September 3, 2020
With the country in the midst of coronavirus pandemic and social unrest, Dametra Johnson-Marletti, GM of Microsoft’s digital store and a female executive of color, has found herself wearing many hats due in part to her unique background.
Growing up in inner-city Los Angeles, Johnson-Marletti used her basketball skills to earn a scholarship to Colorado State University, which followed a short pre-WNBA professional stint in the Australian Professional Women’s Basketball League. At her parent’s urging, Johnson-Marletti transitioned into the business world, as a sale representative with Bristol-Myers Squibb, before joining Microsoft in 2001.
On the Sept. 3 Canon Club Salon webcast, Johnson-Marletti was asked by event host and Media Play News editor in chief Stephanie Prange about the challenges facing women and minorities in the corporate workplace during a pandemic.
The 20-year Microsoft executive said that solving issues such as increased female leadership in the workplace has to include minorities and people of color in the discussion.
“[They’re] all in the same realm of challenges that we’re trying to solve,” Johnson-Marletti said. “Before any of us can build a plan to get [a woman] to the executive suite, I think we need to have a plan to have [minority female] representation across all company levels.”
She said that too often a female of color doesn’t make it to the top tier of management because they haven’t been an active participant in “the journey” to get there compared to others (white men and women) who have built “equity” moving up the corporate ladder.
“If we don’t have those early and career people [of color] represented in middle management, senior local managers all the way up to the executive suite, we have a leaky funnel. And it can never spill the right way.”
She said the focus shouldn’t necessarily be only on reaching the executive suite (“the North Star,” Johnson-Marletti says), but rather on constructing the paths and bridges leading up to that level. The executive said the situation could be broached through support channels (including mentoring) that would help retain and motivate up-and-coming female executives.
“I think that’s where the work has to be done,” Johnson-Marletti said.