The Boston Globe

Colette Phillips’s ‘The Includers’: an anti-exclusion handbook for the C-suite

- By Adriana Pray GLOBE CORRESPOND­ENT Interview was edited and condensed. Adri Pray can be reached at adri.pray Follow her @adriprayy.

In her new book, “The Includers,” Colette Phillips acknowledg­es Boston’s top white male executives in their efforts to diversify Boston’s corporate scene, putting into practice the “includer” attitude endorsed by the book itself, which publishes Tuesday.

Phillips, the public relations and marketing mogul who helms Boston-based Colette Phillips Communicat­ions as its president and CEO, thinks of herself as a “connector.” “The Includers” highlights the importance of such a position in DEI advocacy, underscori­ng the need for white men to play a connecting role when promoting people from underrepre­sented background­s into the C-suite. It is critical, Phillips said, for white men to “lead from behind” and let women and people of color tell them how to help dismantle racism and gender inequality in the workplace.

The Emerson College alum believes the collective awakening to racial injustice faced by people of color in the wake of George Floyd’s murder in 2020 was a turning point for the United States, and hopes her words can provide guidance for leaders looking to be not just “against racism,” but who actively advocate for DEI. The Globe caught up with Phillips recently via Zoom.

Q. I want to start by asking where the inspiratio­n for your book came from?

A. The idea for the book first came to me in 2020, after George Floyd’s death, at a time when the racism Black people were facing at the hands of the police was center stage. I thought the time was right to write a book from the lens of true inclusion because I believe the path to inclusion is radical anti-exclusion. Everyone needs to be at the table, and that includes white males and white male allies. I decided I was going to honor white males, and I got a lot of backlash and pushback from women and from people of color. But I felt that the world needed to acknowledg­e, spotlight, and showcase the men who are making an effort, many of them quietly behind the scenes, to change their institutio­ns. My hope was that by acknowledg­ing these men and celebratin­g them, we might be able to encourage others to emulate them.

Q. How do you deal with pushback to your message about DEI at a time when those principles are under harsh scrutiny?

A. I think the people calling for the dismantlin­g of DEI are mostly white males because they feel left out and irrelevant, and I think [those calls are] a mistake. We have to rethink and revamp the DEI equation; we have to put inclusion as the linchpin in DEI because not only is it the moral thing to do, it’s the economical­ly smart thing to do. It’s a winning strategy. It’s finding the best talent and making a deliberate, concerted, intentiona­l effort to fill those roles with women, people of color, people of different religions, and those belonging to the LGBTQ+ community. Everyone must have a voice and everyone must feel like they belong. That’s my vision, my work, my commitment to what DEI is all about.

Q. The book is written with “seven C’s” in mind as best practice traits for leaders to incorporat­e in their companies. Is this book meant to be viewed as advice? What is the best way for leaders and the corporate world to utilize this as a resource?

A. It’s a handbook and a guide and a how-to book with actionable tools and principles that should be the guiding light for how we behave in the workplace, in our lives, and in our community. The “seven C’s” were created in a thoughtful manner because, as somebody who considers themselves an includer, I had to look at what defines it. Character begets integrity, it means you are not willing to compromise who you are. You must have cultural intelligen­ce to grow, which means you have to step out of your comfort zone and learn from other cultures so that you can be a much more empathic, understand­ing, and accepting person. We need to make connection­s with people who are different from us. You also have to know how to communicat­e effectivel­y, have courage, commitment, and collaborat­ion skills.

Q. Throughout the book you mention that some have viewed the premise of applauding white men who are proponents of DEI critically. How do you respond to those who view your message as apologetic rather than inclusive?

A. I demonstrat­e to them the effects of white men on DEI advancemen­t. This is not about being apologetic. This is about being pragmatic. I’ll give you an example: I was speaking with a friend once, a Black woman whose husband became the first Black secretary of a particular cabinet in a particular governor’s administra­tion, and she didn’t understand my message. I asked her if the person who appointed her husband was a Black person, a woman, or part of any other unrepresen­ted group, and when she said no, that he was a white man, I told her that was exactly my point — I wasn’t saying he wasn’t talented, I was pointing out that the man who opened the doors, who gave him access, was white. And she understood my message. I believe every single CEO in America should ignore all this anti-DEI nonsense because whether we like it or not, the reality is our demographi­cs are changing. If we want to stay competitiv­e in this world and in this country, we need to have every single person in the room and we need to give them a voice. America has to live up to who we say we are.

 ?? COLETTE PHILLIPS ?? Author Colette Phillips is president and CEO of Boston-based Colette Phillips Communicat­ions.
COLETTE PHILLIPS Author Colette Phillips is president and CEO of Boston-based Colette Phillips Communicat­ions.
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