From "Covering" to Feeling "Safe" in Pt 2. Personal Stories of Inequity
In Pt. 2 of Personal Stories of Inequity, Noni Allwood, a Latin corporate executive specializing in optimization strategies for diverse talent and strategic business operations shares that she was "covering" or concealing who she was due to fear of not being accepted when she started her career here in the states. She then goes on to tell an inspiring story of an ally who supported her in advancing her career.
Well, thank you and good morning everyone. The moment I set foot in engineering school in El Salvador I knew that I was always going to be in the minority. We were about six girls and about three hundred boys in college and it was a fascinating experience mostly because in El Salvador schools are segregated by gender so girls and boys didn't get to go to school together until they went to college, which proved to be a very interesting dynamic for women. But then I came to the United States and I started working in tech. And talk about being a minority, talk about being someone who was different not only for being a woman...I'm Latina....in the tech sector.
JUST DO YOUR JOB, AND THE REST WILL COME
And ever since I started working here, I knew that there was a lot of judgement around who Latina's were. We're talking about 1982, the recession that was going on then, blaming all the economic situation on Latinos, taking jobs from honest Americans. I don't know if the theme is familiar to you? So we were being blamed for everything. So I learned to edit. I started covering. The one thing that distinguishes Latinos, we're very proud, we want our work to speak for itself, that's what we've been told, "Just do your job, and the rest will come," and that's exactly what I did. But I covered. I didn't speak about my country. There's nothing I can do about my language or the color of my skin, so clearly I was out, but didn't know I was out. I continued to work in that space.
And then, I went to work for Cisco, like Carin. And I was working really hard, doing very well, my individual contribution rose. Meritocracy is great. It’s only when you want to move up that you need those other intangibles to move up. So, because of an organizational change I got to work with this man called Bill Conlin. Bill was a man's man. Basketball, bars, golf, a Bostonian, direct, a little rough on the edges, came from a finance background. When I started working with him, he had no idea of the work I was doing. I was working with the systems engineers in the sales organization. He had no idea about my work. Perhaps I was the first Salvadoran he'd ever met and for sure the first woman of color.
So I came to the whole situation thinking, "Ok, here I go, cover up even more, edit yourself, just shrink in and cause no problem." Well, Bill didn't let me do that. He ended up being one of the best advocates, allies, and sponsors I've ever had. And what I decided to do is just tell you some of the things he did.
HE FORCED MY VOICE TO BE HEARD
First thing he did, he forced my voice to be heard. When I would be sitting in the back, he would say, "Come over here, what do you think?" My whole thing was, just hide in the back and be nobody, and nothing will happen. He wouldn't let me do that. When somebody would interrupt me he would say, "Stop, she's talking." He would even make fun of my accent, of course, but he did it in such a safe and familiar way, that made it very easy for me to get comfortable with the things that I was doing.
HE MADE IT VERY SAFE FOR ME TO PROPOSE NEW IDEAS
The second thing he did, he made it very safe for me to propose new ideas. Whatever crazy ideas would come, whatever new ideas, out of the box thinking in his mind. He was a finance guy, I was an engineer. He would listen, he would consider, and then he would give the idea a fair shot before he would say yes or no.
HE EMPOWERED ME TO MAKE DECISIONS
Third thing he did very, very well, he empowered me to make decisions. He trusted my judgement. He was never ever auditing my decisions. He would say, "Just do it, take your chances, go ahead and just run for it."
HE GAVE ME GREAT FEEDBACK
Fourth thing, he gave me great feedback. Timely, brutal, sincere, direct, Bostonian feedback. So, he would call me to his office and he would sometimes just sit me down and say, "Stop that, don't do that or you're committing suicide. Don't do that. Don't go there, go this way." But it was not in a way that was demeaning, it was a way to challenge me, to reconsider, to rethink how I was doing. But here's the great other thing he did.
HE TOOK FEEDBACK
Number five. He took feedback. When he screwed up, I could sit down and tell him, "You’re screwing up, so you need to do this..." At one time, Cisco was buying companies at a speed - we were buying 43 companies in a year. And the organization wasn't integrating them properly. So I went and sat down with him. I said, "Listen, your job is to make this happen right. You're not doing it right." And he said, "You're right, I'm screwing it up." And then he turned and looked at me and said, "So how are you going to fix this problem?" So I ended up taking one of the best jobs I've ever had.
HE SHARED SUCCESS, CREDIT FOR HIS SUCCESS
And the final thing Bill did, he shared success, credit for his success. He was immensely successful. And he always took the time to make sure that I was recognized. In fact for my birthday, I remember picking up the phone and there was a voicemail from John Chambers, our CEO, thanking me for the great job I had done in acquisition, an integration of an acquisition. I was floored. Because it was Bill that was making sure that I got credit for the work I was doing. Bill changed my career, because he saw in me things that I didn't. He believed in me in ways that I didn't. And sometimes that's all you need.
Also, he made it very safe for me to be who I was. In fact, he always pushed me to roll my "r's" - to not settle for "Rocio," I have to say "Rrrrrocio!" Cause he wouldn't let me. So it was his way to say, "It's OK, just come OUT." So, Bill Collin, wherever you are, probably on some golf course, thank you!
Good morning everyone....So, I just wanted to start out by saying that, to most people I personify the dominant archetype. Outwardly, I look like a white male but there's a lot more nuances to my story that I wanted to share....TO BE CONTINUED IN AN UPCOMING BLOG......
The #MeToo movement and stories have inspired people to share stories of and have brought new awareness to just how rampant sexual assault is. Hearing stories helps those seemingly unaffected or those who aren’t aware of the issues at hand become aware, compassionate, empathetic and/or use their privilege to help make positive change. It is in this spirit that we invited 4 individuals to engage in #storypower by sharing their stories of inequity and/or lack of inclusion at the Better Man Conference earlier this year for a panel entitled, Sharing Our Truths: Intersectional Stories and Perspectives. The transcript and recording above is an excerpt from that Sharing Our Truths panel that was hosted by Sumayyah Emeh- Edu, Gender Leadership Group's Diversity and Inclusion Strategist.
Better Man Conference 2017 Recap Report
We are proud to share this recap report from the Better Man Conference 2017 as just last month, 200+ leaders and many great diverse speakers and panelists, both men and women came together to be a part of the movement to engage men as inclusionary leaders at the Better Man Conference 2017. This year we grew in both quantity and quality. That’s due to your involvement. We thank each and every attendee, speaker, sponsor, marketing partner, and supporter for being such an important part of the men's inclusionary leadership movement. See the recap report here.