2 Models Of Diversity Leadership: Morgan Stanley vs Silicon Valley Big Tech
There are two different models of diversity leadership — the Shallow Clarence Thomas Diversity Model and the Keeping It Real Model. One of them is diluting race out of the definition of diversity.
As an executive, I have interacted directly with Facebook and Morgan Stanley and I believe I have spent sufficient time with their leadership and employees to get a sense of where they stand culturally.
I have had zero experience with the executives at Apple but there are data and commentary from their leadership that I believe reflect their values and priorities.
I recently went off on Twitter, talking about how the Black faces in Silicon Valley are in many cases no better than U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
I believe Thomas is well qualified to be on the Supreme Court but Black people are right to be suspicious of why racists and their political enemies love him so much.
Conservatives may nominate a Clarence Thomas because he may reflect their views. Clarence Thomas may vote an even harder line than most white conservatives — a Black face with white values and white perspectives, or even worse, white supremacy wrapped in Black-face.
Clarence Thomas as a metaphor for diversity
There are two noticeable trends in diversity leadership.
One is a very shallow diversity where the corporation hires a Black woman. An all-white group decides who is the best Black person or person of color to fill the role.
1. The Shallow Clarence ThomasDiversity (SCTD) Model (Facebook, Apple)
The incompetent, ignorant, detached, and biased executive actors choose which Black person is going to help fix their mess — or in this case, support the white leadership with its existing efforts and help with public relations.
This is what I call a Shallow Clarence Thomas Diversity — more PR buzz than actual radical change within the organization.
If your organization scores an F on racial diversity, you need radical change, not a “safe” Black executive who has minimal power, little conviction to change things, and is mainly going to give you PR value vs quantitatively moving the needle.
If you ask the people on the ground in media and advertising or a big tech company, you’ll find there is absolutely no connection between their “Clarence Thomas” and the Black community.
Ask the Black executives in the chosen industry if this person has been “present” or active in leveraging their roles and communicating with the Black community. They may have never heard of the SCTD. The reason why? The SCTD was not chosen to materially change anything and the broader Black business community often wasn’t even considered in the hire to make the big company more diverse.
The Shallow Clarence Thomas Diversity model company believes its own elite white community can figure diversity out. They would never outsource this problem to Black folks, like they would a big complex business problem to McKinsey or BCG. The problem is not big enough to get objective advice from the broader Black business community under the Shallow Clarence Thomas Diversity model.
Another characteristic of a Shallow Clarence Thomas Diversity company is that they are very reactionary. The media demands they release their hiring data and once the report comes out, they come out with a PR campaign and a few initiatives. They also stress how hard it is to find qualified Black people. An example of this reactionary approach is Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg saying Facebook’s board of directors will now allow a non-white board member to the Congressional Black Caucus after facing political pressure related to the Russian collusion investigation.
The Shallow Clarence Thomas Diversity company will also make comments to the press such as this:
“We are not in the business of giving away jobs.” — Maxine Williams, Facebook global diversity director.
Are Black people really looking for freebies at Facebook or do they want a fair shot?
And this, also by Facebook’s Williams:
“Cognitive Diversity is what we are going for.”
“There can be 12 white, blue-eyed, blond men in a room and they’re going to be diverse, too, because they’re going to bring a different life experience and life perspective to the conversation.” — Denise Young Smith, vice president of diversity and inclusion at Apple.
Where are these two Black women getting the priority around cognitive diversity? Do they know what harm they are doing to the millions of Black people in the workforce by diluting the word diversity and championing the diversity definitions of Mark Zuckerberg and Marc Andreessen?
Although Smith later apologized for speaking her truth and what she really believes, she didn’t know her words could cause such outrage. That’s because she is so comfortable with that way of thinking inside the white male-dominated Silicon Valley cultural bubble.
It may not be a coincidence that Apple’s Young is backtracking and apologizing for pushing the cognitive diversity concept. Apple recently reported that its diversity numbers are not moving.
Quartz covered some of this thinking among Silicon Valley elites. Here’s what Facebook Board Member Marc Andreessen said in a 2014 article entitled Why Marc Andreessen thinks tech’s diversity problem is overstated:
He says that diversity statistics show that around 70% of engineers are white or Asian. That would actually be on the low end. It’s closer to 90% at many large companies:
Andreessen takes issue with calling these companies other than diverse:
“Let’s dig into that for a second. First, apparently Asian doesn’t count as diverse. And then “white”: When you actually go in these companies, what you find is it’s American people, but it’s also Russians, and Eastern Europeans, and French, and German, and British. And then there are the Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Thais, Indonesians, and Vietnamese. All these different countries, all these different cultures. To believe in a systematic pattern of discrimination, you’d have to believe that we’re discriminatory toward certain people without being discriminatory at all toward an extremely broad range of ethnicities and religions. Because of Pakistanis, we’re seeing a higher-than-ever proportion of Muslim employees in a lot of our companies.”
To me, this screams elite white guys understand the issue better than you and can fix it, fuck off. “Me, the rich white guy in the bubble has the best mind on this complex issue.” It also dangerously dilutes race out of the diversity meaning. You can be completely diverse but not have any Black people, women, or Hispanics.
I actually agree with part of this logic, understanding this is “advanced diversity” after you have conquered elementary diversity: Race diversity.
Who else puts in work diluting race out of the definition of diversity? Mark Zuckerberg.
“We have a board member who is an adviser to the Trump administration, Peter Thiel,” Zuckerberg said (while addressing students at North Carolina AT&T State University). “And I personally believe that if you want to have a company that is committed to diversity, you need to be committed to all kinds of diversity, including ideological diversity.
“I think the folks who are saying we shouldn’t have someone on our board because they’re a Republican, I think that’s crazy,” he continued. “I think you need to have all kinds of diversity if you want to make progress together as a society.”
There you go. You see where these Black women at Facebook and Apple get their perspective? White men! Zuckerberg is so detached from reality that he thinks a white guy like Peter Thiel — who wrote a book arguing against multiculturalism and reportedly supported apartheid in South Africa — is a great example of diversity.
By the time Silicon Valley and its weaponized Black diversity executives are done pasteurizing race out of the diversity definition, the definition will fit a profile where big tech is doing good, quantitatively.
2. The Keeping It Real Model (KIRM) (Morgan Stanley)
Carla Harris is Morgan Stanley’s vice chairman of global wealth management and senior client advisory. First, Harris is a real power broker and player within Morgan Stanley. Second, she is genuinely connected to the Black community while also being an alumnus from Harvard and Harvard Business School. She was appointed by Barack Obama to be chairwoman of the National Women’s Business Council.
You are going to hear from Black entrepreneurs about how she helped them knock down the door. She has a genuine conviction on solving the complex problem of inequality. She is not out there cheerleading the establishment. She has selectively criticized the establishment publicly and is making the world better:
Harris is leading and executing initiatives within Morgan Stanley to help get investment capital in the hands of Black entrepreneurs.
— anishachopra (@chopranish) November 15, 2017
Surprisingly, after the recent leadership shake-up, Uber seems to be following the Keeping It Real Model of leadership, hiring Bozoma Saint John as global brand officer. Before Uber, she was a marketing executive at Apple Music. Bozoma recently attended the highly successful AfroTech conference and was a hit with the audience. She also attended the Black Enterprise Tech ConneXt summit and was a hit there as well.
This reflects Bozoma being “present” within the Black business community and as connected to it as it is to her. Black People recognize when you genuinely care or when you are some corporate PR stooge wrapped up in Black face, saying the same things they hear from elite white folks such Sandberg, Zuckerberg, and Andreesseen.
When Uber banned Twitter personality Laura Loomer for racism, Bozoma threw up the peace sign on Twitter.
In summary, these are the two models out there for how big tech businesses address diversity: The SCTD — Shallow Clarence Thomas Diversity model and the KIRM — Keeping It Real Model.
The shallow diversity hire seems to be more PR buzz than real bite. Its diversity executive has little power and seemingly no real conviction around radical change within the organization. The diversity executive usually stays on script and takes cues from consensual white-male thinking in Silicon Valley. The diversity hire has no genuine connection to the Black business community and often may not even feel any obligation to it. He or she is often there to do a job, play it safe, don’t make any noise and get a raise.
Earlier this year, one venture capital-backed Black tech founder self-servingly expressed his frustration to me. He said his experience with Black diversity executives is they should “fire them and send all the money to fund Black tech startups.”
The Shallow Clarence Thomas Diversity company usually just reacts to press scrutiny and rarely comes out with bold thinking about inequality, diversity and inclusion, internally or externally. The SCTD company may have all white members on its board of directors going into 2018 and may agree to hire a non-white after feeling pressure or following others. There is no real genuine conviction (Facebook).
The other model, KIRM — the Keeping It Real Model — has highly talented Black leaders with authenticity and connectivity to the broader Black business community, and Black People in general. They are star performers, they speak up, they criticize the establishment, and they have executive roles within the organization outside of the “diversity department.” They have their own identities with real power to make an impact within the organization.