Having practised law for almost 20 years, Rina Lynch is now a Diversity and Inclusion expert. Rina took some time out to tell us how challenging it can be to make people see their own biases, and why money will always find you if you do the best you can in your field.
How did you end up sitting where you are today?
Having practised law for nearly 20 years (both in the public and private sectors), I realised that most organisations had a dominant culture which required - directly or indirectly - every person to adapt. As a result, leaders often failed to realise the full potential of their colleagues, leaving untapped much talent, dedication and commitment.
Having experienced this first-hand and learned how to break the corporate mould, I started sharing my experience and knowledge with other women, helping them attain sustainable career satisfaction by contributing fully and authentically. This was the catalyst behind Voice At The Table; we help organisations tap into the diversity of their people by developing inclusive behaviours in teams and leaders.
What gets you excited about your industry?
I work in Diversity and Inclusion and love the fact that it's ever-evolving.
Companies are starting to recognise the value of diversity to their future business - from having to tap into the needs of their varied consumers to attracting and retaining the talent of tomorrow. This makes my work exciting, as I'm helping them shape their future. But it is not without its challenges! My main challenge is to make people see what we don't usually see - the biases that lurk within every one of us. How do we mitigate them in the work context? This is the ultimate question for every client I work with.
What's the best advice anyone ever gave you?
I received two pieces of advice from the same person that have stuck with me throughout my life:
1. Don't think about how to become a leader. If you want to lead, opportunities will always present themselves, and you will step into them naturally.
2. Don't chase money. Just do the best you can in your area of work and the money will find you.
This advice liberated me in that it gave me permission to follow my heart and my instincts and lead me to do what I enjoy immensely every day.
What, or who inspires you?
I have many role models; from people who break the mould by speaking from their heart - Brene Browne, Simon Sinek, Adam Grant - to everyday people (women in particular) who dare to keep going in the face of challenge and hardship.
The thing that inspires most is creative thinking. I absolutely love it when people stand out for their original thinking and perspective on our society and world. This includes anyone from David Attenborough to Greta Thunberg to Michael Macintyre to Jacinda Ardern; these people influence the direction of our society's travel by acting on their convictions, and they do it with originality, flair and creativity.
How do you keep up to speed with what's happening in the industry?
There's a lot of learning in this space. My main focus is around human behaviours and how to influence it, so I read as much as I can about that. I like books on the nudge theory and others that delve into how people think and act as a result.
I also read books that explain to us why we do the things we do - including Philippa Perry's 'The book you wish your parents had read'. Perry's book is predominantly about how our subconscious and our behaviour influences relationships, not just how to raise children. Everyone should read it!
I also read publications on D&I from the Harvard Business Review, the Wharton School of Business, the World Economic Forum and publications written by other D&I experts.
What was the most challenging project or assignment you've worked on?
The most challenging assignment I ever had was to convince a group of senior executives to change their behaviours in order to promote more women to the highest level of their organisation. The dilemma was that while everyone was in agreement that they wanted more executive women, they really didn't want to do what they had to do. For them to achieve this objective, they had to look at themselves in the mirror and come to grips with the fact that, while experts in their field, they didn't know much about people management - especially women.
It takes a lot of humility and vulnerability to embrace 'Inclusion' - it's not an easy task. After I worked with them, they didn't want to believe the evidence I had shared with them. It took another year before they were willing to start to shift their behaviour.
I want to clarify that, while this was the most difficult challenge I faced, it isn't uncommon and it's part of the difficult journey we all must make to be more inclusive towards those who are different from us.
If you could start your life again, what would you do differently?
I struggle with this question. Every time I think of something, I second-guess myself - would it have been the right thing to do at the time?
I think our life's journey takes a certain route for a reason - we have to learn from our own experience. That's why children and young adults don't listen to good advice - they don't know what they don't know. They have to learn from experience - as I did and probably everyone else.
I think the best thing we can do is learn from our experience and change our future path. That said, if anyone is willing to listen, my 2-pence-worth of advice would be to try to figure out what you care about in life as early as possible and then pursue it. I always envied people who had a passion - like music or art - and knew exactly what they wanted to do with their lives. Like many others, I had to find out by learning about myself.
You finish work today and step outside the office to find a lottery ticket that ends up winning $10 million. What would you do?
Oh my goodness - I dare not imagine it! Wow, what would I do?!
Well, in the pre-COVID days I'd say I'd travel for a year; see as much as I can of the world. Then I'd figure out how to make the money grow and support a good cause. Quite a boring response, I'm afraid.
How do you switch off after a day at work?
I try to do something that doesn't require thinking. Watch whatever has caught my interest on one of the digital services, listen to an audiobook, play tennis. Something that doesn't allow my brain to wander off towards looming deadlines and unfinished projects. I do also have a family so much of my time is spent catching up with them.
If you had one wish for the future of your industry, what would it be?
Not to exist anymore. If my sector is made redundant, then hopefully it's because it's no longer needed and our organisations are as diverse and inclusive as we can imagine them.
How should people connect with you?
You can connect with me via www.voiceatthetable.com.