Inclusion takes effort
Alicia McNease began her career at Calendly as our Internal Communications team of one. She brought immediate impact in helping Calendly efficiently and effectively deliver valuable communications to its people, when opportunity came knocking. That opportunity was to lead Calendly’s DEI strategy as Calendly’s Senior DEI Program Manager.
McNease’s passion for DEI began long before it was ever called DEI, when it was just called ‘culture’. Early in her career, McNease tackled a number of challenges in the ‘culture’ space where she pushed the boundaries and opened minds around her through conversations. “I’m not a fan of cookie cutter approaches and I like to think about things differently. I believe that you have to go backwards and understand where we started and how we got to where we are today.”
An example of her approach was when she hosted an event at her previous employer, the Atlanta Hawks, in honor and recognition of the MLK holiday. She invited a professor who was a local Atlanta history expert where he shared the history of Atlanta and answered valuable questions as to why Atlanta is and was the Black mecca? How did that impact the Atlanta Hawks franchise? How did it shape the organization today? That conversation validated her belief in the power of education and open discussion. That belief has carried through in her work here at Calendly.
When McNease joined Calendly, it was the first organization where she thought it was diverse and where she felt she had true allies in different spaces. “I realized that diversity was an actual focus [at Calendly], especially in getting to know Tope, our Founder and CEO, and hearing his comments on a lot of things made me realize that this was an important focus. So the next step for me was to get involved.”
In only a few short months, McNease has made some serious impact on the people at Calendly. She launched and co-chaired the first of three Belonging Groups at Calendly with Black at Calendly and co-led a Black in Tech panel event in recognition of Black History Month. She has now supported the launch of six Belonging Groups and counting as part of Calendly’s broader DEI strategy. She’s working across the business to understand our demographic data and mapping out where we need to move the needle as an organization. But for her, the Candid Conversations series is what she views as the most impactful work she’s doing right now. “Knowing I have the ability to curate those types of conversations is so powerful. Folks are fearful if they don’t get it right the first time. There are many people in the DEI space who think people should already know [all things DEI and I think that can be an unfair view]. ‘Cancel culture’ is real and there has to be an equal exchange of being given grace and space to learn while also having accountability for one’s actions. Change is uncomfortable and it isn’t easy. We have to be intentional, make the extra effort and do it together. What Candid Conversations really is about is talking about the uncomfortable things to learn, grow and ultimately take action that leads to change.”
DEI is unique in the sense that it is a journey with no destination. It is forever something we all Strive For Excellence in knowing we will never be perfect individuals. We will forever continue to evolve and learn from one another. When McNease thinks about the work she is doing, the impact she is making and the future she wants to see, there is a single foundation that has to be there for all of us to build on. “Accountability. We need a culture of accountability when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion. It means we can have the conversations AND change to correct mistakes and shift future outcomes. Specifically thinking about the world of technology, we need a culture of consistent collaboration, more diverse faces in leadership and entrepreneurship. We need to continue to support funding for those underrepresented people groups (UPGs) who want to own businesses and shift from a “bro club” culture that does not promote inclusivity. Everyone uses technology in some way, so the tech space should be a reflection of that and look like the world around us. We need to think about the tech behind educational assessments, future interview tools, artificial intelligence, robots etc. If you don’t have diversity at the table, ultimately we all lose. While it may feel scary, don’t make that fear about you. Think about how to make it better for our future and for the next generation.”