Leadership

Arianna Huffington: 'It's not just for women and African-Americans to solve the problem of diversity'

Arianna Huffington
Paul Morigi | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images
Arianna Huffington

Diversity and inclusion are hot button issues in the workplace, especially in Silicon Valley. Few know this better than Arianna Huffington, Thrive Global founder and Uber board member, and Uber's chief people officer Bozoma Saint John. In a recent podcast, Huffington lauds Saint John for being a champion for diversity and equality.

"I love the fact that you've said very clearly that it's not just for women and African-Americans to solve the problem of diversity," says Huffington. "That everybody should be making noise."

Saint John explains her reasoning behind this rhetoric. People can't promote diversity from a distance or by standing on the sidelines, she tells Huffington. To promote diversity, you must be fully invested in learning about it's importance.

"I want you to study it. I want you to know it. I want you to have empathy for it. I want you to cheer when we get the wins. I want you to cry when we get the losses," says Saint John. "And that does not just apply to women of color or women in general. We need white men to do that, too."

Saint John likens herself to former Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway. "I'm the John Elway of diversity and inclusion," says the chief people officer. "And I need the people in the stands and the folks who are the fly by night fans to put on the gear and know the game."

Bozoma Saint John is the Chief Brand Officer at Uber.
Getty Images
Bozoma Saint John is the Chief Brand Officer at Uber.

However, she says much of the talk surrounding diversity and inclusion is simply that: just talk.

Although talking about diversity and inclusion is a good start, Saint John says that everyone, regardless of rank, needs to start "doing." In fact, Saint John says that it shouldn't be up to just CEOs or HR managers to push for diversity within the workplace. Employees in junior-level positions must also play a part.

"Every time there's an issue people are like, 'I have plenty of black friends,'" explains Saint John. "Well, where are they when there's a job opening?" Not only is it crucial that you champion for a diverse group of people from the inside, says Saint John, but if you're a hiring manager you should also be hiring people who don't look like you.

To truly affect change, Saint John suggests taking a look at your colleagues and paying attention to their racial and gender makeup. "I want white men to go into their offices and look around and say, 'You know what? There's a lot of white people here. I feel uncomfortable in this situation,'" says Saint John. "'There's too many of us around here.'"

From there, you must take action. "I want you to go in to your boss and tell them there's just too many people who look the same around," says Saint John. "So, can we change that?"

"Basically, it's a call to everybody," adds Huffington.

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See also: Arianna Huffington says she became truly successful when she quit one common bad habit