SF Recap: Changemaker Chat with Judith Williams

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Judith Williams, Global Head of Diversity, Dropbox

Start Where You Are.

Thank you to everyone who joined us for the Changemaker Chat with Judith Williams – Global Head of Diversity at Dropbox

This summer we explored the theme of RISK, and over the course of our Chat with Judith, we learned how she approaches risk, has faced it head on, and what she has learned along the way.

It was a fascinating conversation, and many of us left with a new level of respect for a woman who takes on tough conversations every day. Here are some highlights from the chat with Judith:



  • Be aware. Judith defines unconscious bias as blind spots that arise as a result of the way we process data. We all have them and they are not always bad. Yet in aggregate, especially in an organization, these biases can lead to challenging work environments for all us. We have to be aware that they exist so that we can modify the biases that need to be changed.
  • Find a friend. When facing unconscious bias at work, find an ally, someone who can be your advocate – and male allies can work great.  How to pick the right one? Find the most empathetic person on the team, and ask this person to observe the situation over time, and then speak up for you when they see bias playing out. This can be much more effective than you advocating for yourself.
  • I am woman. Think about how you present yourself in the office. Judith speaks slower when she is angry to ensure that she is actually heard. It also prevents her, as a female, from being thought of as shrill or full of rage. When presenting, wear what you want, not what you think you should—own the  fact that you are a woman, and own that stage!
  • Managing well. Women at work are more often described by their attitude: she is a hard worker, excited, etc. Men are described by their behavior. When giving feedback to other women, provide feedback on their behaviors and be very specific.
  • Become an advocate. If your company doesn’t have a designated Diversity Officer – don’t fear! There are simple, effective ways to be an advocate for diversity. For example, when your company is looking for talent, ask questions like, “Do we know any women who could fill this role as well as the top male applicants?” Often, this little prompt will help everyone shift mindsets. Shoot – it worked for Megan Smith at Google!
  • Collect the data. As you look to improve diversity at your workplace, collect the information. How many women are on your team, in your office? Your broader leadership may be too heads down and not realize they are lacking in diversity.
  • I don’t understand. Feign lack of understanding in situations where someone is being discriminatory. Force them to understand their behavior, and explain it to you. They will often dig themselves in a hole, realize what they have done, and then try to dig themselves out. You’ll have forced them to think differently, while keeping your relationships in tact.

Thank you, Judith, for the wise words and the tactical advice on how to make any workplace a little more diverse.  And thanks for sharing your motivational quote – we love it!

Start where you are.
Use what you have.
Do what you can.
– Arthur Ashe


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About Changemaker Chats

Changemaker Chats bring together women working to advance positive change in their organizations and communities around the world, equipping and enabling them with the networks and the know-how to be more effective in their daily lives.

Interested in joining us for future Changemaker Chats? Request an invite here.