The world is waking up to the fight against racism and I couldn’t be happier!
But let’s be clear: learning about anti-racism and being anti-racist are not the same things. Learning is a good first step and a necessary one. But if you don’t apply the knowledge you acquire, then you are not helping to move the needle.
Since the murder of George Floyd at the hands/knees of the Minneapolis police, people all over the world have been focused on Black Lives Matter and anti-racism. At Cloudflare, we’ve seen an increase in cyberattacks, we’ve heard from the leadership of Afroflare, our Employee Resource Group for employees of African descent, and we held our first ever Day On, held on June 18, Cloudflare’s employee day of learning about bias, the history and psychological effects of racism, and how racism can get baked into algorithms.
By way of this blog post, I want to share my thoughts about where I think we go from here and how I believe we can truly embody Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) in our workplace.
Is diversity recruiting the answer to anti-racism in the workplace?
Many Cloudflarians said we should increase our diversity recruiting efforts as part of the feedback we received after our Day On event. But recruiting more diverse candidates only solves one part of the problem. There are still two major hurdles to overcome:
- Employees need to feel welcome and have a sense of belonging
- Employees need to feel valued and have an equal opportunity for career advancement
Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) offer opportunities to foster community and a sense of belonging. But it is beyond the scope of an ERG to ensure all employees have equal opportunities for advancement. And honestly, this is where a lot of companies fall short. It’s the reason you see people sharing pictures and calling out management teams or boards of directors all over social media. Because there is a lack of visible signs of diversity at senior levels. Numbers can be misleading. A company might state, “We have 11% employees of this group or 8% of that group.” That’s great, but how many of these employees are thriving in their current roles and getting promoted at the same pace as their white counterparts? Or being compensated at the same rate as their male counterparts? The answers to those questions are much more telling, yet seldom shared.
Folks, if we are going to see meaningful change, we all need to get onboard with Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. It’s really not the type of thing that people can opt-in or out of. It won’t work. And even if, and when, everyone opts in to make DEI a priority, that won’t be enough. We won’t start to see real change until we are all living and breathing DEI day in and day out.
What does committing to DEI every day look like?
Doing something (anything) every day that flexes our DEI muscles and gets us closer to meaningful outcomes.
- Mentoring a person from an underrepresented group or asking someone from an underrepresented group to mentor you.
- Scheduling coffee meetings with underrepresented people around the company and finding out how you can help to amplify their voices.
- Providing candid, timely coaching to underrepresented employees to help them grow in their field or area of expertise.
- Learning to value the different approaches and styles that people from underrepresented groups bring to the workplace.
- Watching Cloudflare TV segments like, “Everyone at the Table” which airs weekly and promotes an open dialogue about everyday topics from the perspective of people with different perspectives.
- Hosting office-wide or team-wide “listening circles” where employees can share what a just and equitable workplace looks like to them.
- Requesting educational opportunities for your team or whole company such as implicit bias workshops or allyship workshops. Asking if your company’s leaders have attended similar workshops.
- Asking your manager/team leadership how you may help increase the diversity of your team.
- Suggesting ideas for building a more inclusive culture within your team such as running meetings in a manner where everyone has an equal opportunity to speak, keeping meetings and work social activities within working hours, and regularly hosting conversations about how the team can be more inclusive.
- And finally - asking the opinion of someone from an under-represented group. This one is especially important since so many of us are not present when critical decisions are being made.
Why is committing to DEI on a daily basis important?
- Because it’s easier for us to do nothing. Keeping the status quo is easy. Coming together to change the system is hard work. Especially if everyone is not on board.
- Because having a company full of underrepresented people who are not being heard, seen, celebrated, or promoted is not going to get us the outcomes we want. And trust me, it doesn’t take long to realize that you are not going to make it at a company. Racism, discrimination, and unfair treatment can be very subtle but under-represented people can tell when they are valued and appreciated. And when they are being set up to fail.
- Because we know too much. The system is broken. Underrepresented groups have always known this. But now that it is a fact most people acknowledge and accept, we can’t ignore it. A wise woman once said, "Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better." (Maya Angelou)
I’ll end my commentary with this: I view DEI as a journey that we must commit to every day. Here at Cloudflare. Across the tech industry. And in our world.
Notice I used the word journey. It’s not a destination in the sense that we do these 10 things and we have “arrived”. Instead, I believe it is a journey that we will always be on with milestones and achievements to be celebrated along the way.
To help you start flexing your DEI muscle, I’m kicking off a 21-Day DEI Challenge starting today! Every day, for the next 21 days, I challenge you to share in a public forum (bonus points for doing it on LinkedIn) how you are helping to move DEI forward. You can take a small step or a really big one. What matters is that you are flexing that muscle and challenging yourself (and others) to start the journey. #21DayDEIChallenge #BeAntiRacist #MoveTheNeedle
I hope you are up for the challenge that DEI offers us because the future of our company, industry, and society depends on it.
Postscript: This blog post is dedicated to the memory of the late Congressman John Lewis, a great civil rights leader and so much more, who challenged all of us to be brave enough to make noise and get into “good trouble” for the sake of justice and equality. Rest in Power, Mr. Lewis.