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raceAhead: AT&T’s Plan for Intentional Inclusion

While reporting for The Black Ceiling, my feature article for Fortune that examines why black women aren’t making progress in corporate life, it became evident that proximity really matters.

One of the persistent challenges in creating inclusive workplaces is that people who are “different from each other” don’t typically have a natural way to work together. This is particularly hard on the young up-and-comers who are largely invisible to potential sponsors. Former Xerox CEO Ursula Burns and other senior leaders say that spontaneous exchanges between potential sponsors and the ambitious young people who need almost never happen. “There’s no natural place for these people to get together,” says Burns. “These places have to be created. There is no natural pathway for connection, it’s not going to happen just walking down the hall.”

Corey Anthony, AT&T’s senior vice president of human resources and chief diversity officer, has taken this insight to heart. Inclusion efforts have to be intentional — but even that isn’t enough, he says. Instead, interactions have to be designed in a way that maximizes good feelings. It’s the only strategy that breaks down barriers, he says. “We have all of this empirical evidence that says every company that’s trying to make money and have awesome customer service should be focused on trying to be as diverse as possible,” he says. “But what I would tell you is that most companies probably spend too much time focusing on the reasoning and rationale for diversity, and not enough time focused on the emotions that are attached to diversity.”

Anthony says that bias against black women as leaders is often hidden and runs deep, based on everything from upbringing, to images in the media, to personal history. As a diversity leader, “I have a better chance of countering that with an equally strong and powerful emotion.”

Anthony is testing his philosophy by orchestrating meaningful opportunities for senior leaders of all backgrounds to get to know black women. His first foray into inclusion by design in his current role was a conference held this September. More than a year in the making, it brought 150 high-potential women, half of whom were black, together for networking and learning. As part of the conference, Anthony invited some of AT&T’s senior leaders — both men and women — and made sure each was paired with small working groups that all included black women. His goal was to orchestrate an experience where people who might not ordinarily interact could work together on a shared project, and while doing so, get to know each other. “The feedback on both sides has been phenomenal,” he says. With good feelings running high, his next goal is to make sure these types of events happen outside of the high potential pool.

“There are thousands of women in the business who need these same developmental opportunities,” he says. “I asked everyone who said they saw the value, to now think of themselves as evangelists,” he says. “You’re equipped now, go replicate it across the business.”

On Point

Facebook has dispatched a communications team to Puerto RicoIt should help, as the island continues to grapple with an ever-worsening humanitarian crisis. “Communication is critical during a disaster,” Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a post onWednesday. “With 90% of cell towers on the island out of service, people can’t get in touch with their loved ones—and it’s harder for rescue workers to coordinate relief efforts.” Click through for more ways to help.Fortune

The FBI is investigating at least 1,000 cases of potential white supremacist violence
Federal officials revealed these investigations to lawmakers yesterday. It was the first time the agency confirmed it had such a large number of cases in process, which amounts to about the same number of cases linked to ISIS or other similar terrorist groups. “We’re very busy,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said. There are some things to consider, however. While federal law makes it a crime to provide material support to foreign terrorists, there is no such law around providing material aid to a domestic, white supremacist group intent upon violence.
Washington Post

Analysis: Racial disparities in the bankruptcy system drive black debtors further into financial ruin
ProPublica, working with The Atlantic, is back with another important analysis, this time of bankruptcy filings nationwide. Their reporting has uncovered an unusual situation in the Western District of Tennessee, where black debtors are often encouraged to consider a less comprehensive form of protection and pay for their bankruptcy costs with credit. This decision drives them further into debt and, eventually, into bankruptcy default. The debtors experience none of the relief that the bankruptcy system is supposed to provide. “Scrutiny of Memphis is important, because the racial differences we found there are present across the country,” the analysis found.

A small town in Idaho becomes the poster child for anti-Muslim propagandists
Caitlin Dickerson has turned in a masterpiece of reporting that will break your heart: the incredible true story of how fake news nearly tore apart Twin Falls, Idaho, population 45,000. At issue was a rumor that refugee children had attempted to rape a local girl. It wasn’t true, but the now global network of anti-Muslim activists, some with celebrity-sized online and Facebook followings, were deftly able to take the rumor and turn it into an international incident. But what it did to the town was worse.
New York Times

The Woke Leader

The Daily Show investigates a $100 a month prescription service for white allies
Safety Pin Box is “a monthly subscription box for white people who want to be allies in the fight for black liberation,” and there are 1,000 subscribers. I apologize to my editors and readers for not pitching this idea myself, as it would have earned me an entertaining dressing down on The Daily Show. “So you saw Blue Apron and said, ‘oh, that’s how we solve racism,’” quips TDS correspondent Roy Wood Jr. The show tracks down one of the subscribers, Kate, who seems like a legitimately nice person and a very good sport. They send her out with a hidden microphone to talk about race with other white people… and she actually got some reparations! And the founders have earned enough to give $60,000 to black women activists. Boom.

Oregon hippies go to war with a Native community over a fake totem pole
While that may be the gist of this truly sad tale, the real juice is in the telling. The Oregon County Fair is a delightful-sounding three-day event that has a devoted following and a cool history – it was elevated from its homespun roots when local celebrity Ken Kesey asked the Grateful Dead to play there in the 1970s. But a modern-day fight over a “story pole,” a culturally inaccurate and insensitive faux totem thing, has pitted the peace crowd against actual native people, who are claiming more than appropriation – the site of the pole is destined for land that once was home to the Kalapuya people. The fight, which is getting ugly, is emblematic of a bigger one of identity, rights, and plunder.
The Outline

Dolls with disabilities go mainstream
Two decades ago, Mattel had to scramble after Barbie’s disabled pal “Share a Smile Becky” – the first fashion doll that came with a wheelchair – couldn’t fit into the elevator of Barbie’s tony Dream House. Things have come a long way, as popular dolls nowadays come with a wide variety of supportive devices like hearing aids, crutches, and insulin pumps, even without hair for cancer patients. Since one in four people will experience a disability at some point in their lives, normalizing a life together is good business. “This isn’t a niche market,” says one expert. “Everyone has a family member with a disability,” she said. “Everyone knows someone with a disability.”


you have to understand,/ that no one puts their children in a boat / unless the water is safer than the land / no one burns their palms / under trains / beneath carriages / no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck / feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled / means something more than journey. / no one crawls under fences / no one wants to be beaten / pitied
—Warsan Shire