When the world learned the names of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, Black people everywhere experienced a flood of emotions—pain, fear, sadness, frustration, anger. As our Workmate Jacqueline Brown noted, “These tragedies represent the latest in a long history of racial injustice, with many more known and unknown names on the list of those impacted.”
In this edition of VIBE™ Voices, three Workday employees share their ideas for how to enable more conversations, foster stronger connections, and make real progress on the path to racial justice.
Jacqueline Brown is a senior principal, Workday on Workday Finance. She’s also co-founder and the Pleasanton, Calif., chapter co-lead of Workday's Talented Tenth employee belonging council (EBC), which focuses on supporting our Black community.
It was challenging to know what to say or how to process the emotions following the death of George Floyd. The collective wounds of our communities were too much to bear. But it soon became clear that it wasn't just Black employees at Workday who were impacted, and that we all needed to be part of the conversation to start healing. This is not a one-time moment in history, and getting comfortable talking about the uncomfortable is how we're going to pave a lasting path forward.
Having a conversation seems simple enough, yet it can be one of the most challenging actions to take. When engaging in conversation, expect there to be many differing opinions, because the complex topic of racial injustice has so many layers. These discussions can be emotionally charged, but it's important to create a safe space where people feel supported sharing their lived experiences.
“Education and communication lead to a clearer understanding of how to take action.”Jacqueline Brown Senior Principal, Workday on Workday Finance Workday
I’ve spoken to many Workmates who want to be a part of the conversation, but don't know where to start. I believe education is the first step. Black history isn't well taught in America, so to talk about what's happening today, you need to understand how we got here in the first place. Education challenges our assumptions, helps us ask more critical questions, and makes us better prepared to engage in dialogue with a level of knowledge and intelligence.
To foster continuous conversation, my team has started a list of movies, YouTube videos, documentaries, articles, and books (a few examples include 13th, Ava DuVernay’s documentary, and two books: White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism and So You Want to Talk About Race). We select from the list and then set a dedicated time to share our thoughts on that piece of content. By focusing on one resource at a time, we can anchor the conversation with awareness and respect for diverse perspectives.
Education and communication lead to a clearer understanding of how to take action—whether that's thinking about what you can do for your community or how to speak with your children about diversity and racism. I encourage everyone to seek out the many resources available and continue having those tough conversations. They’ll bring us closer together and lead to sustainable change.
Chris Baker is a manager on Workday’s Integration Services team, chapter lead for Workday’s Cycling Club (WCC), and an ally to the Black community.
I never felt I was naive about the reality many Black people face, but I now realize how little I really understood about its everyday severity. I felt powerless by the cruelty surrounding the many deaths that should have never happened. But Black Lives Matter is a complex issue that requires the involvement of all of society.
Doing your part in the COVID-19 crisis has a relatively clear set of instructions: Stay home as much as possible, keep your distance, wear a mask, and so on. But there’s no guidebook for this centuries-old crisis of racial inequality and injustice. I started by learning more about America’s history with racism and the current system that developed from it. As I continue to educate myself, I also know I need to be more involved in showing solidarity and making an impact.
As an avid cyclist and chapter lead for WCC, I was familiar with asking people to ride their bikes in support of a cause. With a large network of people at Workday, I wondered if we could use cycling to show up in solidarity for Black Lives Matter. I shared the idea with other WCC chapter leads, and soon the idea took off.
“Black Lives Matter is a complex issue that requires the involvement of all of society.”Chris Baker Manager, Integration Services Workday
Nick Fernandez, a WCC founder and lead, and I partnered with Workday’s Talented Tenth EBC and our cycling club to create Workday’s #RideForJustice initiative.
Twenty employees from across Workday came together to organize #RideForJustice, a week-long awareness and donation campaign with proceeds going to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. While we came from different backgrounds and walks of life, we shared the desire to make an impact.
In the end, more than 100 Workmates participated in #RideForJustice, and we donated more than $10,000 to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Because the initiative was so impactful, we’ve decided to make #RideForJustice a yearly effort.
When I think about how people can make an impact, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. Impact could mean having a conversation about equality, or it could mean donating time and resources. There is no one right way to get involved, but I think a great starting point is considering what you love to do and using that to make a positive difference.
Brianna Mills is a senior content QA technical editor on the Workday Education team and serves as the Pleasanton, Calif. chapter communications co-lead for the Talented Tenth EBC.
Like many Black employees, I’ve carried the heaviness of racism and unjust violence against our community to work. For weeks, I’ve had trouble focusing on my daily tasks or engaging in light banter in meetings. I hoped the hurt would eventually numb and things would go back to “normal.” Sadly, many Black employees have had to employ similar coping mechanisms to manage at work.
But then I noticed a shift: My Workmates who aren’t Black were beginning to discuss systemic racism and recognize the racial injustices that Black people have constantly endured. They were reaching out to offer their support, apologizing for not joining the conversation sooner, and asking for learning resources. As the Talented Tenth communications co-lead, I saw the increase in Workmate outreach firsthand. I felt responsible for enabling that connection while also helping ensure Black stories and voices are heard at this historical moment.
In a company-wide town hall focused on listening to Black employees, allies had the opportunity to hear the perspectives of Black Workmates. They discussed the emotional toll of fighting anti-Blackness while battling a global pandemic, being productive at work, taking care of our families, and taking care of our mental health (among other things).
“This moment in history won’t be the last time we need support, and we have a lot of work to do.”Brianna Mills Senior Content QA Technical Editor, Education Content Quality Assurance Workday
Following the town hall, the Talented Tenth online community nearly quadrupled. Our leadership team started receiving requests from teams across Workday asking us to share more about our EBC, partner on new initiatives, and amplify our stories to a larger audience. This welcome flood of support brought about our current challenge: scaling our EBC with an influx of allies while maintaining a safe space for Black employees to connect with one another.
As we continue to build the framework that will allow the Talented Tenth to scale, it’s important that we keep our members engaged and connected. To do that, we’ve started sharing lighthearted prompts related to Black culture and including words of encouragement in every community announcement. This is a level of empathy I’m not used to regularly conveying in my workplace messaging—but placing ourselves in uncomfortable territory is what connection is all about.
As the protests and related legislation fade from the media’s view, it’s still every individual’s responsibility to keep learning, connecting, and pushing for change. Because while we’re moving closer to a global understanding of racial injustice and inequality, this moment in history won’t be the last time we need support, and we have a lot of work to do.
In doing that work, may this quote from the late Civil Rights icon John Lewis inspire you: "Ours is not the struggle of one day, one week, or one year. Ours is not the struggle of one judicial appointment or presidential term. Ours is the struggle of a lifetime, or maybe even many lifetimes, and each one of us in every generation must do our part."