Last week, our CEO, David Williams, released a statement on recent events in our country. In unity with our organization’s stance, we also wanted to explain the work we are doing at the local level, as our mission and efforts are now more critical than ever. For ten years, we have worked toward a future where all Chicago youth finish high school equipped and empowered with the knowledge and skills required to achieve career success and a lifetime of economic self-sufficiency.
Over the past weeks, Genesys Works Chicago (GWC) has reflected on the role our day-to-day practices have played in contributing to infrastructure that enables inequitable practices and environments. As advocates for our Young Professionals, it is our responsibility and privilege to work towards and build a future that is worthy of them.
We have not done enough.
The senseless killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and many other Black citizens highlight the inextricable link between the mission of Genesys Works and the goal of eliminating the systemic racism facing the Black Community. There is no excuse for staying silent. People say racial dynamics in America are complicated. Although the history of racism is complex, the decision to oppose racism is not. It can be explained in seven simple words. It is the right thing to do.
Action is needed now. For all community, nonprofit, civic, and private-sector leaders, addressing racial inequities and speaking up is an essential first step. But we must do more. Taking action is the critical measurement against which we should be judged. As such, I want to share with you the steps that Genesys Works Chicago is committed to implementing.
Actions to be taken by December 31, 2020:
- Listen to our Young Professionals. We held two Racial Injustice Forums for our current Young Professionals last week. The first step is to listen, but we must create a safe space, free of judgment so that the youth we serve can exercise their voices and feel empowered to educate us. Historically, we have not provided a formal, dedicated space for students to speak with one another about their experiences as people of color interning in largely homogenous environments. It is past time that we did so. We will build future dedicated space into our programming to continue the conversation.
- Review and revise our curriculum to focus on common standards of professionalism rather than code-switching. Research demonstrates that code-switching is one of the critical dilemmas Black employees face around race at work. While often seen as crucial for professional advancement, code-switching often comes at a psychological cost. Rather than coaching around conformity, we are focusing on building skills directly related to helping the students articulate themselves and their ideas in the workplace, all while achieving success in their professional role.
- We will intentionally cultivate a team that represents our students. At 36% people of color, our current staff composition is not reflective of our community. We commit to widening our talent pipeline by posting any future career opportunities on at least three job boards that specifically highlight opportunities for communities of color.
- We will increase our board diversity. We recognize that at 17% people of color, our Board of Directors is also not reflective of the community we serve. We commit to adding three new board members who are people of color and reflect the students we serve by the end of the year.
Building a diverse workforce begins with inclusivity and opportunity, and a commitment to these values. It’s the right thing to do.