Fortune’s Include U Challenge for September 7:
Today, share your unique privilege with someone else.
Instructor: Anjuan Simmons, technologist, speaker, inclusion evangelist
Anjuan Simmons has been in tech for years — first at Accenture and Deloitte, and now in the startup world — but he considers his true calling to be evangelizing on behalf of inclusion. “We’ve seen Facebook, Google, the big tech companies publish their diversity numbers with no net positive change in three years,” he says.
Simmons uses his platform as a manager and on the tech speaking circuit to make the case that inclusion – the attempt to make a diverse set of employees thrive in a welcoming environment – will not work if it’s just a set of lofty, C-Suite mandates. “It’s going to take people demanding inclusion for it to happen.”
But his call to action is a simple one that everyone can do every day: Lend someone else the benefit of your unique privilege. And we all have some to share.
“My concept of lending privilege came from years of thinking about and speaking out against the barriers that underrepresented minority groups have faced in technology for decades,” he says. It has a basis in actual tech talk. “Almost every computer system has the concept of ‘user privileges’ which are the rights to perform some action in the system,” he says. “The same is absolutely true in life.” If he gets access to an after-work outing, a speaking opportunity, a networking event or a chance to present in a meeting based on the access he has for being “one of the guys,” he shares it with someone else. “Simply being a man gave me a lot of access and control that those who lacked my gender privilege often struggled to obtain,” he says. “Whenever I gained something that someone without my privilege didn’t get, I simply shared it with them.”
Simmons, who speaks about inclusion at about 10 tech events a year, uses those opportunities to offer his personal testimony that representation matters. The only black technologist he knew as a child was Geordi LaForge, the chief engineer of the USS Enterprise on “Star Trek: The Next Generation” television series. (Someone please forward this to Levar Burton, stat.) “Seeing La Forge gave me the confidence to get my degree in electrical engineering at University of Texas at Austin, then lead tech teams at Accenture and Deloitte.” He may not run starships, but he’s contributed a lot to his field and wants to share all the professional capital he’s accumulated. “I’m a Black man who has delivered a lot of technology solutions for global companies,” he says. “That’s a privilege I don’t take lightly.”
For today’s challenge, Anjuan Simmons asks that you share the benefits of your privilege with someone else.
“The power of lending privilege is its simplicity. Whenever I gained something that someone without my privilege didn’t get, I simply shared it with them. If there’s an after work event that seems to only include people like me, I make sure those who lack my privilege know about it. If someone with whom I share privilege asks me to do something for them, I offer to do the same thing for someone who, compared to me, is unprivileged. Lending privilege doesn’t mean I’m losing anything. It’s simply sharing my privilege with those who are differently privileged than I am.”
Post your thoughts on today’s challenge on Twitter with #IncludeU30.
Looking for all the challenges? Start here.