spending a lot of time together because of this, because of this job, we were counselors to younger, younger, uh, high school students I think and as the only white person in the room during training and anytime when it was me and a 30 a 30 other folks in the room, I felt so awkward.

Sonya: 00:23:57 Like I was representing every white person I knew and I didn't know and I really just like didn't want to say anything stupid or of course not racist and um, but I just didn't want to say anything at all for fear of looking, I don't know, like an idiot really. And so I felt really like I kind of closed down a lot of myself and I'm a pretty outspoken person as you guys know. I like to say that a podium is my favorite accessory because I'm very vocal and that was not my experience in this two week program. And it was such a formative learning experience for me. And that was a long time ago. And so there's like one chapter that's somewhere in the back of my brain also. I lived in another country for a year. I lived in Chile, which was great and I loved it.

Sonya: 00:24:57 It's such a beautiful country and I was totally an outsider. I just stuck out like a sore thumb and the thing is so many things were different and I could only assimilate a little bit of information at a time about how different I was than everybody else that that also was a learning experience. It just as an example, I had been living there for three months before I realized that I was the only woman who I knew who wore shorts and I was like, oh, that's like people are maybe looking at me weird or honking. Got it. Like I should wear. I should probably wear pants or a dress if I want to fit in. So, but I'm usually really attuned to details like that, but everything was so different and I just stuck out so much that that kind of stuff was last on the list really.

Sonya: 00:25:53 So just being that being what I, it's maybe not quite the right word for it, but being the other person in their rooms, I like not default normal as a white woman. I'm used to being sort of, you know, in a room with people that look like me for the most part and what, you know, white folks are often, this is not how I like to think of it, but is often referred to white folks are often sort of the default. And if you don't mention race you assume somebody's white. And so I'm, I'm used to being that sort of default community. I'm not saying that that's right, but I'm used to that. And so being the other for those two experiences I think were really formative for me. But then the, you know, I've been pretty involved in and passionate about racial justice for the past few years and that um, those college and living abroad experiences for almost 20 years ago now.

Sonya: 00:26:55 And this more, my more wokeness as you say, a is a, is more recent and I'm embarrassed to admit that for me, the person that made me have that aha moment about racial justice was a white woman. And so why wasn't I hearing that message from people of color? I mean we could unpack that all day, like maybe I didn't have a very good circle of contacts then or maybe I was just more likely to be receptive to a message if the messenger is someone who looks like me and so now I'm just happy to offer that to be that for other white people. Perhaps if they hear it from me, somebody they know and respect and trust somebody that looks like them, maybe my community will be more receptive and I want to quickly give a shout out because the person, the white woman who helped me have my aha moment is also a financial planner, Renee Morgan and she's awesome. Does great work in this space.

Rianka: 00:27:56 Thank you Renee.

Sonya: 00:27:58 Thank you Renee.

Arlene: 00:28:00 Boy, there's a lot to unpack there, Sonya. I kind of want to build on it because there was so you. There's just so much there. Um, it is interesting you mentioned, you know, being raised to, to air quotes, not see color. I wish I could say I grew up in the eighties. I did not I grew up in the late sixties, early seventies are mainly my coming of age. um, and that era in a I grew up in the detroit and southern Michigan area and to be racially cool was to not see color and pretend that everything was great. At least that's the message I got. There may be other people out there who are like, that wasn't the southern Michigan I knew, but that was sort of my family's thing. Um, and so I think it is hard to now get to a point where I suddenly realize to say you don't see color is so dismissive.

Arlene: 00:29:01 It's so, it's putting the blinders on and pretending that this huge element of a person's humanity isn't even there. So I really try to try to get away from that. You also love that. You talked about how hard it was when you were the only white woman in your College experience because I, I just had that conversation downstairs when somebody is like, oh, you're going to do your podcast, and I said, I'm really nervous because I feel like I represent and I like paused to try and like kind of grasp who I have to represent, and Maddie goes, me, you're representing me. Thanks for that added pressure. And it's true. It's like if I do something stupid, if I do something rude, it reflects on everyone. Well, hey news flash, that's a huge part of what you Rianka have said you feel in the industry. Is this never ending pressure of I represent.

Rianka: 00:30:12 Yeah. And it's.

Arlene: 00:30:13 And it's hard.

Rianka: 00:30:16 It's, it's hard because it's like, especially when you get an opportunity to be on stage and this is the opportunity that is not speaking about D&I, right? Because of course when it's, um, you know, a panel that talks about diversity and inclusion, they look for the black people or the latino people

Sonya: 00:30:35 I wanna talk about that later. Can we put a pin in that?

Rianka: 00:30:38 But yeah, we'll put a pin in that right there for sure. Asian or the, you know, the lgbtq person and um, and so that pressure that you're probably feeling right now because I am asking you to be on this podcast because you are a white woman is the pressure that we always feel when we have to go and speak about this because you kind of want to put a disclaimer out there just saying, hey, I'm not representing all black and brown people.

Rianka: 00:31:06 Hey, I'm not representing all white women, all white women when I'm, when I'm talking, this is just my experience. Right? But, so from a technIcal standpoint, and I think I've said this on the podcast before, like I've had to go toe to toe with white men before who has, who has tested my technical skills and you know, we'll just be casually talking about something. Then like, oh, did you hear about the new law tax change? I'm like, oh yeah, and you know, I'll just start talking about the things that interest me, but oh well what about x, y, and z? And I'm like, oh, I know about that too. Well, what about x? I'm like, oh, I see what's happening here. Ok. And so I'm always prepared. I am always prepared because I do feel that pressure that I do, you know, his interaction with me.

Rianka: 00:31:52 I'm this. I laugh because it might be true, like I might be the only interaction of the person, of a person of color for him at, in that entire conference because out of a conference of 3,000, there may be 15 of us, may be 15 of us. And so yes, it is added pressure and I'm happy that you got a chance to experience that Arlene. Like I'm, I'm really happy. Um, because then

Sonya: 00:32:18 That testing thing that people do, it's just really annoying I do't to represent my race because as a white person and I get the privilege of people thinking that I'm a unique individual that does not represent all white people

Rianka: 00:32:34 or, or, or Sonya, they assume that, you know, the technical stuff.

Sonya: 00:32:40 Except that I was, you know, before this role I was the CEO of a RIA BD hybrid. And I was pretty young for the, for that role and a woman and so I got a lot of that from people who didn't think I was old enough or qualified enough, or male enough probably. And it's just because you spend so much time proving yourself when you could be just working. It's such a drain on your resources as a productive employee really.

Rianka: 00:33:15 Yeah. I say it takes up mental capacity.

Sonya: 00:33:17 It does.

Rianka: 00:33:19 It takes up a lot of mental capacity. But Arlene, I want the listeners in another aha moment that you had that you shared with me was when you got a chance to experience being the only person of. I can't even say of color. Of white?

Arlene: 00:33:43 Of non color, I don't know.

Rianka: 00:33:43 I hope no one got offended with that. See, I mean we're learning

Sonya: 00:33:49 Send them my way. I'll talk to them.

Rianka: 00:33:51 Right. And Sonya, we'll talk about that too. We'll put a pin in that. But another piece, again, going back to sparking conversation and just listening to the podcast, Arlene like you are one of the active listeners in a sense of you don't just listen like you respond to me. You're like, hey, I heard this and I want to know more, can you point me into the direction of x or you'll share with me your experiences and if you would be so kind to share with the listeners your experience when you were in France.

Arlene: 00:34:22 Oh my goodness. I will. Um, for instance, France is really fun. By the way, everyone should go. So we, we were in Paris this, this part of the trip was in Paris and have we gone to see a cathedral and side note always listen to your mother in law when she tells you it's her favorite cathedral and you're like, eq, but it's way out of the way. I don't want to go, go anyway. It's just absolutely stunning. and most of the places, if you've been to paris or any, any tourist place, a lot of times around a big tourist item or a big, you know, site is, oh, there's a lot of other little shops and restaurants and do-das and thIngs and that's kind of how we've gotten is like, oh, we'll go to this cathedral and then we'll wander around the neighborhood or we'll go to this museum.

Arlene: 00:35:12 And then we'll wander around the neighborhood. So we go to this cathedral is absolutely ridiculously amazing. And, and we do our thing like let's take a walk around the neighborhood. So we head down one street and all the shops are closed. It's very, you can tell it's a Muslim neighborhood because of the shop displays, but they're all closed, than we realize it's Ramadan. So the few people we see like we are clearly other and like that's okay, we're super chill and we continue our walk and then we get into this very vibrant neighborhood and it's all west African immigrants and we stick out so very, very much. We are not just white, we're white Americans. And you can pretend that you're not looking like an american, but you do like the way you stand, the way you walk, the way you make eye contact, everything about you. They know, don't try and tell them your Canadian either. They're not falling for that.

Arlene: 00:36:22 So we're walking and it's lovely. There's no issue. We are not accosted. We are not. I don't feel in danger. There's absolutely nothing wrong. I want to make sure people realize that there was nothing wrong except about an hour in. I just looked at my husband, I said, I'm really tired of being looked at like can we just head back and the head back, the unspoken part of that head back sentence is to the white parts and all of a sudden I did. I had that like, oh my gosh, this is what it's like every flipping day because I've heard that like it's exhausting to go to work and have to represent, to go to work and be other, to go to conferences and be other and all of a sudden I was like, oh, I'm tired. And it had been an hour. What a big baby I am. And I, I just was overwhelmed by empathy is like I can't even, I can't even imagine what this is like day in and day out and I want to just hug all the people, all, all the people that are not that are in the minority. I just want to be like, I see you. I get that this sucks for you. And I'm so sorry. So it was, it was an amazing experience. It was,

Rianka: 00:37:43 and I definitely appreciated you reaching out to me, um, because, you know, we, we had our first conversation in april and um, I kind of explained my story a little bit more. Excuse me, our first conversation about this in particular. Again, I want to make it clear again. I've known Arlene for almost three years now. Okay. But this but like a true like beyond surface level, beyond how's work beyond, you know, how's your practice going and how you're doing in your coaching business beyond that, like this true depth layers of conversation we had in april. And then, um, over the summer Arlene reached out and was just like, hey, just girlfriend, I have a story to share with you and I get it now. She was like, even for a nano second of me feeling like what I, I finally understand what you said as far as just like being a person of color and feeling exhausted because you feel like you can't bring your full self. Like you're suppressing yourself when you come to conferences when you go to work. And so I get it and yeah, that same empathy that you shared just now, you share it to me and I don't know if you know how much that means to me, Arlene, like that meant so much because I'm like, oh, okay. She gets it. She gets it.

Arlene: 00:39:14 Well thank you for that because I, I don't know, I have no idea how much it means. All I know is I think, wow, what a big weenie. It was an hour of your life. Like that's, that's what hits me over and over and when it, and I don't dwell on this, but you and I have talked about it in a number of times and I always say, god, it was an hour, it wasn't, it wasn't even a work day,

Sonya: 00:39:39 Can I ask you a question, Rianka. I know that's not how this podcast goes, but I

Rianka: 00:39:42 is. Listen, you can do, you can do anything. You want to girlfriend you, you're fighting the trolls for me so you can ask me anything.

Sonya: 00:39:50 Um, but one of the things Arlene said totally resonated with me. Like once you sort of get it and you had that experience and it's almost like everybody you see, you want to go say like, you know, I see you. I wish, you know, America wasn't such a, sh* place about race sometimes. Oh sorry. You can bleep me. I don't know. The person behind me at the grocery store doesn't want to have that conversation and I'm a stranger and, but I do sometimes have that urge and I, I don't say anything unless I know somebody and feel like I can have a candid conversation and I have to sit with that discomfort sometimes at like, oh, they probably think I'm just like a, like a racist white person. Like, uh, I don't know. Uh, I'm not sure where I'm going here actually. But my, I think my question is, can, is there a way besides like wearing a, wearing a shirt or having the sticker or some way to say like, I, I see you and I wish things were better. I don't know. I actually don't really know what my question is, Rianka.

Arlene: 00:41:06 I love where you're going with this, Sonya. It's okay. Like you don't know where you're going and you've just kind of stumbled off into the, into the ditch and so I'm going to drag you out just because I think you're not the only one having that. I know you're not the only one. Having that feeling. My friends and I have joked about it in recent years, like do you ever see someone in the store and you just want to kind of go on and give them a hug and be like, hey, I totally get that. You don't fit in here and we make it crappy for you and we're super sorry but welcome to America. Yay us and, and I don't know how to do that. And I've had other people say so much and just seeing and acknowledging that you see people of color at events or places, but I also feel really awkward being like,

Arlene: 00:41:56 hey, I don't know you, but I did want to point out I'm not a racist. Welcome to the United States of America. And then you find out like they're from Biloxi and you're like, oh my bad.

Rianka: 00:42:10 I'm loving where this conversation is going. Btw.

Sonya: 00:42:12 Also, I think part of it's me, I don't know, guilt or shame around this, I want to just tell people like I'm not racist. I get it and I still, I will own that. I still, um, you know, racist in the way that we all are having benefited from generations and legacy, of access to all kinds of things like financial services and housing. We won't go down that wormhole right now, but I don't, I'm trying to get past the wanting to do it for selfish reasons, like needing to disclose to everybody that I have an open mind or something like that. But is there something, is there some like not or secret fist bump to be like,

Rianka: 00:43:04 well, let me, let me, let me tell you this. All right. If you get invited to a cookout, Arlene and Sonya, you have made it in. Okay. That's the secret handshake. And what that means. And again, I'll put it in the show notes. It means that I trust you. It means there's really no cookout, Arlene. So please don't bring your family's best recipe and start practicing on it now because there's no cookout this summer.

Rianka: 00:43:32 It's, yeah. So it's just like, you know what Arlene, Sonya, new guys are invited to the cookout. We are inviting them to the cookout, you know, it just means like, hey, like I'm welcoming you into my space. I trust you. Um, and so you. But on a real tip, um, you know, you asked about like what are the cues and you want to, I don't know about walking up to somebody in a grocery store and be like, yeah, what's up? Um, you know, but in conference and conference settings, I can talk about that. And oh, and this is just from my point of view listeners, if you have some ideas as far as like how you would love to be approached if you are a person of color, dm me. And I will share, I will tweet it out, like here are some social cues that you can come up and hug me. All right? Um, so one is just make eye contact and smile.

Sonya: 00:44:34 So like be a normal person is what you're saying.

Rianka: 00:44:36 Be a normal, a normal person. Just make eye contact and smile. They smile back. I typically smile back, walk over. Compliments help. I hear someone writing this down. Yes. Compliments like, oh my gosh, that blouse is really nice. Or oh, I love your shoes. And just spark up a conversation and just be like, hey, so how's your experience so far? And you know, just, and just, you know, go in conversation in inside. You probably want to be like, I'm not racist. I'm an ally, but don't, don't think. I think that's when the self serving-ness comes in of just like, you know, but on the, on the just, you'll be amazed how many people of color go to a conference and no one speaks to them.

Arlene: 00:45:28 Oh, that hurts. Wow. I, you know, what is apparent? I'm gonna, I'm going to show, throw this out for those who are in the audience going, I this seems too simple and too easy to be true. You know what is interesting about this Rianka, is that's exactly how I am with college students. Like I can spot the college because they all wear, they all wear their shirts like genius. Yeah. They've all got their polo that, you know, they'd never be caught dead in anywhere else because they're, especially the women, they're like, polo shirts, they're the worst. But anyway, I will go up to them any day of the week and twice on sunday,

Arlene: 00:46:11 and say how's it going, what are you learning? Are you networking? I better not see you in a clump with your schoolmates or I'll come talk to you and tell you didn't give it a chance, yada yada, yada. And then I do the whole coaching mom thing and while I don't think I need to take that element to other other people, but it's just that simple. Like just.

Rianka: 00:46:29 It is just that simple.

Arlene: 00:46:30 Oh my gosh. Okay. Now I'm just embarrassed. It's so easy.

Rianka: 00:46:33 No, it's okay. I think it's the permission. I, I, I, I think that's what I, that's what I've heard over the summer. Again, with the people who have reached out to me, it sounds like there's just a level of permission and so I'm giving permission to all the white people that is listening. Please go up and speak to someone who does not look like you go up and speak to the opposite sex. Go up and speak to students. Um, it's, you know, it's welcoming. And so we, we, we, we laugh, we, you know, offline about the Quad A conference and um, about, you know, how I felt so welcomed and he's just like, oh, you know, I'm in a space where I can truly let my hair down, truly wear it curly and you know, and not feel any other type of way and just be very comfortable. And the, the white

Rianka: 00:47:30 people who have come to this conference have felt so welcomed. They like, whoa. Like people came up to me and was talking to me. I'm like, yeah, what else did you expect?

Sonya: 00:47:41 And I'll say I have been more. And this is Sonya. I've been more intentional in my efforts in this area for probably the past couple of years, both at work conferences and online too because I do a lot of work, you know, through social media and getting to know people. And the benefits to me have been immense and I'm not doing, I'm not doing this to be selfish, but the side then, if it is, my network is so much greater now. I have, you know, more, I have more experts in my sort of inner circle. I know more people. I'm getting way more viewpoints that I wouldn't have considered before and it makes me, um, makes me a more effective business person aside from the, you know, really getting to know more people, which is just fun and interesting and being a decent person.

Rianka: 00:48:38 Can we, and I know I'm, you know, I'm being very mindful of our time here. So I am unpinning the diversity panel and calling on people of color, Sonya. And I want it. I want to, I want us to circle back to that because you have spoke about your circle becoming much wider through just your intentional engagement on social media, um, through your intentional engagement just in person. And so I would love for you to share, um, you know, how you are kind of spreading the wealth when it comes to conferences and speaking engagements. Yeah. So, um, I do get asked to speak frequently about impact investing or esg or sri and I love to do that. Like I said, I love public speaking. It's also a really great way for me to get exposure to new potential clients, but what I do now, um, when somebody asks me to speak, I'm really more particular about which events I will agree to speak up and I'll decline if the agenda is too white or too male or what often happens is both, um, and I, I won't speak for example, on a, you know, a panel.

Sonya: 00:49:54 I'm not going to be the moderator on a panel of a bunch of white men anymore. I just won't. And I can. And now because I have such a great wider circle, I'm really happy to say I don't want to do this and here's why. And I explained and I tried to explain gently but directly and um, and then also

Rianka: 00:50:20 So what's the why? What's the why?

Sonya: 00:50:23 Why do I tell them that I don't, I won't speak on agenda. I will moderate or speak. I won't moderate panels or speak on panels or speak on stage, uh, when the agenda is not diverse and I have an article about this, so now it's gotten easier. I can explain briefly and then say if you want to know more about why I do this than I can refer them to the article and I can give them resources, but the article includes resources, not just for speakers but for organizers and attendees.

Sonya: 00:50:58 And then, so instead of just saying no, I now because of that intentional network that I've built, I'm able to suggest another speaker instead and I try to suggest women of color speakers or people of color more generally. But I really do try to suggest women of color when I can and partly to help help the white folks learn to be more diverse and help them know that if they can just reach outside of their, the people that they know in their circle, there's a lot more opinions and experts out there that they can call in. But also because I don't want every person in our industry that's a person of color to be stuck in the diversity, equity and inclusion panels because you have other expertise, right? So if I just see you as example, I mean Rianka, I'm so glad that you're giving your time to the financial services community to help us do better and the, the, the dei area, but you also have a lot of wisdom to share about running a virtual practice or financial planning for entrepreneurs or young professionals.

Sonya: 00:52:11 Right? And so if you know, you should, you should be giving that, you know, you should be showcasing your expertise there or maybe not you because I know that you really care about the talking about the D&I initiatives, but every person of color wants to talk about why we should respect people of color. Right? And so,

Rianka: 00:52:33 no, for sure, and

Sonya: 00:52:35 I want white start shouldering some of that D&I talk to give space to let people of color showcase their professional expertise instead of just being the one on the diversity panel. I don't know if that makes sense.

Rianka: 00:52:49 No, it makes total sense. Yeah. And which is why for so long I ran away from this conversation, um, I ran away from starting this podcast and I have a really good relationship with god. And so I know when he's about to knock me down if I don't listen to him. Like this same thing happened when I was trying to run away from starting Your Greatest Contribution. My RIA, my financial planning firm. He literally knocked me down. Um, so I, I know what that nudge feels like. So the same thing was happening with this podcast, but I was like, but no, I don't want to be pigeon holed. I don't want to be the person, the only person that's being called on to talk about diversity, equity and inclusion in financial planning though is a passion of mine. But what I have realized is that as much as i want to run away from it as, as much as I want to not say this out loud, I do have a platform and I do have a voice that people listen to. And it's like if I'm a trusted person in the profession, then I have to be that vessel. And so I was just like, all right, let's do it and that's how 2050 trailblazers came about. But I, I did, I totally hear you, Sonya. I was running away.

Sonya: 00:54:11 I'm glad you do it. But I also realized that not everybody, you know, every person of color wants to shoulder that and so that. So I am willing to turn down speaking engagements that are about my business. If the agenda is to, too white, partly, you know, because I don't want my name and message associated with an event that's missing the mark on inclusion, but also I want to lead by example, but what I won't decline is talking about the importance of inclusion and diversity. So just for that reason so that I can, you know, free. I can lead by example and hope people who look like me might be more receptive to hearing a message from me and also to free up people of color to talk about their areas of expertise.

Rianka: 00:55:01 yeah.

Arlene: 00:55:03 That's a good two sided approach to that, Sonya, because I think it is important for people on the diversity and inclusion panels to hear from someone who's like, hey, you can do this. Here's how I did it. And it also gives you a chance and I guess that's what we're doing today too, to kind of say, hey, here's my story. Here's how uncomfortable I have felt. Discovering that I have this creepy racism it hidden inside of me that I didn't even know was there. Here's, here's how I've stumbled and I've been okay. And I think getting that message out on those panels is a good thing to say. It's okay to be uncomfortable. Come on in, be uncomfortable, sit with it, feel it, absorb it, learn from it. Um, you're gonna screw up. So we're not going to say, don't be afraid of screwing up. We're just going to say, yep, that's going to happen. And then you're going to dust yourself off and you're going to move along and things will be better. Um, so yeah, I think there's a place for white people on diversity panels and they love that you're using that. That double sided, that balancing act and love it Sonya.

Sonya: 00:56:15 Yeah. Yeah. And it's great, I mean I get to have the conversation about, you know, why I won't be on it and I also get to suggest how they can better next time and if they really want me on a panel they can add, you know, they can make it a diverse panel and here are four or five experts that you can call. It's really nice to do that.

Rianka: 00:56:36 So I think one of the takeaways, I mean there's a lot of takeaways in this conversation, but it's like it goes back to what we mentioned in the beginning of the conversation is how are you spending your privilege?

Sonya: 00:56:48 Yes. And I want to make sure that I'm not taking credit for that great phrase. I didn't want to interrupt you earlier, but it's Brittany Packnett I think is how her name is pronounced. She's the, I read everything she writes and she's, she's a wonderful person to follow on twitter and read her writing. She's brilliant and she's the one I'm pretty sure who coined that phrase.

Rianka: 00:57:08 Okay. Yeah. So if you want to send me over some, some of her material, I will definitely share it in the show notes

Sonya: 00:57:15 Yeah, there's an article called Spend Your Privilege. I'll send it.

Rianka: 00:57:17 Okay.

Arlene: 00:57:19 I love that. You know, let me layer on top of that though, Sonya, because you mentioned that your network has grown and, and I think sometimes in as we start to talk about diversity and then sometimes that leads into concerns about, well if we have this person being a financial planner, then there's not enough room for me. Like what's, what's gonna happen to all the white folk and oh goodness gracious and, and I don't want to dismiss that. And I, I just had this concern that when we say spend your privilege, it almost has a tone of like there's only so much and so I'm going to spend it here. Now the reality is unfortunately there are a whole lot of privileged to go around

Sonya: 00:58:09 There is, there's a lot of privilege

Arlene: 00:58:11 but there's abundance to go around and so to lift up a person of color or any underrepresented person in this industry is not to say, oh, and so there's less for me as a white person, but I got plenty. I got more people I would love to coach and teach and help be successful than I could ever possibly do in 10 lifetimes. And that's how most advisors are. There are so many people out there that need this industry. So if we can just anybody who walks away from this, if they can say everything I do to be an ally is about abundance and making. Oh, I just, I can't, I can't say it enough. So

Rianka: 00:59:03 I love it. Thank you so much, Arlene. That was beautifully stated. Let's approach this with abundance and just the abundance mindset. Um, and so there is so much more that we could talk about and so much more that we can. That's beautiful thing about this is that this does not have to be a one time conversation. And so, um, but before I let you go, I do want to ask, and Sonya, Sonya, you hit on a couple of things, but you know, what are you listening to? What are you reading to become more aware of inclusion? So to make you feel more comfortable with. Yeah, just the concept of inclusion and diversity. Like what are some of the things that you're reading that you can share with the listeners if they're a closet ally and they want to come out,

Sonya: 00:59:52 if they're a closet ally and they want to come out I have a book recommendation. It's so good. It's called. So you want to talk about race? Maybe I should say that a little slow slower. So you wanted to talk about race. Um, it's just a great book. It's easy to digest and it makes a topic really relatable. Um, I, I can't recommend it enough. I recommended to almost everybody I talked to, I also recommend your podcast, but if they're hearing this, they're there already. Um, and then for folks who are In the investing space, not just the financial planning but also, you know, portfolio management and investing. There's a racial justice working group that I'm involved in that's doing really interesting work. So that's pretty specific to our, our area.

Rianka: 01:00:40 what is it called?

Sonya: 01:00:41 Called RJI racial justice initiative. It's fairly loosely organized through google groups now, but the work that's being done through that group is phenomenal and I'm happy to make an introduction or I can ask the, um, the RJI leaders if it's okay to put in the show notes.

Rianka: 01:01:02 Yes.

Sonya: 01:01:03 We have a call once a month and talk about the different initiatives that are going on and how we as a community can support them.

Rianka: 01:01:12 And Arlene, what about you? My dear?

Arlene: 01:01:14 Oh my goodness. I think my goto is Code Switch, it's a podcast. Um, it teaches me things I didn't even know I needed to learn. Um, and I also listen to It's Been a Minute which is not so much diversity focused, but I feel like the voices there are more diverse and so I'm hearing different perspectives. Um, obviously this one, but again, preaching to the choir. If you're listening to it, you already know about this one. Um, and XY Planning Network, we don't have a specific diversity podcast, but we do have a diversity committee that's a member. It's member driven. We have some members that just came together and they're like, hey, we want to do some things. And they have, um, podcasts or webinars rather excuse me, they have webinars, um, periodically, and maybe we can get that in show notes.

Rianka: 01:02:08 So yeah, the XY Planning diversity webinars um, what I found out through Maddie was that they're open to the public. So that's the one thing I do appreciate about the XY Planning Network is that if they feel like it's information that needs to be shared with the masses, they do. Um, so it's, you know, the members intellectual capital that they're putting out there, but they're sharing it with the public, which is awesome. Um, so I will make sure I'll put that information in the show notes so that they have webinars on a quarterly basis. And Brian Thompson, I believe is the president of this, of the diversity group.

Arlene: 01:02:50 I think that is true.

Rianka: 01:02:52 Yes. And he iS actually going to be a guest on 2050 trailblazer. So watch out for him. So, um, so thank you ladies. Is there any last words that you want to share, any last sentiments that you want to share with us before I let you go?

Sonya: 01:03:08 Sure. I have one. It's just to add onto it, Arlene said earlier, I just want to address the fact that people think that diversity means taking things away from them and that's really not how I see it at all. In fact embracing diversity in my life has brought me such a, so lIke a fuller life and so I just want to say the intent of a diverse community anywhere really is not to take things away from white folks we're not we are not trying to take away your seat at the table. We're trying to build a bigger table, a table that welcomes everyone.

Rianka: 01:03:43 That was beautiful.

Arlene: 01:03:43 Wow. I can't even. I can't add to that. Any better. Rianka, I think the last thing I'd close with is if I go to a fair number of conferences in a year, if you see me and you're that person who's not come out as an ally and you're trying to figure it out, talk to me, use me as a sounding board, I won't have all the answers for you. I don't have a recipe, but I will show you that we can stumble along and we'll pick each other up and we'll keep on. Keep on going. So reach out to me.

Sonya: 01:04:19 Same. Same. I just wanted to offer the same thing and thank you, Rianka for having us on the podcast and for doing everything that you do for our industry, you are making it so much better and just opening the space to talk about this frequently is really nice. thank you for your service.

Rianka: 01:04:38 Thank you. Thank you ladies so much. Yeah, no, thank you so much for your time. For your honesty. I know this was, um, this was, I don't want to say hard because I don't want to put words in your mouth, but I know this wasn't easy. Um, and so thank you for coming up here and, and being your authentic self, sharing your truth and helping all of us learn that as we continue to dive deeper with the conversations around diversity, around equity, around inclusion, that we're going to make mistakes but let's embrace them together and stumble together. I love how you said that. Thank you so much ladies.