Maxine Williams, the global director of diversity at Facebook, offers up some tips to Glamour magazine
Discussing race in the workplace is not an easy thing to do.
Depending on the environment, speaking out on issues about race can polarize teammates and create some serious tension if someone is really offended. But in the era of #BlackLivesMatter, #OscarsSoWhite and the strong push for inclusion, race and equality are hard topics to avoid, especially when they are directly-related to your work.
So what should people do?
In a recent interview with Glamour, Maxine Williams, the global director of diversity at Facebook, shares her wisdom on this tricky topic.
Takeaway #1: It’s OK to talk about race, even if you offend.
“You say sorry immediately,” Williams says. “In my culture people call each other ‘boy,’ a pejorative term because of the history of slavery. When I do it, I apologize and say, ‘I want you to know I didn’t mean anything by it.’”
She also said that saying the wrong thing is “beyond OK” and that what she asks “is that people be forgiving.”
Takeaway #2: It’s very possible to push for diversity without looking like the token “race person.”
“When I interviewed at Facebook, I was impressed by the way a very senior-positioned white man was asking me about diversity. He said, ‘There’s no way we’re going to get where we need to go [without it].’ If you’re willing to allow other people to get involved or say stupid things, then you don’t have to carry the burden alone,” Williams said.
Takeaway #3: Speak up about not being heard, but change your approach.
Williams: “We talk a lot about presuming good intent — if you presume the person you’re speaking to will want to solve this with you, your approach will be different. One thing that’s constant at work, though: Whatever it is you’re doing, go for excellence. Excellence buys you power.”
What do you think of this advice?