A top exec at Wells Fargo shares the career moves that helped her crack the glass ceiling

Lisa McGeough
Lisa McGeough says being the CEO of your career means you actively take control of it, rather than passively waiting for success to come your way.

  • Lisa McGeough, head of international banking at Wells Fargo, shared how she broke the glass ceiling. 
  • Deloitte research from 2019 shows that women hold only 22% of leadership roles in finance.
  • The glass ceiling is the set of obstacles women face when trying to ascend to top corporate positions. 
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

When Lisa McGeough first walked onto the fixed income trading floor at Salomon Brothers (which was later acquired by Citi) in 1984, she was one of about 12 women in her class. There were more than some 65 men. 

McGeough, then 21, quickly learned she was in a man’s world. And the odds were not in her favor. 

Over the years, she’d experience numerous microaggressions from her male colleagues.  

“Girls can’t trade.” 

“You’re so good at note-taking.” 

“I didn’t know you were interested in golf.”

But she refused to let them get to her. Today, McGeough holds one of the highest positions in finance. She leads Wells Fargo’s international banking operations, which encompasses all the businesses across the Americas, Asia Pacific and Europe, Middle East, and Africa. 

“It was a tough place, the trading floor,” McGeough told Insider. “But that’s where I developed my resilience because I was not able to change the culture. I had to adapt to the culture, and survive the culture, and then thrive within the culture.” 

There’s been progress toward gender equality since the 1980s. Social norms have changed. The recent #MeToo movement has forced leaders to take a hard look at sexual harassment and the lack of women in leadership within their own walls. 

The Civil Rights Act of 1991, for example, gave people suing for workplace discrimination more rights and forced employers to take claims more seriously. 

Yet, at the same time, many things have remained the same. Executive positions are still mostly occupied by white men. Out of all the CEOs on the Fortune 500 list, only about 37 are women. There are only 6 black CEOs. 

There’s still a glass ceiling, a set of barriers women face when trying to climb the corporate ladder and make it into the C-suite. According to Deloitte research from 2019, women hold only 22% of leadership roles in finance. While it’s expected to grow, to 32% by 2030, that’s still well below parity.  

Approximately 48% of senior leaders at Wells Fargo are women, according to company data provided to Insider. Some 25% are racially or ethnically diverse and 9% are Black. 

Industry leaders like Salesforce and Amazon still wrestle with workplace discrimination, according to reports. And businesses across a range of industries show disappointing diversity numbers when it comes to their executive leadership. 

This is despite women holding 50% of entry-level positions, according to 2019 research from McKinsey and LeanIn. 

McGeough cracked the ceiling, though. For International Women’s Day, she reflected on how she did it. 

Learning the value of hard work 

McGeough said she’ll never forget visiting her immigrant grandparents. Her grandmother, who emigrated from Italy, worked two jobs – one at a men’s tailor shop and another at a local garden. She’d come home, pick food from the family’s garden in their backyard, cook dinner, and then would routinely stay up until nearly 3 a.m. sewing clothes for the family. 

McGeough’s parents, who owned an IT company in Chicago, encouraged her and her three younger siblings to work hard in school and in life. 

“It’s been in my psyche for my whole life, watching them as role models and how hard they worked,” she said. “Hard work, focused dedication, and resilience are the things that I got from them.” 

McGeough attended Bowdoin College in Maine, graduating with a degree in economics. Shortly after, she began a three-year career at Salomon Brothers. 

She worked hard to make it in the cut-throat world of finance, facing constant microaggressions and bosses who didn’t believe in her abilities. 

But she stayed determined. 

“No, one’s going to knock me out,” she’d tell herself. “No, one’s going to win. I am going to be the one that’s going to. I’m going to survive and I’m going to thrive.”  

Hard work alone, however, didn’t make her an executive, she said. 

“There is no fairy godmother. There’s no person who’s going to just notice you and pull you into a high level role,” she said.  

Be the CEO of your career

Lisa McGeough
McGeough said women and people from underrepresented groups should have a team of people who know their hard work and can advocate for them in rooms where decisions are being made.

Women and other professionals from underrepresented groups have to be more active about how they plan their career growth, she told Insider.  

Her philosophy boils down to a simple catchphrase: “Be the CEO of your career.” 

In other words, take charge of your career, as a CEO would take charge of their company. Actively advocate for yourself.

For example, do not assume your manager or your manager’s manager will notice your hard work, she said. Keep track of your progress, she said, and bring it up in meetings, especially when it comes time to performance reviews.

Make sure your career has a “board of directors,” or a group of people who can help you along the way and advocate for you. 

“It’s not just your boss. It’s your clients, a lateral manager, mentors or sponsors,” she said. 

They can advocate for you when you’re not in the rooms where decisions are being made. 

By having a board of directors, McGeough said she was recommended for roles that other women were passed up for. 

Know when to move and look for new opportunities 

Women have to know when to leave a job where they can no longer grow.

For McGeough, that happened when she had a manager who insisted she go home to take care of her kids instead of offering her the opportunity to cover clients who required extensive travel. This was despite her insistence she was the family’s breadwinner. 

After that experience she knew she had to get out.

Career progress often isn’t a straight path, but rather a series of lateral moves, she said. Some of those moves happened when she saw an opportunity, raised the issue with leadership, and pitched herself for the role. 

“I raised my hand to do something very hard that no one else was doing. And there was a very large gap in this particular role that I observed,” she said. “Take risks, be uncomfortable.” 

Now, as a leader, she actively advocates for up-and-coming talent, especially women and those from underrepresented backgrounds. 

“How do I advocate for this talented woman or diverse person on my team to give them the visibility that they need? Because I’ve experienced what they’re experiencing now. How do I create a diverse leadership team?” 

Those are questions she says more leaders should be thinking about, she said. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

JPMorgan reveals the latest part of its $30 billion commitment to support Black and brown communities

Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, speaks about investing in Detroit during a panel discussion at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S., April 11, 2018.
JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon previously said he is “committed to fighting racism.”

  • JPMorgan is investing hundreds of millions in Black and brown entrepreneurs and small business owners.
  • Brian Lamb, JPMorgan’s head of diversity and inclusion, spoke with Insider about the firm’s plan.
  • Black and brown small businesses have been hit especially hard by the pandemic.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

On Thursday, JPMorgan announced a new wave of investments as part of its $30 billion commitment to lift up Black, Latinx, and other underserved communities. Latinx is a gender-neutral alternative to Latino or Latina to describe people of Latin American descent. 

The plan, which was announced in October of last year, appears to be the largest US corporate commitment to racial equity in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, according to Insider research.

The latest round will focus on Black and brown entrepreneurs and small business owners, according to the financial giant.

“We look at diversity and inclusion as a business,” Brian Lamb, JPMorgan’s global head of diversity and inclusion, told Insider. “We want to drive sustainable change.” 

The firm said it would commit $300 million to support underserved small businesses and an additional $42.5 million to its “Entrepreneurs of Color Fund,” a program that supports Black and brown founders. 

Brian Lamb JPMorgan
Brian Lamb, JPMorgan’s global head of diversity and inclusion, is helping oversee the firm’s implementation of the $30 billion commitment.

The pandemic has devastated small businesses, especially those owned by people of color. 

Black-owned businesses were more than twice as likely as their white counterparts to have closed during the pandemic, according to an August 2020 national study by the New York Fed. Some 41% of Black-owned businesses closed, and 32% of Latinx-owned businesses closed. Meanwhile, white-owned businesses fell by just 17%. 

In addition, JPMorgan will be opening new branches, called “Chase Lounges,” in underserved areas including Harlem, New York, Chicago, and Atlanta. These branches will have resources for entrepreneurs looking to start or grow their companies. 

The news follows JPMorgan’s announcement from earlier this week that it would invest $40 million in minority depository institutions (MDIs) and community development financial institutions (CDFIs). MDIs and CDFIs provide financial services in communities that are often underserved. 

In October, the firm said it would commit $8 billion to help 40,000 Black and Latinx households access mortgages. The firm said it will help an additional 20,000 achieve lower mortgage payments by providing up to $4 billion in refinancing loans over the next five years. 

The mortgage industry is riddled with racism. Lenders deny mortgages for Black applicants at a rate 80% higher than that of white applicants, per 2020 data from the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act.

The firm is also tackling affordable housing. 

Over the next five years, JPMorgan said it will finance 100,000 affordable rental units by providing $14 billion in new loans and equity investments, among other efforts. 

According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, Black, Hispanic, and Native American households are more likely than white households to be low-income renters, meaning there is a severe lack of affordable homes available to them. 

“We’re going to track and report on our progress towards these commitments and ultimately hold our most senior level leaders accountable to the progress,” Lamb said. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

How managers can support their Asian peers through the troubling increase in anti-Asian violence

coworkers, Asian coworker with white coworker, diverse colleagues
Some Asian Americans have expressed on social media that they feel saddened, angered, and fearful given the recent spike in anti-Asian violence across cities in the US.

  • On Tuesday, a 52-year old Asian American woman was attacked in New York City.
  • The attack is the latest of many against Asian Americans since the start of the pandemic.
  • Diversity consultants shared how managers can support Asian colleagues and call for systemic change.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Last week, a 52-year-old Asian American woman was assaulted and shoved to the ground outside a New York City bakery. She hit her head on the concrete sidewalk and had to receive several stitches, AP reported

It’s the latest in a string of anti-Asian attacks since the start of the pandemic, which many said has been fueled by former President Trump’s use of the phrases “the China virus” and “the Kung flu” when referring to the novel coronavirus.   

Between March 19, 2020 and December 31, 2020, the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council, an Asian advocacy group, received over 2,800 firsthand accounts of anti-Asian hate from 47 states and the District of Columbia. The accounts include stories ranging from people having racial slurs directed at them to people getting punched or slashed in the face. 

Earlier this month, a suspect was arrested and charged for assaulting three elderly victims in the Chinatown area of Oakland, California. In San Francisco, an 84-year-old man from Thailand died after being knocked to the ground.

“Watching videos of the attacks was horrifying. I felt the mix of deep anger and sadness that only a sense of powerlessness can bring,” DEI consultant Richard Leong, who is Asian American, told Insider. 

Like Leong, many Asian people in the US are likely upset, sad, and fearful. Creating a safe work environment is so important during these difficult times.

Check in and ask how you can be of support 

Managers need to show empathy and create an environment where their direct reports feel safe to express their feelings, Kailei Carr, CEO of The Asbury Group, a leadership DEI consultancy, told Insider. 

“Sincerely asking how Asian employees are doing and if there is anything they need in one-on-one sessions is a good start,” Carr said. 

Don’t demand a response, she added, but express that you’re happy to connect them with mental health and other resources. 

Managers should also be prepared to offer their employees flexibility in their work schedule or workload, and to connect them with resources that might be helpful, like an employee resource group that focus on employees of color, Leong said. 

“This could look like reprioritizing deliverables and meetings to give space, offering connections to leaders and communities that might be helpful – especially if the manager does not identify as Asian – or simply offering a kind and supportive space to listen,” the DEI consultant added.  

Send out a statement condemning the attacks and offering resources 

If your leadership team hasn’t already done so, consider working with HR and your employee resource groups (ERGs) focused on Asian employees and employees of color to send out a statement condemning the attacks. 

For example, Paul Knopp, CEO and chairman of KPMG recently released a statement on LinkedIn, reading in part: “KPMG does not tolerate discrimination, harassment or racism; and condemns all forms of violence and xenophobia-all acts of hatred and bigotry are wrong.” 

Netflix’s vice president of inclusion strategy Vernā Myers also shared a message on LinkedIn. 

“The violence against our Asian brothers & sisters is unacceptable and I am committed to standing against xenophobia & hate everywhere,” her statement reads. 

Carr added that the statement your company puts out could share lists of organizations that are supporting victims or raising awareness, as well as a list of mental health resources for employees impacted.  

Support your Asian colleagues beyond this moment of crisis

Managers can use their positions of power to talk with those higher up about how to use this moment to usher in real change, he said. 

“Asian employees often do not have adequate visibility and support, it’s critical for managers to look beyond the current moment and think about systems and structures to support Asian employees,” Leong said. 

According Leong, managers can start conversations with leadership on key questions like “Do Asian employees feel seen and represented in the company’s leadership?” and “Are their stories told as part of the company narrative?” 

This way, businesses can take this dark moment and turn it into a call to action for positive change. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

Virtual reality is offering timely narratives on race, diversity and culture by centering the perspectives of people of color

Blood Speaks_ Maya - The Birth of a Superhero
An image from Blood Speaks: Maya – The Birth of a Superhero.

  • Developers are using virtual reality to recreate both historic and everyday events, and allow users to hear and experience different perspectives.
  • Some experiences are designed to encourage people to look at their own behavior, while others tell lesser-heard stories. 
  • One takes users back to the civil rights movement of the 1960s, while another documents the discrimination experienced by a Black male during throughout his life.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

As demand for virtual reality and augmented reality continues to grow, people are increasingly using it to learn about racism or hear more stories from people of color.

Read more: What is augmented reality?

In some cases, developers are using the technology to recreate historic events and instances of racism in the hope it will make people address their own misconceptions, Axios reported. In other cases, projects led by people of color are creating highly inventive experiences that entertain as much as they educate. 

Demand for virtual reality is set to boom over the coming years. Shipments of VR headsets are expected to grow 48% annually over the next four years, according to estimates from the International Data Corporation.

The technology is allowing developers to create interactive documentaries, likened to “living museums.”

As part of this, people are using the technology to encourage empathy with marginalized groups. VR simulations show people what it’s like to be homeless, pregnant, in a wheelchair, autistic, or a different race, according to Erick Jose Ramirez, associate professor in the Department of Philosophy at Santa Clara University.

“The idea is that technology might help us better understand what it’s like to be someone on the receiving end of racist violence [which] can help us understand the roots of our own racism and then combat it,” Ramirez wrote.

Read more: Google employees sent a letter demanding leadership changes and a stronger commitment to ‘academic integrity,’ as tensions over AI ethicist’s exit continue to rise

Studies have previously suggested that adopting a different race during a VR experience can affect people’s unconscious behaviors during gameplay.

‘I Am A Man’ takes users back to the civil rights movement of the 1960s

“I Am A Man,” made by independent VR developer Derek Ham, takes users back to the key events of the US civil rights movement leading up to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., including the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Worker’s Strike.

It combines historical film and photographs with voice narrations from actual civil rights participants, and worked alongside the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis to ensure its accuracy.

I Am A Man VR Experience from on Vimeo.

 

“The vision is to give people an experience of history in a way that provides a more personal understanding of the struggles of these marginalized people,” Ham said on the website.

“The VR experience allows one to literally walk in the shoes of people who fought for freedom and equality during the civil rights era. Most importantly, this project gives users a deeper awareness of their struggle.”

The project, which has won awards, including at the Cleveland and Nashville film festivals, can be downloaded from the Oculus Store but is also available for web, mobile, and screen immersive viewing.

Everyday racism

But not all these VR projects focus on historical events. Some, such as “1,000 Cut Journey,”  look at the everyday life of Black people to show how they face racism on a daily basis.

In the VR developed by Stanford and Columbia Universities, an assistant professor at Columbia’s School of Social Work, users witness the discrimination experienced by a Black male during both his childhood and adult life in the classroom, the workplace, and by police. This is all condensed into 12 minutes.

And “Traveling While Black,” produced by Academy Award winner Roger Ross Williams and Emmy Award-winning Felix & Paul Studios, takes users to Ben’s Chili Bowl, a diner in Washington DC that was used by many Black people as a space safe during the Jim Crow laws.

During the experience, users converse with diners who discuss their experiences of restricted movement and race relations as a Black person in the US. The experience aims to confront the way people both understand and talk about race.

 

“If you’re not African American, you get to go into a space and be part of a conversation that you probably normally would not be privy to,” Williams told The Guardian. “If you are Black, you get to delve deep into that inner trauma that we all carry with us in America as Black people.

“I think that’s really powerful in the way that 2D storytelling can’t provide.”

VR is a vehicle for companies to teach staff about implicit bias

These VR projects aren’t just for personal use. Some are being launched on a corporate scale, too, as an innovative way to provide workplace equality, diversity, and inclusion training. 

Vantage Point, for example, uses VR to teach both Fortune 500 companies and schools about racial discrimination and gender inequality. Vantage Point works alongside companies in the US, UK, Ireland, and France. During the pandemic, it has been shipping headsets to clients.

PwC and tech startup Talespin have launched similar VR implicit bias training, which immerses participants in scenarios where they learn to make inclusive hiring decisions and point out instances of discrimination.

Training programs like these could become more common in the future.

US companies spend $8 billion annually on diversity and inclusion initiatives, yet research shows that they’re actually more segregated now than they were 40 years ago.

VR could be an option for companies to ramp up their implicit bias training – and a PwC study found that it’s actually more cost-effective that classroom-based training. Participants learn quicker and stay more focused, too.

virtual reality VR

Beyond borders

In the UK, immersive technology is also being used to highlight the experiences of people from all backgrounds and ensure their voices are being heard. 

One timely example of this is The CreativeXR program, which is run by Digital Catapult and Arts Council England, and features a varied range of VR and AR-based stories, many of which have been created by people of color.

Blood Speaks: Maya – The Birth of a Superhero, Munkination, SONG, and A Place to Be are among these inventive offerings. Some can be accessed using VR headsets such as Oculus Quest; others via a mobile phone. 

In Blood Speaks, an ordinary 21st-century girl transforms into a superhero whose powers derive from the process of menstruation. The unflinching story is moving and thought-provoking in equal measure.

The project, which was developed specifically for Oculus Quest using Quill and Unity, is inspired by the stories of women in Nepal who are forced into exile because their menstrual blood is considered impure, according to creator Poulomi Basu.

In a statement, Basu said: “The first phase has seen massive impact and helped activate policy change in Nepal. With a little brown girl magic, we are looking to forge new audiences through this female-led narrative that features voices that reconfigure audience perceptions of BAME [black and minority ethnic] characters and, through their interaction with Maya, we want to inspire our audience to find the magic within themselves.”

Musical projects lend themselves particularly well to immersive mediums as Munkination – a hip-hop opera with a futuristic story about climate change at its heart – demonstrates.

Its creator, HAM The Illustrator, said in a statement: “I created this experience because I want to engage my community. There aren’t many stories by and for people like me, and I want to tell a story that puts us at the forefront; our heritage, our perspective, and that history of living in equilibrium with nature, because we don’t have much time left, and we all need to be involved.”

Equally, SONG, an immersive 360° performance based on the K-Pop phenomenon, also uses music to tell a powerful story. The action takes place inside a “planetarium” installation and features simultaneous live streams in VR and 2D environments.

According to creator Sammy Lee, the project emerged out of a deep commitment to the future of the performing arts, driven by the energy of pop music as military technology. 

A scene from A Place To Be
A scene from A Place to Be.

Finally, A Place to Be, by The Independent Film Trust, explores the black British experience beyond the constraints of the present day. The 360˚ VR experience is set in a south London shebeen and uncovers the untold histories of Black Britons. Set in 1981, days before the Brixton uprising, the experience transports viewers to one of the unlicensed clubs that offered a safe space to the African-Caribbean community away from systemic racism. 

Fans of immersive technology should expect to see many more similar inventive AR and VR experiences from a range of providers in 2021, as demand for diversity and culture-based projects continues to align with the need for creative ways to stay connected.

Read the original article on Business Insider

EXCLUSIVE: Mailchimp CEO says ‘we have work to do’ on pay equity after company denies bias allegations

GettyImages 1178857927 SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 03: Mailchimp Co-founder & CEO Ben Chestnut speaks onstage during TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco 2019 at Moscone Convention Center on October 03, 2019 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Kimberly White/Getty Images for TechCrunch)
Mailchimp CEO Ben Chestnut.

Mailchimp CEO Ben Chestnut responded on Friday to allegations of gender discrimination and harassment at the company, telling employees in an email that “we have work to do” on pay equity and inclusion.

Chestnut’s email, which was seen by Insider, appeared to contradict internal messaging the company had sent just a day earlier.

Mailchimp chief people and culture officer Robin White told employees in an email Thursday the company has made its hiring, promotion, and pay processes more equitable over the years.

He also said an independent pay equity study “found that gender and race/ethnicity are not statistically significant indicators of differences in pay, and that differences in pay can be attributed to those factors we’ve established within our compensation system that are fair and reasonable.”

But Chestnut’s email on Friday appeared to show the issues are more extensive than White’s initial email acknowledged.

Both messages came in response to the resignation of principal software engineer Kelly Ellis, who accused the company of “sexism and bullying” and gender pay discrimination when she quit on Wednesday.

“The fact of the matter is that it has led to some difficult conversations and brought up some serious issues, and I want to be clear about this: I don’t want any of our employees to have a negative experience working here, and I want to know about it when it happens so we can find the problems and fix them,” Chestnut said.

“I’m also hearing that some of you have already raised concerns or pointed out problems you’re experiencing, and we haven’t made enough progress in response,” he added.

“Because a sensitive situation was shared on social media, we felt it was important to talk directly with employees to make sure they know Mailchimp does not tolerate any type of mistreatment, including discrimination, bullying, or harassment,” a Mailchimp spokesperson told Insider in a statement. “We want to combine what is an important conversation with action steps.”

However, while Chestnut’s email encouraged employees to offer feedback through various channels, it offered no concrete steps beyond promising “regular updates.”

Are you a current or former Mailchimp employee with insight to share? We’d love to hear about your experiences there. Contact this reporter using a non-work device via encrypted messaging app Signal (+1 503-319-3213), email (tsonnemaker@insider.com), or Twitter (@TylerSonnemaker). We can keep sources anonymous. PR pitches by email only, please.

Read the full email Mailchimp CEO Ben Chestnut sent to employees:

Subject: Hearing your concerns

Hi everyone, I’m following up on Robin’s email from yesterday because I know this has been hard for many of you, and I want you to know that I’m listening. I won’t share the confidential details or get into a back and forth about the specific situation that came up this week, but the fact of the matter is that it has led to some difficult conversations and brought up some serious issues, and I want to be clear about this: I don’t want any of our employees to have a negative experience working here, and I want to know about it when it happens so we can find the problems and fix them.

It has always been so important to Dan and me that Mailchimp is a company where all employees feel included, respected, and safe-a place where people can do their best, most creative work. Employees experiencing anything less is unacceptable to me and all of our leaders.

I’m hearing loud and clear that we have work to do, including needing greater transparency around pay equity and an intentional focus on inclusion. I want to address these issues head-on, and I know we’ll be stronger for it. I’m asking our leadership team to prioritize these issues and work with me to fix them. What we do needs to match what we say.

I would really appreciate your candid feedback to help us get there. I’m also hearing that some of you have already raised concerns or pointed out problems you’re experiencing, and we haven’t made enough progress in response. I want everyone to feel comfortable sharing their experiences and trust that we’ll make the right adjustments. Just as bullying, harassment, and discrimination won’t be tolerated-neither will retaliation or intimidation for speaking up.

I’m having office hours every day next week, and I’ve asked the entire executive team to hold office hours too. You can sign up here [LINK]. You’re also welcome to email me directly or message me on Slack. We’ve also heard that some of you would rather submit your feedback anonymously. That’s completely understandable, and we’re working on a new way to do that that guarantees confidentiality-will follow up with details next week.

We’re going to listen hard and change fast, responding to your feedback and taking action to invest in our culture and rebuild trust. You can expect regular updates on this. We know this will require work and focus beyond the next few weeks. We’re in it for the long haul. I hope you are too.

One final note: for many of us, the last few years have been a crash course in understanding how insidious forces like racism and sexism can show up in the workplace. I know I’ve learned a great deal, and with Cris Gaskin’s help, we’ve been intentional about better educating ELT to recognize these forces so we can address them. We’re still learning, but I feel better equipped to make the changes we need going forward.

Thank you all for your commitment to making Mailchimp a great place to work. I’m grateful for you.

/bc

Ben Chestnut
Mailchimp CEO & Co-founder

Read the original article on Business Insider

Every leader needs to build their emotional intelligence right now. Here’s how to do it, according to diversity and inclusion consultants.

video conference work from home woman working meeting
Diversity and inclusion experts say the pressure to enact change means more leaders will be judged on their emotional intelligence.

  • Employees and customers are demanding action when it comes to racial equity in the workplace.
  • As a result, more leaders will be judged on a key trait: emotional intelligence.
  • Emotional intelligence is one’s ability to understand how people feel and react to make decisions.
  • This article is part of a series called “IQ to EQ,” which explores the management styles of inspiring business leaders. Check here for similar stories.

Emotional intelligence is a crucial leadership skill that is going to become more important for executives across the board.

That’s according to diversity and inclusion consultants who said leaders can’t achieve the important work around racial equity without it. 

Emotional intelligence is defined as “the ability to understand the way people feel and react and to use this skill to make good judgments and to avoid or solve problems,” per the Cambridge Dictionary.  

“It’s a crucial leadership skill to have, one I think more people are going to be talking about in the future,” Arquella Hargrove, DEI consultant and leadership coach, told Insider. 

Here’s why. Calls for racial equity and diversity, equity, and inclusion have never been louder. Workers and customers are demanding corporate leaders take action. In order to achieve those goals, experts tell us that leaders have to listen to their colleagues from underrepresented backgrounds. They have to engage in tough conversations on race and privilege. And they have to enact changes and work with others to solve problems. 

“Diversity and inclusion – we are dealing with people. We want to humanize it. There’s emotion there,” Hargrove said. 

Arquella Hargrove
Company leaders need to demonstrate their ability to listen to others and take action, Arquella Hargrove, diversity, equity, inclusion and HR strategist, told Insider.

The killing of George Floyd and other unarmed Black Americans, and the resulting resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, turned DEI from tired buzzwords into business objectives. It became personal, Hargrove said. 

Doris Quintanilla, executive director and cofounder of The Melanin Collective, a DEI consultancy, agrees. 

“If we’re trying to center around humanity and accept people for who they are, you have to have a skillset of understanding and of empathy,” she said. 

What emotional intelligence looks like and how to build it 

There are multiple parts to emotional intelligence leaders (and managers in general) can work to improve. They fall under a few broad categories, explain Daniel Goleman, famed author of “Emotional Intelligence 2.0,” and Richard E. Boyatzis, psychology professor at Case Western Reserve University. 

One is social awareness: or the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. It’s having empathy, they write in Harvard Business Review

To boost your empathy, Hargrove and Quintanilla recommend leaders spend more time learning about their employees from underrepresented and marginalized backgrounds. Invite them to share their experiences, and listen to them. In addition, educate yourself by reading books on anti-racism. 

Doris Quintanilla
Doris Quintanilla, executive director and cofounder of The Melanin Collective, said DEI goals can’t be achieved if a company’s leader is not empathetic and able to listen to others.

“The beauty of this is when leaders listen to their colleagues from different backgrounds, they start to value those differences. They make people feel included on the team,” Hargrove said. 

Another part of emotional intelligence is how well you manage relationships, or your ability to communicate effectively and work with others. 

“One part of emotional intelligence is asking for feedback and being able to accept that feedback. That makes managers and leaders better,” she said. 

Quintanilla recommends leaders invest in their relationships with Black and brown employees. Give them a seat at the decision making table, and incorporate their advice into your plans. 

“Everyone had a statement after the murder of George Floyd, those things don’t matter anymore. The words that you say – if they’re not in alignment with the actual actions you’re taking, the people you’re hiring, the people you’re promoting – we don’t want to hear it,” Quintanilla said. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

22 books on race and white privilege that will show you what’s really happening in America right now

Thomonique Moore
Thomonique Moore is a 2016 graduate of Howard University, founder of Books&Shit book club, and an incoming Masters’ candidate at Columbia University’s Teacher’s College.

  • Black History Month, like every other month, is a good time to educate yourself on anti-racism.
  • Anti-racism is actively rejecting racism and promoting equity of Black and brown people.
  • Black sociology, literary, and history scholars shared their top book recommendations on anti-racism. 
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Since the killing of George Floyd, many Americans continue to talk about how they can be an ally for Black people. And this Black History Month is an important time to continue that work. 

In this era, it’s not enough for allies to say they’re “not racist,” activists and leading scholars are saying. Instead, they have to actively adopt anti-racism, which is the set of beliefs and actions that oppose racism and promote the inclusion and equality of Black and brown people in society. 

One important way to learn about anti-racism is by reading. As Vulture aptly puts it, “The how could this happen meets the I told you so. They rendezvous at the anti-racist reading list.”

So which books should you read? Business Insider reached out to Black professors and scholars at institutions across the country to find out which books they recommend. We also included some popular books on anti-racism Americans are digitally reading at their libraries right now. 

This updated article was originally published in June 2020. 

“So You Want to Talk About Race” by Ijeoma Oluo

So you want to talk about race

In this bestseller, Seattle-based writer Ijeoma Oluo prompts people of all races to start having honest conversations about race, giving readers handy phrases and questions to start unpacking racism within their own social networks. She tackles subjects ranging from intersectionality to microaggressions, or subtly racist remarks or actions. 

Thomonique Moore, a 2016 graduate of Howard University, founder of online book club Books&Shit, which explores titles by authors of color, and an incoming master’s candidate at Columbia University’s Teacher’s College, recommends everyone pick of this title. 

“This is a good book to help white people and non-black people of color answer often spoken and unspoken questions about race and racism,” Moore told Business Insider. 

Find it here>>

“The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration In The Age of Colorblindness” by Michelle Alexander

The new Jim Crow

In “The New Jim Crow,” legal scholar Michelle Alexander argues that “we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.” Jim Crow laws were state and local laws created in the late 1800s and early 1900s that enforced racial segregation and encouraged the disenfranchisement of black people in the US.  

“Michelle Alexander breaks down the historic ‘war on crime’ and how the explosive increase in the number US citizens incarcerated, namely black men, is just another trickier, evolved, version of slavery, and Jim Crow,” Moore said. 

Find it here>>

“White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism” by Robin DiAngelo

White Fragility

In this best-selling book, academic, lecturer, and author Robin Diangelo explores the defense mechanisms white people commonly employ when challenged on their assumptions about race. These counterproductive reactions, Diangelo explains, prevent white people from having much needed conversations to usher in progress. 

“White Fragility is a mirror and self-reflection guide, so to speak, for white people who are ready to face their privileges and finally have the tough and necessary conversations,” Moore said. 

Find it here>>

“Racism without Racists: Colorblind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in the United States” by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva

"Racism without Racists: Colorblind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in the United States" by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva

In this book, Bonilla-Silva makes a powerful argument against the idea that race doesn’t exist, or that being “colorblind” is an appropriate solution to racism. 

Crystal Fleming, associate professor of sociology and Africana studies at Stony Brook University called this “one of the most important books on racism.” 

“In particular, Bonilla-Silva helps us understand how the rhetoric of colorblindness reinforces the racial status quo,” she told Business Insider. 

Find it here>> 

“Two Faced Racism: Whites in the Backstage and Frontstage” by Leslie Picca and Joe Feagin

"Two Faced Racism: Whites in the Backstage and Frontstage" by Leslie Picca and Joe Feagin

“Two-Faced Racism,” published in 2007, features more than 600 journal entries of racial events kept by white college students at 28 colleges in the US. It exposes how closely held racist beliefs are still very much a part of American culture. 

Fleming assigns this book to students taking her “Racism and Ethnic Relations” course at Stony Brook University. 

“Picca and Feagin analyze data from journal entries provided by white college students which reveals how racism works behind closed doors as well as in public and semi-public spaces,” Fleming said.

Find it here >>

“How to Be Less Stupid About Race: On Racism, White Supremacy and the Racial Divide” by Crystal Fleming

"How to Be Less Stupid About Race: On Racism, White Supremacy and the Racial Divide" by Crystal Fleming

In addition to recommending other authors, Fleming suggest a book she wrote on the topic of racism, which serves as a primer on the topics of racial oppression and white supremacy. 

“I wrote the book to help people understand the historical roots of white supremacy and to be able to draw connections between past and present racism. The last chapter includes 10 concrete steps that everyone can take to help dismantle systemic racism,” she told Business Insider. 

Find it here >>

“The Ethnic Project: Transforming Racial Fiction into Ethnic Factions” by Vilna Bashi Treitler

The Ethnic Project: Transforming Racial Fiction into Ethnic Factions

“The Ethnic Project” was written by Vilna Bashi Treitler, a sociology professor in the department of black students at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

In this historical narrative work, Treitler examines the ethnic history of the US from the arrival of the English in North America to the present day. She shows how each group of immigrants from Irish to Chinese people negotiated their place in the pecking order of ethnic groups within in the country. 

“‘The Ethnic Project’ is incredibly useful for understanding the racial hierarchy in the United States,” Fleming said. 

Find it here>>

“Race and Racisms: A Critical Approach” by Tanya Golash Boza

Race and Racisms

“Race and Racisms” tackles critical topics including how and when the idea of race was created, how it developed, and how structural racism has created inequality. 

“This book is an excellent overview of systemic and institutionalized racism,” Fleming said.

Find it here>>

“Racist America: Roots, Current Realities, and Future Reparations” by Joe Feagin

Racist America

Feagin incorporates more than 200 recent research studies and reports in his book, which illustrates the origins of racism in the US, and how it still pervades white culture today. 

Augustine Kposowa, professor and chair of the department of sociology at the University of California, Riverside, cites this book as an important read for anyone looking to be anti-racist. 

“Joe Feagin reveals just how racist whites are,” Kposowa said. “Feagin is white and he is privy to secret conversations that whites have in white networks that blacks can never join. In his book, he mentions stories, and what white people say in private, at dinner tables, in their circles about black people, leaving no stone untouched.”

Find it here>> 

“White Rage; the Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide” by Carol Anderson

White Rage

“White Rage” explores how each time blacks in America have made progress, there has been strong white backlash. 

“The book is a critical reflection of why racism persists in the United States, including things that enrage white people about racial issues. In the book, it is evident that no matter what happens in America, including the most open outrages like police killings of blacks, whites never seem interested,” Kposowa said. 

Find it here>>

“Black Americans” by Alphonso Pinkney

Black Americans

This book, written by distinguished Afro-American sociologist and former long term chairman of the Department of Sociology at Hunter College Alphonso Pinkney, explores several facets of different black experiences in the US, including homicide as a public health problem and the prevalence of police brutality.

“Pinkney’s book is a comprehensive account of black life in America, and covers why in almost every sphere, blacks are forced to stay behind,” Kposowa said. 

Find it here>>

“Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present” by Harriet Washington

Medical Apartheid

Maryann Erigha, assistant sociology professor at the Institute for African American Studies at the University of Georgia recommends this book written by Harriet Washington, which won the 2007 National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction. 

“Washington’s book provides a full context and comprehensive understanding of the history and present of medical experimentation and the mistreatment of Blacks in the medical industrial complex. She covers a wide range of areas, from academic pseudoscience to the medical atrocities committed by the government and armed forces, prisons, and private institutions,” she said. 

Find the book here>>

The Hollywood Jim Crow: The Racial Politics of the Movie Industry by Maryann Erigha.

Hollywood Jim Crow

Erigha also recommended “The New Jim Crow” and “So You Want to Talk About Race?” In addition, she suggested her own book, which tackles how racist beliefs pervade American movies, a major export to countries across the globe. 

“My book highlights the ubiquity and implications of underlying beliefs about race and value, inferiority/superiority, profit/loss, desirability/undesirability, that are pervasive among whites in Hollywood and that influence their decision-making about what movies get made, for how much, and under what conditions,” she told Business Insider. 

Find it here>>

“Code of the Street” by Elijah Anderson

Code of the Street

In the “code of the street,” Yale professor Elijah Anderson, presents an explanation for high rates of violence among black teens in the US. Anderson explains how living in impoverished areas without access to economic opportunities, being separated from mainstream society, as well as persistent discrimination was linked with anti-social attitudes and and violent behavior in black teens. 

Mansa Bilal Mark King, associate professor of sociology at Morehouse College, told Business Insider it’s one of the most important books non-black people can read. 

“This is one of the best books for helping non-black people begin to understand that the adoption of a street persona is often a matter of everyday safety for black people who are not actually committed to a street ethos,” he said. 

Find it here>>

“The Wretched of the Earth” by Frantz Fanon

The Wretched of the Earth

Author Frantz Fanon was a distinguished psychiatrist from Martinique who took part in the Algerian Nationalist Movement, a movement that fought for the rights French colonizers to be extended to native Algerians. In “The Wretched of the Earth,” Fanon captures the psychology of the colonized and their path to liberation. 

“This book can be hard for most non-black Americans to read, and it can be even more difficult for them to see how it relates to African Americans, particularly those of us whose families survived American slavery and Jim and Jane Crow apartheid. That is exactly why people need to read it,” King said.

Find it here>>

“The Mis-Education of the Negro” by Carter Woodson

The Miseducation of the Negro

Carter Godwin Woodson was an American historian, author, journalist, and one of the first scholars to study the history of the African diaspora. In this book, he argues that black people were being indoctrinated, rather than educated, in American schools, and that black Americans needed to educate themselves on the history of race and racism. 

“This book is almost a century old, and the fact that its basic critique remains a valid one should help readers to understand a key source of black American anger,” King said. “For many Black Americans, not getting a helpful education on Africa and her American Diaspora is part of the reason for educational disengagement.” 

Find it here>>

“UNESCO General History of Africa, Vol. I by Joseph Ki-Zerbo and Vol. II” by G. Mokhtar

UNESCO General history of Africa

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has put together comprehensive titles on the history of Africa and its people that are useful for any American of any color to read. 

These works “help the reader overcome the poor historical education that most Americans get when it comes to Africa,” King said.

Find the books here>>

“Black Wealth/White Wealth” by Melvin Oliver and Thomas Shapiro

Black Wealth, White Wealth

In “Black Wealth/White Wealth,” sociological researchers Oliver and Shapiro capture just how large the wealth gap is between black and white Americans.  

“This book helps people of all races begin to understand that it was white America that systematically chooses for us to have almost all black, low-income, ‘ghetto areas.’ Equally important, this imposed reality means that black children are born at a disadvantage, in the vast majority of cases, through no fault of their own,” King said. 

“me and white supremacy,” by Layla Saad

me and white supremacy

This was the most popular anti-racism book checked out digitally from the end of May through June, according to Overdrive.

In this hit title, Saad brings her unique perspective as an East African, Arab, British, Black, Muslim woman — who’s also a speaker and writer — to the forefront. Her book came after the hashtag she started #MeandWhiteSupremacy, where people shared their own experiences with racism, went viral. Saad’s book lists the common reasons why white people aren’t actively anti-racist, and includes concrete steps on how to be a better ally. 

Find it here>>

 

“Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You,” by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi

Stamped

“Stamped,” a young adult nonfiction book, is another popular title among readers, according to Overdrive. In this book, Reynolds, renowned young-adult author, reimagines Kendi’s bestseller for a younger audience. The book explores how the history of racism is inextricably linked to the creation of the US. 

Find it here>>

“Just Mercy,” by Bryan Stevenson

just mercy

In “Just Mercy,” Stevenson tells his incredible story of creating the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice to help those most desperate and in need, like the wrongly condemned. One of his first clients was Walter McMillian, a young man sentenced to death for a murder he said he didn’t commit. The story of Stevenson’s fight for justice was turned into a major motion film. 

Find it here>>

“Thick,” by Tressie McMillan Cottom

Thick

In McMillan Cottom’s eyes, the personal is political, and she doesn’t shy away from talking about all of it. In eight treatises on beauty, media, money, race, and abuse, McMillan Cottom explores the ways American culture treats Black women. Roxanne Gay, writer, professor and author of the best-selling essay collection Bad Feminist calls this book “brilliant.” 

Find it here>>

Read the original article on Business Insider

There’s a key different between ‘equity’ and ‘equality’ – and you need to understand it to help dismantle systemic racism in America

joe biden executive orders
President Joe Biden prepares to sign a series of executive orders at the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office, including multiple on racial equity.

  • Many corporate and government leaders, including President Biden, are talking about racial equity right now.
  • Equity is different from equality. 
  • Equality treats everyone the same regardless of need, while equity achieves fairness by treating people differently dependent on need. 
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Over the past few months, you’ve probably heard the term “racial equity” either in conversation with friends, in a company memo, or in the news. 

JP Morgan, Walmart, Mastercard, and CitiGroup are just a few examples of dozens of companies that have specifically dedicated millions of dollars (or more) to advance racial equity in the wake of the killing of George Floyd. 

In our nation’s capital, President Joe Biden recently signed a number of executive orders to advance racial equity: enacting policies that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion training, ending the Department of Justice’s use of private prisons, and directing the federal government to redress historical racism in federal housing policies, among other measures. 

But what does “equity” really mean? And how is different from “equality”? Well, there’s actually a key difference and it’s important to know.

Read more: An anti-racist’s dictionary: 19 words on race, gender, and diversity you should know

Equality vs. equity

Social Change UK, a social research and campaign company, explained the difference succinctly in a blog post. 

“Although both promote fairness, equality achieves this through treating everyone the same regardless of need, while equity achieves this through treating people differently dependent on need,” their website reads. “This different treatment may be the key to reaching equality.” 

Still, that might be hard to grasp. 

Rosalind Chow, associate professor of organizational behavior and theory at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business, shared a helpful metaphor of two people competing in a track race. 

Both runners are at their starting points, but one is more than half a lap behind the other.  

Equality, she explained, would mean giving both runners the same starting time, treating them equally. But that would not be fair, since one runner is significantly ahead of the other. The playing field, to mix metaphors, is not level. 

“Equity, in this context, would require giving a bit more of a head start to the runner starting from behind to make up for their deficit, so that they can compete on equal footing as the runner who had been ahead,” Chow told Insider. 

Of course, achieving racial equity is not as simple as giving marginalized and oppressed communities more resources. 

In a blog post on Medium, Richard Leong, DEI consultant and leadership coach, wrote that there’s more work to be done. 

“Driving equity and justice isn’t about tinkering with systems that just ended up being imbalanced, it’s about dismantling oppressive systems that are working exactly as they were designed,” he wrote.

For example, Biden’s executive order on federal housing directs leaders to not only advance the inclusion of Black and brown people in federal housing policies, but work to fix decades of racist policies in housing

The order recognizes the historic, systemic problem. Federal, state, and local governments implemented discriminatory policies that contributed to segregated neighborhoods and prevented many Black, Latino, Asian American, Pacific Islander, and Native American families from building wealth. It then calls for action to end discrimination, work with those who have experienced housing discrimination, and promote diverse and inclusive communities. 

“Systemic racism that has plagued our nation for far, far too long,” Biden said, while signing his executive orders advancing racial equity.

“We’re going to continue to make progress to eliminate systemic racism, and every branch of the White House and the federal government is going to be part of that effort,” he added. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

Netflix shares the inclusion strategy that helped it improve Black representation in its leadership and the areas it needs to do better in like recruiting Latinx staffers

Verna_Netflix
Vernā Myers

  • Netflix released on Wednesday its first inclusion report that details its progress on diversity, the strategies that moved the needle, and where it needs to do better.
  • The report showed that Netflix made big strides since 2017 in recruiting Black staffers, who now make up 8% of its full-time US workforce and 9% of its leadership team.
  • The streaming company said it still needs to do better in recruiting folks from Latinx and other underrepresented groups.
  • Tactics that worked for the streaming company included training executives to identify their privileges and think with an “inclusion lens,” as well as tailoring recruiting strategies for each industry.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Netflix’s head of inclusion strategy Vernā Myers released on Wednesday the streaming company’s first inclusion report, which details its progress on diversity, the strategies that moved the needle, and where it needs to do better.

Netflix, which also publishes its diversity data every quarter, shared in the report that Black staffers made up 8% of its 8,000-person full-time US workforce as of October, up from 3.8% in 2017 and closer in line with (but still behind) the US population. Black staffers also comprised 9% of Netflix’s US leadership team, including directors and above.

Overall, 46% of Netflix’s US workforce were from underrepresented racial or ethnic backgrounds, as were 42% of its leadership.

In an industry that’s woefully behind on representation, Netflix has been praised in the last year for taking action, including moving more of its money to Black-owned banks, elevating the voices of and investing in Black creators, and continuing to diversify its leadership team and ranks.

Read more: Netflix staffers who helped design a new curriculum for emerging Black talent share their advice for getting a start in the tech industry 

But the company also said it needs to do better in a few key areas, including recruiting Hispanic or Latinx staffers. 8.1% of its US workforce was Hispanic or Latinx in October, up from 6% three years ago. The group’s share of Netflix’s workforce was still far behind the 18.5% of the US population that Hispanics comprise.

At the leadership level, just 4.9% of Netflix’s US execs were Hispanic or Latinx, which was about the same share in 2017.

The entertainment industry as a whole has made little-to-no progress improving Latinx representation on screen in recent years. People in the industry told Insider that improving the pipeline of Latinx content execs could help reverse those trends, as some recent Latinx-led shows like “One Day at a Time” and “Vida” succeeded partly because they had strong allies pulling for the shows.

Read more: Research shows Hollywood is failing Latinos. People behind ‘One Day at a Time’ and ‘Vida’ share how those stories made it to TV and how the industry could push change forward. 

The strategies that helped Netflix hit its recent diversity strides

Netflix’s report also unpacked some of the strategies that are helping it become a more inclusive workplace.

One was getting specific about what improvements it wanted to make and tailoring the strategy to fit each industry.

To recruit more women, Black, and Latinx talent for technical roles, for instance, Netflix’s head of inclusion for the product and technology teams, Wade Davis, organized group coaching sessions where members of the inclusion team showed the tech execs how to self-assess where they’ve historically hired from, and how they can change their habits to bring in more people from different backgrounds. Those leaders then gave the trainings to their direct reports.

Read more: How to get a job at Netflix, from getting noticed by a recruiter to nailing the interview

The strategy is part of an overall effort to get more employees to think with an “inclusion lens,” a perspective members of the 17-person inclusion team usually bring when they sit in on meetings to help spot biases, ways a decision might impact underrepresented groups, and opportunities to embrace peoples’ differences.

The inclusion team hopes to ingrain this thinking in Netflix’s employees through various workshops. They hold workshops requiring employees to reflect on how they’ve personally experienced and perpetuated inequity, for example. Myers said she led one in 2019 for Netflix vice presidents that included an exercise in which execs had to identify their privileges, such as identifying as cisgender or white, or being without a disability.

“It was powerful to hear some of the most talented people in our industry be so vulnerable about their experiences being marginalized,” Myers wrote of the workshop.

The three areas where Netflix said it needs to do better are: 

  • Recruiting Hispanic or Latinx and other underrepresented talent, particularly among the exec ranks
  • Learning more about inclusion outside of the US, where Netflix is building out regional inclusion teams
  • Finding ways to measure progress that go beyond demographic statistics and hiring goals
Read the original article on Business Insider

How developers are using immersive tech to offer timely perspectives on race, diversity and culture

virtual reality VR
  • Developers are using virtual reality to recreate both historic and everyday events, and allow users to hear and experience different perspectives.
  • Some experiences are designed to encourage people to look at their own behavior, while others tell lesser-heard stories. 
  • One takes users back to the civil rights movement of the 1960s, while another documents the discrimination experienced by a Black male during throughout his life.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

As demand for virtual reality continues to grow, people are increasingly using them to learn about racism or hear more stories from people of color.

In some cases, developers are using the technology to recreate historic events and instances of racism in the hope it will make people address their own misconceptions, Axios reported. In other cases, projects led by people of color are creating highly inventive experiences that entertain as much as they educate. 

Demand for both virtual reality is set to boom over the coming years. Shipments of VR headsets are expected to grow 48% annually over the next four years, according to estimates from the International Data Corporation.

The technology is allowing developers to create interactive documentaries, likened to “living museums.”

As part of this, people are using the technology to encourage empathy with marginalized groups. VR simulations show people what it’s like to be homeless, pregnant, in a wheelchair, autistic, or a different race, according to Erick Jose Ramirez, associate professor in the Department of Philosophy at Santa Clara University.

“The idea is that technology might help us better understand what it’s like to be someone on the receiving end of racist violence [which] can help us understand the roots of our own racism and then combat it,” Ramirez wrote.

Read more: Google employees sent a letter demanding leadership changes and a stronger commitment to ‘academic integrity,’ as tensions over AI ethicist’s exit continue to rise

Studies have previously suggested that adopting a different race during a VR experience can affect people’s unconscious behaviors during gameplay.

‘I Am A Man’ takes users back to the civil rights movement of the 1960s

“I Am A Man,” made by independent VR developer Derek Ham, takes users back to the key events of the US civil rights movement leading up to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., including the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Worker’s Strike.

It combines historical film and photographs with voice narrations from actual civil rights participants, and worked alongside the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis to ensure its accuracy.

I Am A Man VR Experience from on Vimeo.

 

“The vision is to give people an experience of history in a way that provides a more personal understanding of the struggles of these marginalized people,” Ham said on the website.

“The VR experience allows one to literally walk in the shoes of people who fought for freedom and equality during the civil rights era. Most importantly, this project gives users a deeper awareness of their struggle.”

The project, which has won awards, including at the Cleveland and Nashville film festivals, can be downloaded from the Oculus Store but is also available for web, mobile, and screen immersive viewing.

Some focus on racism experienced in day-to-day life

But not all these VR projects focus on historical events. Some, such as “1,000 Cut Journey,”  look at the everyday life of Black people to show how they face racism on a daily basis.

In the VR developed by Stanford and Columbia Universities, an assistant professor at Columbia’s School of Social Work, users witness the discrimination experienced by a Black male during both his childhood and adult life in the classroom, the workplace, and by police. This is all condensed into 12 minutes.

And “Traveling While Black,” produced by Academy Award winner Roger Ross Williams and Emmy Award-winning Felix & Paul Studios, takes users to Ben’s Chili Bowl, a diner in Washington DC that was used by many Black people as a space safe during the Jim Crow laws.

During the experience, users converse with diners who discuss their experiences of restricted movement and race relations as a Black person in the US. The experience aims to confront the way people both understand and talk about race.

 

“If you’re not African American, you get to go into a space and be part of a conversation that you probably normally would not be privy to,” Williams told The Guardian. “If you are Black, you get to delve deep into that inner trauma that we all carry with us in America as Black people.

“I think that’s really powerful in the way that 2D storytelling can’t provide.”

VR is a vehicle for companies to teach staff about implicit bias

These VR projects aren’t just being used for personal use. Some are being launched on a corporate scale, too, as an innovative way to provide workplace equality, diversity, and inclusion training. 

Vantage Point, for example, uses VR to teach both Fortune 500 companies and schools about racial discrimination and gender inequality. Vantage Point works alongside companies in the US, UK, Ireland, and France. and during the pandemic, it has been shipping headsets to clients.

And PwC and tech startup Talespin have launched similar VR implicit bias training, which immerses participants in scenarios where they learn to make inclusive hiring decisions and point out instances of discrimination.

Training programs like these could become more common in the future.

US companies spend $8 billion annually on diversity and inclusion initiatives, yet research shows that they’re actually more segregated now than they were 40 years ago.

VR could be an option for companies to ramp up their implicit bias training – and a PwC study found that it’s actually more cost-effective that classroom-based training. Participants learn quicker and stay more focused, too.

Beyond borders

In the UK, immersive technology is also being used to highlight people’s experiences from all backgrounds and ensure their voices are being heard. 

One timely example of this is The CreativeXR program, which is run by Digital Catapult and Arts Council England and features a varied range of VR and AR-based stories, many of which have been created by people of color.

Blood Speaks: Maya – The Birth of a Superhero, Munkination, SONG, and A Place to Be are among these inventive offerings. Some can be accessed using VR headsets such as Oculus Quest; others via a mobile phone. 

In Blood Speaks, an ordinary 21st-century girl transforms into a superhero whose powers derive from the process of menstruation. The unflinching story is moving and thought-provoking in equal measure.

Blood Speaks_ Maya - The Birth of a Superhero
A scene from Blood Speaks: Maya – The Birth of a Superhero.

The project, which was developed specifically for Oculus Quest using Quill and Unity, is inspired by the stories of women in Nepal who are forced into exile because their menstrual blood is considered impure, according to creator Poulomi Basu.

In a statement, Basu said: “The first phase has seen massive impact and helped activate policy change in Nepal. With a little brown girl magic, we are looking to forge new audiences through this female-led narrative that features voices that reconfigure audience perceptions of BAME [black and minority ethnic]  characters and, through their interaction with Maya, we want to inspire our audience to find the magic within themselves.”

Musical projects lend themselves particularly well to immersive mediums as Munkination – a hip-hop opera with a futuristic story about climate change at its heart – demonstrates.

Its creator, HAM The Illustrator, said in a statement: “I created this experience because I want to engage my community. There aren’t many stories by and for people like me, and I want to tell a story that puts us at the forefront; our heritage, our perspective, and that history of living in equilibrium with nature, because we don’t have much time left, and we all need to be involved.”

Equally, SONG, an immersive 360° performance based on the K-Pop phenomenon, also uses music to tell a powerful story. The action takes place inside a “planetarium” installation and features simultaneous live streams in VR and 2D environments.

According to creator Sammy Lee, the project emerged out of a deep commitment to the future of the performing arts, driven by the energy of pop music as military technology. 

A scene from A Place To Be
A scene from A Place to Be.

Finally, A Place to Be, by The Independent Film Trust, explores the black British experience beyond the constraints of the present day. The 360˚ VR experience is set in a south London shebeen and uncovers the untold histories of Black Britons. Set in 1981, days before the Brixton uprising, the experience transports viewers to one of the unlicensed clubs that offered a safe space to the African-Caribbean community away from systemic racism. 

Fans of immersive technology should expect to see many more similar inventive AR and VR experiences from a range of providers in 2021, as demand for diversity and culture-based projects continues to align with the need for creative ways to stay connected.

Read the original article on Business Insider