The message of this post is to find a good mentor or advocate for diversity. I was reminded of this yesterday when I listened to a talk given by Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at HP Inc. Lesley Slaton Brown. She is definitely someone I want in the room to talk about the story of diversity. On a side note, did you know that HP has the most diverse board in the country? And according to Lesley, these board members take on active roles to mentor the exectutives.
Lesley took some time to talk to the interns currently working at HP headquarters and in one sitting she tackled the hard questions like why does diversity matter? She shared what I think are strong examples of how she is influencing the thinking of top level executives at HP. I would like to summarize a few of the key takeaways from this empowering talk.
Why does diversity matter?
You don’t just need diversity in your workforce you also need diversity in your leadership. Lesley speaks of herself as someone who rose through the ranks to her job, so instead of being an executive primarily focused on her career she is focused on the experiences of the HP workforce as a whole. However not many people of color are moving up the ranks, we need that to provide more inclusive thinking in recruitment methods and company culture.
Lesley is heading up the whole diversity and inclusion initiative at HP which is a global company. That means her responsibilities are to empower all cultures from across the world. Her conversation made it clear that she wants to empower everyone. And she does it without hesitation.
Change the fixed mindset.
One of the questions was about diversity in socioecomic levels not just color or women. Lesley’s answer was straight forward and honest. Everyone’s stories are valuable if they choose to share them. The idea is not to displace White men or any other group of people but to fill in the employment gaps with people of color and women while challenging the mindsets in the workplace. And hopefully encouraging us all to to be more fluid in our thinking and to foster diversity everywhere in the workplace.
Impact the workplace.
HP is the founder of internal company groups like Employee Resource Groups (ERG). These groups within companies provide different networks and communities. If you have been to college you might look at these like the student clubs or organizations we have. At HP there are groups like Pride, Black Employee Network and Young Employee Network and they are active. They definitely presenting a chance to network with other employees in either a more casual setting or as a volunteer. And they also provide visibility for its leaders. There are also some things that crossover into the community. For example I did not know that HP helped found the annual Soul Food Extravaganza in Boise, Idaho that I attended as a High School senior.
The best thing to do for people of color in tech is.
My question for Lesley during the talk was, “What does you think is the best thing you have done to promote people of color in tech?” And her answer was, making HP a destination choice for people of color. I think she has already begun to reach her goals in a big way.