Fifteen years ago, I was working for my company representing Canada on a North America level project with people from US areas. David (not his real name) was assigned to the project to represent the southern states of the USA. David and I ended up taking the lead.
Because we lived so far apart, we did all our collaborating over the phone and the Internet. We spent many hours talking about our project, We got to know each other fairly well.
I enjoyed the project and the people, but It was a real delight working with David. He was bright and funny and so competent in helping accomplish our task. It was clear to me that the project would be a success in large part because of him.
In the course of our conversations, I learned that he had 25 years of experience in the company. He had great insights into sales and marketing. I also learned that he volunteered at prisons on the weekends. I was really impressed.
One day he happened to mention his job level and I was shocked. Based on our work together, I’d have guessed he was a sales executive, not a low-level staff person. It was obvious his management knew how good he was, or he wouldn’t have been assigned to this international project.
Finally, we got to a crucial point in the project and it was time for a face-to-face meeting.
As I drove to the Sheraton Hotel for that Tuesday morning meeting, I mulled over why this man, with 25 years of success in the company, was still at a job three levels below mine. How could this be?
Suddenly, it dawned on me. “I bet David is black!”
I was right.
I was never less proud of my company.
And I wondered how many executives had been rewarded for his diligent work on their behalf.
I’d like to think things are better now (fifteen years later) but the events of the last few weeks have reinforced the truth that inequality is still rampant.