On Being a Wedge, Not a Token


Fortune | February 22, 2017

The Fortune article, “On Being a Wedge, Not a Token,” interviewed Russell Reynolds Associates Consultant Art Hopkins about his experience and work with diversity in the workplace. The article is excerpted below.

While reporting this Fortune story on black men in executive leadership, I had a particularly inspiring conversation with technologist and consultant Art Hopkins. It keeps haunting me, in the best possible sense. “My motto is: I’m not a token, I’m a wedge,” he began.

Hopkins has had a long career in technology at a variety of outfits, starting as a programmer and leapfrogging up the ecosystem to become a CEO. He currently helps lead the technology practice at consulting firm Russell Reynolds Associates. As a black man in technology (the non-Silicon Valley variety, yes, it exists) he understood early that there was an asterisk by his name. “It was always part of the responsibility that came along with my opportunities,” he says. “If I was the first person to get a foot in the door, I was leaving behind bread crumbs for others.” That the asterisk still exists in the world is a disappointment, but not a surprise. “It’s like encoded English,” he says. “It’s acceptable to go around with this belief that an African American male in tech is ‘less than.’”

Like most black men who succeed in executive life, he learned early on to be above reproach in dress and conduct, to mitigate any behavior that might be interpreted as threatening – sitting down and leaning back when delivering difficult feedback, for example. But as a senior leader, he’s also developed techniques that help him coach others into considering how other people around them are faring. “I am trying to institutionalize empathy,” he says. “It’s the first act of identifying with another person as he or she self-identifies.”

To read the full article, click here.  

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On Being a Wedge, Not a Token