June 2020 has been a month of great change. I always look forward to Pride month; celebrating my dear friends and colleagues in the LGBTQ community as their ally. But this year, June has given rise to another much-needed conversation in the United States - Black Lives Matter.
As a female Latina, I have experienced racism since I moved to the mainland United States from Puerto Rico in 2002. However, I have never feared for my life. The shift in the conversation we’re seeing today across the board is very refreshing, but I can’t help but wonder - will we finally see change?
I have to think we will finally see change. I have to think we will see democracy at work as I saw back home in Puerto Rico when the citizens of the island ousted the then-governor. As a mother of two young boys, I have hope that my sons will never experience what the Latino community has experienced when they are older. I have hope that my boys will be seen and valued for who they are: Latino men with Puerto Rican and Cuban roots.
I also have hope that if one of my boys were to identify with the LGBTQ community, that they would be embraced for who they are as individuals and not their identities. To better understand the changing narrative we’re experiencing, I reached out to a close friend, Tyrone Webb, Jr., Head of Global Field Communications at SAP.
Tyrone is responsible for strategizing executive messaging with business priorities for 3500+ employees, customers and partners. He is the frontrunner for one of SAP’s largest Employee Network Groups (ENGs), Pride@SAP North America, which has successfully raised the bar to create a safer work environment for 100,000+ employees. He is also a standing Diversity and Inclusion roundtable member in helping SAP to increase their inclusion footprint. Most recently, he served as Vice-Chair and Marketing Strategist for two Atlanta-based non-profits, Auditory Verbal Center (AVC) and National Black MBA – Atlanta Chapter (NBMBAA). Tyrone writes:
I am Tyrone Webb Jr. and I am a proud gay Black man. Originally from New Jersey, I relocated to Atlanta to accept a position with SAP eight years ago. I look at Pride as a celebration for the LGBTQ community and a time to educate the masses on what the community actually is.
It all began in June of 1969 with the Stonewall Riots against the injustice people were experiencing in the community. Those riots paved a long road towards marriage equality, trans-rights, workplace protections and so much more. Pride Month is a time to celebrate the years of progress we’ve made since then. Today, I see businesses starting to understand the power of people, and that diversity can be a competitive advantage. Employees are the heart of every business, and with a diverse workforce comes stronger revenue, innovation and success. Last year at SAP, for example, we celebrated the 50th Anniversary of Stonewall Uprising by hosting a World Pride event in our New York City office. Our CMO, Alicia Tillman, kicked off the event followed by our guest speaker, Bill McDermott, Chief Development Officer at the Los Angeles LGBT Center. We donated $5,000 to support the mission of the LGBT Center and work they are doing in the community. To be a part of that event as an SAP employee, not only made me feel valued, but loved. To have a voice and to be seen in a company such as SAP is an honor. I am grateful for my career and SAP. And I also know that others don’t share my experience of acceptance and respect, so I continue to advocate.
Progress moves us forward
This year we’ve seen great strides but we have also hit some bumps in the road. The current administration is underestimating the strength of our people. Our movement is bigger than this moment in time - with social media, protests, and more LGBTQ government representatives - progress will happen with or without the support of the White House. And despite the pandemic, we continue to keep Pride top-of-mind virtually. Now more than ever, we must remember the power that we have to support our community: economic power and civic power. We should support LBTGQ businesses to help drive revenue back into the community, and we must stand together to exercise our voting power to elect local officials who can and will support us. We shouldn’t use the pandemic as an excuse, we must use it as an opportunity to double-down on our efforts.
And now, in addition to Pride, Black Lives Matter (BLM) has catapulted to a global stage. Everyone is making big commitments to diversity and inclusion. But it’s hard to trust those commitments when we are in a constant cycle: Someone is murdered, we protest and the world goes back to normal. That’s hard to understand when it’s a life, a soul, a human being who was lost, merely because of their race. But it seems to be playing out differently this time, it feels like something is shifting. My company, SAP, took swift action. The protests didn’t stop and the Georgia legislature recently passed a Hate Crimes Bill. This feels like significant progress for a state like Georgia.
Diversity and inclusion drives good business
We have also seen marginalized communities coming together - Black, LGBTQ, Latino, Asian. We are hearing so many stories about discrimination and racism that are hard to believe considering it's 2020. It’s important that we keep sharing our stories, so that we as a community move the conversation forward for further equality - this is where intersectionality plays a huge part.
What can the business community do to ensure there is true diversity and inclusion? Business communities must invest in the marginalized by investing in our people.
- First, prioritize culture change. Build a culture that is inclusive to everyone and make it a safe work environment for all.
- Create real opportunity and commit to hiring fresh and diverse talent. Bring new people into your network through opportunities like internships and mentorship., Make it a criteria to find full-time employment for them at the end of their internship.
- Create an initiative where you are promoting underrepresented groups into leadership roles. All groups of people should see someone who looks like or identifies like them in a strong leadership role.
Communicating with balance
The business community’s overall message should be we are here to support everyone with goals in place to make our commitments real. From here, affinity groups must take a stand and hold the company accountable to those goals.
One thing we are doing at SAP is integrating our affinity groups. If we have a Pride event, we are inviting our Black employee network, Businesswomen network, Latino business network and so forth.
As communicators, we should hold our companies accountable for transparency, and encourage bold action backed up by real change. No more sugar coating. It’s our job to help the company not only strategize ways to communicate, but also to make good on those promises. Being inclusive means supporting marginalized communities when they take their seat at the table. It’s our job to hold up a mirror for the company so that they can see how society sees us, and to lead business to be a true reflection of the society that it serves.