Nina Godiwalla on Speaking Up for Corporate America Minority Workers

In Chapter 9 of 22 in her 2011 Capture Your Flag interview, author Nina Godiwalla answers "How are You Learning to Adapt Your Message to Reach Broader Audiences?"  Godiwalla spends considerable time on the public speaking circuit while promoting her book.  By listening to audience stories and challenges, Godiwalla accepts responsibility to be the voice of the unspoken and unheard on workplace diversity issues in corporate America.  Godiwalla is the author of "Suits: A Woman on Wall Street". She is also a public speaker on workplace diversity and founder and CEO of Mindworks, where she teaches mind-based stress reduction techniques to help organizations improve employee wellbeing.  Godiwalla holds an MBA from the Wharton School of Business, an MA in Creative Writing from Dartmouth University and her BBA from the University of Texas at Austin. 


Erik Michielsen:  How are you learning to adapt your message to reach broader audiences?

Nina Godiwalla:  I’m less worried about broader audiences because I feel like I didn’t realize how broad my group would be.  What I want to do is have a message that’s more focused.  That’s become more important to me.  Right now, I get invited by all different kinds of institutes and organizations that I love.  I love speaking at the literary – from literary festivals to woman in leadership to Mind Science Foundation, I mean literally I’ve been invited so I have the broad audience and now what my focus is, is giving messages that are impactful and trying to find out what it is that’s my passion – through this process, I didn’t know, I mean I wrote a book and I didn’t know what it – I didn’t know that I had a message that I specifically want to get out there.  I didn’t know what that message was and through all of these events and all these presentations and these speaking events, I’ve started to realize I’m really passionate about diversity. 

I’m really passionate about giving a voice to people that don’t necessarily have a voice and I’m in a place of power to do that.  I used to be that person that was at the bottom of a company that came from the public school background, the woman where there were no women, the minority that didn’t – there weren’t a whole lot of minorities and the attitude is is a little bit of, you don’t necessarily get an opinion at the table because you are trying to prove yourself.  You are sitting there and you don’t belong and everyone around you knows that you don’t belong and they want you to do well and they want you to succeed but you’re not in a place to say, “Hey I don’t agree with anything you all are doing and I – actually, you know, what you said was offensive and this is…”  It’s not – you’re still that little person they’re trying to make it like them and I think I’m out of that.  I’m kind of out of that mindset and unfortunately, I think a lot of people that are in several different corporate cultures feel that way.  Like, “I don’t get to have that.  I don’t get to say what I want to say all the time.” 

So, I think of myself as being that voice and saying the – I mean they’re not even controversial things but things that people would like to say and I get so many emails and you know things that people say to me afterwards of, “I’m so glad you said it because I can’t say it.”  Because if you say that while you’re part of a corporation, it’s almost like you’re not being part of that team.  You’re not, you know, “Why don’t – do you think we don’t treat you well?”  And it’s not that they don’t treat you well, it’s just that sometimes I don’t agree with the things that go on around me but I don’t always have the, you know, the comfort to say it because I don’t want to be put on the side as that that person that was too vocal about things I didn’t agree with.  So I see myself as their voice if you will.