An embarrassment of riches poured from Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Next Gen Summit in Laguna Niguel, Calif. over the past two days.
What made the conference shine was the vulnerability and wisdom which came from the participants at every turn, whether they were on stage or speaking from the floor, culminating in the ideas that were shared during Wednesday’s Town Hall discussion on overcoming blind spots. More on that in a moment.
Perfect for the raceAhead crowd is this extraordinary discussion between Professor Anita Hill and Fortune’s Kristen Bellstrom. They did not mince words when it came to the high cost of sexual harassment in the workplace and beyond.
“I think we have to understand the root problem for what it is,” says Hill. “It’s not just about sexual harassment. In many ways, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It is about the abuse of power that occurs.” The dynamic is insidious. “One way abuse of power is manifested is through sexual harassment,” she said. “But it’s also manifested through pay inequity. It’s also manifested through lack of leadership opportunities. It’s also manifested just by day to day aggressions that occur.”
Similarly on point was this conversation with JPMorgan Chase’s Thasunda Duckett, who says that diversity goals should be managed and enforced with the same rigor as other business metrics. “When you are not delivering the right level of returns or the right level of performance, you focus on it and you do not allow excuses to get in the way,” she says.“It has to start from the top, and then you have to make sure you hold people accountable just like you do every other business metric.”
And we have to be able to talk about race at work and in the world at large, agrees another panel. It opens up opportunities to have the difficult conversations that allow people to be seen. “I’m black first and a woman second,” said Bärí Williams, vice president of legal, business, and policy affairs at All Turtles. “Someone else might walk in the room and might say they are a mother first. It’s really about trying to meet people where they are.”
And yet, people resist. “One company literally said to me, ‘Oh no, we don’t talk about race. We are not comfortable with that conversation,’” shared Molly [f500link, ignore=true]Ford[/f500link], senior director of global equality programs at Salesforce. “And I was talking to a black person on somebody’s diversity team.”
“It’s the theory of, ‘If you don’t open your mouth, you’re not going to put your foot in it,’” she said. “But that’s not going to help us move forward if we’re afraid to have these conversations.”
In that spirit, the parting highlight of the conference was a remarkable Town Hall discussion where women came together to dig deeply into their own experiences on both sides of blind spots, and to make fresh commitments to find ways to dismantle the barriers society erects for women, particularly women of color.
The discussion was led with grace and candor by Katrina Jones, Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Twitch, Karla Monterroso, the CEO of Code2040, and Leyla Seka, Executive Vice President, AppExchange, Salesforce. It was an extraordinary conversation and I was honored to witness it.
The MPW/raceAhead teams have promised to find a way to capture those insights in a form that can be shared and built-upon, so stay tuned.
|Walker & Company Brands is acquired by Procter and Gamble|
|Fast Company’s J.J. McCorvey has followed the Tristan Walker story from the start, and he’s right: This deal will cement his legacy as a champion for diversity in tech and a powerhouse in reinventing established markets through a fully inclusive lens. Walker & Company Brands, Walker’s five-year-old health and beauty startup, is being acquired by Procter and Gamble for an undisclosed figure; the team of fifteen will be relocating to Atlanta, where they will continue to grow as a wholly owned subsidiary, with Walker at the helm as CEO. Well done all around.|
|Black professionals share their microaggression survival strategies|
|When flight attendants questioned the credentials of Fatima Cody Stanford, a black doctor who was attempting to help a passenger in distress, she later revealed that she always carries her medical license to dispatch skeptics, just in case. It’s just one example of the kind of strategies black professionals adopt as “micro-aggression insurance,” a set of workplace behaviors, attire, and real-world tactics—like steering clear of white women in elevators and parking lots to appear less menacing. Sound tiring? Yes, it does.|
|New York Times|
|Miss Jackson gets her due|
|It is not possible to watch the luminous stars of today without seeing the influence of Janet Jackson, so her fans greeted the news of her induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with unalloyed glee. She will be honored at the 34th annual ceremony at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center on March 29, 2019, alongside some other people, I suppose. (The Cure, Def Leppard, Stevie Nicks, Radiohead, Roxy Music, and The Zombies, relax don’t @-me.) We are all part of Rhythm Nation, now.|
|Issa Rae signs multi-year production deal with Columbia pictures|
|And best of all, she’s using her platform to root for everybody black. And brown. And otherwise underrepresented. The Insecure star, working under the banner of her production company ColorCreative, is using her deal partly as a mentorship program for emerging, underrepresented writers, who will work with Rae to develop and write original features. The first round of participants will be announced sometime next spring.|
The Woke Leader
|Remembering the Nanjing Massacre|
|In 1937, the Japanese launched an invasion of China; on December 13, the then-capital city of Nanjing was finally taken. What happened next was a horror of massive proportions. As many as 300,000 people, including children, were massacred in the weeks of rampaging that followed. Some 200,000 women and girls were raped and entire communities razed. Chinese president Xi Jinping led a somber remembrance ceremony today, careful to say that China would “look forward” to deepening its historically fraught relationship with Japan. But the pain runs deep, despite attempts to downplay the magnitude of the event. Click through for more history and videos from some of the 97 remaining survivors.|
|If you’re feeling good about yourself, read this|
|It certainly took me down a peg. Christian Jarrett, a cognitive neuroscientist turned science writer, has weighed in with ten ways science has proven that human beings are insufferable bigots by nature. Yay! Start with brain scans that show our tendency to dehumanize low-status, minorities, and vulnerable people and then blame them for their plights. Schadenfraude is encoded in our brains before kindergarten, and my personal favorite: a bunch of us would rather give ourselves unpleasant electric shocks then spend time in quiet reflection. Oh, and we’re vain, overconfident and dogmatic. It’s not a McSweeney piece, I triple-checked.|
|A new, interactive tool can help you craft a better apology|
|If you have just discovered that you’ve run roughshod over the feelings of someone else (see above), game designer and activist Elizabeth Sampat has created an elegant, interactive tool that can help anyone not only craft a better apology but become a more emotionally aware person. Called, “Am I Part Of The Problem?” it takes a player through a step-by-step process of introspection, helping them understand what they did, understand the difference between intent and impact, and ultimately how to apologize and make amends. It’s a very good tool. Start with this excellent review from Lifehacker.|