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Leadership matters: Driving inclusion at NetApp

Gerri Mason Hall
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Gerry-Mason-Hall-BlogAs I begin my tenure as the Vice President of Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging at NetApp, I reflect on all that has happened this year. 2020 shined a spotlight on the need for stronger DI&B efforts across all industries and organizations.

Since the summer, companies have been implementing and promoting DI&B efforts as a response to the disparities highlighted and exacerbated by the pandemic, the murder of George Floyd and social response, and more. This is encouraging. And more needs to be done! As we move into 2021 and beyond, it is critical that DI&B is prioritized as a business imperative, not just an HR initiative.

Leadership matters

I’m also reflecting on my personal journey and the last two decades of driving inclusion in the workplace. I’ve learned a few things along the way and am proud of the contributions I’ve made and the impacts on a host of careers. One lesson stands out: leadership matters. Real, lasting change happens when top leaders commit and are willing to put the work in. Leaders who don’t rest on marketing statements and feel-good moments but are continuously learning with regular self-examination. Leaders who welcome the uncomfortable and hold themselves and their teams accountable for eliminating barriers to belonging. These leaders know that being consciously inclusive is an integral part of the growth mindset that fuels success. They know that inclusion leads to better decision-making that drives better results.

I’m encouraged by the leadership team at NetApp. They are doubling down on their commitment to DI&B and I’m excited to join them and accept the challenge. A key pillar of this commitment is our work with CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion. But this is much more than simply a pledge to act; it will serve as our North Star to build a culture of belonging. One of my key commitments and responsibilities will be to ensure that DI&B remains a C-suite focus at NetApp as we continue our transformation and deliver game-changing products. l will ensure we resist business as usual, a common risk to successful D&I efforts per McKinsey research.

A collective effort

And to be clear, this work is not just about me and the leadership team. It’s about all of us –everyone who works at the company, whether you’re a seasoned DI&B veteran or just beginning on the journey. To cement our shared understanding of the importance of this work, NetApp has committed to mandatory training for all employees to increase our individual and collective awareness of how biases, privilege, and identity play a crucial role in how we show up, interact with one another, and make important decisions. This training is just a start, and I look forward to building on this foundation and accelerating the efforts moving forward.

For those efforts to have maximum impact, we need to emphasize our shared humanity. We’re all in this together. No matter your background, and no matter where you live across the world, you've been impacted by the events of 2020. This year we’re collectively experiencing and navigating a global health pandemic, continued racial injustice, a divisive political atmosphere, climate-related disasters, and so much more – all while we try to keep our professional commitments and sustain our physical and mental health.

Renewed commitment in 2021

And yet, despite all this – or perhaps because of all this – we have a lot to be grateful for: COVID vaccine delivery has begun, people of all racial backgrounds around the globe are uniting to address racial justice, and there is a greater sense of urgency in the tech industry to have the difficult conversations and take decisive actions needed to build diverse, equitable, and inclusive organizations.

With gratitude I say farewell to 2020. In the last days of the year, I look forward to unplugging and refreshing, and returning in 2021 with renewed commitment and energy to drive impact and affect lasting positive change. There’s a lot of work to do. Will you join me?

Gerri Mason Hall

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