March 24, 2021

Empathy in action

By Tyler Bryson

man and woman in different background colors, yellow and green

Last month, Microsoft VP Lani Phillips ignited our partner ecosystem to support and engage with the Black and African American partner growth initiative. I want to reiterate this important call to action.

Last summer, Satya laid out our commitment to increase Black and African American-owned representation within the partner ecosystem by 20 percent over the next three years, and we are fully activating on this pledge. While putting this initiative in place was the first step, it’s the actions going forward by everyone in our broader organization that will ensure this program—and our new partners—thrive.

It is our collective opportunity to address underrepresentation within our ecosystem from every direction, and there is at least one thing we can all do as individuals—and as Microsoft partners—that can improve lives exponentially, along with your organization’s bottom line. It’s called allyship.

What does being an ally really mean?

Allyship is an informed, consistent, and empathetic practice. Constantly improving our self-awareness and adopting inclusive behaviors takes time. It’s a journey. It requires aligning our actions around the needs of an affected person or community. Only they can decide which actions qualify as allyship. This recognition helps create added benefits around a more inclusive workplace. In a recent McKinsey & Company study, they found that the greater the representation, the higher the likelihood of outperformance.

Become an ally

In a recent episode of the Making More Possible video podcast series, Microsoft CVP Gavriella Schuster shared four simple actions we can take to become allies. It is a framework she developed for her recent TEDx Talk, BeCOME an Ally: How to achieve gender equity:

  • Connect
    Make intentional decisions to help people connect by opening up your network. Provide access to others and join communities that can benefit from meeting the people you know.
  • Outreach
    Examine your practices for recruiting, hiring, and selecting suppliers. Ask yourself if you are screening people out or screening in for diversity.
  • Mentor
    Share your lived experiences with others—your successes and your failures. When you mentor someone, you blaze a trail for them to follow.
  • Empower
    There is nothing more impactful you can do for someone than empower them to be who they are. Help them be heard and seen by creating an inclusive environment that lets them share their ideas openly.

What is an inclusive economy?

Creating equality requires a broad reaching approach. Through this initiative, we’re seeking to contribute to driving economic inclusion. An inclusive economy is a framework where inclusive growth strategies lead to shared prosperity, especially for communities facing the greatest barriers to equal social participation. For our partners, this means the Black and African American partner growth initiative is a great opportunity to build on the ideals of participation, equity, growth, stability, and sustainability. Partners influence more than 95 percent of Microsoft commercial revenue, either directly or in partnership with Microsoft. Unlocking this type of economic potential helps us all.

How can you take action?

It requires empathy. Professionally, this can come in many different forms:

  • Update internal policies: Bring prioritization of diversity and inclusion to the forefront of your organization.
  • Circulate information and resources: Nobody has all the answers, but an open dialogue is a great place to start.
  • Speaking up when you see injustice: Your response can take many different forms, but we each must do our part to create an inclusive, productive, respectful and professional environment, free from any forms of discrimination or harassment.
  • Share your knowledge: What has contributed to your own professional success and how can those experiences help others?

It takes more than empathy

To truly create change, we have to work together to support one another. Take a look at your own practices—and your own areas of professional expertise—to best determine how you can be an ally and inspire the next generation of partners from all backgrounds.

One way to get started is to sign up for our upcoming GTM Ask Me Anything on the Microsoft Partner Community, which will focus on diversity and inclusion. Regina Johnson, strategy lead for the Black and African American partner growth initiative, will join this open forum for partners to share more about how Microsoft is working with our partners to enable a more inclusive economy. Save the date on your calendar for March 31 at 9:00 AM Pacific Time or 4:00 PM Pacific Time.

Do your part to extend opportunities. If you have friends or business partners who could benefit from the Black and African American partner growth initiative, encourage them to enroll and join the Microsoft Partner Network.


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