In My Reality, an editorial series from D CEO, North Texas executives share their personal experiences with diversity and bias. To recommend local business leaders who may be willing to share their experiences with diversity, equity, inclusion, prejudice, or biases, please email associate editor Kelsey Vanderschoot at [email protected]
Michael Horne, chief executive officer of the Parkland Foundation—which fundraises for Parkland Hospital—discussed recognizing and filling in gaps in diversity, opportunities for concrete action, and the importance of having a place at the table.
Improving Outcomes With Education
“My mother grew up in segregated North Carolina. She was with her siblings attempting to access a local public library that was segregated at the time. Upon doing so, she was beat up and antagonized. That story always stuck out to me and really informed my life. My mom stressed the importance of using education to improve outcomes, not just for yourself but for others. I remember growing up in New York as a child, and we didn’t have access to a car. In the summertime, I would walk 2.4 miles to and from the local library to get books and discover the great canon of literature.
“I look to exemplify the ideas of service, sacrifice, and self-discipline in the work that I do; they shaped my identity throughout my career as a market leader.”Michael Horne
“I distinctly remember elementary school tracking systems where, unfortunately, there weren’t a lot of students who looked like me—African American students or students of color. My mother ensured that I was challenged academically. That advocacy is something that paid off and stuck with me throughout undergrad and graduate school.
“Fast forward, and it was those experiences that allowed me to travel the world and see my life’s work as creating conditions for individuals to realize their full promise and potential. I look to exemplify the ideas of service, sacrifice, and self-discipline in the work that I do; they shaped my identity throughout my career as a market leader.
“I’ve been in Dallas for almost a decade now and started out working in the K-12 education space. It was toward the latter part of my career as an educator and administrator that I started to see the intersection between educational outcomes and educational attainment with other social determinants of health. As more and more students and families wrestled with a fragmented healthcare system, I became cognizant of the fact that there was a broader and deeper scope of work that I was called to do.
“From an external standpoint, gaps in perceptions that individuals have still remain, particularly for those in positions of power deciding who should sit at the table. I’ve had to work to create counter-narratives to indicate that I deserve to be at the table. My presence at the table is important because it helps to shift conversations and action. I stand as a proxy for many individuals who may not be in the room but who benefit from the decisions and discussions being had.”
Setting an Example
“The experience I’ve had to date is born out of a sense of obligation to so many who have come before me. In all of the work that I’ve done, I stand on the shoulders of giants—individuals who have worked hard and have never received recognition. Their efforts paved the way for me and countless others to do the work that we do. For that reason, I take my work very seriously.
“Diversity and inclusion are inextricably linked to achieving the type of success that we want to see. As trusted individuals in the community, we have the resources and platforms to begin to marshal attention and action. Now more than ever, we need to recognize the opportunities that we have at our disposal. There are so many challenges that exist, particularly for those vulnerable communities across Dallas County. It is incumbent upon us to take a different, concrete approach to address those challenges. If not us, then who?
“The goal is for us to be in a society in which individuals, regardless of background and ZIP code, have an opportunity to realize their full promise and potential. The time is calling for us to step up and engage in that type of collaborative work, recognizing that diversity is our best strength.”
Modeling Through Mentorship
“Implementing opportunities for mentorship and education is really important. Educating individuals on the principles of diversity, inclusion, and why each matter, the history of the United States, and efforts that have been taken to create a more diverse unit are important steps. Identify sectors, individuals, and organizations that serve as intermediaries where diverse talent can be identified. Then, build those pipelines through internship and apprenticeship programs.
“These efforts can lead an organization to a place where concrete action can be taken over time. It’s important to ensure that you’re moving from ideation to putting things into fruition, ultimately being in a position to step back, celebrate where successes have been achieved and put a plan in place to address gaps.”
What’s Yet to Come
“If you look at organizations in a variety of industries, we can point to individuals who continue to break glass ceilings. Institutions have taken concrete steps to embrace diversity and inclusion. We can say we’ve made progress, but it’s important to acknowledge that more work has to be done.
“There are countless individuals who haven’t had an opportunity to tap into the great prosperity that Dallas has to offer. Part of it is recognizing that we need to create more inclusive spaces where individuals gain the tools by which they can certainly navigate those contexts and, ultimately, lead to the type of success that we need them to have.”