The Stars Shone Brightly at the 2018 Innovation & Inclusion Awards!
“WOW!!! What an amazing evening and event….”
“I thoroughly enjoyed the Innovation and Inclusion Awards ceremony! It was extraordinary to be in a room of talented, inspiring thought leaders and see them celebrated for their many accomplishments.”
“Thank you for seeing me.”
“I feel more motivated than ever to use my platform and my voice to make positive change in the world.”
These platitudes, and more, pretty much sum up the essence of our third annual Innovation & Inclusion Awards Reception – an evening of celebrating, connecting and storytelling with our distinguished honorees and guests.
A recurring theme throughout the acceptance remarks and fireside chats was the call for people of color in digital media and tech to come out of the shadows; let their lights shine; own their achievements; and lift others as they climb.
The audience was brought to their feet by the story of our Phenom Honoree, Gail Evans, Chief Digital Officer at Mercer. Gail’s resume is full of technology leadership positions at Bank of America, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft and Eastman Kodak. Reaching the executive level is no easy task—and even more so for women of color. Gail’s ascent into the c-suite was all the more rigorous. Before landing c-suite positions in these leading companies, she began her career as a janitor at Eastman Kodak.
Raised in Rochester, New York, Gail left college during her junior year to help support her mother and siblings with a custodian job. All the while, she knew that she was working toward something important—like buying a home for her mother and being a role model to her family.
Gail also knew that technology would change the world and she wanted to be a part of that. She began taking classes at Nazareth College in 1980, working toward a bachelor of applied science in computer information technology. That meant an exhausting schedule of working nights and studying in the day.
Her persistence began to pay off when a manager at Kodak saw her at her computer one night and asked her what she was doing. A week later, that same manager asked Gail to help teach new software to her team. While she still did janitorial work, she spent three hours of her shift each day teaching the Kodak leadership team Microsoft excel applications. She completed her degree in 1986 and saw a succession of promotions at Kodak. By 1999, she was the chief technology officer of Kodak.com.
The conversations also touched upon authenticity and the importance of the ability to bring one’s full self to work in order to do their best work. Vimeo CEO and mom-to-be, Anjali Sud shared how she hoped to have set the tone for authenticity for expectant and working mothers.
Ironically, Culture Catalyst honoree, Everette Taylor, CEO, ET Enterprises, shared how he had to create a fake identity in order to initially land a job in tech. After being turned down for several opportunities, he created a LinkedIn profile in the guise of a White male–with his own personal credentials–and landed seven job offers.
The word, gritty, also characterized many of our honorees–many of whom are “firsts” in their families, their roles, their industries and/or disciplines. They spoke to their immigrant experiences; their lack of visible role models in the industry; the perseverance that got them to where they are today; and the need to reach out–especially to HBCU’s– to harness the next generation of digital and tech talent.
Photos from the 3rd Annual Innovation & Inclusion Awards ceremony are in the Event Gallery.