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The largest fintech community in the world. Subscribe to our newsletter to stay up to date on the latest in news opinions, and all things financial technology.

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🎧 Beyond Two Percent: The Male Perspective

"I feel like it's almost as if at least some humans have this, this need to create in groups and out groups, and say, I'm part of this elite group, and we are better than you." Shamir Karkal, Sila

🎧 Beyond Two Percent: The Male Perspective

Hi all! Julie here.

I'm so excited to share the season finale of our new podcast, Beyond Two Percent. Launched in late 2022, BTP analyzes the critical questions, issues, and dynamics that affect people differently by gender - and the intersection of those dynamics with finance. In this week's finale, we're lucky to be joined by Shamir Karkal, Co-Founder of Sila, and our very own Nik Milanovic, Founder of TWIF, to get the male perspective on all of the topics we've discussed this season. Tune in below!

You can find this episode on Apple, Spotify, and all other listening platforms.

Speakers:

Transcript:

Helen 0:16
This is the beyond 2% podcast and I'm your host Helen, Femi Williams,

Julie 0:20
and I'm your second host, Julie VerHage Greenberg. This podcast is brought to you by This Week In Fintech, which is the front page of global FinTech news, fostering the largest FinTech community through newsletters, thought leadership and events.

Helen 0:33
And of course, podcasting. And you might have listened to our other podcast. Hey, FinTech friends. Well, this podcast series is all about women exploring everything from investing to motherhood, to intersectionality, and so much more.

Julie 0:47
And we encourage you to give us feedback on the topics you you think we should be discussing and asking and future panels.

Helen 0:53
I think Julie and I and the way that this week in FinTech team recognized that ensuring women are well represented in any industry is always going to be beneficial. Gender Diversity has shown to spot better problem solving, superior performance, innovation, so much more I could go on.

Julie 1:08
You're right, Helen. And if we were specifically talking about FinTech, the industry could benefit from more women at any level, because women in general have not typically been in the spotlight as a target audience for financial products and services. They're an underserved customer segment with a massive unmet need.

Helen 1:26
And beyond that female founders and executives have personal experience understanding how to generate an ally new ideas and solutions in this field.

Julie 1:34
And that's why this podcast is called Beyond 2%.

Helen 1:37
There is a world of tech driven financial products and services that is yet to be discovered because of the lack of women leaders in this space

Julie 1:45
and through group discussions with leaders in these spaces. This is what we want to explore. And thank you to our sponsors in New York City FinTech women, FinTech women's mission is to connect, promote, empower women to advance their careers. They need help from everyone if we're going to make a real change, encouraging male allies to become members and come to our events. Membership is free. And you can sign up at NYC FinTech women.com and follow them on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram. A true FinTech pioneer Shamir Karkal, is Chief Strategy Officer of seila, a FinTech software platform that provides banking infrastructure as a service. he co founded Sila in 2018, with the goal of empowering financial innovation and supporting entrepreneurs who want to build a new financial world. In 2009, he co founded Simple, the first bank of its kind in the US. In doing so he played a crucial part in building the infrastructure that would pave the way for online banking. After BBVA had acquired simple he headed the open banking platform at BBVA. Shamir studied physics and computer science at Bangor University and is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon Tepper School of Business. He lives in Portland, Oregon.

Helen 3:05
Also on this episode, we have Nik, Nik has spent the last decade working in FinTech and microfinance. He currently writes this week in FinTech, the global digest of financial technology news, and manages the FinTech fun, an early stage venture capital fund. He previously led business development and strategy for Google Pay, and Google Finance, lead strategy at petal, and partnerships at funding circles. He writes on FinTech at TechCrunch, and Forbes. I hope you enjoy this episode. Young to the site.

Julie 3:40
We've covered a lot of topics already this season. Parenthood was my favorite topic selfishly, just because we recorded it about two months before I gave birth to my first baby, baby girl. And Laura and my thank you. They were so much help. And I couldn't relate so much more to the things that they said now that I'm on the other side of this as well. But Shamir I'd love to start with you on this front, too. From the moms perspective, you know, a lot of it just naturally falls on the mom, especially if you decide to breastfeed and all that kind of stuff. And I do feel like our country's gotten better about giving maternity leave. But something I didn't realize until I was on the other side and had a baby for myself is how much paternity leave really matters. Like the time it got hard for me is when my husband had to go back to work and I didn't have any help anymore. It's so much easier when you have someone else to kind of be like, alright, like, you're gonna watch the baby for the next two hours, I'm gonna shower and like grab some lunch, whereas when he's working like I can't really ask him to help out and stuff like that. And I feel like there hasn't been as big of a push to offer paternity leave from both whether it's like a big tech company or, you know, a fortune 500 traditional bank or something like that. But from your point of view, you've co founded a couple of them buddies, you're a dad yourself, what are some of your thoughts here on where we've been successful in making lives easier for families and where there's still a lot of room to grow?

Shamir 5:11
Like the whole concept of paternity leave? I feel like when I started my career 20 plus years ago, you barely heard the term, right. And the whole kind of like expectation was that women had the babies and men did the work was still fairly kind of conventional, patriarchal as I think the good news on that is, especially I think, over the last 1015 years, but especially I feel like in the last five, six years maternity leave, and the idea that, you know, men also not just need but also want to be involved in, in their kids lives, even from an early age as I think that that's just more of an accepted Haguenau. Right. So we've had several folks take maternity leave to sort of think it's definitely as simple as an ad BBVA entered a ticket seller. Not that many things just because we're still has been a smaller company. But it's just, it's just not a thing anymore in the same way, right? Like you're like, oh, so and so person is going on maternity leave or so. And so pursuing a paternity, whatever. And I think it's that's that's one of the big kings, I would still like to see some like National official like legal requirement, or to have both of these things. Actually, as far as I'm aware, that is not right. So the industry standard has shifted. And it's it's a thing that you know, folks in the tech industry, I think it's just become table stakes. Now, if you don't have at least like six weeks of maternity and paternity leave, I'm like, that's kind of icy, like that's a minimum at this point. That's not true for the rest of the country. It's not true for all jobs. And I feel like I've read somewhere that the US is pretty much the last developed country not to have any official maternity leave requirements or get better, right? I think that it gets really hard is when your co founder, the C level exec at early stage startup, right. So my daughter was born about four weeks before we launched simple back in 2012, he had a beta with like, 300 customers, which was really just a prepaid card. And then we got the actual checking account with all the features we wanted, live. And then we transition those beta customers to the new platform, the day she was born, literally. And then ran that for four weeks to fix all the bugs and get it stable, and then launched it right. And I was the one working on the launch of that new platform that was kind of my baby with the bags and everything else. So it was really hard. I mean, I officially took leave, I transitioned everything I could to our CEO, a guy called Adam Earl Barker, I don't know if you know him. But you know, he took everything off my my plate, but the hard part is to not be sitting in the hospital, like checking your email. And I feel like I've I've seen this from both like, you know, like female founders and, and male founders, where it's like, Hey, listen, you're in labor, you should, you should put away the laptop. Right? And, and it's just that level of like, involvement you get in your own startup, it's just really, really hard to separate yourself from it. What I have found, at least for me, personally, is that the kid does that. Right? As soon as you have a kid, a little, a little squirming little baby in your hand. It's very, very hard to be like, let me go back to my phone, right? It demands attention, and it takes over your attention. At least for the first 3456 weeks. I found that like, it was very different pre baby and post baby, right? Like, post baby, I was like, Look, I'm going to actually put away the phone and the laptop and, you know, take care of the kid for you know, whatever, a couple of hours or something and, and that can totally immerse me. Right otherwise pre baby, I'd like I'm sitting at dinner. Oh, yeah, there's supposed to be date night. I'm still looking at my email. I'm on the plane. I'm doing email. It was, you know, the focus that the baby demands. It's I think it's actually good to have some semblance of balance because especially early stage sounding I think that's a great stage is it can be like all consuming, but it's not good. If it is.

Julie 9:40
No, that was great. It's funny. You bring up the aspect of like labor and still working because I remember when Laura Spiekermann of alloy was in labor, she was wrapping up a post that I'd asked her to write for fin tech today, back in the day. She was like, Oh, I'm like going into labor but quick, jotted this down for you. I'm like, go like birth the baby You're really big. So that was a perfect segue into that as well. And she talked a little bit about on our episode, as well as via Bittner, who co founded a company and now works at chime, who bought her company, just about how they kind of managed not completely checking out but very minimally checking in especially, you know, after those first four to six weeks, they've all technically took the maternity leave. I think Maya said something like, I allow myself like half an hour of work stuff a day, just answering some slack messages. And then like I'm done, which I think is like a good balance for someone like that, because it is hard to completely log out. Helen, we brought up this topic with, you know how this is in the US, do you? I'm not super familiar with what paternity leave looks like in the UK. I know maternity leave is far better in the UK than what it is in the US. But I haven't ever looked at maternity leave. Do you have any data on that? Or no,

Helen 10:59
no, I was gonna say I did have a look. And it's pretty bad. Actually. Men in the UK get one to two weeks, I think the widest thing I can think of about the last company that I worked out. And men got the same amount of paternity or maternity or paternity as women and I think it was just under a year. Like, I think you get six months. I think you get a couple of months before the baby. And then the rest is four after. But I think the wider thing and I think we brought it up in the first episode, it's about families these days are not necessarily nuclear. I mean, a lot of families are. But I think the problem maybe with like maternity or paternity leave, or, or even like grandparent leave, or all these things is that people's families are just not necessarily set up in that nuclear way of like mom is sitting at home. And Dan is working. So I guess paternity leave and maternity leave are both bad. And maybe it's a question of like, how do people separate it? So I guess a question I have for Nik, who from my understanding is tagless to do what do you think? What do you think, would be the best way to kind of share this out? Like if you had a child like how do you think would be a better way for us to kind of move forward in this?

Nik 12:15
That's a good question. And I feel like as a person who does not yet have kids, I'm not allowed to opine on anything to do with raising children. For good reason. To me, it's a weird anachronism that really important social programs, like health care, and like parental leave, are tied to where you work and the type of job you have. It's weird, you know, kind of pre McClatchy, that the place you choose to work can determine how much time you get to spend with your child when they're born. It just feels like we need to have social standards, about affordability and access to health care and about ability for both parents to be active in the lives of their young kids, that cuts across all jobs and cut across all industries and all employers. And that would be if I could wave a wand, the first big thing that I have changed. There are stats that have come out post pandemic about millennial dads and how much time they spend with their kids versus Gen X dads and versus, you know, older generations of dads and it's wild, millennial dads spend so much more time with your children. And I'm very hopeful that a lot of the dynamics between dads and their kids that are, you know, conventional, where, you know, dads have a less evolved relationship with their kids or, you know, aren't really viewed as the the primary periods and caretaker and, you know, don't share in the emotional labor are changing with this generation. And I think probably like COVID and Pandemic babies and locked down babies were a big part of that, you know, if the world was closed, and there was nowhere else to go, he spent a lot more time with your kids. But I'm hoping that we retain as a culture, a lot of that kind of sea change in terms of really even division of labor between men and women and parenting their kids. And then hopefully, it has really positive benefits for the relationships with kids with their dads as well. Because I think strongly defy figure in the household is such a great way to make sure that you're going to create a better outcome for the kids growing up within a household.

Helen 14:45
I think he makes some really good points there. And when we're talking about kind of the like, I think you're right, like the concept of men being involved in the parenting or upbringing of their children. It's, it's more than it's ever been and it's only growing and growing and growing. And it She reminded me of something you just were discussing about my glasses. Like, before you guys were on the call, we were talking about madmen. And if you've watched it, but you can even see like in that show, like, I can't remember, it starts from what the 60s or 70s, you can kind of see like Don Draper and his relationship with his child and like how, how, from that generation to like the next generation, it changes and like, responsibility, it's needed. And even if I think about my own family, you can see how like, power generation like responsibility or like what children need, or what or what parents think that they're meant to provide does change. So I can definitely see that. And I also think it's really interesting what you discuss about the kind of privilege I think in in a lot of careers, where it's like tech driven and these types of things, there is just more of a given of like, people shouldn't have leave and X, Y, and Zed. So I think there's a really good point, I want to circle to a second episode we had, which was all around kind of VC. I think. So. In this episode, we discuss kind of like women in VC, which is quite broad. But obviously there is a lot when it comes to like where women are, what needs to be done. And I was wondering, have a start with Nik, have you noticed any check? Because I know you have a fun? Like, have you noticed any changes? Or has it become easier for women to rise up the ranks when it comes to PCs?

Nik 16:20
I will caveat this by saying I am very new to being an investor. And I'm, I guess I am professionally an investor. But I'm a very big grudging one, I spent the first decade of my career building products, and I really miss that product work kind of in the way that when you climb a mountain, you don't enjoy it in the moment. But you look back and you're like, Oh, what a fun experience. That was, I wish I could do that, again, forgetting all the sweat and the tears and the pain.

Shamir 16:43
In that way. Having kids is a bit like that, too.

Nik 16:48
I actually think about that. Sometimes I like having kids seems like a great lesson in being a good manager, and satisfying, irrational parties, and taking multiple stakeholders into account. And sorry, I'll come round about one year question because it's a good one. But I just saw one episode that always stuck with me at a prior job. I was in a leadership meeting, it was a contentious meeting, there are disagreements and the CEO was pretty direct and vocal to one of the team leads in the meeting, about the disagreement they had. And everybody follows out the meeting afterwards. And it's kind of awkward in the room. And I was sitting there with just the team lead afterwards. And I said, I'm sorry that that was rough. Like I don't think he deserved that harsh feedback. And the team lead said, You know what, at the end of the day, I'm going to go back home. And I'm going to see my two kids. And they're going to tell me about what they learned in school that day. And none of the stuff that happened here is going to matter. And like that, to me was really powerful is this whole different part of the human experience that just makes you a more whole person and makes you more fulfilled and person with with kind of more depth. And it really stuck out to me and I think also gives you a really good perspective, when you are building a startup and going through challenges and, you know, facing drawbacks, that there's more to life going on for you outside of work. And you know, you can have bad days at work. But that's not your entire identity. And I think that that kind of perspective, you can only really get by having kids. And it's really important, it makes you a better leader and startups. But that was kind of a very long tangent coming back to women and VC. I'm a New VC. I've only been deploying out of a fund for about a year and a half now and investing in early stage companies for about four years. And so, you know, don't take this as gospel, but it feels like the me to movement and the Black Lives Matter movement. Both brought a lot of attention to equity in the workplace. I think five years ago, most of us in venture didn't even understand what the concept of intersectionality was, and the kind of broadening of the Overton window and the awareness of these concepts, I think are going to have a long term effect that's hard to see because we're still at the very beginning. And so if you look at representation of women, within firms, and if you look at representation of women within the portfolio's of those firms invest in it still pretty low, like the name of the podcast beyond 2%, you know, reflects the fact that only 2% of venture IQ, you know, over time, was allocated to when founders. But now that we have more awareness of the inequities that exist here, why they're wrong, and importantly, like the very selfish opportunity that comes from hiring women, and investing in women who tend to outperform against a lot of metrics. I think that you're going to see these attitudes create changes, but the changes aren't there yet. And we kind of need a new generation to come of age in the venture community to really prioritize this alongside everything else that venture is traditionally prioritized.

Julie 19:57
Shimmy are turning that question to you. You're not alone. See, but I would assume that you have invested in companies as an Angel before or you might be an LP in a fund. Talk to me a little bit about when you were thinking about starting to do that, did you assume that there was like this high barrier to entry or anything, because when we did our episode on that, we felt that women assumed that, you know, I don't have enough money to be an LP in a fund or to be an angel investor, or, you know, I just don't know enough about that. I'm not even going to try to learn about it, where I feel like men assume the opposite and are willing to take that risk. Talk to me a little about how you thought about that the first time you did either of those things.

Shamir 20:33
Funnily enough, the first time I did angel investing was back in 2011. I did the same month and one of them basically returned like 2x, the other returned 300x. So I was I was very, very successful with both of those. So I've been married for a few years, and my wife had a job as well. And she'd structured her job working as a consultant for the World Bank, so she could work remotely back then I 15 years ago, and then just followed me around the world as I went and worked at first Pittsburgh, Brussels. And then in New York, she just had a bunch of money sitting in an account in Europe. And we were trying to figure out what to do with it. And because we'd already moved back to the US, this was like, 18 months after we'd moved back to the US. And we were like targets leave this European account hanging around with, you know, whatever 40k in it, should we to be converted, and then they got this opportunity to invest in these two crazy Estonians who wanted to start up a money transfer business. And we were like, Yeah, transferring money is such a massive problem. Let's write them a check, right. And then one of my my buddies in Pittsburgh as well, it was, quote, unquote, her money that we were bringing back from Europe, and we were like, we just invested some of it read just from like an accountant. You can account to Belgium to an accountant in London to invest in what became wise. And yeah, so I'm like, the reason I had the money to make those early angel investments is because my wife's a good saver. And so you know, without hurting, that wouldn't have been possible, right. But I do think you're completely right, that I feel like my question making those investments was like, Could I legally say that I was accredited? And the answer was yes, because I was sitting on a huge pile of highly illiquid, simple stock that was theoretically worth enough to make me accredited. But I definitely did not have the income. And I definitely did not have the cash to be to be accredited. My wife had cash. And so we were able to make those investments and it worked out. Find out what upgrade for us. I feel like you're completely right, that a lot of the time, women just assume that they can't do those things also have a lot more hesitation. The, what's the saying that like, you know, fools rush in where angels fear to tread? I feel like, a lot of the time men are like that were like, Okay, that seems like a good idea. Let's go ahead and do it. And, and we'll do it until somebody tells me that you can't do it. And then I'll ask why, right? Much of the time when I've, when I'm talking to like women entrepreneurs I've invested in or worked with, or whatever I'd like, Just do it. Is anybody telling you you can't do that? No, they just do it like, that you don't need my permission to do and you don't need anybody's permission. And just, it's amazing to me, how many people in this industry have no freaking clue about how the industry works, how anything works. And especially in the early days, when we were launching simple, I would have to explain to VCs, that this is how a bank works. It takes money from depositors and lends the money out. And it makes money from net interest margin and not interested. And I'm like, there was a slide in my pitch deck about like how banks function because nobody in Silicon Valley understood that. And after last week's events, I wonder if that's still true. But yeah, I think there's definitely an element of like, you know, kind of the just go do it. Which, which, I think it's just a sort of, like, acculturation that, you know, men just instinctively go do it while women instinctively ask if they can go to it. Yeah, I'm not sure how we fix that.

Julie 24:26
Yeah, I think it's it's almost just like ingrained in our I guess, like as parents and you know, you said you have a daughter I have a daughter, I guess trying to ingrain into them that they can just go do things within reason. But I think maybe that's it just kind of trying to teach the next generation that you know, they they are capable of just as many things as other genders and whatnot. Maybe that's it.

Shamir 24:52
I'm talking about acculturation. I'm like, this, this is like still like a take for me that You know, growing up in India in the 90s, every now and then there'll be a newspaper article about this boy, the everything is about like state or national level exams that you write at the top that 12th grade. And there's this boy who came in second at the state level exam. And the article was about the boy. And that it was written because he was a boy, because that was unusual. Like the top 20 rags and all the exams were always gods. Right? So the idea that men said that women can't do back, it's really weird for me. I mean, if you growing up in India, I would assume that men can't do math. Right? And that women are naturally better at math than men are. So I come to the US, and that doesn't come to my family, or women just different. Like, is that genetically different in India? No, it's just, it's just not bullshit. It's just like, the culture says women can't do math. So women grew up thinking they can't do math, women can't do math just as well as men. Honestly, I might be better given given the like the right society. And the kind of the, the incentives, they might be actually better than men at math. So

Nik 26:12
I think Larry Summers, who was president of Harvard, and Shamir what was his role? The Governor was Secretary of the Treasury.

Shamir 26:20
Yeah, something like that. Yeah. But a while then under was it other? Clinton?

Nik 26:25
Yeah, yeah. Clinton had a big scandal in his career where he effectively said that, you know, in his capacity at Harvard,

Shamir 26:36
yeah, that's just I mean, that is such total bullshit. It just pisses me off. Because I'm like, Look, dude, just look outside person look outside the US and most of the parts of the world, you will find it, it's almost the other advantage. You know, teenage girls are just a lot more focused on studying and working hard, at least in India, on average,

Helen 26:57
I think that's the point. Like, you know, before you were saying, men don't do it, and women ask permission. Like, personally, I wouldn't necessarily, I didn't necessarily agree with that. Like, I wouldn't say like, it's that I asked permission. I think it's just my I probably think about it. Like, if I compare myself to like, something my brother would do, or something I would do, I would just think about it more. And before I've even like, decided he's already like, made a stupid decision. You know, I mean, I just think it's more about like, I don't necessarily think it's about asking for permission, I think it's generally just like, I'm probably just still thinking about whether I want to do it, even if I do think it's a good decision or a bad decision. But I think that's a really good time to like, ask a question I have to both of you. So we've talked about a lot of different topics, we talked about parenthood, we've talked about the seeds, we talked about angel investing, we talked about maps? And so like, how do you kind of, you know, like, my density, I guess, is like, I'm a black woman. And I'm British, and I'm Nigerian, and all these things like make up my identity. And I guess with you guys and your identity, I think often with men, it's not as you know, all the different like, elements of the intersection intersexual pneus, isn't as clear. So how do you kind of bring what you see is, like, important to who you are and your identities to work? Or do you think it's important that we that these things are arguing, because if you're a woman, and you go to work, everybody knows you're a woman? And so these your identity kind of affects how you're treated? What you say, perhaps how much you think or, or don't think or perceptions or whether people can think you do maths. So like, how do you bring your ID? Or do you bring your identity? Or do you think that's like an important element that people need within the workplace or like, within, like businesses, or something,

Nik 28:49
you know, I'm white, and I'm a guy, and I'm straight. And so for the first I'd say, like, 25 years of my career, I was very blissfully ignorant, that identity played such a large role in your perception of how to move through the world, and how you're viewed in the workforce. And over the last, you know, seven or eight years as identity has become a much bigger part of social discourse, it really opened my eyes to the impact on lived experience, that identity plays for people in the workplace in a way that you know, I had only been maybe partially aware before, I just I always figured if I treated everybody like a professional with respect and everybody treated me that way that we're all you know, on equal footing and and I you know, took very much for granted that the reason I felt that way is because I never felt like I was really fighting an uphill battle to be taken seriously the way that other people feel, you know, by default, and it makes you realize that so much of this is Shamir says socialized, it's entirely dependent on the community, the society you find yourself in, and whatever the kind of preconceived norms that society are in battling against them to actually create that equity within the workplace. So, for me, identity was not really a big part of how I thought about my role in the working world for a long time. You know, I was young, and I was naive, and there was a piece of my identity and growing up, you know, being a child of Serbian immigrants. And, you know, the Civil War was a piece of my identity, but it's one that I kind of, tried to compartmentalize and not really bring to the to the workforce. It's something that has made me gain a lot of respect for Gen Z, actually, I'm, I'm, I'm a millennial, but really, emotionally, I'm more of a boomer honestly, I'm just a cranky old man, most of the time. But I love a lot about Gen Z. And you know, every generation has their own problems. But what Gen Z has been really good at is kind of breaking down that barrier between who you are outside of work and who you are inside of work. And it's something that I respect a lot. For the first 10 or 12 years of my career, I really felt like I needed to compartmentalize things, and we were I was outside of work. You know, inside of work, I was this 100% professional, who just cared about what we were working on. And, you know, I didn't really bring my whole self to work. Now, because of Gen Z, kind of pushing the envelope and, you know, making identity, more active component of who you are, and how you interact with people in the workforce, I feel more comfortable as a result, even though I never had any pressure on my identity, even as a student, as a straight white guy, I feel more comfortable being my whole self at work. And I think a big part of that is thanks to the people who fought to create awareness of the way that identity shapes our experience in the working world. And so it went from, you know, being something that I almost never thought about, because I was in a position where I didn't have to think about it, I was in this very unfortunate, you know, to an aquatic position, if it not impacting me negatively, to being something that I have a lot more respect for. And now, when I interact with people, you know, in the back of my mind, I pay a lot more attention to the fact that our backgrounds will shape how we perceive effectively the same situations in different contexts.

Helen 32:24
I think that's a great answer. And thanks for sharing. It's so interesting, because I grew up in London. And so like actually growing up, things like my race, well, maybe gender in school, because when school is crazy, but like, wealth, for instance, wasn't actually a thing that people like, was like, interesting in school, because the kind of school I went to, everybody had like five different identities anyway. So it was like, what were we talking about, like, what were immigrants, so it wasn't really that interesting. It was only really, when I went started, went to university, you know, like moved outside of London and went somewhere more whiter, that I interact with people who've never, never met black people something and I was just and doing that in England that was like, wait, what, and then, you know, as I work, then, you know, these things became way more exacerbated, like race and gender and these types of things. But I came in with like quite a naive perception, like of racial issues and stuff, just because London is just everyone has like something. So it's quite interesting. Actually, as I got older, you start to see these things. But you're right, like I do feel like it's changing more positively. Because when I go to the workplace can't be tied my race and gender. So you end up having to have these conversations. And it's really great that people are able to talk about it.

Nik 33:33
I think Americans I think that that's such an interesting point that Americans like generally don't understand that, like in most parts of the world, when people ask for your identity, like you just say your nationality like that is like really your identity, like people are like, what race are you and other people say I'm Swedish, what race are you I'm Serbian. And, you know, things aren't necessarily perceived identity is not necessarily just or is not first, a racial construct. And so many parts of the world where it's like, you have this like, very complex background, and there's very many different pieces of your identity. And in the US, it's, it's, I can treat it a little bit differently. I went to an international school growing up to and I mean, everybody ripped on everybody else all the time. And it was just kind of like, friendly, joking about different identities and backgrounds in ways that you know, at a context would be like cancelable immediately, but it's the fact that everybody was from somewhere else, like nobody was like the set identity or like the national identity, everybody had some kind of different background. And it was really interesting to kind of be in that that hodgepodge. Because everybody brought something different to their perspectives. And I you know, hope that as a society, we're moving towards a place where more people are just valued and celebrated for having different identities and backgrounds and perspectives in a way that they can bring, you know, different points to the conversation.

Helen 34:49
No, I completely agree with you. But I would say like, if someone's like, Where you from, I probably would just say London. I probably would not say England or Britain, because I don't know those people. I don't or England, I only have really lived in London and London is not England. It's very, very different. So I have probably more in common with someone who lives in a bigger city like New York than I do have someone who lives in like, Yorkshire? Sure, I mean, so I don't really relate to the concept. Well, obviously I live here, but I do not. I mean, I relate to London, is what I know where I feel comfortable. And there are, yeah, I can go out of London and go to somewhere in the countryside and not feel comfortable. So it is a really weird thing. Like, like, of course, I am British, but I am in London. What are your thoughts on this, like, in terms of identity, because I know you grew up in India, and now you live in America, like

Shamir 35:42
it is a very different world. And just listening to you talk, right? Like when people ask me where I'm from, I say, I'm from India. And most people in the West will just accept that and accept Indian as an identity. What most people in the West don't realize is when you say India, that's a population of people that is about the same size as Africa. Right? So if somebody said, I'm African, you'd probably say, well, in Africa, right? I mean, like, are you? Are you Moroccan? Or are you Angolan? Right, and those are very, very, very different. Just about the same level of diversity exists within India, right, there's like 16 official languages in which the government does business. There's like 300 languages with multiple language families, there's over 1000 dialects, pretty much every religion on the planet, and honestly, people who look so white that they would fit in in Sweden, to people who look so dark skinned, that they will fit in and you know, any part of Africa, right, and I'm kind of in between, which is where a lot of people are. And historically, in India, like your identity wasn't defined by your race, that wasn't that race is a very invested construct your identity was defined by your religion, a, and your caste, be an end to some extent by your tiny of your hometown, right? Because there is a there's an intersection of all of these things like which religion obviously, but then also like, if you're Hindu, and then you are from a particular caste, but you're that caste might actually have people who are living in multiple states and actually can be speaking different languages even right. And there's even more finer grained concepts of like gotras, and Jettas, and sub castes and sub communities. It's 1.4 billion people, and we build that out for a while. So we, you know, we build some crazy constructs, right? And all of that is completely alien to most people in the West. And up until 200 years ago, the you know, the concept of race would have been fairly alien to India, and people, dark skinned people from the South, very much looked down and actually still looked down on those unquote, fair skinned northerners. Right. And for me, kind of growing up, my dad was mostly my mom was Hindu. And they were both pretty agnostic in actual, like, religion, religious basis, they were just born Muslim and Hindu. And so I got to see both sides of it. And I've kind of always been, I guess, intersectional. I, even growing up in school, I was like, there were a couple of Muslim kids, there were a lot of Hindu kids. And they all got along with each other finally, so the small school that I went to, I could go hang out with either group and fitted with both. And, and, and sort of floated between them. Race was never really a thing I never felt discriminated against until I came to the US, right. The first night, I landed in the US, I almost got into a fight over racist stuff, which, which is only happened like twice in 20 years. But the first time was the night I landed in the US. So it's a weird introduction. The thing about the US is that in many ways, it's similar to India in terms of like, the massive amount of like diversity. It's all the US it's all because pretty much everybody's an immigrant. You know, there's not that much Native Americans left. Sadly, in India, the diversity has been there for like 2000 plus years. And we have built all of these complex systems to pigeonhole people and keep them in that place. Since we already I will tell you that they've that not really ever worked only for a few short periods of time here and there. And I think the US keeps trying to, like, rebuild its own ways of like categorizing people, but then keeps breaking down right, like 150 years ago, it wasn't about white versus blacks. It was about like the those newfangled Irish immigrants. If you've seen Gangs of New York, just like now everybody understands that if you have Italian ancestry, you're white. That wasn't the case in the 1920s. Right, like Italians were a separate whole separate group of immigrants. who had distinctly below the white majority in terms of like that place in society, right? So I really don't know where the US goes with all of this. I feel like it's, in some ways, it's up to us to defy that right now.

Julie 40:14
That's an interesting thing to bring up too because I remember there was on a peloton class I took a week or two ago where Jessica Sims taught it, and she's half black halfway. And she's like, I remember in grade school, you could only pick black or white, like there was no option for both. And that's something just me as a white female I would have never thought about before, but it's just little things like that.

Nik 40:34
Yeah. And the same thing is, you know, it's the national dialogue on gender and sexuality now to is, over time, we're discovering more about ourselves, we're discovering more about identity. And, you know, all of us grew up in a time when it was assumed that there were two genders. And now, you know, we're learning and we've learned that that paradigm is not the case. In the same way Shamir, I'm really resonated with what you were saying. Because the author, tada, he see, Coates has this good book Between the World and Me, and I remember reading it on a on a plane like 10 years ago, and I had heard the phrase, you know, racism social construct before, but I never understood what it meant, and didn't really look into it. But he broke down the same thing that if you look at censuses, from the early 2000s, that black, Irish and Italian are considered their own racial subcategory, and like very intentionally set apart from white people. And so what To me that means isn't like, it doesn't mean let's talk about what it doesn't, it doesn't mean that race doesn't exist, race exists, it doesn't mean that we are making things up as we go along. It means that we're learning more and more as we evolve as a society. And that's, we're never going to get to like one set place where it's like, okay, these are the right categories. And everybody is one of these genders, and everybody has one of these races, and everybody you know, is one of these sexualities, it's the more we progress, and the more we create a society in which people feel comfortable expressing themselves, the more we'll learn that there are these big subcategories that we didn't really pay attention to or believe existed before. And there will always be this generational conflict where the older generation is like, you know, things were fine just the way they were. And the younger generation says, No, we're not going to take the world for granted that you gave us we're going to push things forward. And so for me, like, I think, just the same way, as you approach a startup, take all the information in and understand you know, what useful signal you could learn from that, when I think about intersectionality. And when I think about gender identity, and kind of the construct of races, it's evolving. You know, my perspective is, listen to what everybody has to say, and take people who talk about their live experiences at face value, and be willing to depart from some of the things that you grew up knowing as fundamental truths, because the world changes, and your only choice is to change with it, or resist that change. And we all know that resisting that change is not a what is not a long term strategy.

Shamir 43:07
You would think that, but I feel like this, the people who resist the change and resist a bit hard. I mean, we keep seeing fascism, come back, right? Yeah, like, dictators defeated, but it barely was, like 7580 years ago, and it feels like it's back and not as powerful as it was, but But you know, not gone. And, and I feel like it's almost as if at least some humans have this, this need to create in groups and out groups, and say, I'm part of this elite group, and we are better than you and you. And then we need to, like take over and run things as part of the group. And it almost doesn't matter whether the group is defined by race, or by religion, or by birthplace, location, or by something completely different, like caste, so hard to even define what that means. But it doesn't matter, because it's very real. Once it's defined, and once people accept that they are part of the in group, then they can start working together to exclude the people from the outcome. Right? And I'm like, that's the thing that we need to kind of eliminate is that, hey, you know, there are no in groups and out groups, so they keep rearing their ugly heads in different different ways.

Helen 44:17
Yeah, I think you both make some really, really interesting points and show me I do relate in the sense of, I mean, Nigeria, we don't have to cast but we do have tribes, and so on. So my name for instance, and they were Nigerian, they would know. And I would know from their name, and it sounds weird, but I feel like I can also kind of just tell from the vibe, but that just I think that's racist.

Shamir 44:40
It doesn't. It is also true, right? Like, in the US, they just the Asians are East Asians, right. But I lived in Japan for a while. And after that I can work like I used to, I'm not sure I haven't tried recently, but when I was in Japan with like, close to 80% confidence, I could look at somebody and say you're Chinese You're Korean, and you're Japanese. And you are, you are none of these three things. So you're probably Vietnamese, Taiwanese or something like that there is something to that. And I think it's easier than it's like, people who have just been in that in those very old societies and are in tribes for the same, like, society for a long time.

Helen 45:22
Yeah, I think I think we've like, for instance, Nigeria, like most Nigerians, are you that people meet either yerba EBO, but like, there are like 330 tribes in Nigeria, just most from the diaspora happens to be from like, two, or three of the main ones. And there are like, 300 languages spoken there. I speak one of them. You know, I mean, so there is that level of diversity wherever you go, and I think intersectionality kind of does bring that because it's like, you're by, for example, is part of my identity. But like on a daily basis, for instance, it's kind of not it's only when I'm in a certain crowd group, or I have to speak the language or something. Speak I have to, because it's so weird. I always reply in English, even though I can understand I don't know why that is. I'm such a. I don't know what you call it terrible diaspora person. But yeah, I think that's a really good place to kind of wrap it up. Because I think, I think it's a really, I think, you can take all these identities and like you said, trauma, you can look at them and use them to kind of bring in fascism and all these things, but you can also take them and all these different identities and the way we're learning to kind of educate ourselves. Like you've talked to us today, for instance, about all the different like, the all the different diversity in India. So as much as people use that, as a way of promoting fascism, I would say like 20 Other people are using it, to actually educate themselves on something that they didn't know or be like, Okay, if I now now that we travel more, just as a society, like I could go to India and learn these things. I mean, maybe I'm just being very optimistic or pessimistic, but I think in terms of like, intersectionality, and like, what it teaches us, I think it is just about kind of learning from other people's identities and seeing where people are coming from, as Nik put it so beautifully. Thanks, guys. Thanks for coming on.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai