During an iLead Speaker Series event last April, Ron Williams, SF ’84, the former CEO and board chairperson of Aetna, recalled his ongoing efforts to reframe his identity as a Black man while working in the executive suite of a major health care company.
“I just had to do what I wanted to do and focus on results, culture, talent, and creating an organization where people are treated the right way. Those are the things that really matter,” he said.
Williams and many other Black MIT Sloan alumni are some of the most accomplished entrepreneurs and managers in the world. They are CEOs and founders, educators and researchers, and important members of the communities in which they work and live. They have faced adversity in their careers—including right here at the MIT Sloan School of Management—and have succeeded nonetheless.
Here is a sample of their words, their experiences, and their expertise:
The best approach to taking risk is to know your worth and surround yourself with people who complement, not mirror, your strengths. Yes, you are all that. And you have the right to be here. You belong.
This work around creating pathways and access to careers has to be owned by everybody and we cannot assume that we're done.
You have to consciously work to reframe your sense of both who you are and what is possible, as well as what you have ruled out as a possibility because others have already framed you in a different box.
These experiences have provided me with opportunities to learn about new things that are happening in the world... and my MIT Sloan connections have put me squarely in line to experience these things.
The most difficult thing was getting people to accept that what you had to say was important—that as a team member, the value of your input was one that was as weighty as the next guy’s, no matter that he was VP at a major corporation.
As Sloanies, we can create a lot of different things—not just companies. We are smart, passionate, and innovative.
We are the means to enable a system of energy that fuels leaders in every sector, in every country, on every continent of the world.
Exposure and access to Black entrepreneurs is crucial.
Talent and genius are evenly distributed, opportunity is not... We are all for the most part capable of changing the world, there's just a series of circumstances that limit those possibilities.