Accenture’s Julie Sweet on evolving in real time

March 5, 2020, 8:57 PM UTC

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When Julie Sweet became Accenture’s new CEO, she prepared to lead her more than 500,000 employees by deciding to learn out loud.

Accenture uses internal “learning boards,” a basket of activities or readings that help drive mastery around new skills or ideas. She decided to make hers public, to make sure employees knew she was walking the walk in a culture that values lifelong learning. “Even the CEO has to learn,” she told Fortune’s Clifton Leaf, in conversation at the Great Place to Work For All Summit in San Francisco yesterday.

For the record, Sweet’s first learning board was about digital manufacturing. This quarter, she’s learning the ins and outs of 5G.

I’m lucky that my job as a journalist requires me to learn new things, but I was inspired enough by Sweet’s discipline that I decided to make a quarterly commitment to learning something new. (I haven’t decided what it is yet, my brain is taxed by learning not to hug or touch people when we reunite at one of my favorite conferences. But I will share my inspiration when it hits.)

Sweet’s revelation is an example of the kinds of wonderful nuggets that emerge when people convene to talk about how work can and should be transformed for the good of the world. Transparent leadership is key, and evolving out loud, in real time, is essential. “Have the courage to change, and the ability to bring people along the journey,” says Sweet.

As I douse myself in hand sanitizer and get ready to head back home—with stories of inclusion success dancing in my head—I also wanted to let you know how Fortune is evolving.

We’ve launched a new paywall on our site, part of an extraordinary year of growth as an independent media company. We now offer more than a dozen in-depth newsletters, a new video portal, new mobile apps, new quarterly investment guides, and regular webinars, and some exciting new products in the works. Even the print edition feels premium now.

We’ve been busy.

In addition to our cutting edge tools, our deeply-reported stories will now be behind a paywall. Digital subscribers will be offered three tiers to choose from, starting at less than $1 a week for the very best of what we’ve got to offer. 

Never fear, dear raceAhead reader, newsletters will remain free to read by email, but the online versions will be behind the paywall. If you’d like to subscribe and support the cutting edge journalism we’re doing—and I hope you will—we’re offering you a friends-and-family discount of 50%.

Questions or feedback? Hit us back at for general questions, and for specific questions about your own subscriptions.

I couldn’t do what I do without you. I’m sincerely grateful.

To an inclusive world and beyond.

Ellen McGirt

On Point

It’s nearly International Women’s Day! Here’s the bad news A new survey from the the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) analyzed data from respondents from 75 countries. More than half of them feel men are better political leaders, some 40% believe men are better business executives, and a third believe that it’s fine for a man to beat his wife. The bias revealed by the first-of-its-kind gender social norm index, came as a shock. “We all know we live in a male-dominated world, but with this report we are able to put some numbers behind these biases,” said Pedro Conceição, of the UNDP’s human development report office. “While in many countries these biases are shrinking, in many others the biases are actually sliding back.” Another study by Equal Measures 2030 found that no country was on track to achieve gender equality as defined by the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
The Guardian

Xenophobia is also “going viral” NPR’s Code Switch podcast asked its Asian American listeners to describe their lives in the time of COVID-19, and the flood of responses has been illuminating. In addition to plummeting sales in Chinatowns and restaurants, the bullying has been severe. One hot spot is public transportation, where people are glared at and confronted with racist comments. But children are also being bullied by other kids and also adults. One Costco vendor told a Korean American customer, with her 8-year-old mixed-race son in tow, to get away from the food samples. "It just reminds me that when people look at us, they don't see us as American," said her husband.
Code Switch

No, Southern Black voters do not need more information Please spare Elie Mystal, the justice correspondent for The Nation, any hot takes that suggest that Black voters lack insight or are anything other than clear-eyed in their support for Vice President Biden. After a fairly tough assessment of Biden’s debate performance, personal appearances, and policy record, he shares the issue facing Black voters: trust. “My read of the South Carolina vote is that Black people know exactly what they’re doing, and why. Joe Biden is the indictment older Black folks have issued against white America,” he says. They simply cannot be trusted to do the right thing. “They believe if you make white people choose between their money and their morality—they will choose their money every time and twice on Election Day.”
The Nation

Shaq lost a bet The friendly wager was with Dwyane Wade on who would win the recent contest Milwaukee and Miami; O’Neal incorrectly picked Milwaukee, and now he’s feeling the heat. Instead of payment, Wade asked for a more personal reward. In this clip from the NBA via TNT, O’Neal reveals something that has not been seen by the public in years: his natural hairline. In this brief clip, you will also enjoy the rare deployment of an ascot, and a fully delighted Wade. “You look like Charles S. Dutton!” he said.
Bleacher Report

On Background

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before Laugh and the world laughs with you, as the saying goes, unless you’re a woman, of course. This is the finding from new research from four industrial-organizational psychologists who studied 300 workers in a variety of work settings and performed two controlled experiments to isolate the effects of gender and humor. Yadda yadda yadda, they found that when men added humor to their presentations, they were seen as more capable leaders; when women added the same humor to the same presentation, they were seen as less capable leaders. Ladies, whaddaya gonna do? Stay funny, stay sane, and point out the bias to others. Maybe print it on a whoopee cushion, just to be sure.

Zora Neale Hurston and Eleanor Roosevelt collaborated on the first realistic Black baby doll Black children had long preferred playing with white dolls to Black ones. Studies dating back to the 1930s believed the culprit was internalized racism. Well yes but, posited some, it might also be because most available Black dolls were either racist stereotypes or white dolls painted a funny color. Activist Sara Lee Creech decided to create a beautiful and realistic Black doll, shared her idea with Hurston, someone else wrangled Roosevelt, who so loved the idea she held an informal focus group with Mary Bethune, Ralph Bunche, and Jackie Robinson to consult on the doll’s appearance. The Ideal Toy company manufactured the Sara Lee doll, which first appeared in the 1951 Sears Roebuck Christmas Catalog.
Open Culture

There was a moment when we started fighting about politics on television If you want to understand what started the nasty, counterpunching debate dynamic that is now commonplace on the evening news and the internet, you’ll need to go back to 1968, when cash-strapped ABC, then stuck in third place in TV ratings, hired conservative William F. Buckley, Jr. and the liberal Gore Vidal to participate in 10 debates on nightly television. Best of Enemies is a truly astonishing documentary about the debates, and reveals the actual moment when civility went out the window and television vitriol in service of deeply rooted ideological views became good business.
Best of Enemies (Trailer)

Tamara El-Waylly produces raceAhead and manages the op-ed program.


“It’s an important but complicated issue, and this racism or blaming of particular groups of people has happened with every pandemic and serious outbreak...Heading back as far as we know, it's partly because human beings are tribalistic in nature—we're socialized to evolve in small groups. And because most of the important infectious diseases that wiped out groups of people were brought in by foreigners, if you think about Europeans settling in the Americas [they] brought influenza and smallpox, which wiped out the indigenous people. So, we as humans, to some extent have a built-in xenophobia.”

—Steven Taylor, author of Psychology of Pandemics, in remarks to The Hill.

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