A Winning Game Plan for Recruiting and Retaining Diverse Talent
In this episode of On Record PR, producer and guest host Jennifer Simpson Carr goes on record with WNBA legend, vocalist, actress, model and spokesperson, Kym Hampton.
More About Kym Hampton
As a professional basketball player, Kym was drafted as the number four pick in the 1997 WNBA Elite Draft and played three seasons for the New York Liberty. Before joining the WNBA, Kym did a 12-year professional stint overseas, including Spain, Italy, France and Japan. After a 15-year professional playing career, she retired from basketball in 2000.
During Kym’s WNBA career and since then, she has become a plus-size model in fashion and cosmetics. She is an original Cover Girl Queen Collection model featured in a nation-wide commercial. Kym has been featured in magazines such as GLAMOUR, ESSENCE and other publications and is also a spokesperson for the NBA, WBA, and New York Liberty.
As if that doesn’t keep her busy enough, singing has always been a love of Kym’s, and she has also had the opportunity to grace the television and film world during guest appearances on the “Cosby Show,” “Rosie,” NBA TV, The Bobby Flay “Throw Down” and celebrity “Wheel of Fortune.” Her film experience includes “JuWanna Mann” and “She Hate Me.”
A graduate of Arizona State University, she received her bachelor’s degree in the theater. Still, she will go down in the university’s history book as one of the most decorated hoop players to wear a Sun Devil’s jersey.
Jennifer Simpson Carr: I’m very honored to welcome Kym Hampton to the show today. Thank you so much for joining me.
Kym Hampton: Thank you so much for having me.
Jennifer Simpson Carr: It’s been awesome to reconnect with you. We had the chance to see each other a few years ago at Madison Square Garden. You got to meet my daughter, and I got to see how big your daughter had grown. But it’s been fun the last couple of weeks reconnecting and chatting with you about a lot of fun topics, and some serious topics that we’re going to get into today and hopefully make some meaningful impact and change. Before we get into that…
How has everything been going this year with the pandemic and with quarantining? What have you been doing to keep busy?
It was an adjustment period. I’m a motivational speaker, and I remember, amongst other things when, the pandemic first started, it was the first week or second week of March. I had three speaking engagements lined up for that week alone. That was the week that they started shutting everything down. It was so scary to look at the numbers of people dying around the world, and look at the number of cases. I live in New York and was at the epicenter of it. It was scary trying to go to grocery stores, not knowing much about this whole pandemic thinking, “Can I touch anything?” It was a lot to learn.
It was also an opportunity to have some wonderful times through that period– having the chance to spend more time with family, learning to be creative, bringing out the old school games, and putting together puzzles, watching movies, and, of course, eating more.
It also taught some resourcefulness. You had to start thinking outside of the box, especially in my industries. Again, I’m a motivational speaker, I’m a singer, and I do clinics and camps. Everything I do involves people. When the pandemic hit, all those activities shut down, so I had to reinvent myself. I took a class to teach me how to be a motivational speaker via Zoom or other platforms and things like that. It’s been good learning about lighting — making sure your lighting is clear. I also learned about looking into the camera directly and not looking at your image as I’m talking to you. This way you can see me looking at you. I’ve gotten some excellent jobs from this platform. It’s about continuing to grow. I think the best thing that has come from it is it’s made people look at their lives, reevaluate where things were, how they want them to be and, moving forward again, setting goals, and understanding, “Well, I can’t continue to do that.” There have been some good, and some challenging times, shall I say?
Jennifer Simpson Carr: I believe that if it challenges you, it changes you. It’s impressive to hear that you’ve learned some new skills on the computer for interviewing online and that you’ve transitioned your motivational speaking into the virtual world. That’s a great outcome. There’s some other good news I’d love to talk to you about, which is:
Rising Coaches recently announced the launch of its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Alliance, where you were recently named vice president for women’s basketball. Can you tell our listeners what the organization is and what this appointment means to you?
It’s a membership-based community of coaches. They have between 1,200 to 1,300 coaches who are members now. It’s comprised of coaches from bitties if you’ve never had any experience, all the way to the major five colleges. It’s an organization that also that helps you connect with coaches. They host clinics, they have all types of conferences, and they have a podcast. It’s about developing coaching skills, developing mindsets, guiding them, and sharing information to cultivate who they are as coaches. It’s some great stuff. I mean you can go in and find out some wonderful news.
I was quite honored when they started this organization because they understood that most of their members are white. With Black Lives Matter, all the things that are going on, and all the civil unrest that’s been happening, they understand and felt that they had to do something to be a part of the change. They created this Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Alliance and hired Darryl Jacobs as the executive director. Adam Gordon, the CEO, and Darryl got together and decided that they needed to hire a couple of other people, like the vice presidents of men’s and women’s basketball. That’s how they selected Brian Burton and me.
Collectively, we’ve been coming up with various initiatives, like “Next Up,” which is an initiative that helps assistant coaches prepare for head coaching positions. They must go through rigorous training with a headhunter. She places head coaches into new jobs. She’s conducting the training, and they learn how to interview. Many times, coaches lose the job opportunity because they are unequipped to have a good interview. There was another initiative that was marketing, and it was teaching coaches how to market themselves. So, we’re just trying to come up with a lot of things.
I’m going to be meeting with women’s groups such as the women of color organization, which is a minority group for women of color who are already head coaches, but I want to talk to them. I’d also like to speak with African-American women, coaches to hear of their struggles and what they need or they feel it needs to be addressed and how we can better support them to create initiatives, and help them with their plight as well.
There are so many other groups and so many other organizations. There’s the Black Coaches Association, the Jewish Coaches Association and the Latino Association of Basketball Coaches. There are so many minority groups out there and we’re just hoping to help.
Then there are the white coaches, who we’re trying to teach and explain what life has been like for Black coaches. When you are looked over for a position you might be qualified for and you don’t know why is one example. Many people of color lack the opportunity to have those positions. We’re just hoping to create change in that way.
I feel honored because although I’ve only had one coaching job, I realized I didn’t want to coach. I only wanted to be able to help. I’ve played for a plethora of coaches, and that’s been my life, so I want to help and give back somehow.
Jennifer Simpson Carr: That’s so exciting. Congratulations. I love the Next Up program that you’re working on. I think it ties in well to the conversation we’re having today.
As you and I were talking about the podcast’s goal and how athletics fits in with the law or doesn’t fit in if you will. We identified some similarities in statistics about the lack of racial diversity in leadership, both in sports and in law. I want to talk about these statistics for a minute because I think the comparison is important for our listeners.
An article in July 2020, cited that of the 1,073 head coaches in the NCAA sports at the “Power Five” programs, only 7.4% are black. For our listeners, the Power Five are the top conferences in the NCAA. They are the ACC, Big 10, Big 12, PAC 12, and SEC.
Similarly, in law, an article published only one month earlier in June 2020, cited that of the 238 large law firms surveyed by the Minority Corporate Counsel Association, Black lawyers made up only 4.8% of law firm associates and only 1.9% of equity partners. Associates were more junior attorneys at the firm. Equity attorneys and senior attorneys are more senior, so I would relate those partners to head coaches or the leaders of their respective teams within a law firm for purposes of this conversation.
Kym, you and I talked about the fact that those are low numbers in two very different and distinct industries. As we’ve discussed in previous conversations, it’s not because of the lack of talent out there.
What is contributing to such a low representation of people of color in these programs and organizations?
I think it starts with the people who go out and recruit. People feel more comfortable recruiting people who look like them, are like them, or are like their children. Many people in positions like the partners, CEOs, and presidents may not have been exposed to very talented, bright, energetic people of color who want these positions. A lot of people in these positions are out of touch.
They’re used to and comfortable with the organizations that go out and recruit. It’s like that old saying “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” Just leave it as it is. I don’t think people are looking to think outside of the box. For me, it’s the opposite. You must go out and create programs within your organization. You need to bring in diversity and inclusion organizations to teach your people how to think about these things, teach them how the world is changing and how to see and view people in a different light.
Create programs like internships to teach kids who are people of color or women how to think and how to be, and how to succeed in that industry. We could go out in the community and create programs, go to boys’ and girls’ clubs and create afterschool programs to help kids with their homework and push them in areas that might prepare them for law, or get them thinking about what a law degree would be about, and things like that. And creating mock trials and discuss how to research and how to think. I don’t think people aren’t doing that. I feel many people of color would just never be looked at, because again, if you think about the history, TV portrays African-Americans as thugs, poor, or lazy.
If you stop and look at all the riding and looting and stuff like that, that went on because of the Black Lives Matter, it was prime time news. And then you look at what happened in Georgia, and the courthouses. They didn’t show any of that. I think it starts with honesty with everyone that there is an issue with racism and it’s systemic. When you think about it, Black people were brought over here to be slaves, and would’ve probably still been slaves much longer if the Southerners would have had it their way. I think we have to start breaking away from the mindset and understand that people are just people.
I think everyone just needs to look at people the same way. There’s good, bad, ugly, and lazy in every race of people. But I think people want to know that they matter and everyone wants to live up to something and do something great and matter in this world. When you believe in people, that’s one thing. For example, I knew that coach Simpson, your mom, was tough on me. She was probably tougher on me than anyone, but at the end of the day, she had my best interest at hand. And so that was what made me stick with it. Tough love is sometimes challenging.
It’s a hard pill to swallow, but when you know where it’s coming from that, and the intention is good, people will rise to the occasion. All companies on all levels, coaches in every industry, miss that humanistic touch of just believing in people.
Jennifer Simpson Carr: Absolutely. I think that it’s the right thing to do but looking at the success of different organizations, the Fortune 500 and various boards of directors, studies show diverse groups of individuals placed together are more successful than people who have similar thought patterns, look and sound the same, and have similar backgrounds. That collective experience just helps people succeed in individual projects as an organization. We all benefit from sitting across the table and around the table from people who have different backgrounds and look and sound different from we do, because it makes us better as individuals and helps each other become better. I think that’s an amazing perspective. As we think about leaders of these organizations, athletic directors, general managers, CEOs, partners, regardless of the type of business:
How do you recommend leaders start to change the culture within an organization? How do we begin to communicate and show the value of recruiting and retaining diverse individuals with different backgrounds and different perspectives as a way to move an organization and a group of people forward?
First, it’s about creating change within ourselves. That’s where you must start. I think each company leader out there, in every industry, it starts with them and then it just trickles down. Everyone has to be willing to have a different viewpoint, to be open and to learn. I think that they have to learn what the struggle has been. A lot of people are so out of touch. They don’t know what goes on, but I think it’s about putting yourself in the shoes of other people. Just imagine, if you’re the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, and you’re likely going to be white. Your son was driving down the street and a police officer pulled him over and pulled him out of the car and held a gun at his head or God forbid, shot and killed him. Imagine what that would be like. Imagine arriving home to find that out in a phone call.
Again, everyone needs to be willing to open up, see things for what they truly are, and then just work from there. I don’t know why, but so many people don’t even want to have this conversation. People see these innocent people being shot and killed, but they don’t say anything because it doesn’t affect their lives. Maybe it just starts them thinking, “Gosh, is this right? Or is this wrong? And what can I do?” It takes everyone willing to be honest enough with yourself and then find some way that works for you too, to be able to create change. I think it’s having meetings within companies on how can we be a part of the change? How do you feel about the change? Indeed, every company might have their quota of one or two people of color or their quota of women. Still, I think it’s listening more to those people. And again, bringing in people who are professionals to help you learn to diversify.
Jennifer Simpson Carr: Something that society hasn’t talked about enough is the burden that people of color carry. For those of us who are white and have children, we go to work, we don’t have the burden of hoping our children can safely drive from point A to point B. I mean, there are many stresses and burdens that people of color carry. They have to go on with their lives every day and go to work and perform and show up and be their best selves while carrying a burden that some of us may never experience. I think to your point of having those conversations, opening a dialogue internally to be respectful and mindful and understanding of what your colleagues may be going through is a critical tipping point for businesses.
Kym Hampton: You build relationships with the people that you work with. To be able to hear some of the horror stories that people have had to live through, and that’s your friend, so you have compassion. That’s where it starts. Creating an opening, to hear the stories in hopes of creating compassion that can steer you in the right direction to want to do something or to see, or just to view people of color in a different light. And when I say people of color, I mean seeing all minorities in a different light.
Jennifer Simpson Carr: Say we get to the point where leaders have made that cultural shift. They’ve dug down deep; they’ve identified within themselves. That’s where it starts– creating an opening. And hearing the stories to develop compassion that can steer you in the right direction to want to do something or see, or just to view people of color in a different light. What they feel is the right way to proceed in their organization, their business, their professional sports team, or their collegiate sports team. It’s not just about simply recruiting people of color, women or diverse people to bring that to the organization, but you have to proactively retain them, right? Not hope that they’ll stay because now they’re here.
What can leaders do to provide the resources and opportunities to retain diverse talent to have longevity and a fulfilling career within an organization?
I mentioned this a little bit earlier. Those coaches and those teachers that pour into their individuals, that they influence if you pour into people and they will want to stay. It’s like that quote Richard Branson said, “You want to train people well enough so they can leave. But you want to treat people well enough that they don’t want to.” It’s a quote that basically says you prepared me to go out and have a successful life. But I find that I want to stay because I want to be around the positivity.
I want to be here because this has been such an excellent experience. The leaders of companies have to be so involved and good with the people that work for them, so they want to stay. It has to start with upper management. It must start at the top.
It’s kind of like, building an NBA team or building any type of team, but we’ll say an NBA team where you have your star player. In this law firm, the star player might be a white kid, for example, but you have to start building a team around him. And it should be a diverse team. You can’t have only one person that can shoot. You need to have people that can play defense. You need people who are great communicators on the court. You need quick people. You need so much to build a championship team. That’s when they think about their companies. They have to think along the terms, of, “What do I need?”
If I want to reach people and have them build our clientele, we have to have a diverse group of people. We have to think about how we can give our clients the best that we have to offer. That’s making sure you recruit the best, not because of what their skin looks like, but because they are the best.
Jennifer Simpson Carr: I love that. And I think you’re right. In many organizations, businesses, mainly clients, are looking around the table. They want to see that you have a diversity of perspective and the diversity of background. Because again, those teams show that they need to bring forth the best solutions and the most substantial presentations, because it’s a group of people who have different experiences and perspectives.
What resources would you recommend for leaders who want to learn more about diversity and recruiting and retention to expand their teams and to change the culture within their organization?
The best thing that anyone can do is seek a company with strong diversity, equity, and inclusion statement. It’s about creating an internal understanding and teaching people how to move within the company and how to have a diverse mindset regarding what you’re doing. Hopefully, it’s not only in the workplace but maybe individuals will take that home with them.
It’s not a one-time deal, it’s something that’s continuous, and people continue to learn. You need to live it. You need to breathe it.
Jennifer Simpson Carr: That’s excellent advice. We’re laying the foundation of what diversity, equity, and inclusion mean at your organization, because certainly we see those words often, and this year, probably more than ever in the past, but what does that mean? D, E, and I, and what that means at our organization versus another because it can look very different in different places, and it’s not one size fits all. It needs to be a part of the fabric of what your organization is, what it wants to stand for and what it offers to clients and the people that work there. Kym, I love our conversation. I could talk to you all day about this and so many other things.
Are there any parting words that you want to share with our listeners before we wrap up?
If you want to be your authentic best self, find yourself and other people. I think we need to have empathy for people and step outside of our comfort zones, to be able to understand what life is and not life as you know it, but life in general.
Jennifer Simpson Carr: I love that advice, and I’m sure that our listeners will appreciate that.
Thank you so much for joining me today, Kym. Where can people learn more about you or get in touch after the show? Well
Kym Hampton: I have a website, KymHampton.com. I have Instagram that’s I am Kym Hampton. On social media you can find me one Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
Thank you again.
But more than anything, if this year has taught us anything it’s just to learn to love a little bit more in general. We’ve all been through a very trying year in 2020. My hope is that this new year is going to be a lot better for everyone. Strive to be your best self. Go into this new year with the mission of becoming your best self all around.
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