With Black History Month upon us, “Hidden in plain sight,” is a perfect way to describe and honor the many contributions and innovations created by members of the Black community.
It is common that the technical innovations, entrepreneurialism, hard work, and overall achievements that people of color make to society, business, politics, technology, and just about every industry in every country are unknown. There is an all-too-common practice of denying these pivotal contributions, even today.
I got to thinking about other Black scientists and artists and entrepreneurs, so many of them going unseen. And then I considered my own moments of not being seen, of my contributions not being recognized, or of false assumptions being made, simply based on the color of my skin.
For instance, there I was staying at a five-star resort several years ago and walked into the clubroom for a quick snack. Upon leaving the club, I encountered another hotel guest entering the club. She turned and asked me two questions, “what time does the club close?” and “could I have some new towels bought to my room?” I looked at her with astonishment and politely stated I didn’t know, adding she should contact someone who worked at the facility. She and her friend turned red with embarrassment. I was left hurt, dismayed and “hidden in plain sight.”
My story may be specific to me, but it is not unique. In our everyday lives, Black people are often overlooked—for jobs, for promotions, for contributions, for who we are—even if we are right there in plain sight.
My personal experiences, and those of family, friends, and colleagues, made me more committed to talk about the Black experience and encourage others to do so too. This is a major reason why I helped co-found BlackConnect, one of nine Equinix Employee Connection Networks—to help Black employees be seen, be heard, share and grow.
On behalf of this team, I am so proud to share more about what Equinix and BlackConnect have done, not just for Black History Month, but also our year-round, long-term commitment to making a difference.
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Driving Growth & Opportunities
We launched BlackConnect in 2020 with the mission to increase Equinix’s inclusion, innovation and impact by expanding, empowering and elevating Black employees and our allies around the globe.
Equinix Employee Connection Networks (EECNs) like BlackConnect are groups created around an identity or community that is underrepresented, has faced historical discrimination, or shares unique challenges. All our EECNs are employee-led, and they are open to those who identify with the group or their allies. In other words, everyone is invited to join.
During our inaugural year, we stayed true to our goals of attracting a diverse global workforce and providing development opportunities for our members. A few initiatives aligned with these goals including:
- Partnering with McKinsey’s Black Leadership Academy to grow Black representation at all levels. By helping to improve our talent pipeline and equipping Black leaders with the capabilities and behaviors needed to achieve their professional aspirations, the Academy’s mission perfectly aligns with BlackConnect’s founding principles.
- Ensuring our members’ wellbeing was taken care of by providing culturally competent mental health care through partner HealHaus. We heard from members saying they were emotionally and mentally exhausted after the ongoing social movement following George Floyd’s murder, compounding on years of racism and trauma, not to even mention COVID-19.
- Supporting Equinix’s membership in CEO Action for Racial Equity, the largest CEO-driven business commitment to drive measurable action and meaningful change in advancing diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace.
- Connecting with Fisk University, a historically Black university in Nashville, Tennessee, to recruit Black interns with the intention of converting them to full-time employees.
This past year, we worked to expand BlackConnect to be increasingly global by expanding our celebration of Black History Month beyond the U.S. in our Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region and in Brazil, helping employees feel seen and connected.
We are tapping into the rich diversity of customers and communities we serve with events like our BlackConnect/WeAreEquinix event in France, where Equinix Assistant Manager of IBX Operations, Jean Pierre Pagal, coordinated an IBX walk in Paris to support Assistance Publique–Hôpitaux de Paris.
Jean Pierre, a BlackConnect ambassador, commented, “Being an ambassador has meant encouraging others and creating a pathway for people who feel their differences may be an obstacle for success—and it has meant the world to me.”
Rachel Almeida, Supervisor of Service Engineering in Brazil, invited an executive director from a large banking client to discuss how their company is making an impact in underserved communities. Seeking diverse perspectives helps uncover opportunities and facilitates better decision-making, ultimately activating the full potential of Equinix’s people and business. That’s what our EECNs are about.
As we move into 2022 and beyond, we will continue our goals to expand, empower and elevate Black employees, by focusing on career development and how employees can enrich their personal career aspirations. We will also be working to expand Black representation at all levels and welcome applicants to check out our Equinix Career Pathways Program. Even though we’re early in our journey, BlackConnect has become a joyful and edifying community that will continue to grow as we empower and elevate each other.
Celebrating the accomplishments
And, of course, we’ll celebrate Black History Month with an open invitation for all Equinix employees to attend BlackConnect sponsored events and engage with us on our internal social channels to highlight those Black people who have made significant contributions to the world.
Celebrating Black achievements globally is yet another way to move from being “color blind to color brave,” something CEO Charles Meyers and BlackConnect co-founder, Kevin Thames, wrote about last year.
“Being color brave means recognizing and embracing the reality that we all see color. It is about not being blind to the challenges that come with being a person of color… It also means knowing that although you may not understand someone else’s ethnic history, struggles or triumphs, or have all the answers, you are ready to listen and learn.” Our Black History Month events—and our work year-round—provide opportunities for learning, growth, and celebration.
Here is to all the Black people who have contributed to our world in big and small ways. May we no longer be hidden in plain sight.