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The Evolution of Diversity & Inclusion | SXSW 2021

Maxine Williams
Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at Facebook
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SXSW 2021
March 18, 2021, Online, Austin, USA
SXSW 2021
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About speakers

Maxine Williams
Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at Facebook
Jason Wright
President at Washington Football Team

Maxine Williams is the Chief Diversity Officer at Facebook. Her mandate spans people, product and policy spheres reporting directly to the COO and serving as a member of Facebook’s most senior executive leadership body under the CEO. Maxine’s team works towards increasing the cognitive diversity—different ways of thinking based on different backgrounds, experiences and information—of all Facebook teams and integrating diverse perspectives into policy and product development.

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I am a retired National Football League veteran, and former McKinsey partner, who now leads the business of Washington Football. I couldn't be more excited about the opportunities ahead of the franchise as we renew our culture and expand the business. I expect we will win games too, but I don't have a hand in that ;).Apart from the team, I am personally passionate about the intersection of theology, economics, and social equity and am a member of the Board of Trustees at Union Theological Seminary. I'm intellectually curious across topics and can be enticed into conversation with a good bourbon or scotch.

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About the talk

Join Maxine Williams, Chief Diversity Officer, Facebook and Jason Wright, NFL President, The Washington Football Team in conversation as they discuss the business case for building an inclusive company. Together, they explore how the power of diverse perspectives and experiences are good for business and lead to better business outcomes.

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SXSW dedicates itself to helping creative people achieve their goals. Founded in 1987 in Austin, Texas, SXSW is best known for its conference and festivals that celebrate the convergence of the interactive, film, and music industries. An essential destination for global professionals, this year’s online event features sessions, showcases, screenings, exhibitions, professional development and a variety of networking opportunities. For more information, please visit sxsw.com.

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Jason Wright, president of the Washington football team. Thank you so much for having this conversation with me today. Thank you so much for. It's a big deal that you're in. This job is a big, big job. What was going through your mind? When you got the offer and then when you accepted it, For me, even before I got the offer in talking to Dan and Tanya Snyder. I was thinking about how to solve the problems that the organization needed. You know, what are the first steps I would take around culture change, what are the

things that you know, around policies and how would I think about a Rebrand and a new identity? I was I was there, I was there and then when the announcement hit and I found out him know, I was the first black to Brown ever thought about it when the announcement hit and the historicity of it hit. That was a moment for me to reflect and recognize that this was even bigger than I thought. And that I needed I needed to honor that properly and I couldn't be my normal pragmatic. Let's get to work self. How could you never have thought about it? Like you

were a football player, you have to have known. This was a huge like camping. Yeah. You know, I did I had never thought about it. I never thought about it probably because and this is probably part of why I felt so emboldened to take on a roll like this, at my age and not think twice about it. Is that in my time, in the NFL, I had a lot of black leaders and Senior positions never a team president, or, or an ownership. But you're my, my quarterback. When I was a rookie was a black quarterback win. That was a rare thing. And my head

coach in Cleveland with a black man. My general manager in Arizona with a black man and so I already saw black leadership and aspects of football where it wasn't normally found in. So that was a bit normalized in my mind and so I guess I had never thought that old is never actually been, you know, I had it the whole business operations that's been been black before or have the Title of president for and so does never hit me because I had had enough Role Models where I thought it would be there but then once it once it once I realized that you made sense. Yeah, I bet there are, there

are a ton of barriers to this that exist and so I bet that makes a ton of sense. So let's on this and figure out how we can see how we can use this moment to communicate a message, that allows more doors to open like this. You know what's interesting is you just called off the names of the position of people who you saw in your daily life, want to be like whatever it was when you were play and how that method? And the amazing thing is going forward, there will be people who will call your name and said you know. So that if you really

do, you think that because you're the type of guy who didn't really focus on that? Where do you think I'm puts you in terms of is that an advantage or disadvantage to know? Have to build certain types of relationships fix it and types of problems. But also represent certain things. Most things that you agree with and going in and thinking about the job first is a good thing. I think it's a good thing that that was my primary thought because ultimately there will be lots of things that people judge me or any person of What

are women are lgbtq plus person on that. They don't judge other folks on, that's the reality of how talented valuation still operates in most organizations are in most Industries. So while there will be those aspects of the bulk of it is still related to the core job so I think it's good that I think about that first. However, you know those first few weeks it was important for me to actually think about the rest as well because I think to be able to Bear the burden of the additional pressures questions. The things that come when you're a woman person of color lgbtq

plus our other underrepresented groups in order to in order to bear that burden effectively where it doesn't become a hindrance. It becomes an accelerator and Fuel and a boost to. You need to have some awareness and you have to engage that shadow aspect of the dialogue around you your appointments and its significance. And so I'm glad people pushed me to do that in those first days instead of barrel forward, including my parents, my dad. Civil rights activist, man. You better own this. Are you been up to let? You know, I could you also.

Nuances. So their expectations people will have of you and any person of color who is aleida. I know is, I don't like patient may be different depending on who that audiences right ahead of you. And then there are expectations of other people's maybe even you could say stereotypes of you because of your color do away with navigate nuances know that you are the boss. Like there's going to be stuff that people expect you to do it or you may stay actually now that I'm demented and I seen you on so I don't think that's the

best thing but it goes against the Green goes against tight. But yours again, as I say expectations, you know, there's a mismatch have you already started to experience that and the responsibilities of it, it's challenge of it. That's a really good question. I think I think the thing that helps any of us in that situation is a good dose of humility. I think if we are able to hold our opinion, lightly firmly, but but lightly and that when we get new information, we are able to let

aspects of that opinion. That Viewpoint flutter away. If the new information changes it, I think it requires a bit of humility to do that and that's a hard thing to do. As a leader who suspect he is expected to be strong and give directions. So I think sitting a norm for for being willing to engage new ideas for showing people that you'll be open. Those are the types of things that I think you can role model right away. That help, I think secondarily when you find out the, the popular opinion that you once held his may be different or doesn't have the full facts in moving

forward. We needed to actually engage with speak to substantiv Lee address. A portion of a community that felt differently than I expected and I needed. People around me who I could speak too openly about that, to test my raw ideas, who weren't going to judge me or cancel me, or blast me when I took the first couple round relating. What I was learning, so I needed a trusted Circle and then I needed a way of of honestly communicating the journey, and I think this is where that we, we leaders can be a bit more courageous and do more of and that is

role model. What it means to go on a journey where your perspective shifts or where your mind changes and to reveal those moments. Because if you show the process a bit, those who are actually treating the issue in good faith, I think can get on board and can understand. And I might actually be a great educational aspect for everybody. The example you just gave also goes to the fact that there is no one view or one opinion from any group, right? That's the thing about diversity is that? So just because

come from a minority group, everybody not group has the same opinion, right? This diversity within the diversity or what but you seem to be saying is that like as you got into understanding you like this thing is something that simple and it's much harder to do this complex thing for decision-making. Black people think about this Jason I will let me check my notes from the global black people conference that we had last week if we from all black folks around the globe like It happens in our brains are prone to stereotype revolutionary. That's why I have Grace for it but it's important that

where we can and for me as a person of color, I get a little more grace on New, Lots and sharing some of those things. And so I think it's a role that I and you and others can play when giving voice to different perspectives that might normally get slammed. If it didn't come in this package, we we we will try. We will try and keeping with that. I understand one of the strategies and you're trying is to use organizational structure to achieve what you want. Tell me something about that because you know, people and community and the impact of that

deliver against the Colts Yes, I to the great question. So for me, when I thought about the culture change that we needed to effect in this organization, which is one around empowering the workforce statically women, people of color from a d e Islands, but also having more of a voice for the Frontline. Those folks who were closest to our fans, for them to be able to participate and Bottoms Up Innovation and and things like that. I knew that the quickest lever that was going to get us a bit of bang for the buck early on was in senior

leadership because the senior leadership in the organization sets, the tone for the level of openness, the communication, the Norms that are acceptable, especially in sports culture with sports roots in the military and all of that. It seems to be very hard for me. When I looked at the change that we needed to make, there is a set of changes that we, we made early on, they were messy there a bit disruptive, it's not ideal to switch out 90% of the leadership team and the first 3 months, but we did, and it made him a tear. Different. But I think it immediately spoke to post number

one that we meant it around culture change, and the type of leaders we brought in were those, that while there might be a high arc in a reporting structure where non-hierarchical in their problem-solving approach were looking for great ideas from anywhere. How do you test for that? You asked, you asked when I was interviewing. I give I give a little bit of a case example and I thought, here's the problem you're facing. You got to solve this. How do you get started on it? And one of the markers that I asked for and it's usually a problem. We're actually trying to solve, I usually give

try to get real examples cuz if I do, how am I got some great ideas about a real problem and I'll look for, you know, their rigour their attention to detail how they engage data. Also, look at how ecumenical their decision-making process is, are they able to get perspectives from various different angles from diverse populations? Or do I have to push to say, okay, if you're doing it, How do you combat, how do you compose that book? How do you think about it? If I have to push three, four, five times and it's not intuitive to them to get different

perspectives and I know, okay, this might not be the leader that fits with our culture or the other way that we want to build or the type of business we want to build because ultimately diversity. Yes, it's about equity and In fairness and a sense of justice Franklin. But it is also for us about good business because all the research points to making better decisions when you have a diverse set of leaders and leaders who encouraged and attract diversity, you actually get the Better Business outcomes. So for us or our turnaround is not just cultural. It's also

financial. And in our business turnaround, we have to have diapers and we will make it Well, so here's the thing, diversity, will give you better problem-solving, particularly if you have complex problems to solve, but it is also much harder to manage and homogeneity. So when you test right and you trying to see you interview process, how much is somebody, you know, collaborate how much is a seek other opinions, how do you determine if they can actually manage? Yeah, I like to talk to people that have worked with him so I will go, I will go back

Channel. What is through a search firm? Whether it's whether it's through people in my network and I'm to find at least one person that's worked directly with you. That wasn't on your reference list, but I'm also going to ask directly about a time when they cultivated somebody as a leader as a mentee etc. That didn't that was different from their own background. I'll ask directly about that, and I want to hear the story. I want to hear the story of how to materialize. I want to understand how they see difference in the first place. Could even when I asked that question,

I don't ask about ethnic diversity, don't ask about gender diversity. Us specifically. I want to see how they think about difference, what they would consider different and it gives me a lot of insight into how they would lead. But you never be perfect by an exact science. And I think the way I think, the way that you get to sustainable inclusive leadership over time is very open. And regular communication about their leadership impact. So you need regular feedback. Unique you a feedback that you need to be to get a boner ability from those that you're giving feedback

to, I think wherever possible, we can build 360 evaluation into our leaders of all across all levels. Because when you're actually thinking about your peers, having any hand in your evaluation you send me treat him differently. You certainly are more inclusive, so it brings at top of my think, they're mechanical things that we can do to reinforce. It was not a perfect science and you and you shouldn't be too afraid to cut bait if it's not working, is it a tough decision to hire Jennifer King first, black woman, assistant coach. And that's why I sort of to

Chief Executives in our order for the business and Coach Revere for the football side. And it is, it's obviously an amazing decision and and Coach made. It same thing with hiring manager. Is there a manager? And what coach would say to you is? Yes, I'm glad this all the Fanfare associated with Coach King. She's a remarkable coach, and she's earned, a few people that coach at a high level across two sports to the basketball coach in the NCAA before then. So, she's just a remarkable athletic mind and strategic thinker. The coach would say, look,

I'm looking forward to the moment where people are just like that's coach and I and I admire that I admire that deeply. So he's been a great partner on. This has been a role model on that side of the business. That then allows me to go big and bold on my side of the business. And I helped. Have you been involved at all in The Playmakers? Black creative Network, which is a partnership with Facebook, giving people, the opportunity, connecting great minds creators to people in the sports industry. So that threw those Partnerships, we can

connect, we can create even more. You know, it's getting people into spaces that they may not have been in before and see what comes out of that. So as we build diverse cognitive pool, we know that we will get more out of that. And so we partnered with you too and I'm not other things as well to see how we can get some of that going. Well, I love the power of of community in this. Right. You know, that's we're seeing a lot of benefit for that just within our organization and to do that across organizations, I think will be very powerful Enoch. One of the

things that happened actually prior to me joining as, as the ownership of our organization started to make an inclusion pushes, they stood. Black engagement Network within our organization. So it's the football team and it's actually surprisingly, the first black ERG of a National Football, League team was before I started my last summer, right? And we started our women's initiative now, Network, which is our women's ERG and more than that, a portfolio of both business and Civic activities around both of those. And when you get that Network together

and especially if you get outside perspective, which is what this collected was trying to do through Facebook, you get a bunch of innovation so just buy starting been black engagement Network. We all of a sudden found ourselves leading the way on social justice topics just because we've created a venue for mines to come together that were interested in this topic had proximity to it. And did great things in our our, our, our voting campaign ended up being something the entire NFL picked up open. Our Stadium to register people to vote, and to provide a super polling station. I had to

provide Waters and food for folks waiting in line. Like that. Comprehensive plan came together for all of the DC area and Emmy entirely. Because of what are Ben Network? Did you know our players worked with our been networked to to think on? Think about how they could affect police reform minutes of a diverse group of players? White guys, black guys that came out of one of their meetings with Coach then we really want to do something on this. So they were part of getting legislation pushed through in Virginia. That changed policing practices in the state and are now and just as last

week testified in support of a bill for the state of Maryland to do the same and so amazing things are happening very quickly just because you provide a network and a collective that can put their their their resources and their power. I know you said just because but you should drop. Just like, it is a powerful thing to bring those nights together because it is literally the result of leveraging. Humility plus divers humility in this sense of appreciating just because you're on top of me, you know, all the answers or just because you're an expert in this area does

not mean you can solve every problem. So, the point of having committed with diverse teams, are groups of people working on problems together, instead of Leverage, all the stuff you don't have all the experiences, you don't have the things you haven't thought about. It comes from people who are not considered the experts but they may have experienced if you don't have, right, they have perspectives to bring it. So I think, with any organization, if you have that humility and you create space will be, but often it is through an employee Resource Group. You create space for people to contribute

like, what can come out of? It is remarkable. I mean, we have so many examples of Facebook, This one's I remember is, you know when Facebook was created if you started a Facebook account you were asked for your gender. I was wondering if you're going to watch him because I didn't think we had our pride sprg. They started say, hold on this thing. This isn't look for everyone. If you are trying to create a platform that connects everyone it is in your business interests.

We created is called custom gender now. And now when you go in you can select depending on your country or giving you a 57 options. Plus they're still an open field. Represented. And I received launch that I received messages from people. I didn't know what people use Facebook saying, I remember one and really stood out where the person said it is the first time I felt like I could show up as me and Bri because because the reason the reason that we are bringing in these different Minds is to create something that Ben can explode to new populations and new

demographic or renew the interest and excitement of longtime customers and fans. And this simple change, not only is good for the business but also creates an emotional tie between, you know, this person you talked about and Facebook to say I am. I am I am seeing when you when you die and that way to somebody that you're doing business with that relay. Is it becomes really strong. It is really difficult to break that relationship and it's good for the business. And it's good for society by Black Friday,

right, where you're trying to figure out, how do I create value for the people? Use it right there? Ready is Tata to get Capital as well, but on top of that would be impacted covid-19. Created that campaign again ideas from employees like absolutely again it's your organizational structure is one of the openness and your strategies Drive diversity and inclusion. When you combine that with an approach of humility, I mean there's no stopping you, like you are going to get the vet.

Play sometimes can be challenging for companies that you said something really important and that's about the flow of capital, right? And we know that there's a captive to the racial Capital differential, there's a gym Capital, differential, I don't know. I haven't seen research on lgbtq plus Capital differential, but I at least know it exists on those first two. And as I think about our organization's Facebook, the Washington football team, I think we need to think about our role in Breaking the dams, that prevent capital from flowing equitably to other places. So so you

were talking about going to shop black initiative which is a way for Facebook, giving his influence to get Capital, the foot of these businesses. We copied that a year-round shop black effort as well. We got something standing on our on our web page, that is about a black owned businesses in the DC area that are affiliated with the club that we point people to. But one of the things I'm thinking about on a larger scale, one of the reasons I took this role is that we're getting ready. To enter the process of building, a new venue, a new home, for the team, and that's going to deploy billions of

dollars, a capital. It's going to, it's going to invest that much Capital into the ring. And, you know, I couldn't think of another job with a 38 year. Old, brother, from La was going to have the ability to deploy that level of capital with the lens on equity. And so already in our early stages of a protein that project, you know, we made it a mandate for the project management firms and others that we interview to participate with us. To have substantial, not nominal participation, from black owned Brown on women, on veteran-owned businesses. And as a result, it required the usual

players to find partners and and search deep and and put these businesses that are often overlooked for these sort of projects to the four but we actually have gotten to better set of options for us that are going to lead us on a better journey in building this new venue as a result. Nln at the end of it, we should see a Perpetual business through our new venue. That is continually year-over-year plowing value into businesses into census tracts that don't normally get that sort of value. And as a result you close the racial wealth Gap, close, the gender wealth Gap

made a 1.1 billion dollar commitment by the end of 2021 to spend with minority-owned businesses including at least 100 million with black owned businesses in Tivoli changes lives opportunities future right for people, but it just takes a deliberate focus on scene where the Gap is, right. And what do we do, who is it right? And it is so different from any discussion about and out. It's just nobody's talking about giving All the five people jobs. Why would you do that? But no, it is not about, that is about leveling, the playing

field and be able yourself to get better results to get better talent because you have no idea because you can see all of his value in people who you wouldn't have considered before you didn't even have, a proper competition before you were choosing the best. What you think? I'm all right. I'm so is really makes a fundamental difference, but I am thrilled that people are going to get the opportunity to show what they can deliver and that you know that there will be some wealth creation in this as they should be so proud of what you going to do

and I'm just so thankful. Thank you so much Jason. I hope everybody has a nice Italy. Have

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