Here's my dilemma:
- If I want to be fabulously successful, make lots of money, and be aligned with Corporate America, I have to play nice. And playing nice sometimes means saying things I don't believe, doing things I don't like, and ignoring certain elephants that hang out in corners dying to be noticed.
- If I want to support my chosen community of neurodiverse individuals, I need to be brave and speak up. I need to say things that are unpopular, that ruffle feathers, and that make Corporate America nervous.
Those of you who know me personally, know that I'm actually a really nice person -- I'm supportive, friendly, funny, outgoing, really smart, and would pretty much give you the shirt off my own back if it would help you.
You would also know that I have very little tolerance for bullshit (including my clients'!) and that while I can play the political game of niceness very well, I often don't choose to do so.
But, you might say -- playing nice gets things done. It builds bridges, and and can have better results long term.
Hm. I don't think so.
- I'm 58 years old, and as a feminist, I am appalled that so little has changed with regards to how women are treated in this country, certainly in business, and particularly in tech. (Ask me about the time I got written up for swearing in a meeting and what I had to say to HR afterwards.)
- Before and after living through the AIDs crisis in San Francisco in the 80s, I have been a long-time supporter of our LGBTQ communities, and am appalled that we are still 'not there' with equal (and impervious) rights. My son will face less harassment than previous generations, but that is only here in this little bubble of California.
- My friends and colleagues of color are no better off than they were 40 years ago, and in some parts of the country, far worse off. It is appalling how little diversity there actually is in Silicon Valley. Walk downtown Mountain View at lunchtime with me some time, and see what I mean. This is not diversity, no matter what we say.
Friends, it's not that I'm just some loudmouth. It's that I'm tired. I'm tired of playing nice and seeing that nothing changes. I know that people are well-meaning, and I know that others are working this, too, but it's too slow, and we risk moving backwards without forward momentum.
So when we talk about getting Neurodiverse people into good paying jobs -- where they belong -- and I get a bit feisty, know that it's not because I want to be annoying. It's just that this is THE SAME MOVIE again, and that movie is still playing for women, for people of color, and for the LGBTQ communities. That particular movie script has not yielded great results to date for other disenfranchised populations, and I see no reason why it's going to work now.
If you see me at a meeting, or an event, or walking down the street, and if I'm making remarks that make you uncomfortable, know that I'm doing it because I feel I MUST speak out. And in fact, I think MORE of us need to speak out.
This is the ultimate 'See Something, Say Something' moment. Reach out, yes. Build bridges, yes.
But also -- speak up.