Pride 2020: Time for Employers to Truly Step Up

Claire Milligan Claire Milligan
Claire Milligan, SVP and General Manager, Tallie/SpringAhead, explains why this year Pride needs to be a true catalyst for change.

#emburse  #humanizework 

The recent tragic death of George Floyd and the ensuing urgency around the Black Lives Matter movement has dramatically increased active diversity and inclusion conversations within organizations around the globe. Many organizations that were previously silent - or at least quiet - on social and civil rights issues have stepped up to take a united stand against racism. While this is a small step in the right direction, there is a long road ahead. It is not nearly enough to promote equality and inclusion of the Black community. We all must do better.

Up until very recently, the prevailing corporate wisdom identified that having a zero tolerance policy for racism, homophobia, or other forms of prejudice or discrimination, was enough. Across corporate America, we talk about self-organizing Employee Resource Groups and measure our employee diversity in EEOC reporting. We bemoan the lack of pipeline of diverse candidates in recruiting, but don’t put that frustration into enough action. Granted, there are some incredible organizations that demonstrated leadership in this area, but they are the exception and not the rule.

The past few weeks have made it clear that organizations need to do so much more to promote inclusion and create a safe space for every employee to bring their whole self to work; to know that each employee will be celebrated, appreciated and treated as an individual. This is an environment we’re committed to fostering at Emburse.

And this brings us to Pride 2020. As a lesbian myself, I believe that Pride is about coming out from the shadows of shame and declaring to the world that you are a whole person that deserves to be celebrated. Pride is about celebrating our first rebels, like Black transwoman Marsha P. Johnson, and their demands for freedom from police brutality and discrimination. Pride is about our future and a belief that we have the power to change the world for the better. Pride is the LGBTQ+ community’s inheritance from our Civil Rights ancestors, to whom we are indebted.

We’ve already seen plenty of organizations change their social media icons, signalling to their employees and recruits that they are an employer that won’t be hostile to LGBTQ+ employees. But this year more than ever, it can't just be an opportunity for virtue signalling. Organizations need to walk the talk, both externally to customers, partners and stakeholders and - even more importantly - internally to employees.

While we celebrate Pride this month, organizations must also take this opportunity to listen and learn from their employees of all backgrounds to see how they can do better. This should be a top-down mandate with executive support and sponsorship, but implemented as a grassroots effort, driven by employees across the organization. Each human experiences the world through an intersectional lens of their own affiliated communities, some of which are at odds with each other. Leaders should hear complex stories from voices across the organization to make actionable plans that make sense for their population and their community writ large.

These initiatives must become part of the fabric of the organization, built on its core values, not just a short-lived token gesture or gimmick to be in sync with the mood of the nation.

Here at Emburse, we’re using the month of June to focus on the true meaning of Pride. We’re envisioning our future and putting ideas into action that will create a more inclusive environment for current and future employees of all minorities and backgrounds, but also specifically focusing on BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) employees. While we previously had homegrown diversity and inclusion initiatives developed within Emburse’s business units, these will be codified into a unified corporate program named Humanity Included.

First, we commit to bringing pipeline diversity into the forefront of our recruiting efforts, as well as codifying our initiatives to ensure greater diversity among our management and leadership tiers.

Next, we must ensure that every single member of the Emburse team feels empowered to bring their whole self to work every single day by fostering an overtly inclusive community. There cannot be just one way to behave, celebrate, succeed and thrive as an Emburse employee.

Additionally, we commit ourselves to doing the work beyond the doors of our own offices. We will put in place structured external initiatives that help support and promote the broad spectrum of minority experiences. As part of this effort, we will identify organizations that align with our Emburse core values for our corporate support. We will empower our employees to expand upon our existing volunteerism policy including evaluation of opportunities and analyzing impact. Finally, we will develop an approach to corporate giving that resonates with our values and has a dedicated budget.

While the planning has begun in earnest, we know that these initiatives won’t be put in place overnight. We want to ensure that we make smart, long-term decisions that enable us to maximize our support for diversity and inclusion inside the organization and out. We have taken the first step, and we’re excited about the journey ahead of us.

As a member of Emburse’s executive leadership team and the co-executive sponsor of Humanity Included, our diversity and inclusion initiative, I'm proud to be part of a team that has committed to do much better in this space. While we have reflected our support of the LGBTQ+ community on our social media channels with Pride logos, we do so not as a gesture to what we believe in, but as a promise to become an organization that not only welcomes LGBTQ+ and BIPOC employees to our organization, but one which champions these groups throughout the community.

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