How Leaders Fight Only-ness

Overview Establishing a diverse and inclusive workplace, and engaging more women and underrepresented communities in leadership roles, has become even more important. How can leaders everywhere fight the only-ness of someone when that person is the sole representative of a gender or ethnic background at the table? How do leaders show up with intentionality?

Particularly for roles and industries that are traditionally male-dominated or racially homogeneous, diversity, equity and inclusion are vital management topics. As businesses pursue gender, class and racial equality in their ranks and at the top, leaders across industry sectors are working to educate themselves and their teams to show up for underrepresented communities.

Shelley Zalis, CEO of The Female Quotient, the official equality partner of CES®, was joined by executives across the tech industry — a traditionally male-dominated space — at CES 2021 to discuss why diversity and inclusion are integral to business success. They also explored how to effectively address only-ness, the potentially isolating sense colleagues may have when finding themselves the only person in the room of their gender or ethnicity.


Being a Champion for Others

In creating a culture where others do not feel only-ness, Latasha Gillespie, head of diversity, equity and inclusion at Amazon Studios, said that she makes sure to champion and support other women, as well as other marginalized communities.

“That requires me to do some work to understand what are some of the needs and concerns of marginalized communities that I don’t understand so I can be a good advocate,” she said.

It is important for executives to be consciously thinking about how the decisions they make impact and include all communities and how they can show up for others.

“When I’m making a team, I’m thinking about I’m really going to invest in sponsoring and mentoring other women,” said Terri Cooper, vice chair of external diversity, equity and inclusion at Deloitte. “I am ensuring that I can leave a really strong legacy.”

The Consumer Technology Association (CTA)®, owner and producer of CES, has also taken steps to champion others. Tiffany Moore, senior vice president of political and industry affairs at CTA, spoke about CTA’s $10 million investment in venture firms and funds focused on women, people of color and other underrepresented startups.

As leaders, we need to celebrate, we need to respect and we need to promote the uniqueness of every individual.

Terri Cooper
Vice Chair External Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Deloitte LLP

Taking Intentional Risks

It is not a straightforward path or simple answer to inclusivity, and people must embrace the responsibility to step outside their comfort zones. For those who are marginalized or overlooked, Gillespie encourages taking calculated risks and speaking up, finding a voice.

“Do something that makes you completely uncomfortable,” she said. “Understand that we’re trying to hold the door open to others coming behind us.”

On the business side, leaders should also stay open-minded to these intentional and calculated risks.

“Be intentional about who is at the table,” Moore said.

“Inspect and disrupt any process or system that’s not delivering equitable outcomes,” Gillespie added.


The Platinum Rule

Zalis highlighted that the age-old Golden Rule of treating others as you would like to be treated must now make way for the Platinum Rule, which holds that we should do unto others as they want us to do unto them.

Hand in hand with championing others, the Platinum Rule celebrates and accepts every person’s personal needs and preferences with regards to their heritage and who they are.

“As leaders, we need to celebrate, we need to respect and we need to promote the uniqueness of every individual,” Cooper said. “It’s a business commitment but it’s also a personal commitment.”

Beyond just adhering to the Platinum Rule personally, however, the executives agreed that everyone should be responsible and call out actions and behaviors that are not inclusive or equitable.

“We need to be courageous and be an advocate,” Cooper said.


As business leaders such as Cooper, Gillespie, Moore and Zalis continue to push the envelope and champion diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace and beyond, all industries will hopefully soon see tangible and prominent results.

On-demand programming from the all-digital CES 2021, including Lessons from the C-Suite, is now available for all to view. The industry-changing insights and announcements shared by tech visionaries at CES 2021 are key to the continued growth and advancement of your business and our tech ecosystem. With that in mind, we’ve opened the CES sessions to everyone.

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