Leading Black Women with Disabilities with Zakiya Mabery
Today’s featured guest is Zakiya Mabery, Founder and CEO of B. Global Diversity & Inclusion Strategic Planning. Mai Ling chats with Zakiya about the issues that are precisely what her organization specializes in; diversity and inclusion. She also talks about how vital networking has been to her career and the challenges she faces living with multiple disabilities herself. Listen in for this story of perseverance from this inspiring businesswoman and author.
Contact Mai Ling: MLC at mailingchan.com
Contact Martyn: Martyn at martynsibley.com
Inclusion is making sure everybody feels that they're part of the team whereas I feel diversity are just the numbers.
Mai Ling 0:15
Welcome Xceptional Leaders with Mai Ling and Martyn, where we spotlight high-profile topics and amazing people who are changing the worldview on disability. I'm Mai Ling Chan of mailingchan.com
And I'm Martyn Sibley of martynsibley.com and today, we're going to be chatting about Zakiya Mabery. So it's a double bill in a way around, black disabled people are very timely, around the whole Black Lives Matters and I think Mai Ling and I have been very keen to participate in that conversation and lend our voices but I think what Zakiya brings out in this chat today is actually even beyond being black and beyond being disability, but it's the intersectionality of those two identity parts, but also being a woman in the workplace and I don't know what you thought Mai Ling but it was a really interesting variety of conversations there.
Mai Ling 1:06
Absolutely and you brought up this big word, that I'm a little embarrassed to say that it was the first time that I had heard it when she brought it up and it's just something that I think that we all need to get into our vocabulary and for our listener, the word is intersectionality, which I think makes sense but can you expand a little bit more on that, Martyn?
Yeah, so for me, the reason I'd heard of it was my good friend, Toby, who's gay and disabled, and does a lot of work in big businesses around Inclusion and Diversity and so I think I remember him telling me, there's nine characteristics that sort to say under diversity and inclusion, I'm not going to try and say all nine now because I probably fail, but it's essentially if you imagine the different protected groups like gender, sexuality, race, etc. and it's where someone has more than one part of that in their identity. So, it's the intersectionality of those different identities that, in the end, are a double minority or a double discrimination that comes from society.
Mai Ling 2:14
Wow. You know, as a woman, Asian, kind of short, petite, you know, like, there's all these things that I think over the years have been highlighted little by little for me, and I realized, not that it segregates me from people, but actually unites me into these different communities. Have you found that?
It's a really interesting one because I think there is so much around sort of Black Lives Matters talks about systemic racism and I think, as a disabled person, I feel that a lot of the barriers I face every day are systemic if a government policy is more empowering for businesses, more inclusive, that is a sort of systematic barrier but I also think we have to be careful of just looking at these sort of identity traits in that prism of negativity and oppression because as you've said, they should be in many ways with like gay pride and different other ways that they are celebrated and they are about community and coming together and I think that's a really important thing that we are having the protests and the speaking out, but we're also having the celebration of our differences.
Mai Ling 3:25
Absolutely and then you just started your new company, Purple Goat (http://purplegoatagency.com/), is that right? okay and so how are you highlighting these differences in the marketing areas?
Yeah. So I mean, it's already a niche that we are offering influencer marketing, to mainstream brands, around disabled influencers, and very much the end goal is the businesses to tap into the disability spending but again, we've been more made aware of this intersectionality part and the diversity agenda and so yeah, we've very much been working with our clients on finding black disabled people, gay, disabled people, female disabled people, and representing those elements within the prism of disability and so yeah, hearing the interview as a care is very timely and you know, when we're on Instagram, and we're looking for a black, disabled female that does work out videos, I tell you, it's not always that straightforward, but it's important that everyone's voice is heard.
Mai Ling 4:30
Absolutely. She's done such a great job of finding success in these niches and you know, obviously, in the interview, you hear of all of her great work but I was just so amazed by her I think she had what she say like 11,000 followers on LinkedIn, you know, which is a space that you don't usually see people unless you're a corporate isn't, you know, that's how I feel but she's just done such a great job and I really love her aura and her essence you know, it's she was just wonderful to speak with. So, I'm really excited for you, our listener to meet Zakiya.
During the interview, she mentioned the inspiring lives magazine that's going to be upcoming. Could you tell us a bit more about that? Really?
Mai Ling 5:07
Yes, that's right. So, she was referred to me by Dr. Shellie Hipsky who is the editor and creator and visionary behind Inspiring Lives Magazine(https://www.inspiringlivesmagazine.com/), which is a very successful magazine, that's actually that was published and available in several Barnes and Nobles around the country but with everything, you know, going to shut down, and people not going out as much. They have now received funding and investment support from the global sisterhood, which is a 501(c)(3) Group and it's now all available online. So, I'm really excited because she is also going to be a feature in my disability column, which I believe this one's going to run in January of 2021 unless they decide to go sooner and this one used to be quarterly, Martyn than you know about this. So, when it's quarterly, you know, they have so many months to put it together, and then they print and it shows up but now that it's digital, maybe they might be a little more frequent. So, watch for that at inspiringlivesmagazine.com
Yeah, I can't wait to read it, as you say with the digital world is a bit like with this Disability Horizons(https://disabilityhorizons.com/), we're putting out three or four articles a week, whereas if it was a magazine and a paper every quarter that would build up over the weeks and months into a lot of articles and then there's pros and cons to both but I think you know, everything is getting more digital and a lot of consumption is that so it makes sense from that perspective.
Mai Ling 6:25
Cool. Let's get to the interview then.
Mai Ling 6:28
Wonderful. Let's do it. Well, hello, I'm Mai Ling Chan, and I'm so excited to have Zakiya Mabery here with me today, we were introduced through Dr Shellie Hipsky who is the absolute visionary behind the Inspiring Lives Magazine. So welcome, Zakiya
Thank you so much Mai Ling for having me,
Mai Ling 6:49
It has been an absolute pleasure getting to know you a little bit before the interview and I'm really excited to share you with our listeners. So, to go through your bio a little bit, you have over 15 years’ experience in Human Capital Management and that's really interesting. You're also the founder of B Global Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Planning, and then co-author of the Humans Behind the Resources. You also have a book that you authored yourself called The Complete Guide to Diversity Inclusion in the age of COVID-19, First Edition, and I was about to say, when's that going to be available? and I just read it. So, coming this fall? Fantastic. You are a busy bee, huh?
Absolutely. I am busy and the environment in which we're living right now, has caused me to be even more busy talking about the injustices that have been going on the protests, and a lot of organizations are trying to figure out what can they do to pivot and make sure that their environment is more inclusive for their employees. So, it's causing me to take a little more pause from my writing because I'm finishing up that book and so I might have to do a little more editing based on some of my client’s questions, or they're asking because I want to make sure it's very detailed. So yes, I'm very busy.
Mai Ling 8:07
Yes, and I hear what you're saying so we are recording now at the end of June 2020 for our listeners, so you just get an idea of perspective. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has been with us since March and then we also had an enormous movement, which is continuing to make impact, which is the Black Lives Matter Movement. and as you're saying, I'm also an author of an anthology. So I'm bringing together writers and we're putting together this amazing book called Becoming an Exceptional Leader, (https://www.amazon.com/Xceptional-Leaders-Ling-Martyn-Sibley/dp/B08K597GXX) which Zakiya, I thought I was going to launch back in like end of March, beginning of April, and with everything going on, our timelines got pushed back and pushed back and then to your point, I rewrote the intro rewrote the summary and then I had to rewrite them again and even now, right, you're thinking, you don't want this to be all about COVID-19. You don't want this to be all about the pandemic, you know, but it is so relevant and so important that we put that in there to help our readers to understand, you know, how that's impacting us and our story and it's just amazing how this is just so pervasive so thank you for all that you're doing. Another reason why I'm so excited to have you on and I just kind of alluded to it is because you are an amazing black woman in the space of disabilities, and then also in the space of being an author being a leader. It is just a wonderful connection of all the things you're doing and that's why Dr. Shellie Hipsky has introduced us. So, let's get to the real thick of this before we started talking, I did get to ask you a couple questions and I'm hearing that your kind of pivoting a little bit in your own career and I'm wondering, unfortunately, to go back again to what we just said is, you know, the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter Movement, has that impacted you to shift you know, where your initial focuses were.
Absolutely is, first of all, thank you for saying all those things. It's very humbling. It's caused me to shift but also has brought up some trauma that I've thought I left in my past and I had to pause a little bit and do a little bit of self-care because I thought some of those things in my past have hills but seeing the knee on the neck of George Floyd, it opened up some wounds and I had to take some time to do a little bit of self-care and self-care is so important. Once I took some time to myself, I pose a question to on social media to leaders. Are you asking your employees? Are they okay? That question is very important, or are you conducting business as usual?
Mai Ling 10:36
Exactly. If I don't talk about it, it's just gonna go away,
Right? Yes, and it's not and so to your question, what am I doing? I'm taking more time to ask leaders that question, and I'm pivoting in my business interactions, as you said, in my writing, to make sure that I'm getting down in the details and making sure that questions are addressed and I'm reworking some of my training modules to make sure that people are understanding, they're not just checking the box on inclusion and diversity, notice that I said inclusion and diversity. I didn't say diversity inclusion, because in my viewpoint, Inclusion is most important before diversity because inclusion is making sure everybody feels that they're part of the team whereas I feel diversity are just the numbers. So, we have to make sure that the inclusion and the diversity is part of the business planning is tied to their numbers, the metrics and so I just have to make sure that leadership has the as part of the buy in of the stakeholders, that are at the table and so when I'm people are calling me up, especially right now, as you talked about where we are right now when we're recording this, and saying. Hey, we definitely need XYZ training right now. I'm doing more of a deliberate assessment of them and asking them a lot of questions, making sure that they're not just trying to appease their board members by doing training, because it'd be very easy for me to say, sure, and here's how much it would cost and just go in and do a half a day training but no, I'm not just going to waste my time and theirs to just make to go in to do a training when they're not in the right headspace to absorb the information.
Mai Ling 12:42
Right, and how committed are they to continue your efforts?
Yeah, absolutely because it's not one, it's not a quick fix, just putting a band aid on a problem. It takes more of accountability and it's going to take overtime to make sure that this effort is monitored and so that's when you have to look at monitoring the effort, and actually having a longer plan.
Mai Ling 13:09
Amazing. Hey there, hope you're enjoying the show. I just wanted to take a moment and introduce you to another great podcast that you might like in the Xceptional Podcast Network.
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Mai Ling 13:51
Now let's get back to our amazing interview. Let me ask you what is your connection to Disabilities and Inclusion?
My connection to it is multi-pronged. I've been working in the space for the Department of Defense for I will say about a decade and the capacity as an EEO, Equal Opportunity. So that's when people want to come file complaints. We will look at it and see is it valid, and then process it from cradle to grave. I worked in that I'm a certified mediator, and also worked in human resources in various capacity, I worked on Conus and OConus that means I worked in the United States and overseas in Germany. I also worked for two fortune 500 companies, Booz Allen and Deloitte on various contracts also with Department of Defense and also, I'm an individual with multiple disabilities. I've had them since I was in high school. I was an individual who had to go down and I hate how it sounds but it's still true that specific hallway to where special education children studied and that was after a traumatic incident that happened to me when I was in high school and I never felt comfortable talking about my disability until after college. Even in college when I utilized the services.
In high school, I tell the story of how even getting accommodations to take my SAT my parents had to be the advocate for me because I had a high school teacher who I won't say his name, even though I remember it was like you want to go to college? I don't think that's the trajectory that you want to go to. What about a technical degree? I'm like, no, I want to go to college and then my guidance counselor did not know how to fill out the paperwork for me to get the combinations from our reasonable accommodations. I had discrimination, even when I was working in the field that I worked in EEO, which is some people believe is so unbelievable, but unless you work in the field, practitioners will understand that it's not because the reason why I find like it's an oxymoron because we're the people who will help people not get discriminated against. Right. So, um, it has been challenging, but I'm still here, you can overcome adversity.
Yes, it's just you have to dig deep sometimes and believe in yourself. Well, I once lived on a street called perseverance and I don't believe that was by mistake, I had to persevere and you have to have people in your corner that actually believe in you and even when you don't have those cheerleaders around believing you, you have to believe in you and I'm a woman of faith. I was raised in the church and even sometimes when I didn't want to go to church as an adult, I have my Bible there and I will look at verses and so I have to go to those passages to help me get through those difficult times and I have PTSD, I can disclose some of my disabilities. I have a learning disorder, depression, and depression that sometimes it's so crippling that I don't want to get out of bed, I don't want to brush my teeth and sometimes it's inflicted by some of the people I work with colleagues, supervisors that don't understand but that's okay, some of those reasons are the reason why I decided that maybe working for organization is not for me, maybe I need to pave the way.
Robert Frost had the point a road not traveled or something like that road less traveled less the road less traveled and so maybe I had to find another way and it's been a little difficult even when you and I were talking, I was to call it the green room before we came live on air and you were giving me some kind recommendations of what I should do because this is a struggle trying to figure all these things out. As you know, there's sometimes people want to hoard the information and not tell you, of course, it's very prevalent when you're working for organization and it’s even harder when you're a business owner entrepreneur, you have to try to figure this stuff out yourself and then individual with disability, especially a learning disability, one of my disabilities, people think I'm just being lazy when I send an email and maybe get the words transferred or you know. It's not I'm being lazy. It's a disability.
Mai Ling 18:26
Wow. Right. These are things that you don't think of you just expect, you know, oh, thank you so much for sharing this. I know this is very, very personal for Zakiya but, you know, for the people that are listening our listeners, they are like us, you know, they're not perfect and that for our listener, I know you might be a little surprised. I know you think you're perfect. I think I'm perfect and we do all these things that we can to make up for these, you know, weaknesses, we have strategies, we have tools, but the most important thing is that we see ourselves, you know, and we are kind to ourselves. I mean, I love the word you know just you know be gracious, right? You know, give yourself that space and it's so hard to do for ourselves. I'm sure you're like me like you can do it for others when it comes to yourself. You hold yourself to this, you know, highest level.
That is 100% accurate mom says that to me all the time Zakiya you preach this stuff, but how come you can't apply it for yourself?
Mai Ling 19:22
Yes. Well, thank you. You know, sharing this again shows how you are a leader in that you know you are you're walking the walk; you are doing the actions and you are holding yourself accountable for everything. I do want to share that you have also been acknowledged or noted for this. You were featured on Great Day Washington on CBS and also on Good Morning Washington ABC, and as you mentioned, you've presented for so many organizations including the Department of Defense University of Minnesota, the American Association of People with Disabilities, American Association for Access, Equity and Diversity Disability In, and the Office of Employment Disability Employment, so many great organizations so, I know that I'm curious, and I'm sure our listeners want to know, how are you getting in and being noticed by these different organizations?
I network? and as I like to, when I meet someone, say, how can I be of service to you? How can my knowledge, skills, and experiences benefit your organization and how can we collaborate together, and then the conversation goes on from there, we exchange information and when they have an opportunity that they feel I can benefit from there, they contact me, and then we take it from there? So, this is a call to action whoever is listening to this broadcast, if you feel that having me on one of your panels or coming to teach at your organization could benefit you from a different perspective, hearing my perspective, please reach out to me.
Mai Ling 20:57
Excellent. that's wonderful and I will share a personal story, which I usually don't but I think this is relevant is that I'm a Speech-Language Pathologist and maybe about five, six years ago, I started going to the Elevate Women's Network meetings and when I first showed up there actually started in New York City in the financial district, and then Sallie Krawcheck and her family purchased it, and they made it more global and women entrepreneurial focused but when I first started going, I was with CFOs, COOs, women have really accomplished huge companies and I was like, Hi, I'm a Speech Therapist, and I'm CEO, and I had this little company, you know, I have a little staffing thing and, but the people, the women that I got to talk to and learn from and become friends with Zakiya, I mean, even now, like, our relationships are just, they're just so wonderful and beyond, you know, what I could have learned or networked from them, right? It's a friendship but stepping outside of that little comfort zone, if I would have stayed inside of I'm a Speech Therapist, I hang around with speech therapists, and, you know, definitely, I do have those circles but you know, going into out into the larger world going out into these, like, you're saying, you know, networking communities and giving first, I like to say that all the time, you know, how can I help you and we all have something to give, you know, I couldn't help them with their spreadsheets, financial planning, all that kind of stuff, right but there are so many things and I, you know, I found out that I was a wealth of knowledge about how to do Facebook Lives, and how to, you know, all of these things that I had no idea that they had no idea about. So, I highly recommend that and you are a testament to showing that that is very successful on a professional but also on a personal level.
Yes, using your authentic voice, the experience that one can bring to the table is so beneficial, just your personal experience that is beneficial and then bringing in your practical knowledge. That's, that's a bonus. So, that is how I'm able to navigate and all those wonderful places. Those are champions, seeing the value in diversity.
Mai Ling 22:55
Beautiful. Okay, so tell me about this new offering that you're doing, which is Real Talk with Zakiya.
Real Talk with Zakiya will be happening in my private Facebook group. On July 1st, we will be talking about racism in America. We have subject matter experts from across the world coming to talk about what it's like to deal with racism from various standpoints, different perspectives, and then on July 15, we'll have other subject matter experts talk about Disability Inclusion after all, we're celebrating the ADA, American with Disability Act 30th anniversary
Mai Ling 23:36
30th This year,
Mai Ling 23:38
So, you're talking about bringing together experts in the area of racism? How did you connect with these experts?
Are connected with them through LinkedIn? LinkedIn is a very powerful tool, and I have over 11,000 followers.
Mai Ling 23:50
Mai Ling 23:52
I'm gonna, I'm gonna search you now. I can, be, the 11,001?
Yes, and so I really use that to magnify my voice, connect with people and collaborate and engage. A lot of people just connect, connect, and just like stack their followers, but no, I really use them or reach out to them and it's a very powerful tool.
Mai Ling 24:14
Excellent, that's another point for people that are listening that are therapists or healthcare providers. When I first started getting on to LinkedIn years ago, it was like, Hello, there's nobody here, you know, or there were speech therapists with like an egghead, you know, for a profile picture, right? and now I'm seeing you know, so many more professionals in the healthcare industry there and like you're saying, we are not just be my friend, be my friend, you know, it's like connecting with me on LinkedIn but engaging in conversation and like you're saying, that's where people really meet people.
Yes, absolutely. Me and really like me and engage and utilize like your connections, business deals are done on through LinkedIn and really utilize that tool.
Mai Ling 25:00
Fantastic Okay, well, this is all been wonderful and we have a lot to follow you for, you know, catching up with what you're doing. Can you give us some information on how we can stay connected with you?
Yes, to stay connected with me, you can go to my business web page, which is (https://www.bglobaldiversity.com/) or you can send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can catch me on LinkedIn at (https://www.linkedin.com/in/zakiyamabery/) and don't forget to catch me on any of the social media platforms @TheZakiyaMabery.
Mai Ling 25:39
So, you have to have a “The” in the beginning, right?
Mai Ling 25:42
Okay, important point, we want to make sure that we find you. This has been wonderful Zakiya I'm looking forward to jumping on your Facebook Live later on in the month about Inclusion and I look forward to seeing all the amazing things that you're up to. Thank you so much.
Thank you so much, Mai Ling
Mai Ling 26:01
Thanks so much for joining us for this episode and remember that if you have a creative idea that you're ready to start on and want help from someone who truly understands what it means to build a disability-focused offering, visit mailingchan.com and let's get started.
Be sure to check out martynsibley.com to embrace your place as a world changer. If you are serious about becoming an influencer and impact in the world. Please join me in my VIP Academy. We focus on you and build momentum together to see you in the next episode.
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Zakiya Mabery has over 15 years experience in Human Capital Management; quite passionate about diversity, equality and inclusion. Founder of B Global Diversity & Inclusion Strategic Planning LLC and co-author of “The Humans Behind The Resources.” Additionally, Zakiya has written a book solo called, “The Complete Guide to: Diversity, Inclusion in the Age of COVID-19 First Edition,” which will be available this fall.
Zakiya realizes there are other Black women with disabilities who look like herself who have ‘tried’ to assimilate for various reasons. This is why she is dedicated to education for inclusive leaders with a focus on intersectionality.
Zakiya Mabery was featured on Great Day Washington (CBS) and Good Morning Washington (ABC). Has presented for small and large organizations such as the Department of Defense, University of Minnesota, The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), The American Association for Access, Equity and Diversity (AAAED), DisabilityIn, and The Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) in the U.S. Department of Labor to name a few.