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On the Brink with Andi Simon

Apr 16, 2024

Welcome to On the Brink with Andi Simon, the podcast where we delve into the stories, insights and wisdom of remarkable individuals who are trailblazing paths in the corporate world. I’m thrilled to have you join us today as we embark on a transformative journey with none other than Sandra Quince, an exemplary woman executive whose journey is nothing short of inspiring. Sandra Quince’s narrative is a testament to resilience, determination and unwavering commitment to personal and professional growth. With a career spanning decades in the corporate landscape, Sandra has navigated through challenges and shattered glass ceilings and emerged as a beacon of empowerment for women everywhere.

In today's episode, we have the privilege of unraveling the layers of Sandra's remarkable journey. From her humble beginnings to her ascent to executive leadership, Sandra's story is a poignant reminder of the power of perseverance and self-belief in the face of adversity. As we delve deeper into Sandra's narrative, we cannot help but be captivated by her profound insights into leadership and inclusivity. Sandra's wisdom transcends traditional notions of authority and is rooted in empathy, compassion, and a deep-seated commitment to fostering inclusivity and acceptance.

Throughout our conversation, Sandra imparts invaluable lessons on the art of influence and the importance of cultivating diverse and inclusive cultures within organizations. Her belief in the transformative power of diversity is a guiding light for leaders aspiring to create environments where every voice is heard, valued, and respected. Moreover, Sandra's mantra of "owning your career" is a powerful reminder that in a world where opportunities are abundant yet fiercely competitive, it's imperative to take charge of our own destinies. Sandra's journey is a testament to the fact that when we assert ourselves and take ownership of our paths, we pave the way for success on our own terms.

As we navigate the intricacies of Sandra's narrative, it becomes evident that her journey is not merely about personal triumphs but about paving the way for future generations of women leaders. Through her mentorship, advocacy, and unwavering commitment to championing diversity and inclusion, Sandra continues to drive positive change in the corporate landscape. I invite you to join us on this enriching journey as we unravel the tapestry of leadership with Sandra Quince. Her story is a testament to the transformative power of resilience, wisdom, and the unwavering belief in one's ability to shape their destiny.

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Read the transcript of our podcast here (edited for readability and grammatical correctness):

Andi Simon: Welcome to On the Brink with Andi Simon. I am Andi Simon, your podcast host, and your guide. Remember, my job is to help you get off the brink. I find people who are going to do just that to help you. These words are very intentional: See, feel, and think in new ways so that you can change them. And I often tell people the brain hates me. It doesn't want to change. I'd rather stay where you are, even when you know it's better to be different and do something better. It's challenging for you to learn new techniques and begin to thrive with them. So today, I have a wonderful woman, Sandra Quince, with us. You can see her beautiful smile. I will tell you about her briefly, but she's also part of our new book, Women Mean Business: Over 500 Insights from Extraordinary Leaders to Spark Your Success. So I will show you her picture here, which is gorgeous, and she has a beautiful quote. Remember, our book has 102 women with 500 wisdoms to help you start and spark your success. It's a beautiful book. 

It's selling like crazy, but her wisdom is compelling. "Be a leader who creates an environment where everyone can bring their best selves and thrive." 

Sandra." loves the quote by Mahatma Gandhi. "The greatest of humanity is not in being human, but in being humane ."I share that with you because I've been doing a great deal of podcasting lately, and people say we must become more humane. Corporations have to become more concerned about their employees' and communities' well-being. Culture has to begin to focus on "we," not "I," and I can say those words, but we have to do them. 

Let me share Sandra Quince's bio, and then she'll tell you about her journey because it's beautiful. Sandra Quince is the business enablement and leader on loan and loan program executive responsible for leading business operations across workforce development and arts and heritage while also serving as program executive for the Leader on Loan Program, which is for Bank of America.

 Prior to this, she was the chief executive officer for Paradigm for Parity through Bank of America's Leader on Loan Program, and she was responsible for leading all elements of Paradigm for Parity, strategic plan, financial, programmatic, and operational performance. She'll tell you more about P4P because it is a huge opportunity for you to understand what it can do and what you can do. She worked with the coalition's co-chairs and board of directors to oversee and execute the organization's vision and growth plans. She's been featured in Essence CEO, World Magazine, Fast Company and interviewed on Fintech, Fintech TV, BBC, and Bloomberg Radio. She's just an outstanding leader in her community, through boards, and through her actions. And what I'm so excited about today is that I've developed a program to help companies change their cultures, not by thinking about diversity, equity, and inclusion as a program, but instead as a mindset, as a way of seeing the opportunities that come from having lots of different ideas, being more innovative, inclusive. And humans love to belong. They don't want to be outliers. They don't want to be necessarily forgotten. So, how do we build that kind of culture at a time when D and I are under a bit of siege? People are wondering why we're doing it. We're doing it because it is transformative for ourselves and our businesses. Sandra, thank you for joining me today. It's an honor and a pleasure.

Sandra Quince: Oh, it's such a pleasure to be here with you. And thank you so much for having me on today.

Andi Simon: Isn't it fun? I'd love you to tell the listener or the viewer about your journey because it sets the stage for what we'll discuss next. Who is Sandra Quince?

Sandra Quince: Yeah, so thank you for that. My journey really started; I have been talking a lot about and reflecting on what makes Sandra who she is or who has had an influence on her.

And so it brings me back to my childhood. I am a product of a military father. And so we traveled around a lot. And I think that experience in itself, because you meet so many different people and get a chance to interact with different cultures really helps to build who you are and helps you to see the world through a very different lens. I also think about the lessons that my great-grandmother taught me of being just a really kind and strong woman while being kind and being very cognizant of the fact that you're not better than others. It was part of my lessons growing up: how to be resilient and bounce back from things. She was a powerful woman, and while not formally educated, she was extremely intelligent. But then, it also taught me to stand up for myself, advocate for myself, and speak up for myself. And so that's where I draw that inner strength. When I became the CEO of Paradigm for Parity, that didn't happen by happenstance, right? There were a series of things that led up to that. But earlier in my career, Andrea, one of the things that I didn't understand was that when you put your head down and you're working hard, that wasn't enough. And I showed up to laugh.

Andi Simon: I know, I know the feeling well. 

Sandra Quince: So you show up. I was a first-generation college student. I was a first-generation corporate. I needed help understanding the rules of the road. And while I had these beautiful life lessons, I wasn't sure how to employ them at that moment. And I came into the workforce thinking, if you just put your head down and do really good work, you will get promoted. And while doing really good work is a part of what we all should do, because that's table stakes, that is not the only path that leads you to promotion. That is just one part of many different things we must consider in the workplace. And so I did learn that I needed to not just do good work, but I also needed to understand what I wanted out of my career. I needed to understand how to advocate for myself, employ the life lessons I learned earlier as a child, and speak up and talk about the good work I was doing. So think about how are you telling your story. How are you telling others about the work you're leading and doing but adding value to your organization and advocating for yourself? And I learned the power of networking and sponsorship. And so all that and part of the wisdom that I shared, and you touched on a little bit as we talked about this session, is really about owning your career. I learned a valuable lesson that I have to focus 100% on my career.

Andi Simon: I do love that. And I've been using it. I've been sharing it. My grandkids, even my daughters, because we are all going through life's journey, and people put you in boxes, and they are pleased putting you in that box and thinking that's who you are. I coached a woman who got stuck and stalled in her career not long ago, and I said, you still need to take ownership of it. She said, what does that mean? I said, well, you assumed, like Sandra did, that if I work hard, I'll be noticed, and therefore, I'll get promoted. And you're upset that others you've trained have gotten promoted without any of your experience. It's a recurring theme, particularly for women, but not only for women. Now the question becomes, as you're thinking about that career, somehow you moved into an area that has become honorable in some ways, perhaps by design or by chance, in helping others understand the power of a diverse, equitable, inclusive, and belonging workplace. And I say those words to make them come alive. It's not denied; it's about a diverse, equitable, inclusive, and belonging place for people. It's not a program. It's a place where we love to come to work. Talk a lot to our audience about how one migrates there and then owns it, and then what do we learn from it? Can you share, please?

Sandra Quince:  Yeah, absolutely. So, you're absolutely right. Diversity, equity and inclusion is not about a program. It's about creating the right ecosystem for your company and your employees to thrive. And the reason why companies should be engaged in diversity, equity and inclusion is because, number one, you will be more profitable. There are studies that have been around for 30-plus years that prove this point. Companies that engage in this work put the right resources behind it. It's not just lip service. They're 30% to 40% times more profitable. And why are they more profitable? Well, they're more profitable because they create the right ecosystem for their employees to show up and do their best work. So what does that mean? That means that your employees are in an environment where they can give their best and do their best work, which means that creates profitability for the company because they're interacting with them, with the customers and clients in a way that creates, that sells those products or creates that opportunity to engage more customers and more clients and creates opportunities for companies to have more market share. The other thing is, you have more companies and clients because they see that there are people that reflect who they are that they can do business with, and that promotes trust in a brand. And so the third and fourth thing is you're more innovative because you have different voices, different experiences, and different mindsets sitting at a table, and you create the products and services that help your organization thrive. And so that's the reason why companies should be doing it. Yes, it's the right thing to do. Yes, it creates the right opportunities for your employee base. But at the end of the day, I work for an organization that's there to be profitable, and I want that organization to be profitable because that's how I make money as an employee. So, creating an opportunity and engaging around diversity, equity, and inclusion are things you can't afford not to do. And so in this day and age, where, yes, there is a lot of backlash, yes, there there are those out there that are saying that diversity, equity, and inclusion is not what it doesn't do what it's supposed to do, meaning that they feel like it's reverse discrimination or it, it causes division.

That has never been the intent, nor is it what real diversity, equity, and inclusion do for organizations. There's a study that came out recently, Andi, that asked thousands of employees and this was just released, I think late last month. They asked them, do you still want your organizations to engage in DNI? And so one would think that that answer would have been a resounding no, based on what you hear out and what you hear the rhetoric today. But 90% of employees said no, absolutely. It is critical to my organization's and my success.

Andi Simon: There's additional research that I've been reading like you have, which says that people look for companies that have diversity in leadership. And it's not just that they want to belong. They want to know that it matters to the organization and that they can see pathways to progress and success. And they are consumers. They are no different than your clients or your customers. They're looking for a place where they see curiosity and things where I can belong, and I can share my ideas in a healthy way so that people hear me and I can be strong instead of in a box. I am interested in Paradigm 4 Parity. How did that develop? Because it's a particular approach, and it's amazing. The Bank of America has underwritten it. Please give us some perspective on what it is, how it works, and how people could benefit from it.

Sandra Quince: Absolutely. Paradigm 4 Parity is an organization that was created, seven years ago, will be going into our eighth year this year. And it's an organization that was created by women for women. So, these were women who had achieved great things in their organizations. They were CEOs and they were on the back side of their careers. And what they realized when they turned around to look behind them wasn't no other women were coming behind them. There was one other woman in the pipeline, and more importantly, their daughters were entering into the workforce. They realized we have a problem, and we have got to find a way to solve it. So, unlike some of us who sometimes sit on the sidelines and talk about the issues, these women got together and said, we need to do something about this. And so they created Paradigm 4 Parity. Paradigm 4 Parity is dedicated to achieving gender parity at every level of leadership in corporate America with a lens on racial equity. And so these women said, not only do we need to create this organization and invite companies of various sizes to be a part of this coalition and a part of this change that we want to see, we're going to provide them with a roadmap or a five-point action plan, we like to call it, to help these organizations be able to navigate their way to success, to achieving gender parity. And so they did tons of interviews. They took subject matter experts, interviewed the women who had been successful in their careers, and boiled it down to five key actions that organizations need to take in order to see Parity. And what's beautiful about this is when organizations execute on this, you not only have gender parity, but it creates that ecosystem that I talked about earlier, where you're creating an environment where everyone, men, women of all ethnicities can show up and thrive in an environment that becomes equitable and fair for all. And so, yes, while we're dedicated to achieving gender parity, we've provided the blueprint and all the tools and resources to go along with that. We also understand that it's important that we bring everyone along in this journey. And so it creates an equitable environment for all.

Andi Simon: You know, you're talking about a significant transformation of the corporate and social aspects because this isn't just inside the company. This is the whole mindset about how we see each other. Humans are quite fascinating because we're status creatures. It's me against my brother and my brother against my cousin. A little anthropology always helps us understand the perspective that we've evolved and survived by comparing ourselves. Gregory Batson has some significant research on the differences. The difference is only because we see the outside differently from us. We know who we are. But now, it becomes a much broader perspective beyond the tribe about the fact that I can be much more extensive and broader. With so many people going through college education and traveling and seeing different things, it's a time for personal and professional growth in our companies. Paradigm 4 Parity: is that something a company buys? Is it something they just understand? How do they get involved with it?

Sandra Quince: Absolutely. So, I encourage everyone watching and/or listening to this podcast to go to and check out our website. All companies have to decide that this is definitely where we are on this journey, and we want to see Parity within the workplace and workforce. And they can join us. And you will see that we have 150 plus other coalition members that are on this journey with us. Those that are doing great work and have achieved Parity at certain levels in their organizations and those just starting out who are saying, you know, we're new to this. We want to make an impact. And so we have all and everything in between from an organizational perspective. So, join us and take advantage of the five-point action plan, the tools and the resources that we offer, the webinars and seminars that we provide, connecting with others who are like-minded and on this journey with you, and understanding what those leading practices are that are out there that organizations are doing to achieve and sustain parity within their organizations. So it is quite simple, Andi, for people to join us.

Andi Simon: How does it feel? I tell people that people decide with their eyes and their heart. And they need to find out what it is. You know, what is it until they see it and feel it and trust that it is, in fact, it's good? And that's how we'll decide to behave differently and act on it. It takes work to change. You're looking for people to change their mindset, their conversations, their microaggressions, the things they don't even know they're doing. And begin to see each other in a different light. Are there some illustrations you can share that aren't proprietary that will help people see it better than just hearing it from you?

Sandra Quince: Absolutely. And what you're talking about and describing, especially around our human nature, is the nature around being biased. Unconscious bias. And I know people say they hear that all the time and they wonder, I don't have biases. But the truth is because we're human, we're born with biases. Biases are created every single day. It is not curable. 

Andi Simon: It's not. I never thought of biases as being not curable. I like that. Go ahead.

Sandra Quince: It's not curable. There's not anything you can take that can cure biases. There are things you can do to mitigate bias and think about when bias becomes dangerous. So think about it. You know, here's a simple illustration. I am a graduate of Florida State University.

Me and my husband, we're staunch Seminole fans. And so if you went to the University of Miami, you are automatically the enemy to us, right? Because there is a bias there because we are rival teams. Automatic. There is a thought that pops in your head when that rival is mentioned. That is a bias. It just so happens, though, that particular bias is not necessarily dangerous, right? Because it is fun. It is a sport. But when bias becomes dangerous, you then take that same thought process and apply it to the workplace and don't hire someone because of the way that they look or where they might come from, or the gender, or who they love, or what ethnicity they are. So again, that's when biases become extremely dangerous. And so what we do at Paradigm 4 Parity is we help organizations understand how to mitigate that bias in those very dangerous moments. And those dangerous moments really show up in the employee lifecycle. And so we talk about mitigating bias in the moments that matter. So, the employee lifecycle starts with hiring. Then it moves to onboarding. Then it moves to developing. Then it moves to promoting. Then it moves to managing talent and then it moves to retention. So, these are all of the inflection points where decisions are made. About whether I'm going to be even hired into an organization. Now, how am I onboarded in that organization? Because that makes a difference. Because that is a jumping point for me in how well I perform. And then do I get opportunities to be developed in that organization, which then leads to promotion? And when we think about how we manage talent, so those talent management processes and thinking about pay, thinking about how you rate talent, all of those things become very subjective and biases creep into those processes. And so how do we mitigate those? And then last is retaining who we retain and why and who aren't we retaining and why? And so again, we talk a lot at Paradigm 4 Parity and help our organizations through some of the tools and resources, leading practices, sessions, programs, as well as our webinars and seminars around how are you mitigating this bias in those moments that matter and help organizations think about creating that or that ecosystem where their talent can thrive?

Andi Simon: You know, some of this is challenging. So, as a listener or the viewer is reflecting on their own decisions and biases and, remember that musicians, they've tried to make gender-neutral, unbiased decisions about whether to put somebody into their orchestra by having them perform behind a screen so they don't know who they are. You just know what they're producing, what their outcomes are. And we've tried this in a program that I had at Washington University, and we try to have venture capitalists or funders understand who is presenting, not by their nature or who they were or their background, but what the value of the program was that they were looking for funding for. Very little money goes from VCs to women-owned businesses for a reason. It's a woman, much less a woman who's a minority or a person of color. And so it becomes essential for us to get neutralized in some fashion, either by creating an illusion or actually thinking about why I'm deciding this, making it intentional, as opposed to simply an old habit where an old bias creeps in and says, well, I saw that before. Or someone I knew way back when, or they didn't produce well. You'll be amazed how much baggage you carry and how noise in your brain influences your decisions. And you're not free-wheeling it here. You're habit-driven and trying to come up with a better solution. One staff person in the staffing industry said it provides a more diverse pool for the HR folks to evaluate. But, when he provides them, those selecting the candidates don't select them in a neutral environment. As he says, I can send them the right mix, but they just go back to finding people who look like them. That is not good for building better organizations. That's not even good for hiring somebody. This business has evolved. Are you seeing one or two trends being done that are helpful and hopeful?

Sandra Quince: You're absolutely right. Let me circle back on the bias piece that you talked about. Because when you think about mitigating those biases in those moments, like you say, creating those illusion of opportunities where you could do blind resumes, you're absolutely right. Because there are things on resumes you don't have to have. What you really need to understand is their credentials. What makes them qualified for it? But then I think also mitigating the bias in those moments that matter can come, like you said, by asking yourself some simple questions. Yes, you think of it like a muscle. You have to constantly work it, or it will revert back to what it was before. So let me say that we're in a very interesting time, Andi, certainly when we think about what's helpful and hopeful. So what's helpful right now? We're in this time where really many companies, especially those that are part of Paradigm for Parity and our coalition, they're doubling down. They're doubling down and they are staying true to who they are as an organization, their mission, their vision and their values. They're doubling down and continuing the good work of creating an equitable, fair workplace for all. And I think what these companies are doing is they're also looking at their language to be sure their language aligns with the outcomes they want to achieve, and making sure that inclusion is at the forefront of everything that they do, which inclusion should be the leading factor. It's inclusion for all. It's also diversity, equity and inclusion for all. And so leading with that is many organizations are taking a step and leading with that inclusion piece and ensuring that if I have programs that are specific for certain people, why do we have these programs? So processes are put in place. And I don't think there's anything wrong with questioning your why. So you can go back and create the right data sets and analytics to help explain why you're on the path you're on, and reconfirming for yourself that this is really the right thing to do. So, for me, that is helpful. And for organizations to go through that exercise and ensure that whatever they're doing, that it matters and that it's creating the right environment that they want to see for their organization. And then putting the data and the analytics behind it. So what's hopeful right? What's hopeful is that 90% that I talked about earlier, Andi, the majority of people want to see a more equitable workplace and they want to see it for everyone. And that is hopeful for me, and especially those that are in the workforce today and those that are entering into the workforce really understanding and working for those organizations. They do their homework and their research, and they will not work for organizations that they can't see themselves there.

Andi Simon:  And they know that hope comes from being in a place with a curious, broad perspective because if not, they will be in a box. McKinsey, in February 2023, had their "Women in the Workforce: 2022," in which they spoke about the great breakup. The women were leaving the corporate because they didn't see any hope for advancement. And there was no effort to give them new growth opportunities or even to demonstrate that the work they did mattered. This is a time where women have a choice, and men do as well. I am looking at Gen Zs and wondering and worrying about our guys because women are getting rallied around and the men don't quite know what to rally around. And without belonging to something, they feel a little lost. And it's worrisome. And our kids will look at the adults and wonder about what they will be. So this is a transformative time, Sandra. This has been wonderful. One or two things you want our listeners and viewers to remember, because your conversation has absolutely transfixed me. I'm enjoying every moment. But we do have to end. What would you like them not to forget?

Sandra Quince: I don't want them to forget that biases are not curable. And I think as individuals, we need to ensure that we're mitigating our bias. And always ask yourself and be curious who's missing and why? Think about that on your teams when you show up to work. Are you an upstander? When you see something, do you say something? Do you challenge the status quo when you feel like something isn't right? And what solutions are you bringing to the table, and how are you supporting your organization to be better? And I want organizations to understand that there is a lot of work for you to do to ensure you're creating the right ecosystem. How are you engaging and supporting your managers and your people leaders because they lead the majority of your population and they make or break your culture? 

Andi Simon: This has been a marvelous half hour. I can keep going. I'm thinking about ways to bring this out to my clients to help them see, feel, and think better because they're looking for it. They're reaching that point where I have one client who finally made three women partners in their firm, and it was with I mean, I've been working with them for six years. It was with great effort and, and it is an interesting time to watch people go through slow transformation. What is that expression, a little a little and off the cliff they go. And I think we're reaching that end where a little was good, but a lot would be greater.

Sandra Quince: Absolutely.

Andi Simon: For my listeners, I want you to remember one thing, that the words you choose create the world to live in. And Sandra has been saying that in many different ways today. Bias, thinking about whether it's diversity, equity, inclusion, or belonging, those are words, and we live with behaviors. But the words we use create the worlds we live in. So think carefully about what you're thinking and saying what you're hearing because what is said is only sometimes what you hear. And what you hear often is what you think, but not necessarily what was meant. So the complexity of this should not be underestimated. But the opportunity, particularly with Paradigm 4 Parity and its five-step process, is ready for you. So if they want to reach you, Sandra, how can they do that?

Sandra Quince: So they can reach me on LinkedIn at Sandra Quince. They can go on our website We would love to have you peruse our site. And, of course there are all kinds of ways to reach our organization once you join our site.

Andi Simon: It's been a pleasure, a privilege, and thank you so much for joining us today. For my listeners and my viewers, we had fun. It's so much fun to explore something, listen to see, feel, and think in new ways, and see how you can change. I'll plug in because Women Mean Business is full of beautiful wisdom that will spark your success. As Sandra was sharing those, I've been repeating that as you rise, lift others with you. It's intentional, and I've worked with women who are CEOs, and they don't have any process for moving others up. They have yet to notice they're building the business but haven't noticed what that means for all others inside. So this is a time to get intentional about it. As you rise, lift others, and you'll find Women Mean Business at Amazon would love for you to go and buy it there. So thanks, Sandra. I'm going to say goodbye to everybody. Thanks again for joining us. It's been great. Have a wonderful day. Remember to take your observations and turn them into innovations. Be a little anthropologist. You may enjoy it. Bye-bye now.

WOMEN MEAN BUSINESS® is a registered trademark of the National Association of Women Business Owners® (NAWBO)