By Sara Alvarez Kleinsmith, thought leadership, Dell Technologies
Bethany Mason knows all about the importance of being an ally and upstander within an organization. As director of Global Employer Brand Strategy at Dell Technologies, she’s made strides to help create equity for all. This includes giving voice to diverse perspectives and backgrounds and understanding how team members work best to help businesses succeed.
Mason believes that actively listening to people is an art that many businesses haven’t yet cracked. We see this in our latest research. According to Dell’s “Breakthrough” Study, 83% of 10,500 respondents polled say their leaders overlook different perspectives/viewpoints. More than one in three (34%) employees claim their leaders treat staff as dispensable. Most employees (59%) are still not experiencing fair, merit-based decision-making and equal opportunities in their roles.
Mason rails against these inequalities, which is why we consider her a Breakthrough Champion. We asked her how to create change within organizations and the importance of being an active ally.
“We’re still fighting a lot of these battles, but I think that’s what keeps me going. Those moments keep me engaged in wanting to do the right thing.”
—Bethany Mason, director of Global Employer Brand Strategy, Dell Technologies
What set you on the path to creating equitable practices in the workplace?
I was born in the United States, but my family moved to Mexico City when I was 6 months old. My father is Mexican, so I come from a multicultural background, which I truly believe shaped my perspective on many topics. I was fortunate enough to attend a private school, but every morning on my way in, kids younger than I would come up to our car begging for food. They had nothing. No shoes, their clothes were torn, and all they wanted was something to eat that day. This was just one example of some of the major disparities I’ve witnessed, that’s made me recognize my privilege, made me feel uncomfortable and drove me to want to be part of the solution. To this day, this sense of mission is foundational to everything I do.
You’ve been able to lead and participate in teams that have enabled progress for employees of different backgrounds. Can you talk about that experience?
While working at Macy’s in Cincinnati, I experienced one of my first major career accomplishments. I initiated the first Mid-West Pride employee resource group. I am a cisgender woman, but I recognized that all team members and colleagues needed a safe space to have conversations. LGBTQIA+ employees deserve a place where they can come together and celebrate their lives, their partners, their spouses, and their children—just like everyone else.
As a company, we worked to expand into different parts of the country sponsor and support several Pride parades. At one point, I was coordinating 23 Pride parades across the country in support of our employees, making sure that they had a voice and were represented in the communities we live and work in.
I then went on to lead the diversity, equity and inclusion team at Dollar General in Goodlettsville, TN for three years. I’m extremely proud of bringing a rating of 100% to the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index for Dollar General, guaranteeing equality for our LGBTQIA+ employees at the time, including transgender benefits. From then on, all team members were able to get the healthcare they needed to fully be themselves, their whole selves. I still have a text on my phone from one of our team members thanking me for the opportunity to finally get the support and care they needed. It’s my reminder that we can all make an impact. We can all fight for more justice in the world.
You have a passion for diversity, equity, and inclusion. How is DEI integral to creating a culture of innovation?
DEI and innovation go hand in hand. Diversity brings different perspectives and experiences to the table. Diverse representation on a project fosters innovation and collaboration. It informs how a company looks at projects. Dell is an amazing example of that. I can’t say it enough—many teams I get to partner with really understand where pain points and opportunities exist for all of our team members, customers and the global community. Without having that culture of being open and encouraging conversation, I don’t think we would be as innovative as we are.
How can leaders support a diverse workforce?
I think there are some leaders that make assumptions about an individual based on their background, accent or style. The reality is that until we shake off our quick judgments, or unintended bias, and really meet people where they are, neither the individual, the team nor the company will progress. It all comes back to the importance of empathy and having open conversations. It takes learning about that individual, how they work best and what it takes to encourage them. None of that happens unless you build and foster relationships to find points of commonality.
How does technology serve as a function of DEI?
If you don’t have exposure to technology, even at an early age, you’re already at a disadvantage. But I truly believe that technology can create equity and opportunity by leveling the playing field for everyone. It allows people to bring more of their skill set to the table and discover paths to success and innovative solutions. You know there are students who don’t have access to technology, but if they did, they’d be writing code? In 2020, 15 million American public students were without access to the technology they needed to learn virtually, and most of them were students of color. This widened the learning gap.
These are kids who could one day be solving some of the world’s biggest problems, but the fact that they have been at a disadvantage and not exposed to technology means that we’re cutting them, and ourselves, short as a society. If we have communities that are given secure internet access, as the Solar Community Hubs are doing, or empowering a new generation like Dell Tech Crew, we can democratize technology and create equity. That’s another reason I love being part of a company like Dell, which is investing in closing that digital divide and ensuring people have access to systems and technology that will not only advance their lives but also allow them to contribute to their community.
What advice would you give to those looking for jobs who may feel discouraged by a lack of representation or opportunities?
I would say to find a company that closely aligns with your values. Find a company that really walks the walk, that is publicly coming out and making statements or supporting organizations that are closely aligned with what you value in work culture. As a Latina, I want to see diversity represented in many ways, including in the top echelons. I think it’s really important to look for organizations that are willing to say when they’ve made mistakes and recognize shortcomings. None of us are perfect, but organizations making the effort are investing in their people.
Progress isn’t easy. You’ll hear “no” a lot. But I remember in 2015, when marriage equality became the law of the land. It was a great day. I still remember looking at my husband and we both began to cry. We were so proud to have played even the smallest part in that victory. Our LGBTQ+ family and friends, all my team-mates over the years—all of these people are so important to us—and now, we have the same marriage equality. And even though we still have a long way to go, that moment reminds me to not give up hope.
I want to remind those searching for opportunities, that you are valuable. Your background, your experiences, your identity, and your perspective are part of who you are, and a part of the reason you are an asset. We see and embrace all of you. DEI&B is a journey, and I find that exciting because I don’t know what’s next, but I want to be part of it.
Breakthrough Champions is a series on Perspectives profiling ordinary Dell employees doing amazing things to advance digital transformation. The series is inspired by Dell’s “Breakthrough” platform and the belief that progress happens at the intersection of people and technology.