Welcome to a new episode of Leaders Link: a series of live-streamed conversations with leaders who have special reflections to share on some of the greatest challenges of our time.
This session featured Carla Walker-Miller, CEO and Founder of Walker-Miller Energy Services (WMES), and Kimberly Freeman, Associate Dean and Chief Diversity Officer at USC Dornsife College of Arts, Letters and Science.
Carla started her career in 1980s corporate America, where she quickly realised how much personal energy it took to make herself seen – as a competent, Black female engineer. In 2000, as Founder of Detroit's Walker-Miller Energy Services, she showed others that a “hyper-sensitive introvert” can be just as successful as her corporate peers. Since its launch, WMES has hired people who are traditionally marginalised – creating loyalty and a sense of community that just keeps growing. As she reminds her colleagues, “I never make a decision that is great for my company and bad for my team”.
Kim started out as an environmental engineer, but soon made her way into a corporate role that allowed her to focus on community relations. In her role at USC Dornsife, she works to promote inclusion while surrounded by brilliant minds who have never had to struggle with a problem of this magnitude. She believes it’s time we stopped ‘admiring problems’ and – as someone who often finds herself ‘the lonely only’ in a sea of white, male faces – she reminds us “If you don’t develop your muscles of courage, when will you make a stand?”
Carla and Kim suggest ways for each of us to play a part in embedding inclusion. “Educate yourself”, says Carla. “After slavery, Black people went from being an asset to being a problem, and this country has treated us like a problem ever since….Read up on the real history of America”.
Adds Kim: “We need to allow people to get their feelings out on the table. We can’t move too quickly to actionable things. We need to hear the unheard.”
"We're all leaders", they tell us. "Open your perspective; give people more grace...."
We're taking a break during August, but will return with new guest speakers in September!