This post was written by Scarlett Abraham Clarke, Former Bright Horizons Senior Director, Diversity and Inclusion.
Back in May, as social unrest was upending the country, employees already dealing with the isolation of a pandemic were suddenly even more desperate to connect with colleagues.
Our Employee Advisory Groups (EAGs) became lifelines. People flocked to these virtual meetings by the hundreds. As the days passed, the groups – especially our Race in America series by our African Heritage group -- became essential outlets for anguish. Employees poured their hearts out in raw and unvarnished conversations. Black and brown people revealed the experiences of racism they had quietly been experiencing their whole lives; white employees expressed outrage over what they didn’t know.
People at every level of our workforce found connections and space to hear and be heard; a safe place to put everything out there.
I was beyond proud of these groups and what they offered. Their profile soared as they came to provide the invaluable support their colleagues needed. But I also know they’re so much more than that, and that we’re shortchanging these EAGs and the people behind them if we think that support in a crisis is all they offer.
For all of us engaged in the hard work of anti-racism (which should be all of us right now), these groups are critical resources that we cannot ignore.
They are our beacons for change. At Bright Horizons, we chose the name Employee Advisory (over Resource) Group for a reason; that’s what these groups are. And the word “advisory” is not window dressing. If you’re open to them, they can be your policy groups; the people whose personal experiences can translate into real action and progress. At Bright Horizons, we’re focused on diverse hiring, specifically Black and African Americans. The voice of our African Heritage EAG is critical to that mission. They’re our guideposts to communicating and connecting with the prospects we need to reach. It’s going to take the work and insights of that group to make sure those commitments get completed successfully.
They are our fearless conscience. Change doesn’t happen without fearless conversations. And let me tell you, these folks are fearless. They’re not just opening forums; they’re holding our company accountable for the progress we’ve committed to making; they’re putting us on notice about where we’ve gone wrong in the past, and where we need to make change in the future. It’s a credit to our leadership that these groups have been as vocal and forthright as they’ve been. It’s meant conversations that have been raw, unfiltered, and sometimes hard to hear. But everyone here recognizes that this is the only way to start on the path toward change.
They are our source of future leaders. We currently have eight advisory groups. These people aren’t just voices of the moment; they’re future leaders who have been waiting to be discovered. Their emergence is evidence of an untapped resource that needs to be leveraged. For employers who are serious about diversifying leadership ranks, I urge you to look at your EAGs and what they have to offer.
The visibility this work has given these groups may be the silver lining of the moment. Part of me can’t help but ask, “What took so long?” But there’s no denying that the moment is here now. We need to take advantage of it.
As a team of one who has been leveraging the heck out of my partners, these groups joined with me to mobilize an entire organization to make what I like to call “good trouble;” not content to sit on our hands, we were igniting something stronger to create a culture of action. I know from this point that EAG’s will be the key leaders of this charge!
If you ask me, in my heart I know that it’s going to take their work and their voices to make change, and I commend them for speaking so loudly. To truly honor the legacy of this moment, we need to open up to what they’re saying; and make sure we’re listening.
As for me – for everything our heroic EAG co-chairs have done, I send them my eternal gratitude and dedication.