Aug. 23, 2022

187 [BEST OF] Leading with Purpose and Designing the Future of Collaboration and Work with Gensler Co-CEO Diane Hoskins | Greater Washington DC DMV Changemaker

187 [BEST OF] Leading with Purpose and Designing the Future of Collaboration and Work with Gensler Co-CEO Diane Hoskins | Greater Washington DC DMV Changemaker

In this episode of Partnering Leadership, Mahan Tavakoli speaks with Diane Hoskins. Diane Hoskins serves as co-CEO and chair of the board of directors for Gensler. As an MIT-trained architect and an MBA from The Anderson School at UCLA, Diane's career has touched architecture, design, real estate, and business. She has broad responsibility for running the company, which spans over 6,000+ employees across the globe.


Diane Hoskins shared how her upbringing impacted her professional and leadership choices as well as leadership lessons from her career at Gensler and the challenges of leading Gensler through the pandemic. Diane Hoskins also addressed how Gensler focuses on purpose by aligning actions, big and small. Finally, Diane shared insights on rethinking collaborative spaces and the future of work.


Some Highlights:

- Diane Hoskins on choosing MIT and becoming an architect

- Why Diane Hoskins decided to go to business school 

- How business and architecture connect

- Diane Hoskins on leading people to collaborate on a purpose-driven mission

- The impact of the design of workspaces on work performance

- The influences of technology on workplace experience 

- Diane Hoskins on purpose-driven leadership

- Future of work: connecting and bringing people back together through renegotiating and reimagining the work environment 




Also Mentioned:
- Linda Rabbit, Founder and chairman of rand* construction corporation (Listen to Linda’s episode on Partnering Leadership here)



Connect with Diane Hoskins:
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dianehoskins

Gensler: https://www.gensler.com/people/co-ceos



Connect with Mahan Tavakoli:

MahanTavakoli.com

https://www.linkedin.com/in/mahan/

More information and resources available at the Partnering Leadership Podcast website: 

PartneringLeadership.com


Transcript

Mahan Tavakoli: 

Welcome to Partnering Leadership. I'm really excited this week to be welcoming Diane Hoskins. Diane serves as a co-CEO of Gensler, along with Andy Cohen. She's also the chair of the board of directors for Gensler. Diane has contributed significantly to the growth of Gensler over the years. At this point, 6,000 people in 50 countries, serving clients in more than 120 countries.

I really enjoyed Diane's own personal story, as well as her insights on the workspace and what it takes to have greater collaboration and innovation through that work environment. I am sure you will enjoy the conversation too, and learn a lot from it.

I also enjoy hearing from you. Keep your comments coming. mahan@mahantavakoli.com There's also a microphone icon on partnering leadership.com. Really enjoy getting those voice messages. Don't forget to follow the podcast on your favorite platform. That way you will be notified of new releases. Conversations with magnificent Changemakers from the greater Washington DC DMV region on Tuesdays. Many of them liked Diane having a global impact through their leadership and with their organizations. And conversations on Thursdays with brilliant global thought leaders, primarily leadership book authors, whose insights I believe can be transformative to how we lead ourselves, our teams and our organizations. 

Now here's my conversation with Diane Hoskins.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

Diane Hoskins. Welcome to Partnering Leadership. I'm thrilled to have you in this conversation with me.

Diane Hoskins: 

Well, it's great to be here, Mahan, and I'm looking forward to this discussion.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

Your leadership Diane has been significant in so many different ways. I can't wait to get to that. But part of what makes us who we are is our upbringing. And I know that impacted you. So we'd love to know about your upbringing in the south side of Chicago and how that impacted the kind of person and leader you've become.

Diane Hoskins: 

Yeah. We're all kind of products of our family and environments. I grew up on the south side of Chicago, as you said, one of five kids. And, I think in some ways, even wanting to be an architect kind of king from being in Chicago and seeing that wonderful skyline. When I was a kid, the John Hancock building was built and the Sears tower, and those were like a hundred story buildings. And, you just couldn't help, but be very, very proud of your city growing up in Chicago. So that was super influential. And then my mom worked for McGraw Hill and she was working in the construction, magazines, side of things. Again, her focus was around construction and she used to bring home architectural record magazines, which was just eye opening and it very much cultivated some of my interest in the profession.

All of us, all the kids in our family, we were just encouraged tremendously to follow our passions. And my mom was one of those people who, if you had an interest, oh my God, you were going to get bombarded by things. I love blocks, and playing with building things. So I had every kind of girder and panel set and Legos and what have you. She also got me into art school at the art Institute at a very, very young age. I don't even think I was, I think I might've been four or five with these little kids doing art programs on Saturday mornings. It's interesting and I really do thank my family for having a very strong sense of letting kids be kids and cultivating creativity in each of us in different ways. I mean, all of my siblings are very creative, but in writing or it's in other kinds of arts or it's in my one sister, as a filmmaker.

There's been a spirit in our family of creativity that has been there from the beginning. I come from an interracial family, which also adds another dimension to it. Really being around people of different races was always part of my upbringing. And so I do think that is part of, some of my leadership style of just total inclusion. My grandparents live with us also, so we had multi-generational going. And I was the middle child so I think that must mean something too, but I'm not going to go at that one. I guess you can tell, I had a great upbringing.

And, at a very poignant time in the country's history during the 60s and 70s and all of that going on. It kind of brought you into a kind of a sense of you want to do something in the world that makes a difference. So I do think, those were the building blocks as I grew up and wanted to be an architect, but wanted to have a purpose in the work that I did.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

What a magnificent way for your parents and your mom to encourage that creativity in you, enabling you, see the beauty around you, which in Chicago, there was a lot of beautiful architecture. And play with it and develop it whether through the Lego, that you put together or through the classes that you took. 

You also mentioned, Diane, that you had a Danish mom and an African-American dad. How did that experience, in addition to your sensitivity to diversity, I know at some point you mentioned that there were eight of you sitting around a table. No two of you looked alike, which is magnificent in and of itself, but how did having a Danish mom and an African-American dad impact you and your experience as a child?

Diane Hoskins: 

It's a great question. And I don’t know if I can give a real specific answer to that. But I think over the years, I've embraced my identity as a woman of color, but also, having unique cultural influences as well. I embrace all that in my life, today because my grandparents were Danish, there was a lot of Danish cooking and food in our home. And so that really, kind of stays with me. In fact, that Christmas, I think I made Danish meatballs. Growing up where, all of what was going on in terms of, black people define themselves going from, words that were from in one dimension, to words that were much more about, black pride. And during the time that I grew up was really important. And, our father was supportive of that kind of, I guess I would say journey that we were all on as young people in my family. I would say this kind of defining ourselves, having that unique cultural background has been something that defines me, but also, I find it a source of inspiration as to what can be. We look today at so much division and I grew up in a household where there weren't those divisions. So I know it's possible.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

It is. And I think having that experience and seeing that diversity work in the household enables you to see the beauty of it, whether it's with respect to teams or broader society. So you wanted to become an architect. Why choose MIT?

Diane Hoskins: 

I guess I look at, and in some ways, choosing to go to MIT was probably one of those defining experiences in my life, and not only because of what it would do for me from the standpoint of being one of the top schools in architecture. And that was really why, it was really on my radar because I want to be an architect. And of course you want to go to the best place you can to learn the craft. But it was also, I was interested in that. 

At the same time, I played the French horn when I was in high school. And, I was taking French horn lessons and I developed a great relationship with my teacher. I would go there every Saturday morning. And when I look back, you talk about mentors and try to always look at it from like, who was really a mentor and how do you define it? And it's always kind of an interesting question when you look at your career and so forth. 

I have to say my French horn teacher falls into the category of a mentor who pushed me outside of my comfort zone. And she did that, certainly in the way that she inspired me to play the French horn and to take on really challenging music, take on a very couple of different kinds of French horns, instead of the straightforward one. And then they have what they call the double horn course. She'd led me into playing that one, which I would have never done on my own and I would have been afraid of, and she really helped me to take that on and become proficient, with that more complex horn. The kinds of things that you learn in music and playing Mozart instead of something that's a little easier. So, I mean, she was always pushing me and it was always moving out of my comfort zone. 

I remember one Saturday where I came in for my lesson and she's like, “Well, are you going to try out for the all city orchestra?” First of all, I didn't know, there were going to be tryouts for the all city orchestra. And of course I was not planning to compete for that. But of course she was like, my classes were downtown, so just like, “Well it's just a few blocks from here. So right afterward you should go over there.” I told her I would, so I did and lo and behold, I ended up getting in, which was just such a surprise for me, but a great experience when I look back at my high school career. 

But probably the more important piece where she pushed me was as I was making a decision as to where I was going to college. And, I had really only applied to two schools. One that was a great school. And that wasn’t too far away. It was in the vicinity. It was not far from Chicago. And a lot of my friends were going there and I knew a lot of people that had gone there from previous, graduating classes. That was one option. 

And then I had also gotten into MIT and I was talking to her about this and I was like, “Well, I'm going to be going to this other school.” And she must have talked to me for about an hour and she was like, “You know, Diane, you just have to step outside of your comfort zone.You have to stretch, you need to go to Boston, you need to experience a different city. You need to experience a whole different place and the kinds of things that they offer.” I went ahead and followed her advice. And, it was probably one of the best decisions, certainly in setting up a foundation for things that came after.

Just a side note. A few years ago, of course we didn't have Google back then, when I was in high school and college and so forth. But I don't know. I was wondering whatever happened to my French horn teacher. And I looked her up on Google and she has passed away now. She was probably in her sixties when I was in high school. But when I started reading her biography, it meant even more to me that she would have made it a point to sit down and talk to me and encourage me. She was the first woman to ever play, first chair for any brass instruments in any major symphony in the world. And this woman was my French horn teacher. In her later years, she knew what it meant to be outside of your comfort zone. She had stepped into the world of professional music at the symphony level, playing first chair in a symphony of pretty much all men, and never having any woman ever be in that role in an orchestra before. So I was just really proud when I figured out the incredible bio, someone who had made it a point to influence me and touch my life as well.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

What a beautiful story, Diane, of the love and care that she had to push you and that same love and care is part of your leadership at Gensler. The stories that people tell show that you continue that love and care. And the fact that she was passing on the legacy, you are to a certain extent, standing on her shoulders. There is a responsibility we all have as individuals and as leaders to leave a positive imprint. She has passed on however, her legacy of impact continues to live through you and the thousands and tens of thousands of people whose lives you touched.

Diane Hoskins: 

Thank you Mahan. Very kind of you to say.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

So Diane, you ended up going to MIT, getting that architecture degree, getting a job at Gensler, back in 83. Why leave that to go to business school?

Diane Hoskins: 

Again, just this kind of, I guess this was really from my mom, follow your passions. So I just got really interested in the client side. We would do projects and actually I was working for SOM at that time and working on buildings and I would always be this developer who was the client and seemed to bring a lot of that sort of, directional shaping to what actually got built. And so I was really intrigued with that role and the importance of it in shaping the built environment. I just thought it was time for me to learn another part of the ecosystem, if you will. 

And so to go to business school and have a major in business, even though it's a broad based curriculum, you also have a focus and a major. And so I focused on real estate. And I even worked in real estate for the two years after business school as well. Ultimately though I decided to come back into architecture when I realized, there's lots of seats you can sit on around that table of that ecosystem. And I realized I'd rather be on the creative side of the table, but really knowing the business side, knowing how all the pieces fit together. 

So I came back into architecture and design and had some great experiences with another firm out in Los Angeles. And probably the best thing that happened in that experience was my, it was kind of a bad thing, but it turned out to be a good thing. My boss ended up leaving the office and moving to another firm. And it was the branch office of another architecture firm that I was with. So she went to another firm and I was made interim director of that office as a new director was being sought out. And believe me, I was hoping a new director was going to be found because I was not interested in that role. But I agreed to do it in the interim. And, lo and behold, three or four months later, I was offered the position and I decided to keep it.

And that was really the beginning of my first experience in office leadership and leading the practice, not just leading projects, but leading a group, leading a practice. And, that was an office of about 30 people. It might've been 11 when I took it on, we grew, which was fantastic to really understand how to get out in the market and win work and hire great people. And build the culture and strive for excellence and bring it all together. It was very exhilarating. I kind of felt like I'd found my thing. The thing that I love in this, the realm of, the built environment is really leading the practice. 

Victor and I, my husband and myself and my daughter, we ended up moving to the east coast and that's when I rejoined Gensler as head of the DC office, which was about a 40 person office at that time, the DC office of Denzler. It was just kind of hitting it at the right time. In many ways, this was like the mid 90s, when the.com boom and everything, there was just so much opportunity. And time when, I mean, I was still pretty young leading an office and all the people that joined the firm. It was like, we came together with such camaraderie to do something special to do great design, to push the limits, to create an environment of exploration and innovation. It was all of us who were part of that. 

From the mid 90s to the early 2000, we all kind of point back to it as well. That was a special time, before that recession. And a time of real exploration and innovation. And for all of us, I would say certainly for myself, it just put me on a path of understanding, really, not just the leadership of an enterprise, but also the whole idea of driving toward a mission and purpose and, being able to more deliberately, articulate that and actually, that's what people want to do. People want to make a difference. And that if you can come together with that sense of purpose, anything's possible. I think that's the foundation, if you will, of a lot of the leadership mindset that I carry forward.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

Diane part of the strength that you have shown is the creativity is not just with respect to architecture and or the business and running the practice. It's your understanding of business needs, the purpose that you're talking about. Even the Gensler research Institute that you launched and much of the work that you've done and Gensler has done under your leadership requires an understanding of the end intent of creating those environments, where people can collaborate the innovative, rather than just being fascinated with the design elements of it. It’s a different level of creativity and creativity with a different end, as you're talking about in that purpose, which is very different than I imagined the purpose that many people thought when they initially thought about architecture and putting together an office space and designing office space back in the mid 90s.

Diane Hoskins: 

I have been interested in that intersection, if you will, of design and purpose and design and impact since I was in college, really. And started to really coalesce around work, almost serendipitously, I guess. I was at MIT and I was doing all of my architecture classes and you have to take these classes outside of your major, in other schools, within the Institute. And I took a management course at the Sloan school, a business, at MIT. I have to say it was really that class, that kind of the light bulb went on for me. And I really saw the connection between how people perform at work and the design of their workplace. And it just intrigued me. 

I can pull out and I have notebooks from college. I actually have, you know, oh, in my notebooks from that class where I'm talking about the connection of design and workplace. It was a driving interest. And even when I worked at SOM we would design, I was on the team, to design these office towers. And it was always curious to me what is going to go on inside here. And we would design the building. And it would be empty in the middle. Like, what’s going to happen in there. And who's designing that because that's going to make all the difference in whether this is a good building or not. I mean, it can look good, but is it really a good building? Is it going to enhance the lives of people? Is it going to make them more effective? Is it going to help them to have great experiences at work? 

So anyway, all of that really did carry with me. And, when I became one of the CEOs here at Gensler, you're always kind of like, “Well, if I'm ever in charge, this is what I'm going to do.”

So on my list of if I'm ever in charge, what I was going to do is do research. And, really put some dollars, some budget around research efforts, related to issues like the intersection of design and how we work. And that really became some of the first work that we did at the cancer research Institute was to create the workplace performance index, which is a tool that we use to really evaluate spaces and how effective they are for work and outcomes at work.

And now it has led to just a really broad based set of research, everything from, research about how airports affect the passenger and traveler experience to, what's going on in our education facilities. And how do students learn and what does that mean for design and on and on and on.

Even now we have launched a center for research, at the intersection of equity and design. It's really become an important part of Gensler, that we define ourselves now as a research driven design firm. 

Every January we send out an announcement to everyone in the firm. And I mean, everyone, basically saying, please apply for research grants on areas that are of interest to you. There's a form you have to fill out. I mean, serious evaluation, and serious dollars that go behind these grants. And, people put together teams that often span across geography, sometimes globally to study any number of different questions that are important fundamental foundational issues of usually where things are changing, where we're starting to see  opportunity for innovation, as we've seen in the last two years. I guess it is now, oh my gosh. I was going to say a year, but it's two years. 

The whole conversation about, working remotely, working from home versus the office versus somewhere else. We were one of the early teams that went out and did a lot of research with people working at home, starting to unlock some of the conversation actually, and continue to do a lot of surveying and research with people as they've gone through this journey. And in fact, I plan to do a pretty significant survey once people are back. Well let me put it another way. Once COVID is not looming at all of our front doors.

I really feel, architecture is in just such a phenomenal place right now, because there are so many forces of change. We're a profession like a lot of professions, that has been built on precedent and there's nothing wrong with that.

In fact, precedent is good. Design and architecture comes from humanity, human beings. Basically the cultures of civilizations. And some of these fundamentals don't change the size of the person. All of these things affect architecture and design, but how we use space and how we come together as communities and what's important. All of these things are really in flux.

In addition, the influences of technology and now we have the metaverse of course, but, there's a lot of fundamental questions that need to be explored and we come at it from the standpoint of how do we unlock the opportunity to enhance the experience of people. And to call into question, perhaps even trends that are not supportive of human experience and the design in architecture and design, I think we have to question things, we have to look at what's underneath a direction of design and also evaluate in terms of the kinds of impacts that we are making.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

And that's why Diane, it takes a different level of business thinking. I really like Clayton Christian's work on jobs to be done framework. A lot of times people that are artists and in this instance, architects, other instances, technologists, are happy with the creation without asking the levels of questions it takes of the real job to be done with that creation. And what you have done against there and what this research does is consistently ask that job to be done where it's not. The hole in the wall you're buying, it's the picture. It's not even the picture that you're putting on the wall. It's the environment that's creating. And if the environment can be replaced digitally, there is no need to buy the drill bit to drill a hole or put up a picture in the office. What you have done is consistently ask about what is that end product, not necessarily the creation we are proud of. What is the environment organizations want to have, where teams can collaborate and can innovate together.

Diane Hoskins: 

Right. And I think that is so well said. And then now with so much focus that we all need to bring to the climate crisis. It's also about how we get there. How do we get to these solutions? What are these outcomes? The solution is going to be at a large carbon cost. Or is there a way to do it at a lower carbon cost?

Those are some really important questions that are now starting to be able to be answered, looking at how we create certain materials, starting to really push back on the industries that make the materials that we use. And saying, look, we need to have different kinds of steel, different kinds of concrete, new kinds of windows. And what's fascinating is all these same companies now are producing these new ideas. 

The innovations are coming. And what we're trying to do is really influence scaling up of the availability because, someone can have a great solution that they're making in their garage or one-offs, but with the level of demand in the building industry, we have to have solutions that are scalable. And we have to be the market, that is a ready buyer so that prices can be driven down and availability can be increased. 

Thinking that, the more systems level, thinking at the industry level, the ecosystem level, is something that I'm finding myself involved with a lot these days more than I've ever had to before. But this is now an important part of what it means to lead an architectural practice and especially the largest architectural practice in the country. How do we get involved in the impact that we need to make in terms of lowering the rapid increase in the planetary temperature? And that means lowering the level of carbon in the operations of our buildings, as well as the materiality that it takes to build the building as well.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

Diane, what purpose driven leadership is all about in that being purpose driven for the organization and the 6,000 plus people that are associated with Gensler is not about a statement you put on a website or send out in a letter to the employees. It is about what the leadership and organization is doing.

And you are consistently pushing, whether your involvement at a UN summit, the cop 26 and the actions that you're taking in, as you mentioned, getting the suppliers to be more mindful of the environmental impact of the products that are used, you're aligning the actions with the statements and with the purpose which also adds to the pride of association for all of these employees, to be able to say, this is not just what we say about our purpose. We are actually acting to drive this purpose forward.

Diane Hoskins: 

Absolutely. And it's what everyone here should expect. I feel like we've got the best people in the world, as architects and designers working for our firm. And they want to be part of the solution. And I think as leaders, it is the job to make those words turn into action and turn into real impact. And to be able to help every person here connect what they're doing on their projects to the kinds of impacts that we're looking to make as a firm. 

We say every project every day, everywhere, that's our strategy. No project is too small. Don't say, oh, I'm just doing a small project. What we do with energy on this, isn't going to matter. And why I don't feel like my work is making. It is because every project, every person, the firm doing this and it's everywhere. That is how you make a difference. I've really come to believe that, yes, we love kind of the big things that we can do, but it's actually the aggregation of all the small things and with a single-mindedness and a sense of purpose together. That anything is possible.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

And that's why you've been able to drive that conversation forward. Now, in addition to that over the past couple of years, as CEO, you've had to manage transition within Gensler, but you are also continuing to do research, looking at the future of work. So I would love to know some of your thoughts and perspectives, Diane, as organizations shift back to a certain level of normalcy, there will continue to be disruptions ahead. What do you see as that future of work looking like?

Diane Hoskins: 

Yeah. It's really such a great question. One, I like the people are asking this question because this is a question that has been on the table for probably the last 20, 25 years since the late 80s, when, the beginning of a really bad recession and, firms like Ernst and Young and I credit Ernst and Young as one of the first, basically unlocking this kind of one person to one workstation or office and inventing the idea of hotel. And that was the beginning. That was really the beginning tipping point or the first domino in many ways to where we are today. 

Yes, having the laptop and mobile technologies have helped. But there's been some movement from the standpoint of the philosophy behind all of this, that's gone on for quite a long time, in terms of the theory of workplace and how it actually works. 

But to really answer your question. I want to say these are long trends.This is not just a COVID trend when we're looking at the fact that you have workplaces and you have people and they're not necessarily tied to one place to do their work. Never before has the home played such a significant part. But even before COVID I think in our last survey, somewhere between 13 and 15% of people were in some kind of coworking. Again, when I say 13 and 15% of industries, where people work in office buildings, typically this does not include people working in schools or hospitals and those sorts of jobs.

So we already were seeing, at least 15% of people were in a third place, not home, not work, but in this third place. Even within the office itself, there were strategies for unassigned seating already happening. What is the normal when we come back is the question and I think it's a continued evolution. It's not the swing backwards. It actually is a swing forward hopefully. 

A piece that I recently did that showed up in, I think, the Sloan business review where, I basically feel that according to our research, the workplace was not functioning in an optimal way before COVID. So you have a situation where, due to over densification. I'll just call it that there is really increased densification, where people have difficulty concentrating, or even where you have, probably over usage of unassigned seating, where people are not feeling grounded in their own offices. 

There were a number of things that were definitely emerging as issues, terms of the workplace. And then you had people going into another workplace, their home and finding themselves able to do some things because they had a quiet place to work. And so this issue we need to fix the workplace I think really emerges very strongly. The challenge with the work from home, which we've read all of the studies and we've even done studies ourselves, is the disconnection between people. 

Even, I think it was Microsoft who had done studies of people's outlook schedules, and found that over the weeks and months, people connected with fewer and fewer individuals throughout the pandemic, the lockdowns. And there point being that, we become more and more siloed the more we're actually working alone in the work from home environments. That's something we've been working against the last 30 years is breaking down the silos, right? And now we've had this dramatic move of siloing. We got to move out of that. I think everyone knows that and companies know that the siloing slows us down. It creates gaps in communication, creates gaps in learning, creates gaps and really kind of speed to market. We want to keep, and we want to have something about this ability to focus, come back into our workplaces and bring people back together. There's, again, so many studies around the value, do research on the value of collaboration. And, you'll be afraid for companies that are not collaborating right now because it is absolutely tied to the bottom line performance of organizations. 

I'm really curious as to the next great new idea that is going to emerge from, I know this and I know this and I know this, so where do we go from here? I think it's a swing in the other direction, away from the over densification. I think we have to give people ample space. 

We talk about the great renegotiation that's going on right now. You know, the NPR has renamed it from resignation to renegotiation. I think people had to renegotiate their work environments at work. I think saying I should have a place where I can put up a picture of my dog and it's not have to come down every night when I go home, you know? I think we need to take back the workplace for people and for all of the kinds of benefits that accrue to our organizations as well.

Mahan Tavakoli: 
Diane, to your point, it's not as if the workplace was working well before COVID. And this gives us a chance to reimagine. And that reimagination requires an understanding of the benefits that come from people being together. Some of the collaboration and some of the innovation. And the need for time and opportunity for people to work individually. It's not binary. It's not now we're going to be all virtual all the time. It worked for two years. Let's continue that. There are some things that are lost. It's also not fully going back to the way things were because things weren't working necessarily the way they were. 

Now I would love to also know Diane. You have been a very successful CEO of a large global organization employees in 120 countries. You are a woman in a leadership role. There are very few women in leadership roles in organizations that size, including in an industry where even though about 40% of the graduates in architecture are women, only 20% of the principles are a night. The higher up you go, the fewer and fewer women end up being in those ranks. And at the same time, you're also a woman of color. So I would love to know, when you look at the potential future for women of color and people of color in organizations, what will it take so the face of organizations 10 or 20 years from now is more reflective of the face of the population and the communities we live in?

Diane Hoskins: 

Yeah. I really feel that, wake up that everyone had with the murder of George Floyd, almost two years ago now was this time of real recommitment by leaders. And I do feel there was an impressive level of commitment that has been made by leaders of major organizations, in every field.

I guess I would say if we can see people, if people make good on these commitments, I think we're going to see some real change. And I think we all have to ask ourselves what are we doing to make that change and to be that change. 

Here at Gensler, myself and Andy Colin, my partner and co CEO. Literally the same week, we came out with Gensler's strategies to fight racism. And it was five key points, five key pillars to this strategy, starting with ourselves, starting with our firm. Basically saying, look, we want to see a larger black population in our firm. Secondly, we want to see a larger pipeline in the schools of young people coming into the design and creative fields.

We want to focus also on inclusive design and really defining what that is and getting involved in projects in our communities, which actually we've been doing some amazing work in that regard. And then also partnering with associations and organizations, professional organizations that we're part of, to double and triple our impacts with them.

And then finally working with our clients as well. And I feel like there's a lot of people who are putting their efforts where they have made commitments. And you see that a lot of times when they're hiring a design firm or a construction firm, they want to see diversity.

And frankly, if there isn't, you're not going to win that job. And Bravo. There's that reinforcing from that client side, but also then how we can partner with them on unique initiatives as well. And I want to say, we put a lot of, some very specific goals in place. And even after now, 18 months, a fairly short time on even our number, first part of that, which is Gensler's own diverse population. 

I mean, literally we're going to be publishing our second diversity report and we are going to be showing an increase in our black population, our Hispanic population, our Asian population, our female population. And it's something that I'm extraordinarily proud of. And we want to continue to see that kind of progress going forward. But we are just thrilled and also it shows people in our firm because what we've done is created this level of intentionality in how we're hiring. And it’s lifting all boats. And I want to say how proud I am of our organization, but also I believe that any serious leader who wants to make a difference, you start with your own organization and those Domino's will fall in place as well.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

I love that Diane. Leadership begins first with me then with my team then with my organization. That's how we're going to impact society. And that's what you have shown in your leadership of Gensler. So Diane, you mentioned the mentor that you had back in high school that helped you go into MIT. I also know coming into the greater Washington DC area, you were pleasantly surprised at how welcoming the region was to you and how people were willing to mentor you along. How was that experience and what were some of the people that stood out for you?

Diane Hoskins: 

When we moved here from Los Angeles, we didn't know anyone. And, it really was inspiring to me how gracious and welcoming people across the DC community to me as a business woman. I would say in particular, Linda Rabbit, the CEO of Rand corporation, was just so amazing and just taking me under her wing and, introducing me to people and helping me to just think about, kind of the landscape of businesses and the opportunities. And she's frankly been a great friend for the 25 plus years that I've been here.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

And, I had a conversation with Linda for the podcast also. It's one of the top global downloads because her story is truly inspiring. And part of what makes Linda inspiring like you, Diane, is that she reaches back and supports others and helps bring them along.

Diane Hoskins: 

Absolutely. Linda really believes in leadership of all kinds, but she is just an extraordinary of women leaders and really helping women to understand how important it is to help each other, and to be a network for each other. And I would say, I think we've got an extraordinary network of women leaders beyond. And, I love all the cities that our firm is in, but, I would say that, the DC area is just incredibly diverse in every way. And it's a place where women flourish. And I'm really proud of the women leaders in our organization. Theresa Shields, who is one of our leaders, along with Francisco Gonzalez here in Washington, DC. This is a great city and it's becoming a global city, a global region that we can all be proud of.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

I would love to know on the fun side, before we start wrapping up, one of the smartest and kindest people I know Is your husband Victor. At the same time, whenever I run into him, I tell him, he, like me, married up. So would love to know how did you meet Victor and how was he able to get you to marry him?

Diane Hoskins: 

Oh, my goodness. I'm sure he has a far more elaborate and fun story than I do. It might be as fun, but he's a much better storyteller. No, I mean, honestly, I think we were meant to be together. It's funny because we actually, way, way, way, way, way back, when we were little. We lived only blocks away from each other, but of course we didn't know each other.

He went to the Catholic school and I went to the public school. And, those were like two different worlds. And then his family moved to California. But we met at MIT at a dance literally, and, then we were kind of separated and then we, it's just a funny story of kind of always kind of connecting and then we'd be separated and then connecting. And then I had a friend who was determined to get us together when I was in graduate school. And, anyway, it was really fantastic. After we started going out. We got engaged really fast and we've been married for three decades now.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

It is wonderful. As I said, he is one of the smartest guys I know. However, he is fortunate to have married up to you, Diane Hoskins. I really appreciate the commitment that you have shown. Both with respect to your leadership of Gensler, but also with respect to setting an example, whether it is on climate initiatives that Gensler advocates and being a purpose-driven organization, or with respect to the future of work conversations, you continue to set the pace, set the example.

Thank you so much for being part of this conversation. Diane Hoskins.

Diane Hoskins: 

Thank you Mahan. It has been a real pleasure. And thank you for, just really, exceptional conversation. And thank you for all that you do as a leader in our community.