More than 60 organizations have joined together with MassTLC to support and encourage greater inclusion of Black, Latinx and Indigenous people within the Massachusetts technology community.
The email arrived at 11:11 a.m. on June 1 with the simple but poignant subject line of “Hugs!!” For anyone who didn’t already know Progress CEO Yogesh Gupta well, it might’ve come as a surprise to read such a heartfelt message in an official corporate communication.
The message came in the wake of protests in Minneapolis after a video was released of George Floyd struggling to breathe under the knee of a police officer for nearly eight minutes before he was finally taken to a hospital where he died. As we all tried to process our grief, anger and confusion for what we had witnessed, Yogesh shared his empathetic vision for the company.
The message not only condemned racism, it talked about respect, justice, support, kindness, inclusion, safety and understanding. And it ended with “Peace and harmony, Yogesh.”
The thoughts he expressed have long been paramount to Progress, well before George Floyd’s death.
In the days and weeks that followed, Yogesh and other leaders within Progress and within the larger Massachusetts technology community sought to take action.
That action now has a name—the Tech Compact for Social Justice.
Devised by the Executive Diversity and Inclusion Steering Committee of the MassTLC Board of Trustees, of which Yogesh is a member, the compact is made up of companies that are committed to educational programs, financial contributions, improved hiring practices, training and development, advocating for change to public policy and self-reporting on racial diversity, pay parity, executive and board appointments, and more. You can read more about it here.
We sat down with Yogesh to talk about the initiative and his hopes for the program. Here’s our Q&A:
It is in the best interest of technology companies to bring about changes in social justice and economic equality. We hear a lot about a lack of talent in the technology fields. However, there is a pool of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of color) talent that is untapped. In addition to increasing the representation of BIPOC with their own companies, tech companies also should lead the charge in demanding changes in the educational system so that BIPOC children have the same type of educational opportunities as the rest of us, and are able to participate in the economic growth that results from that education.
Today, technology companies are driving transformation in business. They should be also active in driving change in our communities—the two go hand-in-hand.
Tech companies can only thrive if the communities we belong to also thrive. And communities thrive when everyone in the community thrives. BIPOC have been underserved across every important dimension—education, healthcare, housing, and career opportunities—which leads to their absence from the participation in the community’s success.
Business is a powerful constituency in our communities and society. Businesses have resources and money, and they have a voice that is heard. If businesses take responsibility and step up to the challenge they can effect systemic change.
Systemic change takes concerted and persistent effort. It starts with fixing one’s own house. Companies must improve their HR practices related to recruiting, retaining and promoting BIPOC. They must set goals for themselves, track their own performance against those goals, be transparent about where they stand, where they aspire to get to, and what they’re doing to achieve those goals.
They must engage with educational institutions to expose young children to career opportunities in the tech industry. These opportunities aren’t limited just to STEM fields. They include roles in every function—sales, marketing, finance, legal, and HR, to name a few. Having role models helps youngsters realize that they too can aspire to something that would change their economic strata.
Tech companies must also engage with local, regional and federal authorities to advocate for changes in the educational, healthcare, housing and justice policies to ensure that BIPOC have the same opportunity as the rest of us.
Tech companies can also donate to social justice causes, and match donations made by their employees. I believe that it is the right thing to do.
Lastly, tech companies must hold each other accountable to ensure that these changes do take place—silence is unacceptable.
For each of us, it starts with listening and learning. We all have unconscious biases. Understanding the viewpoint of those different than us enables us to then begin to change ourselves and the environment around us.
And one must be considerate of other’s needs—becoming aware of what is important to others is critical in making them feel welcome and included. A very simple example would be, if you’re planning to hold a meeting when it happens to be a religious holiday for a minority participant, change the date. Every little thing matters and every effort counts.
Just like companies must hold each other accountable, so should each of us. If we see something, whether in our company or outside, that we do not think is right, we must speak up. And one can do this assertively, yet professionally. For example, when interviewing candidates, ask the recruiting team to show you resumes of diverse candidates, and interview them.
And, of course, donate to social justice causes, if you can.
I was fortunate to have parents who understood the value of education. My father was the first person on either side of my parents’ families to go to college and he made sure that all of us got the best education we could—I have a brother and a sister who’re both more educated than I am. I believe that education is one of the key mechanisms to change the economic fortunes of an individual. Therefore, I’m very passionate about good education for the underrepresented and the underprivileged.
Growing up in India, I saw discrimination based on caste, religion and language. I did not personally experience it, but saw it all around me, and noticed the negative impact it caused in the society. I also saw the positive impact when people were treated equally and given equal opportunities. Which is why I want to make sure that we create a world that is free from discrimination—a world that is truly just, where everyone is treated equally.
Read more about the MassTLC Tech Compact for Social Justice here.
Dave Pierce was the employer brand manager for Progress.
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