No, Your Corporate D&I Program Won’t Solve the Hate We’re Seeing in Our Communities
The mass shootings in Atlanta this week, which will forever change the lives of eight families (and frankly, many around the globe), were a direct result of white supremacist terrorism. Period.
White supremacy is a deep, insidious illness that flows through the veins of this country—arguably our nation’s original pandemic. Calling this out acknowledges that the systems of power in our country were created by and for white men with the aim of protecting their positional privilege. The love I have for the unfinished project of America compels me to state this truth with hope that others in corporate spaces do the same. Said differently by Baldwin, “If I love you, I have to make you conscious of the things you don’t see.” In this spirit, it’s time for our industry to realize that our D&I initiatives won’t solve the hate we’re seeing in our communities.
For folks who glance at my LinkedIn or who I’ve met, this statement may come as a surprise. I’ve spent all of my life and much of my career working toward equity and inclusion as a D&I leader.
Despite a fulfilling career, it’s not lost on me that D&I initiatives have fallen short of creating more equity in our broader community. Not just in the tech community, but America’s communities. Folks whose voices will never reach the decision-makers in Silicon Valley, even if Silicon Valley’s products reach into their communities, homes, and phones daily.
The initiatives we sponsor help make our companies more successful by building the most diverse teams. They create wealth building opportunities that would otherwise be out of reach for many. They broaden the opportunity landscape wide enough for candidates to break through glass ceilings and finally land a job in tech. They create pipeline programs for talent at schools and bootcamps that would otherwise be overlooked—the list goes on. But this is not sufficient.
Our programs and good intentions aren’t meant to dismantle our nation’s systemic inequities. If we step back, we see a clear, problematic picture even in the last year:
- - California is leading the country with reported AAPI hate incidents between March 2020 and February 2021, representing 45% of all incidents reported around the U.S.
- - While people of all AAPI ethnicities reported incidents in this same time frame, the Chinese community exceeded all other demographics representing over 40% of reported incidents.
- - AAPI Women report incidents 2.3 times more than men.
- - 68% of incidents towards AAPI community members involved verbal harassment.
- - Businesses are the primary site of discrimination at 35.4%, quickly followed by public streets.
So if our programs aren’t solving for the incidents above, who is?
There are organizers and advocates doing the work on the ground every day. Organizations like Black Lives Matter or Stop AAPIHate—folks who often don’t get a stage or even a microphone, but work tirelessly to help America deliver on her promise of opportunity for everyone. No, our D&I programs will never match these organizations’ efforts, but there is a role our efforts can play. More on that later.
When tragedies like what we’ve witnessed in Atlanta and the Bay Area against the AAPI community occur, what if we did something different? Instead of hashtags and unconscious bias trainings:
- - What if we also directed resources to organizers doing the work?
- - What if we sponsored a non-profit?
- - What if we offered technologies or services directly to communities, in-kind?
We don’t have to be “tech saviors” and spin up a new solution for communities we’ve never stepped foot in. Instead we can stand with the folks on the ground who are calling for the world to take notice of inequality and step aside so that others who have been doing this work can lead.
No, our D&I programs won’t change what we just saw in Atlanta. They won’t bring back George Floyd or Breonna Taylor or the many, many names scrolling in a seemingly endless list.
So what can we do? Here’s a start:
- Our programs can curate leadership teams that reflect the changing face of America and the globe.
- Our programs can create more equitable hiring practices by disaggregating the Asian and Pacific Islander demographics, focusing less on seeing this community as a homogenous group and more on building teams that represent the multi-ethnic, multicultural identities that make up this community.
- Our programs can build environments that advance and retain Asian and Pacific Islander talent and can actively work to expose and extinguish discrimination and microaggressions directed towards this community in the workplace.
- Our programs can sponsor learning journeys through the lens of cultural competency that provide non-AAPI teammates with the opportunity to “do the work” instead of leaning on the marginalized to educate others about their day-to-day experiences.
- Our programs can encourage companies to invest in the communities they occupy—especially here in California where AAPI’s make up ~15% of the state’s population and almost 35% in the neighborhoods surrounding Silicon Valley.
At Canvas, one of our values is “Walk the Walk”. We want to lead by example and do better so that we can be a model for our industry that it’s possible to be better.
Here are our commitments:
- We commit in the next 2 years to having 50% of our company’s leadership (defined as Dir+) reflect underrepresented communities; with a particular focus on AAPI, Black, and Latinx identities. We know that the future of work is diverse and we believe a representative leadership team will only accelerate our ability to build an inclusive workforce and reach our mission.
- As we work to build a comprehensive diversity strategy to support the next phase of our growth, we commit to extending at least 50% of offers to underrepresented communities. For context, 62% of offers extended thus far in Q1 have been towards URCs.
- We commit to donating three separate grants to community-based organizations actively working against hate and systemic inequality in our country. We believe these organizations should operate where we operate, so we’ll identify one national organization and a local organization in both San Francisco and Los Angeles. Given the harmful rhetoric and violence towards the AAPI community against the backdrop of COVID-19, one of these groups will be an AAPI community-based organization.
- Our co-founder, Adam, has recently assembled a D&I Advisory Board of industry professionals advancing D&I in their respective spaces. This braintrust will keep us honest, pressure test our initiatives, and to help shape our strategy as we become the leading platform for building diverse teams. We commit to offering two Advisory Board seats and equity to job-seekers from untapped communities on a rotating, annual basis to ensure we keep the voices of those most left out in tech-centered in this work.
- By the end of 2022, we commit to offering our product in-kind to three non-profit organizations seeking to advance underrepresented talent in the tech Industry.
- We commit to sharing a letter and invitation to partner with our elected officials in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and our representatives at the Federal level to 1) explore ways that Canvas can support the effort to eliminate hate in our communities and 2) surface new opportunities to increase representation at our company and in tech broadly.
- By Q4 we will formalize an internal employee-led and company-sponsored D&I working group to further our organization’s learning journey to make tech more equitable.
Our final commitment is to all of you. We commit to updating you on the progress of these commitments as they come to fruition in the spirit of accountability.
I call all of this out in hopes of calling our industry peers in. We all have a role to play in our collective reckoning and facing how our past shapes who we are as a nation and how that history has shaped who we’ve become as an industry.
AAPI Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter. You Matter.
What will you commit to?
Tariq & the Executive Team at Canvas
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Here’s a list of resources to take action now:
Organizations & Accounts to Support: