Reporting Out: Progress on our Anti-Racist Agenda

In May, our nation was jolted into action as thousands of citizens took a stand against systemic racism and violence against Black people and communities. In the wake of the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, Genesys Works Bay Area (GWBA) made a public statement committing to five short-term actions we would take to increase our role as an ally and a champion of our Black and Brown students. We promised to report on our progress by September 1, 2020.

Last week, Jacob Blake was shot by Kenosha Police Officer Rusten Sheskey. His name rings in our ears as we share the progress we’ve made, but it is a terrible reminder that we cannot be complacent in our work.

In June, we wrote: 

“As advocates for our students, it is our responsibility and privilege to work towards and build a future that is worthy of them. We have not done enough.”

Those words remain as true today. We must continue to call for justice, action, and accountability – within Genesys Works, and outside of it.

Action is needed now. For all community, nonprofit, civic, and private-sector leaders, addressing racial inequities and speaking up is an important first step. But we must do more. Taking action is the key measurement on which we should be judged. As such, I want to share with you the progress that Genesys Works Bay Area has made toward the goals we published in June.

Progress Report on Short-term Anti-Racist Actions (June 4, 2020 - September 1, 2020)

We hosted a Racial Injustice Forum for our current Young Professionals on June 5, 2020.

Led by our staff of color, a successful forum was held in June. Our young professionals were engaged, respectful, and supportive of each other. Questions were posed, and answers were neither perfect nor universal. However, holding space for our future leaders to grow means supporting their growth across all spectrums, even – and especially – when we are uncomfortable.

Another discussion on racism will be held on September 2 with all of our current Young Professionals, with follow up forums to be scheduled. We have integrated regular touchpoints into our recurring bi-weekly student gatherings for continued conversation.

In additional to these student-focused conversations, we also integrated two panel sessions of young Bay Area professionals into our Summer Skills Training. Recruited from Employee Resource Groups of key corporate partners, these speakers joined us to talk with our students about how they show up as their whole selves in the workplace. We are so grateful to have corporate partners who engage in this work with us. Our young professionals greatly enjoyed these discussions, and we will embed them into our Summer Skills Training moving forward.

We implemented strategies to intentionally cultivate a team that represents our students.

We have identified a diverse array of job boards that serve the BIPOC and LGBTQ communities, and we have codified policies around ensuring that any future job descriptions reach outside of traditional hiring pools.

We have incorporated implicit bias tools and new training components into our manager orientations.

Not only have we provided implicit bias tools into our corporate partner supervisor onboardings, but in partnership with the Grads of Life program, we also incorporated training materials specific to managing opportunity talent remotely. This series of modules provided practical tools, behaviors, and mindsets to enhance managers’ abilities to understand the unique challenges our young professionals may be facing and to address them well.

We have mandated a “silence is compliance” rule.

Any instances of racism or other intolerance reported by a student, intern, or staff member must be elevated to the GWBA Executive Director. This policy has been integrated into our Young Professionals’ Handbook and discussed with students by our Program Coordinators. We have explicitly stated – rather than just implying – that our students are not expected to “shake off” any such incidents, or face them alone. Our team is here to advocate for their belonging in the workplace.

We will continue to set, work towards, and share progress on goals that will guide Genesys Works in our efforts to build a better Bay Area. Our country’s youth not only deserve an equitable pathway to opportunity; they deserve everyday safety that speaks to the dignity of their lives.

We call for justice. We call for action. We call for accountability. #BlackLivesMatter

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