We must be willing to step outside of ourselves and question our beliefs and our environment. And we must be willing to recognize the humanity in the person sitting across from us.– Jyotica Barrio
American society is steeped in pain, fear, tension, and confusion — in the midst of a global pandemic — over the very public deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and other Black citizens, at the hands of law enforcement. Systemic racism has been hiding in plain sight for generations, but these recent incidents of senseless violence — and the higher death rates for Black people during the pandemic — further highlight the breadth and depth of racial injustice.
For our Black friends, family, co-workers and communities, our hearts break and our souls ache at Aduro. Many in the White community, myself included, feel embarrassment, shame, and guilt. How did we become so anesthetized to the inequality and injustice in our own communities? These feelings and questions matter — they are the starting point for doing the personal work we must do; to take a hard, uncomfortable look at ourselves, our biases, our privilege, and the actions we have failed to take, and then do the work to change the system.
To talk about Aduro’s diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts and our culture feels like too little at this point. However, it is important to recognize the opportunities that are within our control and how the actions that we take internally can shift the worldview and behavior of our employees, and have a ripple effect beyond our walls. Aduro has a glaring lack of cultural and gender diversity, especially among our most senior leadership. We openly acknowledge it, we know how we got here, and we are committed to building a more diverse team.
How do we start? We start inside.
At Aduro, we are passionate about building a culture of belonging — a place where people feel welcomed, have equal opportunity, and are accepted for their strengths, flaws, and uniqueness. A culture of humanity that is built on trust and curiosity create psychological safety and offers opportunities for open dialogue and continuous learning.
Our grassroots Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Coalition convenes on a monthly basis to have real and uncomfortable conversations to raise awareness and foster belonging in the workplace, and to provide insights to our leadership team on the plans we make and actions we take. I asked Ardith Feroglia, a leader of Aduro’s DE&I Coalition, about her experiences and she put it this way:
Systemic racism and micro-aggressions touch my life in nuanced and complex ways. As a mixed-race Asian-American, I do what I can to share my stories and perspectives. At the same time, I recognize my shortcomings and opportunities to further develop my abilities to be an ally to my Black friends and colleagues. The DE&I Coalition is laying the foundation for meaningful change; we examine our own stories, identities, and biases, and begin to understand how we can speak out and act against injustice. Maybe most importantly, we listen to one another. We are working to expand our impact to our wider organization and into the cultures of our clients, members, and communities. We take the lead in elevating voices and stories that are missing in the dominant conversations because we cannot truly unlock human potential without dismantling the systemic barriers that hold us back. I know diversity is not simply a “Black and White” issue, but Black Lives Matter and we must continue to work towards a better tomorrow today.
Jyotica Barrio, another leader of Aduro’s DE&I Coalition, said this: “As a multiracial, third-generation woman, I have experienced both overt and systemic racism and oppression in my life. I did a privilege exercise for a work training and learned just how privileged I was. I saw clearly something I had ignored for a very long time — although I am a woman and my skin is brown, I still held a lot of privilege. That day I made the choice that even though it was hard and uncomfortable to talk about, staying silent would only allow these systemic issues to stay in place. I firmly believe that we as humans are here to be of service to each other and our larger community. To do that, we must understand the context in which we live; understand the history, the systems, and the people. We must be willing to step outside of ourselves and question our beliefs and our environment. And we must be willing to recognize the humanity in the person sitting across from us.”
I credit these courageous women for helping me see my own privilege, unconscious biases, and gaps in my understanding of their differences and lived experiences. Expanding our own awareness of the role we play is the first step. Continuing to learn, grow, and improve how we stand up for others is the ongoing action.
Here are seven actions we are taking to be better allies in the workplace:
1. Auditing our systems and calling out issues.
We are creating safe spaces grounded in curiosity and compassion to have difficult conversations and allow voices to be heard. We are creating forums to have uncomfortable conversations with our leaders about race, privilege, and bias; reviewing all of our job descriptions, interviewing and hiring practices, and performance measures to ensure equitable treatment and conditions. Aduro is adding “listening questions” into our weekly employee survey so we can be more precise in our support of our teams, in real-time. Our leaders are reaching out in person to check in and support their teams.
2. Increased funding for DE&I initiatives.
We are doubling down on our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives. Our DEI Coalition has authored a Belonging Index that uses validated and customized questions to measure our culture of belonging and guide these initiatives, and we have already allocated budget for our DE&I Coalition to fund meaningful action.
3. Training our leadership team.
We are partnering with local consultants to create and design transformative change strategies to coach and build the capacity of our leaders to be great allies in the workplace; to recognize and appreciate difference, to lead with compassion, to call out and stop micro-aggressions, to drive institutional change, and to work for sustainable socially-just outcomes for every human being.
4. Expanding mental health coaching.
We are offering and highlighting expanded mental and emotional well-being resources through our Human Performance and Behavioral Health coaching to support our entire population in processing recent events and the emotions associated with them. We are checking in on our Black friends and colleagues and offering them the space, support, and time they need to process and grieve.
5. Creating new and relevant content.
We are using our technology platform as a powerful force for change by creating and disseminating new content for our employees, clients, and members. As we create new content and build new capabilities, we will make sure the topics of race and equity are thoughtfully immersed in our learning experiences.
6. Targeting our financial resources.
We are reviewing our 401(k) Mutual Funds and the businesses we support, ensuring we are only investing in companies that are advancing equity and justice. We are donating to organizations like the NAACP National Defense Fund, The Innocence Project, The Bail Project, and Year Up.
7. Empowering employee action.
We have signed a “no meeting” pledge for Election Day so that employees have time to vote, and paying them if they need time off to do so. We are also encouraging everyone to vote in less popular state and local elections in order to impact the policies that govern our local criminal justice practices.
Speaking for a largely White leadership team, we are personally committing ourselves to do our part to combat systemic racism, its roots, and our path forward as individuals and a company. We know this is just a first step, and we have a long way to go, but we are committed to making a meaningful difference immediately and in the long term for the long term because Black Lives Matter.
As a White woman, the words of Robin DiAngelo in her book, White Fragility, have helped me see the system into which I was born and socialized. I see clearly how much I benefit from it and how, by not actively working to change it, I help perpetuate it. The more I learn, the more I realize that my silence, my inaction, makes me complicit in a racist system. To change it means I must choose to be actively antiracist every day for the rest of my life and to invite other allies to the cause.
Here are a few resources we’re starting with.
- U.S. Businesses Must Take Meaningful Action Against Racism
- 20 Actions White people and non-Black POCs in Corprorate (and otherwise) can take to show up for Black People right now
- How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
- White Fragility: Why it’s so hard for white people to talk about racism by Robin DiAngelo