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INSPIRE 20 Podcast: Anjuan Simmons, Help Scout

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Linda Rosencrance Freelance writer/editor
 

An actor on a popular 1960s television show found out that a woman on the show wasn't being paid as much as the male actors. Since he was one of the most beloved stars on the show, he had a lot of influence.

He went to the studio executives and used his influence to demand equal pay for the woman. And it worked. She received pay equal to that of her male counterparts.

The television show was Star Trek; the male actor was Leonard Nimoy, who played Spock; and the female actor was Nichelle Nichols, who played Uhura. This is an example of how lending privilege works. Nimoy lent his gender privilege and his influence with the fans to further Nichols' position by giving her access to better pay.

Anjuan Simmons tells this story often, to illustrate the model Nimoy provides for how to address the issue of diversity in the technology industry.

The Inspire 20 Podcast Series

Listen in to the podcast with Anjuan Simmons on Apple PodcastsSoundCloud, or Spotify. Plus: See all INSPIRE 20 podcasts.

Simmons, the man behind the lending privilege idea, is one of the executives taking part in INSPIRE 20, a new podcast series that showcases 20 executives from around the world who are making a difference in terms of inclusion and diversity in their organizations, communities, and/or industries.

Coach, techie, diversity proponent

An engineering coach at Help Scout, a provider of business software, Simmons speaks at conferences, seminars, schools, and community centers around the world on topics including agile software development, diversity, and leadership. Simmons has worked in tech for 20 years, including at major consulting companies such as Deloitte and Accenture.

During the podcast interview, Simmons explains that during these 20 years, he didn't like the way that conversations about diversity and inclusion were going. He didn't think people understood these sensitive topics and therefore couldn't do anything to advance diversity and inclusion in the tech workplace.

So Simmons decided to figure out a way to help people understand that inclusion is something everyone can do—a way to lend privilege to make technology a more diverse and inclusive industry.

Getting others involved 

"Lending privilege can work in companies by understanding the ways that companies operate."
Anjuan Simmons

He describes various examples of lending privilege in the Inspire 20 podcast. Companies operate by collecting people and aligning these people with some outcome. Those people often come from different backgrounds, and those backgrounds influence the experiences those people have.

"I've always believed that one aspect of inclusion and diversity work is that people can bring their true selves to work. When people feel safe enough to bring their true selves to work, then you get their best work."

And, with enough coaching, diversity and inclusion are sure to follow. 

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