ADR Advisor Dr. Deborah Ashton is a HR and DEI executive with 30+ years of global and Fortune 500 experience. She led DEI at Medtronic, Darden Restaurants, Harley-Davidson, Argonne National Laboratory and Novant Health. She has published in the Harvard Business Review, American Diversity Report, for American Hospital Association, etc. She is an Inclusion Magazine’s 2022 D&I Hall of Fame inductee and one of Savoy Magazine’s 2014 Top Influential Women in Corporate America. She has a Clarke College BA, a Harvard University PhD, and a Harvard Medical School postdoctoral fellowship. She is a licensed psychologist specializing in organizational and clinical psychology.
As a Black woman, whose family moved up from the Chicago slums to ‘the projects’, I was navigating the intersectionality of race, gender, and poverty in the USA. A historical iconic woman that inspired me would be Harriet Tubman, born a slave. I admire her because not only did she believe in human dignity and rights, but she also acted on her beliefs and principles.
Harriet Tubman understood that she and the others who were enslaved were human beings and not chattel. I had the honor to visit the Harriet Tubman House in Auburn, NY. Her modest home gives witness to her tremendous courage. She had seizures and narcolepsy, i.e., traumatic brain injury, from being hit in the head when an overseer threw a heavy metal weight at a slave.Harriet Tubman could be recognized during Women’s History Month, Disability Pride and Heritage Month and Black History Month.
Stanford University’s Elimination of Harmful Language Initiative (EHLI)
Stanford University in December of 2022 issued the Elimination of Harmful Language Initiative (EHLI) to eliminate potentially harmful terms used in the United States within the technology community. Most of the recommendations are trying to avoid trivializing people’s experiences and avoid devaluing others. Other recommendations, from this reader’s experience, are a stretch and assume that we are not able to distinguish the context in which a word or phrase is used.
The EHLI is a courageous and noble endeavor. I would also argue it is US-centric, Anglophilia, and elitist! And may or may not be transferrable to the larger society.
The following is a sampling of the terms/phrases in the EHLI’s thirteen pages of terms and my reaction to them.
Why have diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) expertise in the Boardroom? Look at the controversy swirling around the Georgia’s voting law–the backlash, the boycott, and the backlash to the boycott. Georgia’s most vulnerable citizens lose from both the law and the boycott. I contend that if there had been DEI experts on the boards of the major corporations that traditionally lobbied in Georgia, this may have been averted. Corporations could have predicted how the passage and signing of the bill into law may have impacted their brand. While the bill was being crafted social justice concerns could have been addressed, along with concerns regarding voting integrity. When you are driving you slow down before you come to the hairpin curve rather than trying to correct for it afterward. I have always contended that we should resolve a problem before it begins.