I recently completed the Be Equal training as a part of my continuous learning at IBM. Part of it suggested that I record a knowledge-sharing session with my team on what I learned from the training, but I think I’d rather make it fully public, for the sake of broadest transparency. Because I think the message is applicable well outside my team and even outside of IBM I uploaded it to Youtube.

The notes I took to prepare to record this are pasted below also.

Key thoughts:

Ive got Privilege
Ive still got issues and so-
Ive got to listen

1.) I’ve got privilege
A.) Obviously Im a white male – maybe less obviously Im cisgendered and straight I was born into a middle family in modern day America
B.)I served in the US Marine Corps, as an officer – where I saw both a lot of real true racism and sexism and a lot of attempts at meritocracy with varying degrees of success

C.) Ive been somewhat resistant to D&I efforts, defensive about perceived reverse discrimination and in favor of ‘meritocracy’ before but recognize the error in that in a bigger way now

2.) Even I face some challenges that others may not understand
Where I have had some experiences that are not in the majority:
A.) My time in the corps exposed me to unique challenges even within that cohort
B.) It did leave me with some health challenges, one of which is Post Traumatic Stress – a stress reaction that can dial up above and beyond what many people see as unreasonable. Hyper-vigilance for threats, a general bias toward negativity and what could go wrong

C.) It is difficult to talk about but I think important for me to do so, that I’ve had to put a lot of work into developing healthier thinking habits, that a meditation practice along with therapy and even a stretch of medication was necessary for me to make the progress I have.

D.) I have two daughters – I want them to be treated as well as I was and given all the same opportunities. I want this for all women because I wanted it for them – this is what it took for me to see this better.

E.) I broke my ankle – I had to circle the VA for 30 mins searching for parking, then sprint on crutches to make it to an appointment on time. My 4 year old daughter had to help me carry my food to the table, I couldn’t take out the trash. I was much an equal partner and parent to my wife, let alone the chief lifter and mover and doer of things -for months. And I was a healthy mid 30 year old with a booboo on my ankle that was going to heal. So many people have it so much worse.

So What do I do? What would I ask others like me to do?

3.) Listen
A.) Listen to people sharing their perspective, challenges, mistreatment, unfairness, concerns, hopes and fears.
B.) Recognize my experience is inherently different from theirs and they are offering a window into it
C.) Try to ask how to help, be inviting both through respect and support and through a bit of vulnerability

i.) Ive worked with a team mate using They/Them pronouns as preferred (hadn’t done that before). Saw others using incorrect pronouns in meetings both with them there and without and asked what they would like from me. Was coached by them, that they would prefer when someone does that, that I not directly correct the person making the error, but rather find a way to use the correct pronouns in the conversation as soon as possible. – This actually differs from the training and guidance in the be equal badge which suggests correcting. I think it is better to ask not only what someone wants to be called, but also how much correction they want you to do on their behalf.