Last week I had the opportunity to speak on a panel entitled “Who gets to be an Entrepreneur?” at WebSummit in Lisbon alongside philanthropist Jean Case, diversity consultant Stephen Frost, and global entrepreneurship advocate Shelly Porges.
The panel was in agreement: having diverse employees and an inclusive workplace is not just the right thing to do, but also the smart thing to do for a business financially.
Overall, I was pleased to see that WebSummit had taken diversity reasonably seriously itself – I didn’t witness any all-male panels, and I was in the minority on my panel, as a white man. The moderator asked when we became passionate about diversity, and I thought it would be worth sharing my answer here...
I was born into the first generation of gay men that never really had to worry about the fight for marriage equality. By the time I was old enough to understand the politics of that fight, it was mostly over, caught up in the courts. As I became aware of the privilege being a white man yields, I decided that it was imperative for me to be an ally and advocate for groups that didn’t have the same access I got by virtue of being a white male.
If you look at history, you see that progress is made when different marginalized groups work together. I think particularly of the bridges that were built between the labor movement and civil rights groups in the 60s, for example. Today, I am optimistic as I see the LGBTQ movement working with women’s rights groups — and together, I believe we will make progress faster.
The reason I joined ROIKOI is because making business more diverse is one of the highest-leverage ways I can fight for equality as a white man. I see my role as an ally to lift up and empower leaders who will drive innovation in businesses and their own communities.