Earlier this week, Facebook Chief Marketing Officer Antonio Lucio stepped down from his role, citing his goal to “play a more active part in accelerating change” in the name of racial justice. This move not only frees up space at the highest tiers of leadership for a hire that diversifies the team in more respect than one, but also demonstrates yet another way an industry leader can, and is, walking the walk; upon his departure, Lucio’s next career chapter will be devoted to helping the advertising industry transform into a more inclusive power.
This is one of the latest tectonic shifts, particularly in the tech sphere, that top leaders have made: this past June, Alexis Ohanian, founder and former CEO of Reddit, famously stepped down from the board with the request to give his seat to a Black member. Just this week, Amazon hired the first Black woman – and fourth woman overall – to its senior leadership group.
With these changes taking place after the social justice movement’s surge that began nearly three months ago, this apparent momentum is promising and, dare I say, hopeful.
But long-lasting change for the better rarely happens overnight. In the case of elevating diversity, equity and inclusion across businesses and industries everywhere – especially those with the longest way to go like the tech sphere – progressive change involves actions that will affect ongoing cultural shifts that are reflected not only in the company’s core mission and team makeups, but also in everyday interaction not visible to the public eye.
Now is the time to question: To what extent should the business world rely on the ripple effects of the few?
While the world, myself included, has long waited for industry wins to celebrate in the name of DE&I, it is critical to evaluate the depth of the ‘good’ as much as we do with the bad. Company moves are being watched by the world right now, and holding both them and ourselves accountable goes deeper than taking stock of the headlines. This includes asking ourselves and others, So what? and Now what? For example, if one leader drops and another leader with a background that diversifies the team takes his or her place, will this appointment make change beyond the optics?
Inquiries such as these take a company’s DEI data and measurements to the next level. At AnitaB.org, with our mission to help build an equitable future for women in tech, now more than ever we are partnering with organizations that wish to look beyond the numbers and ensure company activity upholds gender diversity as reflected in employee sentiment and performance.
A common misconception is that change can only start from the top and trickle down in order to revolutionize how work is done. Change from the top is important. But in reality, change is a top-down and bottom-up feedback loop; the accountability of leadership should reflect the accountability requested by the company’s employees, customers and greater society that incubates its success alike, not just its shareholders.
Securing equal representation at every team’s table is critical for pushing business output to the next level. By creating a clear and consistent definition of success in the name of championing diversity, it becomes possible to uphold the positive potential of the ripple effect.