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raceAhead: Power and Purpose at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit

At Fortune‘s Most Powerful Women Summit in Laguna Niguel, Calif, purpose is power—and it matters very much who is in the room when decisions are made.

Consider this panel yesterday on Responsible AI. Deep learning technologies are the changing the world in extraordinary ways, and have become central to way businesses consider the future. In fact, market research firm IDC predicts that by 2021, organizations will spend $52.2 billion annually on A.I.-related products. Experts believe companies will realize many more billions in savings derived from those investments.

If, of course, they’re the right investments. Who will be making the technology?

“When you’re thinking about A.I., for me the data sets are one of the biggest concerns,” said Brenda Darden Wilkerson, president and CEO of, an advocacy group for women in technology. If Silicon Valley wants to make the world better for everyone and make deep learning systems that actually understand the real world, then it must assemble and empower teams who reflect the world at large and can see flaws in the massive datasets that lenders, employers, and criminal justice practitioners rely upon. “I’m very concerned with the people who are negatively impacted,” Darden Wilkerson said.

My colleague Kristen Bellstrom has a full write-up here.

OpenTable CEO Christa Charles also offered a quick and painless benchmark to check how you’re advancing your diversity goals. “Tell us last quarter’s hires. Sometimes it’s hard to [share] a number overnight when you don’t feel like you’re making progress, so just tell us how you did last quarter,” she said at the summit. “Of all the people that you hired into your organization, what was the gender diversity and people of color diversity in that group? That will give a lens into how hard it is for you.”

And if you’re concerned that the momentum started from the #MeToo movement will dissipate, then meet Time’s Up first president and CEO, WNBA president Lisa Borders. Borders, a former vice president of global community affairs at Coca-Cola and chair of the Coca-Cola Foundation, is prepared to turn a once ad hoc movement into a powerhouse organization focused on equity.

“We are in effect hopeful we are going to change the world. We will do it incrementally,” said Borders, who earned a reputation as an advocate fighting for fair pay, airtime and respect for the players of the WNBA. “It will not be dramatic shifts overnight. But we will work in each one of our focus areas and it will be an iterative process.”

We’ve only just begun! More MPW coverage here, and here.

On Point

A conversation with Unilever’s Paul Polman highlights the inherent conflicts in social impact capitalismUnilever CEO Paul Polman has become renowned in corporate circles for his commitment to positive social impact and leading with purpose. (More on that here.) But the consumer goods chief had trouble answering a pointed question posed to him by author Anand Giridharadasduring a panel discussion on  “conscious capitalism.” Giridharadas is the author of a new book called Winners Take All, which argues that corporate “do-gooding” is actually a smokescreen that maintains the status quo. To prove his point, he shows Polman a video ad for an appalling Hindustan Unilever skin-whitening product called “Fair and Lovely.” The ad and the product have clear racist overtones. It was a cringer, but Polman did not back down. He would not revisit the product. “The world is burning, and we are talking about a micro-issue to make a point,” he said.Quartz

Trump administration is denying visas to same sex partners of diplomats
The new policy was put into place yesterday, and now requires partners of foreign diplomats to be married before a visa will be issued. The policy extends to employees of the U.N., and requires that those already in the U.S. must leave by the end of the year. Advocates say that the new policy will present worrisome challenges for officials from countries that don’t recognize or criminalize same-sex marriage. The U.S. Mission to the U.N says the new rule simply brings visa rules in line with policy in other government departments.
Foreign Policy

Amazon to adopt a $15 minimum wage for all U.S. employees
The rule goes into effect next month and will include part-time and seasonal employees. The company had been under fire for its low disparity, particularly in certain communities.“We listened to our critics, thought hard about what we wanted to do, and decided we want to lead,” Bezos said in a statement. “We’re excited about this change and encourage our competitors and other large employers to join us.” As a reminder African Americans, Latinx and women make up a disproportionate number of people making below minimum wage in the U.S., often in jobs that are likely to be replaced by automation.

Migrant children are being moved to tent cities
Hundreds of asylum-seeking kids that were being housed in shelters across the country have been moved under cover of night to a tent city in West Texas. The camp, which is run by federal immigration authorities, is the latest in a serious of developments that have alarmed migrants and their advocates. There are now 13,000 detained migrant kids, the largest population ever. The tent camp opened in June for 30 days able to hold 400 children, it was expanded last month to hold 3,800, and is now expected to remain open at least through the end of the year.
New York Times


The Woke Leader

The business of white supremacy
Since we’re talking about skin whitening, I’ll re-up this video op-ed from Akala, an English rapper, poet, author, historian and activist, who tackles every day racism by linking it with centuries of marketing. “White Jesus” gets a shout-out, as does the slave trade, white savior motifs in films, and the news media’s willingness to portray people of color as drug dealers and thugs. But at issue here is the multi-billion dollar skin bleaching industry. (Forty percent of Chinese women and 77% of Nigerian women bleach their skin, according to the World Health Organization.) “Everyday racism is the normalized experience that we encounter daily based on our difference from the white norm,” he says. “Now in the context of global injustice, these might seem trivial, but in fact, these daily hostilities lay the ground for much larger systemic violence.”

Ten tips for leaders to support workplace diversity
There are some great tips here, including a shout-out to raceAheadin tip number three, for which we’re very grateful. But diversity experts Paolo Gaudiano and Ellen Hunt have crafted an important reminder that diversity is a journey, not a destination. Start by diversifying your networks, change up your sources of information, advocate for more diverse business events (you can dig into your new network for that) and enjoy the big wide world of literature and film. “Aside from the entertainment value, you will learn to see the world from the point of view of those who are underrepresented.” Amen.

A Sikh motorcycle gang finds faith and fellowship on the road
Sikhism is a quiet and largely unfamiliar faith, despite being the fifth largest religion in the world. Often mistaken for Muslim, particularly due to the Sikh edict to “never be without the turban, wear it always.” A minority community the world over, they’ve been increasingly targeted in hate crimes since the attacks on September 11. It’s part of what makes this small group so poignant. The Sikh Motorcycle Club was founded by five New Jersey men, their ranks have swelled to 28. They show no swagger displayed by outlaw motorcycle gangs of American legend, instead they feel affirmed by proximity to others who share the same faith and minority status. “The bikers ride together in a single line, with more experienced riders in front and at the tail end. These riders haven’t taken the mufflers off their engines; they don’t cut in front of cars; they don’t claim the road. They just ride.”


One of the really important lessons for all industries that I took away from the work during the financial crisis—it applies to all industries in good times and bad—is: What are the unintended consequences of everything we’re doing, and how do we each stay ahead of those?
Ruth Porat, Google CFO