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raceAhead: Doing Well By Doing Good, Skeptical Board Members, Google Needs A Hug

Quick greetings from Baltimore, where I was invited to speak on a media panel at BBCon, a tech convention specifically for professionals operating in the social good arena. With me was Matt Petronzio, Social Good Editor from Mashable and Stacy Palmer the Editor of Chronicle of Philanthropy, and our conversation was moderated by Susan McPherson, angel investor and CEO of McPherson Strategies. As always happens, we started as strangers and left as friends committed to each other’s success.

I should really do more panels.

The discussion was an opportunity to talk about how non-profits and other organizations can understand how media operates in a rapidly changing world, and how they can better leverage traditional and social media to help support their mission. The big takeaway was transparency: Explain more about what you’re doing and how you’re measuring success, share relevant data early and often, and get creative about telling your own stories, particularly when it helps to teach journalists and the public about the complexities of your work.

You can see a shorter version of what we talked about here.

It was also a chance for me to share the commitment that Fortune has made in the last few years to document and, more importantly, shape, how corporations are re-thinking their impact on a world in crisis. Establishing a beat on race and inclusion is clearly an important element.

But in my panel preparation, I re-read the working report generated by attendees of the Vatican Global Forum, an event co-hosted by Fortune and TIME in 2016, that brought major business leaders together to answer a call from the Pope to find ways to address inequality and uplift the poor.

“Our world today is marked by great unrest,” Pope Francis said when presented with the report. “Inequality between peoples continues to rise, and many communities are impacted directly by war and poverty, or the migration and displacement which flow from them…. Your very presence here today is a sign of such hope, because it shows that you recognize the issues before us and the imperative to act decisively.”

And then I re-read our latest “Change the World” list of companies that are “doing well by doing good.” And revisited our reporting for The CEO Initiative, an important convening held last month for the CEOs of companies committed to addressing major social issues as part of their core business strategies. The work is starting to take shape.

I came away newly inspired. Not that long ago, “social good” would have been a niche and temporary beat for business journalists, typically focused on marketing and fundraising for causes. Now, it’s increasingly part of the mainstream conversation and always-on business operations. While I hesitated to call this moment a tipping point, it feels like something important has shifted. Competitors are now radically collaborative, even to the point of sitting around a table, to collectively fine-tune strategies to address workforce development, global health, climate change and race, among many other things. If it’s a sign of things to come, then I’m ready to declare it the new business as usual.

But maybe I’m biased.

On Point

Directors on board diversity: We mostly approveThe news is mixed. A new survey from PwC of nearly 900 directors shows that 73% recognize that diversity is beneficial. Of that segment, 94% said gender and racial diversity brings unique perspectives to the boardroom, and 59% tied it to better company performance. A small but irritating 16% said that gender and racial diversity had no benefits at all. “What’s perhaps just as concerning is how directors split at a more fundamental level, with large swaths of respondents—33% and 24%, respectively—saying socioeconomic diversity and racial diversity are ‘not at all important’ to fostering diversity of thought in the boardroom,” reports Claire Zillman.Fortune

Folks in Google HR may need a hug today
Grant Lindsley is an entertaining writer who has a way with a phrase and a funny, albeit somewhat fictitious, LinkedIn profile. But he’s also a former “talent channels specialist” at Google, once a dream job, which soon became an exercise is tech-enabled, recruitment drudgery. “I scour LinkedIn, a factory farm of fluff, for engineers with a specific skill set and then send hundreds of canned messages to unsuspecting professionals each week,” he writes. Not exactly the commitment to diverse recruiting you were expecting?
Washington Post

Judge blocks third version of the Trump administration’s travel ban
A federal judge in Hawaii has blocked the latest attempt by the president to impose travel restrictions on people from Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad and North Korea, as well as certain officials from Venezuela, saying the ban is a continuation of Trump’s “promise to exclude Muslims from the United States.” The ruling takes effect at midnight tonight.

Finally, a bright spot in an industry diversity report: Fashion
The Fashion Spot offers detailed analysis of the diversity found on runways for important shows in four fashion centers, New York, London, Paris, and Milan. Click through for the gorgeous details on the Spring 2018 season. The need to know: Gains in casting across race, transgender, body diversity and intersectional categories were up across the board – led in large measure by NYC. “A record 93 plus-size models walked the runways, up from 30 last season and 16 in Spring 2017,” they report. And, “it’s clear the industry is not only moving beyond exclusion, it’s moving beyond tokenism.” Excellent reporting.
The Fashion Spot

The Woke Leader

The racist history of the Man Booker prize
Yesterday, American writer George Saunders won the much sought-after prize for his novel “Lincoln in the Bardo.” But, says Natalie Hopkinson, in an essay adapted from an upcoming book, there’s an ugly history of the people behind the prize that’s worth remembering. “Booker” is the surname of a trio of British brothers who set up a sugar firm in 1834 in Guyana, which relied on enslaved Africans to do the majority of the work. Then with help from the British Parliament, relied on indentured servants from India. Booker industries exploited Guyana until the late 20th century. Now, the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, “[t]he occasion invites us to reflect on how the residue of slavery and white supremacy permeates our cultural life, and determines whose histories are celebrated and whose are erased.”
New York Times

Me too?
This summer, educator and activist Brittany Packnett wrote a searing opinion piece that highlights a profound sensitivity among women of color: Outrage is often absent when sexual abuse is directed primarily at black and brown women. She held out as an example the then-breaking news alleging that R&B singer R. Kelly had been holding a group of young, black women in an abusive “sex cult.” The women, many of them underage, were reported to have been coerced into sex acts and forced into abortions. No hashtag, no outcry. She quotes Chicago reporter Jim DeRogatis who has been tirelessly trying to break this story for years. “The saddest fact I’ve learned is: Nobody matters less to our society than young black women.”
The Cut

Making a different case for diversity in tech
Todd L. Pittinsky, a professor of technology and society at Stony Brook University and a senior lecturer at Harvard, points to an affirmative case for diversity that moves past typical “business case for…” language.  For starters, diversity makes people feel good. “Put simply, the negative emotions that tend to go along with bias — fear, anger, contempt, and the like — are damaging,” he says. Diversity done right, which can elicit feelings of admiration, comfort and kinship, not to mention a sense of novelty and adventure, can drive innovation. “Replace those [negative] feelings with positive emotions and we all will benefit,” he says. 


How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase. In the meantime, all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.
—Pope Francis.