At the end of March, I attended the women in tech conference #ReframeWIT2023 in Manchester. During one of the sessions, they asked us to reflect on purpose-driven work. More specifically, what was our purpose.
The woman next to me shared that she’d always found it difficult to think in terms of purpose: Too fluffy, too aspirational, too “marketing-ish”.
So I let her into my secret. Ditch purpose and instead focus on legacy.
The face of my conversation partner illuminated. She just had the same revelation that I had when, years ago, this amazing gem of wisdom was shared with me by one of my mentors.
As my interlocutor at the conference, at the time I was disenchanted by the overuse of the word purpose. During the last decade, Simon Sinek’s TED talk How great leaders inspire action triggered an epidemic of organisations rewriting their websites to state their purpose, their “why”.
And the trend is still going strong. By now, everyone has got the memo that organisations’ why – aka purpose – should sound groundbreaking, grandiose, awe-inspiring…
Let’s check some
“Our purpose is to move the world forward through the power of sport.“Nike
“To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.”Starbucks
“We reimagine the way the world moves for the better.”Uber
Because there is a tacit understanding that purpose is aspirational – a far away North Star – there was no metric or timeline attached to it. Moreover, often the greater the purpose, the more disappointing the actual results in terms of contribution to planet and people.
It was discussing this gap with my mentor that she shared her focus on her legacy as a North Star.
And that was my AHA moment. Why?
Whereas purpose relies on wishful thinking, legacy prompts you to action.
Your mind transports you into the future, where you can look backwards and ask yourself
“How can you prove that you’ve been a good ancestor?”
Legacy helps us close the gap between intent and impact.
Unfortunately, because we focus on asking organisations what’s their purpose rather than their legacy, they get away with bland commitments to sustainability, employees’ rights, and – of course – diversity, inclusion, and equity.
Shell’s purpose is to power progress together by providing more and cleaner energy solutions.Shell
Legacy and I
I’ve often talked about my awaking to digital accessibility. In the article Unlocking change with ethical and inclusive design, I described how I learned the hard way the gap between my purpose to be a diversity and inclusion advocate and my legacy.
[…] in December 2018, six months after launching my website on diversity and inclusion in tech, an expert in disability asked me if it was accessible and pointed me to the post 10 ways to make your blog accessible for people with a visual impairment on the site Life of A Blind Girl . Reading the article was transformative. It made clear to me that, irrespective of my intention — promoting diversity and inclusion — my impact was the opposite: I’d been potentially frustrating and excluding from my website the millions of people with visual impairments that use screen-readers. All by not using simple and low effort practices such as adding alternative text to the imagines.
So what’s the legacy I’m working towards? What am I aiming for?
First, I want to be an example of what’s possible for an immigrant non-native English speaker woman in tech.
Second, I want to help embed diversity, inclusion, and equity in organisations so that those values cascade to workplaces and products. To make this more actionable, I’ve split it in two.
At the individual level, help release women and underrepresented groups’ capacity so they get into positions of leadership and unleash inclusive workplaces and products.
At the organisational level, help leaders leverage diversity into their business strategy so they can boost innovation, attract and retain talent, be prepared to manage a diverse workforce, and be an example of inclusive leadership.
BACK TO YOU: What are you and your organisation doing right now that will make you mighty ancestors for future generations?
I’m running again the free online session How to move from self-criticism into inner wisdom on Wednesday April 26, 2023 at 10.30 PDT | 13.30 EDT | 18.30 BST | 19.30 CEST.
Last time, we had an insightful conversation about how workplaces reinforce self-criticism and what we can do when they block our career aspirations.
This is what you’ll learn:
- How I moved from being stuck in my career in tech to thriving as a technologist, award-winning inclusion strategist, life and career coach, writer, and international public speaker.
- Three real examples of how tapping into inner wisdom has helped women and non-binary people in tech to reframe confidence to achieve their goals.
- Understanding how the patriarchy, stereotypes, and cultural norms put obstacles to achieving our goals and promote self-criticism, self-doubt, and analysis paralysis.
- A framework to move from self-criticism to inner wisdom.
Sign up today to make sure you don’t miss it.