An early childhood experience taught Oracle CEO Safra Catz how feeling “different” can be an excruciating and debilitating experience, she said during her keynote at Oracle’s third annual Diversity and Inclusion Global Leadership Summit.
Organizations deprive themselves of talent critical to their success when they aren’t welcoming to people of different backgrounds and conditions. - Safra Catz, CEO of Oracle
Catz recounted coming to the United States from Israel at the age of 5, not speaking English, and feeling sick to her stomach with fear when her father walked her to her first day of school. She said organizations deprive themselves of talent critical to their success when they aren’t welcoming to people of different backgrounds and conditions, but have to make a concerted effort in order to do so.
Employees’ fears of not fitting in and not being well-liked “is the feeling we’ve been fighting my whole time at Oracle,” she said. Someone looking at a problem from a different perspective can find a better way of solving a problem, which is why “we have to bring a different point of view into the organization,” she said.
Catz said she takes inspiration from Oracle Executive Chairman and CTO Larry Ellison when it comes to inclusiveness because of his ability to ignore preconceptions about people. We all confine ourselves in boxes, she said, and praise people for being able to “think outside the box.” “But,” she said, “Larry doesn’t think outside the box. He doesn’t see the box.”
The ability to connect with people irrespective of differences—of the boxes we see around them and ourselves–is key to resolving critical issues for companies and society at large. “We have too many problems to try to do it on our own,” Catz said.
That said, inclusiveness doesn’t mean homogeneity. “Together doesn’t mean the same. We’re not the same, and that’s a good thing,” she said.
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