Episode 135 – Unstoppable Co-Founder and Director of DEI Leadership Institute with Maria Putnam
Maria Putnam is originally from Bogota Columbia and grew up there. She has had opportunities to study in places like Switzerland and France and finally ended up here in the United States where she did her college studies. While in college she met her significant other who became her husband. Now, long after college, she and her husband have two children and live in Colorado.
Maria says she always has been surrounded by people different than she. She has always been interested in embracing different kinds of persons which lead her to working in education. She will tell us all about that as you will hear. After obtaining her Master’s degree she oversaw the International Studies program for the Denver public school system.
As often happens on Unstoppable Mindset, when we talk about the subjects of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion we do talk about how persons with disabilities are left out of Diversity conversations. Maria rightly says that this happens due to a lack of education about disabilities. I think you will appreciate what she has to say. You also will see how her DEI Leadership Institute helps to improve the education of all of us concerning true Inclusion.
One final comment is in order. We have had a number of guests who discuss the concepts around DEI. This is, I believe, our third in a row. Rest assured that this is a coincidence. Many who ask to come on Unstoppable Mindset do happen, in one way or another, to be involved or interested in the concepts about Inclusion and Diversity. These conversations are relevant and, like you, I get to hear many different thoughts and points of view. What a great learning experience for all!
About the Guest:
Maria Putnam – Co-Founder and Director, DEI Leadership Institute
Maria Putnam has experienced the achievement of business success through deep connection with people and cultures. She has more than 20 years of experience supporting effective Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. She holds a master’s degree in Community Education and a Principal license from the Department of Education from the State of Colorado.
She has led inclusive practices for hiring committees, organized global leadership conferences and guided major corporate clients (Comcast, Cisco, Ericsson, Coors, Starz Entertainment) with DEI marketing strategies and campaign execution in reaching target markets in Hispanic, African American, and Asian communities.
Maria has developed leaders in global international studies programs and supported the career growth of minority candidates in teaching, social services, and administrative leadership for Denver Public Schools in partnership with the International School Network and the Asian society. Maria has also built a strong network in the business community and partnerships with not for profit and social service organizations. She is fully bilingual and multicultural.
Maria is a frequent conference speaker and has served on multiple boards including the Global Chamber where she has been a global advisor since 2015.
She also serves as the DEI advisor to the City of Denver Global Landing Pad, a business acceleration program that seeks to assist foreign companies to validate their fit with the US market and explore opportunities in Denver.
Maria’s work has been recognized and published by the national and international media. In 2019 she was the recipient of the Champion Award for leadership in the Global Chamber and her activities associated with immigrant businesswomen in Denver were the subject of a feature article in the Denver Business Journal.
Ways to connect with Maria:
About the Host:
Michael Hingson is a New York Times best-selling author, international lecturer, and Chief Vision Officer for accessiBe. Michael, blind since birth, survived the 9/11 attacks with the help of his guide dog Roselle. This story is the subject of his best-selling book, Thunder Dog.
Michael gives over 100 presentations around the world each year speaking to influential groups such as Exxon Mobile, AT&T, Federal Express, Scripps College, Rutgers University, Children’s Hospital, and the American Red Cross just to name a few. He is Ambassador for the National Braille Literacy Campaign for the National Federation of the Blind and also serves as Ambassador for the American Humane Association’s 2012 Hero Dog Awards.
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Michael Hingson 00:00
Access Cast and accessiBe Initiative presents Unstoppable Mindset. The podcast where inclusion, diversity and the unexpected meet. Hi, I’m Michael Hingson, Chief Vision Officer for accessiBe and the author of the number one New York Times bestselling book, Thunder dog, the story of a blind man, his guide dog and the triumph of trust. Thanks for joining me on my podcast as we explore our own blinding fears of inclusion unacceptance and our resistance to change. We will discover the idea that no matter the situation, or the people we encounter, our own fears, and prejudices often are our strongest barriers to moving forward. The unstoppable mindset podcast is sponsored by accessiBe, that’s a c c e s s i capital B e. Visit www.accessibe.com to learn how you can make your website accessible for persons with disabilities. And to help make the internet fully inclusive by the year 2025. Glad you dropped by we’re happy to meet you and to have you here with us.
Michael Hingson 01:20
Welcome to another episode of unstoppable mindset. Thanks for joining us, we really appreciate you being here. Hope you enjoy our talk today with Maria Putnam, who is a co founder of the DEI Leadership Institute. Among other things, she’s got a lot of awards and different kinds of things that she can can tell us about. And so I’m not going to give it all away because it’s more fun to let her tell her story. So Maria, welcome to unstoppable mindset.
Maria Putnam 01:54
Thank you so much, Michael, thank you for this opportunity.
Michael Hingson 01:57
And and how goes it in Denver today. November
Maria Putnam 02:01
we have a storm. You know, it’s storm a last night so it’s been it’s snowing, so it’s cold right now.
Michael Hingson 02:11
Well, we have cold weather, but we don’t have a storm here in Victorville. But the weather is still cold. So we cope. Well tell us a little bit about you kind of growing up and how you started out and all that I always like to start at the beginning as they say
Maria Putnam 02:26
Perfect. Well, I am from Bogota, Colombia. I grew up in Bogota and love my city had the opportunity to actually study overseas since for my high school, I actually traveled even Switzerland and then in France and actually ended up here in the United States. Then I saw I, I did all my education here in the states in I have been always passionate about diversity, equity and inclusion. I think that early in my years when I had I was surrounded by by students, my classmates from all over the world. It was my first introduction to to the i in the best way. So yeah, and I have been doing diversity, equity and inclusion for the last 20 years.
Michael Hingson 03:25
So you did college and so on in the United States. Did you go to college? Yes, I
Maria Putnam 03:29
went to college. I did my master’s in education. I got a principle license. I’ve been in education for a while. And yes, so all my education has been in the United States.
Michael Hingson 03:46
Wow. So what did your parents think about all this traveling and so on? Or did they encourage it and support it and all that and how do they help in the process?
Maria Putnam 03:56
Oh, yeah, well, yeah, yeah. They always help me and support me especially my mom she she has been my my hero my whole life. So yeah, they always support me and I am the only one from my family who actually decide to leave a bra. My my brothers and sisters they think is travel and they may we study a year and they go back but nobody has really moved out of the country.
Michael Hingson 04:28
Well, they they obviously enjoy yes there.
Maria Putnam 04:31
Yes, very much so they love Colombia. They they do love Bogota.
Michael Hingson 04:37
It’s a it’s a pretty big city, isn’t it?
Maria Putnam 04:39
Oh, yes. Bogota is a big city, very metropolitan. We have all kinds of businesses there. And yeah, it’s a it’s a really big city. Yeah.
Michael Hingson 04:54
What’s what’s the population do you know?
Maria Putnam 04:57
I don’t know what is the population by I will find out for you. I have not, but I know I
Michael Hingson 05:03
know have big city. Yeah. I’ve been curious. Yeah. Well, I knew that it was a pretty large city. And it’s definitely metropolitan is as big cities are. And but but she moved to the US what made you want to stay here as opposed to going back there like all your siblings?
Maria Putnam 05:18
Well, I came to school here. I mean, I did my education here. So one thing leads to the other. And when you are an international student, what I didn’t know is that they give you like a green card for two years with some, somehow some way that the system kind of Recompense give you kind of break, because when you are an international student, you are not allowed to work. Or to I mean, you’re supposed to have all the funding to come to study here. But when you finished actually, immigration gives you like a working permit. So you know, I got that and I started working in one thing led to the other I actually made my husband in, in college in so yeah, and then we decided to stay here we thought about going back to Colombia, and then that never happened. And I mean, like, go and move back to Colombia. And then it happened. And so I established myself here. That’s been I have two kids, and they are from here. And it’s hard when you have kids here. Really go back and you know, and just leave them here I am fro I am so a Colombian mom in that regard.
Michael Hingson 06:44
So are you still a Colombian citizen or a US citizen? Or do you do both? Or what? Oh, I have to citizen. Okay, that makes it easier to work, doesn’t it? Oh, yes, it
Maria Putnam 06:55
does. Yeah. Because I yeah, I Yeah. Columbia allowed double, you know, to have another citizen chip. And so we have I have both.
Michael Hingson 07:07
How old are the children?
Maria Putnam 07:10
My daughter is actually very, and my son is almost 19 is going to be in an M in a month. Yeah.
Michael Hingson 07:20
So have they been to Colombia yet? Oh, yes. Okay.
Maria Putnam 07:24
Yes, yes, yes, they have been in Colombia. And I always try to take them for summer rakes and Christmas times. So yeah.
Michael Hingson 07:37
What was your master’s degree in?
Maria Putnam 07:40
It was in community education,
Michael Hingson 07:43
which, of course, means that it’s a great way to understand why you got involved in one way or another and the whole concept of diversity, equity and inclusion.
Maria Putnam 07:54
Yes, absolutely. And I had the opportunity to do my master, and Vermont, in Ghana College in I really liked that I was able actually to do it there. Because the people who actually go to that school are very progressive, as people who’s really making a difference in the world. I think that was one of the best decisions I made was to go to Ghana college.
Michael Hingson 08:28
So when that was over, and you had your master’s degree, what did you then go off and do with that?
Maria Putnam 08:34
Oh, I was working with a location at that point. So I The good thing is I was able to apply, I was doing, I was actually overseeing the International Studies program at the Denver Public School is one of the biggest largest school districts in the United States also. So I was overseeing the International Studies program. And actually, my thesis at that time was basing inclusive leadership. So it was really good to develop a program that actually gotta apply in the district at that time.
Michael Hingson 09:13
Uh huh. Yeah. What? So what was the basic premise or the conclusion? Well, in the conclusion of your thesis,
Maria Putnam 09:23
it was more into the emigrants and how, how we can Oh, he was a whole campaign in educating, educating leaders to communicate, to have a more effective communication with immigrant communities, and was all based in education equate educating the leaders so they can have a bigger impact. And in communicating with the immigrants, not only the students but also the parents
Michael Hingson 10:00
And what has happened with that? I mean, obviously, you had some ideas and thoughts as to what that should look like and how to help in educating and getting people to be more accepting. How does all that work? Well,
Maria Putnam 10:15
I think the key is, I think it has to be with redesigned the communication systems and institutions. So they have a bigger impact, such as I think that, you know, the school districts they have, they have layers of who do you know, the people who’s in the central office and the people who is down in the school settings. But I think they established recruitment and start with, I mean, it started with recruiting the right leaders, the leaders, who are actually well equipped to lead with the with diversity, equity and inclusion, and how that actually goes through the school settings, and how we communicate with those leaders in the school settings, and how we help them to, to obtain all the tools. So they can, they can communicate better with teachers in the how they can communicate better with the students and how they communicate better with the community.
Michael Hingson 11:24
So what’s an ideal person who you would like to see recruited for leadership positions in a school district, whether it’s the superintendent or some of the other decision makers?
Maria Putnam 11:36
Oh, well, I have met wonderful principals who I think they will do a really good job as a superintendent, I think that as as a as a deposition of superintendent, that person should have been, they must have an experience in the classroom, for example, I’m talking about yesterday, because they will understand better or in a school setting, so they will have a much better understanding. Because it’s all about the kids. I usually say, we all, we all have one purpose, and it’s the well being of the kids. And but the kids, you know, when the kids they require the parents require the teachers require. I mean, it’s a whole team that actually is helping every single child.
Michael Hingson 12:35
Yeah, it has to be more about a team than one person that the world has. Well, has, I really should learn that it’s all about being part of a team. And listening to the whole team. It would seem to me, Yep,
Maria Putnam 12:50
yeah. No, I always, I always say take takes a village.
Michael Hingson 12:55
Yeah, it does take a village. Yes, yes, yes. It, the whole issue of diversity and so on, has been an interesting one. We’ve talked about it a number of times on this podcast, I don’t know how many of our episodes you’ve listened to. But one of the things that I always talk about with diversity when the subject arises is the problem with diversity is it leaves out disabilities, when you ask people about diversity, they talk about culture, they talk about race, or gender, or sexual orientation, and so on. And disabilities aren’t included in the conversation. Now I recognize that people have levels of expertise about their particular area of diversity. But the problem is that we leave some things out. Inclusion, we shouldn’t leave anyone out. Because either you are inclusive, or you’re not, you can’t be partially inclusive, or, Oh, well, we do include people from foreign countries, or we include people who are black, but that doesn’t include everyone. How do we change that?
Maria Putnam 14:08
Well, here’s again, to someone who don’t see it a different way than implication, I think we should put more in education. I think education is the key. I think that that will be from my perspective, the solution to any problem is to really provide more education all the way around, and you’re absolutely right. I have here comments about disability disabilities, where people say I didn’t know. Yeah, civilities was a DI, problem, or di including the DI I have here think so. I think that goes back to the roots that goes back to education, how much education are we giving? Or we are offering in the curriculum to begin with? You know? Yes, in a school settings we do we know, we have all the program for IP, you know, and those numbers are really going higher and higher. But also in the, in the, in the workforce, and the workforce. I mean, if you really look at the statistics, and the studies, a lot of people is afraid to talk about any disability because they are afraid to be rejected, to don’t be to be fired, too. So there is there is that is a big proportion of okay, how we can deal with, with education, you know, in how we can incorporate education everywhere. That’s why, for example, that was that was my, my inspiration to create in the DI Leadership Institute. And it was that people to educate themselves. So in that way, every leader can make better decision they are equipped with, with better tools.
Michael Hingson 16:28
Well, tell us if you would more about the DEI Institute, what it is and how it’s set up what it teaches and so on, if you would,
Maria Putnam 16:37
oh, absolutely. So, the DI Leadership Institute is designed to, to help leaders to obtain the history to obtain all the education and history in data and how to measure results in in to really understand what is what is the i di is a big broad topic is a huge topic is now something that is, I always say a certification is it’s Yeah, to give you a lot of a lot of knowledge about every single subject. But it’s a big umbrella topic you can spend many, many years I mean, the more honestly, the more I know about the AI, the more I know that I have much more to learn, right? I mean, I when somebody come across to me and say I’m an expert, then the I will always say well, I don’t know if we can ever be an expert in this area, because it’s so deep and I have so much respect for the topic and for the subject of di so I’m going back to your question. The Di Di certification program is called the master Certification Program is a is an online self paced. Advisor provided program is in last six to eight weeks. And they have an advisor the whole time and the students they have to develop a project for chain. So they have to apply what they are learning in the program. This is not a checkbox certification. So that’s that, that was the, my, my mission with this certification program was to really help those leaders to learn.
Michael Hingson 18:46
So, so how do you do that what what do you teach? Or how do you help them to self discover the idea of becoming a person who is more open to things that are different or becoming more inclusive?
Maria Putnam 19:03
Yeah, well, the program itself is designed in three entry levels and every level has between four to six modules. So, in every module, they they have to they have to well they start doing the project for chain. So when they start the program, I meet with the students and we talk about the expectations through the program. And when they finish the level, the first level they meet with me they by that time they have already identified a gap in their workforce, the workplace with that they can they can apply the DI any area where they feel like they want to they want to apply so so they have to self check themselves. The program is designed for them to check their knowledge self check the knowledge and then they have to develop they have to in the second in the second I’m level they have to send a draft with the their project for chain. And we we work on it, I mean the student, we are in communication with students all the time. So I am a communication asking questions, what about this? What about that, because sometimes they they don’t know how to break it down, or they don’t know how to just get the concept and in creating a solution for the gap that they are, they have identifying their companies. So, so they develop the whole the whole project four chain, and at the end, they have to submit the final and the final have to meet some requirements. So they have to know how to, you know, the timeline, launching the program, who who will be the people that will be supporting the everything that they have a project for chart project. And so I work with them, and I help them to identify, and sometimes they don’t know, is depends, sometimes they already have identified exactly what they want to do. So I help them through the project for chain so they can finish the program with something that they can apply. And they right now actually, I have a group of people who have graduated and we meet once a month. And they it’s amazing. They they launched their they launched their product for chain and is huge. I mean, they are really making a difference in their companies.
Michael Hingson 21:39
So what kinds of projects or, or programs have people started within their companies then being with the with the Institute?
Maria Putnam 21:49
Yes, actually, they have created, they have worked with the I have things one, for example, who’s in the recruitment and the HR. So they have review all the recruitment, in more for retention, also. So they create a whole program with a DI perspective with the inclusive vocabulary. That’s one I have another one who actually create a community at the AI community in the company. In they have 15 people in they are really and those 15 people belong, they come from different department. So they have the DI voice. And they meet with HR department, and they made with the CEO, and they meet in today they are really proactive on the DI they are the voice. I have another my students who actually, at the time that she took the certification, they they were they were a new company, but the company that she was working, so she presented her project. And that led to a whole department of the AI. So they have people in the department right now. And and they are creating the company somehow have clients so they are creating more inclusive communications all the way around. So they are making sure that has an inclusive communication system.
Michael Hingson 23:29
So when the program do you talk about different kinds of areas of difference, whether it be race, or gender, and so on, or I’m trying to understand a little bit more about exactly what you do. And of course, the question that comes to mind is and how do we make sure that disabilities become part of that conversation?
Maria Putnam 23:47
Yeah, well, the program itself. That’s funny, because I will be actually talking about that next week. Yeah, the program itself is designed to cover all the areas, and one of them is disabilities. One of their sensibilities, that disability part actually. We talk a lot about the disabilities in with is with the HR, the people who’s working in HR departments. And they, they are the ones who actually have talked the most about and they so that’s, that’s where we focus more is where are they? How the company is making sure that they their accommodations for all the disabilities.
Michael Hingson 24:40
And what what kind of discussions or conclusions do people have about that? Well, yeah, let me just ask that and then we can talk about it. But so what happens when that subject of like accommodations and so on comes up? Dealing with disabilities?
Maria Putnam 24:59
What Well, the first thing that happened, and I experience with HR especially is with HR more than anything, they usually say that they, they are doing everything. If they if they have an employee who requires specific accommodation, they, they, they do whatever is needed. But when we go, when we actually go down to talk about what kind of accommodations they have, specifically, I notice that they actually are aware, but they they actually, actually not too long ago, one of the companies actually, they did the whole investment in, there are some computer tests that people have to take. And they were not aware that there is no everybody can really go on the same read at the same level. So they actually invest in the programs to have actually people have a problem due to, you know, any disability, for reading, that they get an extra time. So, yeah. All people who actually English is not the first language, they also are accommodating a the testing.
Michael Hingson 26:25
But what about bringing someone into the company who can’t even see the computer screen? And needs the accommodation of having what’s called a screen reader or special software to to actually be able to know what’s on the screen, much less? how accessible the program, the test is, for people with screen readers have? Have those kinds of discussions ever happened? Or is that something that could be brought to, to bear as far as educating people about those are just as valid of issues to deal with?
Maria Putnam 27:06
Yes, actually, that came up in one of our conversations. And the company, actually, who have two people, they say that they already have all the equipment because they were working from home. But companies right now more than ever, are really willing to invest in any technology to help their employees.
Michael Hingson 27:32
Yeah, it’s, it’s important, because a lot of times we hear, Oh, it’s too expensive to go pay 500 or $1,000, to get a screen reader. For for someone, we just don’t have that kind of budget, even though they spend a lot of other kinds of money for other people to make it possible for them to be happy and function at work. We could talk about computer monitors and and even turning on lights is an expensive proposition. But the fact is that, in my experience, as a society, we have not yet truly recognized that financing, what we need to do to be fully inclusive for persons with disabilities should be part of the cost of doing business that it tends to be more of a fight than it needs to be. And I think you’re right, it’s all about, or at least in large part about education to to change those attitudes. But there is a lot of fear that goes along with it as well.
Maria Putnam 28:47
Yeah, I agree with you. And I have seen a huge sweets after 2020. I think that companies were not that okay. Like you mentioned before putting their money on an investing in those employees who need who needed that specific accommodation. Now, they they are now they do it, the ones who are resisting or didn’t see it. And and that’s the conversation that I have with HR directors is the company now is very willing. And I think like I said, I think before 2020 You can you can easily hear those stories that it was too expensive. They didn’t see the need or just the easy way was just not to hire the people.
Michael Hingson 29:38
Yeah. Yeah. And that that unfortunately is still all too often the case. COVID has caused us to operate in a more virtual environment. But I in listening to what you’re saying. The other side of that is to just say well then You just work at home, because you’ve already got this at home, doesn’t give people the opportunity to work in the office. And so there is still that part of it. And then there, there are also other issues like, what does a company do to make sure that its website is fully inclusive and accessible to all people. Today, still, about 98% of all websites are not inclusive. Even in the COVID era, the Kaiser Health Foundation did a study I think, in 2021. And they found and they looked at 94, different COVID websites that dealt with being able to register and go get vaccines or get COVID tests, and so on. And only 10 of the 94 had even done anything to make sure that their websites were accessible or inclusive to all. So the conversations are still not happening nearly like they really should. And kind of what I’m wondering is because it sounds to me, like the DEI leadership certification program would be a great place to have more conversations about some of that.
Maria Putnam 31:18
Yep, absolutely. And it is and open. I mean, when we are doing that, well, that’s one of the reasons. And it’s very successful during the project for chain, because they have to develop and then when you talk to leaders to kind of find out the ins and outs of what do they have in place and what they are missing. Like I said, in my experience after the 2020 companies are more open to invest. Of course, with the pandemic, also, a lot of people is working from home more than they were before the 2020. So so that, you know, the the overhead, the overhead, it’s, it’s better for companies because they don’t have to spend in so many things. They don’t have them, the cost of overhead is not as much as they used to. And, actually, and that goes with something else. And is that the power of inclusion. Okay, yeah, people is working in their home people, as you see in everything that they all they already have their screen reader, they have everything, but how are we including those employees? How are we making sure that those employees feel that they belong to the company they have? I mean, what are they doing? And that’s something that I have in some conversation with, with, with leaders. So like, what are you guys doing to make sure that everybody, you know, is included and feel included? That is called different? You know, I think that is a difference between, you know, do you do all the inclusion You Do? Do? Do you take care of the communication, you do all these ins and outs corporate. But how is the next buyer housed is that people feeling that sense of belonging. So that’s a huge part there. And I think that is very convenient to have people working from home. But I don’t know. At the end, how that really is, is it’s beneficial for people because we are people in we need that. That, you know, interaction with other people, knowing the screens is a whole different experience.
Michael Hingson 33:36
And maybe the way to look at it is we need sort of a combination of the two people do like to interact with other people. And there is a lot of value in doing that. But if COVID has taught us anything, I wonder if it is that it is also appropriate to let people spend some of their time working at home, in what’s a more relaxed environment, so that they are able to not be distracted by so much interaction. But I think you’re right, that having just totally one way or the other is really the issue that tends to be a problem. And that there’s room for allowing people to interact and have time in the office but also maybe allowing people to be able to be more flexible and spend some time working virtually.
Maria Putnam 34:38
Yeah, yeah, I think that I think that the extremes are not that good. I think that’s something in the middle to balance time working from home and time actually interacting with other human beings. Talking about that will lead me to think about mental health and mental health but also as a whole is is another new layer of the eye. Because the numbers and mental health issues actually were really high during the pandemic. And so we have to kind of have balance, we have to have balance. I think companies need to think about their well being, oh, the employees in? Yeah, so that’s, yeah, I don’t I don’t think that we are not we have no machines, we are the people, we are no computers that we need to interact with people in? And yes, it’s convenient. But as you know, Michael know, everything that is convenient. That’s good for us.
Michael Hingson 35:46
Maria Putnam 35:49
So, so I kind of question that. Now, my question that I asked myself some time, what is gonna I mean, a lot of real estate, the real estate, a lot of buildings, commercial buildings, you know, companies say No, I don’t need that building now. Because everybody’s working from home. So the question is, what is gonna happen? If, are we going back that people has to be working from the office all the time, and our company is ready for that? Because I’ve been that it’s been it’s been a big chain in the world with this doodle, commuting and not and working from home and they online. So and we have to think about with the DI land, how inclusive? Are we? How do you really have a sense of belonging when you just work from home, and you just see all your co workers in meetings and through that computer screen? Because you connect with the people and but that doesn’t mean that you develop a relationship with people, when you work in person, you have more opportunities to develop those relationships to have conversations outside the meetings.
Michael Hingson 37:11
So what’s the solution?
Maria Putnam 37:14
I will think that the solution is to call half and half. I think that i i I talked to someone not too long ago, that was last last week. And they were saying that they were required to be three days in the office. And then they will work two days from from home, which I seen that will read that right there, I think will be good for for people thinking about the you know, mental health and in being feeling included, included. Having the feeling of belonging. That’s what I think now, if we go more into being one working from home and our communication, our connections is through online meetings. Well, I think that the companies need to put an extra effort on how to make people feel included, and how to how to get and how to do work with so many other leaders.
Michael Hingson 38:26
Should companies sponsor more social events for their employees after hours, and so on? Was that one way to do it? I do agree with you. As far as the concept of a hybrid or working some from home. And some in the office, I have a niece who works at a job where she’s required to be at the company, so many days a month, and I don’t even know what it is. But the rest of the time. She does work from home, which helps her because she has a son who has a seizure condition. And on the days that she goes into the office, he is really home alone. So there are some cameras and she can help keep an eye on him. And he’s had some seizures when she’s not at home. They haven’t been too serious. But still, she likes the ability to have a somewhat flexible work schedule. And she knows what days she has to be in the office but she also knows what day she can be home and she can plan accordingly. And she would say that it does make her life a lot better that she can be around her son a good part of the time and her husband works at a job where he has to be at his workplace all day he and every day he works for an aircraft an airline actually, and he’s involved out and being in mechanic or supervising mechanics, for repairing airplanes, and so on. So it’s kind of hard to do that remotely. But she takes on the responsibility of working with her son, a lot more than than he does, although in the weekend on the weekends, then he he helps. But she likes the fact that she has the ability sometimes to be at home. And only sometimes she has to be in the office, and she does establish relationships with people through that hybrid environment. But it does bring up the point, should companies do more to create maybe some other opportunities for people outside of just the regular workplace to get together and socialize? Or maybe after, after work parties or something? What? What do you think about that conceptually,
Maria Putnam 40:56
I really like that idea. I think that they should be mandatory, because otherwise people don’t do a little more like a requirement that they do. Part of part of the, you know, the agreement, when they sign a contract with the companies that they will attend, let’s say from 10, at least five of the require meeting. So here’s so that will be that will be a good solution. People who have families, it’s hard for them sometimes to take time away from their kids. And from there. So we have to be also be conscious about it. Because I mean, let’s say well, okay, Saturday activity, Saturdays are, you know, taking the kids to soccer rather than so their family days? So I think it’s working perhaps. Well, and another thing that I was thinking when you were talking about the example that you were given is a lot of the people who’s working in companies, they’re not even in the same state. Yeah. I know, people who actually is in Colorado, working by their companies in New York and San Francisco. So yeah, how to make that happen? Because if everybody’s in the same city, okay, perfect. So it’s a little bit tricky, but but I think will be so beneficial. In I think that it will be it will be, it will help tremendously. I mean, some people have families, but some people don’t have anybody, and that people who don’t have anybody, it’s hard. Sometimes. The workplace is the only place where they see people. Yeah. Otherwise they’re at home by themselves the whole time.
Michael Hingson 42:48
It becomes their family. Exactly.
Maria Putnam 42:51
Exactly. Exactly. So yeah, I think that we’re thinking about the eye and thinking about mental health. And there is a balance there that I I hope that it, you know, we are leading into that we are leading to be more conscious. That’s the word consciousness.
Michael Hingson 43:12
How many people have gone through the DEI Leadership Institute and graduated?
Maria Putnam 43:18
We have about, like, 120 people right now.
Michael Hingson 43:23
Uh huh. When did it when did the institute start?
Maria Putnam 43:27
officially start in 2020? Even Yeah, 2020. We started with the certifications.
Michael Hingson 43:34
Did you start because of COVID? Or was that just a coincidence?
Maria Putnam 43:38
It was a coincidence. That’s funny, because they sleep was the sign to be in person. We were actually we were not that we make a switch because we were already doing some in person trainings like the whole program, we have a place where the people were going and in the specific amount of hours in studying so we have to chain the whole model to do it online. The nice thing is the two before 2020 did not start online. It was in person and it was here in the in Denver, Colorado.
Michael Hingson 44:20
So with it opening to being a virtual program. Have you found that that has opened the opportunity to bring people in a lot more from other states or even other countries?
Maria Putnam 44:33
Oh, yes. Very much so. And very interesting. We have we have actually a few from London. We have from India. Canada. So yeah, not only from the States. So yeah, I think that and I really liked that idea of Ah, I think that the internet, the technology has really help a lot with education. And we can reach to people that we weren’t able to reach before. So I think that they’re online, and then the model, the model is really high, it’s really good because people can have the mean, everybody had jobs, and they can accommodate eight hours a week to study in their own spare of time. So when they have time, they accommodate their schedule. And so it’s very convenient. And I think that we are going that direction, because that made me think about education, because a lot of people is studying more online right now, taking classes online that go into a physical building.
Michael Hingson 45:57
And if they’ve come to the institute, they’re more motivated to do it, because they’re obviously paying for it, or somebody’s paying for it. So there’s a little bit more incentive in their minds to actually do the studying and do the work.
Maria Putnam 46:10
Yep, yep. Yep. Yep. Yeah. And, but
Michael Hingson 46:15
because I’m thinking about schools, you know, we read all the time about how students Elementary in high schools and so on, have not necessarily kept up and they’re, they’re at a lower level than they were pre COVID. But it makes you wonder, Where is the incentive on their part, or on the part of their parents to really help them understand the value of doing it remotely? And I understand that, especially with children, there can be a lot of attention issues that that don’t help. But so the the incentive isn’t there, in the same way that there is for somebody who makes the conscious decision to do something like attend the institute?
Maria Putnam 47:03
Yes, absolutely. Yeah, that’s a that’s there and really help with the program actually really helps to have an advisor because the advisor is right there actually checking on you check in on Okay, how are we doing? Do you have any questions that you want to so sometimes that to have that is not only the program that you just signed in and when your time is up, you are not allowed to get into the program? You are not allowed? Well, I mean, if there is there is there is programs where you buy the program, and you do you have a specific time, let’s say one month, and you don’t you you sign in or out in you, you perhaps did your time is up in you try to get in, you’re already out because your time is expiring. So nobody really cares, did you really get information or no nobody cares. So do the easy to test completely different because you have an advisor who actually is checking on you is like okay, do you need any help? That is any question because we can see if the person where is the person in the process of their assignments or everything that he they have to do so. So they are not alone? They Yes, the pen the money that they pay. But also there is someone working with them.
Michael Hingson 48:36
And people can somewhat work at their own pace. So they may not complete it in exactly eight weeks.
Maria Putnam 48:42
Yes, they are. We have we have students as well life happened, like happen or holidays happen, you know, and and so people ask for more time. And yeah, we give them more time in the areas that they really finish with something that they can they can use. So yes, they Yeah, it’s yeah, sometimes it’s you know, we send messages in a you know, did you know you’re about to have a week’s let me know. I mean, and they usually go okay, now I have been busy now. I will do these and so we accommodate the people so they can finish the program? Yeah.
Michael Hingson 49:26
So tell me once the program is over the DEI Institute leadership program is over for someone they’ve graduated, then what happens with them?
Maria Putnam 49:35
Well, then they are automatically invited, and part of the network of people who has graduate so we meet once a month is a DEA Master Practitioner Network. And they have the opportunity to meet other people to learn what they do and to support each other And we keep learning that it’s actually a really good learning dynamic that we have in that group. And also, once a year, we have the DI Leadership Conference. So they are invited to showcase their product for chain and to keep making connections. So, I mean, the certification is the first step, because they keep learning.
Michael Hingson 50:30
And so, have you had one of those programs where everyone gets together yet?
Maria Putnam 50:36
You’re Yes, yes, we have. We have the network, and everybody really loved the network, because because the I could be, especially when you are trying to make a difference in companies, sometimes it could be a very lonely place. So it’s really good to connect with other people who are, you know, working in the same direction with the AI, and having people to support each other, and to can have a sense of community. So that’s very, that’s very important, plus, you know, asking questions, things that are happening in their in their workplaces, and they come up with questions, so everybody gets to get to support each other.
Michael Hingson 51:28
Have you had the conference yet? For 2023? Where you get everyone together?
Maria Putnam 51:33
No. 2023 The conference is gonna be in August. So we will have that one. Well,
Michael Hingson 51:42
what have you learned since you started the institute? What? What kinds of discoveries have you may personally?
Maria Putnam 51:52
I have more respect. Now, more than ever, about DEI ? I have. I have learned that we have to take the DEI very seriously. And that’s that’s it, we had to walk our talk? And da,
Michael Hingson 52:18
where do you think that dei is falling short the most? Or what would you like to see change in terms of all of our observations and thoughts about dei
Maria Putnam 52:29
recruitment? I think their recruitment. In and I think HR, I would like to see more accountability in HR departments, the HR industry to the process of hiring, and the systems of retention. That’s where I think we need to, we need to work more hiring the right people, helping the right people to to educate themselves. So yeah, I would like to see more, more the AI in the HR industry,
Michael Hingson 53:18
in the HR industry. How do we make that happen?
Maria Putnam 53:24
education, awareness, consciousness, I think that conscious leaders can really make a difference. If I am the CEO of my company, I want to make sure that my HR really has everything that they need to have in the operate and they weren’t they walk the talk. I was reading an article not too long ago about how actually even changing the language of how to recruit people will actually attract better candidates. And, yeah, I think that when we communicate with human beings, we get better results.
Michael Hingson 54:05
Do we need to change some of the the language around the whole concept of diversity and inclusion or like when I talk about disabilities, some of the language needs to change around that?
Maria Putnam 54:18
Well, yeah, that’s big part of the communication aspect. You know, I think that I mean, with less talk about loss, you know, that is, we have new laws coming every year. And with that, you know, the language change also. So it’s all about communication, Michael.
Michael Hingson 54:41
Yeah. One of the things that I say is disability does not mean a lack of ability. And I think too many people still think that oh, disability means you’re just not as able and when we deal with disabilities, I think we have to get over that disability does not mean a lack of ability. It’s a characteristic and It is something that we should get used to, because everyone has some sort of a disability compared to other people, you know, from my perspective, you have a disability because you need light in order to function, you could probably learn well, you could probably all you could learn to deal with the world without light. But that’s not what you do. And we have enough lights to allow you to be able to function pretty much all the time. But it doesn’t mean that your disability of being like dependent has truly gone away, be it it’s just that it gets covered up. Because there are a whole lot more people that need light than those of us who don’t. And the result is that it gets pretty well covered up. But unfortunately, we haven’t truly gotten to the point of accepting that disability, as some of us are classified as having me doesn’t doesn’t mean a lack of ability. And so, again, it just seems to be that it’s all part of, we really need to change the language. And we need to allow some of the terminology that we use to change to mean something different than we thought it did in the first place.
Maria Putnam 56:13
Oh, absolutely. I agree. 100% with you. Yep.
Michael Hingson 56:18
Well, if people want to reach out to you and learn about the DEI Leadership Institute, and if they want to talk with you, or whatever, how do they do that?
Maria Putnam 56:27
They can go to the website is, you know, it’s www leaddei.com.
Michael Hingson 56:34
Leaddei L E A D D E I .com. Okay,
Maria Putnam 56:38
leaddei.com. A. Yeah, you know, all my contact information is there. I am also in LinkedIn, so they can find me, and I always, I am very good at getting back to people.
Michael Hingson 56:52
How do they find you on LinkedIn?
Maria Putnam 56:55
I’m Maria Putnam. And so that Dei Leadership Institute.
Michael Hingson 56:59
Can you spell Maria Putnam, please?
Maria Putnam 57:01
Yes, M A R I A P U T N A M Maria Putnam.
Michael Hingson 57:10
On LinkedIn? Yes. Well, great. This has been fascinating. And I know I do tend to talk about disabilities because it’s what gets left out. But I really appreciate the insights that you brought to all of it today. And that we had a chance to really discuss it. Because I think it makes perfect sense to deal with all of this. And so I want to thank you very much for being here. And hopefully we can do more of this in the future. If you’d like to come back, we’d love to have you if you can think of other people who should come on our podcast, I hope that you will get us together because we’re always looking for guests. And for you listening out there the same thing. We’re always looking for podcast guests, so please let us know. You can reach me Michael Hingson at Michaelhi at accessibe A C C E S S I B E.com. Or go to our podcast page www dot Michael hingson h i n g s o n.com/podcast. And wherever you’re listening, please give us a five star review. We really appreciate you doing that. And we hope that you’ll tell us what you thought of Maria has insights and so on today, but again, Maria one last time. I really appreciate you being here. And thank you very much for your time today.
Maria Putnam 58:25
Thank you so much, Michael. Really great. Thank you for this opportunity.
Michael Hingson 58:36
You have been listening to the Unstoppable Mindset podcast. Thanks for dropping by. I hope that you’ll join us again next week, and in future weeks for upcoming episodes. To subscribe to our podcast and to learn about upcoming episodes, please visit www dot Michael hingson.com slash podcast. Michael Hingson is spelled m i c h a e l h i n g s o n. While you’re on the site., please use the form there to recommend people who we ought to interview in upcoming editions of the show. And also, we ask you and urge you to invite your friends to join us in the future. If you know of any one or any organization needing a speaker for an event, please email me at speaker at Michael hingson.com. I appreciate it very much. To learn more about the concept of blinded by fear, please visit www dot Michael hingson.com forward slash blinded by fear and while you’re there, feel free to pick up a copy of my free eBook entitled blinded by fear. The unstoppable mindset podcast is provided by access cast an initiative of accessiBe and is sponsored by accessiBe. Please visit www.accessibe.com. accessiBe is spelled a c c e s s i b e. There you can learn all about how you can make your website inclusive for all persons with disabilities and how you can help make the internet fully inclusive by 2025. Thanks again for listening. Please come back and visit us again next week.