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Female Disruptors: Lesley Slaton Brown, Chief Diversity Officer at HP, INC Is Shaking Up The Face of The Fortune 500

“We started by creating one of the most diverse boards in the US tech industry. We designed a dual mentorship model with our board of…


“We started by creating one of the most diverse boards in the US tech industry. We designed a dual mentorship model with our board of directors and our senior leaders. The commitment and actions we have at the senior most levels or our company is unquestionable and cascades down through our business while our employees are empowered to stand up and speak up. We’re making great investments with our middle management to address biases, mitigate and change behavior. We’ve built key intervention points in our hiring process to ensure fair and equitable approaches. I like to refer to this a “productive disruption”. It helps up better achieve the impact and business outcomes we’re pushing for. It’s exciting to see some of the change we see happening. We still have much more work to do but we’re running our marathon for a more diverse workplace. We’re also encouraging our people to be “all in” and make personal commitments. So, we see disruption happening in pockets as well. Hiring managers are making personal commitments and shaking things up in their respective areas to nurture belonging and celebrating differences — that’s the sprint!”


I had the pleasure to interview Lesley Slaton Brown. Lesley is the Chief Diversity Officer at HP, Inc. with more than 20 years of experience in the technology industry. She was named to the 2018 Adweek Disruptors list, The YWCA Silicon Valley’s Inspiring Women Leaders, awarded the 2016 Woman of the Year in Technology by Silicon Valley’s Chapter of National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc., in addition to the 2016 Multicultural Leadership Award by the National Diversity Council. Lesley is also co-founder of the Curated Pathways to Innovation, a collective impact model that sets underrepresented minorities and girls on the path to STEM careers and was twice recognized by Black Enterprise as a Top Executive in Marketing and Advertising. Most recently, Savoy Magazine included her as a Top Influential Woman in Corporate America. Full bio here.

Thank you so much for joining us! What is your “backstory”?

I was born and raised in California’s Central Valley. From there, I earned a bachelor’s degree from Boise State University in Boise, Idaho, where I received an NCAA scholarship and lettered in women’s basketball. Growing up in the Central Valley with exposure to socioeconomic differences, abilities, races, religions, sexual orientations and cultures helped shape my diverse perspective. That, combined with the entrepreneurial spirit, strong work ethic and integrity demonstrated by my family, ignited a deep desire and strong-will to truly be the change I wanted to see in a homogenous community I had just committed four years of my life to. It was a unique transition — I cried daily and begged to go home! I didn’t always approach microaggression tactfully. But through teaching others, I learned, grew and found supportive friends and a wonderful surrogate family.

Fast forward to now, leading a Fortune 50 company that believes equity and belonging are vital to our business, is like a dream come true. I strive to live in purpose and bring that to my personal work daily. It doesn’t get much better than this. I’ve had the opportunity to work globally, in a company that serves 170 countries. It brings me great joy to have my purpose, passion and profession align. And the best part, I get paid 🙂

What is it about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

Disruption is truly embraced in the HP culture. Much like our focus on D&I, it’s embedded in everything we do. We’ve adopted a growth mindset and leadership principles that allow us to imagine the future, inspire our teams and then make things happen. We invite disruption to push ourselves to greater innovation. We started by creating one of the most diverse boards in the US tech industry. We designed a dual mentorship model with our board of directors and our senior leaders. The commitment and actions we have at the senior most levels or our company is unquestionable and cascades down through our business while our employees are empowered to stand up and speak up. We’re making great investments with our middle management to address biases, mitigate and change behavior. We’ve built key intervention points in our hiring process to ensure fair and equitable approaches. I like to refer to this a “productive disruption”. It helps up better achieve the impact and business outcomes we’re pushing for. It’s exciting to see some of the change we see happening.

We still have much more work to do but we’re running our marathon for a more diverse workplace. We’re also encouraging our people to be “all in” and make personal commitments. So, we see disruption happening in pockets as well. Hiring managers are making personal commitments and shaking things up in their respective areas to nurture belonging and celebrating differences — that’s the sprint!


We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors?

Quite honestly my parents were my first and most impactful role models. My father was a laborer and entrepreneur and my mother worked for the federal government. They helped instill my work ethic and encourage problem solving. They pushed for my siblings and me to work as a unified team — supporting and listening to one another, and most importantly, conflict resolution. More than that, they demonstrated the importance of family first.

I’ve also had several managers at HP who were extremely influential in pushing me to find my purpose, get out of my comfort zone and to gain new skills continuously. They were leaders who walked the walk and showed vulnerability and encouraged you to do the same. I have truly been blessed with great people around me and encouraging me. I needed to continue being challenged. I believe in observing and learning from every manager and coworker you encounter and applying the habits or nuggets of wisdom you learn along the way.

How are you going to shake things up next?

I push for excellence daily. HP is creating products for everyone everywhere. We must continue innovating, reinventing ourselves, learning and understanding the profiles of the people we’re creating products for and the communities we serve. I won’t stop speaking up for equity and the ability for people to bring their whole selves to work so they can contribute at their highest levels. I’m excited to think about how to integrate diversity and inclusion into artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

  • Purpose: I was encouraged by my early mentor to find my greater purpose. He’d ask, “What things excite you? What will you stay up all night to do?” I found that to be a guiding force in how I approach my career.
  • Passion: Being in purpose drives greater passion. Once I was able to find what my purpose was, I found a true passion for the work that I was doing daily. This brought me my greatest joy.
  • Perseverance: Perseverance was something I just learned throughout my life. We will experience setbacks, failures, losses, deaths and a host of other things. Life will knock you on your butt! I’m not sure perseverance is taught, it’s just done! I love the scripture, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)


What’s a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Share a story with us.

Empowering Yourself — by Harvey J. Coleman. I read all the time and love learning, but this one has been on my bedside table and has given me pause to truly connect with how I think about work and life. It provides great guidance for maneuvering the hierarchy to achieve one’s ultimate goals.


Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?

As a former athlete, business person, entrepreneur with a hint of geek, I’ve always been intrigued by the smooth transition of Earvin “Magic” Johnson from the court to the board room. He’s masterfully branded himself as a change agent and through strong partnership and trust, rebuild communities for the underrepresented. The same consistent leadership style he displayed in leading his teams to victory is demonstrated in running and growing his businesses.

Another person is Whoopi Goldberg. She continues to reinvent herself. She displays sublime creativity, compassion, open mindedness and attentively listens to other points of view. I may not agree 100% with everything she says but the way she respectfully allows voices to be heard and demonstrates empathy for others is impressive.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Follow me @DailySlate on Twitter!

Originally published at medium.com

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