Honoring Black excellence in the workplace and beyond

Shari Walker

Copywriter, Cornerstone

The month of February is Black History Month — an annual celebration to recognize the history of African-American achievements in the USA. During this month’s observance, we commemorate Black excellence and pivotal African-American figures like Arthur Ashe, Sojourner Truth, Phillis Wheatley and Victor Glover.

But Black History Month isn’t simply about looking backward. It’s also about pushing forward, ensuring that we’re not merely celebrating Black people for what they have accomplished but what they can accomplish.

A shining example of this forward momentum is American professional tennis player and Cornerstone partner Sloane Stephens, whose dedication to providing tennis education through the Sloane Stephens Foundation showcases the ongoing commitment to empowering the next generation. Established in 2013, this foundation strives to offer accessible tennis education to economically disadvantaged children and families, laying the groundwork for a lifetime of learning. This proactive approach exemplifies the essence of Black History Month as not just a tribute to past accomplishments, but a catalyst for future aspirations and achievements.

Shifting our focus to the corporate landscape, the investment in diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) emerges as a powerful force in cultivating an environment where individuals can bring their authentic selves to work. That investment benefits not only people but organizations, too. According to the Boston Consulting Group, increasing the diversity of leadership teams leads to improved financial performance and better innovation.

And a research study by the global non-profit Catalyst found that organizations with an inclusive environment show a 51.9% increase in openness, creativity and innovation. Employees who feel seen, heard, respected and safe in the workplace are more likely to bring their whole selves to work, contribute more and stay longer.

Successful DEIB goes beyond celebrating just one month and is instead crucial for supporting allyship and advocacy year-round.

Promoting allyship and advocacy year-round

Conversational learning through lived experience allows organizations to cultivate a culture of belonging and build inclusive workplaces. Workplace belonging begins with employees feeling accepted and valued through connections with others, which leads to them bringing their authentic selves to the organization. McKinsey Global Institute research found that Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) provide an opportunity to foster inclusion by bringing together a community of team members with shared interests and identities that can form a sense of overall belonging.

Toya Del Valle, the chief customer officer at Cornerstone, shared with Fairy God Boss how incredibly impactful ERGs were when “helping our people create a stronger sense of understanding and belonging at Cornerstone while also meeting their unique needs for personal growth.” Del Valle highlighted how she had created genuine connections with networks and programs through our dedicated ERGs, like Women @ Cornerstone, Working Parents, Black Employee Alliance (BEA) and many more.

The Black Employee Alliance creates an inclusive environment through cultural awareness, personal and professional development opportunities and involvement in Cornerstone. BEA provides a space for conversational learning and creates an atmosphere of learning, listening and exploring dialogue to make a meaningful impact. BEA continues to foster an inclusive workplace by continuously:

  • Participating in A Seat At The Table and Courageous Conversations
  • Facilitating quarterly cohort meetings with Black employees
  • Assisting with Cornerstone recruiting events and content development
  • Uplifting Black history awareness videos across Juneteenth and MLK day
  • Providing development opportunities and panel discussions
  • Sponsoring speakers on subjects such as personal branding, breast cancer support and AIDS awareness

ERGs, like BEA, can support your organization in attracting and retaining team members while also increasing representation from within.

Having DEIB conversations across your organization

Holistic and interconnected diversity training opens up conversational learning that helps your organization cultivate a thriving workplace culture. At Cornerstone, we’ve found that having open DEIB conversations across our organization has grown our culture into one that only thrives when it thrives together.

And we’ve seen so much success with them that we try to help organizations facilitate those types of conversations at their organizations too. We made DEIB an integral part of all our content offerings.

In Cornerstone Content Anytime, DEIB courses help organizations build workplaces where your people feel they belong and are eager to outperform the competition. From experience, we know that having an abundance of DEIB conversations at an organization can be vital for growth and knowing your next steps on your future-ready journey.

To help guide that journey, the Cornerstone Content Studios team created A Seat at the Table. In the award-winning original learning series, you’ll find guidance on bringing together people from diverse backgrounds to highlight new perspectives rarely represented in diversity training.

Conversations are one of the best ways we’ve found to break down biases and tackle touchy topics respectfully. When you provide opportunities for your people to learn from conversations that offer social context, personal experiences and ways to thrive in the workplace, you can create a culture where all your people feel supported and respected.

Highlighting personal experiences and perspectives

The advancement in tech jobs has continuously grown over the past few years. Data continually shows that diverse, equitable and inclusive environments correlate to higher revenue, increased sustainability, greater customer satisfaction and more productive employees.

Yet, tech companies still employ disproportionately low numbers of African Americans. A report released by the non-profit Jobs for the Future (JFF) revealed that although Black Americans make up almost 12% of the US workforce, they only account for 8% of the tech workforce. In addition, the State of Tech Diversity: The Black Tech Ecosystem research report found, “Almost half of Black technologists reported experiencing racial inequality in hiring, promotion, leadership opportunities and salaries and benefits.” Organizations can make an impact by supporting DEIB.

Dr. Marian Croak, the vice president of Google’s Research Center for Responsible AI and Human-Centered Technology, made it her goal to learn how to utilize tech to make a significant positive impact. She is well known for her innovations in developing Voice over Internet Protocols (VoIP), and in 2022, she was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. In an interview with the World Economic Forum, Dr. Croak recognized that when Black people do not have a seat at the table, organizations need to "step back and really observe in quite an objective way as to where the gaps are and what’s needed for change ... I make sure that the generation behind me can climb the ladder as well." As she continues to make significant innovations and open doors for more Black people in tech, her strides continue to make a major impact worldwide.

Matt Gonzalez, an award-winning writer and editor for diversity, equity and inclusion at the Society for Human Resource Management, put it best when he said, “We need Black brilliance and critical perspectives at the leading tech companies that influence how we all live so the future is bright for all of us.”

Black history is United States history

The data reveals that DEIB environments directly correspond to employee engagement and productivity. Although we have made much progress, the importance of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging in the workplace continues.

It is vital that we recognize the African Americans throughout history in the face of adversity, acknowledge their accomplishments and contributions, and act to facilitate Black excellence going forward. Your organization can utilize data-driven research to make informed decisions to support your strategic goals by normalizing diversity and inclusion to help break down barriers and leads to a more equitable and just society.

Learn how you can use Cornerstone Learning and Cornerstone Content Anytime to support your DEIB efforts here.



日東電工株式会社 研修環境をグローバルで一元化し、優れたUX/UIで学びを促進


日東電工株式会社 研修環境をグローバルで一元化し、優れたUX/UIで学びを促進



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