In late 2007, for the first time in my life I was the “minority.”
I’d left a job and colleagues I loved at a Central Florida health care organization, and moved to Nashville to work as a leadership development coach and consultant for T-Mobile. My first assignment was supporting leaders in a large call center where most of the employees were people of color, a significant amount were part of the LGBTQ+ community, and socio-economic-educational backgrounds ran the gamut.
I’d never felt so “different,” and I wasn’t sure if I could adjust.
I’m a white, privileged, fully-abled straight male, born in the United States, raised in a middle-class home, and immersed for decades in the white-collar economy.
Before becoming part of T-Mobile’s culture, I was one of those “good people,” as we like to call ourselves, who didn’t practice any overt racism, sexism, homophobia, or ableism…but didn’t do much to help, either. I didn’t get to know many people who were different from me, at work or in the community. I lived in a bubble, focusing on my career and family, writing articles and prose that were generally directed at people like me.
I’ve never had to worry about “standing out” in a crowd. I can walk down a street without arousing suspicion, get pulled over for a traffic violation without fear of losing my life, and use public restrooms without any risk of being kicked out because I’m the “wrong gender.” People don’t stare at me when I show up in nice stores or restaurants. No one dictates what I can do with my own body and no one catcalls me. I don’t need accommodations to perform my work.
I’ve been granted, in a nutshell, an automatic “benefit of the doubt.” And because of that, I’ve realized that I possess a tremendous responsibility to advocate for those who don’t have such privileges.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I)
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) are principles and practices aimed at creating a workplace or society where everyone, regardless of their background, identity, or characteristics, feels valued, included, and has equal opportunities. Diversity acknowledges differences, equity ensures fairness, and inclusion promotes an environment where diverse individuals can thrive.
During the last 10 years, T-Mobile has exponentially grown its internal DE&I networks, added more diversity at all levels of leadership, and contributed more than $2 billion in funding and in-kind products and services to underserved communities through its DE&I commitments and partnerships with civil rights organizations.
Many of my T-Mobile colleagues became family to me. Once I moved out of my privileged bubble and into the real world, it became impossible not to care about the perspectives and difficulties of those from very different backgrounds and experiences compared to my own.
As a result, I was active in T-Mobile’s numerous DE&I internal networks and building relationships with other network members. In addition, I was the program owner of the company’s DE&I-tailored, data-informed enterprise competency framework that rests upon T-Mobile’s 5 company values; is embedded in a company-wide leadership model and employee experience and sentiment surveys; and, perhaps most importantly, is aligned with T-Mobile’s 5-year DE&I learning roadmap that involves extensive training of all 70,000-something employees.
I’m writing this less than two months after wrapping up my 16-year tenure at T-Mobile. In my new season of vocation as a small business owner, I’m building upon my efforts toward a more inclusive T-Mobile by finding ways to help foster a more inclusive American work culture and society…where every person can thrive in the age of AI because of their uniquely human strengths.
Furthermore, I want as many people as possible to be enabled to fully participate in quality of life essentials such as: Citizenship. Safety from shootings and other types of violence. Housing. Employment with fair, pragmatic wages. Health care. Mental health support. Voting access. Opportunities unhindered by disabilities. Education. Gender equality. LGBTQ rights. Reproductive rights. And so much more.
Across the past six years, opportunities for women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ+ community to enjoy an equitable quality of life have been drastically reduced through hundreds of new policies at the local, state, and federal levels. Decades of efforts and progress toward a more inclusive nation have been rolled back if not fully demolished.
It’s been disheartening, to say the least. It’s been infuriating. It’s been disillusioning.
I still have much to “un-learn” and biases in need of becoming “conscious.” Frankly, I’ll never be fully “done” with detoxing myself from the addiction of white patriarchy privilege.
In the meantime, I’m committed to continuing to do what I can, both professionally and personally, to help people grow their careers and find ways to alleviate suffering. In the end, as the musician Jewel sings, only kindness matters.
Human and AI collaboration
One of the chief criticisms being leveled at AI is its demonstrated and potential biases, especially regarding persons from underserved communities. As AI technologies continue to proliferate, the risks for these communities also escalates.
Collaboration between humans and AI is crucial for creating fair, unbiased, and inclusive environments where AI is being used (which is, increasingly everywhere). One of many ways that humans and AI can collaborate to advance DE&I involves AI assisting in detecting and mitigating biases in recruitment, hiring, and decision-making processes by analyzing historical data. Complementing these AI contributions, human oversight is essential to interpret results, identify potential biases that AI may miss, and implement strategies to address them.
Each of us has unconscious biases that could be hindering others from having more inclusive experiences. Practice “catching your own biases in the act.” What ingrained habits or ways of thinking do you possess that might be hindering inclusive experiences for others on your team or in your sphere of influence?
Furthermore, research ways that you can collaborate with AI in your work to help identify and mitigate any embedded biases in people, processes, or content.
Contact me for DE&I-infused services (coaching, consulting, speaking, or writing):