In the WorkWell Podcast, by Deloitte, Jen Fisher — Human Sustainability Leader at Deloitte and Editor-at-Large, Human Sustainability at Thrive Global — sits down with inspiring individuals for wide-ranging conversations about how we can develop a way of living and working built on human sustainability, starting with ourselves. 

This week, Joanne Stephane, Executive Director of the Deloitte DEI Institute, and Kenji Yoshino, Professor of Constitutional Law at NYU and faculty director of the Meltzer Center for Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging, discuss the practice of “covering,” in which people downplay aspects of their identity at work to avoid negative reactions. And they share ways that organizations can better support people and help them be their authentic selves. 

On the meaning of ‘covering’ at work: 

Kenji Yoshino: “As a gay man, no sooner did I arrive at Yale than a well-meaning colleague put his arm around me and said, ‘Kenji, you’ll have a much smoother ride to tenure if you are a homosexual professional rather than a professional homosexual.’ What he meant was, you’ll do much better if you just don’t talk about gay stuff, and don’t write about gay stuff. It’s this idea of being openly gay, but, downplaying it. And that is covering. Covering is the key, not just to my life as a gay man, but to the black person who’s told, ‘Straighten your hair if you want to be taken seriously as a professional,’ and the woman who’s told, ‘Don’t talk about your kids, or you’ll get pigeonholed as a caregiver.’”  

On the impact of covering on well-being: 

Joanne Stephane: “In our research we found that when people were covering they felt  emotionally drained. It had a negative impact on opportunities that they felt were available to them — they spent a lot of time pretending to be somebody else, and feeling like they had to mirror the behaviors of the mainstream in order to be perceived as more professional. It also impacted their commitment to their organization and their ability to perform their jobs as well as they thought they could. Survive might sound like a strong word, but really it is about that — if I want to be successful, if I want to thrive, then I can’t be my full self.”  

On the need to be authentic: 

Kenji Yoshino: “No matter how much an institution says to us: ‘leave that at home, don’t talk about that,’ if it’s something that is part of the fabric of our being, it will come out in one way or another, or we will just be thwarted and frustrated. We are not infinitely malleable or plastic. There is such a thing as an authentic self, and that self cries out to be heard. And if an organization can’t supply that to the individual, then the individual is either going to go to another organization or remain at that organization without realizing their full potential.” 

On what organizations can do better:  

Joanne Stephane: “It really does start with leaders. It’s incumbent upon leaders to create the environment and psychological safety that’s needed. You need both equity and belonging to be successful. It means addressing those inequitable areas, and helping people feel that they can show up as their authentic selves, and that they have everything that they need to be able to thrive.” 

To hear more from Jen, Joanne, and Kenji, listen to this full episode of WorkWell here, available wherever you get your podcasts. Visit the WorkWell library for the full collection of episodes. For additional insights, read the report Uncovering Culture, a collaboration between Deloitte’s DEI Institute™ and the Meltzer Center for Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging at NYU School of Law.


  • Jen Fisher

    𝗩𝗼𝗶𝗰𝗲 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝘄𝗲𝗹𝗹𝗯𝗲𝗶𝗻𝗴 + 𝗵𝘂𝗺𝗮𝗻 𝘀𝘂𝘀𝘁𝗮𝗶𝗻𝗮𝗯𝗶𝗹𝗶𝘁𝘆 | 𝖡𝖾𝗌𝗍𝗌𝖾𝗅𝗅𝗂𝗇𝗀 𝖠𝗎𝗍𝗁𝗈𝗋 | 𝖳𝖤𝖣𝗑 𝖲𝗉𝖾𝖺𝗄𝖾𝗋 | 𝖧𝗈𝗌𝗍 #𝖶𝗈𝗋𝗄𝖶𝖾𝗅l | 𝖳𝗁𝗋𝗂𝗏𝖾 𝖤𝖽𝗂𝗍𝗈𝗋

    Jen Fisher is a leading voice on the intersection of work, well-being, and purpose. Her mission is to help leaders move from the legacy mindset that well-being is solely the responsibility of the individual to the forward-thinking idea of human sustainability, which supports the long-term, collective well-being of individuals, organizations, climate, and society.  

    She’s the co-author of the bestselling, award-winning book, Work Better Together: How to Cultivate Strong Relationships to Maximize Well-Being and Boost Bottom Lines, the Human Sustainability Editor-at-Large for Thrive Global, and the host of the WorkWell podcast series.

    As the first chief well-being officer of a professional services organization, Jen built and led the creation and execution of a pioneering holistic and inclusive well-being strategy that has received recognition from leading business media brands and associations.

    Jen is a frequent writer on issues impacting the workplace today, including the importance of mental health and social connection to workforce resilience, happiness, and productivity. Her work has been featured in CNBC, CNN, Fast Company, Fortune, Inc, Stanford Social Innovation Review, and Harvard Business Review, among others.

    She’s a sought-after speaker and has been featured at events including TEDx, World Happiness Summit, Out & Equal Workplace Summit, Acumen Global Gathering, WorkHuman, The Atlantic Pursuit of Happiness event, and more. She’s also lectured at top universities across the country, including Harvard, Wake Forest, Duke, and George Mason.

    Jen is passionate about sharing her breast cancer and burnout recovery journeys to help others. She’s also a healthy lifestyle enthusiast, self-care champion, exercise fanatic, sleep advocate, and book nerd! Jen lives in Miami with her husband, Albert, and dog, Fiona.

    You can find her on LinkedIn or on Twitter and Instagram @JenFish23. You can also receive her personal insights and reflections by subscribing to her newsletter, "Thoughts on Being Well"