Celebrating National Diversity Day When Your Team Isn't Very Diverse

“We can’t let this be lip-service. How are we going to back it up?”

 There was a beat of silence.

The question was posed by our SVP of Marketing to a small team of go-getters at Movista. We had just been informed that our CSO & co-founder, April Seggebruch, had volunteered our company to be one of the first in Northwest Arkansas to lead the charge on making the NWA business community a more inclusive and racially equitable place to work. We signed the NWA Leadership Pledge, which was put forth by the NWA Council and EngageNWA in July -- at the peak of a racial reckoning against injustice in every corner of the US. The pledge was, and is, a timely response to a critical problem.

In an instant, we were charged with a mission that was sure to be disruptive, revealing and transformative for our internal culture, and, hopefully, impactful in our community. As I considered the homogeny of Movista with a fresh perspective, I was intimidated by the tall order, but excited to contribute to a meaningful cause. We were committed to back up our signature with action.

 

Since that first brainstorm session two months ago, we have:

  1. Developed a game plan for the future. We put practical, achievable, concrete time-oriented goals on paper, including: in-depth reviews of our current practices (e.g. hiring, recruiting, promotion), interviews of our black, indigenous & person of color (BIPOC) employees to hear about their experiences, an overall evaluation of our status quo in comparison to national data and an explicit breakdown of where we want to be in the future.
  2. Connected with organizations like the Urban League of Arkansas and historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in Arkansas to expand the networks we recruit from. 
  3. Become intentional about using our monthly Give Back opportunities to support causes and non-profits that promote racial equity and support under-resourced, minority communities.
  4. Met regularly to keep our initiatives moving forward, and included employees of different ethnicities and varying experiences within the company to hear their invaluable perspectives.
  5. Added Equity as the fourth, foundational pillar of our Culture Team to keep the group focused on continual, deliberate efforts as the years come and go.
  6. Learned that our leadership is fully committed to educating themselves in order to improve their organizational influence. (For starters, 3 VPs are currently involved in a local workshop series focused on diversity & inclusion integrity through EngageNWA.)
  7. Began to cultivate thoughtful conversations within the company at large -- whether through links to educational articles on Slack or by picking books written by BIPOC authors for our company book club.

There are more initiatives in the works, too, and we’re marching toward making racial equity a part of our regular consciousness and everyday cadences. October seems to have arrived early in this time-warp, cluster of a year, but as we start 4th quarter business, we wanted to find a way to celebrate today, National Diversity Day, authentically -- without lip-service.

If you’ve looked at our website or pictures on social media, you might have noticed that Movista is made up of roughly 85% white people. Currently, black people, indigenous people and people of color are underrepresented in our company. We see it, too, and although we have always had “positive” intentions, they’re not enough. They never were. But now, we’re putting real, elbow-greasy effort into making intentional connections and educating our team and community at large that this has to change. We want to be more inviting, more inclusive and more representative of all people.

 

My boss is always saying, “Be the change you want to see at Movista.”

Any change worth making has to be worked for, not just wished for. Part of that work starts with using your privilege to push challenging questions to the front of the line. Are we giving BIPOC people a truly equal shot to work at Movista? If they’re hired, are they given the same opportunities for development and advancement as their white teammates? Are they paid fairly? Are there blind spots and biases so inherent to our way of thinking or working, that the discrimination goes by unnoticed? Do non-white people even want to work at Movista? We want their voices, their vision, their skills and their experiences -- but do they want to bring those invaluable perspectives to our table, or is it alarmingly exclusive?

Yet, sustainable change goes beyond hiring and retaining people. Racial equity is about more than meeting quotas and checking boxes. Let’s hold ourselves accountable from start to finish. How are we evaluating all of our practices to ensure they’re fair? Are we re-evaluating them regularly? Are there practical benchmarks for us to grow? Do we have a plan of action? Are we having conversations and inviting everybody to join in? Are we moving forward?

Change can be uncomfortable. As a species, we are not wired to welcome it. But in order to shift a systemic problem, we need to put on our stretchy-est big-kid pants and face reality. This is how we learn and grow. We can give each other grace, knowing we will encounter countless teachable moments along the way, but we cannot give each other excuses. This is how we get better. 

If you see unjust imbalance around you, stand up and say something. Ask the messy questions. Get uncomfortable. Your company, your product and your worldview will become better for it. But it’s not about that, really. It’s about taking a step back, seeing a massive, painful problem and doing what you can in your sphere of influence to fix it.

 

At Movista, we’re in the business of software. Most of our days are spent enhancing that software, improving the experience of our clients who use it and trying to get more companies to solve their retail execution problems alongside us. But every company is only a sum of its parts. If all of our people were to look the same, think the same and work the same, we’d be in trouble. (Talking about putting the “NO” in “innovation,” right?) Unbridled or unacknowledged sameness is unconducive to growth, wildly boring and morally dangerous.

We definitely have room to improve in becoming a more racially equitable place to work. Heck, we have room to grow in all of the ways our team could be more diverse -- and we’re dedicated to working on that, too. But on this National Diversity Day, we’re celebrating our commitment to change and we’re appreciating our people of all races and ethnicities that bring Movista to life.

Learn from our example. Learn from our mistakes. Hold us accountable. Tell us about your game plan. Let’s make NWA better.

Tags:
business success, employee retention, employee engagement, nwa tech, talent, innovation, diversity, inclusion

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