Kim is a character. She has strong ideas, and she’s not afraid to share them. She’s not afraid to speak her mind, unfiltered. It’s refreshing. There have been tense moments on some of our calls over the past seven months. We’ve had disagreements. Ultimately though, through her patience and respect, I’ve learned a lot and I see her as a positive force to move our business forward.
As Doc alluded to in his post, one of our shared goals while building Tito is to create a company that is welcoming, safe and inclusive of (to borrow language from the Conf Code of Conduct) “everyone, regardless of gender, gender identity and expression, age, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, ethnicity, religion (or lack thereof), or technology choices”.
One of Kim’s stated goals is to redefine capitalism without white supremacy. According to Critical Race Theory, white supremacy “refers to a political or socio-economic system where white people enjoy structural advantage and rights that other racial and ethnic groups do not, both at a collective and an individual level.”
I’m under no illusions. I have benefited greatly from such a system, whether it be the hand-me-down casual racism from the British Empire that Ireland still deals with (and we’re fighting hard to rat out), or travelling 5000 miles to the United States and fitting in immediately to a system optimised to trust people who look like me. When I read Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is, my first thought was “Aha!”.
At this point, leading a business facilitating millions and hopefully billions in commerce, my own ignorance becomes a liability. As Kim repeats, over and over, lack of inclusion is a risk management issue. I need to plan for my own blind spots. My employees, our customers and their customers deserve that, in addition to the technical solutions we build.
In that context, Kim brings something to leadership at Tito that neither Doc nor I possess: her perspective as a woman of colour from Atlanta. Her experience brings insights and conclusions that we simply have no way of drawing on.
What appeals to me about Kim’s approach though is her embrace of capitalism. Capitalism has a bad habit of celebrating the wrong things. Things like long-hours, burnout, the lone hero and lifting white supremacists to power. On the other hand, capitalism is an efficient system for identifying market needs, filling them, creating value and being rewarded by it. Capitalism is amoral. It just describes a means of moving money around. You have to bring your own ethics.
Even before we get to ethics, with Kim the focus is on building a healthy business. And healthy business starts with revenue, sustainability, and profitability. Building a financially successful business and being socially responsible are not incompatible.
Perhaps not what you might expect of business coaching, working with Kim is a lot of fun. Kim’s previous career was as a schoolteacher, and she’s not afraid to remind you of that. But we’re not kids, so inevitably the classroom moments end up with belly laughs. And oh, what a laugh.
Kim is often misconstrued as angry in her online persona. This perception in itself is a common, negative stereotype. A person isn’t their persona though. I look forward each week to our calls. I always try to say something that will crack her up. When I do, the reward is that great big laugh.
Finally, and perhaps crucially, I want Kim’s help because I am a product of the society that rewarded me before I was even born. Films, books, culture, classroom jibes, have bit-by-bit installed in me prejudice against people who don’t look like me, whether I like it or not. It is possible to be sexist without noticing.The same for racial bias. Once I learned this, I learned a lot about myself. Little unwelcome thoughts that I’d rather not write here. Automatic reactions that my brain feeds me that I’m ashamed of. Properly racist stuff. The system is part of me, and I’m part of the system.
I don’t want to be racist though. When Kim says “I don’t trust any white people”, and backs it up with convincing arguments, I think “Actually, I wouldn’t trust white people either. Fuck them.” The more I learn about the history of white supremacy, the more I want to reject the system that sits upon its rotten roots. I’m with her on this.
Kim’s goal is to make the world a better place. She’s working with us to be an example of how to do that. We’re working toward being a better company. We have clear values. We’re talking about how to improve employee happiness. These are sensible, inclusive policies. This is all stuff that gives me hope. It leaves me optimistic for what we can achieve. It’s an incredibly positive position to start from. And I’m grateful to Kim for helping us to get there.