June 19 marks a significant anniversary in United States history: on this date in 1865, the enslaved peoples of Texas learned that they were now free. More than a century and a half later, we call this date “Juneteenth” in commemoration of Black independence and mark the occasion through observance, education, and taking meaningful steps towards a more equitable future.
To lead the discussion around the impact of Juneteenth in the workplace — as well as Maven Wave / Atos’ commitment to DEI — we spoke with Kieran Welsh-Phillips, Head of DEI at Atos. During the discussion, Welsh-Phillips explained what it means to be a diverse and inclusive company, how we can recognize the significance of Juneteenth throughout the organization, and how to bring awareness to a holiday that celebrates such an important historical event. Read on for the full interview.
What is DEI? Why is it important to Maven Wave and Atos?
DEI stands for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. It’s a huge part of any company, and when we bring the right people in — a diverse group of people — we want to make sure they feel included and have a sense of belonging in the organization. That’s the goal of DEI.
By acknowledging that not everyone starts in the same place and by supporting them with what they need to succeed, we strive to promote equity and help every employee reach their full potential while working for our company. Making sure every employee can be who they want to be within the organization is essential to the creative flow and, in turn, the success of our organization.
From a business standpoint, there is a huge competitive edge to hiring more diverse teams. A McKinsey study found that companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity were 35% more likely to see financial returns above the industry median. A different study from BCG found that companies with leadership teams with higher-than-average diversity reported 19% higher innovation revenue than companies with less diverse teams.
We are a big company in the tech industry — innovation is at the core of what we do. And to be innovative, we need diverse perspectives, which means we need to be inclusive. Undoubtedly, being inclusive and embracing others is the ethical thing to do, but that diversity piece is also a huge part of what we need to be successful in this industry.
Why is it important to honor Juneteenth in the tech field?
There was a resurgence of the celebration of Juneteenth in 2020, which is a good thing because this is the only official celebration of emancipation in the United States. The focus of Juneteenth is celebrating the successes of African Americans despite the challenges they face in society today. So, we recognize and acknowledge our African American employees, highlighting inclusion within Atos and the value they bring to our company as a whole.
Juneteenth is big in the tech industry because it helps us acknowledge and celebrate the diversity around us, which is vital to a company that thrives on diverse ideas and innovations, as discussed.
How can individuals honor the holiday? How can businesses best honor it?
Everyone can do their part in bringing awareness to Juneteenth, including educating themselves. We support this individual research by sending out communications about Juneteenth, like articles, podcasts, and videos to learn more about this holiday.
We also host internal events to facilitate discussion and learning. For example, we hosted a Reflect & Learn event that was sponsored by our North America African American Affinity Group, which is a resource group we have at Atos. (Some employees are still unaware of this group’s existence, which we are currently working to remedy!) This Reflect & Learn with Donna Blackshear-Reynolds, Associate CFO for Organizational Development at NASA, opened the door for employee exposure to the affinity group and prompted education about Juneteenth. We encourage our employees to be curious — learn about this! Through the simple act of individuals making an effort to educate themselves on Juneteenth, it brings awareness to the holiday.
On the business side, supplier diversity is a big arm of DEI that extends outside of the company itself. By investing financially in minority, women-owned, and Black-owned businesses, we become a DEI-centric company, working to be an example to other tech companies who follow our lead. The suppliers and vendors that we choose to spend our money with are representative of what we support as a company, and if we can diversify our suppliers, we can work to move the needle on inclusion within the technology industry.
On a similar note, working with organizations like the NAACP, Black Girls Code, and the National Society of Black Engineers increases the reach of our company and further solidifies our commitment to DEI in everything we do. Through these organizations, we hope to bring volunteering and diversity to a new level in our business as well as make a difference with our partners.
How do you plan on getting leadership involved?
The support is there globally — we’re currently outlining the best course of action based on each region’s unique challenges and priorities. We’re bringing to light that DEI is impactful to business, and the tools are there to put it into action. This includes looking at our recruitment pipeline: who are we bringing into the organization and where are we recruiting from? And beyond the recruitment process, how we are promoting people within the company? We want to ensure everyone has access to these opportunities and work on effective partnerships with clients that diversify our company.
It’s a whole ecosystem, giving us so many opportunities to implement DEI throughout our company. The “I am Remarkable” training with Google is another example of an internal training opportunity that many of our employees have already taken part in, but it highlights the inclusive piece of Maven Wave / Atos’ company beliefs. This allows employees to share their accomplishments and advocate for themselves within the organization.
Fostering any cultural movement within a large organization like Maven Wave / Atos is never easy: there are many moving pieces, but we’re heading in the right direction. DEI is fused into our core values, especially with Atos’ new “LEAP” values, which mirror Maven Wave’s 7 C’s. Globally, DEI should be at the forefront of everything we do. It’s not separate, and it’s not an add-on — it’s part of our DNA as a company.
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