Launched in 2018, the Equality Impact Awards honor the contributions and leadership of women and allies that are changing historically, and often notoriously, unequal industries.
The awards are given to both women and allies in tech, retail and publishing who are breaking glass ceilings, fighting for equal pay, championing diversity and inclusion and ensuring that the workplace is better for themselves and those who come after them.
Today, we honor one of our 2019 winners, Phil Gilbert, GM of Design at IBM. Phil answered 5 questions about the state of equality in the industry. Take a look!
1. If you could tell 16-year-old you one thing, what would it be?
Your parents are way wiser than you think, except about what to major on in college. You’re going to get that backwards.
2. What was your dream job when you were just starting your career? How has that dream evolved?
I didn’t know enough to have a dream Job, but I wanted to be a part of the music industry. That didn’t happen but I think as I matured I realized that “music” was really just a proxy for creativity and the arts. What I found I really wanted was to play an active role in creativity, and bringing creations to life. I found that outlet in tech beginning in the early 1980’s. Then it became about scaling the creative process, which led me to design. And then the scale of design itself became, well, my Dream Job.
3. What does gender equality mean to you?
I’ve never really thought about gender equality – I mean other than as a TOPIC. I’ve just tried to be human and evaluate other humans on their terms instead of mine. We all have diverse back stories, diverse motivations, diverse objectives. If we focus on these deeper things, we tend to do a better job of problem solving.
So I’d say I define equality as: engaging with someone based on their motivations and objectives, rather than based on attributes like gender or race.
4. Who is one person in your industry who has inspired you in your fight for equality? How have they done so?
Sister Rosetta Tharpe. She was a badass on guitar, inventing an instantly identifiable and awesome sound. And she charged money to attend her third wedding and 25,000 people paid! I’ve been trying to be her equal ever since she found me. A role model for creative capitalism!
Not my industry, but an idol, capitalist and gender provocateur nonetheless.
5. What’s one concrete next step that others can take to promote equality (of any sort) in the workplace?
It’s difficult to promote equality without first having diversity. I mean, equality is easy among people who are all alike. So building a diverse team or network is the starting point. And then, actively practicing acts of inclusion to engage the diverse team. And then, maybe, you can get the chance to drive equality into the relationships.