Pride ERG leader Michael J. Fox’s best practices for embracing diversity

By Robert DiGiacomo

Growing up in Virginia, Michael J. “MJ” Fox knew he was different and recalls being more interested in his Nintendo 64 than dating girls. By the time he got to high school, MJ, who uses he/him pronouns, had realized he was gay, but didn’t begin to come out to family and friends until college. “Like many others, I struggled with fear and uncertainty and convinced myself that it would be easier to wait until later in life,” he remembers.

He met his now-husband, Stewart Pillow, at the University of Virginia, where MJ earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and religious studies, and they began to build a life together.

When MJ joined Dell Technologies 13 years ago as a consumer sales representative, he opted to be more private with his personal life. “I generally chose to focus more on the professional rather than the personal with my coaches and managers,” he says. “I was afraid that it could hinder my ability to grow my career.”

Finding his way

Several internal job moves later, MJ became part of Dell’s Small Business Merchandising Team. With support from Jeff Hutchings, his dynamic people manager, as well as the company, MJ became more open at work. “I truly felt that I could bring my 100% self to work, and continuously saw my professional and personal relationships with my team builder,” he says.

As I find myself leading teams, I want to be the person who brings my authentic self to work and creates the same environment of inclusivity and diversity.

—Michael J. Fox, brand manager, XPS Notebooks

MJ also drew inspiration from Erik Day—Dell’s senior vice president of Small Business and executive sponsor of the global employee resource group (ERG) Partnering for Respect of Individuality in the Dell Environment (Pride)—for his commitment to building an inclusive culture. MJ began to attend local Pride events in Austin, joined her mentorship program and participated in external leadership forums like Out & Equal. Today, MJ is the brand manager for XPS Notebooks in the US and co-leader of the North America region of the Pride ERG.

“As I find myself leading teams, I want to be the person who brings my authentic self to work and creates the same environment of inclusivity and diversity,” he says.

MJ shares best practices for building an inclusive work culture, engaging remote colleagues and embracing diversity to boost employee satisfaction.

Be your full self at work

Visibility matters when it comes to being seen and being able to see yourself in leadership. But being visible to others might require you to step out of your comfort zone to share your life experiences, MJ has learned. “You may not think your journey is unique, but I believe it’s a shared responsibility to say, ‘This is who I am’ because it opens the door for meaningful dialogue. If that helps other people see themselves at a company or in a leadership position, that will encourage them to invest in and grow in that company.”

Towards this goal, Dell’s Pride ERG is encouraging its members to “Be Yourself,” an internal campaign that MJ has taken to heart. “There’s still that moment when I pause and think, how much of myself am I going to share?” MJ says. “I have to remind myself that you have to walk the walk. My best practice with a new team or manager is to use an ‘About Me’ slide to share a bit about myself. Right up front, I tell them exactly who I am. I share fun facts like where I’ve lived, things my husband and I like to do, and the obligatory picture of my dog, Rupert.”

You may not think your journey is unique, but I believe it’s a shared responsibility to say, ‘This is who I am’ because it opens the door for meaningful dialogue.

—Michael J. Fox, brand manager, XPS Notebooks

Draw upon the diversity of your colleagues

ERGs can help amplify the voices of workers and reinforce the connections linking a community of workers. “Our ERGs consist of some of the most passionate and inclusive team members at Dell,” MJ says. “They help attract and retain a diverse workforce, and empower our internal communities.”

At Dell, the Pride ERG has grown to include thousands of members worldwide and offers chapters in numerous countries, spanning every region.

Help to build an inclusive work culture

Whether it’s creating best practices that support and promote an inclusive work environment, joining an ERG or serving as a mentor, you can take positive steps to help promote diversity. “I think this is one of the most important issues for a company to address. I see this is a ‘must-have’ to attract and retain talent,” MJ says.

Dell has integrated diversity and inclusion into its Environmental, Social and Governance 2030 Goals. MJ stresses the importance of its “moonshot goals,” like having 50% of the global workforce and 40% of global people leaders identify as women. Dell is also focused on having 25% of its US workforce and 15% of its US people leaders be Black/African American or Hispanic/Latino.

Being able to find people you can relate to and build relationships with lets you get more out of the work environment than just your work.

—Michael J. Fox, brand manager, XPS Notebooks

Engage your remote colleagues

With many companies pivoting permanently to full-time remote or hybrid models, it can be challenging to engage a scattered workforce. “It depends on your willingness and your team’s willingness to lean into a work-from-home environment,” MJ says. “We’ve found that it can actually be easier to build relationships in a hybrid work environment because we often have teams calls where a pet, child or partner may join.”

At Dell, the increase in remote work in the spring of 2020 due to the pandemic actually boosted membership in the Pride ERG because it allowed employees around the world to engage.

“We have different events across the ERG that bring people out of the day-to-day of work and get them excited to be part of the group,” MJ says. “Being able to find people you can relate to and build relationships with lets you get more out of the work environment than just your work.”

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