By Victoria Willingham • June 30, 2020•Writers in Residence
In the midst of arguably the biggest social movement of my generation, conversations surrounding inclusion have become increasingly prevalent. This unprecedented atmosphere of change has required me to engage in dialogues with colleagues and associates about what it truly means to cultivate environments (professional, social, etc.) that properly encompass the experiences of people of color and other marginalized groups.
The overwhelming truth is that the recent happenings are not isolated events. Everyday, people of color are faced with the responsibility of figuring out how to navigate their daily lives with the implications of their existence as minorities. This interplay between the two has proven to be a subject that people who inherently possess privilege are starting to realize and desire to figure out how to create change and support people who lack the benefits of the privileges they have.
Through much of the discourse, the question of, “Where do we go from here?” has come up on numerous occasions – especially in professional settings. I think it is important to note that the issues of race in America are a human issue and not just one for one particular group to address. As a result, there are several ways that we as a human race can move the needle forward. Legally trained individuals are positioned in a special place to serve as true change agents because we all know the baseline requirements for what it means to be an advocate – even in spaces that we may not fully understand.
Many industries, including tech, have made concerted efforts to address the lack of diversity among their employees. The reality, however, is that those efforts must continue and the overall approach may need to be revisited. How do we actually make progress? There is no exact science or only one pathway. Solidarity and allyship looks different for everybody. Therefore, it is important to recognize that how one chooses to align with any movement should not matter as long as it is productive. For example, many people have started their journey to do better by educating themselves. I can recall so many people who have, for the first time, recognized that society benefits them while it simultaneously diminishes others.
To help close this knowledge gap, education is key. Reading, watching productions, asking thoughtful questions, are all ways to start the education process. The next step, following education, is commitment. Without truly committing to making conscious decisions to create it, change will never actually happen. Commitment, like education, can look very different between individuals. A commitment, however, is the key ingredient to the recipe for true change. Through commitment, there is a level of accountability that can emerge. Holding companies and people accountable looks like knowing policies and deciding whether you agree with them. If you do not agree with them, then making a conscious effort to change the policies or to refuse to support the company are ways to ensure accountability and perpetuity.
As it pertains to the tech industry and other similarly emerging industries, individuals within the companies must commit to advocating for pipelines that create opportunities for people of color and similarly marginalized groups. Much like other industries, diversity is necessary in tech across all types of roles – not just engineering. When essential components of organizations like leadership, legal departments, and human resources reflect diversity, then change will likely follow at a more rapid pace.
As someone who is passionate about diversity and inclusion issues, I am committed to focusing on efforts that help move the needle forward no matter what it takes. As attorneys, I believe we can utilize the roles we occupy to advocate in ways that spark positive evolution simply based on our positions and abilities to identify issues and offer solutions. It is my hope that we all start to do the work so that we can see the results of the seeds we sew.