Two weeks and a lifetime ago, I spent two wonderful days at The Great Place To Work For All Summit, talking about race, equity, culture, and forgiveness.
I participated in a four-hour, off-the-record session about diversity and inclusion, filled with people who already work at Great Places, and are determined to make them greater. It was an inspiring and humbling reminder about how much work there is left to do, particularly now, when it seems that the world is teetering on numerous brinks all at once.
While the bulk of the discussion remains private, Heather Brunner, Chairwoman and CEO, WP Engine and Mike Dillon, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, PwC took to the mainstage to share key takeaways.
The entire five-minute recap is worth your time, but it all boiled down to trust and forgiveness.
“One of the key takeaways that we talked about in the group is that transparency is the currency of trust,” said Heather. “And one of the key ways to drive that transparency is data.”
While any meaningful diversity and inclusion strategy starts with a clear accounting of where an organization is starting from and where they want to go, the power move is transparency. “It takes courage to share that data internally,” she says. The next steps are to set goals, agree on metrics and tactics, then report back often. The goal is “visibility, accountability, and trust.”
Then Mike shared a concept that got quite a bit of air time in the room: Forgiveness.
Part of inclusion work is understanding how majority culture people can best learn to see the barriers that exist for underrepresented people in the world, and their role in perpetuating them, even inadvertently. This can be a very painful process for everyone involved.
“We think a lot about difficult conversations at PWC,” he told the crowd. “You need to have these conversations, but you also need to be forgiving in the moment. Not everyone is going to use the right word or approach the conversation in a way that everybody might want them to.”
When Mike said the word “forgiveness” in our session, I admit I checked out of the conversation for a moment and began mentally ticking through a list of people I was not prepared to forgive.
I may have even taken a few extra minutes to rank the list.
And then I checked back in.
We discussed as a group about what makes an environment where people can continue to grow, especially when talking is painful, retribution is a legitimate fear, and key relationships hang in the balance.
He shared a version of his answer on the main stage.
“We think that vulnerability coming from the top…is a great role model for the organization,” he says. But for that organization to meet their diversity goals, it will mean making sure the leaders all throughout the middle of the organization have what they need to survive the tender moments.
“These are the people who impact the business every day,” from product and innovation to diversity and inclusion. To have a better chance of meeting your goals, he suggests, make sure that everyone has the tools they need to become fluent in both the language of inclusion and the power of forgiveness, of others and self.
|Social good is all the rage now|
|I suppose this new poll from Axios/Harris should be some sort of good news unless you’re on the wrong side of an FBI investigation about college admissions fraud. Bottom line, the public reputation of a company or organization is increasingly intertwined with how they’re prepared to deliver on a promise to solve pressing social issues. They’ve generated a list of companies with the most social good “momentum,” with Wegman’s at number one and Amazon at number two. (Dead last are the Trump Org, Phillip Morris, and the U.S. Government.) Tech giants like Facebook and Google are losing momentum. And authentic activations matter: Procter & Gamble, Nestle, PepsiCo, Unilever, UPS, and others are joining forces on reusable packaging, for example.|
|Being the only one at a big ad agency|
|When clients looking for diversity came calling, Ollie Olanipekun, who is black, reports being presented as the “cultural guy.” It became monotonous, he says. “Every time we had a brief about youth culture, the creative director would ask, ‘Is Ollie free?’ as if I was the only person in an agency of 160 people who had a view.” He eventually started his own firm. But these sorts of microaggressions are a staple of life at big ad agencies, according to this reporting from writer Seb Joseph. “What their stories show is that in advertising, as in other industries, people from ethnically diverse backgrounds who aspire to carve out a career for themselves face far more racial discrimination, both conscious and unconscious, than they thought would be the case by now.”|
|Expect more protests at colleges and universities, part two|
|Since we spent a bit of time yesterday talking about school sit-ins, I thought I’d point you to the organization that’s been behind some effective student-led actions, like the #StudentBlackOut, a national day of action calling for debt cancellation, living wage for campus workers, and for universities to divest from private prisons. The Black Liberation Collective has a very concise vision statement: “We envision a world where all Black people have access to higher education within learning spaces that are safe for all Black students.” Check them out.|
|Black Liberation Collective|
|Samuel L. Jackson is wholly unconcerned|
|This profile is one part history lesson, one part Hollywood insider tale, and three parts master class in not giving any type of shit, ever again. As a person who has been asked to leave not one but two golf clubs for being the wrong color, I found the opener to be a sublime delight: an exuberant Samuel L. Jackson, skirting many of the golf-cart rules and trampling club decorum, to show his interviewer, Carvell Wallace, just how few shits he’s learned to give. But it quickly turns into a rich conversation about Jackson’s incredible life, his philosophy of acting, movies, race, justice, addiction and pilates. Oh, and did you know that Jackson was once part of a student protest that took Martin Luther King, Sr. hostage? And the thing about the FBI?|
|Karyn Parsons talks about history, fiction, and whiteness|
|The actor who brought the flighty-yet-soulful teen Hilary Banks to life on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air is all grown up now, with her own nonprofit and a debut novel to her credit. Her nonprofit, Sweet Blackberry is dedicated to making sure little known stories of African American history are found, told, and taught; her own novel, How High The Moon, is about a young, light-skinned girl coming of age in the Jim Crow South. In this very pointed conversation with Shondaland’s Rebecca Carroll, the two talk about history, the tension between being hopeful and/or patient in a racist world, and what it means to identify as biracial, as Banks does. Don’t miss it, seriously.|
|The mathematical genius of John Coltrane|
|Coltrane was a magical figure to many, part transcendent jazzman, part spiritual seeker. Those two elements came together in a sketch that experts called “the Coltrane circle,” a version of the musical “circle of fifths.” Think of it as a representation of the twelve tones of the chromatic scale – but amplified with a Coltrane twist. Some see elements of Islam in the sketch – a musical “mathematics” that’s connected to the divine. But in addition to his mystical journey, “Coltrane was also very much aware of Einstein’s work and liked to talk about it frequently,” says musician and writer Josh Jones. “Musican David Amram remembers the Giant Steps genius telling him he “was trying to do something like that in music.”|