I was as shocked as everyone learning about the murder of George Floyd. I was even more moved by the response of the world, and yet saddened that we still have so far to go. I hate that our children are growing up in a society where there is still a lack of equality and opportunity. They deserve better.
I found myself in deep periods of self-reflection and a desire to understand. As a white person, I contemplated my own instances of unconscious bias. I began to think not only about everyday life but what it must be like for people of color to work in or lead in the business world. I read an article in the Wall Street Journal about a public company CEO who was very proud of her company’s long standing diversity program. But she admitted that she never asked an employee what it was actually like being a person of color in their company. That hit me hard. Because I never asked that question either, even though I’m sure that at least half of the thousands of employees I had over the years were people of color. It struck me that it’s not so much about the numbers as it is about understanding what it is like, and using that understanding to strive for equality in everything we do and in every conversation we have.
As the co-founder of the Small Giants Community, we have the honor of training leaders how to lead in a purpose/values driven way, and I believe we are making a positive impact on the business world. But I believe we have a unique opportunity right now to act, not to make a statement. To change, and not to just promise. To contribute and to be held accountable.
Our small team has had very open conversations, read books together, and listened to many leaders of color in our small universe. It occurred to me that we might be able to combine what we already do well and make a contribution to the social justice movement at the same time. So we developed our own plan for inclusivity, diversity and understanding; we’re creating the space to help companies engage in uncomfortable conversations; and we’re making these topics part of our standard curriculum.
But I want to do more. I know there are many business leaders in underserved communities where minority business owners don’t have access to, or are able to afford our Leadership Academy. That’s simply not fair. So I am going to personally fund the LIFT Scholarship (Leaders for Inclusion, Fairness, and Transparency) to subsidize our program for leaders of color in these communities.
I hope we can all join by doing more listening, being honest about our own shortcomings, and open to giving everyone a chance to feel welcome and valued.