Why We Celebrate Resilience: In Honor of Black History Month

February in the U.S. is Black History Month, a celebration that pays tribute to the contributions, achievements, and impact of Black heritage and culture. Members of Workday’s Black @ Workday Employee Belonging Council share how they’re honoring the annual commemoration.

We invited the Black @ Workday Employee Belonging Council (EBC) to share their insights on the theme for Black History Month 2021 at Workday, “Celebrating Resilience.”  

Resilience Increases Strength and Enables Innovation

Erin Rusk is a quality assurance engineer and serves as the global community liaison for Black @ Workday EBC.

Nearly six years ago, a small group of Black employees at Workday formalized their efforts to support, strengthen, and share the Black culture in tech. Those efforts have blossomed into a thriving employee resource group at Workday: the Black @ Workday EBC, formerly the Talented Tenth EBC, is a uniting force for Black Workmates and allies around the globe working toward fair, equitable practices and challenging the status quo of how we recruit and develop the best talent. 

This wouldn’t have happened without the resilience demonstrated in those early years to change what the technology and business workforce looks like.

The Black community has always known resilience, whether welcoming it or not. And in that resilience, we find more strength, innovation, and hope to move the needle forward.

It’s why for Black History Month in 2021, we chose the theme “Celebrating Resilience.” And more than we have in the past, we've been highlighting intersectionality and mental health. Our Black communities are trying to simultaneously heal and support others amid the backdrop of the pandemic and acts of violence in the U.S. against Black people over the past year.

While Black History Month and honoring prominent Black historical figures in history is formally recognized in February, discussion of these topics—as well as amplifying voices from our Black community and unpacking the duality of being Black in America—should happen all year long. Black history is American history.

“Poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou describes what resilience means to me: ‘I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.”’ 

Aleta Boyd Senior Engagement Manager Workday

More Diversity Leads to More Effective and Innovative Solutions

Osagie Ero is a senior associate software application engineer and serves as the Pleasanton, Calif. chapter lead for the Black @ Workday EBC.

The beauty of software engineering is that everyone has a different approach about how to solve a problem. Each engineer utilizes their unique perspective and experience to attack problems and derive solutions. Software engineers often work in a collaborative environment, a setting that I enjoy because it allows me to work with all kinds of people.

But sometimes, even in a collaborative environment, being an “only” feels alienating. Black engineers are underrepresented in tech, often making up only a single-digit percentage in tech companies, which among the many challenges, creates a perception that tech isn’t where Black communities can have thriving careers.

An employee’s sense of belonging at work is the strongest indicator for employee engagement, which is a high correlation to positive business outcomes like productivity and retention. 

I spent the first half of my journey as a software engineer trying to mold my thinking to match others, but in the process, I was denying myself the opportunity to exhibit the qualities that enable me to solve problems from different angles. It took joining and getting involved in the Black @ Workday EBC community for me to realize that I am uniquely positioned to make an impact at work and that I should embrace my truth. A strong sense of community in the workplace creates a strong sense of belonging, sending the message that our differences should be welcomed—a value that’s celebrated at Workday. 

Companies can’t reach their full potential until they create workplaces where we all—regardless of race, gender, or background—feel like they belong and can thrive. The more diverse the people are in the room where critical decisions are being made, the more effective and innovative software solutions will be.

“Amplifying Black voices and unpacking the duality of being Black in America should happen all year long. Black history is American history.”

Erin Rusk Quality Assurance Engineer Workday

Don’t Quit. There’s a Brighter Day Ahead.

Aleta Boyd is a senior engagement manager at Workday. 

When I look at all we have faced as a Black community, from the historical beginnings of chattel slavery and legally counted as three-fifths of a person, to the modern day incidents of police brutality, we as a community continue to be resilient. That has been the constant headline in the Black history: Don’t quit. There’s a brighter day ahead.

This quote from acclaimed poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou describes what resilience means to me, and how overcoming trauma is necessary to healing and feeling empowered: “I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.”

As an African American woman, I know that despite the weight of generational trauma, I must keep going and keep giving each and every day—not only for myself, but for those coming after me, just as my grandparents and parents did.

My hope for future generations is to never forget the resiliency of our ancestors and use experiences of our past as reasons to achieve a brighter future.

Employee Resource Groups Are Pivotal to Healing

Kelvin Ominiabohs is a senior associate integration consultant at Workday based in our Atlanta office. 

Last summer, I witnessed days of racial injustice protests turn violent near my apartment in downtown Atlanta. Seeing up close the injustices happening in my community filled me with frustration, sadness, and fear. But Workmates in the Black @ Workday EBC Atlanta Chapter helped me feel that I wasn’t alone. They were experiencing the same feelings as I was, and they shared great insight into how to gain perspective amid racial strife.

Employee resource groups like Black @ Workday EBC are pivotal to creating an inclusive environment that promotes equitable recruitment, retention, and empowerment, and most of all, serving as a place where employees can bring their whole selves to work. Knowing that I have a place to voice my thoughts and having Workmates who understand the unique issues I am going through really keeps me grounded in connection during times of uncertainty. Programs and events hosted by Black @ Workday EBC, including the DevelUp mentoring program and forums featuring historically black colleges and universities, make me feel empowered and remind me how far we’ve come as a Black community and how far we can go.  

“The more diverse the people are in the room where critical decisions are being made, the more effective and innovative software solutions will be.”

Osagie Ero Senior Associate Software Application Engineer Workday

Continuing the Conversation All Year Long

Okim Nsor is a site ability manager at Workday. 

The widespread protests calling for racial justice last summer have become a key milestone in history, especially for Black people. The demonstrations brought the topic of systemic racism to the conversational forefront, and consequently, raised consciousness around the world of racial inequality and injustice. The conversations that were happening across social media and among families and friends revealed the power in sharing the rarely-told stories of Black experiences. I believe these conversations were possible due to people listening and engaging in an honest and open manner, even when the topic felt uncomfortable.

While systemic racism will not be solved through conversation alone, actively participating in conversations like what was happening last summer is essential to dismantling institutional barriers and working toward change. We must continue to encourage open dialogue, and create safe places for people to share and learn. In addition, systemic racism cannot be seen as only a Black or an underrepresented minority issue, but one that affects society as a whole. We must challenge ourselves to continue these meaningful conversations all year, not just for one month or when #BlackLivesMatter is trending on social media. Hopefully, these conversations will lead to substantial changes in how we view and show care toward one another.

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