Diversity Questionnaire Response
Candidate for Elected Director
Director of Philanthropy and Civic Engagement, Microsoft
Palo Alto, California
1. How important should diversity be at Harvard? What strategies should the University pursue regarding this? (Please discuss specific programs and policies if you can.)
Diversity should be a cornerstone of Harvard administration and life, including faculty/staff recruitment and retention (especially tenured and senior positions), curriculum development, student programming, university speakers/guests, financial aid, student recruitment/admissions, and alumni activities. Championing diversity and working on these specific issues has been a life-long passion of mine. A couple of examples: In undergrad, I co-founded our chapter of MeChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Axtlan) as we, Latino students, banded together with Asian, Native American and African-American students to fight for greater tenured-faculty of color on campus. Decades later, as a member of the university’s board of trustees, I worked on all of the issues above from a policy and programmatic perspective. When I worked for U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno at the U.S. Justice Department, we fought for these values in education and university-related adjudication and policies. As the mayor of a city, a major focus on mine was promoting diversity, inclusion and cross-cultural communication both within city hall and across the community. I have many other examples, and I’d be happy to talk further about any of this work.
2. How can Harvard encourage more diversity among its alumni leaders and activities? (If not discussed above.)
All alumni can positively impact diversity issues related to the university, their communities and society at large in myriad ways – from recruitment/admissions assistance to local Harvard Club speakers series to volunteer/mentoring initiatives to recruitment for alumni leadership roles, and so forth. Alumni leaders, whether local-chapter leaders or those coming back to campus in various roles, have the added responsibility of ensuring that university is a leader in the diversity values and culture that is espouses. The university should facilitate an open and honest dialogue with alumni about the principles and goals behind diversity in its alumni programming. With an increasingly diverse alumni body (including diversity in race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, age, socio-economic status), there is a significant opportunity to transform how alumni activities better include and reflect the evolving alumni base.
3. Please state your views on affirmative action and race-conscious admissions.
I strongly support affirmative action and race-conscious admissions.
4. What do you think Harvard's role should be in creating a more equitable, inclusive and just society?
Harvard’s prominence (and power) in public discourse and education is unquestionable. We also know that the universities policies and pedagogy are closely watched and serve as roadmap for others. The university’s research and scholarship shape public policy, transform fields of work and study, and frankly change hearts and minds. And of course, at its core, the university is empowering and shaping future global leaders. In all of these ways and others, it is critical that Harvard recognize its real and perceived power and leverage it in the pursuit of -- not just the university goal of enlightenment, but also – equity, inclusivity and justice.
5. What steps have you taken to bring diversity and inclusion to your workplace or to an organization that you have been involved with?
During a recent diversity training exercise, a young tech worker (of color) said to me, “Wow. All of this diversity talk [about gender, race and LGBTQI issues] is new to me. I never think about these things.” I said, “Really? I feel like this is all that I think about.” Of course, that’s an exaggeration – there are plenty of other things on my mind, but as a gay Latino who has spent much of his life working on gender, race and LGBTQI issues – and recognizing the complexity of how these issues are interwoven into every aspect of our society – I can’t imagine not feeling an urgency or obligation to work in this space. A couple of brief examples from my life:
· Politics and policy. Right after undergrad, I worked at the DNC (Democratic National Committee) in the Latino Outreach Office, specifically focused on voter registration, Latino candidate support and the policy agenda related to communities of color.
· Community empowerment. The next issue of Hispanic Executive Magazine will feature of a profile of my current work as the senior director of philanthropy and civic engagement at Microsoft, where much of our U.S.-focused work ($1.4B in worldwide philanthropic investments in nonprofits and schools last year) is geared toward STEM (science technology engineering and math) programming for girls, communities of color and other under-represented communities.
· Advocacy and leadership. Last year, while serving on a panel called “Inclusive Leadership in Divisive Times” (notably, everyone else on this panel was a woman of color, which sadly I’ve never seen before or since at these types of events – but we’re working to change that too), there were numerous questions about how to advocate on diversity issues inside and outside of established power structures – and this is exactly the type of conversation that I think we all should be having. I work in an industry (tech) that is struggling to come to terms with its terrible diversity record and practices, and so, much of my work seeks to address and confront these issues head-on. Beyond my own diversity-focused hiring practices and public speaking/writing on the breadth of these issues, as well as my work as a mentor for diverse communities and serving on the boards of directors of organizations leading on diversity issues (like the Tides Foundation, where I am currently board chair), I think it’s critical for all us to be advocates in any way possible, raising these issues, sparking the dialogue, asking the tough questions and leading toward positive change.
When it comes to diversity, there’s no panacea, and no quick fix. It’s important to realize where we are in a long relay race for progress and change, and how to grab the baton, run as far forward as possible (bring others along the way), and then pass that baton and empower the next generation to continue to running in the direction of justice.