“We can’t wait for the change so many of us want to see in this world,” Annie Jean-Baptiste ’06 told students last Thursday, sharing her beliefs about diversity and six actions people can take to be more inclusive and follow the life and lessons of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Annie, the diversity programs manager for Google’s Global Diversity and Inclusion Team, works toward diversifying the next generation of technology professionals and to promote inclusion programs among the tech giant’s 60,000 employees. She said she is inspired by work Google is doing to build products that are accessible to everyone. She returned to Milton as this year’s MLK Jr. Day speaker, asking students to honor other people’s perspectives.
“We talk a lot about building for all at Google, and in order to do that, people with different perspectives and different backgrounds need to be around the table and have equal agency to voice opinions and get things done,” Annie said. “Research shows that teams with more diversity and deeper inclusion are more innovative and successful. We can extend that to Milton as well. We need the diversity of experience and backgrounds to foster the creativity and genius that Milton is known for.”
Students have the power to effect change when they check their privilege, “love harder,” take risks, break rules, experience discomfort and take an empathetic approach to disagreement, Annie said. Being an ally to people in historically disenfranchised groups takes more than sharing an opinion on social media, Annie said. During periods of racial violence in America, Annie said she felt moved by white friends who reached out to her with compassion and openness to learning more about the issues. “It’s easy to write people off and ignore them, but that’s treacherous,” she said, urging students to “love harder” in the face of intolerance. “I’m not saying it’s easy. I am saying that it’s necessary.”
Annie was featured in the Fall 2016 issue of Milton Magazine. To read more about her background and work, click here.