LinkedIn's VP of Engineering Sabry Tozin Says Getting a Seat at the Table Starts With Intentionality
Photo Credit: Sabry Tozin

LinkedIn's VP of Engineering Sabry Tozin Says Getting a Seat at the Table Starts With Intentionality

Eighty-one percent of Black professionals say that seeing other Black professionals in leadership positions make them feel like their workplace is inclusive and equitable.

Sabry Tozin, VP of engineering at LinkedIn, shared this statistic amongst others in his recent Building Pathways to Workplace Equity report. The report highlights some challenges that Black professionals face in the workplace today. This report is a part of LinkedIn’s Conversations for Change, a series of reports and discussions focused on diversity and equity in the workplace.

Tozin has been working in Silicon Valley for about 20 years, first getting his career started through conferences hosted by the National Society of Black Engineers. He got his first tech job in the late 90s and went on to work for companies like Accenture, Fox, and Netflix before joining LinkedIn in 2017.

This main stat was the most shocking to Tozin because it’s such a big number he says, yet there are few Black and minority professionals in positions of power across the working class.

“If they don’t see somebody that looks like them in a position of leadership, it takes away from how they feel about an inclusive workplace,” Tozin told AfroTech in a video interview. “As I thought about it, you sort of become a product of what you expect. If you see people that look like you, talk like you, and had a background like you doing things that are big, it starts to feel attainable to you.”

One of the main reasons why Tozin was surprised by this stat is because only 0.8 percent of Black professionals hold CEO positions at Fortune 500 companies, and only 3.2 percent of senior leadership positions at large companies. It’s no secret that the Black community isn’t as trusting as other cultures to just jump into something without evidence, and this statistic can attest to that.

“At first the stat jumped out at me like wow, this is a big number, imagine the effect of this,” Tozin said. “But then the thought changed to, I wonder why the number is not bigger? More of us should feel this way.”

Here are some other high level findings in the report:

      • 78% of Black professionals believe that diversity and equity are important to the senior leaders at their workplace, but 40% say its more talk than action.
      • 40% of Black professionals believe mentorship and career coaching could help lead to more equity in the workplace.
      • 51% of Black professionals believe that leadership transparency on decisions that impact careers could make their current workplace more inclusive

So what could Black professionals do to get invited to the leadership table more? Tozin says it starts with intentionality, and that aligns with the fact that attainability of jobs only seems real when there are diverse and inclusive leadership teams.

“There is a concept that feels really simple to me that I’ve known my whole life,  but I didn’t really get to understand until maybe the last year or two,” Tozin said. “The concept is intentionality. When you get up in the morning and you have an intention, you are sort of setting yourself up. We need to be intentional about going after these roles and believing that we can attain these roles.”

Secondly, he says Black professionals need to work really hard to differentiate themselves and be confident in their abilities. Above all, he says it’s important to bring people with you on your career path as you work your way up.

“Everything we do is bigger than us,” Tozin said.

To the companies struggling to address DEI, stop putting out blog posts and statements and start showing your support with action. Consider allowing space for Black professionals to congregate and bring their ideas to fruition, like Netflix’s Strong Black Lead.

One of the main things Tozin has enjoyed about LinkedIn’s approach to DEI specifically, is the fact that the company puts an emphasis on making sure its employees feel like they belong there. This is something that Tozin hopes other companies take note of.

“It’s not enough to just have us in the room,” Tozin said. “Making people feel like they belong is very meaningful as well.”

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