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When we talk about Diversity and Inclusion as a core business pillar it’s all too easy to lose track of the human element of it.

After all, we typically talk about the “work” in terms of metrics or programs. For example, “Senior Female Mentoring Program” or “10% Hispanic/Latinx workforce”- all of which makes the work so clinical and impersonal. The reality is, that there is no more personal work than D&I. You are literally elevating and enabling every human being’s personal truth.

When looking across Microsoft it’s a clear fact that diversity is here. Take a moment to look around your office and you will see, hear or many times feel the many beautiful differences all around you.  The hard work is Inclusion – which is an action verb – not a one and done. I wish there was a 5 step plan to Inclusion, but the reality is that it is a long and winding road.

This month I had the pleasure of experiencing true Inclusion at the NYC Diversity & Inclusion Summit at our Times Square office, which brought together over 100 people who are committed to making the world a better place.

It’s hard to identify exactly what the parts were that allowed for such a transformative experience, to capture the true magic in that room in words, but I’ll try:
panel of speakers on stools

It’s All In The Planning

So much hard work went into putting the speakers together. Bernie Milan, who led that effort, told  me that they “thought it would be best to consider at least one panelist from each of the Employee Resource Groups (ERG) to get as much representation as we can.” And they didn’t stop with nominations from the groups but really drilled down to figure out what mattered to each individual regardless of what ERG community they identified with , including additional D&I Stakeholders as part of the decision process. That work paid off.

Brave Enough To Share

I feel like I can’t do this part true justice: but there was so much bravery on display. It’s not easy to share your story with a room full of 100 people you just met or don’t even know. Yet that’s what went down. People really shared some tough stories and that ended up building an awareness throughout the room of the experiences we share and those outside our individual histories.

Open Hearts And Minds Light Our Way

“Open hearts and minds” can come off all squishy. Yet anyone who has been there for a friend in crisis knows it isn’t always easy to sit in another’s truth. To empathize, learn and then champion.

This is the path we need to take as we continue down this inclusion journey. I had the privilege of talking with folks from outside Microsoft about what they heard and saw, and found that we are having conversations that not many other places are having. “If we could even have this conversation at my company,” people told me, “things would start changing.”

The power was and is in the conversation- being curious, listening and really hearing each other is how we build empathy. There was true love and acceptance in the room— but don’t think it was all warm  and fuzzy— much of the conversation was about the hard work that is ahead of us as a company, as an industry, as a country and as global citizens. We can’t change the world without looking at our own behavior. Without bringing out the best in each of us.

So let’s get out of our PowerPoints and Excel spreadsheets and remember the most elemental tool that will empower the world is the human connection.