Not everyone is going to like you and that’s okay. During the course of this journey I have burned bridges, on purpose. It is okay to disconnect yourself from those who do not value you.
As a part of my series about leaders who are using their platform to make a significant social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Madison Butler
Madison Butler is a social impact change agent, using her voice to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Butler’s work is focused around creating equitable spaces, talent, people development and on-boarding. Madison is an outspoken advocate and activist for diversity, belonging, and the ability to thrive at work.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
When I was in my early twenties, I escaped an abusive relationship and had the chance to hit “reset” on my life. When I returned home, someone offered me a chance to try out recruiting. I fell in love with talent but always knew I wanted to be able to create impact on a larger scale.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this career?
When I was 21, I started dating someone I shouldn’t have- a story many of us probably have. However, as our relationship continued to progress he became more violent and more verbally abusive. During his escalations, his attacks became more targeted, rooted in racism. I eventually escaped and realized that I had been turned into someone who I didn’t even recognize. In 2016, a racist rant of him went viral. My whole life was exposed and opened up to the throws of the internet. I quickly learned that I was not alone. I knew that I had a chance to make a difference in other people’s lives by walking in and speaking my truth.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I was working at a startup in Austin, TX as a recruiter. One day this man walked in the door for an interview, and I knew he looked familiar but I just couldn’t place him. I spent the afternoon trying to figure out who he was and how I knew him. When he was done with his interviews, I finally asked where he was from and he said Massachusetts. It turned out he was my Economics professor in college, when he realized who I was he stated “glad you at least showed up for my interview, better than you did for my classes”.
Ok super. Let’s now jump to the core focus of our interview. Can you describe to our readers how you are using your platform to make a significant social impact?
I am a Black, queer woman navigating the tech and start up world, it didn’t take long for me to realize that this was not a world that was created for me. My intent is to change the status quo that exists in corporate America. We are conditioned to believe there is a mold you have to fit into in order to be successful and that is just not true. I am committed to using my voice to create equitable spaces for marginalized communities.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted by this cause?
I’m impacted by this cause every day. I try to never speak on behalf of others but as an outspoken Black woman, I receive death threats on a semi regular basis. Black women are not safe when they find their voice, however- we are in an era where we cannot be silenced.
Was there a tipping point that made you decide to focus on this particular area? Can you share a story about that?
A couple of years ago, I interviewed for a company that gushed over how much they loved me and wanted me to join their firm. However, before offering me the role they let me know that I would need to change my hair, cover my tattoos, wear a skirt, etc. It was in that moment that I realized that many companies will like what I can do for them, but they will never truly value who I am.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
We have to be willing to let people take their space. We cannot predetermine what people need in order to thrive. As organizations, we need to be willing to write policies for the stress case, not the test case. Humans are not carbon copies or cookie cutter replicas. If we want to create spaces that are equitable, it needs to start with the policies we put into place.
What specific strategies have you been using to promote and advance this cause? Can you recommend any good tips for people who want to follow your lead and use their social platform for a social good?
I show up as myself. I don’t and will not shrink myself for the comfort of others. My best advice is if you believe in something, do not hide that passion because it makes someone else uncomfortable. Do not dim your shine in order to be tolerated.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
- Not everyone is going to like you and that’s okay.
During the course of this journey I have burned bridges, on purpose. It is okay to disconnect yourself from those who do not value you.
- You will be tired, take care of yourself.
When I first started this journey, I held myself to incredibly high standards. I have learned that it is okay to rest. You cannot help the world if you don’t first help yourself.
- You will hear stories that will break your heart.
People will relate to the things you say and they will pour their heart out because they need to. They need to tell their story to someone who gets it, to someone who genuinely cares about it. However, nothing will prepare you for the heartache of others. I recently had someone reach out to me to tell me that they are trans but are forced to be male presenting at work, and it was heartbreaking to listen to him describe what it is like to be two people every day.
- No is a full sentence.
It is okay to say no. At the beginning of my journey, I said yes to everything- every podcast, every interview, every speaking engagement. Burnout is real and not everyone who wants to hear you speak values you.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
If I could inspire any movement it would be the ability to be human at work. We have spent too long not honoring the human element at work so it has become taboo to be LGBT, or speak about why Black Lives Matter- when in actuality, you’re still all of those things at work. It’s time we recognize that whole people do better work.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Women like me aren’t supposed to run for office”- AOC
Women like me aren’t supposed to break barriers and succeed in corporate America. Corporate America was not created for people who look like me. However, I intend to make sure that no one in the generations after me feel that way. I want them to know they belong in every room they enter.
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? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
AOC, without a doubt.
She is the embodiment of what I aspire to be in the world.
How can our readers further follow your work online ?
@CorprteUnicorn — twitter
@MadisonAmeliaB — IG
Madison Butler- Linkedin
This was very meaningful, thank you so much!