Melinda King at the 2022 MAKERS Conference
- Please welcome Melinda King.
MELINDA KING: Like so many others, when George Floyd was murdered, a lot of things changed for me. I have two sons. So, of course, we were going to cry. But I also decided that I was going to make certain that my work, the thing that I do that pays the bills, was solution driven.
What I was noticing was there were a lot of organizations. And they were making these broad commitments to diversity. But they really weren't calling out the specifics of the movement. The 2020 movement-- the 2020 movement was about race. And it was specifically about how Black people were being treated.
And I noticed that my current organization had kind of watered down the message a little bit too. I guess that makes it more digestible. So I'm having this moment. I'm considering what my next career move is going to be. And then I heard Anne Wojcicki, co-founder, CEO of 23andMe.
And she said something that kind of just touched me. She said, like, my company is part of the problem. I don't have any Black senior leaders. So there are things that I'm not hearing about and things that I can't even address because of that void. Something about that conversation really moved me to do something that I've never done before.
I sent a note to the CEO of a company that I had no connection with. I didn't even have any previous knowledge about the company. And my note was really simple. I said, Anne, I think I can help you. So she called me. We started chatting. A role was created. I applied for it. And I was selected.
I tell that story to you today because I wouldn't be here having that conversation with you. I wouldn't be replenishing and rebooting from all the energy of all the participants and all the speakers if 23andMe hadn't made a commitment to the partnership with MAKERS. And for that, I am so grateful. Now, back to George Floyd.
His murder raised the stakes for everybody, not just companies but also my sons. I mentioned I had two sons. I have two sons. They were in their 20s when Mr. Floyd was murdered, when Ahmaud Arbery was murdered. And so one night, I'm having a conversation with my son. And he says to me, Mom, my goal in life now is just to get home every night alive.
And I was so conflicted. I was really conflicted. And then I thought, I'm raising Black men. Their very presence ignites fear in so many that leads to violence. So it really felt appropriate. And I just stayed quiet.
And it also raises the stakes for me. I decided I was going to stop compartmentalizing my life, that I was going to stop going to work, acting like, I'm OK, while my community was constantly being traumatized when I knew I was not OK. And then finally I decided, I'm going to stop trying to be enough for people and places that I was never going to be enough for just because of all of this.
So MAKERS, as to that freedom for me, it's a place that allows us to bring all parts of ourselves to work. It's celebrating you when you're winning. It's giving you what you need when you think you're losing. Sometimes that's a hug. Sometimes that's a shot of vodka.
That's why it's so critical for companies to create these opportunities. And my story is just one of many of these powerful community of leaders. Moments and opportunities like this are the first step to truly realizing equity. So here's a sneak peek of the amazing new partner series featuring my fellow advisory board members. It's called Makings of a Leader. Take a look.
SHAMEKA YOUNG: Being a diversity and inclusion lead is heavy, heavy work, right? Because if you are in it, you're in it emotionally. But you really see the results of what you can bring forward.
NICOLE JENKINS: In some sense, the-- COVID and the pandemic has created more empathy.
SHAMEKA YOUNG: To me, an empathetic leader shows up with care. It doesn't mean that you have to be touchy feely.
SARAH HARTON: In order to get the best work, the human has to come first.
KRISTEN PUCHEK: You have to be able to walk in someone else's shoes and understand their lived experience such that you can then help them customize their journey.
SHAMEKA YOUNG: I think a true partnership like we have with MAKERS, it's about having that common purpose.
NICOLE JENKINS: A partnership, I think, makes you better. It doesn't end with a transaction.
SARAH HARTON: We're big believers that our work absolutely does not stop within our four walls. We have to have partners that can amplify our message.
LYNETTE JEFFERSON: What we're trying to do is create access.
KRISTEN PUCHEK: Create space. Create a seat at the table and then empower those individuals to participate fully so that they can learn and grow.
NICOLE JENKINS: When you see something that you love, share it.
LYNETTE JEFFERSON: Take someone or something under your wing. Make it your cause. Make it your mission for one year. Somebody needs your help.
SARAH HARTON: Pick a person that you need to have a conversation with, to be kind to that person who maybe needs to be told something that they don't know in order to grow.
NICOLE JENKINS: There's always more work to do. We can lift each other up.
SHAMEKA YOUNG: I think the first thing that people can do is to self-assess. Are you a taker? Meaning that you're taking the benefits of change that's happening in the environments that you're in. Or are you a maker? Are you making change happen for yourself, for the women around you, for marginalized populations? Are you helping to make that change?
MELINDA KING: I love that video. I love the experience I've had at MAKERS. This space allows women to cultivate their power and their voice and to have the confidence to demand what they deserve when they go back into their organizations, be that a higher role, more compensation, and, in some instances, just the damn respect that they've earned. Thank you.