eBay’s Chief Diversity Officer Damien Hooper-Campbell on Intersectionality, Sponsoring Conferences and Self-Care
On November 7, 2018, #movethedial hosted their inaugural #movethedial Global Summit, a one-day, first of its kind conference that brought together more than 1,000 corporate leaders, emerging leaders, and youth who share a deep interest in technology and innovation; inspiring and empowering them to unlock Canada’s potential as the most inclusive technology ecosystem in the world.
The most impressive part? The program included 50 speakers including executives and tech founders and funders from highly diverse backgrounds telling their unique stories and sharing strategies, tools, and best practices to attract, support, and retain women in tech.
Although each speaker brought a really unique and engaging perspective to the conversation, there was one person, in particular, that I felt most compelled to interview: Damien Hooper-Campbell, Chief Diversity Officer at eBay.
You see in a society where we currently can’t go a second without hearing about another diversity and inclusion event, article, report, etc. (and don’t get me wrong, I’m very glad this conversation is finally getting the attention it deserves), eBay is one of those companies that is quietly hustling in the background. A simple glance through their 2017 Diversity and Inclusion Report shows that they’re not just down for the cause but have been putting in the work necessary to make real change. They have had made great progress but they’re not exactly shouting it from the rooftops. They’re humble, if you will.
That said, it makes sense that Damien Hooper-Campbell works for a company who’s values seem to align well with his personality. Sure, he has an extremely impressive professional and educational background but he’s as humble and friendly as you can imagine. Prior to eBay, Damien served as Uber’s first Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion, where he helped set the company’s foundational Diversity and Inclusion strategy and led its community engagement efforts with the City of Oakland, CA. Before that, he advised Google’s senior leaders and built partnerships within the Black community as a Diversity Strategist in the company’s Diversity team.
“You’re the one who was blowing up my Twitter notifications!” he exclaimed as he greeted me with a warm smile and a hug.
Guilty as charged.
Just a few hours prior to our interview, Damien took the stage to deliver an extremely engaging keynote on breaking conventionalism and within a few minutes, it was clear he wasn’t there to waste any time. I couldn’t help but tweet out all the incredible takeaways.
“I’m pushing you all to go beyond the B.S.”, he declared as he walked through why many companies have yet to see real results from their diversity and inclusion efforts. In order to actually move the dial, we need to look at convention and break it.
Many companies’ approach to diversity and inclusion can typically fall into 3 key groups:
- Spending more and more money
- Investing in more training
- They say nothing at all
After reflecting on the convention breakers in his own life (one being his mother), the audience was then given time to think about the convention breakers in their own life.
So, then how do we actually move forward? Here are 3 questions Damien left the audience to consider:
- Why does or doesn’t your CEO care?
Give them the space to think about how important diversity and inclusion is to them but also make it your mission to underscore its importance.
- Are you calling in or calling out?
Our society loves to call people out for making mistakes. Instead of immediately jumping to Twitter to call someone out, call them into the conversation and try to understand their perspective first.
- Are you a convention keeper or breaker?
He brought such a refreshing perspective to the conversation that certainly left myself and those around me with a lot to think about. Although I definitely tweeted through his entire keynote as he dropped truth after truth in an informative, humorous and authentic way — I was eager for a few minutes to dive deeper into eBay’s approach to diversity and inclusion (D&I), how the company evaluates the conferences they show up at, the increasing need for self-care and advice for those looking to work in the D&I space.
I’ve had the opportunity to read in-depth about the work that eBay is doing and I think it’s incredible. I would consider eBay to be a leader in the diversity and inclusion space but I feel like we don’t hear about it often enough! So, could you talk a little bit about that? Are we going to hear more about what eBay is doing? There’s so much all of us can learn from eBay but it’s not talked about in the media!
Here’s the truth: eBay has been at this for a long time. Long before I ever joined the company and I salute the people who have come before me. A lot of our work though was focused on gender — in a singular sense and even within that, there wasn’t a lot of conversation around intersectionality that comes within gender. So not just thinking about women but women of colour or you know, sexual orientation or preference when it comes to gender. That’s very typical of the tech industry, at least a few years ago.
And so, when I was hired, my CEO Devin Wenig said “There’s more to this. We know that there is. Help us to broaden our definition.” We’re not going to stop focusing on gender but let’s double click on gender and let’s start to click even deeper into these other groups.
And then, you incorporate intersectionality into that strategy.
That’s right. And I say all that to say (and to go back to your question as to whether or not you’re going to see us more): Yes but like, the last thing we want to do is get out publicly and pound our chests and say we’ve won.
Because, this is long-term. It’s really complex. Just as soon as you think you’ve won one slither of this journey, there’s a new one that pops up. So, eBay is not the kind of company that gets out there and brags about our stuff. We’re very purpose-driven and that’s why a lot of people came to the company.
We are out there though. If you look at this eBay when it came to this conversation 3 years ago and you look at us today, we’re definitely out there. We’ve released our diversity and inclusion report. We have our external site. We didn’t have that two and a half years ago. So, you will see more but it will be very tempered. That’s our style.
Speaking of showing up and to reference eBay’s diversity and inclusion report, you talk about showing up at conferences and in the community. How do you choose to show up at conferences and what does your criteria look like?
I won’t give you a full rubric because sometimes I put things through a rubric and then I’m like, to hell with that rubric, we’re just going to do this! There isn’t any rhyme or reason other than this feels aligned.
In many cases, it is looking at a rubric and I’ll just tell you that the things we look at are:
- Is the organization externally aligned with what we believe in? Opportunity for all, using tech for good, giving people a fair shot and leveling the playing field.
- We don’t like to just pay money and throw our logo on stuff just to say we were there too…like, so what?!
I am so glad to hear you say that! A simple logo doesn’t do anything.
Yeah! The woke individuals in this world, and those are the ones we want, the ones who are really real and come to work because they want to change the world, they can look beyond that. They can say, “Hey, we’ve seen that you’ve sponsored this party but we didn’t see anybody from there!”
So, we don’t mind the branding but what’s more important to us is an opportunity to share our narrative with a community that maybe hasn’t heard it. When I get back to San Francisco, we’re going to be supporting a group called Blavity (and their AfroTech conference) for the 3rd year in a row. We’ve supported them since their inaugural year.
Morgan and Aaron and the founders of the organization are aligned with exactly what we believe in. They are creating access to opportunity. It’s a segment for eBay — the millennial generation but also the Black community is one that maybe we haven’t engaged with proactively historically.
So that’s why we continue to show up and when we go there, guess what we’re going to do? We have the sister who designed all the jewelry for the Black Panther movie. She’s giving us some of her pieces and we’ll be showcasing that and giving people an opportunity to buy it. We have a brother who’s doing a special release for the Black Panther comic (who designed it and the whole nine) and we’ll showcase him. People can order on eBay and pick it up right there.
Yes, so that’s us being intentional about our marketplace and giving shine to other people — but it’s also good for business for eBay.
Move the Dial, AfroTech, the Grace Hopper Conference…those are all events that are no-brainers.
We also like to show up where maybe you wouldn’t expect us to show up. At a conference that isn’t focused on diversity and inclusion.
So, maybe smaller community events that still have a large reach?
Or, maybe even bigger events that are focused on technology and innovation but have never really had a diversity and inclusion aspect to their content. We work and proactively look to find these opportunities.
The people who came to this, I’m not worried about attendees here (at the #movethedial Global Summit). For the most part, we’re all down for the cause. I still think the message today was important about breaking convention but we also want to get to audience that might not normally self-select into a conference like this because we need those audiences as partners.
Absolutely. And of course, after hearing you speak on stage and talking to you now for this interview, this work seems so personal. You talked about your mom and other family members who you consider to be convention breakers and I think for a lot of people of colour who work in the diversity and inclusion space, this work is personal to us. That being said, do you see self-care and wellness being more important for people like ourselves who are in the trenches doing that work?
The way I think about it is (and I like plain analogies):
When you get on the flight, before you take off, they give you the whole spiel about in case of an emergency, put your oxygen mask on first before anyone else’s.
I’d be lying if I said that’s something I’ve always embodied. It isn’t. It’s something I’m still working at.
A lot of us are.
I couldn’t agree more that for people who are in this work — a lot of this work is in the head but a lot of this is about heart…and the heart affects the soul.
So, absolutely. Self-care is huge. It’s huge even for minority communities that are not in this work. Research shows that we’ll use churches and barber shops before we tagged with the stigma of going to a psychologist.
Not only do I have an invisible disability of ADHD but I also see a therapist. My goodness, can you imagine if it was mandated that everyone in the world must see a therapist? You know how many wars would have been avoided?
So, yes I agree. We’re actually talking with an organization called The Steve Fund that was founded by a close family friend of mine after a personal tragedy. It’s the first of its kind in that they focus on underrepresented minority college students and mental health. So now, we’re talking about if this is something we should be doing inside of companies. There is no one size fits all. Women might have different mental health needs just like people of colour might have different mental health needs. So we are looking at how we create the right partnerships to customize this diversity and inclusion thing.
So, I have one last question then: what advice would you share with someone who is looking to work in the diversity and inclusion space?
First and foremost, know why you’re getting into this space. This is wonderful, rewarding work but it isn’t always pretty. It might look a certain way on the outside when companies are releasing reports…but very few people have been inside a company dealing with the reality of not a company who doesn’t care but of dealing with human beings.
Try convincing somebody who has been doing something all their life a certain way that they need to do it differently. It’s actually hard work and it’s sometimes thankless work.
So you need to know why you’re doing this so it will keep you motivated well into the middle of the night and well into you feeling fatigued.
The second thing I would say is get your support network built out and make sure it is not just people that look like you and the people inside of your company. You either need to hear somebody doing the same thing as you say: oh yeah, we tried that and it worked to give you the confidence for something you’re about to make a leap on or you need to have somebody say yeah, that happened to me too — just so you know you’re not crazy.
I also think certificate programs are really good for folks who maybe don’t have any experience in this work. I didn’t go through a certificate program. I studied some of this a lot of it was practice and experiential for me but I think it could go either way. But, don’t count yourself out just because you don’t have a resume that says you’ve done diversity and inclusion. Think about your lived experiences and then augment where you need to.
The other thing I would say is: Make it human. When you walk in, make it human.
And here’s a last thing: when you think about a company to work for, ask the tough questions in your interview and be ok that if you don’t get the answers you want — even if it’s the brand that your grandmother says if you get a job with them, you gotta take it. Have some conviction and recognize that there’s two ways you can go. If you’re not getting the answers that you know you should get, you could be the trailblazer and go into that company and try to change that — and there’s nothing wrong with that.
But if you’re just getting into this work, it would be helpful for you to be in an environment where they already believe in this work and they are all the way live about this work meaning there’s a budget, there’s headcount and it’s attached to the business strategy because that’s where you can really cut your teeth.
Then go back to that other company that wasn’t keeping it real and break convention inside of there.
Originally published at www.dowelldresswell.com on November 14, 2018.