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If you do a search online for “Black History Month in the workplace”, you’ll find tons of articles about how to celebrate Black History Month at work. Typically, you’ll see numerous similar ideas, like supporting Black-owned businesses and donating to organizations with noble causes.
But rarely do they touch on why we should celebrate Black History month in the workplace — and the positive impacts of doing so.
Anyone who has worked in a fast-paced industry like cybersecurity will tell you that putting systems in place to ensure transparency and growth is critical to an organization’s success. Here at Axonius, we’ve established those same values at the core of our Black Employee Resource Group, which we affectionately call BERG.
Over the past year, we’ve been fortunate enough to not just celebrate Black History Month, but to continuously see the BERG’s positive effects and influence on our peers.
The concept of celebrating Black Americans began with the founding of the Association for Study of Negro Life (ASNLH) in 1915, by Harvard historian Carter G. Woodson and prominent minister Jesse E. Moorland.
Fifty years after the abolishment of slavery, the ASNLH sponsored an annual event, originally named “Negro History Week”, during the second week of February. With the awareness spurred on by the civil rights movement, “Negro History Week” evolved into Black History Month. In 1976, 100 years after the 13th amendment was passed, Black History Month was officially acknowledged by President Gerald Ford.
At Axonius, we’ve made a commitment to honoring and celebrating the legacy of Black History. This year, the BERG held a company-wide event called, “A Walk Through U.S. History”, where our very own Asante Babers discussed notable figures like Mark Dean, George Washington Carver, and Madam C.J. Walker. These leaders pioneered innovation in their respective fields, overcoming tremendous odds of racial inequality and systemic oppression in their given fields. The Axonius conversation around these figures not only shed light on their remarkable contributions, but also tied back into our own company values of growth, ownership, and the relentless pursuit of the truth.
“A Walk Through U.S. History” was the fifth company event that the BERG put together. Typically, we devote time to discuss a particular topic and carve out additional time to encourage open discussion around all things connected to Black culture. We’ve had topics range from honoring noteworthy Black figures and sharing resources to educate and grow new perspectives on Black culture, to holding active discussions around what Axonius can do to positively impact the experiences of its Black employees and how allies can get involved.
These company-wide events bring us together to recognize and better identify with each other across the globe, ultimately connecting us as individuals and expanding opportunities for growth. Ensuring that these events take place and are inclusive for all walks of life ensures we aren’t burdened with the task of educating our allies. Rather, the events serve as an opportunity to share in the rich history, culture, and experiences of Black Axonians (Blaxonians).
The positive effect this has had on our workplace has been astounding, allowing us to pause and reflect on our differences and similarities. We’re paving the way to be not just a cog in the machine, but rather humans working and interacting with other human beings.
Creating this safe space and encouraging open dialog has been extremely impactful. Our frank and honest discussions have been the fuel to light the fire of meaningful change. During one of the very first BERG meetings, one employee suggested we create a list of organizations that Axonius employees could access when choosing to make donations. The list was updated to include more organizations representing causes and issues important to other Blaxonians. Since implemented in July 2022, we’re aware of at least five donations leveraging the new entries.
Our frank and honest discussions have been the fuel to light the fire of meaningful change.
Axonius also empowers all the Employee Resource Groups, giving us executive support to create safe spaces and hold open discussions, and a budget to drive the initiatives and impacts we want to be a part of.
In 2022, the BERG allocated funding to various organizations, like:
Black Teacher Collaborative, an organization that engages and develops a collective of Black educators who support high academic achievement in Black children while preparing them to actively participate in their communities.
Soul2Soul Sisters is a fiercely faith-based, Black Women-led, racial justice organization focused on Black healing and liberation.
Campaign Zero, an organization proposing new federal, state, and local laws that would address police violence and reform the criminal justice system.
Thurgood Marshall College Fund, the nation’s largest organization exclusively representing the Black College Community.
BERG also donated to Black Girls Hack, and invited Founder and Executive Director Tennisha Martin to speak with the Axonius BERG members. Martin personally explained to members how donations help Black Girls Hack fund initiatives to continue training and transforming the lives of young minorities.
Organizations like these ensure the workplace continues to be diverse and inclusive, and promotes representation at all levels of the cybersecurity industry.
These aren’t just one-hour events held to recognize our Black employees, but rather a reminder and call to action for all Axonians to join together and commit to making a difference.
BERG was established with the goal of ensuring all employees have a safe environment to learn, share, and grow our understanding of diversity, inclusion, and the experiences of Black employees at Axonius. A key aspect of meeting this goal is making sure that we chase leadership opportunities with a focus on recruitment, learning, and advancement of Black Axonians.
A key objective BERG has this year is to partner with our Talent Acquisition team to pool resources and create more opportunities for potential Black candidates. We’re committed to laying these foundations, and are encouraged by our leadership to establish these types of opportunities going forward.
It’s these types of actions that ensure the celebrations aren’t just fanfare or pleasantries meant to simply placate Black people. These aren’t just one-hour events held to recognize our Black employees, but rather a reminder and call to action for all Axonians to join together and commit to making a difference.
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