Thank you for hosting an annual conference for 40,000 people in Orlando (the only place that can hold such an incredible and massive undertaking). Thank you for trusting me WITH your pre-day Diversity + Inclusion track. I was humbled to share the same stage WITH some of your own incredible leaders in the field of Diversity and Inclusion like Haben Girma (the first deaf blind African-American woman to graduate from Harvard Law). Thank you for buying 400 copies of her book and mine for all of the pre-day participants.
TO BE HEARD
After what happened at Microsoft in March, where women came forward in droves to report various levels of sexual harassment in a mass email (more than 90 pages), it was heartening to see there were sessions addressing not just how women can be heard but how every human irrespective of color and ability could be heard. During the pre-day, there was a standing ovation for just such a woman. A Muslim woman who shared WITH us how she had overcome depression. I was moved to tears as well. Depression is near and dear to my heart. You can read more about what happened at Microsoft here.
TO BE HELPED
Haben Girma said in her inspiring talk, “No matter how abled we are, we will all need help at some point.” That point struck me. She talked about how as we age, we will need help. Even buying coffee from a coffee shop, nobody expects us to grow our own coffee beans and grind them. That’s why we go to cafes. We are all inter-connected and inter-dependent. We need to help each other more.
TO BE SEEN
I must admit, after my workshop, which was the largest one I’ve done to date, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed. I was living the data of how when women are in the minority, they tend to speak less in meetings and events. Having spoken at the Amsterdam and Seoul Microsoft Ignite events earlier this year, I was also outnumbered by white men. During the pre-day event, I realized white men want to be seen too, and not in the way we think they do. There were white men who were autistic, gay, LGBT+, and many others who felt just as “left out” as the rest of us. Whoa.
TO BE LOVED
I found a little bubble tea place called Bubble & Co. in which to balance out my feelings of overwhelm. The owner Jenn, manager Anthony and I became fast friends. They totally work hard to make ever single person who walks into their bubble tea store seen, heard, and loved. One night, I get a text from Jenn saying, “Get your butt downstairs. We are coming to pick you up.” She and Anthony ended up taking me out for supper at a Turkish restaurant. I was so taken by what they’re doing for their community and their staff members, I wrote an article about them: https://thriveglobal.com/stories/creating-community/
So when I did Microsoft Ignite Seoul in May, I was terrified. I knew I would be outnumbered by middle-aged Korean men. And well, I was. I assumed they would judge me, they would look at my outfit, my pink crocs, my wild body language, and think: why is she a speaker?!
Fast forward to the last night of the conference when you shut down Universal Studios for all 40,000 of us, my friend Olivia ran into an MVP she knew. He was hanging out WITH some other men. We ended up going on a couple of rides WITH them. They totally knew the lay of the land because some of them had been with their kids before. Then it dawned on me: I had done it again. I had done to the men at the conference in Orlando, Amsterdam, and Seoul, what I hated they did to me: pre-judged them, assumed the worst, and didn’t give them a chance. Whoa.
Thank you dads and Microsoft for reminding me of these lessons in Diversity and Inclusion and well...life really.
Thank youuuuuuu Hailey and your amazing team for running logistics like a boss. You always make me feel loved, seen, heard and helped while remaining calm as a cucumber. #girlcrush
Thank youuuuuuu Shona for organizing a 40,000 person conference like a boss. Thank you for giving a platform to people like me and countless others so that we may shine a light on and WITH incredible humans who are just waiting to be seen, heard, loved and helped. You’re my #shero.
Wishing you Happiness,
SpeakHER. InsipireHER. TraveleHER.