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#InspiredByHer: Annie Jean-Baptiste  is the Head Of Product Inclusion, Research and Activation at Google. She is passionate about making the web and Google’s products work for underrepresented communities while ensuring that Google is a place where everyone shines for their differences.

 

Annie Jean-Baptiste

Can you please tell us a bit about Yourself, Background, Role and what inspired You to be in tech landscape?

I am a 31 year old first generation Haitian-American. My brother inspired me to apply to Google after he interned there. It’s been my only full time job- I’ve been there for over 9
years!

Product inclusion is about bringing an inclusive lens to the product design process. We are building products for users all over the world, and so we want to ensure we have diverse
perspectives at the table throughout the process, especially at critical points.

You have a huge mandate and responsibilities at Google. Can you walk me through what a typical day looks like for you?

I meet with product teams and help consult on new and existing products and features. I help them understand what underrepresented users they need to bring into the fold at
critical moments in the product design process. I also work with senior leaders to make sure we have buy-in and accountability for product inclusion.

Another big part of my work is research- we are looking at what practices lead to positive and inclusive outcomes in product design, and will be launching a white paper on our findings this
year

Technology is a male-dominated field and Breaking into the tech industry can seem challenging for women of color, who usually don’t see people who look like them in the industry. What steps should be taken to attract more women to tech and rectify the imbalance?

We need perspectives of women of color and many other underrepresented groups to truly build global products. By understanding that diverse teams lead to increased innovation and better products for everyone, we will see more underrepresented people in tech. There are so many rich perspectives that come from women of color and so we are committed to inclusion in culture and product

What is your go-to work look?

I love supporting underrepresented designers. Google doesn’t necessarily have a dress code, so my look varies. I love leather and vegan leather, metallic colors, and fun heels,
but could also be wearing combat boots. Some of my favorite designers: Aminah Abdul Jilil, Andrea Iyamah, Cushnie. I make an effort to support underrepresented designers whenever I can!

What professional accomplishment has given you the most satisfaction?

Hearing from users that they feel seen. When a user talks about using a product and knowing they were thought of in the process, it validates the work and pushes me to work
harder!

What does it mean for you to have a commitment to diversity/Inclusion? How have you demonstrated that commitment?

It means treating it like any part of your strategy. Having metrics that matter, accountability frameworks, sponsorship and a clear theory of change or hypothesis around what needs to change or how you can change to see structural shifts that bring equitable outcomes.

What would be your message to women trying to get into technology? What do you wish you had known?

Find your voice and use it, but use it in a way that’s authentic to you. I’m an introvert, so for me, that can mean writing something down, or letting my team know id like an agenda
beforehand so I can collect my thoughts before a meeting. I’d also say to push yourself. My former manager, Karen always told me to lead with yes, and I think even if that was scary,
it’s helped me grow and be able to find my passion.

How important is it for women to lift each other up and what does that mean to you?

#InspiredByHer: Ezinne Kwubiri, Head of Diversity and Inclusion at H&M North America

There is an amazing group of women inside and outside of Google that have my back, that advise me and lift me up. It means celebrating each other, being honest with each other,
providing opportunities to one another, and truly feeling like when your squad wins, you win. I win. I’m super blessed to have support like that and try to be intentional about reciprocating
and paying it forward!

Your team’s guide ‘building for everyone’ will be released in summer 2020. Tell us more about it?

It’s about best practices and our research. It also gives a behind the scenes look at the Googlers who have powered the work. There are also concrete examples across
industries, from medicine, to fashion, sports and more. If you have a product or a service, or you serve customers, thinking about inclusivity in your process is important so that you solve core user needs.

 

 

Ezinne KWUBIRI is a black woman, diversity leader, innovator, and ally. She is an Alumni of Howard University’s School of Business where she majored in Accounting and Business strategy. She started her career in Diversity and Inclusion at Viacom Media; Kwubiri earned a newly created position as the Head of Diversity and Inclusion for H&M North America.

ezinne

1. Please tell us about your Nigerian roots.

Born in Lagos, Nigeria, my roots are from Umuahia in Abia State (Nigeria) part of the Igbo tribe. My new Nigerian legacy will be from Imo State, where my husband is from.

 

2. Tell us about your profession and how you got into your line of work?

My career has transitioned over the years. I began my career as a consultant (auditing roles) at a (then) Big 4 accounting firm. I soon transitioned to the entertainment/ media industry in another auditing role. During my time there, I started my career in people management – specifically Change Management & Diversity & Inclusion. Now I lead D&I at one of the largest fashion retail companies in the world.

 

3. What is the most challenging part of your job ?

Every role has its challenges & successes. The size & global footprint of my current role creates various nuances on how you communicate, create, & resonate with various persons.

 

4. Tell us about your vision for H&M’s diversity and inclusion initiatives?

My vision as the Head of Inclusion & Diversity is to provide an intentional space that promotes, embraces and highlights the diversity of people & thought, where people feel they have equal opportunity to be seen and heard, where customers feel they can see themselves represented in our campaigns; attracting and retaining top diverse professionals.

 

5. What is the most common mistake in an organization’s thinking about diversity?

Companies should recognize that fostering a workplace of diversity requires intentional actions. It is not an overnight process. You have to be honest with where you are, what the people want, & how you will get there. It’s a true commitment that requires full buy-in from key decision-makers.

 

6. Your appointment means a lot to people of color, especially women of color. Any top tips for women trying to get into your line of work who wants to use her voice to change the narrative ?

Regardless of your title, line of work, or level of experience, you can use your voice to change the narrative. The way you show up in those spaces is how you begin that change. Always speak up, initiate, challenge, & provide solutions to areas that you see have gaps. It doesn’t always have to be a formal process.

#BlackArtistToWatch: Meet Nneka Jones From Trinidad and Tobago

7. As more women of color enter and thrive in the workforce, how will that impact the future of diversity and inclusion ?

Women of color, really all women, have been forces in the workforce for decades. Now their voices are louder & stronger. We are starting to be seen for what we’ve always been: leaders, resilient, empathic & visionaries. The future is keeping that integrity & strength and demanding equal pay & rights from our male counterparts.

ezinne

 

8. H&M recently announced its first-ever collaboration with a South African Designer. Should we expect more collaboration with African brands in the nearest future?

We hope to continue to provide collaborations that will resonate with our customers & align with the brand’s aesthetics. I am excited about the future potential collaborations.

9. Do you have a philosophy that you apply to your personal life and your career?
What are your career commandments?

Staying true to who I am and living in purpose & integrity. Own your true & use your voice.

 

10. What do you see as the greatest Leadership Strength?

The ability to motivate others & make everyone feel heard & important. If your team is not rallying behind you, it’ll be challenging for you to lead them.

 

11. For those who work in the diversity and inclusion space, are there any tips you would recommend?

Be kind to yourself. Change is not going to happen overnight – it might take months or even years for you to see any progress. Be true to yourself & the work. Be sure there is a budget & resources to support your efforts. You cannot, and should not do this alone.

 

12. To what extent do you believe there are significant differences in how one should work with diverse cultures within the US/US minorities and diverse cultures from other nations? Are different strategies appropriate, and if so, what are they?

Even within the same continent, your strategy for diversity & inclusion should not the same. Everyone works, hears, & listens differently. We have to understand the complexities of the audience, the current culture, what you are trying to achieve. There is no “one size fits all”.
Also, understanding as much as we are different, there are still similarities, things that unite us as humans. Find that connector & go from there.

 

13. How does it feel being an African representing in the West at a time like this where the world is becoming more and more aware of the African continent and its POWER?

Africa to the WORLD! I am proud to be Nigerian. There is so much beauty & talent on the continent and it’s exciting to see the world recognizing that. There are many Africans that are the “first black” in their fields, that are trailblazers & representing well. I remember growing up, being from somewhere else was not the “cool” thing. Now our styles, foods, names, music, etc. are influencing the nations.

We’ve been here & been great… I’ll tell the rest of the world…WELCOME !

We had a chat with Nduulwa, The host of Dear Diaspora- Dear Diaspora is a podcast celebrating the African diaspora- its change-makers, innovators and entrepreneurs working to make our world a better place to live in.

Its really important that as an African inspired digital media company, we use our platforms to continuously tell the story of black folks in the motherland and in the diaspora.

Stevee-Rayne Warren is Producer Manager, Community crew up program, NOVAC recruiter and Consultant. She pairs up capable PA’s with real Hollywood opportunities.

 

Tell us about you and your background.
– I was born and grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and attended Southern University and A&M College where I majored in English and Liberal Arts. My mom was a cosmetologist and I would spend afternoons and weekends in her salon watching tv and movies to occupy myself and to not be in grown folks business. I recall always waiting for the credits and watching behind the scenes. I also would tag along to hair shows in the southeast region and that in itself was an entire production. I knew I wanted to have something to do with film and television I just did not know what my options were or even what the first steps were. It wasn’t until high school and after taking a video production elective that I started to see working in film as a reality. Our teacher Mr.Kyle really pushed us and exposed us to various aspects of productions. We made two feature length films that premiered at one of the AMC’s and actually gained some local and youtube buzz. I loved the collaborative process and being apart of something that brought joy to so many people.

Tell us about your profession and how you got into your line of work.
– While in college I worked at a restaurant and for the Bureau of Community Preparedness part-time, which I genuinely enjoyed but did not feel completely fulfilled. So, I applied for a security position at the local film studio in Baton Rouge. I didn’t get the position but the receptionist told me to look into an organization called NOVAC if I wanted to get some production experience. I did some research and saw that NOVAC had a tone of resources for individuals interested in film and tv. I signed up for the free cinematography workshop. Shortly after the workshop I reached out to the NOVAC Baton Rouge program manager Jillian Godshall to inquire about internship opportunities and a week later I was interviewed and hired. The opportunity was paid so I left my state job and took a leave from my restaurant job and worked the organization’s membership system. I was later promoted to membership coordinator.
Following my roles with membership, I started to help out with workforce development every chance I got and in 2017 I was assigned to manage our partnership program with HBO and a month later we garnered an additional partnership (PA pipelining program) with Warner Bros. The thing I love the most about working for the state was the community outreach and connecting the right people with the right situation and with these programs I get to do that but in a field that I am passionate about.

What professional accomplishment has given you the most satisfaction ?
– This year has been a big one for alum of the various programs I manage. We advocate that these opportunities will lead to sustainable careers in the industry but I did not expect to see such tangible impact so soon. There are a number of people in the union or on the union track, working director’s assistants, location managers, costumers, script supervisors, associate producers, staff writers that all came from these programs in the last 3 years. I’m proud of that, I’m proud of them.

What does it mean for you to have a commitment to Equality/Diversity ?
How have you demonstrated that commitment ?
– Having a true commitment to equality/diversity means actively recruiting storytellers and crew from different backgrounds through every stage. Not looking for black and brown faces at the very last minute for the bottom line. Another thing we tend to abandon is the environment that we place people in…Yes, it may be a chance of a lifetime to work on a big budget production but what does this “dream job” come at the expense of? Is it their comfort? Their peace of mind? If so, it’s not the right opportunity and it’s not worth it. When I started out I use to think the chance was enough. It is not. We also have to ensure that all involved are truly invested and supportive of facilitating more inclusive hiring processes.

Tell us how you work with brands to create or foster equity in the workplace ?
– Because I am a consultant through a non-profit and work under the social responsibility umbrella, I work with other non-profits and productions rather than brands. One thing I do love with working Warner Media (HBO, Warner. Bros, Turner) productions is the privilege to engage with a number of nonprofit groups and community based organizations around numerous social issues – many of which are addressed naturally in the content. For instance, the series BARRY is centered around a veteran, so I recruit exclusively from organizations that serve veterans for that show. That is one of my favorite things about this work, making authentic connections.

How would you advocate for equality and inclusion initiatives with individuals who don’t see its value ?
– I am really not in the business of changing people’s hearts. Because the people who are admitly against the type of pipelining programs I manage are usually those who have greatly benefited from the system that so often excludes the people that we serve. I am more focused on bridging the gap and setting the tone for the emerging creatives and industry leaders. One thing I do emphasize is that things are not the way they are by chance, it was intentionally set up to not be accessible to all, so our efforts for change have to be done with intention and care.

What experiences have you had with recruiting, hiring, training, and/or supervising a diverse workforce ?
Some of the recent productions I have recruited and placed PAs or interns for include; JOKER, QUEEN & SLIM, LUCIFER, DAVID MAKES MAN, JUST MERCY, YOU, QUEEN SUGAR, CHERISH THE DAY, IN THE HEIGHTS, CLAWS, ALL AMERICAN, LEGACIES, BLACK LIGHTNING, WATCHMEN, EUPHORIA, BALLERS, INSECURE, SILICON VALLEY, DEADWOOD, THE RIGHTEOUS GEMSTONES, DIVORCE, LOVECRAFT COUNTRY, WESTWORLD, THE LOVEBIRDS, PARADISE LOST, FILTHY RICH, and THE WALKING DEAD.

As more women of color enter and strive in the workplace, how will that affect the future of diversity and inclusion ?

Women hire more women, Black people, and people of color. Point, blank, period.

Any advice or tips for women trying to get into your line of work ?
– For women, specifically black women, a tip that I can offer about working in this industry, is that, it is possible to simultaneously be grateful and to stand up for yourself. I think a lot of us retract in these spaces because we are in fear of conforming to stereotypes or we are in fear of losing the opportunity. But it is so important to know who you are and advocate for yourself in this world because you better believe your counterparts are doing so.
Be sure that you are focused and attached to your personal purpose and walk and not a company, brand, or other individuals. I ask myself often, “what is the goal? why did I start this? Is what I am doing in fulfilment of my purpose?.” If so, I keep pushing. If not, I stop evaluate and readjust.

Whenever I am unsure or not feeling confident, I always think about a quote by Audre Lorde, “When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” I have this up in my house and office and these are truly words to live by.

What do you see as the greatest leadership strength ?

– I believe the greatest leadership strengths are empathy, emotional intelligence, and empowerment. The best leaders are those who are understanding and supportive.

 

 

 

 

#InspiredByHer is an interview series that focuses on black women, showcases their expériences across all socio-economic sectors, highlights their personal and Professional achievements and offers useful advice on how to make life more satisfying for women.

Do you know any black women doing phenomenal things ? Send an email to info@moyoafrika.com and we just might feature her.

Let’s face it: the magazine beauty world has remained pretty whitewashed for the last… well, forever. This leaves many Black mainstream magazine readers wondering where to turn for reviews and advice specific to our skin and hair care needs. Luckily, the past decade has ushered in a digital revolution led by independent Black bloggers and beauty influencers catering to the melanin market.