Why do we need psychological safety to thrive in our career?
As we make our way through Women’s History Month, we reflect on the contributions of the many strong women that help empower our mission each day — one of which is Zulaika Jumaralli, a Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DI&B) Business Partner at Indeed.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Jumaralli not only found her next job at Indeed, but also helped her husband start a business when he lost his job. What happened next is a story of resilience, perseverance and a renewed commitment to helping others.
- Hello everyone, I am Chris Hyams CEO of Indeed and welcome to the next episode of "Here to Help". At Indeed our mission is to help people get jobs and this is what gets us out of bed in the morning and what keeps me up at night, and what powers that mission is our people. "Here to help" is a look at how experience, strength, and hope inspires people to want to help others. March is Women's History Month and throughout this month we are recognizing and celebrating the vital role of women in history. And while, of course, it's important to celebrate women's history at all times, during March we shine a special light on the sacrifices made by women to help make the world a better and more inclusive place. My guest today is Zulaika Jumaralli, a Diversity, Inclusion, & Belonging Business Partner and former Communications Lead for our Women at Indeed Inclusion Resource Group. And Zulaika has been with Indeed for almost four years but back in March of 2020 she was working on our Communications team and was one of the people who really helped get "Here to Help" started. So Zulaika, thank you so much for joining me today and it's really great to have you on the other side of the camera today.
- Thanks for having me, Chris.
- So let's start where we always do with a check-in. How are you doing today, right now?
- Yeah, I'm really excited to be here. I feel very humbled to have the privilege of chatting with you today, but I am very nervous. So I'll say that out loud. I have always been behind the scenes with the "Here to Helps", so it's something new to be in the hot seat but I'm really honored to be here.
- Fantastic. Well, I'm really looking forward to the conversation. Let's start with a little bit of what you do to help people get jobs every day. You're Diversity, Inclusion, & Belonging Business Partner, can you talk about the role and what it is that you you do?
- Yeah, so as a DI&B Business Partner a big part of my job is being a strategic thought partner and advisor to the functions that I support. And I work basically on helping leaders and Indeedians to uphold our value of inclusion and belonging. I work in partnership with them to embed inclusive thinking and practices into the way that we operate, and ideally this cascades into the way that we build our products and offerings and how those go into the world, and ultimately how job seekers experience us. I work at building up data that we can talk about and interpret so that leaders can help to make well-informed decisions for their org. We have very lofty goals around representation and so I partner with them to work on plans for achieving those goals and ultimately creating an environment that matches what we talk about when we say inclusion and belonging is our company value. Making sure that we have a culture that represents that, improving and maintaining psychological safety, and helping people to grow. We want all Indeedians to thrive here and so I like to think that we're doing the work in-house that helps to ensure that we're living up to our values so that we help all people get jobs.
- That's great. So, one of the themes, the central theme really of "Here to Help" is what it is that inspires people to do what they do. So what would you say led you to this role?
- I've always been really inspired by our company's mission-driven culture. It aligned with my personal values of being of service. I think we made some bold and courageous decisions as a company, to be agents of change and we talked about it on a broad platform back in 2020. And so I think for me, coming from an under-resourced background I didn't see a lot of representation growing up. I didn't see people that looked like me or came from where I came from at school or professionally, so it was important for me to give back. A lot of people ask. I had a side gig for over 10 years as an adjunct professor and a big part of that was loving interacting with students but specifically working with students in a community that I related to so that they could see people who looked like them and that I could ideally be a mentor for them. I think the roads that I've taken have led me to be continuing to be of service in the role that I'm doing. I hope that I'm living up to that goal, but that's where I want to be. I'm really proud to do the work that we do. I think we get to make change by leading by example and it's a powerful place to be and I'm really excited that we get to be role models for the world. I think we have an incredible platform and we use it.
- Hmm, well one of the things that folks that work at Indeed have probably heard me say many times, that I want everyone's next job to be at Indeed. And you made a move in your career just within Indeed from Internal Comms to the DI&B team. Can you talk about what inspired you to want to make that change in what you're doing day to day?
- Yes, so when I started at Indeed about four years ago, almost four years ago, I was so excited that a Diversity department existed. It was exciting to see the work being done and the conversations that we were having, coming from a corporate background. It just didn't exist outside of Employee Resource Groups. And so I joined every IRG I could find and made a lot of friends and connections there and at the time a lot of the work, it was just diversity at the time. A lot of the work was around IRGs and how to support them. And over the years I saw things evolve in the best way. When LaFawn came onboard we started to make the shift from just, not just, but IRGs into really becoming strategic business partners. And I got to work on several projects with the DI&B team and just seeing that team unfold and things evolve inspired me so much. And then I think there was just a turning point in 2020 where we started to really talk about inclusion and belonging as a goal and highlighting how to do that. It was just like we were not just paying lip service to what was happening in the world but we were actually making plans to do something about it, and it just really inspired me. I've always been passionate about inclusion and belonging, but I felt like there was an opportunity to transfer some of the skills that I had from Comms into DI&B. And I did my homework, I had connected before with members of the team on projects. I had an idea of what the team was about and I love it here. I love what we do. It's not easy work, it's a challenge but it's a beautiful process and just inspiring. I continue to be inspired by what we're doing.
- So this whole month, March is Women's History Month and we're doing a lot at Indeed to recognize that. As the former Communications Lead for our Women at Indeed Inclusion Resource Group can you talk about what this month means to you and why it's important to recognize, for a month, the way that we do?
- Yeah, I love that we're continuing to celebrate. A month is just never enough time. But to your earlier point, just having the spotlight allows us to just broaden the conversation. I think we don't hear or talk enough about women's contributions to society and culture and history. In particular, we don't hear enough about women of color and how we enrich all of those areas too. And so I'm excited to celebrate but I do feel like we haven't quite crossed the finish line with respect to women's advancement, our collective advancement. Last year I created a "Women at Indeed" newsletter and I linked a New York Times article that had a quote that continues to speak to me, so I'm going to read it because I think it'll tell you how I really feel about where we are. It says, "Women are fierce. We break barriers, run companies, make scientific discoveries, raise families and lift each other up. But the fact is discriminatory policies blocked women from fully participating in our country for generations. It led to disparities in wages, representation, and opportunities that we are still tackling." I think that just sums up where I feel like we are, there's so much work to be done. And I know my Women at Indeed Sister Circle is doing the work now and, again, that team is evolving as well. I'm just looking forward to seeing more open conversations, particularly around intersectionality, like a heightened awareness of all the layers of who we are. And, importantly, I look forward to seeing more male allyship.
- So it is Women's History Month all month long. Tomorrow is actually International Women's Day. And the theme for International Women's Day is Break The Bias. Can you talk a little bit about what that means?
- Yes, Break The Bias is like you said, the theme for International Women's Day. It's essentially a call to action. It's a way of having people show their support and solidarity. It's like a social media campaign. There's a pose, like there was last year, I think people remember taking pictures like that and getting posted in the "Women at Indeed" newsletter. This one is a crossed arm, like this, and it's supposed to represent the continued need to eliminate bias of all kinds, so gender, race, class, age, ability, and people can share their support by taking a picture of themselves doing that and sharing it on social media. #BreakTheBias is about yes, showing your support, but also acknowledging that these biases exist. And I think that's a huge step in just talking about it, talking about your experiences with it and then we can move forward.
- So it's impossible to talk about issues facing women in the context that we're in today without talking about what's happened throughout the pandemic and how really, across the board, the gross inequities that we see in society were highlighted and in many ways intensified. I know you had your own personal experience with how your home life got shaken up during the pandemic. Can you talk a little bit about that experience?
- Yeah, I think a lot of people can probably relate. It did feel like, that time feels so far away, but it was a setback in a lot of ways. For me personally, there were phases to how this happened, it's just like the pandemic itself. Initially I was glad to have extra time with my daughter. She was two at the time and I had been having a lot of mom guilt taking her to school and dropping her off and working, but there were two very distinct parallels. There was mom life, and then there was work. And so when everything shut down I was home with her. My husband was here as well, but she was really attached to me and I had a lot of anxiety about balancing how to take care of her while I had other really important priorities. At the time a lot of our Internal Comms needs were ramped up. I know you remember this well. And so it was really, really difficult to try to balance that. I genuinely, I didn't sleep for the first few months of the pandemic because I would be on Zoom calls all day and then all night I'd be doing the actual work I needed to do to stay on top of things. There was just so many meetings and some of those were like conversations I would've had the hallway, or in the kitchen that could have been a five minute meeting or a check-in, that turned into meetings. And so it was like sitting here, she was potty training at the time, running out, taking her for a walk, and trying to restructure her day as well. I can be very honest now, but there were many times that I had to turn my camera off for a tearful breakdown and then turn the camera back on and try to get myself together. But there was a very delicate balance to my life, anyway, I think maybe a lot of parents and caregivers can relate to this, that delicate balance was just turned upside down during that time. I think people had always talked before about work-life balance. It's always a thing. When you get a woman leader, you're like, how do you balance work and life, work-life balance? And this just was demolished for me. So again, I had to restructure what that looked like and over time she got a little older and a little more understanding of what I'm doing. And she's four now so it's a different experience and having school reopen changed things for the better, of course. But I do want to remark that I still consider myself to be in a position of privilege. I was able to work from home and Chris, I think you modeled and a lot of leaders, our SLT really modeled how important it was to be understanding of people's circumstances. I have people, women in my Sister Circle who are single moms who had a much more difficult time than I did. I think I had people who had to return to work at the height of the pandemic leaving kids at home to learn, which was a disaster for some. It really genuinely felt like we had stripped back so much progress and again, from a more global perspective, young women everywhere have had to stop their education. There were so many horrific things that I complain, I did complain then, and it was a difficult chapter but I still consider myself very, very privileged to have had the support that I've had and to be working at a company that allowed me the space even though, again, there were pressing priorities. I had a lot of understanding.
- Yeah, thank you for sharing that and for that perspective of how different the experience was for so many different people. And not having little kids, my kids are older, it's hard to imagine what that was like? But I'll say for all of us who were working with you at the time, we loved seeing Zoe in all of those meetings. And I can imagine that it was not easy and stressful but that was one of the things that happened during this time, is that the walls between personal and work got a lot thinner, which is also uncomfortable. We talked about this early on, but someone at Indeed had said pretty early on in the pandemic that they didn't feel like that they were working from home but that they were living at work, which is not a desirable concept. So one thing though, that I'd love to dig into next is that the other thing that happened to you besides being at home and being home with your daughter, is that you and your husband ended up starting a new business. So can you talk about that? And that's another living at work, working from home kind of experience. How did that come to be and what was the impact on you and your family?
- Yeah. Thank you for asking about that. So, during the pandemic my husband lost his job. He's a barber, a master barber. He would make me say master. He had to stop practicing, the place where he worked shut down, everything was shut down. And so we had talked for a long time about what it would be like to be business owners, but several months into the pandemic, again, his employer had shut down altogether and we decided to inquire about whether or not we could open the space. And so we leased the very same location that he had worked from, and opened a business. It's called Ozzie's Barber Spa and he's obviously the talent, but we built it together. And for us, to your point about work all around, it was really difficult because there was the day job, there's the full time parenting job for both of us, and then this was layered on top of it. To be honest, it all feels like a blur how it all came together but we aren't afraid of hard work. Both of us come from immigrant parents from the Caribbean, so we all know West Indian people like to work. But, yeah, it was difficult. And to be honest, like everything has its pros and cons. So the pros were, oh my gosh, we get to be entrepreneurs. This is amazing. My husband loves working for himself and continues to have a great flow of clients. It's been great. But on the other side, it did lock in this imbalance of childcare and responsibility, so he's building the business, it's his baby, and I have to take care of our baby and our home and so we were both tired all the time. It's a juggle. We're, again, in a place of privilege but it's a juggle.
- Yeah, before I joined Indeed I had my own startup and in the early days the kids were stuffing envelopes. My wife was working at all these events and she used to describe it as the family farm and it has that, 'cause everyone is involved. But as you pointed out, I mean if you can talk a little bit about how quickly for so many people the traditional gender roles of the woman having to take care of the kids, especially if the man was out of the house working, it was very stark to see how quickly that happened in so many cases. Can you talk about how you dealt with that and how you felt?
- Yeah, I just want to say how many other women in my sister circle have had a very similar experience and it, like you said, it just happens like that. Where all of a sudden, for me at least, I'm like 1950s housewife and full-time employee at the same time. So I'll start by saying, as a couple we had never quite mastered the balance of splitting responsibilities in the first place. And I think that's maybe normal for people who have young children. Again, Zoe was so little at the time and I took over a lot of the childcare responsibilities. And as my husband built the business, he just wasn't there and so I have to remind him all the time still that I'm not a stay-at-home mom because I think seeing that I'm home allows people to think that you have more flexibility and that you can do more, maybe do it all. But I think in general, just the unpredictability of childcare has been a big driver in how much things have shifted. I complained to him and to other people, this has set us back a whole generation but I think that there have been shifts in gender roles but I think the bigger story is the gender inequality overall. So, again, we were never in a perfectly balanced space anyway, all of us. And I think in general the gaps between women's advancement, those gaps are wider than ever and so I think for me, from what I've read and my personal experience, I would say a lot of it is due to caregiving that just tends to fall predominantly on women's laps. And we talked about this before, Chris, we've seen women just exit the workforce in droves. I think even up to last month there was over 200,000 women, or January, 200,000 women who just left the workforce altogether. A large percentage of those women are women of color and low income women and I think they were already lagging behind. And so to me, it's like, what does that look like having to reintroduce them or what will bring them back? And then I think also about the changing nature of work and the hybrid environment, again, mostly women and mostly women of color are the ones that opt in to fully remote work. I think about what does that look like for our advancement? So again, the setbacks are vast for me. Again, I've been really lucky to have understanding managers and we work for a company that obviously reflects values that highlight how important women are. But in general, I do worry about the direction we're heading. The gender roles are alarming but the gaps are even more difficult to watch.
- So, you've been talking about just how to balance or juggle all of these different responsibilities within work and personal and family. I'm sure there's a lot of other folks who might be listening right now who are facing, or have been dealing with the same things. What would you say to them and what kind of, I don't know, advice or guidance or inspiration might you have?
- Yeah, for me, it's been so helpful and important that just people talk about it. I think you're pretty good at highlighting your personal story and I think, I hope that other people feel that my transparency is helpful to them. It's a consistent juggle that could be interrupted by anything. My kid could wake up not feeling well and my work week is shot. A school closure, snow day or a sick kid in the classroom, it can really throw everything off that all of those things that I talked about being so delicately balanced can be, again, really totally messed up by things, again, outside of my control. And so for a while, and I still work, I still juggle this, the anxiety builds up around how to plan for things that you just can't plan for. There are two things that I would say are, my message to other people, one is just do what you can, right? You talked last week with Chela about relinquishing control and I felt like you guys were talking directly to me because that's definitely something I struggle with. For a long time I think I've had this little paper quote taped to my computer for over 10 years, my home computer. And it's a quote that says, "How deep is the water? If it's over your head, does it really matter? At some point when the stakes are high enough and your skills and desires are ready, you will swim." I keep that close by to remind myself that I can swim and the truth is, I talk about this all the time with women in my circle, that most of us are paddling like crazy under the surface, anyway. A lot of people just don't see that. You see people show up, seemingly okay on the Zoom but most of us are just paddling like crazy.
- One of the things that we have talked about a lot is that to add another layer and dimension to the things that you're balancing, you're a woman of color, you're going through these personal experiences yourself. And then you're also a DI&B Partner and so you're trying to every day show up, to be there, to help and support other people and yet you're helping people with a lot of things that you're experiencing yourself. So how do you think about approaching and balancing that and taking care of yourself through the work that you're doing?
- Yeah. I will say that I'm a work in progress. Misty often talks about the challenges of being a person of color and doing this work. It's not something you can readily separate. It's hard. This role is loaded with complexities and so I try to balance my personal passions and experiences around conversations where I try to meet people where they are. Some people have really good intent and they just don't know how to own the work that goes into making substantive change. And so there are a lot of conversations and I try really hard not to take a lot of that personally, and it's not personal, so I think maybe that's what helps. But, to be candid, there's a lot of work on my part. I don't really have a self-care routine, I don't really know how to balance and so I work on that. I'm reading this book about setting boundaries, it's difficult, so I continue to be a work in progress.
- One important part of that difficult work in being on the front lines, really, of working on diversity, inclusion and belonging is being open to and willing to have tough conversations and having tough conversations with people who might not also be ready to have some of those conversations. How do you approach that?
- Yeah, I think, again, this is where I continue to be growing but for me, and this is a carryover from my Executive Communications work, where I feel like it's really important to build strong relationships. And establishing a mutual trust, to me, is very foundational work. Again, I think as a company, we have made a decision about where we stand and so that gives me a lot of strength. I know that our values are what I stand on. Again, it continues to be a learning process but I work first at trying to build awareness of issues, so that's a really big feature of how I interact with the teams that I support, is sharing information and continuing to have open conversations. I think one of the things about me that I try really hard to relay is that I am not judging. I'm here to support, I'm here for you to ask questions and to partner with you. There's literally no judgment on my side. I'm always assuming good intent and I'm going to help you. I'm going to be honest and roll up my sleeves alongside you. And so there's no easy solutions. If we had that figured out we'd be doing work beyond Indeed. I think we are doing really, really great work but we're still working at it. There are no quick answers and no quick solutions and so it's just letting my teams know that I'm here with them, I'm rolling up my sleeves right with them and we're trying to solve the big problems.
- As a part of Women's History Month at Indeed we're celebrating women who support other women and with International Women's Day tomorrow, are there any women that you would like to mention that have supported you?
- Yes. I have concentric Sister Circles. I have four sisters, anyone who knows me personally knows that those are my besties and my foundation. And I have built wonderful sister circles at work here at Indeed and other roles. I continue to maintain those friendships. Again, here at Indeed when we were in office, I used to host Black Girl Magic Lunches and so we just had opportunities to interact and talk and share. We didn't have enough of those before the pandemic hit and so to all those ladies at Indeed who are in that circle, who maintain conversations on Slack. I've had professional mentors at Indeed again, and beyond. I'm not going to call out everyone 'cause there's just too many. My Women at Indeed partners that I worked alongside, managers, I've always had wonderful support from the women around me and I continue to try to be that for others. I keep saying quotes but this one really speaks to how I feel about the Sister Circles that I've cultivated. It's from Michelle Obama and she talks about friendships between women being a thousand kindnesses traded back and forth. I try to share those kindnesses and I am so blessed to be on the other end of those as well. So yeah, I have too many to count, but again, concentric Sister Circles.
- Hmm. That's fantastic. Well, as we draw to a close here I like to ask the same question of everyone which is, looking back over the last couple of years which has been extraordinarily challenging for the world and certainly you and your family have had a set of challenges that are not unique but they're yours. In all of that is there something that you can point to that leaves you feeling optimistic and hopeful for the future?
- Yeah. I'm always optimistic for the future. I have learned how incredibly resilient women are. We just have managed so much. We, as a collective, I'll speak for many of us parents and caregivers, maybe not just women, but I guess we didn't have a choice but most of us rose to the occasion. I sometimes forget to remember how resilient, how much resilience that required. And then you just talked a little bit about people saying that work, you're showing up at work as this is who you are, right? There's no line anymore between who you are at work and who you are at home. People just get to see who you are. That's a very new thing to me and so I have worked really hard to embrace that. I've seen it in so many other areas where people just show up authentically as themselves, this is who I am and my kid's jumping on the bed next to me, or making noises in the back, or sitting on my lap, but I'm a mom and I'm human and this is how I get to show up and I'm allowed to show up that way at work. I think that has made me so optimistic about what's ahead, that we're getting to see so many dimensions of people being who they are and it's endearing to me to see colleagues in their fullness. I love it. And then the conversations we've had around representation as a company and that we continue to have, but also globally, I think the global conversation has shifted and it's no longer something off the table. We're talking about it all the time. And again, we haven't solved it, there's so much more work to do but the fact that we're talking about it and it's part of our global social conversation is incredibly valuable to me. And then the last piece I would say is what you just talked about, this focus on wellbeing and mental health as a thing, is just a popular conversation right now that I love to see. Taking care of yourself is becoming the new normal. And I can't speak for all Black women, but for myself and many in my Sister Circle, the concept of self-care is radical and so, again, I'm not good at it but the fact that we're talking about it and people are making it known that this needs to happen is huge. So, all those things make me very positive and optimistic for what's ahead.
- Well, thank you so much for joining me today. That was an amazing conversation. And thank you so much for everything that you have done for Indeed and especially you've been incredibly helpful to me over these past couple years with all of the importance of Internal Communications, as you said before, really just moved into another gear over the last couple of years and that's something that I hope that we will carry into the future as well as really continuing this level of engagement and discussion. And I'm just so glad to have been able to bring you into this conversation here and to share your inspiration with everyone, and so thank you for everything that you do.
- Same, Chris, thank you so much.
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