“The first step to solving any problem is to not hide from it,” – Mellody Hobson.

In this great TED talk, Mellody Hobson, American businesswoman, President and Co-CEO of Ariel Investments, and former chair of DreamWorks Animation, challenges listeners to move from being “color blind” to being “color brave.”

Color blind is pretending that we don’t notice race. It may come from a well-meaning place – the idea that we want everyone to have the same opportunities, that we want race to not matter. However, color-blindness overlooks the very real ways that race does impact people’s experiences. In this talk from 2014, Hobson offers some striking statistics. Here are the updates as of 2019:

  • White male proportion of the U.S. population: 30%
  • White male proportion of Corporate Board seats: 60%, a slight improvement since 2014, but with a long way to go to fit the population demographics
  • Fortune 500 CEOs who are Black: 4

In order to create real change in organizations, Hobson challenges us to be “color brave” rather than color blind. That means dealing with race head-on. It means addressing racial diversity in conversations about hiring, promotions, work assignments and vendor selection. These conversations can be uncomfortable, but having them out loud helps to surface and unravel implicit biases. As Hobson says, they require “getting comfortable about being uncomfortable.”

Opening up to your own discomfort and your own biases is a crucial step in developing your authentic executive presence. It’s a key ingredient to becoming a truly engaging leader. The more you build your capacity to speak up, to be uncomfortable, to own your biases and open up to differences, the more effective you will be as a leader.

For more ideas about how you can step up to the challenges of leading in these challenging times, check out my webinar.

Wishing you all the best on this journey. Be brave!

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