We are Part of the Problem: 5 Decisions We’ve Made (so far) to be Anti-Racist
George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless other Black lives were taken by white America’s silence in the face of white supremacy.
Myself, and the entire team at Exygy, are angry and grieving; we are also reflecting, and taking action to address ways we individually and collectively address the racist systems. Exygy stands in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. If there’s one thing we want you to take away from this message, it’s to visit Black Tech for Black Lives and get involved (there’s also list of resources at the bottom of the page).
We’re urging the rest of the tech community to use their power and privilege to uplift Black voices, stories, and lives and to create systematic changes that will diversify our collective workforce so that it reflects the colorful communities we serve.
Last week, our team of designers, engineers, product managers, and business strategists took off our professional hats and grieved. While we have worked really hard to put our company’s core values – including ‘Embrace the Whole Person’ – into play, we are learning that we were barely scraping the surface of addressing systemic racism, built to benefit white people. A key example of this shortfall is illustrated in Exygy’s hiring practices. As it stands today, in each of our hiring cycles for any given position, there must be 3 or more qualified candidates in the pipeline from at least one of the following: people of color, women, LGBTQ+, people aged 45+, people of a religious minority, or people of different abilities. Today, we are a team that is 67% female, and 60% of minorities and people of color. However, while approximately 7% of the Bay Area population is Black, we currently do not have a single Black employee. We failed to distribute equitable resources and power to effectively prioritize, attract, and maintain a talent pool that reflects the diverse communities we serve in the Bay Area, in the State of California, and across the country.
As an organization, we have a transparent salary policy to ensure everyone is paid equally – despite the prevalent global pay gap – and hold ourselves accountable for reducing biases and maintaining fair pay across the team. That is not good enough. While we’re not starting with zero, we do have a long way to go.
In the past two weeks, we have made the following organizational decisions as a team:
- Earmarked a new fund of $5,000 to divide amongst our 15 employees to actively research, donate, and share back personal growth and learning to our team. This prompts our team to actively engage in critical conversations about the Black Lives Matter movement, and to put our dollars in action, supporting a number of organizations working towards racial justice. To date, some of the funds have been matched up to 5x by supporting organizations in our network.
- Paused all business on Friday, June 5, to stand in solidarity with the Black community because we should not, and cannot, operate like it is “business as usual.” It was not a day off – it was a day for everyone to reflect, learn, and protest against systemic racism. Nearly half of our team has participated in recent protests and all of us have engaged in difficult conversations to address and dismantle racism and bias with our friends and communities as a result.
- Reflect very honestly and humbly on Exygy as a ‘person’ and its own history as an organization founded by a white male, built largely by my own network, and the need to further diversify.
- Hire a Black-led/owned external consultant who will audit, evaluate, and train our company to operate more equitably, lead with our values in our work, and uphold our mission to be an ally and a servant to the underserved.
- Invest in a sustainable Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) affinity group that exists to hold our leaders, team members, and values accountable. This includes facilitating regular conversions about white supremacy, implicit bias, equity across power dynamics, and so much more.
Today, I feel embarrassed by our past failures and present ignorance that have contributed to systemic racism. At the same time, I feel hopeful and challenged. I am hopeful because of the unprecedented protests and actions being taken to demand and shape change. We are seeing changes in our government’s response to police brutality, ignited by protests organized by those who are fighting to divert funds from law enforcement and its history of militarization to education, mental health, and social services. I am challenged because this is a pivotal moment where the arc of history is being bent towards justice, and I am forced to reckon with my own identity and allyship as a white man in tech. I have never thought twice before going out for a jog, wearing a hoodie, or bird-watching, and I hope to never feel the pain and suffering of losing my children to the very government that was supposed to protect them.
I know I will never understand with my white body and mind, but I will do everything in my power to use my privilege and as a founder of Exygy to uplift Black lives, voices, and stories. Exygy will not only build a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive organization but also work to model to you, our peers, that we are ALL responsible for doing business with purpose – and our purpose and mission is to harness our passion and expertise to design and build technology that improves lives, including Black lives.
Now, let’s get to work. Fill out your census and vote like your life depends on it in November.
Zach + Exygy
I want to give credit to Ivy Teng Lei whose patience and thoughtfulness helped me put Exygy’s values into words, and Anna Gibbons whose edits grounded our flaws in today’s reality.
Reshaping the Tech Industry
- Black Tech for Black Lives
- Tech companies: it’s time to show that Black lives really matter to you by Catherine Bracy
- How tech leaders can do more for racial justice than just tweet by Rachel Kraus
Educational Resources I have found personally valuable:
- White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack
- Timeline of events that led to this uprising
- Trevor Noah’s unscripted and brilliant analysis of this moment