Black History is hitting differently this year.
During #BlackHistoryMonth in the U.S., we’re reflecting on the year we just left behind. Between a still-ongoing pandemic that has disproportionately impacted low-income communities of color, our summer of racial reckoning and an important election: it was all a lot.
We saw hundreds of companies respond to last year’s racial reckoning following the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and so many other Black lives in a myriad of ways: Calls for #BlackLivesMatter, corporate donations to advocacy groups, CEO’s condemning racism, pledges to anti-racism training. And Twitter was no exception.
While these tactics remain important, we can’t help but wonder what progress companies have made in one crucial area: making Black lives matter inside the workplace by hiring, promoting and retaining Black talent. The answer is simple: the progress is not enough.
It’s not a secret that ever since tech companies started disclosing their diversity numbers, there has been limited progress and still much more to do. While we have doubled the number in recent years, Black employees comprise only 7% of Twitter’s US workforce. We recognize that we still have a lot of work to do, and we’re committed to continuing to grow our Black employee population, #UntilWeAllBelong.
The best time to honor Black lives is not when it's convenient to us — when it's making headlines, when hashtags are trending and when protests are happening — but during the moments when the rest of the world may have forgotten and when we can feel the silence. After the year we’ve had and while it is relevant — even beneficial — to pledge, donate and share statements when the issue is topical, we encourage you to self-reflect by asking the question, "what am I doing now?”
This year, we’re using #BlackHistoryMonth to continue to challenge ourselves — and call on our peers in the tech industry — to do better. As an industry, we must honor Black lives and Black talent today. We are all in this together, and we’ll need an army of committed advocates at each company to make substantial progress. Some ways you can practice your commitment:
1. Listen to and Elevate Black Talent
Continuously leverage your voice and privilege to amplify existing Black talent in your organization. Saying #BlackLivesMatter is meaningless if you’re not taking care of the people you’re responsible for. Provide thoughtful mentorship, sponsorship and talent development opportunities that lead to promotions, increased earnings and new opportunities. At Twitter, our I&D Business Partners are embedded across all functions of the business and at the table during promotion cycles and talent planning.
2. Build Inclusive Hiring Practices
When you do look for external talent, ensure your organization has sourced and identified qualified, diverse talent to participate in every level of your interview process. Be intentional about implementing hiring policies that include diverse slates.
3. Pay ERG Leaders
Affinity or employee resource groups do the important work of building community and cultivating belonging for underrepresented groups. Oftentimes, these leaders are underrepresented minorities themselves and do this work in addition to their day jobs. Pay them. ERG leaders should be compensated for the additional work they do that makes your company a great place to work. We’re proud that last year, we introduced a new compensation program to formally recognize the leadership team of all 11 of our business resource groups.
4. Create Space for Self and Mental Care
Acknowledge that emotions for everyone have been at an all-time high over the last year. And Black employees are often hurting in silence in dealing with racial trauma. It’s critical to provide resources such as access to Black wellness and mental health experts as well as encouraging and modeling taking paid time off. We implemented #TakeCare, a program that brings in mental health providers to facilitate these hard conversations.
5. Hold Managers and Leaders Accountable
None of these tactics will work unless leaders are held accountable. If your company has diversity targets, tie those goals to executive compensation, and reward managers who are exceeding their targets.
Ultimately, we are all in this together, and we all have a role to play to ensure we are elevating our Black employees and creating a workplace where Black talent wants to be and thrive in. The work we are doing right now will not only benefit us now but also future generations to come. The strides we make today will pave the way for further Black excellence in tech to celebrate in Black History Months to come.
Dalana Brand is the VP of People Experience and Head of Inclusion & Diversity at Twitter.