I don't know what to write. I've probably started (and stopped) writing this a dozen times. I still don't know what to write. I've been in HR my whole career, with many years spent in Financial Services, an industry that has always been a leader in Diversity. I've run Diversity Councils, developed all kinds of innovative hiring and diversity workplace plans that garnered accolades- I was even named a "Diversity Champion" at one point in my career. And I still don't know what to write. I am a white, privileged woman who grew up in a typical Long Island upper class town. So how could I possibly know what to write?
For me, personally, perhaps the most important realization that has come out of the last few weeks – in addition to the stark reality of just how much pain people are in and how far we still have to go as a society - is the knowledge that I, as an HR executive and corporate communications leader, need to force myself to stop and think - really think - about what I do, and even more importantly, what I don't do. When it comes to inclusion, equality, and diversity, I have always taken great pride in making it a priority. But the current climate is forcing me look at things in a new light; there must be more that we, as individuals- and as corporations- can do to further equality and fairness. Where I am, and my own struggle, mirrors the questions we are considering here at New York Interconnect (NYI).
As a company, we have always been proud of our culture. We built a "family" atmosphere that supports everyone. We promote from within, encourage people to speak openly about their career paths, and we always recognize and respect the value each person brings to our success. Our turnover is low, our employee survey data is very positive and people genuinely like working here. Yet the recent demonstrations have served as a catalyst for an in-depth review on how we should lead our culture moving forward. What else can we do to make things better? What have we overlooked? How can we improve?
Our CEO recently wrote a moving personal response to the company addressing the current state of disharmony in the world. Taking a clear stand, he stated, "As an American and a human being, I am saddened and outraged…while it may be impossible for all of us to comprehend the full effect this has had on the black community, including our own employees, I know that… this act reinforces that there is much still to do to eliminate discrimination at any level…". He continued to say "I would be remiss if I did not take this moment to stress the impact, we at NYI can make in our culture, with ripple effects extending to our society. If we listen to each other, and to our communities, and we make compassion a primary driver of our actions, we will certainly contribute to making our society even greater."
We are society. All of us. It is up to us. But how we achieve those changes still needs to be determined. I think forums like this one are certainly a start. It's an important step into opening the dialogue and finding those critical, overdue answers. At NYI, we're taking a closer look at our own approaches to diversity, including internal conversations with people of differing opinions and perspectives. I have joined a social justice group and attended demonstrations in pursuit of more insight. Employees have reached out with their own thoughts and suggestions and we are strongly encouraging them to come forward with any thoughts they have on this matter. These open lines of communications are raising important questions; ones that we hope will lead us to the right answers.
This is a pivotal moment in our culture; a beginning of a greater understanding among all people. Together, we will find the answers to make this a more peaceful and just world. And maybe, next time I will know exactly what to write.
Better yet, if we all work together in the pursuit of fairness, maybe there won't be a next time.
VP Human Resources
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