Using power and privilege to create change vs. simply upholding the status quo

Aurora Archer
4 min readJun 21, 2021

Over the course of my entire 20+ year corporate career I never experienced walking into a conference room or leadership meeting that looked or felt as diverse as the new cabinet and staff President Joe Biden has assembled. And unfortunately as an entrepreneur the trend continues as I mostly join Zoom meetings that are filled with white, cis, able bodied people and our clients continue to ask us why and to help them change, to be more inclusive. Meanwhile the President, a 77-year old white man who has spent his career working predominantly in white, male spaces, had the ability to bring together a team that includes many who do not look or think like him.

Make no mistake, President Biden may have the most powerful government in the world at his disposal, but in creating this team he did not pull off a magic trick. I would like to call out some key actions (not just words) we are seeing being modeled by a white, cis gendered, Catholic, heterosexual, male, able-bodied white Baby Boomer:

1. Leading and owning it from the top: Biden is not only naming the problems of white supremacy, racism and systemic racism, he is putting his words into action by who he is choosing to put on his team, and by being intentional with who he showcases. Yesterday we all watched Eugene Goodman, the Black Capitol policeman who so bravely put himself between the rioters and our nation’s Congresspeople escort Kamala Harris to her seat, and we sat transfixed as Amanda Gorman, a young Black poet, read her poem. Biden could have chosen from any number of white men or women who may have been deserving of the spotlight for their acts or talents; but he saw his inauguration and the millions of people watching as an important time to amplify Black Americans.

2. Centering values: Oftentimes companies have values that are mere window dressing on their websites and not really embodied in how the organization behaves and takes action. During the swearing in of his senior staff with the oath of office, Biden clearly laid out the values and cultural norms that will govern how his organization will behave, treat each other and carry out their duties to the administration and the American people.

3. Clarity of accountability and consequences: After laying out the code of values and culture that will govern how his team operates, Biden stated what will happen if the values are not adhered to….he will fire you. He didn’t say you will be placed on a performance plan or moved into a different department or role — the shell game many companies play that merely moves the problem around vs. addressing it. In Biden’s administration a failure to treat others with respect will get you fired, period. Biden also made it clear that he feels he and the members of his team have an accountability for change — for modeling the decency, mutual respect and unity that have been lacking over the past four years. Again, he was clear that he holds himself as the beacon for showing how important this is, and that anyone who wants to work on his team must follow suit.

4. Abundance in talent: Perhaps one of the most disheartening things we hear when we work with organizations is the continued echoes that lack of representation is a “pipeline issue.” We’ve been told repeatedly that Black/Brown people don’t know about certain industries and that’s why they’re difficult to source. I imagine that Biden went into his sourcing process with the opposite mindset: that there is more than enough Black/Brown talent to fill all of his team and cabinet roles. This thinking undoubtedly sent a clear message to everyone from his talent recruiting team to the hiring managers, to those who were interviewed and ultimately signed on to be a part of his administration. If a white man who has spent nearly four decades in one of the whitest spaces in our country has the vision and philosophy that Black/Brown talent is abundant, then corporate America should believe it as strongly as he does.

The last point I want to make is how important it was yesterday to see and hear Biden use his influence as the white man at the top to stay on message over and over and over again about how important diversity, opportunity, and tackling racism are. To many, Kamala would be the natural one to bring up this issue — after all, aren’t Black people always the ones called upon to lead DE&I efforts and come up with the solutions? Perhaps Biden has realized that the time has come for white people to own their contribution to the white spaces we live and work in, to lead the charge in de-centering whiteness, to letting his Black colleague rest and bask in being our first ever female Vice President, and to showing all of America what it means to own, without shame or blame, a path forward that creates equity and humanity for all.

#optintochange #optintodobetter #representationmatters

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Aurora Archer

Passionate Type A. Believer in making this life count thru ideas + adding value + always learning + making a difference & change happen. Digital. Marketer.