May 21, 2021 | By Franklin Reed
Nearly one year ago, the public outcry from the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd magnified injustices in our country that have been quietly placated for generations. Their tragedies sparked a catalyst for global protests about both the blatant and covert displays of racism that persists in society.
As we approach the grim milestone of George Floyd’s death on May 25, I can’t help but reflect upon our journey toward greater empathy, equity and understanding in our society. We clearly have so much work to do, but we’ve taken a step forward in our ability to heal and acknowledge what is broken in the relationship between our justice system and certain communities—and seek an opportunity to fix it. We must continue to be a part of the solution, to listen, understand, educate and advocate for not just inclusion, but equity.
Address racial inequity by encouraging awareness, education, empathy and equality
At TEKsystems, we continue to be committed in our journey to fostering an ever more inclusive, diverse and equitable workplace—from committing to CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion to investing in and supporting organizations committed to underrepresented groups, such as the Equal Justice Initiative, Thurgood Marshall College Fund, and the conscious kid. Our Executive Inclusion Board has continued to aggressively expand unconscious bias mitigation training, transparency of internal opportunities, sponsorship and advocacy of diverse talent. We believe we have the opportunity—and the responsibility—to set an example for our greater community and contribute to a world where we combat injustice and racism.
We know conversations about race can be uncomfortable, but race is an integral part of our identity and our individual experience. Race is one of the most complex concepts in modern society. It has changed throughout history and will continue to be “formed, transformed, destroyed and re-formed1” as our understanding evolves. Likewise, as our understanding of race evolves, so must our understanding of equity in the context of the equal opportunity and systemic racism we see in and outside workplaces.
One can hardly ignore the fact that racism has been and still is a reality in our society. Structural inequities, increasing number of racially-motivated hate crimes, discriminatory practices that have disadvantaged people, and even the stereotypical ways people of color (and First Nations individuals in Canada) often portrayed in media, are just a few reminders of its historical and current-day prevalence.
To create an environment that is truly inclusive of everyone, we must work to not only understand and acknowledge our common humanity but also embrace, celebrate and leverage the differences that make us better.
Provide the opportunity for open employee discussions to effectively engage and deepen our understanding of one another
Being part of a company that prioritizes understanding, inclusion and equity means elevating the voices of underrepresented experiences in equitable and inclusive ways. We want to drive positive impact in our communities and the world in which we live. We care about our employees and what matters to them. That’s why we continue to conduct Conversations That Matter, a regular series of discussions—a collective pause as a company— to connect and create a brave space where employees can come together to share their experiences, stories and concerns, discuss the events that are dominating their world outside our organization, and better understand each other’s perspectives.
While we will broach many topics, our most recent discussion was an open conversation about race, a forum in which employees were empowered to learn from colleagues across TEKsystems and reflect on their own experiences and commitments to creating a more inclusive, equitable environment. Our dialogues shined light on very real concerns and experiences led by powerful stories and perspectives from employees spanning a multitude of backgrounds, identities and cultures.
In a series of personal essays published over the next few months, we hope to highlight the unique perspectives and reflections of our employees as we continue to address complex and sensitive issues that are so critical to bringing understanding and support—and ultimately healing. As we aim to build and foster a diverse and inclusive workplace, we must be comfortable having uncomfortable conversations, including the topic of race—not just to see and recognize the diversity of our teams, but to better understand how we can all play a part in creating a more inclusive environment in which everyone can thrive.
1 Michael Omi and Howard Winant, Racial Formation in the United States: From the 1960s to the 1990s (New York: Routledge, 1994).