Data-Driven DEI™ Case Study: Juliette Austin
Juliette Austin’s personal diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) journey is rooted in and driven by her life principles. But her proverbial road to self-discovery and self-awareness, especially as it relates to the dynamics of intercultural relationships in the workplace, was often harrowing and painful. That was until she made a commitment to do the work on herself so she could be an ally and champion for others.
A leader and advocate for diverse, equitable and inclusive work environments long before DEI was a coined phrase, Austin is a pioneer in this effort. From her perch in middle and senior management roles, she has been keenly aware that people of color, especially young Black and Brown professionals, face challenges in the workplace that have nothing to do with talent. Yet, these perceived deficiencies adversely affect performance evaluations and promotion opportunities. The catalyst for her motivation to pursue a career dedicated to advancing DEI was not based on her own experiences per se. She was more concerned for those with whom she commiserated. “Watching and listening to my closest family members, friends and colleagues discuss their experiences in the workforce – these absolutely wonderful people who were highly intelligent, highly capable, but also adversely affected by both macro and micro-aggressions similar to my own – was absolutely gut-wrenching,” said Austin. “It made me want to gain a deeper understanding of what motivates human behavior. I needed to know what impelled those in positions of authority, to act in ways that ultimately did a disservice to and was aggressive towards people of color.” This deeper exploration into human behavior also empowered Austin to better understand her own behavior.
Austin’s ascension into the use of data-driven DEI tools began decades ago, using assessments such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI®), which determines personality type, and the Kubler Ross Change Curve, which helps people understand their reactions to significant change or loss. However, as other methodologies surfaced such as the Implicit Association Test (IAT), Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument® (HBDI®) and the Intercultural Development Inventory® (IDI®), these tools provided additional insights to her personal preferences and competences.
For example, the IDI® measures how a person or a group of people tends to think and feel about cultural difference stemming from any aspect of diversity, human identity, and cultural difference. It assesses the core mindset regarding diversity and cultural difference and determines your level of intercultural competence along the Intercultural Development Continuum (IDC™):
The IDI® is a statistically valid and reliable psychometric instrument that measures one’s current degree of intercultural sensitivity and intercultural competence affects or “shows up” in your interactions (e.g., cross-cultural communication) with other people.
Austin’s IDI® results from 2014 placed her just beyond Acceptance and just at the beginning of Adaptation on the IDC™ with a developmental score of 130.20 (the transition point from Acceptance to Adaptation is a score of 130). Adaptation is the highest level of competence on the IDC™ and indicates the ability to shift deeply into one or more cultural perspectives and to appropriately adapt behaviors when in other cultural communities. Despite her relatively high score on the IDI®, Austin strived to do even better. As a DEI professional who practices what she preaches, she not only talks the talk but also walks the walk of continuous self-actualization, self-improvement, and personal DEI growth and development.
To increase her intercultural competence, Austin takes very deliberate and intentional steps, many of which are consistent with IDI Guided Development®, a proven approach for designing interventions that substantially increases intercultural competence for people and organizations based on IDI profile results. She travels often. She asks lots of questions and seeks feedback from others on a regular basis. She places herself among different people and in different places that move her beyond her outside comfort zone into her growth zone. For example, when she moved from New York to Seattle in 2018 she created an entire plan to facilitate the transition to a new culture. It included being the first to introduce herself to others, being genuinely inquisitive about others’ experiences and perspectives, and even befriending Lyft drivers, whose wisdom about local culture she found to be enormously valuable (to the point where she remained in the car to continue the conversation long after she arrived at her destination). She engaged in what she dubbed a “Year of Yes,” where she endeavored to say “yes” to any and every opportunity to explore Seattle culture. She has made a habit of taking and re-taking various IATs to constantly raise awareness of her unconscious biases and she carries a picture of the Kubler Ross Change Curve wherever she goes in order to more effectively process her emotions in real-time.
As a result of these and other personal DEI initiatives, upon reassessment in 2020, Austin witnessed an increase in her IDI® developmental orientation score from 130.20 to 135.63. This indicated a measurable improvement in her ability to innately shift cultural perspectives and change behavior in culturally appropriate and authentic ways and more squarely into the range of Adaptation on the IDC™.
For Austin, the value of being able to more effectively adapt to different cultures has yielded both personal and professional benefits. It has enabled her to better understand and support family, friends, and other loved ones via sympathy, empathy, and compassion. It has given her to deeper insight to people from different backgrounds – whether they are a local Uber driver or a local leader – and, by doing so, it has enabled her to better communicate, interact and engage with them. It has enabled her to become more aware of her biases and mitigate how they negatively impact her behaviors. Similarly, it has enabled her to support colleagues in becoming more self-aware of their biases and to mitigate how they negatively impact their behaviors. It has enabled her to stand upright as a DEI professional while maintaining her mental, spiritual, and physical health. And it has allowed her to overcome the challenges of being at the frontlines of DEI. “Going through all these tools and research with Myers-Briggs, Kubler Ross, HBDI, and IDI is taxing. It is also taxing when I’m faced with energies that oppose me at every stage. My success measure is that I can still be fulfilled in my work,” says Austin. “Oftentimes we're trying to mirror the power dynamic in the workplace. But, I say no matter what cultural identity you're from, you can still be powerful in your own skin,” she concluded. Her data-driven journey for personal DEI has undoubtedly cultivated an ability to present herself in very authentic ways so people can hear her and be influenced by her in very powerful ways.