Black History Month leader spotlight: Tiffany Montgomery
Head of People Programs Tiffany Montgomery talks about true workplace equity, trials, optimism, and surprising sources of wisdom.
In honor of Black History Month, we’re featuring Q&A’s with different Black leaders here at Momentive. I asked each of our leaders the same four questions, but got very different, yet equally inspirational answers.
This interview is with our head of people programs, Tiffany Montgomery.
What are ways that you believe Momentive supports its Black employees?
The best way Momentive supports Black employees is by being authentic. Too often, lip service and empty platitudes are the standard in dealing with complex, multilayered issues involving race.
By engaging authentically and listening to our Black employees, Momentive sets the standard for tech companies and businesses at large. Momentive champions a culture that goes beyond the superficial and does the work. Led by a CEO who walks the talk, Momentive has an environment that enables all employees of color to feel heard and valued.
As leaders, what policies, processes, or practices can executives back to support a better future for Black folks at work?
We conduct a pay equity study on a biannual basis—which is not limited to equitable pay for Black employees, but also considers pay for all ethnicities and genders represented at Momentive. It is important that we not only continue to do this study, but also ensure consistency in how we evaluate performance, talent, promotion opportunities, etc.
When we conduct the annual performance and pay cycle, we also evaluate the results in aggregate to ensure equity across the various ethnicities and genders represented within the organization. We should continue to engage in this practice and seek to improve the process as best we can.
Are there Black voices or thought leaders whose work still resonates for you today in shaping the future of Black folks? (e.g. Toni Morrison, bell hooks)
I love this quote from Maya Angelou:
“We do the best we can with what we know, when we know better, we do better.”
There are many people who may not be considered “thought leaders” by definition, but that have still shared thoughts that should influence the future for all people. I would challenge anyone reading this to take the time to listen more than you talk. You never know from whom you may learn something.
For example, recently someone shared a YouTube video with me where Mike Tyson was having a discussion with NY Giants running back, Saquon Barkley, and in that discussion Mike Tyson said something that was so poignant about forgiveness.
Saquon was insistent that when someone wrongs him, he could never forgive them. Mike Tyson challenged him on this by saying that when someone does something to you, it changes you. When you decide not to forgive them, it’s as if that person has now become your master. You are allowing that person to control your emotions. He said, “They are not your enemy, they are your master.” Mind blown.
I think about that message a lot, and about how to integrate it into my other beliefs. When I think about growing up in America as a Black female, married to a Black man, raising three Black boys to become Black men in America, I have a choice to make. Will I bury my head in the sand and pretend like everything is glorious and that there are not inequities and unfair treatment towards my fellow Black people? No, that would be irresponsible on my part. I will raise my sons to know what they need to do when they are pulled over by a police officer or if they are mistreated in some way because of the color of their skin. That’s called responsible parenting.
However, am I going to teach them that everyone is out to get them and that they need to watch out for those who don’t look like them? No. What has happened in the past does not have to shape who I choose to be. I won’t hold on to unforgiveness for the guidance counselor who told me I would never make it to the top 10 of my class in High School, and that I should not even bother applying to Georgetown University because it’s not for people like me. I used her “guidance” to motivate me to prove her wrong. I could have decided to succumb to what she said and hold it against her and everyone else that looked like her, but where would I be today if I did that? She would have been “my master.”
There is a lot of wrong in America today. I choose to forgive. I choose to accept the things that I cannot change. But I won’t let it hold me back from what I choose to accomplish. I would challenge you to do the same. I would have never expected to have words spoken by Mike Tyson influence how I think about life—but now that I know better, I will do better. And I will recognize that knowledge can come from those you may least expect it from.
What one word would you use to describe how you feel about the future of Black people?
Hopeful. To quote a proverb,“Hope deferred makes the heart sick.”
While America doesn’t look the way I want it to look quite yet, it certainly does look better than it did in the 1960s. I can choose to focus on all that is not, or I can choose to focus on all that has improved. I remain hopeful that we will see progress in the years to come.
But until then, the words to the famous Maya Angelou poem “And Still I Rise” comes to mind:
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history's shame
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.