Coworkers

Coworking with Amelia Ransom

She's the VP of DE&I at Smartsheet.
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Amelia Ransom

· 4 min read

On Wednesdays, we schedule our weekly 1:1 with HR Brew’s readers. Want to be featured in an upcoming edition? Click here to introduce yourself.

Amelia Ransom came to the work of DE&I “reluctantly.” A self-described contrarian, Ransom sees her role as bringing marginalized people to the table and helping business leaders understand why that refocus is necessary. Ransom worked for more than two decades at Nordstrom in a number of roles, including store management, HR, and diversity. She’s been leading the DE&I work at software company Smartsheet since August 2021.

How would you describe your specific job to someone who doesn’t work in HR?

My job is to enable and measure equity across the company so that people can come in and do whatever they do best. The job is ensuring we have the culture, the resources, the tools for people to come in to do their absolute best at whatever it is that they do. That’s the internal piece of it; the external piece is really the same, but we think about it in terms of community, and how we show up as a good corporate citizen.

What’s the best change you’ve made at a place you’ve worked?

I like to think I’ve broadened the aperture of what we see and need to include, rather than “made changes.” I worked for a Seattle-based company where a lot of the conference rooms in its offices were named for people. We got to a floor where the rooms were going to be named after famous Washingtonians, and I asked, “How do we ensure that employees get their voice in? We haven’t asked them. They haven’t given their opinion.” So, we asked employees…I’d hear them talking about it all the time, telling people that we had a conference room named for Octavia Butler or Chief Sealth. Conference room names may sound like a small thing, but this is what engagement looks like.

What’s the biggest misconception people might have about your job?

One misconception is that this role is about equality. This role is not about creating equality, and in fact, I am not seeking equality at all. People are looking for equity. If you want a company to treat everybody exactly the same, that’s easy to do. You give everyone the same laptop, the same pay, you give everybody the same benefits. But nobody would go for that. We all want to be recognized and rewarded for what we bring to the table, and that’s why the job is about equity. It’s about ensuring people have what they need to get the job done.

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What’s the most fulfilling aspect of your job?

Getting to see people form community and thrive. Community is so important, especially in this era of remote work when it’s harder to find people with a shared identity…Another fulfilling part is to see people progress themselves. That’s what I get out of this—enabling people to thrive in this organization. All I really want to do is remove barriers and put in the right tools for people to have, so they can use those tools to move forward. It’s a mistake to say [that] I’m passionate about DE&I. I’m not. I’m deeply motivated by the opportunities DE&I can provide.

Explain more about why you’re not “passionate” about DE&I.

I am not passionate about this work. I think this work is necessary. I think this work is important. But to be passionate about DE&I is to be passionate about the wrong thing. I am passionate about the outcomes. I am passionate about what DE&I can do for people who have been historically silenced.

What trend in HR are you most optimistic about? Why?

I’m really optimistic about how remote work supplements in-office work. I think so many organizations, even the most progressive tech companies, were so hesitant to understand how remote work could function. Then along came a pandemic and we had no choice…When we really understand how to utilize remote workers and that people don’t always have to be colocated with each other, we open up a new opportunity around who a great candidate is.

What trend in HR are you least optimistic about? Why?

Prior to the summer of 2020, you had companies saying things like, “Diversity is in our DNA.” And then when Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and others were murdered, that messaging switched to, “We’re at the very beginning of this.” I thought, is diversity in your DNA? Or are you just starting? You’re going to have to pick a side. So, I’m not optimistic that people don’t need tragedy to continue to move on what they know they should be doing.

Want to be featured in an upcoming edition of Coworking? Click here to introduce yourself.

HR is challenging. HR news doesn’t have to be.

HR Brew keeps you effective in the fast-changing business environment.