In June 2020, Alex Hickey wrote that many of the most influential brands on earth had made powerful commitments to improve racial equity last year. But their legacy in confronting racial injustice will be determined by their actions when the world isn't watching. That is the definition of character. Who you are when everyone is watching, and your actions when no one is looking.
What used to be a jumble of acronyms meant to convey corporate responsibility to a greater, more representative society is, in fact, a social imperative that takes time. We cannot unwind 100s of years of racial divide by merely adding new corporate seats and commitments. Instead, we can look for people with the drive for change and the leadership to support dynamic, consistent, and committed actions. There's one other requirement for dedicated DEI work, empathy—the ability to understand and share another's feelings. Axon recently added Lara McLeod as the Director of Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion to our team and launched the JEDI initiative.
“Establishing a formal DEI program allows us to effectively monitor and measure our progress against the goals most companies want to achieve. At Axon, though, we seek to go beyond traditional DEI by including a social justice aspect. We needed someone who similarly goes above and beyond the conventional DEI role. Lara is exceptionally talented and exactly the right person to lead the groundbreaking JEDI initiative at Axon. I couldn’t be more exuberant to have her on our team,”,” commented Jawad Ahsan, Axon CFO and JEDI Executive Sponsor.
At 19, Lara McLeod found herself amid a terrifying trauma that changed her career trajectory and law enforcement perspective. She shared, "I shifted my career focus because I refused to be defined as a victim and instead chose to use the experience as a defining moment in my life — turning what could have been another statistic into courage and positivity for change."
Ms. McLeod's approach is more nuanced and deeply empathic. She sees the current state of our binary belonging and polarizing viewpoints as disconnected from our inherently multi-dimensional human existence. She offers guidance for understanding discomfort, and comfortable space for brave dialogue by offering grace in return. We need to re-learn how to offer grace to each other—the grace to change your mind and the grace to hear a person's truth.
"Look, people are terrified to have a race conversation. We've over-indexed on generalizations and prejudice, sometimes justifiably. Still, if we can strip that back and create guiding principles and ground rules to learn from each other, dialogue about highly uncomfortable issues, we can find a connection point. Change happens over time; great character, empathy, and action can help nudge us toward an agreement that we all deserve to be represented and cared for." Lara McLeod, Axon Director of Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
Lara will partner with other leaders like Regina Holloway, Axon VP of Community Impact, and our executive team guiding us on how to engage in meaningful JEDI impact. Our employees' learning and actions will deploy with intention, measurement, and policies that drive material change for our company and the communities we represent. In 2021, it's time to move beyond the basics of hiring pledges, sourcing, training, and awareness. It is time to square up the basics with measurable change within our companies that impacts more than annual reports and instead spills out into our communities.
THE AXON JEDI MINDSET & COMMITMENT PLEDGE
Axon is committed to purposefully seeking out, attracting, and developing diverse talent; recruiting, promoting, and rewarding people equitably to ensure equal access to opportunity and success; valuing and leveraging differences of all kinds in our shared goal to Protect Life.
Our strategic JEDI plan includes goals, new investments, and accountability measurements, which will be originated and shaped by the inputs of our employees, leaders, and the communities we serve. It includes our closely held values: Win Right, Aim Far, Join Forces, and our vision to build racial equity, diversity, and inclusion.
Part of our mission is to accelerate justice, and we do that by making JEDI part of our regular business decisions, processes, products, and actions. We will continue to assess our progress, test new ideas, and have difficult conversations about complex issues. We will listen, we will learn, we will build, and we will improve together.