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Becoming Charles Phillips

March 8, 2017, 3:16 PM UTC

We’ve just posted a short video interview with Charles Phillips, CEO of Infor, a $2.8 billion enterprise software firm. Check it out, it’ll make you’re your day.

Phillips is one of the first executives I interviewed when I started the race beat at Fortune, and it was a great way to begin. (Fortune’s Michal Lev-Ram has an extraordinary profile of Phillips here.) A former Marine Corps officer, who rose up the ranks in Wall Street, then jumped into tech to run acquisitions for Larry Ellison at Oracle. Now, as the head of Infor, he’s using his software and leadership chops to help companies embrace diversity both strategically and organically. “I didn’t work with any black people most of my career. And, it wasn’t even a thought,” he told me.

Now, he thinks about it all the time. He’s invested in specific education programs at the community college level that will help develop diverse candidates trained in Infor software, and he’s incentivizing his recruiters to make sure that diverse candidates don’t just walk in the door, they stick around. He routinely meets with young black tech executives coming out of Facebook, Google, and other Valley companies with start-up ideas. And he’s part of a small network of similarly focused executives, a supper club with a bias for action, who come together to discuss and fund numerous worthy ideas. One, like booking theaters to help thousands of kids across the country see Ava DuVernay’s Selma for free, came together after a few e-mails. Others, like a $1 million donation to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in 2015 happened after president Sherrilyn Ifill gave an informal pitch for a police reform campaign at one of their regular dinners. “She had a good plan,” he says.

But like all leaders who are trying to shape the world, Charles Phillips was once just a boy, who needed some shaping of his own. In this often touching clip, he talks about his career path and the important role the military played in his development, first as a military kid and later as a Marine. Turns out, traveling the world is the best possible diversity training exercise, making everyone both an outsider and a potential friend. (Spoiler: I’ll be having fried chicken for lunch, as tribute to his very cool-sounding mother.)


On Point

Third largest asset manager places a statue of a defiant girl in front of the Wall Street bullState Street Global Advisers has placed a statue of a little white girl, hands defiantly on her hips, and staring down the iconic Wall Street charging bull statue. It’s an inspiring part of a broader campaign to get public companies to add more women to their boards. "There has been a lot of discussion on this topic, but the needle hasn't moved materially," Lori Heinel, State Street's deputy global chief investment officer, told Business Insider. State Street, which is a nearly $2.5 trillion investor and unit within State Street Corp, sent a letter to 3,500 companies on Tuesday asking them to get on board. Click through to get your power pose on.Business Insider

V.C. Aileen Lee gets real about sexism
Aileen Lee is a Silicon Valley stalwart, the founder of Cowboy Ventures and an insightful critic of tech culture. In this candid podcast with Pando’s Sarah Lacy, she starts with an interesting confession: She didn’t really think sexism existed until she hit her 30s. Otherwise highly qualified women, she says, begin to feel isolated at work, just at the time their careers should be ramping up. “You aren’t grabbing drinks with your boss after work… for many years, I did not realize this was happening,” she says. “You start to feel more alone, and it gets political and … meanwhile your husband is doing great at work and getting a lot more support...I wish someone had told us when we were in business school that that’s what happens.” She pulls no punches on Uber, either. Click through for the audio.

U.S. Senate unites in their request to get President Trump to address the threats against Jewish community groups
Yes, all of them. All one hundred senators have asked the president to take concrete steps to address the growing threats of violence against Jewish organizations, which include community centers, schools, cemeteries, and schools. An advance copy of the letter was shared with Politico.“We are concerned that the number of incidents is accelerating and failure to address and deter these threats will place innocent people at risk and threaten the financial viability of JCCs, many of which are institutions in their communities,” it said. The letter was addressed to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, FBI Director James Comey, and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and the effort was lead by Senators Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) See? They can work together.

Beauty+Beast=People are upset about an openly gay character in a film in which an imprisoned woman falls in love with – what is that thing anyway?!?
Disney’s live-action version of Beauty and the Beast has been raising some concerns over the first openly gay character ever portrayed in a Disney film. It’s been given an age restriction in Russia, and one theater in Alabama has banned it entirely. But the delightful Josh Gad, who plays the gay character LeFou, has the last word on the subject. "What I would say is that this film is one of inclusiveness," Gad told People. "There are themes in it that I do think are really important, and that probably at the forefront of that is never judging a book by its cover. There is so much fear out there of that which we don’t understand.” Click through, it gets better from there. #TeamJosh

Theory: We’ve been looking at the mass incarceration problem all wrong
Criminologist and law professor John Pfaff calls our current understanding of mass incarceration in the U.S. the “Standard Story.” It’s a simple formula: The needless war on drugs, egregiously long sentences for non-violent offenders and the scourge of private prisons have contributed to the country’s extraordinarily high incarceration rate. But digging into who actually ends up in prison and for how long, paints a different picture, say Pfaff. First, people aren’t in prison for that long. Prison growth is driven by admissions, not length of sentences, he says. "[T]he primary goal should be to reduce the number of prisoners, not the prison population. Focusing on the latter allows the former to quietly rise,” Pfaff writes.

Study: Innocent African Americans more likely to be wrongfully convicted of serious crimes
A new study blames unconscious bias, misconduct and explicit racism for these dismal findings: African-Americans are far more likely to be wrongfully convicted of crimes such as murder, sexual assault, and drugs. The study also said black Americans were about seven times more likely to be wrongfully convicted of murder than white Americans. "In the murder cases we examined, the rate of official misconduct is considerably higher in cases where the defendant is African-American compared to cases where the defendant is white," said Samuel Gross, a University of Michigan Law School professor. Innocent black defendants are also 12 times more likely to be convicted of a drug charge than innocent white defendants.

The Woke Leader

How former slaves pursued their American dreams
So, Ben Carson, the new HUD chief, recently said some things about slavery, not good things, that I’m sure you’ve already discussed to death. Instead, take a few minutes today to explore this extraordinary site that has collected “information wanted” newspaper ads from former slaves, who were looking for loved ones who had been ripped away from them via sale or other violence. “INFORMATION WANTED of my grandmother whose name was Ritter Payne,” wrote Dovie Epps, in one ad. “She was sent South just before the war and sold to a Negro Trader named Haden who lived in Leon County, Tex. She left two children, Amanda Payne, my mother, and Pink Payne, my uncle…Any information concerning her will be gratefully received.” The site is also looking to crowd-source transcription duties.
Information Wanted

#DearSister hashtag encourages Muslim women to share their frustration with oppressive men
Egyptian-American journalist Mona Eltahawy has pulled back the curtain on a dynamic that many women are sure to find familiar: The condescending advice from strange men explaining why her ideas, are, in his view, all wrong. "Save your lectures, whether you're a total stranger or someone I know. 'Sister Mona' is not interested," she tweeted. Before long, thousands of other tweets appeared, from Australia to Pakistan, and beyond. The biggest pet peeve was being told how to dress and behave from men who were clearly living their lives differently. But as the hashtag grew, so did a sense of solidarity and strength. "For me the most important thing it that #DearSister is a platform for Muslim women and girls - somewhere they get the space to speak, and everyone must listen," Eltahaway told the BBC.

Some terrific young Latinx authors to add to your family’s increasingly diversified reading list
This list, courtesy of Bustle, offers an interesting array of choices, including young adult, comic books, and middle-grade fiction, all of which solve two pressing problems. First, they amplify emerging voices from overlooked talent in fiction and two, they all sound like damn good reads. “[T]he only way to ensure that we continue to see diverse voices hitting the shelves is by reading and championing more of them,” says Kerri Jarema.


The size of your dreams must always exceed your current capacity to achieve them. If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough.
—Ellen Johnson Sirleaf