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Michele Lanza

Founder of Work Wider

After 20+ years of HR experience, Michele knows the value a company realizes when employees can bring their full selves to work. And as a member of a number of the Work Wider communities, she is committed to creating support systems for underrepresented communities.

Well before founding Work Wider, a keen interest in innovative strategies led Michele to develop the ground-breaking online blind selection process for entry-level talent work at Ketchum called LaunchPad that was featured in Fast Company.

Michele is also passionate about deploying recruiting processes that foster diversity and inclusion. She has experienced firsthand the value it creates for teams and businesses.


Finish this sentence: I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for ________________.

All the lived experiences I’ve had, the friends I’ve made along the way, the tremendous support from family, and lots and lots of hard work.


 

What qualities do you look for when hiring someone on your team? What qualities do you avoid?

When hiring I always look for curiosity, hunger, and a willingness to learn and grow from mistakes.

I avoid assholes :). I would take someone with less experience, fewer skills over someone who is full of themselves, any day of the week.


White people need to work really hard to create a new structure, a new system, that works for everyone.”


Is there a time when you were told to change yourself, or hide some aspect of yourself to be accepted or successful in a situation? How did you react?

As a person with a learning difference, I was hesitant to come clean about my challenges. However, I’m pretty sure anyone on the receiving end of a typo-filled email or occasional backward or inverted word knew something was up. In fact, my spelling was mentioned in almost every performance review, until I decided it was time to be more forthcoming and started sharing my dyslexia more openly. Once I was honest about my disability, I felt a sense of relief.

I also am coming clean about my age. I’m a 54-year-old proud woman who is working really hard to be forthcoming about her age. Having worked in the communications industry for a million years, age didn’t always feel like my friend. There were many occasions when I felt like I had to hide my age. Ageism is real and needs to be talked about, addressed, and corrected.


Which three books, podcasts or news sources do you think everyone should read? Why?

I think everyone should read the content on Work Wider! We curate content every day! Check it out.

I personally read a ton of articles. I start every day catching up on the news and current events. I try really hard to read news from different sources to make sure I am getting well-balanced information.

I also consistently watch Fareed Zakaria GPS– I think he does a great job of providing a global perspective on world events and public affairs.

Finally, I think everyone should read Glenn Singelton’s work. Full disclosure, Glenn is a Partner at Work Wider, however, I’d be telling you to read his work even if he wasn’t. Glenn’s work is important.


Diversity, equity and inclusion is front and center right now. How do you express your commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in your personal and professional life?

I have been formally focused on DE&I work for the last 8+ years. While at Ketchum, I served in a leadership role on the DE&I team. And then three-plus years ago I founded Work Wider. I’ve been asked many times, why as a white woman I created Work Wider.

My answer is simple, I believe that white people created a structure, a systemic system that doesn’t work for everyone. The system is broken. We need to change that. White people need to work really hard to create a new structure, a new system, that works for everyone.

To address the issue head-on, I founded Work Wider, an inclusively diverse professional community, bringing together the workforce needed by the workplaces of today. However, I am not building this community on my own. I am the spark of Work Wider, but the community is being built and created by so many amazing people. In particular, Glenn Singleton is bringing his brilliance, his heart, and his passion to creating the professional community, that is Work Wider.


What do you find most frustrating about corporate DEI initiatives and what’s one tangible step every employer should take to help build a more representative organization?

Companies need to talk less and listen and do more. Companies need to understand that creating a culture where every employee feels a sense of belonging takes work. It isn’t the result of a single action but the result of dedicated effort to build a workplace that genuinely supports everyone, every day, throughout their careers.

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Michele Lanza
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