The current crisis has shown both companies and employees that remote work is possible. It’s also forcing organizations to have conversations on diversity and inclusion (D&I) topics such as caregiving duties, gender equity and mental health in a more pressing way.”

Kay Fabella’s mission is to amplify the voices of underrepresented groups, who are ready to step up as the leaders our companies and communities need. As a Filipina-American expat in Madrid since 2010, Kay Fabella has worked with companies across 17+ industries to leverage the power of storytelling for organizational change. She has been featured in Forbes, Fast Company, Thrive Global, Huffington Post and El País. Kay now works with companies to translate their D&I initiatives intersectionally across cultures and create workplaces where diverse talent can thrive.

How has the lockdown impacted your consulting business?

In addition to my 1:1 visibility coaching work with business owners, I’ve also offered D&I (diversity and inclusion) consulting to corporations, which I started talking more publicly about at the end of last year. Most of my B2C work has come to a standstill as many entrepreneurs and startups have had to furlough employees, focus on their families, or shut their doors altogether. However, my B2B work with larger companies has continued to grow. Though I no longer offer in-person workshops, I’m still providing D&I solutions online, which I shared more about in this recent Forbes piece.

Why should companies continue to prioritize diversity and inclusion (D&I) now more than ever?

To me, D&I is about creating a work culture where people, regardless of age, ability, background, religion, gender or sexual orientation, feel safe to show up and be valued as their “full selves.” Companies where diverse talent feels included are more innovative, more productive and more profitable. But a big conversation I used to have with D&I leaders before the crisis was around the fact that most companies who claimed to prioritize diversity lacked robust flexible working policies that would actually make it possible for diverse talent (i.e., primary caregivers for elderly parents and children, differently abled employees, minority talent living outside of the 30-mile office radius, etc.) to stay on. This was due to a deep-rooted organizational mindset: employee productivity decreases out of the office away from the watchful eyes of managers.

The current crisis has shown both companies and employees that remote work is possible, and that employees are, in fact, still able to complete their tasks and stay connected in spite of a pandemic. What the current situation is also doing is forcing organizations to have conversations on D&I topics such as caregiving duties, gender equity and mental health in a more pressing way. Employees will remember how their companies treated them, and whether or not they felt supported by their leaders during COVID-19.

Employees will remember how their companies treated them during COVID-19.

One talent acquisition manager at a tech company I’m working with shared that when teams are allowed to return to the office, remote work and inclusive leadership will forever be a part of the conversation. And for Generation Z, the most diverse cohort to ever enter the workforce, he said, “I know a question they’ll ask me during interviews a year from now will be: ‘How did your company take care of your employees during coronavirus?’ I don’t want to have to give a poor answer.”

How has your work and daily life changed since the onset of the crisis? 

As a work-from-home entrepreneur, I recognize that I’m in a position of privilege as my day-to-day hasn’t really changed much. I try my best to start my day with exercise, meditation and journaling, before settling into the start of my work day. I continue to record episodes for my weekly podcast, Inclusion in Progress, which has been a great lead generator and authority builder for my business. I try not to check the news too much for my mental health, have my calls and do my client work, and wrap up at the same time every day as much as possible. The biggest difference is that now my husband shares an office with me as he is also working remotely, so we have to do a little bit of a dance whenever one of us has a conference call on Zoom or Skype. 

I’ve also collaborated with Lemon Street Press, who helped me publish my book last year, to accept submissions for a bilingual quarantine anthology to raise funds for victims and their families.

Personally, there have been ups and downs, as we’re all experiencing this pandemic in waves. I have to step away from the computer sometimes when a wave of sadness hits when I think about the injustice of this situation, especially for disproportionately affected groups like essential workers, small business owners, and marginalized communities. 

I’m saddened that every time I leave the house as someone who looks “Chinese” to an average Spaniard, I’m carefully avoided, side-eyed or scolded whenever I leave the house to get groceries once a week. I’m grateful for technology like WhatsApp to help me keep in touch with my family out in California and my friends scattered throughout the US and the world. I’m also keeping tabs on my dad, a medical professional on the frontlines in Los Angeles, and my cousin, a newly minted doctor out in the Philippines.

With my closest friends in Madrid, I’ve been hosting weekly Zoom happy hours on Fridays: we bring pets, kids and drinks to the call, and check in on one another. The scariest thing was when my 76-year-old father-in-law was diagnosed with the virus and hospitalized almost at the start of the lockdown. Luckily, his symptoms dissipated, and he was released to self-quarantine at home where he has since made a full recovery. It gives me another reason to clap louder every night at 8pm for the people on the frontlines keeping us safe. I try to focus on the good more than the bad as much as I can, and take things one moment at a time.

If you could have known this was coming a month in advance, what would you have done to prepare? 

Honestly, as a regular Zoom user for the past four years, I would have asked to be an affiliate marketer for them before their platform exploded! That or created an Intro to Remote Teams course that I’ve since been selling on a bespoke basis to companies that need it. Before this happened, I would tell companies that said they wanted to be diverse and inclusive that they needed to have a robust flexible working policy for their D&I initiatives to work. You bet they’re listening now!

What are 3 professional takeaways that you’ll carry with you after the crisis has passed?

1. Relationships are everything in business. Keep building them and fostering them. I’ve gotten some amazing opportunities simply by following up, checking in regularly, and offering to be a credible partner for others.

2. Every interaction should always start from H2H: Human to Human. I hope that post-coronavirus conversations with leads, clients or colleagues will begin with, “How are you doing today, really?” and us genuinely listening to one another. Everyone is experiencing this situation differently, so leading with empathy and compassion goes a long way.

3. Protect your mental health at all costs. You’re allowed to tune out from the news and the pain of others for a while. You’re allowed to answer a Facebook message a day or two later instead of responding right away. You’re allowed to experience the collective trauma and grief we’re feeling without forcing your way through it or saying “I don’t have it as bad as someone else, so I’m not allowed to grieve”. If there was ever a time for a collective permission slip to say to someone that you need a mental health minute / hour / day — it’s now. And I hope businesses and entrepreneurs continue to allow space for real mental health conversations when we go back to “business as usual.”    

What are the top 3 most valuable tools you’re working with right now? 

  • Zoom with a password and waitroom function for security
  • LinkedIn for lead generation, relationship building and visibility  
  • Libsyn for hosting and sharing my podcast

What examples of creativity have you seen recently?

I’m loving how creative people have become at staying connected while apart. The videos of people singing, projecting movies on sides of buildings, and cheers-ing their champagne glasses with one another on long sticks across balconies in Italy. Or the pianist on a balcony in Barcelona being joined by a saxophonist at a building the next block over to finish the song together. I’ve loved virtual birthday and dance parties I’ve both attended and hosted with folks from around the world. Within companies, I’m training leaders on how to use GIFs and emojis to add a sense of levity to their virtual communication, while showing them how to cultivate community through Slack channels for FaceTime lunch dates, recipe swaps, and mental health resources so their people feel like they’re supported.

What advice do you have for others in your industry to get through these times even stronger?

Eventually, every storm runs out of rain. There will be another side to this. I’ve seen more examples of creativity and solidarity in this crisis than I have in a long time. When it’s all over, my hope is that we focus less on our differences than on our shared experiences and lean on one another more deeply as professionals and as humans.

You can connect with Kay at, on LinkedIn, or listen to her weekly podcast, Inclusion in Progress.

What major lessons have you learned during these unprecedented times and how are you taking your business forward?