Where is diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace headed?

In today's episode, we discuss diversity and inclusion in the workplace with Aaisha Hamid of Alliant Insurance. We explore where DE&I and social impact are headed in the next decade, and advice for someone just starting a DE&I program. We look at strategies on working with the C-suite and the impact of the pandemic on ERG's (Employee Resource Groups). Finally we chat about Alliant's social impact strategy and Aaisha's journey in DE&I.

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What we discussed:

Karl Yeh:  

So today I've got two special guests. My first guest you've probably seen her before. She's my co-host today. Her name is Erica Graham Jordan. She's the Regional Vice President here at Benevity. And our very special guest today, her name is Aaisha Hamid, who is the Assistant Vice President and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Manager with Alliant [00:01:00] Insurance Services. So thank you very much Aaisha for joining us today.

Erica Graham Jordan:  

Let's jump right in. Aaisha tell us about your journey.

How did you get into this role?

How did you create a career path focused on diversity equity and inclusion?

Aaisha Hamid:              

I think diversity, equity and inclusion is something that's has been very personal to me.

Growing up in Louisville, Kentucky, I've constantly been in spaces where I was the only person [00:01:30] that look like me. But before I go into my career trajectory.

It really started early as education. I've had a very unorthodox educational experience, where I went to a Baptist Christian elementary school, an Islamic middle school and an all-girl Catholic high school, where I was the only brown and Muslim student at one point.

Before going into and transitioning into one of the most diverse and large universities in the state.

And [00:02:00] those different experiences made me really hyper aware of my identities, and also it gave me the chance to explore them further.

And so for a lot of time, especially at the university level, I like to say I moonlighted diversity work for a while. Because I was creating these programs, helping with mentorship, doing these different things that are diversity work without realizing that this is something that I could professionally undertake. 

But when it comes to the corporate level, that didn't really start until I joined my first company, which was Hogan Lovells.

It's a global law firm based in DC.

And that was where, I started in a research position and I met our diversity and inclusion manager at the time, Bendita Cynthia Malakia.

And she recognized my academic and otherwise interest and academic understanding [00:03:00] of diversity work.

And there was an opening on the team that she encouraged me to apply for. And I remember it was a temp position so I was considering.

I'm like, "Well, I could just move up in the legal arena, in the research side of things, and this is a temp position so it's a risk."

But I knew even then that this is one I wanted to do with my life because it gave me meaning and it gave me purpose.

And so I started there and then I made my way up. I got a full-time position there, moved up in the company, moved [00:03:30] to DC and went up to eventually become the global DE&I plan project manager in diversity and inclusion senior coordinator.

And so in that role is when I really got that global exposure to diversity work.

What does it look like?

Not just in the Americas which is what we're used to, but what does it look like in Europe and Asia, in the CE and in all of those other different areas.

And then eventually once, I had done work there [00:04:00] I moved and shifted into the insurance industry which is even more homogenous than the legal industry, but I took it on as a challenge and I am really enjoying the work that I'm doing here.

So at Alliant, I'm serving as Karl mentioned, as the Assistant Vice President and Diversity Equity and Inclusion Manager.

And so now in this role, after having the experiences that I have building out programs in the academic space, really learning [00:04:30] the nuances of global diversity work at Hogan. Now I've had the opportunity to help develop the strategy and really build out some infrastructure for diversity as a new division.

So it's been a very interesting journey.

Karl Yeh:                      


That's like an amazing, very quick snapshot, but I'm sure there's a lot of amazing stories in between every single one of those experiences. So I remember you [00:05:00] were talking about having a global experience.

So, what do you see?

What are some of the trends that you're seeing today, maybe some of the insights that you've gotten?

But also where do you see things from a social impact space in the next 10 to 15 years?

Where social impact is headed in the next 10-15 years


Aaisha Hamid:              

And I want to start by acknowledging that the trends are going to look different industry to industry.

There are some commonalities across every industry, but there are idiosyncrasies that create differences. [00:05:30] But with that said recently, I've been going to a lot more summits, symposiums, think tanks that include diversity leaders across industry.

Trend #1: People want to see more diverse representation at the organizational level


And some of the common themes or common trends that I've seen brought up is one, that there has been a drastic increase in people wanting to see more representation at the organizational level.

So that could look like depending on your industry, that could be clients, [00:06:00] it could be customers, it could be for the media for instance, it could be the general public, people that are listening in.

But people want to see more underrepresented or diverse representation. And so that's number one.

So that's putting a lot of pressure on organizations to start to think about, not just think about but actually take action. 

Trend #2: More diversity professionals being employed


And so that brings me to the second thing that I've noticed is that there are a lot more people employing diversity professionals. [00:06:30]

So they're either, I noticed that in one point post 2020, director roles coming up.

Than after that I'm seeing manager rules come up.

So it's just before, years ago, about five years ago, I barely saw organizations have diversity professionals, particularly in Kentucky. And now even here, in DC everywhere, they're starting to build out functions, they're starting to create formalize rules.

And I think that's going to be [00:07:00] very instrumental as we look on to the future. Because this is starting to become commonplace.

And that means that there's going to be more formalized programming and it's going to be taken more seriously.

And with that we can expect to see metrics start to come in play as well. But those are two of the things that I've seen. 

Trend #3: More overall diversity awareness


The third thing that I've seen is that there's just an overall awareness of it. Not just, "Where's the representation?"

But, "Where are we spending our money?" Right?

So, [00:07:30] particularly the younger generations that have gone through all these different turmoils.

The racial turmoil that happened, then also right after that COVID really brought to light some of the social inequities.

And so I think that we're coming into a place where people also care about where everything is being spent.

So that's going to impact, I think the vendor diversity programs within organizations. And not a lot of our organizations have [00:08:00] anything formal in place for that.

They may have vendor programs but diversity isn't always something that's considered.

So I think now it's going to start putting pressure on corporations to start, come create something that measures that, that takes into consideration that impact.

So it's just very interesting to see how, when people put pressure, how that changes. 

So I think we're starting to shift as a society from this mentality of this division, between [00:08:30] personal and professional lives.

And now we're entering this world where it's like all of it's interconnected. Where we're starting to realize it's interconnected and what can we do in organizations to change that. And with that, there's also this need for transparency and for communication.

And so I'm noticing that data has become really important. A lot of people both outside, external people, so clients, customers, vendors.

But now internally [00:09:00] employees, they want to know what is the demographic makeup of the organization that we're in.

New recruits, they want to know as well.

So now, we're coming into a place where I think more organizations in the net coming years, are going to start putting those numbers on their websites and not just consider an option, but consider it something that's mandatory in order to be competitive, but also just in order to retain people within their organizations. 

So I think it's just [00:09:30] overall, we're starting to see some more formalized structures.

But because Benevity, we're focusing on social impact as well and community investment, one of the trends I'm seeing is that there is a division now.

People are starting to, before some organizations would kind of conflate the two. Diversity work sometimes would be community investment or people would be like, "Okay. We're doing..." If you're asked, what's diversity work are you doing in your organization?

Sometimes I've notice on a company [00:10:00] websites they'll put the community initiatives that they're doing, which is great, community investment is really important, but it should not be confused with diversity work which is really about your internal employees.

It's about, not just recruiting but retaining and advancing that talent, and putting structures and accountability mechanisms in place that are going to increase the representation.

So there is, of course some intersection between the two but I think that we're now starting [00:10:30] to realize the differences between them and we're separating those departments.

Diversity is to become its own division, which is a best practice as it is, but where we're starting to see that.

And I think we're going to continue seeing that in the coming years. It's going to become even more formalized.

Because if we just look at the history of it, I mean, diversity hasn't been here that long.

Diversity, equity and inclusion work, it really started out in the 1900s.

And it started [00:11:00] as a very much as a defense mechanism because a lot of large corporations were, they were being penalized for class act, gender and racial discrimination cases.

And so they were like, "Okay. What is the bare minimum that we can put in place? Compliance, right?

So that was, the focus was compliance. And now it's moving from compliance to commitment.

What are we going to do?

What kind of precautionary measures, what kind of preventative steps can we take [00:11:30] to ensure that that doesn't even get there?

And now what can we do in order to just advance diversity in general?

So we're shifting mindsets slowly and I think in the few years it's going to be... It's that these things aren't even going to be a question anymore.

It's going to be normalized further into our society and we're going to start elevating and moving into DE&I innovation.

So just a lot of fascinating things.

And I can go on and on about this, but if you have any specific questions or if you want me to expand on anything just let me know.

Karl Yeh:                      

[00:12:00] Well, there was one little tiny thing.

And I've asked this for, I know a lot of our other guests too.

And you were mentioning all the progress that has been happening, right? Diversity, equity, inclusion, social impact programs.

But do you think maybe there will be some sort of backtrack once either society or the media focuses on something different?

Right? Because last year there was so much attention. The murder of George Floyd, the pandemic, economic crisis.

All these things really, [00:12:30] I guess they put the lens on a lot of the issues that,  in this space that we always take a look at.

But sometimes things kind of move based on where the societal lens is. Do you think there will be any sort of backtrack on that?

Will the focus on social impact issues backtrack or move away?


Aaisha Hamid:              

No, I honestly think that before it just wasn't brought up.

Right now if we're talk, if let's, let's even talk about the global level for a second, because I know you add me about global trends and I didn't really mention any specific examples.

But we're seeing in Mexico for instance, gender. [00:13:00]

There have been public outcry for that change, especially in COVID. People realize just how bad the gender inequities were.

And so they're starting to protest, they're starting to build not just a moment but a movement.

And I think movements, they're sustained because you're bringing it up out into the public it's no longer an elephant that you don't talk about.

And so now that people have started talking about it and the [00:13:30] United Kingdom, another example is that they're starting to move away from some of the a language that they were using.

One of the common terms is BAME, which is Black-Asian and minority ethnic.

And now they're realizing, "Okay. How can we be even more inclusive with our language? How can we start tracking some of these numbers?"

In central Europe, they're like, "Okay, We haven't really been doing much with the LGBTQ+ community.

So let's at least have some conversations, even if we can't track that data, let's [00:14:00] at least try to build a more inclusive culture and same with the Asia Pacific.

And so, I agree that sometimes things are just moments and we shift focus very quickly as people.

But I think that diversity work now that it's been brought in the open now that they're creating formalized structures, it's going to be harder to just completely erase that or move on to the next big thing.

So I think that diversity work is here to stay. And I think that we're only going [00:14:30] to go up from here.

Erica Graham Jordan:

I wish I could just have you on my shoulder in so many of these meetings, because you have so much insights, you have so much to say, also just all that historical context.

When we think about moving from a reactive position to a proactive and visionary position.

When we think about that continuum, we talk about it for social impact. It's the case for diversity, equity, inclusion work.

And really any great movement as you say, right? How do you actually expand and grow that over time?

And so when I think about these movements, [00:15:00] and then in terms of how does it get to brass tacks, right?

What does your strategy look like?

How do we bring it to life?

So right, given that you've built out Alliant's D&I strategy, including the vision and the direction of initiatives. What's someone, advice you'd give someone who was just starting out?

Advice for someone just starting their DE&I journey or program


Aaisha Hamid:             

I think that the number one thing to keep in mind when you're starting out on this journey is not to make assumptions.

So don't assume what your people want or need.

That's not [00:15:30] for you to decide.

Sometimes our perspectives, we're not completely... We don't know the full picture.

Gather Data

And so the first thing to do is to really gather data, figure out what data if any, your organization is already collecting, diversity demographic data.

And you want to consolidate it so you have it all in one place.

A lot of times organizations have these silos.

So there's some data being collected with recruitment, some with the human resource information [00:16:00] system, if there is one built.

So you want to consolidate it so it's all in one place and analyze that data.

Because part of the organizational picture and where your pain points are, where your strengths are, the stories are all going to be in that data.

And I always say like, go past the surface.

Beware of diversity storytelling

A lot of times what happens is organizations do something that I like to call diversity storytelling.

And so this is where you're seeing these things like, "We have [00:16:30] 75% women and 30% minorities."

They're painting this wonderful picture, but then when you talk to the people within the organizations you're seeing something completely different, these discrepancies.

So go past just the composition and actually look at the breakdowns.

Okay. So you have 75% women, what about if you looked at it from all the different categories, job titles?

So what are you finding there?

And one organization that I spoke [00:17:00] with, they were really proud of that composition, percentage.

But then when they looked at the breakdowns, they realized that the majority of that percent of women were all in administrative rules.

And that's something that I'm noticing with some of these industries overall is, they may have a larger percentage of women but sometimes that percentage is concentrated at the entry level positions.

And the executive positions are filled primarily with men.

So that's one example of how you go from composition [00:17:30] to actual breakdown.

And you want to do that across the board.

Look at it, really figure out where is your attrition level? Who's leaving your organization? Right?

 Are there any patterns or trends, are there departments particularly that they're leaving from?

Diversity Audit

So to really do a diversity audit on that level.

Now some organizations don't have data, right? So then what do you do?

You want to do a quality assessment.

So you might want to figure out the quantitative data [00:18:00] by sending out a survey across your organization that asks them, "What do you see as the pain points? Are there enough mentorship efforts and sponsorship efforts?"

Things like that and figure out... When you're asking these questions, don't ask for their names because otherwise it's going to create fear and they're not going to want to respond.

But figure out who's actually responding as well. Because if they're people that are already a part of the majority and they're responding to their surveys, the data results might be skewed.

Because [00:18:30] people will be like, "Oh no, everything's great here. Everything's awesome." And so you want to make sure that you're creating a survey that's going to accurately and holistically capture that information.

So that's definitely the first thing I say when you're starting out on that journey is to, really get an understanding of your quantitative or qualitative data. 

The second piece is, you want to create a central board because the burden should never fall on just one person.

Create a diversity and inclusion council


So one thing [00:19:00] that you can do is create a diversity, equity and inclusion council.

And that council should be representative of your organization.

So it should include diversity strands. It should also include people that have positions of power because they need to be able to evoke change within the organization and if they don't have any power, they're not going to have any influence.

So that can be a problem as well. So you want to make sure that that's also there.

You want to make sure that you have an executive sponsor, so everything that's being discussed at the council and the issues are being communicated at that C-suite level.

So that way you're going from a top down in order to affect change.

The diversity council might advise, based on the survey they're going to look at the information in the survey, figure out what the focus areas should be. They should work together to create a mission. 

And then from there, move forward and make some recommendations to C-suite on how we move forward. [00:20:00]

A lot of times, what we see from these councils is they realize that they need to hire a professional

Oftentimes, a diversity, equity and inclusion director, maybe they're someone that's going to be sitting on the C-suite so it's a little bit easier for the organization.

So that's where we see a lot of EVPs and SVP title diversity professionals to begin with.

And then from there you do some of these... Because one of the things I'm noticing with organizations is when they go into their [00:20:30] defense mechanism, as we were talking about out, that's how diversity started.

They go straight into trainings.

And so you want to make sure that you are not just... They have limited utility there. It's useful, to gain a basic understanding of diversity concepts within the organization, but you want to make sure that you're understanding the full picture and not just putting a bandaid on the solution.

Because it's, diversity work is it's deep rooted, there are a lot of issues.

So I think that the first two things I would just say is to gather the data and create [00:21:00] a central body within your organization to take the work forward.

Erica Graham Jordan:  

I love how practical of those steps are.

That folks can actually take that to life. Something we hear, in some brands, right?

Some organizations, they either they're on this journey and it supported at executive level. Sometimes it's not.

And maybe it is that reactive approach. It's that more compliance mechanism.

What advice would you give [00:21:30] to someone who might have hit roadblocks at the C-suite level for these types of programs?

How to deal with roadblocks at the C-suite level

Aaisha Hamid:              

Make sure that your diversity work and particularly your strategy, it takes the overall organizational business strategy into my...

You need to be thinking about the overall organizational business strategy when you're coming up with your DE&I strategy.

Because if it doesn't align with the mission of the organization, if it doesn't align with the business objectives, then [00:22:00] what's in it for the C-suite, right?

You have to think about on that level as well.

Because they're thinking about the wellbeing of the organization, and you can give them qualitative data.

This person feels this way but you want to quantify it to begin with, right?

And that's where people get like, it's because diversity work is so personal and people are like, "No, they should just understand it."

And then they get so caught up in the weeds that they're not thinking about that big level picture.

To begin with, you want to show them, you want to present [00:22:30] a higher level view of what's going on. 

You want to show them, "Okay. Look, this is... Do some market research.

This is what our competitors are doing.

This is how this could benefit us on that level.

Here's our business objectives.

Here's how diversity, equity and inclusion work can help further solidify and improve our objectives."

And then from there, they're going to be more receptive to the message. When you're speaking their language, when you're speaking to the organization as a [00:23:00] whole, it's going to limit your language as this is a different kind of problem.

Because let's say your C-suite is pretty homogenous.

And a lot of times in organizations starting out on that diversity, equity and inclusion journey, that is usually the case. And that's not bad because you're starting out there.

But you want to make sure that they don't think that this is an issue that they have no involvement with.

This is not a other kind of problem.

You want them to realize that this is something that we need [00:23:30] your help with, this is something that we need you to realize that this is going to further the organization.

Form alliances and connect with internal influencers to impact the C-suite


So I think that really just go back, make sure you have a strong foundation.

Evaluate the market research again, present it to them differently, change the framework of how you're approaching it.

And then if that's still not working then form alliances, form... People that have direct influence on the C-suite create allyship, [00:24:00] tell them about the plan, get buy-in from them and they'll move forward in that way as well.

A lot of it this is redirecting, coming back, thinking about things and nothing is going to be perfect immediately, sometimes you have to think about coming to the same solution in more than one way. Right?

So if your organization for instance, is not about giving feedback, a feedback process. So then what do you do in order to change that?

Maybe you take some baby steps. [00:24:30] Maybe that means that during those one year evaluations, you do feedback there. 

Or maybe, if the managing directors are already doing one-on-ones, why don't you just tell them like, "Maybe once a month, give some feedback in those one-on-ones."

And that way, people are not surprised during their one year evaluations or performance reviews.

And so it's really about continuing to assess and then think about how you can approach differently in order to get to that [00:25:00] same result.

It's not a linear, there's no set manual that you can follow that's going to get you to that goal post.

Karl Yeh:                      

One group that I've always heard that can help, especially when new organizations are going on that DE&I path is, employee resource groups or ERGs.

And that's pretty common in the conversation now. So how has, I guess Alliant been focused on [00:25:30] developing the ERG and allyship and making...

Although at the same time, making sure that resources are available or are equitable across the organization.

How has Alliant developed ERGs and allyship while making resources for all groups equitable?


Aaisha Hamid:             

So you can actually do both at the same.

Develop an ERG leadership group


You can develop your employee resource groups and promote allyship at the same time, by developing a ERG leadership group.

So you want to make sure that you're meeting with the different employee [00:26:00] resource group leaders and getting a pulse on what different issues are being brought up.

The other thing you want to do when you have these leadership calls is figure out how they can work together.

So that way when they all get to know each other as leaders, it's going to increase when you do promote cross ERG events, cross ERG type of programs and initiatives.

Because what that does is it its intersectionality one, [00:26:30] if you're also hitting a larger group of people that you can impact within the organization, then everyone realizes, "Oh there's a spot for me within these employee resource groups."

And so then they're more willing to attend those meetings and you're going to get people from, previously in silos.

For instance, you might have someone within the LGBTQ employee resource group who realizes that, "Oh, now the Asian group is also creating an event that focuses on both.

It's looking [00:27:00] at bisexual Asian women and that's what I identify as." So then they're going to want to join that ERG or employee resource group as well.

And so you're cross pollinating in that sense. And then the other thing you can do is promote overall through the company and increase... Send them towards the employee resource groups.

And when they're already doing these different kinds of events and they're standardized, there's organization there.

There's going to be a higher willingness to attend those meetings, [00:27:30] learn and bring more awareness. Humanize, so there's no longer the other. It's instead, "Okay. These are my colleagues. Here are their issues. We're attending these as an ally."

It'll overall increase the allyship effort that way. Because I think the biggest barrier to allyship is awareness. A lot of people, we tend to live in our own little bubbles.

And so when we're seeing these programs and their openness to other groups, then you're more willing to join them.

And this is not, and I [00:28:00] want to make sure that I clarify this point is that ERGs are also meant just for their particular identity groups, right?

There's some kind of power to be had, to be able to have a space where everyone's exactly like your identity.

So they can provide support as well.

What I'm saying is, you broaden that focus even further.

So one, create a safe space for those particular identity groups.

But two, broaden the skill so you're creating a larger impact and also including other people that aren't in those identity [00:28:30] groups in your efforts.

So that way you're overall, you're getting more buy-in, you're getting people to overall be more interested in this and when everyone's kind of on board, it's easier to move other processes forward.

So those are some of the ways that we're doing allyship, and also developing our employee resource group is we're just really focusing on making sure that there is a lot of work cross-sectionally, but also that we're standardizing them and organizing [00:29:00] them so that there's more of a willingness for people to join and be a part of them.

In terms of the other thing you asked was equitably allocating resources, which can be sponsorship opportunities, mentorships, speaking opportunities and other professional development opportunities.

When we start allocating them we first of all, we ask that employee resource group leadership, "What organizations would be beneficial to your people?" [00:29:30] Right?

So that could look identity based community organizations. For the law firms that could be for instance, the LGBTQ bar, it could be elevate which is a women's resource network.

It could be different kinds of identity specific organizations.

And insurance within Alliant, we've sponsored organizations like the NAIIA, which is the National African American Association of Insurance Professionals. [00:30:00] LAIAA, which is Latin American.

And so we partner with them.

And then when we're sending these opportunities out to our people, we make sure that we're including all the different employee resource groups.

Because not everyone of a specific identity is going to join that ERG. So we're sending it to everyone. 

But the other thing that we're doing is we're working closely with that leadership. We're asking them, "Are there people within your individual ERGs [00:30:30] that you see stand out, that have particular interests that you think this opportunity would benefit the best?"

We're also getting to know them on an individual level. So in that way, we're able to better equitably offer those opportunities and create a process for them as well.

Karl Yeh:                      

Just one quick follow up on that. Has the pandemic had a negative or positive impact on those ERGs?

What kind of impact did the pandemic have on ERGs?


Aaisha Hamid:              

Well, yeah [00:31:00] definitely. I think that when the pandemic first started, it created this other burden for even the employee resource group leaders.

They're now suddenly having to focus more on some of the work that they're doing.

They're focused on trying to get clients in this new kind of world.

So, it makes it more difficult for under-represented people to feel focus on an ERG which doesn't always pay or do anything to benefit them.

They're doing this because they're really passionate about the work. [00:31:30] And so it creates more of a burden on them.

And so that's where we kind of step in and we're like, "Okay, let's take on more of a supportive rule. What do you need from us?"

Asking them, not just assuming but asking them, "What do you need from us? How can we best support you and what can we do?"

And so we did listen to them. At Alliant, we asked them like, "What can we do better?"

My position was hired in order to partly support them as well, so that was one of the things we did. Is to expand our diversity team. [00:32:00]

But two, they said that they wanted more standardization, they wanted templates so they didn't have to create everything from scratch.

And so that's one of the things I did since joining is help create templates for them, help create all the resources so they have a place to work with that they're able to use these resources to send to their people, that they have a tracker to keep track of all their efforts and figure out what's the ROI.

And also increase the [00:32:30] amount of support initiatives that we have and work together to do that.

So I think it just always comes back to being cognizant of the needs and the constantly evolving needs that your leadership has, and your people have within those employee resource groups and making sure that you are doing as an organization, putting the burden on yourself to make sure that they have the resources and support they need across different issues and events that come up. 

Erica Graham Jordan: 

I'm amazed at everything you've [00:33:00] said, just even how you've built your whole career on this.

Not even knowing, but starting out because it was personally and passionately important to you. I can hear it in everything you say just how this is, it sounds like your purpose. You're very passionate about this space.

And in somehow in all this, you found time to write two books.

Tell us about your books. What would you like our viewers to know about them?

Aaisha Hamid:               

I really am passionate about this so that's why I [00:33:30] was telling you stop me if I'm talking too much. But yeah, no thanks for asking about my books.

Faceless: Two Worlds Collide

Book Cover - FTC

The first one, Faceless: Two Worlds Collide.

That was a book that I wrote when I was 19. The idea came for it when I was 17. Because I was seeing a lot of stories told on the media, multiple different ways.

And as someone that is bilingual, I was particularly seeing a large discrepancies in the focus areas [00:34:00] for these stories, depending on if it was domestic or international TV.

And so I've always been interested in that but eventually I received, at the University of Louisville I received the Jones Research scholarship and I used that to study media politics. And that book is actually it's fiction, but it's based on some real stories.

And it was really to try and humanize both [00:34:30] military and veterans, who are often in our society they're almost seen as infallible which is to their [inaudible 00:34:37] because they're human and there are a lot of issues that are nuanced that we don't always talk about or really consider like post-traumatic stress disorder. 

And so that was a part of it was to humanize that group of people.

But the other was to also humanize the other, which is people in third world countries. [00:35:00] And so a lot of times lives don't matter when we don't even know anything about them and when they're out of our peripheral.

Where we're so focused on our domestic issues and domestics so we don't really think about that.

And so, I really wanted to humanize both people in third world countries and soldiers, and build a story that kind of bridges that gap between the two, and really focus on identities and exploring that. And [00:35:30] then Unveil Me Slowly which is a poetry book that really builds on identities as well.

I'm really passionate about exploring different identities, bridging communication gaps, and authenticity.

Book Cover - UMS

So Unveil Me Slowly was a more personal project.

And that was when I was struggling when I was at my lowest time and I was trying to struggle to recreate and configure an authentic identity for myself, that book ended up being the result of that. And it explores different parts of my identity. [00:36:00] So it looks at religious identity, gender identity, what does it mean to be a south Asian American? 

So looking at race, ethnicity, nationality. And then ultimately as it progresses, the book talks about how I think, how I feel and how intersectionality is so important to my experiences.

So my thinking and my feelings, I mean, there's going to be a lot of commonality but it's also influenced by those different identities.

And ultimately [00:36:30] it's to hopefully give people something to identify with, and also to give them the courage to explore their own identity and figure out who they authentically are.

Because in our society I know that we tend to conform a lot. We're really focused on trying to fit in. So, really being able to explore those identities.

That's what that was about. So, I think it's definitely, it's a piece of my diversity work is really what that is. And I'm currently [00:37:00] working on another book right now.

Because I noticed during COVID, people were having trouble with communicating. People realized, "Oh, who did I marry? Or who are my friends? I've never really had time to spend with them." 

So, people evolve over time and we are so busy with our everyday day transactional stuff going from work. You're so tired by the end of the day that you're not always able to sustain emotional intimacy.

And so this book is really taking a look at [00:37:30] over a hundred different quotes from people of different identities.

Looking at artists, philosophers, poets, and gathering those quotes in one place so you have a short quote.

And then after that, it's a three step breakdown.

The first question is focused on the quote. So it's at the rudimentary level. If you're tired or you're not as close as a couple right now or as friends or whatever, you can talk about that. And then the next level question is a little bit more personal.

And then the third is just, [00:38:00] it's a lot more intimate and it's about you as a person. And so this book it's really focused on trying to, again, to promote conversation, spark dialogue, and do all of the above.

Karl Yeh:                      

It's really interesting when you talked about the emotional intimacy part, because you're right.

The grind that you get to, like the go home... I mean, go to work, come home, go to work, come home.

And then there's a couple days there on the weekend, but you really can't get that conversation. [00:38:30] Or it's difficult to because there's so many things that go around. And maybe that's maybe one of the silver linings for the pandemic is that more people are staying at home.

And while yes, there's still a lot of work.

They're spending more time with their family or people close to them, or just wanting to connect because they can. And you're spending a lot more opportunities doing that.

Aaisha Hamid:               ...

that's improving as well. Right.

So in that sense, I've heard some people say that they're connecting better with their clients [00:39:00] and with each other, because you're seeing pieces of each other within the backgrounds, the noise you see.

It's just that you're no longer perfect beings that you're just like working. Now, it's you're more human. So I agree with you.

Karl Yeh:                      

So, we could be speaking for a very long time.

There's so much passion and really enjoy just having this conversation.

But if our listeners and our viewers want to connect with you or get to know you, where would be the best place to do so?

Aaisha Hamid:              

[00:39:30] Yeah. I think LinkedIn would be the easiest way to connect with me. I'm very active on there now.

More recently.

So I check my messages and DMs and so they can get in touch with me through there. Or they can reach me through email as well.

And so I also respond to my professional email. So you can reach out to me if you want to collaborate in any way, if you want to just chat and connect.

I'm happy to do that.

Connect with Aaisha Hamid