top of page


  • Writer's pictureDr. Kiera Penpeci

A guest post by FC Consultant Dr. Kiera Penpeci

The moment has come: the opportunity to practice allyship and stand up.

To align our actions with our words.

In that split second, our faces and the tips of our ears are literally hot. Our heartbeat and temperature rises. Our nervous system also recognizes a threat—perhaps that there’s something to give up, or something to lose.

I experienced this as I logged into an all-company zoom meeting. As people were waiting for the full group to arrive, some of the (man-identifying) senior leaders began to use the chat function to tease another (man-identifying) senior leader who was wearing flowers on his shirt.

“Did you shop in the women’s section?”

“Maybe he borrowed his wife’s shirt.”

I looked at the faces of the other staff in their zoom boxes as they read these chats. I was offended myself, and recognized the representation of many individuals who would find them offensive as well.

The thought of calling out these senior leaders made my hands shake.

I knew my voice was needed, but I was afraid. Afraid of saying something imprecise that would make the situation worse. Of upsetting the recipient and being seen as a sh*t-stirrer. Of being ineffective.

Each opportunity to speak up is a chance to test these assumptions.

I simply typed, “I think we should change the subject.”

The teasing stopped. And the chat was immediately filled with “thank yous” both public and private.

My assumption was proved wrong, and that moment changed the way I think about allyship.

Rather than calling out someone’s mistakes, I used mindful language to call them in. “Calling in” is a term coined by Ngọc Loan Trần and amplified by educator Loretta Ross and other social justice activists. It emphasizes compassion and patience over shaming.

When people feel shamed, they experience a threat to their character. The reaction then is defensiveness, anger, or shutting down.

Calling in makes others aware of the impact of their behaviors, but also leaves room to further the conversation. We can tend to everyone’s interests, getting our point across while saving face.

Calling in isn’t about policing our tone of voice or hiding our true feelings. Rather, it’s about matching the energy needed to be constructive in a high-heat moment. This just isn’t possible when people feel shamed.

Without finger-pointing or character assassination, calling these leaders in left a door open for them to reflect and follow up if they’d like. Those who needed allyship in the moment also had their interests amplified.

The next time you find yourself in a moment that feels high-stakes, notice the sensations in your body. Your fear reflects assumptions of shame and negative reactions.

Test those assumptions. Call people in instead. Thoughtful words can start to rewrite your allyship story.

  • Writer's pictureFletcher Consulting

“Why do you have to be so PC?”

Choose Your Own Confirmation Bias: Date Night or Debate Night?

We’ve heard this complaint for decades now, often after someone makes a joke that reinforces harmful stereotypes.

What surprised me this time was the source of the comment: a longtime friend who I have never heard say anything inappropriate. He wouldn't call someone names or even make a joke. He’s a straight-laced, really nice guy.

And I hadn’t criticized anything he said. I’d just noted an outdated term in the middle of a conversation we were having over dinner at a double date with him and his wife. (Have dinner with me and you’ll find out this is not that rare an occurrence.)

So when I saw his face change and heard that reflexive phrase come out of his mouth, I immediately thought, “Oh boy, he’s been listening to talk radio again.”

My guess is that my friend has been hearing the “PC” complaint from exasperated pundits, and his brain had noticed the pattern and formed a shortcut: a bias. My comment triggered it, and the response popped out like a reflex.

Even though I know this happens, I was still a little surprised that he seemed so irritated.

It reminded me just how powerful those shortcuts are. If something happens that lines up with an existing pattern, our conscious, rational analysis gets preempted by this confirmation bias.

I paused and considered my options. I could assume the DEI consultant role and educate. The sentence starters on interrupting bias ran through my head. So did all the knee-jerk responses he might come up with.

I could see our double date night turning into a cable news debate night.

That’s when I realized: I was triggered too.

In an instant, my brain had handed me a script based on my past experiences. I assumed he made this comment because he was influenced by right-wing talk radio, but I didn’t know that for sure. Curiosity and patience were about to be drowned out by my confirmation bias.

I took a breath, looked at my friend, and smiled. “Well, I am a DEI consultant. It’s kind of my job.”

He let out a laugh and his shoulders relaxed.

Yes, we all have bias scripts that take over sometimes. But that’s because we’re human. Instead of lecturing the version of my friend I was picturing in my head, I decided to talk to the human being I know and care about.

When somebody’s bias shows up, we always have to decide how to respond. Has someone been harmed? Are there other explanations for the behavior that could be at play? Do we have the energy at that moment to engage with compassion and authenticity?

In this case, I chose to let it go. After all, the intent behind what critics call “PC policing” is just about treating people with respect. My friend does that, consistently. In other circumstances, my choice would have been different.

  • Writer's pictureFletcher Consulting

One of the principles of DEI work that I hold dear is to meet people where they are.

This is a challenge when a group is diverse. How do you meet people in multiple places at the same time?

Recently a slide I’ve been using near the beginning of workshops has prompted a few strong reactions, but for different reasons. This is the version of that slide that I used recently during law school orientation programs:

"The legal profession in the US was created by and for straight white cisgender men. Today, the profession includes people with a range of identities. Attention (and intention) are required to ensure that all legal spaces are welcoming and inclusive such that all legal professionals feel a sense of belonging, can thrive, and do their best work."

I use this message to help participants understand why adults at a high-performing professional organization are being trained on inclusion at all.

The organization may be more diverse now than in the past, but the norms and assumptions of the past persist. So it will take conscious effort to identify and rethink them so that they truly serve the diversity of today.

During a recent workshop, I noticed one man reacting to the slide right away: a man of color, frowning and shifting his weight but not raising his hand.

During a break I checked in with him. It turned out he was bothered by something I hadn’t thought of before.

The first sentence could be interpreted to mean that the law profession wouldn’t have been founded but for the work of straight white men.

He read the slide as suggesting that inequality was just a curious historical happenstance. Women and people of color, one could infer, were not originally engaged in the hard work of developing law. Now they wanted to be “included” in something they had no part in.

The reality I left out of the sentence is that the straight white men were deliberately excluding everyone else from the start.

I thanked him for the insight. It certainly hadn’t been what I meant—but impact matters more than intent (another core principle of DEI work).

So I started drafting a revised slide.

Before I finished, though, I got an email from another client whose workshop was coming up. To my surprise, she had singled out the very same slide for feedback. But this time it wasn’t to be more specific about the cause of inequality—it was to be more general.

“This slide is going to make some people uncomfortable,” she said. Naming straight white men at the start of a session, even in this general way, might prompt white participants to resist before I even had a chance to engage them in dialogue.

And so I sat with yet another core principle of DEI: that people have to get comfortable with discomfort in order to learn.

Stating the truth about the origins of racism and sexism is painful. It is so upsetting to many Americans that they are passing laws to prevent it from being discussed in schools and libraries.

The question, sometimes, is whose discomfort we tolerate and whose we don’t. As the first participant reminded me, it hurts to erase the struggle too.

DEI isn’t easy. Even for DEI professionals.

bottom of page