here and now

10/03/2016

There’s a palpable tension in workplaces across the nation right now. For many, the police shootings of unarmed black men, protests, and unrest spilling into the streets is hard to make sense of. With each passing day, it becomes harder and harder to separate work from life outside of work.

One of the challenges with how we talk about diversity and inclusion in tech is that we’re starting in the middle, not the beginning. There’s no question that the dearth of underrepresented minorities in tech is important to address. But what is it about our culture that reliably produces numbers like these across industries? How can we talk about what’s next without first acknowledging the forces that create these disparities?

Over the past two weeks, I’ve spoken with audiences from California to Massachusetts about how to think about the challenges that thoughtful and socially-conscious business leaders and change agents face today.

It’s clear the way forward involves confronting these issues head-on, and we don’t have the luxury of waiting any longer. It’s a brave and generous thing to ask a question that might make you look foolish, to ask a black colleague how they’re doing, and to start a long-overdue conversation in your place of work.

A powerful thing starts to happen when companies begin these conversations internally: people see each other’s humanity and lived experiences for the first time, previously untold stories connect colleagues in new ways, and people of all stripes feel empowered to bring more humanity into the way they do business.

Not every company has the resources to hire the former United States Attorney General and deploy a full-time team of data scientists to combat discrimination. But that’s ok. What’s available to us in abundance is the raw material that makes cultural change possible: compassion, empathy, and bravery. Let’s start there, and let’s start now.

I’d love to hear how your company is navigating these conversations, and how the business leaders you look up to are stepping up to the challenge. I don’t have all the answers, but I do have a few ideas.

Abernathy is the leading online magazine for professional black men, and this is an excerpt from a recent newsletter. Subscribe for full and early access.