Katrina takes us back to a thoughtful and personal moment in her pre-teen years, and shares the important role her father played as her champion.

“Middle school, those pre-teen years of self-doubt are in my opinion the most important times for women to have a champion. While my brother and sister were both athletic and musically inclined, I identified as the smart one. I studied hard, got good grades and I loved school. When the opportunity came to apply for a gifted and talented program I jumped at it, excited for the new challenge.

The rejection arrived a few weeks later and I was devastated. I felt my entire identity was being challenged… if I wasn’t athletic, couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket and now I wasn’t the smart one, then what was I? 

My dad, my first champion, sat me down and said to me, “Just because you didn’t fit THEIR criteria doesn’t mean you aren’t smart. They don’t get to define who you are, only you can define you.” Those words stuck with me throughout my school years when I learned I don’t perform to my potential on standardized tests, when I struggled with some of my advanced math concepts, and even when I tried to quit after reading an article that girls are not good at math.

My dad always pushed me to be better, to believe in myself, to define my own being; and he ensured I had a strong foundation when I left for college and my greatest champion wasn’t a room away.”

(To be continued…)

– Katrina, Operations Program Manager, New York City



In our inaugural story, 2nd Lieutenant in the US Air Force, Megan, tells the story of her champion, Captain David Taliaferro.

“First class (or more commonly known as senior year) at the United States Merchant Marine Academy was a time I never thought I would make it to; however, there I was halfway through the school year deciding what I would make of my post-graduate life. I was drawn to becoming an Army Intelligence Officer. Full of excitement and determination to begin this new adventure, I finished my packet in a matter of days (normally something that takes several weeks to complete). Although my package had been submitted and completed on my end… something wasn’t right. The individual assigned to help students interested in the Army was not acting professionally, and there seemed to be no positive progression with my packet. Further, the individual (a male) was making comments about how beautiful my red hair was, or how nice I looked in my ID photo.

It was uncomfortable. But I was too intimidated to say or do anything. If I openly disagreed with him on something, I sensed underlying threats of removing my package. I so badly wanted to become an intelligence officer that part of me said, ‘Just accept it.’

I was so fortunate that my company officer, Dave, a captain in the Army, had been leading and guiding me the duration of my senior year. He had become an excellent source of advice. One morning, while savoring a cup of Harvey and Sons hot cinnamon spice tea, I nervously told Dave my concerns about my packet. He listened. And he assured me that nothing this individual did would affect my opportunity to become an Army Officer. Inspired by Dave’s absolute confidence and professionalism, and knowing I had my champion right there with me, I carried myself with greater self-worth… from there I knew I would never ‘Just accept it.’

My path took me to a career in the Air Force, and I know Dave will always be a champion for me, supporting and encouraging me in all that I do.”

– Megan, 2nd Lieutenant, USAF
Panama City Beach, Florida

Article | The Psychologist and the Architect – A Story About Design Thinking

By Rachana Bhide

As a business psychologist, I like to say, “workplaces are human spaces.” My father, an architect, sparked my fascination for how design influences people’s moods, productivity levels, and fosters collaborative behaviors.

Design thinking has become a wonderful method for executives and employees alike to drive innovation through a set of principles such as user empathy, reframing, and insight-generation to solve tough problems (or rather, “see opportunities”). Design thinking can foster tremendous innovation for enhanced customer experiences in areas such as hospitality, retail and HR.

However, I have seen time and again that companies tend to overlook the most fundamental and important step in making design thinking work; that is the empathy stage. The empathy stage is all about developing a deep understanding of your user — not in generalities, but in specificities. It’s not about making broad assumptions (“millenials want X” or “women seek Z”), rather, it is about becoming absolutely enthralled by the lives of your users, to help generate meaningful and previously-unnoticed insights. Being “enthralled” means interviewing, observing, and even taking note of the details of users’ daily routines, ones that they themselves may have even overlooked. When we get the empathy stage right, we can finally begin to design for the unseen; for what the user profoundly needs and wants. For me, it is where psychology hits design, in a way that can truly transform user experience.

Here is one story — in the spirit of design it is a personal one — that illustrates the power of human empathy in design thinking. When I joined my new job, the entire department had just been gifted with high-end branded vests for us to wear (or not). When I received my vest, I was elated (yes, elated). I tell you, I wore that vest all the time. It didn’t matter what I was wearing to work that day, I always wore my vest on top of even my most favorite, fashionable dresses. I wore it on the train to visit my parents. I wore it all over New York City. I even wore it after work on a date.

When colleagues asked why I was wearing it (all the time), I very honestly answered, “I’m not sure. I think it’s because my dad always told me to wear a uniform if one was given to me.” And so this was ostensibly the reason, and it made perfect sense, and nobody thought anything further of it. Had a designer embarked on empathy through interviewing, this would seem, on the surface, to be a “breakthrough insight” (style-conscious adult woman who studied fashion at Vogue, wears company vest. Hmm… ).

However… the story was far deeper than that. Several weeks later, I was visiting my parents in Virginia. And I was of course, wearing the vest. At lunch, while my niece and nephews were helping my mom with food, my sister-in-law smiled and said, “Look, you and your dad are both wearing the same thing.”

I looked at my father who was sitting next to me, and it was the first time that day I realized it: He was also wearing a vest, nearly the same shade, branded with his own company logo. I had been subconsciously dressing like my father. 

Here’s why this is important: As a design thinker myself, I had always assumed the reason I wore my company vest, was because of my father’s advice. And it WAS because of my father, but it was for a deeper reason, one that I had not known when people simply asked. The real reason: I wanted to be like my dad. As a proud daughter, following in his footsteps, building a career for myself, taking lessons from him, and in this one instance, nearly imitating him as a sincere form of flattery.  And I hadn’t even noticed it myself; I’d spent all morning with my father, yet hadn’t paid any attention to what he was wearing. It would therefore take a designer to observe — and yes, become enthralled by this encounter — to generate one possible but powerful user insight: “37year-old woman adores her father so much, she finds seemingly mundane ways to show him that he has influenced her career.” When we really “go there” with such empathy-driven insights, we push boundaries and allow for far greater, unique perspectives into designing a user experience.

Now, imagine how an HR department, for example, could innovate around that one example to drive my engagement as an employee: Invite my father on a one-day trip to see my office. Send my father a vest of his own. Offer 1 day of paid time to be home and show my family the projects I work on. Invite my parents to volunteer with me and my colleagues on a company philanthropy project. Send my parents a photo of me in my work environment as a holiday gift. While these are unique to “me”, I can’t imagine that one idea couldn’t be extended to engage many more employees who identify loved ones they want to integrate into their company experiences.

I share the story because as humans, we have quirky, beautiful, nuanced behaviors that represent who we are, and what is meaningful to us. Very often, those very nuances lead to the insights that drive innovation in experiences such as retail, recruiting, employee engagement, guest services; the list goes on. But we can only get to the heart of these if we commit as designers to being fully embedded with our users’ lives through empathy; becoming enthralled by their behaviors and not shying away from powerful stories we might discover.

It’s the perfect blend of psychology and design. I like to think I learned it from my father.

Keynote Speech: WISE Los Angeles 2016 Women of Inspiration Awards

Our honorees for this year were Renata Simril, President & CEO, LA84 Foundation; Shelley Smith, Reporter, ESPN; and Claudia Teran, Executive Vice President & General Counsel, FOX Sports and Deputy General Counsel, Fox Networks Group.

Keynote Presentation: Rachana Bhide, Leadership and Organizational Psychologist

The evening began with a keynote presentation from Rachana Bhide. Bhide is an organizational development expert with 16+ years of experience leading change management programs for Fortune 100 companies on three continents. She currently serves as a lecturer to various universities and non-profits organizations.

Bhide’s recent work focuses on effective ways to engage men in organizational diversity efforts. She spoke on this topic for her keynote, emphasizing the importance of men championing women in the traditionally male-dominated field of sports. Using her own personal experiences of being bolstered by men in her life, including family members and friends from graduate school, Bhide not only encourages men to support women in the workplace, she also encourages women to seek out male mentors in every step of their career.

Renata Simril, President & CEO, LA84 Foundation

Simril was introduced by the Honorable Mark Ridley-Thomas, an old mentor from her time as Development Deputy for the Los Angeles City Council.

Service is at the very heart of who Simril is. Prior to college, Simril served three years in the military as the only female staff member in an all-male unit. Over two decades, she has worked in both the civic and private sector in various roles that exemplify her commitment to leadership and service.

“Service is the price you pay for the space you occupy,” said Simril. “At every point in my career, I’ve always found ways in which to give back to the community.”

Currently, Simril is the President & CEO of the LA84 Foundation. The organization aims to carry on the spirit and the legacy of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Summer Games through its investment in positive youth development through sport.

“What inspires me? I’m inspired by the LA84 Foundation and our mission to strive for excellence. I’m inspired to lead by example for those who follow. I’m inspired by the next generation,” shared Simril.

Shelley Smith, Reporter, ESPN

Smith was introduced by Alison Howard, Vice President of WISE Los Angeles, who read a letter on behalf of her daughter, Dylann Tharp who was unable to attend. Tharp is a producer at NFL Network who is following in her mother’s footsteps.

Smith is a trailblazer for female reporters in the sports industry. Now a four-time Emmy winner, she was one of the very first females on the sidelines and behind-the-scenes of broadcasts.

“People wondered why there was a woman in the locker room,” shared Smith. “It took everything I had to convince people I was professional and I was there to do a job. I wasn’t there to get a date, I was there to work.”

Over the years, Smith has worked for the preeminent voices in sports, including ESPN and Sports Illustrated. She has covered just about every sporting event in existence and has broken many stories throughout her career.

On top of her storied career, Smith is also a three-time cancer survivor who works to spread awareness of the disease.

At the end of her acceptance, Smith made sure to close things off full circle by thanking her own mother for helping to pave the way for her accomplishments.

Claudia Teran, Executive Vice President & General Counsel, FOX Sports and Deputy General Counsel, Fox Networks Group

Teran was introduced by Eric Shanks, President, COO & Executive Producer of FOX Sports, who has seen Teran in action both in and out of the boardroom throughout the years.

In her current role, Teran is responsible for all global business and legal affairs at FOX Sports. Her team in particular is responsible for domestic and overseas sports rights acquisitions. Additionally, she is also the No. 2 legal executive for Fox Networks Group at large.

“Seventeen years ago, it was unlikely that there would even be another woman in the room for some of the negotiations I was tasked with being the lead on,” said Teran. “So I was relatively used to walking into rooms and people looking around, trying to figure out who exactly I was supposed to be.”

Despite her poise and confidence in the boardroom, Teran imparted that rage and passion can often lead to great ideas.

“It’s okay to be mad, as long as you do something proactive about it,” said Teran. “Use the anger to turn off your doubting and refocus to find your clear voice. Your idea just might be the catalyst for change.”

Congratulations again to our outstanding honorees – we look forward to working with them in 2017 as each recipient joins the WISE Los Angeles Advisor Board!


Full article includes links to videos here:

Article | The Importance of Reflective Practice (Engaging Men in Diversity)

By Rachana Bhide

I’ve been spending a lot of time recently speaking about my recent research at Columbia, which is the topic of engaging men as diversity champions.  The most important finding I constantly share is that the foundation for building an inclusive workplace environment is that of Reflective Practice.  If we make time in the workplace for creating spaces and initiatives that foster Reflective Practice, we will begin to tap into powerful opportunities for change.  

Reflective practice is a process of continuous learning; a structured method for coding experiences into the brain through consciously looking at emotions, experiences, actions, and responses.  (Donald Schon and David Kolb are two prominent researchers in this space — links provided below).

When it comes to engaging men in diversity, I assessed how Reflective Practice allows for men to access the discussion on diversity, and to build their own commitment in terms that they understand and to which they can personally relate.  It is common practice for example, for (male) leaders to be provided slides with facts and percentages about the business benefits of diversity; yet through my research the most compelling male leaders of workplace change were those who accessed diversity by making meaning of their own experiences.  These experiences came in one of two forms: Men who identified their commitment to diversity through a relationship (usually their role in supporting women because they have a mother, wife, female colleague); and men who identified diversity through their own individuality (even “white men” who were able to talk about a time they were in the minority among other men, for example based on education, socio-economic, health or other aspects).

In my research I interviewed many men 1:1, from the board level down to front-line leaders across multiple industries, including traditionally-masculine environments like financial services and technology.  And time and again, when it came to men championing gender equality, the men who were able to access specific experiences about the importance of diversity, were more likely to be cited by others as strong leaders of diversity.  We must therefore move beyond male leaders simply stating they support diversity because (for example) “I have a daughter” and instead encourage them to specifically cite and reflect upon pivotal moments, where they witnessed or experienced inequality.  This can lead to more authentic stories and open a dialogue far richer and accessible to all employees.

How can you start?  At one organization, a grassroots team of 3 male “champions” are engaging in reflective practice through a set of self-organized workshops; while I facilitate the sessions it allows them to look inward, make meaning of their experiences and better articulate their stories.  I share this specific example to illustrate that change does not have to start large-scale — these three individuals are in fact leveraging their personal experiences to now recruit more champions, from a place of strengthened conviction and influence.  Companies are starting to offer more spaces for men to join the diversity discussion through interactive dialogue and dedicated male champion task forces; I would challenge these organizations to leverage the formal reflective practice methods in order to allow participants to hone in on why their participation matters not only to the company, but to themselves.

By helping men become articulate and confident in their experiences, we help them become better, visible leaders of change.  And further, we open the space for men and women alike, of all races and backgrounds, to leverage upon reflections that lead to empathy and more inclusive workplaces.

Want to learn more about reflective practice?  Below some helpful books from the psychologists best known for these methods.

Donald Schon – The Reflective Practitioner

David Kolb – Experiential Learning

David Cooperrrider and Diana D. Whitney – Appreciative Inquiry