5 Questions About DE&I with Meredith Ackerman
- Diversity. Equity. Inclusion. Three significant words often strung together with the power to shape a stronger company culture and workplace environment for all.
- Samsung is continuing to make progress on our journey towards driving meaningful change. And we’re spotlighting the DE&I champions within our organization that are instrumental in enabling us to make an impact.
- “Representation matters. Knowing that people like you can and have succeeded is so critical to imagining and realizing your full potential.” – Meredith Ackerman
Diversity. Equity. Inclusion. Three significant words often strung together with the power to shape a stronger company culture and workplace environment for all.
At Samsung, it’s part of our company’s heritage to push boundaries and defy barriers to achieve meaningful progress and power bold innovation. But innovation doesn’t just happen — it is designed by humans for humans. And a critical ingredient is our inclusive culture and diverse workforce. Our company is made up of nearly 270,000 people around the world of different ethnicities, races, genders, sexual orientations, identities, religious beliefs, and abilities. But together, we’re ONE global team united by Samsung’s purpose and values.
Action is another noteworthy word. Samsung is continuing to make progress on our journey towards driving meaningful change. And we want to spotlight the DE&I champions within our organization that have been and continue to be instrumental in enabling us to make an impact and helping to create a rich sense of belonging where everyone can thrive.
Timed to Women’s History Month, an annual celebration that recognizes the contributions and achievements of women all throughout the nation’s history, we sat down with Meredith Ackerman – a proud Samsung employee and leader of our Women+ in Samsung Electronics (WISE+) employee resource group (ERG). Here’s what she had to say about DE&I…
1. What has been your greatest learning or most exciting experience in your career journey as it relates to DE&I?
As employment counsel, or the lead “HR Lawyer,” DE&I is one of the most exciting parts of my day job that frequently intersects with my life job as a mom to two young children – my 6-year-old 1st grade daughter and 4-year-old pre-K son. Between the birth of my two children, I had the opportunity to contribute to Samsung Electronics America’s evaluation of Parental Leave Benefits in 2017. I approached this task with multiple viewpoints. First, my day job: what are the legal requirements and considerations? Second, as a WISE+ leader: what are the women of our organization identifying as their top priorities to support, retain, and develop female talent? Third, as a new mom to a then-1-year-old also expecting my second child, what life experiences could I bring to the conversation as the only young(er) mother in our executive meetings? The outcome of our project was to increase paid parental leave from 5 days to 12 weeks. That alone was an exciting win for me personally, our colleagues, community, and the company as a whole! But just as valuable were the lessons I learned. My main takeaway: Do not assume a rule, policy, or circumstance that you do not like exists due to any conscious negative intent. Those who you view as “making” rules or policies may have only inherited them and not been forced to think critically about them. Simply because change requires advocacy does not mean that these discussions must be adversarial. Build the strong case for what you view as better and I think you can often be surprised at how well your arguments may be received. I would much rather assume that I can convince and influence change than be angry about a situation or feel hopeless about changing it.
2. Can you share a little about what’s shaped your passion for creating a more equitable workplace?
I am the granddaughter of immigrants from Spain and Nicaragua who came to this country with few English language skills. My maternal grandparents raised my mother who became a highly successful federal prosecutor and then state court appellate judge. I can proudly say and see clearly now that my mother blazed trails so that not only I, but other female legal professionals, could stand on her and others’ shoulders. I must confess, however, that it took time for me to truly appreciate this point. I also offer the perspective of a cliché teenager who often thought she knew best. Because I grew up with a mother who showed me that women could be phenomenally successful in their careers, my teenaged instinctive response was an eye roll when my mother told me about challenges she faced as a young professional and that her parents faced as one of few Hispanic families in suburban Long Island in the 1950-60s.
Entering the professional world after law school, I had a whole new appreciation for the true meaning of the stories I had heard. I saw more clearly how unique my mother’s achievements were and my appreciation multiplied. My main takeaway from this story arc is that “representation matters.” Knowing that people like you can and have succeeded is so critical to imagining and realizing your full potential. I take on personal responsibility to continue to embody this lesson for my children, other women, parents of young children, and other people with whom I share traits, experiences, or perspectives. I also take responsibility for enabling others to succeed and continue the virtuous cycle of impactful representation of historically under-represented groups.
3. Do you believe that diverse and inclusive teams are the engines of innovation?
I see this as very simple logic. First, innovation comes from thinking differently. Second, the best way to think differently is to access different points of view. Third, to bring together different points of view, you must have diversity of experience and thought. Finally, to ensure those diverse perspectives are heard, diverse people must feel included and empowered to speak out.
4. What’s one simple way your fellow colleagues can turn allyship into action?
Be intentional about support. Tell people in unequivocal terms that you support them. And then repeat it. I believe finding this connection can come from finding common ground – either a shared project, interest, or experience. Offer help in an array of ways so that those you want to support can choose how to tap into the resources you may be able to offer.
5. What advice would you give to your younger self?
Rather than leaning into frustration, assume two things: positive intent in others and that with hard work you can convince others to see an array of perspectives, including your own. As you can see, the fact that I was raised by lawyers makes me want to believe that I can convince any jury with a truly compelling closing statement!