Jackie: Welcome to our show and thanks for listening. My guest today is Kelly Cooper. Kelly is the founder and CEO for the Canadian based Center for Social Intelligence, which helps leaders create a diverse and inclusive transformation through targeted audits, assessments, and action plans. Kelly has worked in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Europe, creating sustainable development projects. Kelly, thank you for joining us. It's so good to talk to you again.
Kelly Cooper: Thank you for having me, Jackie. It's a pleasure to be here.
Jackie: Of course. So I love to start with a little bit about your background, your family, your identity, whatever you'd like to share.
Kelly Cooper: I guess I'm a, I can say that I am the youngest of five kids. I had three older brothers. Two of them were quite significantly older, they were 10 and 12 years older. And so that influence was quite significant, obviously. they were kind of rough with me and they weren't like protected little girl in my house.
It was more rough and tumble and calling of names and, you know, I had to go up a thick skin. Let's just say that and hard to get air time, hard to get air time. So I kind of grew up with a competitive environment. You could say one of my brothers used to say, my mother had five children, Kelly, Kelly, Kelly, Kelly, and Kelly.
He could imagine, I was like, hey, I was just born. I didn't ask for this. But, it was that kind of an environment. And then my mother and father divorced when I was quite young. I was about nine. And so those were the days when you really weren't getting divorced, you know, this was like 1980 or 79.
So, you know, it was, my mum was a bit of a, you know, liberal woman and kind of set that course, I guess in my mind too, in terms of feminism in a way. Right. So, yeah, I guess that's a snapshot. I don't want to get into my whole, a whole story for you.
Jackie: I appreciate that. So let's talk about your background because I, I often find that successful people start down one path, right, but then pivot into what they're really meant to do. So can you talk a little about your professional journey?
Kelly Cooper: So I think I've been pretty square in the sustainable development world, my whole career. I graduated from the university of Toronto in 1993. So that shows my age, but that was at a time when the word sustainable development was just born.
It was 1987 when that word was coined through the United Nations. And, I had an environmental science degree and sustainable development to me was awesome. I was like, this is the future. And I could see that right away because it's all about building an economy that's not compromising the environment or social issues and making it sustainable for the future generations. So to me, that was like, that makes a lot of sense. And within the sustainable development realm, they go through what's called agenda 21 and it was really for setting the tone for the 21st century on what the world issues are that we have to face.
And so within the agenda 21, there, they created, the United Nations created 40 chapters. A bunch of them are focusing on environmental issues and a bunch of them are focused on social issues. So things like climate change, biodiversity, deforestation, those kinds of big topics where the environmental issues.
And then on the social side, it was all about things like women and addressing poverty and those kinds of things. So to answer your question, it's a long way around it, but sustainable development really set the context for my world, and I worked primarily for the first 20 years on the environmental issues of sustainable development.
So really got in deep on climate change. worked on that through the federal government here in Canada. I worked as a policy advisor to ministers on that issue represented Canada at the United Nations meetings and that kind of stuff. And I also worked on oceans and other big global agenda item under sustainable development agenda 21. All of those conversations, as you know, too, with climate changes, how do you put a dollar on things like air?
How do you put a dollar on a shared ocean? Because you have competing interest, right? You have tourism, you have oil and gas. You have a whole bunch of things, fishing industry, obviously. And so these competing interests and you have to make it sustainable for all, all industries. This is survive in the future, right? So those are the really complicated questions, right? And complicated policy decisions that need to be made, but also the goal of creating sustainability.
So very interesting work for me. I really enjoyed it, but I got a little tired of the old boys’ network. Being the only, like often the only single woman in science base, you know, that whole stem issue. It just was an exhausting situation to find myself in time and again, harassment issues, pay inequity stuff, like all that basket of tricks.
So about 10, 12 years ago now, I started to think, well, I wonder what the social side of sustainable development is and how do we, get a return on our investment from that? Which was, we were trying to get a return on the investment from air, you know, how do we deal with the social side?
That's not really made any sense to me yet. So I started doing some research and I pivoted into the social side by looking at how to get women, in particular, into senior executive roles and in technical positions in the natural resource sectors, because that's been, my background is in natural resource sectors. Sorry. That was a very long answer for you.
Jackie: No, I appreciate that. That's so great. And you know, it's interesting because ESG is such an important part of governance from the corporate perspective. Corporate boards are thinking about ESG more and more, but it's really been in the past 10 years or so that that's become a really important part of what the pillars of how they look at businesses to, to lead businesses. Right. But, so it's interesting how early you got into it and thinking about that.
Kelly, from your perspective, what do business leaders in general need to be thinking about or need to know about environmental and social sustainable development, and what can they do from their individual perspectives, and general business to, to move that forward?
Kelly Cooper: So the first part I would say is they need to understand that the generation that are entering the workforce today really have strong values connected with environment and social issues. And in order to attract the best talent, they need to make sure their business, corporate priorities, values are aligned with environment and social values of today. And that's really important because the research I've done shows that the generation entering the workforce today are even prepared to have a reduced paycheck to work for an organization that has those kinds of values.
So that's an important thing. I think that they really need to understand is that our generation, previous generations, they just wanted a paycheck. They didn't, I mean, they, they grumped about it, but the truth is they didn't force the conversation, you could say, just that awareness about that stuff. So that's one of the big things I would say. And your second question again, sorry.
Jackie: What can business leaders do to move these initiatives forward from where they sit?
Kelly Cooper: Well, I think they really need to do that a senior executive retreat analysis on what their mandate is as it relates to environment social issues.
And then through that, they need to set up an entire like, like for, in the whole diversity and inclusion realm. I always speak about the, the C-suite needs to get organized with what they want to achieve, and tie their business objectives to their D&I objectives, tightly, and then they need to put their, their resources to it.
So human and financial, like dedicate people to that role, to steer the organization through a systematic approach, to shifting the workplace culture, to being more receptive to women in all other underrepresented groups. And there's quite a process I recommend for people to go through our executives to go through, to ensure that it's sustainable.
Jackie: Thank you for that. And you know, it's what you said at the beginning around employees being okay with a reduced paycheck, right? That is a major shift in society where in previous generations we were looking to make the most money, keep our head down, keep working work through the, you know, traditional promotions.
And now it's, it's a different thought process. And we're finding that that's what's happening with the great resignation is that people are looking for places to spend their time, you know, in the workplace where they feel that their values align, where they feel good about what they're doing and, and they will, you know, and, and where money is part of it, right?
The salary is part of it, but it's not all of it. And you've got to have the kind of culture and environment for them that makes them feel good about being there. So that's so spot on. I love that. Thank you for sharing that. Kelly, let's talk about the center for social intelligence. What is your organization do and what kind of clients do you serve?
Kelly Cooper: I serve all clients and all sectors, but I really target the leadership Kadra of the organization because that's where I think chain. It needs to start for anything along the lines of diversity and inclusion. So getting them aligned as a, as a board or as the C-suite themselves to kick the tires on the topic. There's a lot of biases obviously, and misunderstandings that need to be cleared up and they all need to be organized and on the same page, In order to effectively make a shift in their workplace. So I start with those people and we work through a process for that to get them on the same page.
And once that's done, it's really about, it's really gets exciting because to watch the light bulbs go on and have them understand the value proposition as I phrase it. And so they get it and then it's like, okay, now what do we do? And then it becomes almost a process of competing I find and that's the work I'm doing in one particular sector right now has been almost like a movement on this topic.
What I'm seeing is that these executives are now competing amongst themselves. To show that they're doing the best as it relates to D&I. And this is perfect conditions for success in my mind, because you know, these organizations are largely run by men and they like to compete. They just want to know what are the rules of game and let me go and do it.
So once they get that understanding, why they need to do this and how it will help them. It's really exciting to watch it unleash and, and what change comes from that. So we do that I also help organizations with the pros, with the going further from the executive into the training and looking at how to overcome resistance to diversity and inclusion across the organization.
Talking about things like how to become an inclusive culture, what that means, how it's different from a traditional workplace culture and also about allyship and how we have a role, both white man and woman to speak up and make space for underrepresented individuals, whether they're male or female or gender neutral to get into these positions of seniority so that they can succeed as well.
Jackie: And Kelly, let's dig into the name of your organization, social intelligence. Let's talk about what that means.
Kelly Cooper: Sure. So I, I, I coined this phrase back when I started in this social element, as I mentioned of sustainable development and, and what it means to me is it's when an organization acknowledges addresses and invests in the social dimensions of an organization, such as gender diversity and inclusion. It's, I can also include mental health issues.
With the goal of increasing the productivity, the well-being of the people in your organization and the bottom line. And it's achieved by giving individuals in an organization the necessary tools and skills to develop themselves to create a healthy and sustainable work environment for everyone.
So that's what I, that's the trademark sort of technical explanation for it, but really it's about creating a place where people feel they belong.
Jackie: Absolutely. And, you know, ultimately that's what we all are craving, right? That's what we all need. It creates such a difference in how we work as individuals and our productivity goes up and retention goes up for an organization when you can create that sense of belonging. So that's so important.
Kelly Cooper: And one of the things too, I, I just to mentioned from just thinking about what we were talking about earlier is that these people at the C-suite, they have to understand that it's a different game now. Everyone has a phone, everyone's on a social platform. Do you do something inappropriate or things aren't going well, it's out there and it's out there in a flash and it's hard to, you know, bring it back. So your reputation is always on the line. So it's so important to explain to these guys how, how important, how valuable it is to keep this culture of belonging intact, right. Because anyone could, in some way jeopardize their reputation if they're not careful.
Jackie: That's exactly right. And you know what I've learned over the past five years or so, is that your candidates are really digging in to understand your company before they even come to the interview. That's right, and so back to your earlier point about recruiting the best talent, you know, they are scouring your social media.
They're talking to your employees, yeah, right before they even hit that interview. And so, you know, the culture that you're creating, the sense of belonging that you create with your current employees significantly impacts the type of talent that you're able to recruit. That's exactly right, exactly right.
So Kelly, you've been in the diversity and inclusion space for about 10 years. Is that right? Yup.
Kelly Cooper: That's right.
Jackie: Perfect. How have you seen the industry change over those 10 years?
Kelly Cooper: Well, it's been significant. For sure when I started out with this, there was, it was really not even on the radar, so it's kind of, I just had a passion for it, you know, given my own experience of wanting to see more women in leadership roles.
But I can speak to my context in Canada in particular. I was running a women in mining national action plan project with 12 mining executives to create a national project here. And the intent was to create, you know, best practices for them to learn. And how do they apply them through their own organizations?
Okay. So that was in 2013. So three years ago at that time, there was really like, it was really swimming, upstream on the topic. It was a bit of a miracle that, that whole thing you think about the mining sector. But then at the end of that, there was a shift here in Canada and politically, and our government changed.
And it became a liberal government and they chose women or gender diversity and inclusion as a priority. And I remember talking to the mining executives and saying, well, this make a difference for you that this policy is. Is this, this is what policy they're waving now. And the people at west, were like that doesn't make any difference to us.
And I thought very interesting, but I thought it would, I mean, I'm in Ottawa, so that's the nation's capital. So I'm more engaged with the government and politics. Sure enough it did shift and it was a tidal wave shift here in terms of focus on that issue. And that created a huge momentum to have access now to funding.
Now they didn't have as much, right. And so there were opportunities to do more interesting projects that we couldn't do before. And through that process, there has been a significant shift. I'd say an attention on this issue. The corporate world is definitely paying more attention here in Canada.
There's no question of that, it is a required piece of this puzzle to make a change happen. So I've seen significant changes and especially in the work I'm doing now, because I'm focusing in on the forest sector. Now I'm another one of these crazy male dominated. I shouldn't say crazy. It's a great sector, but it's very disproportionate, you know, balance of men and women in it.
It's an exciting initiative because it's, major changes taking place. And I could go on and on about the project I'm working on. We're now moving into our fourth year. It takes time. The beginning of that, it was all about creating the awareness for this issue. And that started in 2018. And then also, and through that, creating that desire to make a change.
And so that was sort of our first 10 years of the project. Now we're moving into the next three years, which is all about giving these C-suite folks, the skills and knowledge to take action. So as I described in my book, how to be the change and how to make the change. So there's some really exciting things happening and I feel so good about it because if I can do something significant in the forest sector, there is no other sector that cannot be turned over.
Jackie: I love that, that's awesome. So, Kelly, let's talk about your experience in these male dominated sectors. What advice do you give to people who are underrepresented in moving into any sector or industry or business that you know, where there one, a few or the only what's your advice for them?
Kelly Cooper: Well, I think it's important to have a strong network of others like you to keep your resilience because it is wearing as this sort of, I would say social transformation occurs where I think in society in general, we're going through a massive social transformation.
So recognizing we're kind of going from one way of being to another, and we're in the middle of that. And this, this place in time, we need to have resilience on getting through as we make it to the end goal, that we all desire on this issue. So they you have to have that you have to have, allies, you know, inside senior allies would be a bonus, you know, creating that mentorship dynamic.
And in some organizations they have employee resources groups, which are really helpful for, you know, getting a voice, a larger collective voice to any issues that are of concern so that you can not only give input to senior management, but also senior management can benefit from your perspective as it relates to any product or service that they're trying to deliver more broadly to customers or clients.
Jackie: Great advice. Now, Kelly, you've worked around the world. Can you talk a little about global diversity? What are some of the differences in diversity and inclusion with the trends that you've seen and some of the places that you worked?
Kelly Cooper: Well, it's a whole different ball of wax. She could say around the world in terms of priorities, what I'm doing, I mean, we have these issues in Canada, too. I specifically don't focus on them. I focus in on the leadership side, but ending violence against women is I would say a primary global concern and issue that is it's definitely prevalent in Canada. People think, oh, it's better than Canada.
It's actually not very good at all. The amount of money we spend to invest in protection of women and, policies and trying to help women and in the, you know safe homes so that they can have somewhere to go is, is astronomically expensive. So again, we've got to get to the prevention of.
Globally, to your point, there are so many layers there on just that topic. Okay. So that would be sort of my first one. My second one would be economic empowerment. Like how do we get women in other countries to get that equal opportunity. Just not getting it right. So that's another one. And, and then the third way I would focus in on for me.
And it's not to make it the least, but it's the leadership and governance, you know? So getting women into political positions, safety. We're finding that I think in the states too, it's their stories where it's just not good. You know, women trying to get into these political positions to do enough, to make substantial influence as a woman politician, you have a different perspective, obviously on things. And they're getting treated very poorly and we've had some cases here where it's just unbelievably bad behavior and you're just like, how do people think this is an option? So again, globally, I think that's a global issue, that we, that we're facing.
Jackie: You know, I love those three points. So safety, economic, empowerment, and governance. That's, that's how you create, empowerment, just general empowerment for any group. And I think that's so important. Thanks for sharing that. Kelly, let's talk about your book, Lead the Change. Tell us all about it. What are we going to learn from it? Where can we get it?
Kelly Cooper: Okay. Well, the book came out of this large sector wide project I've been working on. I was telling you about. Once I was working through things and figuring out what are the key issues to address. And what I found was that the literature was very academic or it just wasn't written to the C-suite and they were the ones that we needed to reach. And so that's the Genesis of why or the impetus behind why I wrote the book and it came together pretty quickly for me, because it was very clear that they needed to understand the value proposition and they needed a blueprint for how to take action.
And that's essentially what the book's about. So I spent a lot of time going through the cost of diversity inclusion in terms of not the inaction, the cost of inaction. So when people don't do anything and you have to face a sexual harassment case, that's expensive, you know, so it's better to get ahead of it.
And then there's the cost of action, which is all that we hear about through large reports, like McKinsey and company on the business case. Right? So there's lots of information there. Better performance, greater innovation and agility, those sorts of things. So I, I clearly articulate that those two pieces.
I also go into the social benefits that aren't just there for women, but they're there for men and that they too can benefit from these, say work life balance policies. such that men could also go at four o'clock or three o'clock to their child's recital or hockey game or whatever it may be without being seen as jeopardizing their career advancement.
So that this is an issue that actually affects everyone, not just women. That's right, and as I keep going into this conversation, it's actually becoming more and more clear to me that this is actually a lot of an issue about men and we need to be creating a safe space. We talk about creating a safe space for women to raise their voice, but we really need to create a safe space for men to call out their peers for their bad behavior, because that isn't happening. So that's where I'm taking the conversation. Well nowadays with these executives. And it's very interesting to watch.
I mean, when connecting the dots on all the issues that we've had come out of hockey, you know, for her up like kids being harassed, Catholic church, Boy Scouts, these are three fundamentals that kids were being thrown in all the time. No, nobody understood there was any issue with it. But now years later, we're hearing all these horrible cases of how these boys were abused. Yeah so like, this is all part of the tapestry of the situation and conversation. And so there's a lot of things that have happened to these guys and that's where they're repeating the behaviors or they're emotionally distant or whatever it may be.
Getting to those root issues, I think as in a subtle way, but just unraveling that yarn and seeing, okay this is an everybody issue. So that helps to have them understand that everyone has a role to play. So the book, the book goes into that, I also share some of my own personal experiences of being harassed and with pay inequities.
And I weave those in. So those are some interesting stories for people to learn about. Yeah. Yeah. So that's generally it and where you can find it. Well, it's on Amazon. Of course. It's on my website, www.centereforsocialintelligence.ca You have to tell people at Centre with a Canadian spelling, C E N T R E.
Um, and also it's on in chapters, which is in our nationwide bookstore here in Canada. So rehab, he got into two chapters as well. It's also available in audio, not just in hard copy.
Jackie: Awesome. That is so exciting, Kelly. Let's talk about freetogrow.com.
Kelly Cooper: Okay, so freetogrowinforestry.ca is that forest sector wide initiative. I talked to you about briefly earlier in our chat here, and that was the in 2017. When I finished the women in mining national action plan, the forest sector approach me to see if I could do something similar for them. So instead of just focusing on private sector executives, as I did in mining, I decided to leverage that thinking into a bigger picture to include public private, not for profit, indigenous and academia representatives across the forest sector, across the country to work in, in unison on developing a new vision for this sector.
That included women and underrepresented groups and make them feel more welcomed and that they could belong. And from that, we created three pillars of action and they were all about first one was all about building the evidence-based. So what is the baseline data that we have here? And it was slim pickings, as you can imagine, it's like, there was hardly anything on the gender conversation, let alone indigenous or other underrepresented groups.
It was just like, it's very bare bones. Anyways, we collect the data. That's the building the evidence-based pillar. Second pillar is all about what we called fostering an inclusive culture, which is all about the skills and training required to shift the workplace culture. And then the third pillar was about repositioning the sector and through imaging and communications and branding so that it was more attractive to women and underrepresented groups to enter the sector and simultaneously communication efforts on demonstrating to men what their role is to create that welcoming environment.
Yeah, so those three pillars of activity have been underway like you say, for the last three years. And, that's been very successful if anyone's interested in learning about it, they can go to the freetogrowinforestry.ca website where there's everything we did to date research reports, tools that are available for anyone from any.
Applicable to any sector. They just happened to be developed through this initiative. My intention is to build a, a west and east coast regional leadership teams specific in the sector where they can learn together and sort of attract, like, understand the regional attraction for top talent, if they work together and they're all doing this on D&I, they're going to see results in a way that any one organization on its own may not get. So there's power in the collective sort of thing.
Jackie: That's amazing. And Kelly, let's talk a little bit about some of those pillars. So what's your advice for how we begin as leaders to foster an inclusive culture?
Kelly Cooper: It's really about the leaders being visible and frequently communicating key messaging to their people about the, their commitment. Starts with a commitment, but it has to be regularly announced and woven into all of their engagements with employees to demonstrate this is sustainable issue. This is actually not a, a whimsical notion. It's not like it's die at any time it's this is here to stay.
So there's, and then there's a number of things that, just on the day-to-day practices, like in role modeling, how to behave, you know, and being accountable for that behavior. There's so many things. I talk a lot about there needing to be a coordinated effort between the leadership, the communications and the HR at the most senior level, because that's the, those are the pillars right there that I just talked to you about.
It's leadership, demonstrating their commitment and doing things through visible and regular frequent actions, role modeling, communications, rebranding, the whole organization to demonstrate their culture is,, welcoming to all of these underrepresented groups and explaining the value of that and how it benefit to the organization as a whole.
And then the HR is all about collecting that data, but, there's a lot of, there's a lot of moving parts. I mean, it's hard to explain it all in a few seconds here, but all to say that there's, being that example, I guess, for how they conduct themselves in meetings, making sure that you can have meetings, for example, where.
They might perceive someone who is, let's say from Chinese background as being very quiet and disconnected in the meeting because they're not speaking up, but if they understand an inclusive culture mindset, they understand that that culture is not one to interrupt. It's disrespectful to do that. And so as a leader, you could be showing.
You're understanding and applying those inclusive leadership skills by saying, hey, at the beginning of the meeting, and I will go, if anyone has anything to say, please raise your hand. I'll make a note of your name. And I'll be sure to get you in, in the lineup as opposed to somebody dominating the airwaves and then thinking, oh, you know, that guy doesn't really have anything to add value.
And then he slowly becomes on irrelevant files. Meanwhile, he's actually has a lot of ideas if we just don't give him the airspace to do so. So those kinds of things, there's lots you could, you could apply.
Jackie: you know, that's such a great point, Kelly, because when, oftentimes when we think about diversity and inclusion, we're thinking about it in the context of our own society, but the global diversity and inclusion is it, is a very different thing and understanding, you know, that the customs and you know, the way that people work differently from country to country, to country and being able to incorporate that, and it's become so important because so many more businesses are international now. So understanding how to message, understanding how to lead, understanding how to, you know, to navigate meetings just as you were saying, is, is so important and such a, an important competency as we you know, become a more global society.
Kelly Cooper: Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, people don't go with, they have to lead with curiosity about different cultures and I think that's one of the things that I've been able to benefit from, from all my travels. Like I spent a lot of time backpacking in Africa, for example, when I was in my early twenties. You know, then I spent a lot of time in India.
I spent eight months in India working and living there before I was 30. But these experiences, they taught me that, you know, just learning about cultures, right? And so you inevitably start to normalize, which is what we have to do here, these various cultures and appreciate them for what they have to offer.
And enter into the conversation with curiosity so that we're learning, you know, we're not putting the onus on them to teach us. We're actually proactively engaging. And if we do that, you know, really it shouldn't be that hard to be respectful of, you know, and recognize they have a lot to offer in their own way, which is the whole essence of inclusive leadership.
Jackie: That's exactly right, exactly. Right. So, Kelly, I want to address, you know, you talked about your travels and backpacking through Africa and living in India before you were 30. Tell us how that impacted you or were there one or two stories that you could tell that that really Significantly made a difference in how you view the world by being able to travel so early, which is something that, that most of us don't get to do until much later in life.
Kelly Cooper: Well, I really was determined to do it. Like I, I saved money through my summers in school. And I had a mentor at the time I worked for, he really inspired me to go to Africa. I just fell in love with Africa. Like I literally tried to get a job as get this like a poaching, what's it. They're the people who prevent the poaching in Zimbabwe.
I went in and applied and I had complete reverse discrimination from what I would have at home right now. Like what are you nuts? You're a white woman, what do you know about animals in Africa? little lone guns who are going to the animals. But to your point, I guess, I don't know. I just fell in love with traveling.
Um, I definitely had the travel bug after that. And in fact, I cried all the way home to Canada. It was just like counterculture shock. I think for anyone who hasn't gone traveling and is listening today, it's important to understand that there's just so much to learn, you know, and if we, if we entered our lives with that sense of wonder, I guess I don't want to sound naive young or anything, but, but really just embracing diversity of thought of food of culture, there's just so much to benefit.
You know, it's just so beautiful. Like it's like it gets a mosaic in your life and I've been so blessed to have that, like that, that adventure, I guess, spirit to take me to all kinds of interesting places where I've been able to do either personally or professionally. And, and just go with that, this position to absorb everything like going to India was like, I tell my kids, it's like a full court press to the senses
it's like the scent, the sights, the sounds it's just overwhelming. You don't really digest it all until months later. And you're like, oh my God. You know, I used to have. I worked at the Tata Energy Research institute, which was one of the most prestigious energy research institutes for in Delhi and in India in general.
And I would walk to work, which was only a couple of blocks away. There would literally be three guys walking by, I don't know, two, three feet in front of me backwards. And just watching me staring at me like I was this novelty and a, and just so some crazy things like that, where I was like, what is going on here?
Like they, this was Delhi too. This wasn't like, this was the international place for, for India, but just, yeah, I, you know, this was, what year was that? Oh, year, 2000. So we're talking 21 years ago. And that was when we didn't have cell phones. We didn't have like; the internet was really just starting. So I was quite alone over there in that sense.
I did have my boyfriend with me at the time, but he wasn't walking with me to work to say you know, it was, it was interesting times. And I came back from that experience, just so grateful for Canada because you know, it was, it was such a contrast to my world. I really appreciated everything about being there, but I definitely had a new appreciation for what we have here in Canada. And I think that's another piece for when you do travel, you come home. You're like, gosh, that was so interesting. I appreciate more now what I have here than I did previous to that trip. I try and I try and get that message across to my children too. When you know, they kind of take things for granted, right.
Or they, they just assume everybody's doing the same things we are. And of course that's not the case. So. Like you need to get out there and you need to travel and see it for yourself. And when you come back, you feel empowered. And I think that was the thing that probably was the greatest takeaway from my travels is as a white woman, recognizing my privilege, you know, and turning that into multiple benefits for those beyond myself, seeing that I have a role, like I'm blessed to have a good education and blessed to live here in Canada.
Well, some people can't Kelly, why don't you go after the hardest sectors on this very difficult topic? What’s wrong with you? So well, I'm, I'm, I'm the right person for the job. I've come to realize my growing up years, you know, I learned way too much about how guys think thanks to my brothers. I had to develop a thick skin.
I had to learn to speak up for myself and all of that at the time I used to be so like, why am I in this family? But then now I kind of see how’s it’s been for a purpose, you know, and then I've had these travels understand these inclusive culture concepts, right. Again, applying it, and then being a white woman who is an ally for underrepresented people, for intersectionality and so forth, and being able to speak comfortably with these C-suite guys, like all of these pieces make me the right, in the right place at the right time to be doing what I'm doing.
So there's a lot there, but yeah, I think I'm in a, in a position to be empowering others through my leadership with this work. And I'm seeing that with the responses I get to my book. There's been a lot of receptivity to the book. A lot of guys in the C-suite positions in these forests companies are saying, Kelly, I'm recommending your book to my Canada, US peer group. This has really been helpful. And they're doing stuff like an it's amazing. It's just exciting.
Jackie: That's exciting. It is, absolutely. So Kelly, tell us something about you that not a lot of people know. I love to ask this question.
Kelly Cooper: Well, I have two teenagers. They're my pride and joy. in fact, I would say I got into this line of work because of them because I wanted to be more present in their lives. And when they get to teenagers, they really don't want you around. But I would say that being a mom is my number one love.
Yeah, if you call it a job, whatever. But I love being a mom, always did when they were little. I just, people would come over. They thought I had a little daycare going on, but I just loved it. And it's something I'm missing. You know, when you get older, you see them kind of diss you, as they say, it's like, I just want to go back in time.
But yeah, I would say that's probably what people probably see me as somebody who is. You know, strong personality or whatever, really focused on her career, but I have a boatload of energy and I do all kinds of projects all the time. It's kind of that give a job, a busy person sort of concept, but always boils down to my family's my #1.
And, I guess that would be something that people would definitely not know about me.
Jackie: That's beautiful, beautiful. And hang in there, Kelly, because once they go to college, they can really start to understand what they've got at home. And that relationship starts to, to sync back up again. So how old are your two?
Kelly Cooper: 19 and 17. And my daughter's the older and she is itching to move out anyway. So that's in play. And yeah, lots going on with my son. Let's just say that.
Jackie: That's the time. That's the time. I also have a 19-year-old in in college, so it's different, right? Every stage is, is different. So that's beautiful. Thanks for sharing that. Well, Kelly, what's the message that you want to leave with our listeners today.
Kelly Cooper: I think it would be to go for us with curiosity on this topic, instead of thinking that others are to educate you. If you have people at work who are different than you, make a point of asking them questions, you know, ask them for a recipe, something where you can boil it. Not, I don't want, I mean, that's not what men are going to do, but learn about what they, where they come from because those little bits of information you can start to engage them in conversation in a way that you wouldn't otherwise write in it.
And that's how you can break down these silos. I think a little bit, it's a simple thing, but I think it's useful for people as they, as they maneuver through this conversation, people are very I think they think this topic is very murky. Like there's a bunch of pitfalls. It's like snakes and ladders or something.
It's like, they don't really know how to operate, but you know, there are like in my book, there's a lot of stuff that gives tips on creating that knowledge base and, and so that you have confidence to operate in this conversation and, and really move the needle forward because our society needs. to your earlier point, we had a melting pot of cultures, and it's getting more and more every day.
So, you know, we got to get on board. We can't be doing any kind of us and them sort of mentality. Like let's got it. That's the history books stuff. So the more that you can get ahead, like get into that head space, the more you you're going to shape a positive future for us all.
Jackie: Well said. And Kelly, how can people connect with you?
Kelly Cooper: Well, I'm very active on LinkedIn. So I highly recommend people reaching out to me there because I'm always posting things. And of course my website, www.centerforsocialintelligence.ca. Those are the, probably the two windows I'm also on Instagram, and Twitter, but not as active as I am on LinkedIn. So,
Jackie: Well, Kelly, thank you so much for spending some time with me today. I really enjoyed this conversation and love the things that you're doing. It's so interesting. So thank you for sharing a bit about yourself and what you do with our listeners.
Kelly Cooper: Well, I appreciate you having me here today, Jackie, and I hope it's been of use to the listeners.
Jackie: Absolutely. Thank you, Kelly.
Kelly Cooper has been involved in sustainable development her entire career, even representing Canada at the United Nations on issues involving sustainability and environment. Twelve years ago, she started to think about the social impact of sustainability. But what does that mean, and how does social intelligence affect organizational sustainability? Tune in to today’s episode to learn more.
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