A conversation between Sophia Chung and Chelsea Doub

Two colleagues on piloting an intercommunity dialogue between McKinsey Black Network and Asians at McKinsey
A conversation between Sophia and Chelsea
We strive to provide individuals with disabilities equal access to our website. If you would like information about this content we will be happy to work with you. Please email us at: McKinsey_Website_Accessibility@mckinsey.com

SOPHIA CHUNG: Chelsea, I don't even know if I remember exactly the origin story. I have been interested in storytelling. I reached out to you a couple months ago. And then that kind of evolved into this effort of wanting to share just a range of stories.

00:00
Audio

And to get the range of stories and the intersectionalities that we have in dialogue with each other, right? At the time what I was thinking is, like, "Oh, let's record the stories."

But I think what's compelling is actually the stories in dialogue with each other. I mean, the stories individually are important as well. But I think there's a certain community building that gets added onto it. So I kind of put it on the back burner. Then, I think, Chelsea, I think I saw a post you made maybe on Slack?

CHELSEA DOUB: Yeah, I posted it in Slack. I feel like we kept going back and forth between Black Lives Matter, Stop Asian Hate, Black Lives Matter, Stop Asian Hate in our Slack channel. And there was a point in time in which there was this incident in New York in which a Black man had attacked an Asian woman or an Asian man.

And that was, like, triggering for me. So it was, like, I feel like I'm doing what I can to educate myself and education my community. And then, like, this happens and you're, like, oh man.

SOPHIA CHUNG: It feels like such a gut punch.

CHELSEA DOUB: Yeah, exactly.

SOPHIA CHUNG: Because you know how it's gonna be perceived, even if you are clear on the bigger picture. That feels like a gut punch I think to both communities. It's so damaging in both perspectives. I can hear the internet comments. I don't have to click on any to read. It's infuriating.

CHELSEA DOUB: Yeah, exactly. I had this realization where it was just, like, there's no reason why we shouldn't be communicating with one another. And then simultaneously I'm working on our inclusion accelerator with McKinsey Academy.

And we had spoken with a professor who specializes in intergroup dialogue. And, like, a light bulb went off in my head: "Asians and Black people can talk together. We can have conversations with one another. That's a real thing that can actually happen. Especially in this remote environment. Let's do this."

I typed it in Slack. More people were, like, "Yeah, this person should be involved, that person should be involved. Let's do it." And we finally got down to, like, a group of people who had very minimal capacity to bring it to life. But we were able to in a way that was substantive.

We teetered with different ideas with, like how many people. Who should it be for? Are we gonna do a lecture with history behind it? We had some problem-solving sessions around what we wanted our outcomes or objectives to consist of.

We realized that it just came down to being able to have those intentional conversations with one another because that had never really happened. And it doesn't typically happen, right? I had seen it on Clubhouse. Someone was hosting a conversation and it made me think, "Why can't we do that in a corporate setting? There's no reason why we should have borders around affinity groups of what people can communicate with and what they shouldn't be communicating about."

SOPHIA CHUNG: Yeah, and I've seen it in religious settings.

CHELSEA DOUB: Yeah, interfaith.

SOPHIA CHUNG: I think Chelsea when I saw that it just sparked a lot of ideas because even something as simple as bringing communities together and having a conversation, can be healing.

And productive. And also just really a place to find community. It actually requires a ton of nuance behind the scenes of setting up the spaces. Of getting people comfortable. Especially in a corporate setting because we might've just jumped off a call with a client. Or problem-solved something very specific. And to switch gears and then also be able to then switch back is something that requires a fair amount of intention.

I was really pleasantly surprised by the level of commitment of people who showed up and said, "This really matters to me." I'm going, even it's not at a convenient time. There's no convenient time. But I'm gonna make the time. It was this sort of outpouring of joyful community. I don't know how else to say it, but I remember when I hung up, like, feeling a little empty.

CHELSEA DOUBBut it was cool though 'cause we could sit in that possibility for that hour and 15 minutes. I don't think we often have the opportunity to really rest in possibility. We focus on what has happened and the trauma that accompanies that without being able to think of, or having the capacity to think about what could be if we were able to overcome whatever circumstance that is.

So yeah, I totally feel you in terms of all the happy feelings and all of the good feelings afterward. And it's fuel, right? 'Cause it brings promise to our own understanding of what's happened in the world.

Like, even if something else were on the news today, I have confidence that there are people in my organization who are committed to change. And I know that I can reach out to them if should I want to pursue some type of endeavor with activism or social justice, right?

SOPHIA CHUNG: Right.