Personal Stories: Awareness and Intersectional Perspectives


Personal Stories: Awareness and Intersectional Perspectives

The #MeToo movement has inspired people to share stories of and has brought new awareness to just how rampant sexual assault is.  Research shows that hearing how someone is impacted by sensitive issues or something we aren’t aware of or understand is powerful in helping 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 in 2017 for a panel entitled, Sharing Our Truths: Intersectional Stories.

In this week's blog, we share Part 1 of the panel in s blog series format entitled Personal Stories:  Awareness and Intersectional Perspectives.  Our host, Sumayyah Emeh-Edu, Inclusionary Leadership Group's Diversity and Inclusion Strategist invites special guest, Carin Taylor, Head of Diversity, Inclusion and Innovation at Genentech to tell her personal story of inequity and inclusion:


So thank you all for joining us today, I'm so excited to see a packed house at eight o'clock in the morning, so thank you!  I've been helping as an organizer for this conference and I got involved because as soon as I heard the vision of what this is, I got super excited!   Because through the work that I do in Diversity and Inclusion, men are my decision-makers usually, and they're usually the most scared of me and I don’t know why!

Audience giggles



So we’re here because there’s a lot of diversity and inclusion conversations going on, there’s a lot of energy around being an ally, and being an ally is a practice of unlearning and learning things.  And part of that experience is really hearing stories.  There’s tons of data out there.  You all could Google data on inequity, on inclusion, and we look at it and we go back to doing what we normally do because it’s hard to understand it and unpack it.   So part of what research tells us is that stories are important, hearing how someone is actually impacted by something that we may not be aware of, or that we don’t even understand.  I may be an African American woman but I may not understand other perspectives and as I go to events and I speak at events, there’s power in stories.

So we created this to just kind of kick off the conference, to really give some context to what we'll be going through throughout the day and provide an understanding of how people experience life within their skin, within their marginalized status, and how it is to be within a homogeneous work environment.  So we're gonna have four people come up, I will introduce them, but I want you to keep something in mind.  We'll have a Q&A after each one of them goes, so they will each speak for eight minutes and then we'll have Q&A at the end.  So I encourage you to take notes as we go along, so when we do open it up for questions, you'll be able to remember the poignant question you wanted to ask the particular person that you had a question about.  So we will begin.  So I will go ahead and introduce Carin Taylor, who is the Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Genentech, first.  Noni Allwood, who is the senior VP and senior fellow, at the Center for Talent and Innovation.  Joe Vasquez, co-director at Runway Incubator and Myra Nawabi, who is a senior program manager at Lockheed Martin Space Systems.

Audience applauds

So we’ll go ahead and get started.  We’ll get started with Carin since you’re there at the front.  Go ahead and proceed.


Thank you, Good morning everyone, it’s nice to actually be here at the conference.   And as Sumayyah said, my name is Carin Taylor, and I’m the Head of Diversity, Inclusion, and innovation at Genentech.  Genentech is a member of the Rose family, and at the end of the day, we’re in a business to really save lives.  So if you know anything about a Genentech, through science, we make medicines for unmet medical needs. And being in that field, it’s important that we hear the voice of every employee.  And so the job that I do and the job that we do around the company is extremely important.  And what I wanted to share with you is a story about how I actually got to be in this position, and why I’m doing this work, and the importance of it to me personally.  


So before I joined Genentech, I used to work for Cisco for about 17 years.  I see a lot of Cisco colleagues out there, so welcome!  And as I was at Cisco, I had an opportunity to travel the world.  I’ve traveled to over 25 countries and part of my job at Cisco during this time was to actually go out and build customer service centers around Asia.  So I would go and I would find the location, I would interview people, I would hire them, I would train them. and as I was traveling around Asia I would have very different experiences as to who I was as an African American woman.


So I would travel around in China, as an example, and in China people would stare at me riding their bikes and they’d just be staring.  I thought, “Oh that’s interesting!"  And they were fascinated with wanting to take pictures of me and feeling my skin. And I took that away and I thought, “Wow, that’s pretty interesting!”  I would travel to Japan and in Japan it would be a very different experience.  I would be walking down the street, you could tell there’s a Japanese person about to approach me and they would be staring at me intently knowing they’re gonna walk past an African American woman, and when they walked up past me, they would walk past me like I was any other Japanese person on the street and I thought, “Wow, what a different experience!”  I was in Korea once and literally someone gasped at me, and I was in an office, I walked around the corner and the receptionist went, “Ah!”  And she stared at me for about 10 seconds and I must have been, I was a little curious, but I was a little taken aback.  So I turned around like, “Oh!  She must think I'm Whoopie Goldberg, right?  I must be familiar to her."  And I thought, "Wow!"  And so I thought about myself being in all these different places that were very homogeneous and very different.  I was, I felt, like I was very different.  I like to joke and say, "The first time I realized I was black was actually when I was in Asia, right?"  So it became something I just kind of stuck in my back pocket, and at the time I wasn’t doing diversity work but fast forward a few years.


I was out at a sales meeting, it was a typical sales meeting, about a hundred-twenty people, I was one of about ten women.  I was one of two African Americans and I was the only African American woman in the room.  And what was a topic of conversation that day?  Diversity.  And so I remembered sitting in the very front row, and there was a very handsome white executive in front of the room talking about diversity. And I remembered sitting in the front row, steam literally coming out of my ears, and I sat there thinking how could this person be talking to me about diversity?  So curious.  That the curious person that I am, and while I was sitting there, I could not receive a word this person was saying.  I could, I did not, hear him.  I just had that visceral reaction to say, "There's something wrong with this conversation."  And so during a break, I went up to him and his name was Mike, and I said "Mike," I said, "I’m really sorry but I can’t receive your message.  I really cannot receive anything that you’re saying."  And he said, "Why?"  And I said, "Because of what you look like."  And he said, "I’m gay."  And it was the first time that unconscious bias hit me upside the head, so very hard, that it was at that exact moment that I said to myself, "I will never ever ever ever make a person feel like that again."  And so for me, my curiosity about myself, but more importantly my curiosity about other people, and this story with Mike that was so interesting is, I went home that night and I couldn’t figure out why seeing him up on stage had bothered me so much.  And so I remembered having dinner that night and all of a sudden during a bite of food I just broke down and started crying, and then I realized that what I had done to Mike, people had been doing to me my entire life.  And it was at that moment that I said, "Never again."



And so when I had the opportunity to step into the diversity arena, I was actually quite, you know, oh honestly not really interested in it. But when I reflected on the curiosities about traveling around Asia, and why people were curious about me, and then I reflected on that experience with Mike and knowingly because he said to me “Wow, that’s awful that you couldn’t even hear me.”  Turns out he ended up being one of my biggest advocates, one of my biggest allies, someone that I really relied on to learn about this work of diversity and inclusion.  But my message here is really about being curious, stepping into that level of discomfort, when you feel it in your heart just know that there’s something there that you should be listening to. And so as I pass the mic, what I leave you with is, as you’re here today learn from each other, ask the hard questions.  This is an opportunity. We know everyone here in this room is here to learn.  Take the opportunity to learn and share.  And as Ray said, “Be vulnerable because that’s the way that you’re gonna learn the most."  And with that, whatever I can do to help you be a better man, I’m here for you!  So with that I’m gonna actually turn this over to Noni Allwood, who actually gave me my first opportunity to work in the area of Diversity and Inclusion at Cisco, so there you go.


Well, thank you and good morning everyone!  You know, the moment I set foot in engineering school in El Salvador, I knew that I was always gonna 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 segregating by gender.   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 come 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 woman, I’m Latina…in the tech sector and ever since I started working there I knew that there was a lot of judgement around who Latinos were. 




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