Tami DeWeese: How My Working Mom Experience Shed Light on the Need for Allyship
Samsung is continuing to make progress on our diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) journey towards driving meaningful change. And we want to spotlight the DEI 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 Equality Day, an annual commemoration of the passage of the 19th Amendment that gave some women the right to vote, we sat down with Tami DeWeese, Director, People Team – Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, a member of our DE&I Council, an ally to and member of all employee resource groups (ERG) and first national leader of Women+ in Samsung Electronics (WISE). Here’s what she had to say about DEI…
1. What has been your greatest learning or most exciting experience in your career journey as it relates to DE&I?
Serving as a DEI leader has broadened my perspective in a positive way. I’ve met so many amazing people and been moved by their stories. During my corporate career spanning 25-plus years, I’ve seen how allyship in action changes lives. I’ve been both a beneficiary of allyship when colleagues stood up for me and I’ve taken action for others when they were fearful of speaking up for themselves.
A lot of my work is behind the scenes, helping employees through the ranks, building and shaping company-wide programs, and influencing change. It’s personally rewarding when I’m a part of empowering people, bolstering their confidence, amplifying their voice, and lifting them up to move the needle. What keeps me going is the gratitude I receive from employees that I’ve been able to help. It’s difficult to quantify and correlate all the positive moments and outcomes in a performance review or a resume, but in my heart, I feel satisfied that I’m living up to my core values and making a difference. We all win when we work together.
2. What obstacles have you overcome as an Asian woman in the technology industry?
I first broke into tech in my late 20s, interviewing for a prestigious Global Account Manager position. It was the toughest, most intimidating two-hour panel interview I’ve ever been a part of. I had to overcome being an industry outsider as I had never worked in telecom or tech. I was perceived as being too junior because I was at least 10 years younger than the team and only had a couple of years of prior outside sales experience. There were two women on the panel who saw my transferrable skills, attitude, and grit. The manager took a chance on me and gave me the job despite other team members’ resistance, preferring someone who could “hit the ground running.” This is why diverse interview teams are vital and this is an example of it in action. That was a pivotal and life-changing moment for me that helped put me on a vastly different career trajectory. It was one of my first big professional breaks and it gave me the confidence to tackle other new, unchartered assignments and roles throughout my career.
3. What’s one simple way your fellow colleagues can turn allyship into action?
Understand the privileges and advantages you have – and how you can utilize them for the greater good. The tiniest allyship actions can be life-changing for others. Make time to establish an employee connection beyond work output. Proactively open the networking door for someone and broker a warm introduction giving access to a new relationship. Find moments to let employees have a seat at the table with you so they can observe and learn without the pressure to deliver. These can be especially impactful for underrepresented talent.
A personal example of allyship in action: As a working mom, I experienced a very disrespectful situation at work. I had started a new sales job at a new company soon after I had my first child. As part of my onboarding, I had to attend a two-week orientation in another state, so I got permission to fly home over the weekend to be with my then four-month-old baby. During the first week of training, when it came time for me to leave to catch my flight – which required me to leave the session 30 minutes early, the lead trainer made a big scene by yelling, aggressively swiping papers, and throwing a pencil across the room in disgust. It took all of my energy to maintain my composure at the moment despite feeling humiliated in front of the entire class. I spent the weekend with my family and when I returned on Monday, a senior leader approached me and said he had submitted a complaint about the trainer. In fact, multiple people reached out to me to say that they applauded the way I calmly handled the situation. To this day, I ask myself, “would a working father have faced the same harsh reaction, or would he have been positioned as being a good dad?” While that was over a decade ago, working moms still face workplace challenges. The double standards are a contributor to holding women back and according to the June 2023 World Economic Forum report, it will take 131 years until we reach full gender parity. I was very thankful for the allyship and action from the male senior leader. All this to say that allyship in the workplace matters.
4. Do you believe that diverse and inclusive teams are the engines of innovation?
I am a firm believer in “getting the right people on the bus” who bring diverse perspectives, skills, and experiences to drive bold conversations that lead to unique and innovative ideas. A lot of thought and care needs to go into building a diverse team because diversity without inclusion is exclusion. I’ve seen and been part of amazing teams with leaders who truly understand its value. The outcome: our teams produced better business results, established deep loyalty, and we had a lot of fun along the way. Diverse and inclusive teams are comprised of people, not machines. We need more leaders willing to use their power to help all people, make time to intently listen to new perspectives, unlearn narratives, trust mistakes are part of the process, and follow through with action. It’s the human connections that drive innovation and power greatness in all of us.
5. What advice would you give to your younger self?
Understand the value of relationships. Growing up and in my early career, I thought my intelligence, focus, and hard work were the key contributors to success. During my sales career, we were always told to build customer relationships to drive new business. Initially, that advice felt foreign to me because it wasn’t part of my early professional training. I wish I had internalized sooner how valuable networking and relationships are to your professional growth. The starting line is not the same for everyone and systemic barriers still hold people back. (To put this in context, the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1788. The 19th Amendment was passed in 1919. It’s unacceptable to wait more than 130 years for gender parity. And to think that Black women had no voice in government for another 45 years until the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965.) That said, create a network – your own board of directors – with strong, long-lasting relationships with people who genuinely care about you and want to help you succeed. The sooner you combine this with your confidence, strengths, and skills, you’ll have more time for greater impact and life success.