Skip to Content

raceAhead: When Morgan Stanley Talks About Race

Last week, I participated in a panel discussion at Morgan Stanley’s New York headquarters, called Challenging Times: A discussion about race, the current social environment and the workplace. It was a candid, no-holds-barred discussion of race, violence, inclusion, business, frustration and hope.

You can find some video clips here.

The idea belonged to Susan Reid, the Managing Director of Human Resources who leads the firm’s global diversity efforts with a small but dedicated team. Reid was moved when a young associate named Ian Abbott came to her expressing anguish over current events, specifically, the officer involved shootings in Minneapolis and Louisiana. He was struggling to process it all, the mask of his corporate life becoming increasingly uncomfortable to wear. He shared this raceAhead piece on why employers should talk about the police shootings. (Thanks for that, Ian.) “I realized then that I was struggling with the news as well,” she said. “And if we were, other people must be too.”

She was right. The panel came together in less than three weeks, and with extraordinary care. Some 1500 employees attended either in person or by webcast, and the video was shared with the entire firm.

Two things really stood out.

First, powerful people, two of whom are white, not only showed up, they participated with candor and openness. It was a power ally move. Tom Nides, Morgan Stanley’s Vice Chairman served as moderator, and framed it as a conversation, not a demand for action items. “Why are these things so hard to talk about?” he asked. “And why is it important that we do, here, at the firm?”

Mandell Crawley, their charismatic intern-who-grew-to-be-CMO, spoke candidly about the Black Lives Matter movement, and how the issues they raise are both important and challenging to understand. “Because of the current climate, we are being forced into positions where you have to take sides,” he said. But, “to the degree that due process doesn’t happen… and there doesn’t seem to be accountability, you get this powerful impression that somehow our lives don’t matter as much as others.”

The operative word for all was empathy. “The opportunity costs of not seeing empathy is what we should talk about,” said Alex Ehrlich who is the Global Co-Head of Morgan Stanley’s Prime Brokerage business. Theirs is a culture where commercial success is based on meeting client needs, which has its roots in empathy. “So if you buy the idea that we are actually good at empathy as a matter of achieving our commercial objectives,” he said, “it always seems to me kind of shocking if we don’t sort of tacitly try to turn that empathy on each other.”

Now, this was a win for Reid, who chose to consider what one young, millennial associate of color was thinking, and scale that into a public conversation that is still happening. But, it was a bigger win for Abbott, and his many, many colleagues who meet regularly to talk about race, their careers and where they fit into the wider world.

“This was big,” Abbott told me after the panel. “This was real.”

 

Have a restful weekend, everyone. Back at you for some more real talk on Monday.

On Point

If Ryan Lochte was black, we wouldn’t think it was funnyThe Huffington Post has a good round-up of the Twitter commentary around Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte’s scandal – of lying about an armed robbery in Rio to cover up a drunken brawl. It’s all about the white privilege. “(W)hite privilege is going to a foreign country, peeing on a business’s floor & kicking in a door, & then saying YOU were robbed.” And so forth.Huffington Post


John Maeda wants to make the world more inclusive through design
Designers, business leaders and entrepreneurs have watched Maeda’s influence grow during his storied career – from the MIT Media Lab, to RISD, and most recently to Kleiner Perkins. His latest move is to Automattic, the company behind WordPress.  His job as Global Head, Computational Design and Inclusion is “to show anyone how to become a more design oriented company,” he told Wired. By his definition, it means more diverse and more inclusive.
Wired



There will be no federal observers at problematic poll sites this fall
In 2013, a Supreme Court decision invalidated Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which had required that jurisdictions guilty of past voting infractions would need to be “precleared” before they made changes to voting procedures. That decision also eliminated a program that provided federal observers for places that had discriminated in the past.
New York Magazine


Justice Department to end use of private prisons
Justice Department officials found private prisons are less safe and less effective than those run by the government. In a memo published Thursday, officials announced their intention to decline to renew existing contracts or substantially reduce their scope. It’s a small move, affecting some 13 prisons and 22,000 inmates, but the announcement could spark widespread change in the overall prison system. “This is a huge deal,” says the director of the ACLU National Prison Project.
Washington Post

Private prisons profit from the US detention of Latinos
To put the private prison system issue into specific context, in 2014, the U.S. government signed a four-year $1 billion no-bid contract with the country’s largest private prison company, CCA, to detain immigrant families seeking asylum. Last year, the company reported record profits.
Telesur


Chicago Police Department seeks to fire seven officers who lied about shooting
The officers were on the scene two years ago, when a Chicago police officer fatally shot Laquan McDonald. The seven are among dozens of others who filed reports that contradicted video evidence of the shooting. “This is the classic code of silence situation where you have an incident go down and you’ve got multiple police officers who all feel obligated to help cover the behavior of police officers,” said a criminal defense attorney.
Chicago Tribune

The Woke Leader


Charming Chinese couple make friends in the US, news back at home
Though they can barely speak a word of English, Chen Aiwu, 64, and her husband, Wang Dongsheng, 66 came to the U.S. looking for an epic retiree road trip. An almost comical series of miscommunications later, their vacation was saved by the kindness of American strangers (for once) and made them social media stars when they returned home. A feel-good read with a good dose of culture shock.
Washington Post


Your career is about growing your skills, not your resume
Julie Zhou, VP of product design at Facebook, offers some unusually insightful career advice for everyone, but particularly for folks from a non-majority culture. Top tip: Don’t think of your career as a series of promotions and achievements; think of it as a set of skills you develop and impacts that you can have. That flips the relationship between you and your manager in a very specific way: Seek feedback diligently so you can grow and contribute, not to check off boxes for your resume.
Medium


Bias will destroy your company but it doesn’t have to
Karla Monterroso, the VP of programs for the intern development program Code2040, says that anti-bias training doesn’t work because people don’t know their own blind spots.  Start with yourself, she says. Two offers two other “pillars” of thinking– embrace the business case for diversity and train others to have tough conversations about race. And that means helping them recover when they make an embarrassing mistake. Because they will.  
Medium

Quote

I was just, you know, kind of getting racist jokes, kind of being isolated from the group. So it was definitely hard. I would come home at night and just cry my eyes out.
—Gabby Douglas