As a child of “First to’s” (First African-American to command the U.S. Army Old Guard, First African-American to be selected National Elementary School Principal of the Year by President Bill Clinton), my family is deeply steeped in the history of African-American culture and civil rights in the United States, emanating from northern cities (Philadelphia, Pa. and Gary, Ind.) and the deep south (Hayneville, Ala.). I have been raised with a belief in the verse that “to whom much is given, much is required,” and a commitment to give back to our society, honoring those who paved a path forward for us.
When I look around our country today, I am so pleased to see how diversity and inclusion have moved from a concept to an expectation, embedded in every industry and sector of our society. I see leaders speaking up and actively listening to the feedback on what it takes to create diverse and inclusive environments. Mostly, I see regular citizens showing up, rediscovering their voice, sharing their stories, and demanding inclusion and equality – not just for people of color, but for groups of all kinds.
Every February during Black History Month, a 28-day window provides an opportunity for our nation, our company, and each of us to pause and take stock of the condition and progress of Black people and other minority populations. We can celebrate the achievements and contributions of so many and, at the same time, lament the increase in violence and hate crimes, inflammatory discourse in our political arena and sense of increasing polarization across our country.
At Microsoft, we have made the long-term commitment to build and sustain a culture that fosters an inclusive working environment, which will enable our employees to do their best work and serve the diverse needs of our customers around the world. We also are committed to engaging in and advancing diversity and inclusion conversations in communities where we believe we can help empower people.
Black History Month presents us with an opportunity to engage in diversity and inclusion dialogues across all minority groups.
- At Microsoft, we kicked off the month with our Blacks at Microsoft (BAM) chapter ringing the Nasdaq bell on Wall Street for the second consecutive year. As a direct result of the impact our team had last year, Nasdaq has created its own employee network called GLOBE – Global Link of Black Employees.
- Next week, I will share the stage with civil rights activist, Reverend Jesse Jackson, at the Wall Street Project, which strives to ensure equal opportunities for culturally diverse employees, entrepreneurs and consumers.
- Reshma Saujani, who founded Girls Who Code with the single mission of closing the gender gap in technology, will be speaking with Microsoft employees later this month.
- We celebrate the passionate young gamers who demonstrated to everyone, that a level playing field is possible with the help of their friends, family and adaptive technology.
- At the upcoming BAM conference, we will recognize the pioneers who started the affinity group 30 years ago – the first employee group of its kind.
I count myself incredibly fortunate to work at a company that embodies many of the principles my parents instilled in me, which have stood the test of time as we continue to engage in the diversity and inclusion dialogue: set the bar high and exceed it, approach the world with a service mentality and, above all, lift each other up.