LRN Perspectives

Pick Your Own Song: Tiffany Archer's Mission to Advance DEI at Panasonic Avionics  

April 9, 2021  LRN Corporation


“I walked into interviews where the interviewer was questioning whether I was, in fact, Tiffany Archer, because they didn’t expect me to look like I did. … It shouldn’t matter what you look like, what you sound like; the comparison should be on substantive qualities and merit.”

- Tiffany Archer


Gradient Cover - Tiffany Archer

Tiffany Archer is a board and executive advisor, ethics and compliance officer, regulatory attorney, and D&I nonprofit advisory board / faculty member with 18-plus years in Fortune 500 companies and AmLaw 100 law firms. Today, she is on the compliance leadership team at Panasonic Avionics Corp, the global leader for in-flight entertainment and communications. Tiffany, a strategic and practical business leader, is the company’s lead ethics and compliance attorney for the Americas and Europe.






  • [1:22] How has Archer’s career path led her to her current position at Panasonic Avionics?

  • [3:29] What does Panasonic Avionics do and what kind of work does the E & C program do to promote their culture?

  • [6:01] What is Archer’s perspective on diversity, equity and inclusion?

  • [9:58] What are some things that companies can do to improve their diversity, equity and inclusion programs?

  • [12:56] What role do company boards play in forwarding the discussion on diversity, equity and inclusion

  • [13:56] What are the next steps for advancing racial justice from a business perspective?

  • [17:33] How has Covid impacted Archer’s work and what is her focus moving forward?

  • [20:33] Who are the mentors in Archer’s career path and what advice would she give to someone wanting to get into the E & C field?


Speaker 1: Welcome to the Principled Podcast brought to you by LRN. The Principled Podcast brings together the collective wisdom on ethics, business and compliance, transformative stories of leadership and inspiring workplace culture. Listen in to discover valuable strategies from our community of business leaders and workplace change makers. 

Ben DiPietro: Hello everybody, and welcome to another episode of season five of LRN's Principled Podcast. My name is Ben DiPietro. I'm the editor of LRN E&C Pulse newsletter. You can find that by going to, clicking on the resources tab, and then clicking on the newsletters tab, if you can subscribe we'd love to have you. 

With us today is Tiffany Archer. She's a board and executive advisor and ethics and compliance officer, a regulatory attorney, and a faculty member with more than 18 years experience in Fortune 500 companies, and AmLaw 100 law firms. Today, she's on the compliance leadership team at Panasonic Avionics Corporation, global leader for in-flight entertainment and communications. Welcome, Tiffany, glad to have you with us today. 

Tiffany Archer: Thank you so much, Ben. I'm really excited to be here. 

Ben DiPietro: So tell us a little bit about how you became interested in ethics and compliance. Then take us through your journey that's led you to your current role at Panasonic Avionics. 

Tiffany Archer: First, I've always been a people person and incredibly fascinated by what it is that makes them tick. So while in college, I chose to major in psychology to learn more about human behaviors, motivations, mental states, decision-making processes. Later went on to law school and after graduating, I joined a major international law firm where I specialized in white collar crime and securities enforcement. So of course, my cases focused on corruption, bribery, money laundering, and other heavily regulated conduct. I was always interested in digging into the why, behind the decisions that these individuals or corporations made. And also to look a little more into what it is that really motivated the behaviors that led them down the path of wrongful conduct. So after nearly six years in private practice, I decided to switch gears and I moved in-house and have since held multiple compliance roles. The passion that I've always had for psychology and for connecting with, and understanding people is a key pillar of my personal compliance practice. 

Interestingly, many people consider compliance officers as police officers of sorts. Frankly, it's not unusual for the compliance function to be referred to as the department of no. With that in mind, I prefer to take a people centric and empathetic approach to compliance. My priority is to connect with people, learn more about their values and their beliefs, and really use that information to guide their behaviors so that they can make ethical decisions, and do the right thing even when no one else is looking. So ultimately on my compliance journey, I landed at Panasonic Avionics, where I'm currently the regional ethics and compliance officer and corporate counsel for our Europe and Americas regions. 

Ben DiPietro: Tell us a little bit about Panasonic Avionics and what it does? Then how your compliance team works to help create that culture you're talking about. Then how do you measure the success of your team in that particular area? 

Related Article: 6 Ways Compliance Training Can Measure Employee Performance 

Tiffany Archer: Sure. So Panasonic Avionics manufacturers in flight entertainment systems. Essentially those are the TV screens that you see on the seat backs of airplanes. We also provide connectivity services and then on the ground engineering support. Our focus is on innovation and most importantly, providing the best possible passenger experience. To bridge the chasm between compliance and culture within Panasonic, we partner very closely with our chief culture officer. One of the tools I would want to highlight here today is to measure the culture, we use anonymous pulse surveys, which are sent out quarterly. Essentially the purpose of those is to check the vitals on our employee population, find out how they feel about the culture of the company. Then we take those actionable data points from the surveys and use them to address concerns that intersect with the company culture. And we formulate ways to make improvements. 

Our chief culture officer does an incredible job of keeping our employees informed. I think it's quite clever actually. After each survey she sends out what's called a "So what, now what?" message. Essentially, what she's communicating is through this survey you've identified, "So what are the issues or the problems that you'd like addressed?" And "Now what?" is how she plans to put into effect initiatives or procedures to address those concerns. Panasonic's Compliance Department's mantra is compliance is our foundation. So not only do we measure our success by the implementation of the data points from the surveys, but we also measure it through our stakeholder satisfaction with our responsiveness to their needs. 

Ben DiPietro: That “So what, now what?” is really interesting because it shows the people that you're listening to them. That's so much more important to building that trust. That's going to get you to create the culture you're trying to achieve. 

Tiffany Archer: It's really about keeping those lines of communication open. I think our chief culture officer's initiative with the “so what, now what?” really makes people not only see that she's listening and that we're listening, but that we're actively responding. So it's really important to keep that dialogue open and to continue to show forward progress.

Related Article: Building A Speak-Up Culture 

Ben DiPietro: So I know you have a big interest in matters of diversity, equity, inclusion. We both last year we're part of an LRN Consero round table on that topic. At the time I asked you about the differences between the D, the E, and the I, in that equation. I thought your answer was really excellent, and I think our audience would love to hear what you have to say about that. 

Tiffany Archer: Thank you, Ben, for highlighting this. Diversity equity and inclusion is such an important initiative and movement for me. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk a little bit more about what those letters mean to me, specifically. So not only are there differences in what the D diversity, E equity, and I inclusion pillars represent, each word also has a distinct impact on an organization's initiatives. Starting first with diversity, right? The focus is on creating an environment that's representative of the intersectionality between gender, race, sex, age, LGBTQIA, and many other identities. In my view, this pillar is particularly important because what many organizations I've seen do is have a one dimensional perspective as it relates to that. For many of them, historically, everyone in the institution for the most part looks the same. They come from the same backgrounds, they belong potentially to the same country club. They went to the same schools I could go on but I think you get what I'm driving at. 

The thing is it's not too late to attack this root cause. No doubt it will be challenging to make the shifts since people are so used to the status quo. What the leadership of these organizations should recognize is despite the rocky road ahead, having to pivot towards a more diverse culture should not be considered a penalty. In fact, it's an opportunity for growth and expansion, and new or different ideas and perspectives, which can ultimately lead to a transformative experience for the organization. 

Now, under the equity pillar, the focus is more on fostering an environment where all employees have fair and equitable opportunities, right? They're looking for fairness when accessing resources, despite being amongst the majority who may not look like them. I thought it would be salient to use myself as an example here. I've spent much of my life competing with those who don't look like me, and for the listeners here today who may not know, I'm a Black woman of Jamaican descent, and I've always had to be the best and focus on not othering myself. There've been occasions where particular outcomes made me sit back and wonder, "Did I miss this opportunity or was I not selected? Or was I not appropriately rewarded because I don't look like the person that I was being compared against? I've definitely... I'll share a personal story here, walked into interviews where the interviewer was questioning whether I was in fact Tiffany Archer, because they didn't expect me to look-

 Ben DiPietro: This is true. 

Tiffany Archer: ... [crosstalk 00:08:52] but true. Sad, but true. But ultimately it shouldn't matter. You look like or what you sound like. The comparison should be on more substantive qualities and merit and what you bring to the table. Lastly, with the I. Inclusion, which is the practice of providing equal access to opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized. The goal here is to create an environment where employees feel welcomed as a member of the organization. And that should be the priority. They want to be appreciated and recognized for who they are. And organizations, policies, and procedures should be carefully drafted to ensure that employees have that opportunity to feel that sense of belonging. One of my favorite quotes in this DEI realm is by Verna Myers, where she says diversity is being invited to the party and inclusion is being asked to dance. I like to add that equity would be allowing everyone the opportunity to actually pick the songs. 

Ben DiPietro: So now that you've laid that out as the framework, what are two things companies can do to improve their D, E, and I programs? How does the company get started on this process? 

Tiffany Archer: So first and foremost, leadership buy-in is paramount. Without a commitment from an involvement by leadership, employees will question how serious the organization is about undertaking this transformational process. Then secondly, companies have to commit to not applying a one-size-fits all approach or an off the shelf solution to address the myriad of D, E, and I issues that may exist. How does one get started? How does an organization tackle this? Frankly, we could probably have an entire podcast on this topic. But seriously Ben, many companies I'm seeing now they're forming task forces D, E, and I committees, retaining consultants all in an effort to kick off their transformational processes. I think these are helpful solutions, but only so long as that they're tailored for the company and its specific culture and values. 

Related Article: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Cannot Be Just An Internal Initiative 

On the topic of culture, I want to highlight Edward Hall's culture, iceberg theory. I'm a huge proponent of his work. He was an anthropologist and a cross-cultural researcher who came up with this theory in 1976, on how you can address organizational culture. It's really quite simple, this theory. Basically, an organizational cultures like an iceberg, a very small portion of the culture, roughly 10% is exposed on the surface, right? Making these areas really easy to identify, and you can address in quick time any sorts of issues or problems you might see. But where the real work and the important cultural data points lie are below the surface. That's around 90%. These include things like cultural beliefs, people's ideas, thought patterns, their unconscious biases. So the real onus is on the D, E, and I team to engage their stakeholders in meaningful discussions, right? Gathering qualitative and quantitative data around behaviors, customs, core values, religious beliefs, and other characteristics. 

An iceberg model shows that you can't judge a book by its cover or that 10% of the iceberg that's exposed. It's critical that we take the time to get to know and understand our employee base, to uncover their values and beliefs that underlie their behaviors. When you're armed with that information, you're able to stand up meaningful, relevant, and actionable plans to advance an organization's diversity equity and inclusion initiatives. So the big takeaway is digging deeper into the layers of the iceberg will allow the team to learn the challenges and pain points in the diversity equity inclusion program, and begin that longer journey of creating an action plan that specifically meets the needs of the employee population. 

Ben DiPietro: That sounds like where maybe the board needs to get in. So what role does the board play in folding this discussion and getting deeper down into that iceberg? 

Tiffany Archer: Well, again, as I said earlier board involvement and commitment and buy-in is key. We need board members to echo the same sentiment and messaging. We need the board to acknowledge that this process may be a long, arduous, challenging process, but we're committed to that process. I think also the board needs to echo the sentiment that it's going to take a lot of work, and despite the obstacles we're going to commit to moving forward. So I think, not only should leadership be doing that but the board should also have an active role in making sure that there's continuous forward progress in connection with these initiatives. 

Ben DiPietro: Pushing forward all this D, E, and I discussion too has been the support for racial justice that poured out into the streets all over the world last year, after the killings of George Floyd and so many others. What are the next steps to advance this issue from a business perspective and how can organizations help do their part here? 

Related Article: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Cannot Be Just An Internal Initiative

 Tiffany Archer: This is a sad topic. These tragic events have put a spotlight on the importance of addressing a long standing crisis affecting people of color. You know, you raise George Floyd. We all know he died because we watched as an officer kneeled on his neck until he could no longer breathe. Breonna Taylor, another person of color was wrongfully shot dead while asleep inside of her home. Rayshard Brooks, another person of color was shot in the back as he was approaching his vehicle where his children were sitting. These are all circumstances where police officers prioritized power over judgment or procedure. These killings amplified the deaths of people of color at the hands of police and elevated the prominence of racial inequality and disparity in policing. Each of these were victims of racial profiling and they each suffered unjust and untimely deaths. With that, I think it's so very important that we don't allow the passing of these events and individuals to become the passing of an opportunity to proactively address and work towards a solution to this historical problem. 

As far as how businesses can help, they can play a key part in this by keeping these issues alive in front and center, and at top of mind. Again, we don't want the passing of these events to be a passing of an opportunity. I think they can leverage this opportunity by standing up as ambassadors of change. I would say that the reliance on two key guideposts would be really helpful in this realm. So the first one would be acknowledgement, right? And going back to leadership. It's paramount that leaders, the board, et cetera, are vocal about their commitment to the fight for racial equality, and enterprise wide messaging would be the first step. Then secondly, action. You have to walk the talk if you truly have any interest in moving the needle. Even if the movement are just small steps, that forward cadence is critical. 

Related Article: Showing Up: LRN Launches New Anti-Racism Course 

So I advocate that businesses need to reassure employees that by really doing the work, not just through activities, like issue specific training on unconscious bias or diversity or sensitivity, but also focusing on developing equitable opportunities for growth and advancement, and not penalizing marginalized employees when they speak out. Again, as I said earlier, these will be difficult conversations and change will not happen overnight. But I think the most important thing that organizations need to demonstrate is that they're committed to the cause. Not only from the perspective of what is happening in the streets, but also from the perspective of what's happening within the walls of their offices. 

Ben DiPietro: Also, I believe they have a role to play in helping to reform police as well. We had an excellent podcast at the beginning of season four, with Florence Chung. [Listen to the episode] She's a member of the Hetty Group. Her job is to make a bridge between communities and police departments and try and rebuild some of that trust. She was talking about how business can be such a great mentor for departments that don't understand how to execute change management and all these things that businesses do very well. So there's a definite tie in and a role for them to play. 

Tiffany Archer: Yeah, absolutely. 

Ben DiPietro: The other topic dominating our world is COVID-19. It's obviously having a big impact on companies and their ENC programs and cultures. What have you learned about your program as a result of the pandemic, and what should the focus be on as you move forward? 

Tiffany Archer: A key theme that has come from this pandemic is the level of resilience our program has demonstrated. I know I'm proud of it, and I'm sure my colleagues would say the same thing. The aviation industry sadly suffered a tremendous blow between the travel bands, reduced flight capacity and routes, people's fear of flying because of COVID protocols. It's really been a challenging time, but nevertheless, our program's commitment to compliance has been unwavering. As I said earlier, compliance is our foundation. We've adapted to this new normal, and we've remained connected to our stakeholders. We make connecting virtually and regularly an absolute priority, and continue to reassure them that we are here to help. We've really tried our best to turn a dark and dreary time into something lighter and more personable and relatable. So for example, we've created a number of communication initiatives. One of which includes vignettes, where we have compliance character avatars work through COVID related or other challenging scenarios that our staff may face during this time. And kind of walk them through how best to deal with the circumstances or challenging decisions that they're confronted with. 

We've also focused on reminding employees that PAC's culture is rooted in honesty and integrity. There really should be no fear of speaking up if there are any questions, or concerns or something just doesn't feel right. For me personally, I found that the most success is in reminding my stakeholders that I'm a confidant and a business partner. I spoke earlier about not just being the department of no. I really do, do my best to be empathetic, and compassionate, and understanding, that everybody is going through a different circumstance, and one person's challenge might be very different from another's. But it's critical to continue to have these discussions and these dialogues to instill trust. When they trust me, I know that if the need arises, they'll come to talk to me to work things through. 

My role isn't to be a bottleneck it's to assess the facts, determine how to facilitate the outcome that they're looking for, but in a way that comports with our policies and procedures. Finally, I've spent a lot of time encouraging my stakeholders to consider their mental health, and their self-care regime, and to try to keep their spirits and mental fortitude up. We are all in this together. We are embracing the worst of times. But the key to getting to the other side is going to be through persistence and resilience, and that's the message that I try to communicate regularly. 

Ben DiPietro: That is such an important topic, and it's going to be with us for years to come I believe as the fallout from all this. Now let me ask you one last question. I want to thank you so much for your time today. This has been so much fun. Tell me about one or two of your mentors who have helped you work your way up in this profession? Then offer a piece of advice to young people, looking for a career in ENC. 

Tiffany Archer: One key mentor in my life is Marcia Narine Weldon. She went to Columbia University and is also a Harvard Law School grad. She's an attorney and a University of Miami Law School professor. She was formerly a chief compliance officer and deputy general counsel. She's played an integral role in really guiding me towards overcoming imposter syndrome, encouraging me to push past my internal boundaries. To continue to learn, to strive, to grow towards things that maybe I didn't think I was capable of, but because of her push and her encouragement I kind of stepped out and tried to do more. 

The second part of your question you asked me, one tip I could give younger people who are looking for a career in ethics and compliance? I would say that for those who are looking to foster a culture of compliance and have a successful career in compliance, they need to keep in mind that their emotional quotient trumps their intelligence quotient, or their IQ every time. So you may have gone to the best school, or you may be the smartest person in the room, or have the most experience in a particular industry but if your emotional potion is weak, or if you lack the ability to demonstrate empathy and emotional intelligence, and develop strong relationships, and diffusing conflict, and building trust with your teams, all of that may prove to be a very challenging feat. So I would say EQ trumps IQ every time. 

Ben DiPietro: That's a great way to end. Thank you so much, Tiffany. This was wonderful. I had such a good time talking with you. I look forward to working with you again in the future. Best of luck until then stay safe. Hopefully, we'll see you when we can all come outside and play. 

Tiffany Archer: Thanks so much, Ben, and same to you. Stay safe and I'll see you on the other side. 

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