Microsoft Promises More Diversity and Inclusiveness

Posted on June 6, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Microsoft with 18 Comments

In an open letter to employees and customers, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said that Microsoft would be made more diverse and inclusive in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis.

Rather than offer any commentary on this letter, I’ll instead simply republish it in full.

An email from CEO Satya Nadella to Microsoft employees: 

Seeing injustice in the world calls us all to take action, as individuals and as a company. Sometimes this action is personal – what do I do to change? Sometimes it is organizational – what changes do I need to make around me? And sometimes it is reflected into the world – what can we do as a company to accelerate the change we desire? As we see the everyday racism, bias and violence experienced by the Black and African American community, the tragic and horrific murders of so many, the violence in cities across the US, it is time for us to act in all arenas. As I shared in our Employee Town Hall last week, each of us – starting with me and the senior leaders at the company – has a role to play. We cannot episodically wake up when a new tragedy occurs. A systemic problem requires a holistic response.

I am heartbroken by the deep pain our communities are feeling. The results of systemic racism, which have impacted opportunities and exacerbated injustices for Black and African American communities, urge me to consider my own role as a leader. I must continue my journey of understanding and empathy and examine actions I take, or don’t take, every day. Listening and learning from my Black and African American colleagues is helping me develop a better understanding of their experience. And I take accountability for my own continued learning on the realities of privilege, inequity and race and modeling the behavior I want to see in the world.

As a company, we need to look inside, examine our organization, and do better. For us to have the permission to ask the world to change, we must change first. We have to embrace the same speed and mindset that we do in anticipating and building for future technological shifts. Each day, we work to bridge the gap between the culture we espouse and our daily lived experience, but we must do more and do it faster. In order to be successful as a business in empowering everyone on the planet, we need to reflect the world we serve. This is our commitment; we have goals and programs to improve representation in all roles and at all levels. We’re investing in the talent pipeline broadly, as we’ve expanded our connections with Historically Black Colleges and Universities. We also have to create an environment where all voices are heard and valued, that’s why inclusion is a core priority for each one of us. I ask each of us to recommit to our shared D&I priority, participate in our inclusion learning programs, use the tools and resources we have shared on becoming an effective ally for others. We have the capabilities to make Microsoft more diverse and inclusive, but we must do the work.

We also have a responsibility to use our platform and resources intentionally to address systemic inequities in our communities and in society broadly. This is the work we need to do to have lasting impact. For example, we’re using our technology and our voice toward a more equitable criminal justice system with our Criminal Justice Reform Initiative. We created our Supplier Diversity program 15 years ago, so our supplier companies better reflected the diversity of our customers. Today, it makes up nearly 10 percent of our supplier spend. That spend has an amplifying effect, growing the local economies in the communities where those businesses are located. We need to keep building on this work in every community we operate in.

Finally, we must carry our company values out into the world in a way that reflects our strengths and expertise. To this end, we will deepen our engagement with six organizations that are advancing social justice, helping community organizers address racial inequality, and offering solidarity to the Black community: Black Lives Matter FoundationEqual Justice InitiativeInnocence ProjectThe Leadership ConferenceMinnesota Freedom Fund, and NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund. This starts with a company donation of $250,000 to each of these organizations ($1.5 million in total), followed by a company match of our employees’ contributions to eligible organizations. Together, through your giving and the company match, we have donated more than $15 million to civil rights, social action, and advocacy nonprofit organizations since 2015.

I have heard from many employees over the past several days, expressing calls for action, calls for reflection, calls for change. My response to all of you is this: Yes. We have to act. And our actions must reflect the values of our company and be directly informed by the needs of the Black and African American community. We must continue to nurture the energy and passion that the Blacks at Microsoft employee resource group fueled in all of us since its founding in 1989. We have been on a cultural transformation journey and must accelerate our pace of change. Each of us, starting with me, must look at where we are as individuals, confront our fixed mindset[,] and act. Our humanity is what calls out to us to make the world a better place.

We all have a role to play. I will do the work. The company will do the work. I am asking each of you to do the work. And together, we will help make the difference we want to see in the world.

Satya

 

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Comments (18)

18 responses to “Microsoft Promises More Diversity and Inclusiveness”

  1. eric_rasmussen

    The issue is so much bigger than white people being racist. Most white people aren't racist, they're just living in a system that was designed by and for well-educated Europeans. If you are not educated or you are not of European descent, life is more difficult in such a system. If you are born into an uneducated or a non-European family, your odds of living in poverty are very high. It's possible to break out of that and become successful, but it's a lot more difficult than many people understand. There are lots of poor, uneducated white people who are in the same boat, experiencing the same lack of opportunity. The difference is that if they dress well, they can hide the uneducated part from the world. It's more difficult to hide being non-European and that's where the talk of systemic racism comes in.


    I wasn't born into wealth, but my family comes from Denmark and is well-educated. I grew up in a middle class home and have experienced the privilege of it. I didn't choose it, I wasn't even aware of it until I started talking to people who were different.


    Being the change doesn't mean being woke or an ally or any of that crap. It means talking to people and listening to their life experience. It means making sure there is opportunity, not hand-outs. It means judging people according to their actions, not how they look. It means seeing and treating everyone as human beings. We all end up in the same place eventually, I'd like to make the world a better place while I'm here.

    • karlinhigh

      In reply to Eric_Rasmussen: Most white people aren't racist, they're just living in a system that was designed by and for well-educated Europeans. If you are not educated or you are not of European descent, life is more difficult in such a system.


      That is the same thing I am feeling. I live in an ultra-rural location where the population is 98.82% white. There are literally no ethnic minority people in my life. There WAS one deliveryman, and I enjoyed talking with him, but he recently retired.


      I think the chances of me understanding minority ethnic cultures is no better than that of understanding foreign ones, such as Japan's or India's. All the history, the complexity, the unshared experiences... I can learn some things, but I will never "get it" to the satisfaction of a cultural native. So sometimes I struggle to know what to do with racial criticism.


      For me, the most disheartening thing is when anti-racial activists are asked how they want people like me to relate to them, and they say some form of "It's not my job to educate you."


      That makes me want to simply "hang up" on the conversation: "Yes, you're right, we are bad people and you should give up on us. Have a nice day, and good luck finding friends from a different demographic that's better at relating to you." If criticism is unavoidable, it's passing difficult not to simply tune it out, or put it on the level with the New Year's resolutions of "becoming a better person." Undefined, open-ended, unattainable.


      Another response I've seen people doing is the I'm-not-racist protesteth-too-much act, saying how many minority friends I have, all the good things I'm doing for anti-racist causes, etc, trying to prove the racial criticisms don't apply to me somehow. I gather that ethnic minority folks hate this almost as much as actual racism.


      The response I'm going with is aiming to treat ethnic minorities with charity and courtesy, just like anyone else. Activists will say that isn't enough. But when I look around at people far more gifted and capable than I'll ever be, whose best anti-racist efforts only made things worse, I feel no more qualified to get engaged with racial issues than I did for the Fukushima Daiichi disaster.

    • BigM72

      In reply to Eric_Rasmussen:

      Economic opportunity is only part of the story and the point is not just that poverty is hard to break out of but that the system in America reinforces black people remaining in poverty.


      First, remember there that the history of African-Americans is being forcibly taken from Africa and put into slavery in America. Whilst there have slow progresses to changing their situation - end of slavery, desegregation of schools, right to vote. It has been a long, hard road to get those rights and even today people try to prevent those rights being exercised.


      There's an excerpt of a Martin Luther King video how emancipated black people in America were not given an economic base whilst the country actively parcelled out land to white folk across the country. This gave the poorer white folk an opportunity to build themselves out of poverty.


      Ben Thompson put up a post giving an example of redlining in Minnesota - the HOLC equated riskier homes to black homes. Disabling black people from buying homes and building up wealth even if they want to.


      In terms of education, colleges are now trying to discriminate against asian-americans (both south asian and east asian ethnicities) because they are academically outperforming the whites and displacing the whites from colleges.


      Policeman seeing a white man with a large gun don't immediately react but they see a black man with a gun and shoot him despite him being calm, respectful with his family in the car and declaring ownership of a gun (see Philando Castile), see video of black student harassed whilst picking litter from outside his home.


    • wright_is

      In reply to Eric_Rasmussen:

      Well said.

      Like @Karlinhigh, I grew up in a predominantly white town. When I was a child, we'd only see non-whites on TV, apart from a few Chinese and Indians who owned the two local restaurants. At school, until I was about 12, we did not have anyone who was not white. Then a pair of black twins were adopted by one of the local Post Mistresses. They were a novelty at school and treated with respect and deference by most people I knew, because they were different, we were inquisitive and wanted to know more about them, they never lacked for friends.

      I have always found foreign cultures to be interesting and have tried to learn some of the customs and beliefs from different cultures around the world.

      Over the next decade, the number of immigrants rose quickly, making around 5% of the population.

      When I moved to Germany, the village I first lived in, me and an Irish neighbour were the only non-native Germans. We were the "outsiders", but were warmly welcomed by most.

      The town where I now live is pretty much the same as the town I grew up in in the UK, it was mainly a small rural farming town and until the 80s, there weren't really any non-Germans or non-Europeans there. Now there is a thriving Turkish community and a fair few people of other origins (Russian Germans being the biggest minority). But there is also a refugee camp just outside of town, which is over-full with people escaping Africa and the Syrian civil war, among others.

      Maybe it is my upbringing and that first contact with non-whites that has coloured my attitude throughout my life. I have always admired people for their differences and wanted to learn more about them. As an outsider myself, albiet with the same skin colour as the "natives", I have been mainly accepted with open arms over the years and I try and treat all people I meet the same way, whether they are homeless or rich, European, Asian or African, I always have a kind word for them and treat them how I would like to be treated myself.

      I have noticed racism in the big cities, both in the UK and Germany, but nothing like in the way it is depicted in the USA. Real racism is something I've only really seen or experienced through the news, TV or films and I have never understood it.

  2. Paul Thurrott

    Here's an idea. Let's let this one just stand without any commentary from anyone. Seriously.

  3. Greg Green

    Rather than spend money on activist organizations, and then wonder where the money goes, they should find some way to contribute to schools within their reach, though they’d probably still end up wondering where that money goes.

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