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Success Story Podcast

Mia Mends, CEO at Sodexo | The Future Of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

By February 18, 2022January 18th, 2023No Comments

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About The Guest

Mia Mends is the Global Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer, and CEO, Impact Ventures, for Sodexo. She is responsible for leveraging Diversity, Equity & Inclusion as a key business differentiator worldwide for Sodexo. She also oversees Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Stop Hunger for Sodexo North America, and leads SodexoMAGIC, a joint venture between Sodexo and Magic Johnson Enterprises. Ms. Mends is a member of the Sodexo Global Human Resources Leadership Team and the North America Regional Leadership Committee. 

Sodexo is the global leader in Quality of Life services. Operating in 64 countries, Sodexo’s 420,000 employees serve 100 million consumers each day through On-site Services, Benefits, and Rewards Services, and Personal and Home Services. Sodexo is committed to supporting diversity and inclusion and safety while upholding the highest standards of corporate responsibility and ethical business conduct.

Ms. Mends mentors passionately—both formally and informally. She has founded her own non-profit, Seven Sisters to Sisters, and serves on the boards of Girls Inc., the EMERGE Fellows program, Catalyst, and the Greater Houston Partnership. She also sits on the Business Leadership Council at Wellesley College and the Harvard Business School African American Alumni Board. She is a corporate director for H&R Block and Limeade. Ms. Mends was recognized in BLACK ENTERPRISE’S 2019 Most Powerful Women in Corporate America feature.

Talking Points

  • 00:00 – Intro
  • 01:02 – Mia Mend’s Origin Story.
  • 06:05 – Why Did Mia’s Parents Decide To Move To The USA?
  • 10:11 – Where Mia Started Her Career?
  • 14:10 – People Who Helped Her To Grow Her Career 
  • 17:07 – How Mia Grew Into The Person She Is Today?
  • 22:09 – Do People Have a Problem Saying Yes? 
  • 25:30 – How To Find Your Proper Position In Life?
  • 27:30 – Specialist vs. Generalist
  • 31:21 – Helping Is The Key To Success
  • 35:20 – Post-Covid Life
  • 41:04 – How To Move Your Organization To The Next Level?
  • 45:35 – Why You’re Having Trouble Focusing
  • 48:25 – On EcoSystems
  • 54:35 – Where Do People Connect With Mia?
  • 55:21 – The Biggest Challenge Of Mia’s Career And How She Overcame It
  • 56:53 – Who Is Mia’s Mentor?
  • 57:24 – One Thing To Tell Your 20-Year-Self
  • 57:55 – A Book Or A Podcast Recommendation
  • 59:30 – What Does Success Mean To Mia Mends?

Show Links

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What is the Success Story Podcast?

On this podcast, you’ll find interviews, Q&A, keynote presentations & conversations on sales, marketing, business, startups, and entrepreneurship.

The podcast is hosted by entrepreneur, business executive, author, educator & speaker, Scott D. Clary.

Scott will discuss some of the lessons he’s learned over his own career, as well as have candid interviews with execs, celebrities, notable figures, and politicians. All who have achieved success through both wins and losses, to learn more about their life, their ideas, and insights.

He sits down with leaders and mentors and unpacks their stories to help pass those lessons onto others through both experiences and tactical strategy for business professionals, entrepreneurs, and everyone in between.









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Scott D Clary, Mia Mends


Scott D Clary  00:00

Welcome to success story, the most useful podcast in the world. I’m your host, Scott D. Clary. The success story podcast is part of the HubSpot Podcast Network. The HubSpot Podcast Network has incredible podcasts like the salesmen podcast hosted by wil Baron. Now if you work in sales, you want to learn how to sell or you want to peek at some of the latest sales news and insights. You need to listen to the salesman podcast. The host will Baron help sales professionals learn how to find buyers and win big business in effective and ethical ways. If you think any of the following topics resonate with you, you’re gonna love the show, how to find and close your dream job and sales 12 essential principles of selling digital body language, how to have better zoom sales meetings, or how to tell a remarkable sales story. If these are topics that would interest you. Go check out the salesman podcast wherever you get your podcasts or at network. today. My guest is Mia Mends. She is the global chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer as well as CEO at impact ventures for Sodexo. She’s responsible for leveraging diversity, equity and inclusion as a key business differentiator worldwide for Sodexo. She oversees the CSR Corporate Social Responsibility portion of the business, as well as stop hunger for sadaqa in North America. She also leads Sodexo magic, which is a JV joint venture between Sodexo and Magic Johnson enterprises as the XO is not a small company by any means. They operate in 64 countries. They have 420,000 employees. They serve 100 million consumers every single day. Outside of her work at Sodexo. She mentors passionately both formally and informally. She founded her own nonprofit Seven Sisters, two sisters, she serves on the boards of Girls Inc, the eMERGE Fellows Program catalysts in the Greater Houston partnership. She also sits on the business leadership council at Wellesley College and the Harvard Business School African American alumni board. She’s a corporate director for h&r block and Limeade and she was recognized in black enterprises. 2019 most powerful women in corporate America. So we spoke about her career some of the lessons that she’s learned as she’s moved into some of the upper echelons of Sodexo working as global chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer. We spoke about the importance of course of diversity, diversity, equity and inclusion, what it actually means it’s a word that’s thrown around a lot. But how has it become more important than ever? What does it mean in terms of what a company should do to have a proper D and AI program? How does it impact everything from your revenue to your hires to your culture within the organization, we spoke about some of the programs that she’s worked on within SciTech. So as a model for other businesses and other entrepreneurs, other founder CEOs to model in their own businesses, we spoke about basically the top things that you have to do to create a truly inclusive, representative and equitable business but also an inclusive, representative and equitable society. And she has incredible insight. She’s an incredible person, I’m happy to have the chance to speak with her. Because what she’s doing at Sodexo should be a model for every business out there. So this is a great piece. If you have a company and you’re trying to figure out how to do D and AI properly, you have to listen to me. She’s basically the most well versed, smartest, insightful person on this topic I’ve ever spoken to. So let’s jump right into it. This is me amends the global chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer as well as CEO at impact ventures for Sodexo.


Mia Mends  03:43

I always start with the fact that I’m an immigrant, as many people are in this country, this diverse country that is the United States of America. But I moved in my family when I was eight years old. And we fled a coup to tie in our home country of Ghana. And and so I would say that that journey from a very stable, happy life. My parents were accomplished professionals. When we left Ghana, we we went to the UK expecting things would get better if they didn’t. So my parents decided to start over in the United States and came with nothing but our suitcases and their three young daughters. And I would say that that experience even though I was eight years old, was instructive in that is it is informed that journey is informed everything that has happened in my life and has given me a deep sense of purpose and conviction about how I should be using my life. It has forced me to be grateful to be humble. And my parents taught us to have incredible work ethic to know that there was nothing we could take for granted that we were not to squander opportunities. And so I think getting those lessons at a very young age, plus love, love and affirmation and being you know, black girls In United States of America has so much connotation. And I think my parents just reinforced that we could be and do anything. And when you get that message at pivotal moments in your life, it is transformative. And it’s why I think so much about the youth of this country. And the ways in which adults grown ups, can, can nourish them, can reinforce them can enable them, because it is it is teaching children in those very precious and formative moments of their life. That’s what makes creates adults who can change the world. So I am grateful. It was not easy, but I’m grateful for the hardship of the journey. Because it has made me resilient. It has made me willing to embrace risk. And more than anything, I think I live in this place of ongoing joy and gratitude. Because I know that it can also it can be gone in an instant.


Scott D Clary  06:04

Yes. So when you and that’s it’s an incredible story. I didn’t know your backstory going into this. So I’m so I always like to learn as I go. So when you left when you left Ghana, you went to the UK first and you ended up in the US? What Why did your parents believe that? Even the UK was not the right, the right spot for your family to rest? What was the differentiator in the US that made them feel like this is where they wanted to raise your family and to settle down? And what was it about the US?


Mia Mends  06:35

Yeah, so the first thing that I’ll say, and I think this is common for most immigrants, nobody wants to leave their country. It’s massively disruptive, it is frightening. You know, you’re a foreigner, you go from the comfort of a life that you’ve known, and the language in which you’ve known it with, you know, comfort and consistency. And then in a moment, everything changes. And so I don’t know that it was a choice. But I think for them, it was a necessity, because they wanted a better life for their children. And, and, and we came to this country in the early 80s. So it’s been several decades. But I think this idea, the universal idea of it, of the American dream, is is held dearly by most people in the world, particularly those who live in developing countries. And so it is synonymous with hope, and opportunity and education. And I think my parents bought into that dream. And try to actualize that for us. But I would say that my parents sacrifice that we could have better I don’t think it’s ever been easy for my parents. Because they were not educated here. The difference between my sisters and my parents is we were educated here, and my parents ensure that we got the best possible education, which has given us every advantage in the world. So I will say, I don’t know that it was, it was a choice that they made freely or happily, I think it was circumstances changed and was a matter of survival.


Scott D Clary  08:10

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Mia Mends  10:50

Yeah. And so I think the first was, I learned to be ambitious, and to do the things that people thought I could not do. And, and that was reinforced when I went to Wellesley College was, it’s an old women’s school, college, and you’re in an environment where you’re told as a woman, you can be anything, you can be great. And so everything started to feel accessible when I was at Wellesley, that why not me, I just I mean that, that, and I use this language so carefully. But that sense of entitlement in the best possible way, which I think women and those that feels disenfranchised in some way, need to hear consistently, why not you, and I got those messages very early. And so it just allowed me to raise my hand for things that maybe were less traditional. So I don’t know that I went left college knowing exactly what I wanted to do. But I did, I was an economics major. And I did under very early on, I understood the importance of the power of business, I did understand that. And, and so I always I knew that I wanted to do something in business. But I would say my understanding of business actually was was probably quite limited when I was leaving college. But I ended up in a great organization. And that was bringing in people that like me, so college students and putting them through through a rotational program as it was with Citibank, diners, club, Citibank. And I didn’t love my first job at point, I learned a lot. And there was nothing because I think all of us leave school. And we just have this this, like this image of what work is going to be like, and it’s always much bigger than the reality, like the reality was, I had to start somewhere, and I had to learn. And so nothing that I was doing is particularly glamorous, I was reading credit card campaigns. And looking at the point oh, two difference in response rates if you put something on the back of the envelope versus the front of the envelope, but now I’m dating myself, because we were still sending direct mail in the, in the, in the, in the 90s and early 2000s, when I was when I was when I started working. And, and so I think it just it just reinforced for me that there are no shortcuts like those were the early lessons, that everybody has to start somewhere. And sometimes you just have to do the things that are not necessarily interesting or pleasant, but they’re part of the journey. I also got in my first shot, the importance of sponsorship, because I had an incredible sponsor, who just helped me navigate, you know, for four years has helped me navigate people, the role, the learning, and ultimately my decision to go to business school, which was something that I knew I would probably do at some point. But the idea that I could go to Harvard Business School, I mean, that was that also became accessible through great sponsorship. And, again, this idea of things felt, why not me, why should I at least apply? And so can it’s just, it’s having those people, those moments in your life, who can enable great things just because he believes in you? Because they believe in you. I had that.


Scott D Clary  14:10

Do you think that that, that understanding that? Perhaps like finding those people that can help move your career forward? Is like it’s a huge life hack. Where did you learn? Where did you learn that? Was that something that you picked up? When you were going through college? Or was that something that you just you were looking around you you understood the power of sponsorship, and I asked that because I don’t think everybody just intuitively looks for sponsors and mentors unless they have somebody that’s gone out of their way and help them and they see the power of that person and then they they understand that that is really quite literally what how everybody gets to where they are and I don’t think that’s a bad thing to say. I think that everybody has mentors who has helped who has sponsorship I I truly don’t believe that anybody in the world is truly self made. I think that even the most incredible people have had incredible amounts of help along the way. So but you you found that early on, and it’s obviously something that, you know, you’ve you’ve done effectively and used effectively. But where did that? Where did that understanding come from?


Mia Mends  15:20

It? I love that question. Because I only understood that much later in my career, what I always appreciated was the importance of power, the importance of authentic relationships. And I genuinely always, like people. And I’ve always invested in building really good relationships, where that are mutually beneficial. And, and so and so that that desire to reach out to connect. That creates what I found, what I found is people, people, then all of a sudden, sort of assume this vested interest in you just because they care. And so what I will say is, every relationship is about very organic, and has started from a place of just wanting to be a good friend and partner to people and receiving that in kind and tenfold. And so, I think now I appreciate the importance of, of sponsorship, but I’ve never asked anybody to be my sponsor, I’ve rarely asked people to be a mentor. It’s just happened. And I think that is the right mindset. Because I think if you go into any relationship expecting something, you’re not going to get a whole lot. But I think it’s how can you bring something of value to every person in your life, and sometimes it’s just about being honest, being that truth teller, asking for help. I mean, it maybe it sounds so basic, but it’s, it’s remarkable to me how few people are willing to just ask for help, are willing to say I don’t know, are unable to be vulnerable. And when you can be those things, it creates space for people to just organically be those gap fillers for you. And that’s what’s happened for me in my career.


Scott D Clary  17:08

So, so you do understand that, you know, not everybody needs to know everything. And you can be you can be a little bit you can put yourself out there ask for help, but also know your own value. Because you can bring value to those relationships as well. And I think that having that self confidence, it’s almost funny. It’s like it’s it’s like the self confidence and, and the willingness to humble yourself and ask for help and things that you don’t know. And that’s something that I think is like a major career hack life hack. But absolutely, so let’s, let’s keep going through your career. So you did a lot of unsexy jobs, a lot of unsexy jobs.


Mia Mends  17:47

So over 25 years I’ve worked for, for companies, and in airline payment banking. And as I started to get into my 30s, this idea of being mission driven in my work, just been so critical for me. And so more than finding that right job, I just really wanted great companies that thought about their work in broader societal terms. And that’s probably how I made the company decisions. Because I think if you, if you if you join a great company, you inherently believe in the mission. The job can be anything. And in fact, that’s what I that’s, that has been my experience. I’ve been at Celexa for almost 10 years, this is my fifth job. And all of them have been drastically different, have pulled on a different set of muscles or skills. And a lot of them relied on some of these perception of my potential versus achievement, because I was always going into jobs where I knew very little. But I will always say that I probably had the prerequisite skills, which were curiosity, agility, and vulnerability, which has allowed me to ask for help when I didn’t know, high EQ, you know, being authentic and the way that I think about the business and people. I think those have been just fundamental foundational characteristics that have made every every job I’ve had possible. Because everybody has to come to the table with a certain minimum level of business prowess. But like, that’s table stakes now. It’s how do you apply your knowledge? And I think that maybe that’s been a differentiator for me. And I guess it’s also been my willingness to say yes, I mean, one. I’m fortunate that I’ve been asked to do really interesting jobs when I often didn’t think I was ready. But I would also say that, again, this is part of my my upbringing is the willingness to just say, Okay, I’ll try. And that was probably most evident when I decided to Take the job in Brazil. And I just want to set the stage for you. Because it was my first job. It’s that Expo. And I just I fell in love with this company, just on the public image. They checked every box for me the mission, the values, the sense of responsibility for a community. But when the job came, it was to move to Brazil, it was to run sales, I’d never run sales. It was eight countries in Latin America. So I needed to start learn Spanish and Portuguese. I mean, new industry, everything. And some of my husband and I looked at each other, we two very small children at the time, we said let’s do it. And, and I just think about, like, what was my most people thought I was absolutely crazy. But what what what was my mindset at the time? One was this notion of well, why not me? That that came into play? And then the the ability to embrace risk in that, okay, what’s the like, the the calculation for me was, what’s the worst thing that can happen? And if I can live with that worst case scenario, then I’m going to try so it was it, it was calculated risk. But I suppose there’s also the desire to push myself, and to do the things that are that are impossibly hard. I don’t know if I want to do that kind of hard again. But I also,


Scott D Clary  21:22

it was tough. I’m sure it was very tough


Mia Mends  21:26

hard on so many dimensions, but I would have treated that Brazil experience much differently. Now. 10 years later, knowing what I know, because it was, it was it was so hard. But it was so hard because I made it. So because of the way that I internalized and my like my ability to cope and be resilient, has increased as I have had hard jobs. And as I’ve grown as a as a as an executive, as a parent, as a spouse as a right, like I just, I’m a much different more evolved mature person now. So I know that experience would have been drastically different, I wouldn’t have suffered in the same way that I suffered, then.


Scott D Clary  22:09

Do you think people have a problem saying yes, too much or too little?


Mia Mends  22:16

I think more people have upon saying yes to little, especially if you’re a woman. If you’re a woman, you’re you want to make sure you can do every aspect of that job before you say yes. And I think that’s what we can learn from our men counterpart, our male counterparts, his willingness to take a little bit of risk, even if you don’t check every box. But I think it’s also it is it is fatal to say, yes, too much of you don’t have the maturity, because then you end up in situations where you are then way in over your head. And you don’t know how to use the resources around you to navigate those situations. So again, I think humility and vulnerability is huge, huge in big roles, because you’re not going to have all the answers, and you can’t pretend you do. So. My motto has always been particularly as my career’s progressed, and I’ve been more and more and more challenging environments. My motto has been, it’s not my job to have all the answers, it is my job to ask the right questions. And to help those experts around me discover the answers like that is the role of leadership at the end of the day, is to subordinate your who you are to those around you. And to enable other people to reach their fullest potential. I always believe that and it’s I hope I’ve actually liked that in my role. I just want


Scott D Clary  23:38

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Mia Mends  25:55

I wear a couple of hats. So it’s diversity, but it’s also what we call impact, I have a couple of impact functions. And so Corporate Social Responsibility in North America is part of my responsibility. The Stop Hunger Foundation, which is success, commitment to end hunger, select so magic, which is our joint venture with Magic Johnson enterprise. It’s a minority certified business. So supplier diversity. And so for me, it’s it’s the combination of those roles that I really love. I will say very honestly, I didn’t gravitate to DNI, it was this was never my ambition. Because I’ve always felt like I was a DNI leader. And when I in the business and operational roles, I actually thought that I could more powerfully realize our D and I ambition, because you’ve got more levers when you’re leading a business. And so I will say, honestly, that I resisted, you know, I don’t I’m saying honestly, because it’s not something that I say often but but I think it’s the it’s the it’s the honesty of my journey is I didn’t see myself in the role because I thought I can do it more powerfully in other ways. But I did, ultimately, always I’m in the job, because I have the moment of reckoning, which was, I can actually do some great work here. Because it is so important. This work is so important. But it doesn’t just live within me. DNI has to live within every leader in our in our company, if we are I’m an enabler of the work, let me put it that way. Naval armor, the work that it has to be actualized for every leader in our company.


Scott D Clary  27:30

I think that’s probably that’s an incredible the way you said that is very well put, I think that the issue with just having a D and I role is that it seems to be like a siloed role that checks the box, versus that was a concern you had, that was totally the concern you had. But you have come from all of these operational roles, you’ve led revenue and have right like, which is one of the most important aspect of the business, you can speak to all the other things that people are doing in the company. Even if you’re not sitting in those roles with a focus on D and I, which I think is actually very important. So I think it’s because you’ve come from all these different worlds in business that actually probably make you more effective than just somebody who has just hired into that role and is trying to manage up manage across, and they’re running into blockers everywhere, because everyone’s like, Listen, I have my own KPIs to focus on. So this is I think that’s I think that’s probably why you’re doing it. Well, you know, if I’m just you know, thinking from from the outside looking in, but I’m also curious, like, for so so what is your role actually entail for people that work in companies that don’t have this particular role? Or for people in companies that do have it, but they feel like they’re not doing enough? What what does good look like when you actually have this person in a company?


Mia Mends  28:51

So let me tell you, I think good ultimately is not needing this person in a company and I call that my job to put myself out of out of out of a job. Because good and DNI is that it becomes so embedded and so institutionalized that it survives in the absence of people like me. And that is that is a utopia that I don’t know that I’ll see in my lifetime. Oh, my goodness, I wish I would. And it’s what I’m working towards every single day is how does this live on its own? And, and my team will tell you, I mean, I use institutionalize, make it that I use that those words every single day. And that that that is what I love about what you said is that does require an understanding of the business and how things get done. Because when you think about all the levers you have to pull, I mean, it’s thinking about the business, ambition, the business strategic roadmap, the employee value proposition, and the work we do corporate social responsibility. All of those things are key Enable DNI but you have to know how to embed them. And so that’s the work that we’re that we’re doing today. And that requires an army. It requires conviction at the very top from the CEO. But it also requires an army of volunteers. And I don’t think you can do this work with that. We’ll be calling play network groups, EBR G’s, that these are the people that on top of their day job, are helping DNI bringing DNI to life. Because the beautiful thing is when you can find volunteers in the business, that spend their time with these business resource groups. They are also thinking about how DNI moves the business? Because these are your sales people, that your marketers, they’re your operators, right. And so I think there’s such power. And I think a lot of organizations take that for granted, in giving a lot of leverage to your employees, resource groups to bring this work to life. But I mean, but if I leave this, this, this podcast with, you know, with that, if I leave that this podcast, the one thing, the one message I want to convey is, this work has to be deeply grounded. It has to be these or it has to become systemic. Otherwise, it we’re chasing something that will continue to be bleeding.


Scott D Clary  31:22

Do you think that you would have and this is going to be I like asking questions that may not have like a right or wrong answer, because it just forces people to think so do you think you’d have more success? Helping somebody helping individuals at a community level? Feel confident enough to find sponsorship feel entitled enough to say yes to every opportunity? If they feel they can take it on? Or do you feel like a true D and I like moving the needle does come from people like you within corporations? Where do you find that you’d have the most impact? Because both can impact?


Mia Mends  32:04

I think it’s yes. And I mean, I think it’s it’s both of those things. And that’s what I, when I talk about D and I talk about the ecosystem, and that all of the pieces actually have to be working in unison, to create that one plus one equals three. And so there’s nothing about my job that I think I can do, discreetly, I think it is a confluence of factors and that to reach that, like that amazing equilibrium. It’s all these pieces, you have to get all these pieces. Right. So I think it’s a really great question. And I I’d say it’s, it’s both, it’s both all plus more things that we play on thought of the head. But what I what I when I took this role, like my first assessment might my audit was, what is what are all the assets that I have at my disposal? Because we try it, we talk about D and AI as something that should flow throughout the business. But that doesn’t just happen. Like nothing changed doesn’t just happen. Transformation doesn’t just happen. So intentionally, what are the assets that I have at our disposal? And how do I leverage every single one of them that’s we’re doing?


Scott D Clary  33:18

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Mia Mends  35:46

Yeah, I it’s a question I think about regularly because last year, last year was, was an inflection point, I kept thinking, is this an inflection point or is the tipping point. And I think it’s still an inflection point, that we are not so changed or moved, that the change is just going to happen. And that change will be sustained. You know, we’ve also had this as the moment is as a movement. And I actually think the George Floyd’s murder was such a powerful catalyst. And I don’t think we have to acknowledge we’re not the same, we are not the same. And because I believe in the human kindness and for empathy. Nobody could see what happened and not feel changed in some way. But we’ve also seen a lot this year, and how do you become how do you ensure that people don’t become sensitized? desensitized I should say, desensitize, I think that is, that is, that is part of this journey is that we need to continue to feel the pain of things. But here’s the other thing that I always say, change happens when a dominant group decides it has to happen. You know, it’s not you can’t look to black people to solve the issue for Latin people to solve the issue. It is because the dominant group says it has to change, and we’re part of that change. And that requires that those in the dominant groups have to subordinate their own interest, interest, self interest, or instinct for the collective good. And that is hard,


Scott D Clary  37:27

very, very hard. And I was actually gonna ask you something I was gonna say, Do you think that I actually appreciate what you said about you, you sort of have faith in humanity, and that we default to good. But I’ve also seen, I’ve also seen, like this boiling point, a lot of people have been more separated than ever more separated, and almost like more having like, a wall up than pre George Floyd.


Mia Mends  37:51

Yeah, yeah. Because what is sighs the issue, right, it’s, um, race has been it become a rallying cry, no matter what side you’re on. And that is, that is sad, because it is, it is taken something that is for me about human rights and, and, and the best possible societal outcomes. And we’ve made it a polarizing, you know, divisive issue. But here’s where I have hope. And I am I’d like to think that every generation has said this, but I’m, I’m going to believe it, when I look at my children. Because I just I do believe that there is going to be some generational impact here. And that this, the next generation is coming behind us. I mean, I’ve seen in my children, they are so enlightened, they are purpose driven. They are convicted, young people possess an audacity, like, they’re just like, why not? That I’ve loved so much. And I think they really see right from wrong in the most clear terms. I think we can all you know, as you get older, you learn to compartmentalize your client, you you learn how to rationalize. For our kids, it’s just so clear, like, there’s very little gray and somewhat they’re seeing, and I have conversations with my children. Um, you know, one is 14, the other is 11. And sometimes they just it’s like, like dumb mom, like, it’s so obvious to them. And I just like, How can we not kill that? Because Are we all like that? Got like, all like that? I mean, changes.


Scott D Clary  39:28

See, that’s the thing. Well, I thought I thought I was like that growing up. But then here’s your like, everybody thinks they’re like that growing up. And then here we are in 2021. And we’re still like, I didn’t think, again, it’s probably it’s probably an entitled perspective, but I didn’t think these were the issues. I didn’t think it is as prevalent as they were, but I’m actually I guess I’m Canadian. I didn’t see as much of a political divide, that’s for sure. In Canada, as I as I see in the US, I didn’t see these issues to that extent that I just saw in the last year, when I was growing up. So I hope that I hope that you’re right. I hope I really do hope.


Mia Mends  40:06

If we didn’t believe that we would stop, like, we would just say, there’s nothing to fight for. So I feel like yes, I choose to believe it. And maybe it’s a naive perspective. But it just means that we are going to be living in this space then. And that is like that will kill us all. Yeah, like that is that will will implode. And so I think we have to believe that something’s going to be different. And we have to believe that our children will make it better.


Scott D Clary  40:36

Yeah, I agree. I agree. Okay. So if we are going to if we’re going to, to move the needle on this do you have? Do you have a list of the most important things that I that let’s look at take it to an organizational level, because that will probably help people that are also listening. And we can also extrapolate that to a societal level, which gets a little bit more high level, but and maybe a little bit esoteric, but still, again, we can do a bit granular as well. So in organization, for example, what would be some things that could move the needle? You can pick like a few that maybe you’ve even executed on?


Mia Mends  41:12

Yeah, yeah. So I think the first thing is a repeat of what I’ve said, because I do think this is fundamental, I think organizations have to make sure that this is not a like a bolt on. But it really is embedded. And because if you look at it through that lens DNI is more than a program or an initiative, but really a function of who you are as an organization, it does inform the lens through which your approach trying to solve the problems. And so I do think that that notion of institutionalizing is so important. I think the other thing is the notion of ally ship, because, again, you and I talked about the that the dominant group has to decide that this is much bigger than than themselves, and that they have to think about the collective good. And so we talk a lot about ally ship and the role of white men in particular, like we’re very explicit about that. And, and it’s delicate, because, you know, a lot of my white colleagues can get exasperated with this notion of white privilege. And because everybody’s in a different place, and it’s not to say that you have not suffered in your life as a white man. But it’s just acknowledged that you have a certain amount of leverage that allows you to do things and to accomplish things that people of color, and women cannot easily. And so what do you do with that power? But that is that is also a fraught notion. And so how do we look at ally ship through a different lens, and I call it instead of talking about D, and I call it empathy? It’s, it’s just learning how to care about your fellow human. And that if you can really teach that, and I’m, we’re working on how do you teach that?


Scott D Clary  42:59

How do you teach about caring about humans? Is that do we have to teach that’s very sad,


Mia Mends  43:05

do you or, or to remember that the way you care for the people you love in your life can be extended into the workplace, that we want you to care about your employees lived experience? Because if you do, it compels you to want to stand authentically and instinctively in defense of them. And there is so much power in that as well, right? Stop looking at it as a DNI, you look at it as I just I just want my fellow human partner, to be okay to be safe, when they walk out the door and get in my car to go home. That like we actually do have to teach that. Because if people inherently possess that, it would solve a lot of our problems, it really would. So I think moving to a pro human high empathy, corporate organization, that is like we all decide, I think COVID has forced that in some way. Like you couldn’t get away from seeing, like your, your colleagues kids on the screen, because they were in and out. Right? You just you got to center people’s lives beyond work. And I think that’s been really good for us. It’s not know what do we want to do with that? Do we want that to change the way that we we lead and we manage, and that’s what I’m arguing is it should recalibrate the way that we manage performance, the way we think about growth and talent development. And I think we need to reward that as a skill set. So if you’re, if you’re a leader who who knocks out the ballpark from operational perspective, but there are indicators that you’re not building inclusive teams that you do not, you’re not exhibiting those empathy behaviors that you shouldn’t be promoted. I mean, how’s that you’re not going to be rewarded if you’re not doing the things that organizations say they value. So organizations have to save a value. And then maybe the last thing that I would say, which is a little bit of a, how do we think about this outside of the workplace, just raise good children. It’s what we were talking about, right? It’s like we used to be that way, what happened. But it’s raised children to be exposed to be kind to be empathetic to be allies, because then you don’t have to teach it in the workplace. Because these are lessons that children are getting and are getting reinforced. But something happened, something happens where we lose it. So how does it get reinforced every day?


Scott D Clary  45:34

I love that. And actually, I want to. So I want to actually just go back to your second point, because I thought that was also something very important. Because I want to, I want to bring up the classic argument, and I want to get you to speak to that classic argument where I just hire based on based on the most apt person for the job, right. And, and that’s how I hire and that’s how I gain the guarantee that I’m going to have a successful business unit and whatnot. I’m sure that that is probably the most commonly used argument for why they’re not why somebody isn’t focusing on, you know, the DNI So, so what do you say to that person?


Mia Mends  46:12

Yeah, it is an argument that I hear too much in this role. And people don’t even mean to say it. But the notion is that if you start to focus on diversity, you dilute quality. And somehow this notion of meritocracy is at odds with a diverse and inclusive culture. And that has to be rectified that because that that sort of that notion in and of itself conveys bias. And so I call it out. I do when when people say, but but they had to be qualified questions. Would you say that if you’re behind white man? So why do we automatically go, then we start talking about hiring women and people of color. So that in and of itself is a bias, but I think people who really pay attention to this, the hiring of diverse candidates will realize that there are many talented, diverse candidate, you might have to work a little harder to find them. You know, and I love I love getting the calls, you know, from recruiters who do you know, because I will send them 10 resumes that they may not have had access to, or they just because of their network, right? So it’s what commitment and remaking as well to say, how do I ensure that I just know more people? How do I expand, I get out of my bubble, and do the things that expand my network. So I’m glad that I can, I can enable some of this. But the magic is when those recruiters don’t have to call me because I’m a black woman. And I happen to know lots of amazing black people. And it’s that it’s already accessible and visible to them. Because this work becomes so mainstream. And listen, I know we’re, we’re far far away. And so we take the baby steps, but it is I mean, look at the data. Look at the education rates of women versus men even right, there’s just there is no, it’s it is that people are looking for great opportunities. I mean, they are there. How many times do you know the statistics, I write this in a book and it blew me away that a convicted white male is far more likely to get a job over and college educated black male.


Scott D Clary  48:23

I didn’t know that. But I get it. So I do a lot of these shows. And I get a lot of really unfortunately surprising statistics that are probably on par with that one. That’s first of all, it’s insane. I’ve heard other statistics like I have to go back. I interviewed a guy Keenan Beasley and he runs a like an incubator for for basically this this unrepresented individuals, like focuses on black entrepreneurs, but a variety of other individuals and he said something along the lines of like in history, there’s only been one black entrepreneur that’s raised like a million dollar seed round or some some ludicrous stat like that. That’s like a standard seed round or a Series A for like a Stanford grad. Anyways, I get a lot of these really horrible, sad, depressing stats, but yeah, that’s not


Mia Mends  49:18

what does it tell us? Yeah, not what it tells us that there is we cannot deny there’s discrimination and bias in the system. Otherwise, we wouldn’t we wouldn’t be staring these stats in the face.


Scott D Clary  49:29

Yeah, that doesn’t make that speak volumes. Yeah. That’s Wow. I did not know that.


Mia Mends  49:38

So we have work. We have work to do.


Scott D Clary  49:42

No kidding. No, that’s really Yeah, it’s almost like I don’t know what to say to that. Because it’s just like this like that bad. I don’t know what to say to that.


Mia Mends  49:54

But I could, I could quote many more statistics like yeah, which pretty hot form and so You know, these are the facts. But then you have you have, you know, white people who don’t want to talk about privilege and feel victimized in these conversations about race, you have people of color who are angry, because they feel like they’re doing everything right. And the system is rigged against them. So where’s the common ground? Other than everybody feeling like they have a role to play in making it better?


Scott D Clary  50:28

Well, that’s that that’s where everybody has to be. I mean, right now, I feel like everybody has a role to play in just in just almost, you know, making sure that the other person doesn’t get to where they want to be or doesn’t, you know, like, expand outside of what they think is the reality right now. I feel like everybody’s just like pushing each other down, which is what I don’t think is the answer. Obviously, the answer? Yeah, that’s us versus them, you know, dichotomy this this way that I feel like, you know, the US has evolved over the past few years that that’s why I was asking, like, is it getting better? I don’t know yet. I don’t know yet. I think that we made strides. Yeah.


Mia Mends  51:11

Yeah,I agree with you. If you turn on the news, it certainly doesn’t feel that way.


Scott D Clary  51:16

But we’ll have a conversation about why I think that probably you should shut off the news. And sometimes stay off social and these echo chambers of people that just sort of validate what you’re thinking all the time, make you think that whatever you say is the right thing. That’s dangerous, too. That’s incredibly dangerous.


Mia Mends  51:32

And it’s I say it’s on both sides, right? Because I have deeply held views. And I believe I’m right. And what I always have to remind myself as people who disagree with me feel like they’re equally as Right. And how do you learn to listen without judgment? And that is, oh, my gosh, that’s so hard. Because because I often just want to reject what people say, because I think well, you you have to be misinformed, if you believe that. But if that’s how you approach people, it shuts down the conversation, because they got people also want to be validated. They want who they are to be validated, even if you disagree with what they’re saying. And that’s that’s that’s the transcendent nature of this work that we call the EMI is because we do it well, it forces us to really look at each other as humans versus labels. And that is, that’s the utopia, isn’t it? That’s the utopia.


Scott D Clary  52:28

I just  want to take a second and thank the sponsor of today’s episode. HubSpot. Now, the new year might have you thinking ahead to what you want out of your career. So when you think about your success story, what do you actually picture? Is it retiring early with a beautiful view of the skyline? Is it leaving a legacy with your name on it? Or maybe it’s helping influence and change some of the world’s most pressing issues? Whatever it is, writing your success story starts by working smart because when you work smart, your success story writes itself. A HubSpot CRM platform helps your marketing campaigns work harder and smarter. With intuitive visual workflows and bot builders. You can create scalable, automated campaigns across email, social media, web and chat. So your customers hear your messages loud and clear. Are you tired of your content not adapting to mobile, making it difficult for your customers to absorb your message a HubSpot CRM platform optimizes your content for multiple devices so that you can reach your customers, wherever they are, which is just smart. Learn more about how you can transform your customer experience with a HubSpot Yeah, very good. Okay, I want to I want to I always ask some rapid fire to pull some career insights from you at the end of every episode. Okay, before before we have it is a very heavy conversation, I think was important conversation. I appreciate I really do appreciate. You went deep on that one. That was good. Any anything else that you wanted to add to this top of mind that you wanted to speak about that you wanted to leave listeners with? Yeah, yeah, go for it.


Mia Mends  54:02

Yeah. As we close that topic, I think it’s important to also reinforce this idea of the ecosystem, which I touched on before. And that’s just to remind us that the problems we’re trying to tackle are so much bigger than any one person or institution. And so there’s such importance of partnerships in this work. And, you know, it’s like Republicans Democrats working together imagine private public partnerships employees, with their bosses, its clients and their and their vendors, its supply chain, like there is it’s, it’s, you got to infiltrate the entire ecosystem. And so that’s just what I would I would leave us with to also convey the fact that everybody has a role doesn’t matter where you sit, everybody has a role to play.


Scott D Clary  54:52

Very good and and also so people can reach out to you or connect with you. Website social, where should they go?


Mia Mends  54:59

And I I’m notorious for connecting on LinkedIn. I respond to everybody.


Scott D Clary  55:05

Okay. What’s just your name? So? Yeah, LinkedIn.


Mia Mends  55:10

Yeah. Okay, cool. Yeah.


Scott D Clary  55:13

All right. So a couple rapid fire questions. Take as long as you like, they’re not that scary. Don’t think they’re not the biggest challenge you’ve overcome in your personal or professional life, what was that? And how did you overcome it?


Mia Mends  55:28

And so London, the experience that the the biggest experience was Brazil, certainly that was transformative. But the challenge that I’ve overcome is imposter syndrome. And the idea that I’m not going to know if I can, I’m going to be found out, it can be paralyzing. And I had to be really intentional of working hard to one. Ensure that is isn’t show but really ultimately believing that I can, that is for sure. That was a game changer. And that’s it. That’s the last year that I finally that I can, I mean, so I’ve lived over 40 years, even with everything that I have been exposed to the education, my parents reinforcement, believing that I was an imposter. So and I think there are more people who live with it than are willing to admit,


Scott D Clary  56:23

I think almost everybody at some point lives with it. Just some people hide it a little bit better than others. I think that that’s a valid point. And I think that the sooner you can recognize it, and speak to potentially somebody who’s gone through it and achieved incredible amounts of success and sort of like, help you get over that hump. I think the sooner your career, professional life, whatever it is you’re trying to achieve will just massively accelerate, because that is a huge inhibitor for people. I agree. If you could choose one person in your life, obviously, there’s been many, but one person has had a major impact on you. Who was that? And what did they teach you?


Mia Mends  57:01

And my parents, that’s so easy. My parents, I owe them everything. Because they’ve always reminded me who I am, where I come from, and to see those inherent qualities that I possess, what I look like to be a source of strength, and not a barrier. Huge, huge.


Scott D Clary  57:25

If you could tell your 20 year old self one thing, what would it be?


Mia Mends  57:33

Yes, you can. Yes, you can. Yes, you can. And here’s another one. Because I know this next, you know, the younger generations when everything right now. And but I’ve also learned that you will always be exactly where you’re supposed to be. Still, we still


Scott D Clary  57:56

would do a podcast or book that you’d recommend people go check out.


Mia Mends  58:01

And oh my gosh. So like, a week ago, I went to seperti. Brown because I love everything she writes. Yeah, but she’s


Scott D Clary  58:08

not everybody’s already recommended her.


Mia Mends  58:11

So I really do. In fact, I would say I could have written four books. And I watched an amazing it was either Hulu or Netflix on Theranos. Elizabeth Holmes. Yeah. Nice to see that.


Scott D Clary  58:27

The Bad Blood is that or is a different one?


Mia Mends  58:29

Um, yeah, I think there were there were a couple that it could be bad. But everybody, I mean, there are lessons there for everybody. It just wow. I mean, we can even we could have a whole nother session on deconstructing that. But I just it was so powerful. And so like, so you can extract so much on every level. I mean, you could talk about you could talk about race, and gender, and youth and deceit and authenticity and like you. Yeah. Yeah, there’s something very powerful about that story and what it says about us as human beings. Yeah, that’s one.


Scott D Clary  59:15

You know, I think it’s actually if anybody hasn’t gone down the rabbit hole of Theranos. And Elizabeth Holmes, I would say now would be a good time because you are just catching up to when she’s going to be going on trial. So yeah, yeah. And last question, what does success mean to you?


Mia Mends  59:37

Success for me is alignment. And what I mean by that is, am I doing and living according to my values and my purpose, however, that might manifest in any particular time is okay. But I like that I’d like that alignment, because it also conveys a sense of choice and its sense of agency. Right? Because what it what I mean by that is alignment is going to be different for everybody. And the definition of success is going to be different for everybody. But it’s ultimately it gets so personal is what what, what does that mean? What is alignment for you? And I just, I just want to live this pure, authentic life and I don’t always get it right. But I know when I’m most agitated is when I don’t feel like I am doing the things that are in alignment with my life’s calling, whatever, and that’s gonna be different for everybody. So I just, I want to live a life and I invite your viewers to live a life that honors who they are and what they believe. But it’s also linked to making society a better place.



I’m Amira, Rose Davis, historian and co host of the sports podcast, burn it all down. And now I’m hosting the new season of American prodigy all about black girls in gymnastics. For the last 40 years black gymnasts have moved from the margins to the core of the sport and change gymnastics along the way. Now they tell their stories, you’ll meet trailblazers, like Diane Durham superstars like Jordan chiles, and everyone in between. Listen to American prodigies on Apple podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts.


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