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Unlearning Labels Podcast

Our mission is to support you to create inclusive and safe spaces for teams to feel valued and do their best work.


Each month we have conversations about the topics that matter to increase your awareness about diversity equity and inclusion policies through initiatives and actions. Tune in as a team and make it part of your monthly staff meeting.

Unlearning Labels is about talking the walk of I see you, I hear you, and I value you.

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In this interview with Vivian Acquah, the founder of  the Amplify DEI movement, we discuss what happens when AI is culturally insensitive, cultureFit vs diversity and all things REAL DEI. Vivian Acquah is a driven woman who likes to talk about the holistic way of sustainable employability, called workplace wellness. For her, this is the way to work on a healthy culture at work. Vivian advises managers and companies on how to keep their team members healthy, happy, and safe. Behind the scenes she is working on Microaggression training, managing her own podcast, organizing her annual Amplify DEI Summit happening September 27-29. Read to the end **Limited Complimentary Tickets to AmplifyDEI Summit**


While participating in a recent conference, she had an unfortunate incident with AI. As someone who created the AmplifyDEI movement in response to being discriminated against as a mother, she used this incident as a personal learning opportunity and global teaching moment. She not only wrote this LinkedIn article after informing the organizers but also created a corresponding poll. Watch our latest episode here for the rest of the story and continue reading. It was shocking how a simple AI misinterpretation caused so much hurt to her as an individual, to her family on several levels and caused unnecessary confusion. The short story is that every identifiable attribute was erased. Fortunately in this case, Vivian is an advocate for educating organizations about their inequity blind spots. However,  imagine how this lands for someone who is a simple job seeker and unbeknownst to them they have been erased. Jodi-Ann Burey touches on this in her TED Talk,  “Why You Should Not Bring Your Authentic Self to Work”. Recruiters and managers say you belong here. When in reality, we, Black people specifically,  are forced to compartmentalize, contort and conceal our true self to truly be included. Specific to this event it was overall a missed opportunity to focus on the theme which was opposite of what the avatar misstep created. In countries where there have always been diverse populations and previously had colonies you would expect that it would be the norm to consider a wide variety of complexions, hair types and styles, head wraps and coverings and yet in the 21st century the homogenization of women is alarming. This is the most basic of diversity, equity and inclusion: appearance.


Let’s talk REAL DEI. Where does this massive lack of awareness come from? Can we even give it the grace of calling it THAT? Before considering tools which are supposed to be used by people all over the world, BETA test it first. Educate yourself and watch documentaries like, Encoded Bias. During our conversation, Peter said that, “the word intelligence, in artificial intelligence, is in shaky ground because it is coded by humans!” Quite simply do your due diligence. Very rarely will something off the shelf actually work or make the cut. Blindly choosing it creates a lack of trust. The good news is that you can come clean and begin again. It can be that simple to create psychological safety...STOP by forcing everyone to be the same! On a departmental level, recognize that an in-house DEI advocate is mostly an in-house therapist, if we are honest. When Peter asked Vivian about the role of in-house DEI person, she encouraged “we need to treat the DEI roles realistically.” Truly value the weight of that position.


Culture Fit Or Diversity? Companies offering team activities which will make it difficult to fill positions with any demographic. For example,  if you list all beer related and sports related extracurricular activities exclude people who may have strict religious practices or simply do not like sports. Rather it is better to understand the people with the skill sets your company requires and offer a culture accordingly. Vivian recommends, “If you have a turnover of women of color, hire a coach to help you overcome that...challenge yourself to be aware. A friend of mine has created a software to know what it is like to experience what it is like to experience being a Black woman and being approached inappropriately.” She will be interviewing the software creator at the AmplifyDEI Summit, register here to learn more. Most importantly offer transparency in the interview process. When you operate like the Hunger Games, 1000 applicants for one position and keep the position open for 100 days. Remember the company is interviewing for the applicant as much as the applicant is interviewing for the position. Be ready to showcase your genuine interest in expanding towards diversity. Be aware of your relationship check and showcasing your love for having your employee feel they belong.


“There is nothing like a lived experience,” Peter encouraged. We are a team of a refugee, a white male and me a Black Muslim hijabi. Mira had to get comfortable with challenging authority as a refugee. “If I didn’t see myself as better than me but the same as me, I could communicate. However, when I saw them as better than me, I showed up that way”. Peter agreed that “when I was comfortable being me, it made others be comfortable with me.” It can be argued that visually both Peter and Mira are white and that is the REAL reason for the comfort. However, I have experienced the same when I entered the interviewing process as a Black Muslim woman.


So how can you circumvent the encoded bias in recruitment? It is all about self-awareness, self-leadership. Here are some tips Vivian recommends:


  • “Know yourself and what qualities you bring to the table. You need to know how you are perceived by others so do a 360 assessment to assess your super powers.” That means asking your colleagues, relatives and managers.

  • Align your values with the company you seek to work 

  • Make action forward to challenge company with personal efforts

  • Focus on your genuine interest vs. being interesting

  • Use tools that help you to do better and be better

  • Get a coach to help you show up powerfully as an organization or job seeker

If you are seeking a coach to help you with any of the topics in the article, reach out to us at www.unlearninglabels.com; and if you are starting your research get your all access ticket to AmplifyDEI. **SPECIAL OFFER** For a free ticket to the AmplifyDEI Summit, tag us  and DM me your email.


The Future of HR is All About People

The past 15 months or more the world has been through major changes. At the center of it all is how we do business, work and create income. We have uncovered and discovered most of the dysfunctions in our various societies and on an organizational level in our policies. For example, me and my colleagues, Mire and Peter discovered that mindset and self-awareness are directly related to diversity, equity and inclusion. When we met at the Amplify DEI Summit last fall, we decided to collaborate and met weekly until it unfolded as the Unlearning labels podcast. We continued to meet weekly as we created training and workshops for organizations and researched topics in the field. The best research is in conversation with the people on the ground doing the work. We wanted to find the answer to why HR had such a bad reputation in organizations. According to Neelie Verlinden, one of the co-host for Talentsoft's Ins & Outs of Work Podcast about the future of HR, “It is often not that HR is doing a lousy job, but a misunderstanding about their role and what they do for the business and their people.Historically, HR has been tasked with a lot of policy implementation and administrative duties, and they are dealing with that legacy right now".


In this episode, we talk to Neelie Verlinden and Joe Sweeney, hosts of Joe is on the Out - Marketing person. He said,”the bad reputation is from a lack of business acumen and disconnect between HR’s goals and the business goals. HR must be more strategic. Business side does get their purpose. There are a variety of opportunities for change, and what actions can be taken to bring it back to being human-centric.


Here are some ideas according to Joe:


  • HR needs to be more flexible and less policy and procedure driven

  • Free up time to support new laws with creativity and actually supporting the human element

  • Think of your managers as an extension of your HR team

  • Change management is key part of training for HR staff

  • Allowing a culture that facilitates open conversations


Neelie is the HR expert and agrees there is a disconnect however HR departments are overwhelmed with policies and administrative tasks that are unrelated to their expertise. 

She offers the following:


  • Creating remote policies within the historic rules and regulations 

  • Senior level leadership needs to be open to listening to HR and having a dialogue that includes the C level executives and finding the best solution for the staff

  • HR needs to acquire new skills: people advocacy, data literacy, business acumen, digital integration and soft skills (listening, being curious)

  • Basing people’s performance on Output instead of input

  • Golden Takeaway: Let’s be more mindful of what HR has on its plate


The true issue is the labels associated with HR and creating assumptions. HR is so overwhelmed with the basic regulations following no room for creativity or other strategy. 

We must stop viewing as scapegoats and we must all be part of the solution.


  • Be okay with being human in the world of business

  • Can no longer hide behind surveys and procedures 

  • Must be comfortable with our discomfort and allow ourselves to have uncomfortable conversations

  • Put the human back into HR

  • Humans are good at change if we allow

  • Change curriculum at universities 

Mira said it best: “When you go beyond the labels then you can change things” 


If you would like help addressing any of the topics we explore during the show, such as Diversity & Inclusion, Cultural Change, Leadership Development, or 121 Executive Coaching. Please get in touch by sending us a DM. Episode link is here or watch on our YouTube channel here.