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Corporate Conscience

I used to think there was no such thing as corporate conscience. Or at least that there was no place for it in modern American capitalism. At a minimum, companies should not get involved in activism. I was wrong.

I still think there are limits to what companies can and should do. But the more I see radical change taking place around me, the more I believe there is a place for corporate activism. In fact, I’m starting to think it is imperative that companies demonstrate their values and show leadership in advocating for those values. So many of us proclaim to be disrupters when it comes to business and organizational change. Where is our responsibility for social disruption? It is sorely needed in our society, and corporate commitment can be of tremendous social benefit.

An example: White men (including myself) almost universally benefit from their whiteness and maleness. It’s not fair to the equally qualified (or more qualified) women and people of color in the workplace. More than simply being unfair, it is wrong. Companies can lead the way by pushing for the cultural change needed to correct this type of discrimination. Of course, new policies and guidelines are needed. But corporate leadership needs to step up, too.

So how can you use your white male privilege? Next time you’re in a meeting and a brown-skinned woman’s opinion is pushed aside or dismissed in favor of a white man’s, disrupt. You don’t need to call anyone out (unless it was intentional) but make a point of seeking the opinion of the woman and make sure it gets the attention it is warranted. Use the teaching moment to let everyone know that sexist and racist decision-making will no longer be tolerated.

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