Ahmad Thomas, WG’18, CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, recently announced that a cadre of the organization’s member companies will participate in the Pledge 25×25. These companies are acting collectively to catalyze change around diversity by filling at least 25 percent of leadership positions with executives from underrepresented groups by 2025 or increasing the number of underrepresented individuals in leadership roles by at least 25 percent by 2025.
SVLG is a business organization of hundreds of Silicon Valley’s most dynamic companies working to shape the innovation economy of California and the nation. Founded by David Packard of Hewlett-Packard in 1978, SVLG has worked to address issues that affect the region’s economic health and quality of life. Today, SVLG is focused on economic competitiveness with an emphasis on infrastructure, diversity and inclusion, tax and regulatory policies, and climate change. SVLG members collectively provide nearly one of every three private sector jobs in Silicon Valley and contribute more than $3 trillion to the worldwide economy.
“Silicon Valley is synonymous with innovation that catalyzes here and grows forward exponentially. 25×25 applies our Silicon Valley dynamic to driving diversity among companies as a way to both build greater representation and business competitiveness at this important moment,” said Ahmad.
He pointed out that extensive studies have found that diverse leadership teams create tangible dividends in innovation, market share, and revenue. The 25×25 initiative is a commitment to the long-term prosperity of industries by identifying and affording well-earned opportunities to the best executive talent from underrepresented groups. Companies make the pledge publicly and share progress along with key metrics and best practices to help others achieve their diversity goals.
The 25×25 Pledge sets forth a comprehensive blueprint for participating companies to diversify leadership as a business imperative while also operationalizing cultural change. Participating companies commit to employee training that fosters inclusion and reduces unconscious bias. Companies will also commit to increase resources by 25 percent by 2025 for funding and/or community engagement in support of underrepresented groups and expansion of minority talent pipelines.
“This is about changing the face of leadership in Silicon Valley,” said Ahmad. “A change that we believe can reverberate for corporations across the country.”
A Passion for Leadership, Finance, and Diversity
Ahmad came to Wharton’s MBA Program for Executives in San Francisco in part to learn about leadership and also to build what he calls “competitive differentiation” around financial innovation and entrepreneurship.
At the time, he was a vice president at Barclays and wanted a way to tie together his background in investment banking and the public sector to further drive impact for infrastructure finance. Achieving that goal, he led an award-winning transaction that was the first-ever social bond financing for a non-profit in the U.S. municipal market.
A former aide to U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, Ahmad was looking for a “transformative experience” that would help him to become a better leader and to “flourish on and off the field.”
Last August, he was appointed CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.
Addressing the challenges ahead, he said, “Our community has always had serious issues to tackle, but with unprecedented economic challenges brought on by a once-in-a-lifetime global pandemic, an inflection point around business competitiveness in California, and reckoning with systemic racism, we need to lead with industry-wide initiatives that drive both the national dialogue and bring about real, measurable change. My vision for the Leadership Group is to face these issues head-on as an industry and community.”
In addition to his role as CEO, Ahmad serves on various boards, supporting non-profits and an infrastructure fund, and he volunteers time in advisory roles at several start-up companies, including a healthcare-related venture that was recently selected for Y Combinator. As an investor he is focused on impact-oriented technology ventures and helping founders of color access capital.
Click here to read about Ahmad’s experience on a Wharton Leadership Venture in Alaska.
— By Meghan Laska
Posted: February 17, 2021