“I feel a multitude of emotions.” Mica (pronounced Me-kah) is half Black, with ancestors surviving slavery in the Kentucky area, and half Japanese from family who immigrated from Japan to Hawaii. This 2020 social climate during a global pandemic is both terrifying and enraging for Mica. Xenophobia towards Asians along with healthcare and economic inequities disproportionately affecting and killing Black and Brown people. Protests following the murder of George Floyd call for the end of systemic racism, Black Lives Matter written on cardboard signs next to “say their names,” including the 13 transgender people of color killed this year.
At ServiceNow, we have a vision of belonging for everyone. We don’t have it all figured out, we’re on a journey too, but we are committed. Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DIBs) is one of our company values and we are discovering the deeper meaning of what that must look and feel like within our company.
It’s a time for social change and racial equity, a time to reimagine work culture, to discover what it means to be an ally. It’s time to heal. Listening and learning is key and employees at ServiceNow are learning with each conversation, understanding that empathy and action starts with sharing stories.
In February, we hosted a Black employee experience panel where some employees learned for the first time about microaggressions. Things like touching a Black person’s hair or praising their articulation. And the lengths Black employees go to by code switching (changing the way one expresses themselves culturally and linguistically based on different parts of one’s identity and how they are represented in the group they are with) and navigating the workplace while wearing an invisible backpack of presumptive stereotypes and bias.
In May, we facilitated a training where a panel of Asian, Black, and biracial employees, including Mica, talked about race and allyship amidst COVID-19 and shared stories of what it’s like to move in the world with visible diversity. During this event, many employees expressed deep appreciation to ServiceNow for signing a pledge with the Silicon Valley Leadership Group on standing against anti-Asian hate crimes.
To celebrate Pride in June, several virtual events were available including a panel of LGBTQ+ employees sharing their personal stories on being out at work. One employee, after acknowledging that everyone is on their own path and pace of self-discovery during an employee-led Pride event said, “I think it's awesome that I have been out since I started here. And that's really important to me because I wasn't out at my last job.” Juneteenth was a day of service and personal learning to close out a companywide “learning sprint” where workshops on racial equity, allyship, and how to have courageous conversations filled employees’ calendars.
When employees are willing to share personal stories and experiences in the workplace, it comes with vulnerability, emotions and often reliving trauma. In order to make sure the wounds opened up are not in vain, stories are best when felt, respected, and attached to an action plan.
“We are here because the dehumanization of Black people is a human rights issue.” This is how Robert, a Black employee, opened his story during our July Company All Hands meeting. He shared his personal experiences in various tech workplaces and read a list of recommendations for society and ServiceNow to take action towards meaningful progress in social justice. First step, practice allyship.
Each of us have to earn the title “ally,” starting with deep listening, personal education and a commitment to be better, do better. Allyship is not being the hero who saves the day or speaks up only when others can see, that’s just performative allyship. “Ally” is a verb and requires humility and constant learning. Allies stay curious and learn about unconscious bias and microaggressions. They use inclusive language and have courageous conversations to challenge themselves and others. They may say the wrong thing, but they acknowledge, apologize, learn from the situation, and continue to show up. They advocate and amplify so more voices are heard and sought out. They acknowledge and accept their privilege and use it to dismantle unjust systems and practices.
To have inclusion and belonging in a work culture, it takes two parts: the courage of the individual to be their authentic self and the supportive environment to encourage folks to be themselves. Meaningful progress requires ongoing dialogue, unlearning, and relearning. We need co-creative action and it’s not only possible, but integral for businesses to lead the work from the inside out. Employees can tell if a company is covering or committing. Just ask Mica. “I'm appreciative that we are at a company that is welcoming of this type of discussion. That does show progress. These dialogues give me hope.” We can do this. And we must.
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