I do like the word “champion” – I mean who doesn’t?
A person who fights or argues for a cause or on behalf of someone else
or someone surpassing all rivals, especially in our beloved sports.
The thing is, is that I believe in my heart that every day when each of you gets out of bed, that:
We are the champions, my friend.
So, all of us are always in good company.
When I get asked about why I “champion” diversity, inclusion, social justice, and women’s issues, the answer is simple – for me, it’s about investing in our humanity, our empathy and seeing how each of us can be the best versions of ourselves every day. If I can shed some light or connect with just one person on these issues, I’ve done my job. I believe it is what I’m supposed to do while I’m here on this big beautiful blue spinning sphere. And I am learning every day.
But if being that best version isn’t hard sometimes.
It begets work.
It asks us to let go of fear.
It asks us to be brave and vulnerable.
It asks us to tell the inner voice in our head to be quiet.
It asks us to step outside preconceived notions, things we are taught.
It asks us to toss out sayings, jokes, and comments that were once “okay,” when they are not.
It asks us to be quiet sometimes and listen deeply to someone else.
In thinking back to when I was a theatre major at the University of Washington. We had an assignment to wear whatever we had on and to go down to the main drag off campus which is called “The Ave” and get a cup and write something on a sign and beg for money.
Sounds odd but I truly believe that you rarely understand people until you step into their shoes. That was the core of the assignment. The theatre is all about empathy. Believing for a moment in a make-believe world, where actors are embodying and translating the story of other people. Hopefully breeding understanding, it is why the art form has been around for centuries.
I find that there is a lot of pain, suffering, embarrassment, judgment, and depression that sits with many people every day.
It is too easy and so sad to look into our recent past to see people like Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain, and countless not so famous others, like my own darling Uncle to know that people can seem to have it all but then feel completely alone.
That day as I held out my cup, I don’t remember what I wrote on my piece of cardboard – I felt invisible, embarrassed, at times frightened because I chose to ask for money in someone’s space that “owned” that territory. I ended up talking to many of the homeless people on The Ave about why they were there, what happened. And I simply listened to them. Every person has a story.
Diversity at its heart and etymology is an instance of being composed of different elements or qualities. That coupled with “inclusion” means that everybody, EVERYBODY belongs. No matter what. We as humans are only as strong as the sum of our parts. We need each other to move mountains.
Technology, and well frankly every industry, for the most part, is male-dominated, some do better than others with Diversity and Inclusion with programs, panels, groups, and speaking engagements. The tide is turning upon hundreds of years of really hard work and the uncovering and celebrating the histories that most people don’t know, were purposely redacted or were never told.
“Women in X, Y, and Z,” Diversity Days, Goddess Institutes, pot-luck dinners and any other “women” focused gathering and celebration places were created to give safe space for women to connect. Those moments in time that are for us to gather, for us to connect, build together and also breed male allies (we need you) are necessary.
That being said, the only way to truly make change is to be inclusive and understand the meaning of intersectionality and include men in our work. Most WIT lunches, programs, etc.… do not exclude anyone who wants to attend and I encourage that in programming.
Intersectionality is an analytic framework which attempts to identify how interlocking systems of power impact those who are most marginalized in society. Intersectionality considers that various forms of social stratification, such as class, race, sexual orientation, age, disability, and gender, do not exist separately from each other but are interwoven together.
While the theory began as an exploration of the oppression of women of color within society, today the analysis is potentially applied to all social categories (including social identities usually seen as dominant when considered independently). – Wikipedia
Intersectionality means that we understand that everyone, all of us have something behind our smiling eyes that no one knows about and that we are all learning together from a place of empathy.
In regards to women in technology, we must support each other more, stop tearing each other down. Our dirty little secret that we don’t like to talk about is our jealousy, our envy, and our catfights.
The times in my career where things have gone South it was because I’ve tangled with another woman.
I give a presentation about fear and toxicity in the workplace, and it was born from my watching women be terrible to each other. We have to call that behavior out, and that is the WORST. We can’t point fingers at men on that one. And I say again; we must call that behavior out but in a constructive way and find our common connected ground.
I write all of this as a middle-aged, privileged white woman who was born into a middle-class family in Michigan, USA. And as I look to help build these diversity programs, I look to my colleagues and friends all across the globe who have different experiences and situations than I do to educate me to make sure I realize where they are coming from and what they’ve had to endure. True diversity is composed of different elements and qualities and what makes these programs strong, powerful and actionable is when we all contribute to them and ensure all voices are at the table.
Encouraging those at the top who fund, support and make diversity a priority – by saying thank you and demanding more of them is the work we need to do. Don’t let up.
Every person is a champion to someone else. I know you are. And we all have moments where we have and to step forward. Wear the cape that goes with that responsibility and rock it out. I believe in you.
But it’s been no bed of roses
No pleasure cruise
I consider it a challenge before the whole human race
And I ain’t gonna lose
We are the champions, my friends
And we’ll keep on fighting ’til the end
We are the champions
We are the champions
You are the champion, every day. Don’t ever forget that.
It is inside all of us.