Racial inequality is a persistent issue. But recent heinous acts of racism in the United States have drawn widespread sadness and outrage. The killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and Rayshard Brooks underscore that systemic racism exists and must be dismantled.
The reality of everyday bias in the Black community, painfully, extends to our own friends and colleagues. It’s on all of us to fix this. Businesses will play an important role.
Seven years ago, Work & Co was set up to bring together strategy, design, and technology under a single roof —and launch digital products and services people around the world love to use every day. In that time, we have not done enough to fight systemic racism in the business world. As a newer company, we shoulder the responsibility for evolving upon and fixing old constructs.
Standing in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and with our Black employees must be combined with action. We have a long way to go. But Work & Co has committed to our team members a set of specific, consistent actions to be an anti-racist company. We must demonstrate this ethos both in the agency space, and as a company that creates digital products. As Fast Company recently wrote, to move forward, those who design and build emerging technology must “prioritize the needs, values, and desires of Black bodies and lives.”
Work & Co has committed to action in the following ways:
In the Community
Offering $1 million in pro-bono design and technology support over 3 years to racial justice organizations — specifically those dedicated to voting issues and economic empowerment in the Black community. (Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org).
A $25,000 donation to organizations in support of Black lives, chosen by our employees, in addition to an earlier donation this year to Black Girls Code.
Outreach to a more diverse set of colleges, universities, design schools and coding bootcamps, as well as trade organizations to support the development of Black and minority junior talent.
Increasing outreach and support to community and grassroots organizations in the cities where our offices are based.
Auditing our actions as a business and part of the economy to track how we support Black and minority-owned companies through vendor relationships (e.g., catering, purchasing supplies, or learning support) or partnerships with minority-owned creative, technology, and design companies.
Creation of 2 diversity coalitions: one to codify our processes to bring inclusivity best practices into the products we launch, and another to focus on building our network of design and tech talent over time.
Capturing detailed self-reported data globally for our employees to track diversity statistics and progress: three years prior and setting goals for three years in the future.
Retaining an independent third-party D&I expert to vet existing processes and help establish new ones —including our hiring strategy, diversity hiring goals, and software for diversity data management.
Continuing to uphold a commitment to pay equity.
Made Juneteenth and Election Day official company holidays.
Formalized the Black at Work & Co Employee Resource Group (ERG).
Establishing a broader ERG structure to better support non-Black allies, including groups dedicated to Asian, Latinx, and LGBTQIA+ team members.
Adding more D&I training and tools to support dialogue around race, while also creating safe spaces for uncomfortable conversations.
Creating new mechanisms for reporting and addressing bias in the workplace.
Supporting the retention, success, and health of Black team members.
Being a diverse organization is critical to building digital experiences for a global audience. We want to be transparent about our current Black employee representation to bring accountability to changing these numbers. Currently, 5% of our U.S. team is Black. Of that, only 2 team members are at the Director/AD level.
Work & Co is committed to supporting the growth of current Black team members, while also increasing our overall percentage of Black employees in the future. We’ll deliver on this goal across all disciplines and levels, lifting the number on an annual basis with the goal of reflecting the U.S. population and regional populations accurately.
Accountability and Investment
It is critical that leadership is accountable for these actions. At the same time, we want to empower team members across levels and regions to be part of our D&I initiatives in the future, through ERGs and coalitions to recruit diverse talent and launch inclusive digital products.
We’re proud of our team members who have gone beyond performative gestures and spent time protesting in support of equality and racial justice.
We are also proud that many of our clients —including Airbnb, Apple, Brooklinen, Cava, Goldman Sachs, Nike, and Vistaprint— have shown action by donating to Black Lives Matter, the NAACP, the Equal Justice Initiative and more, as well as fund their own multi-million dollar initiatives to advance Black communities. We will always encourage client partners to create positive change as well.
We Can’t Do it Alone: Let’s Find Solutions Together
As agency professionals emphasized in an open letter — spurring the important work new organization Six Hundred & Rising is leading —tracking progress through workforce diversity data will be key. Work & Co believes that all of us need to go even further by sharing data, best practices, and success stories in order to move the industry meaningfully forward. We commit to change and hope to join forces with other companies to help fix racial inequity in the agency, design and technology fields.
Moving forward we will not only support Black talent internally, but also across the industry — by amplifying their voices through our social platforms, participating in mentorship programs, and partnering with trade organizations and nonprofits focused on elevating Black and minority talent.
June 2020 has been a time of difficult, necessary, and productive conversations. For Work & Co, it’s also a time of planning for persistent change.
There are years of work ahead. We commit to long-term change, so we don’t fail our valued Black team members and can help raise the bar for racial diversity and inclusion in the design and technology industries.