The global pandemic and the deaths of Ahhmaud Arbery and George Floyd motivated companies across the US to reexamine their diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts both externally and in-house. At Ampersand, it accelerated a journey that started when CEO Nicolle Pangis took the company's helm in 2018—growing gender diversity on the executive team to forty percent within a year. So, with a growing pandemic and protests rising across the country, she recognized the importance of quickly addressing what we were witnessing and engage in honest dialogue. We often ask employees to bring their whole selves to work, and there's no way we could afford to ignore the emotional and mental toll on our employees
It started with a powerful town hall where Black employees and allies shared their race and racism experiences. We then introduced a four-pillar program designed to move our employees from awake to allies to advocates. In doing so, our goal is to drive sustainable change by cultivating a radically inclusive environment where diversity is part of our DNA. We've focused our efforts on education, recruitment, advocacy, and, most importantly, accountability.
Through bias and anti-racism training, the Ampersand book club, resources, such as our Ally to Advocate Intranet page and #courageusconversations Slack channel, and events highlighting the contributions of underrepresented groups, employees are engaged in discussions that challenge their thinking and ingrained beliefs as well as each other. These tools also enable them to examine how their experiences and beliefs come to play in the workplace. It's incumbent to our success that employees play an active role in shaping a culture that welcomes everyone to the table.
We're addressing representation internally by creating programs that will retain and grow our best talent, so employees understand that we're invested in their future. Additionally, we're working with external organizations to drive industry representation. Most recently, Black college students learned the fundamentals of media and advertising through the newly formed Boyd Initiative with whom we partnered to provide that real-world learning experience. The program is named after Edward F. Boyd, one of the first Black executives responsible for marketing products to African-Americans and addresses the industry's lack of diversity.
It's also one of the ways we've started to build our talent pipeline, so we're aligning our future business needs with recruitment efforts. In January, Ampersand announced its AND Platform. This powerful platform's launch, which makes it easy to plan, execute, and measure audience-based multi-screen TV campaigns, means we've added a new level of diverse talent, including data scientists, data engineers, and additional software engineers who come from very diverse backgrounds and industries. In 2021, as we look to grow our teams, we are committed to ensuring that 30 percent of qualified candidates are from underrepresented groups. On our radar is developing relationships with organizations that actively support inclusivity, such as women in technology.
Driving radical inclusivity means we're also working on new guidelines and policies that support our LGBTQ+ employees, identifying ways to align DEI efforts with our business practices, and empowering our employees every step of the way. We measure our progress through our Employee Engagement belonging metric, which has increased eight points in the last eight months—six of those while our more than 600 employees across the United States continue to work from their homes.
Ensuring inclusivity is a welcomed challenge and we're fortunate to have an active multicultural Employee Resource Group that celebrates our differences and educates our teams.
As with many companies, we recently added Juneteenth as a Company holiday. The addition of Juneteenth as a company holiday recognizes Black people's sacrifices and contributions in the United States and normalizes that recognition in spaces where we have been traditionally excluded when we talk about American history. By normalizing representation, as we grow and evolve, our efforts will be viewed less as a "special" mandate or a response to a moment, but an integral part of our Company mission.
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