Apple VP of Social Intiatives Talks Utilizing Tech For Social Change

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Apple Lisa Jackson

This week, BLACK ENTERPRISE held the inaugural Women of Power Tech virtual summit featuring a lineup of innovative business and thought leaders shaping the technology sector. The online conference hosted by Ally had various thought-provoking sessions and workshops aimed for Black women looking to advance in a tech-driven world.

Our keynote speaker Lisa Jackson, vice president of environment, policy, and social Initiatives at Apple, talked about how technology can be used to create social change and knowing your worth in the workplace. In a conversation with Women of Power Chief Brand Officer Caroline V. Clarke, Jackson shared insights on how tech culture is being influenced by current events and the value of knowing when to make your exit.

Here are some highlights from the Women of Power Tech’s “Masterclass with Lisa Jackson” session.

How Technology Can Create Social Change

Jackson discussed the importance of technology and how current events — from the viral outbreak to the protests over the deaths of those like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor — have influenced tech culture.

“I have always seen technology as an opportunity to push humankind forward…technology empowers people,” says Jackson. “I think we see somewhat indirectly exactly that in the moments of Black Lives Matter and in the moment the recent spate of murders…All of the sudden technology enabled that moment in a very real way for young Americans because it was on the phone right in front of them… It’s that moment of being confronted with your own racism that hopefully inspires change and whether that’s change on climate, whether that’s change on environmental justice, whether it’s change on accessibility for (disabled people)–all of those are opportunities for technology. And shame on us if we don’t take them.

Jackson is also leading Apple’s racial injustice initiative, which is committing $100 million to advance social change in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the protests on police brutality.

“As the leader of social initiatives at Apple, when I spoke to (CEO Tim Cook) about it–(who) is also a product of the South like me–we know that system of inequities are hard to change, but Apple has a big role and a big voice,” said Jackson. “The idea is to take what Apple does and expand it outside of our four walls into communities, first in the United States and then around the world to challenge and change the systems of inequity.”

Needing More Diversity in the Sector

Jackson says he hopes to use the initiative and her role to cultivate the next generation of Black leaders in the technology sector that will speak up to make sure their voice is heard.

“We need to not just address the current systems of racism but make sure we are stopping the future ones,” she says.

“I think the real opportunity here is to marry our need to just invest in education with investing in workforce development (and) in investing in hiring so that there becomes a more holistic approach to technology…We want to make sure they are prepared (so when they get here and) that they are really able and equipped to bring their cultural diversity to the conversation.”

Knowing When to Make Your Exit

Jackson stressed the importance of knowing your value in your workplace setting and knowing when to leave when a job is not leading you in the desired direction.

“You can do a lot of things on your own, you can put up with a lot…But if your evaluation leads you to believe that you do not have a supportive management structure, you are probably in the wrong place,” says Jackson. She says that while it can be hard to know when that moment is, listen to your intuition when you are no longer worth it.

“Ask yourself is it worth it because walking away feels good and it may be the right decision, but you have to think deeply about that.”