Each year, Black History Month provides an opportunity to recognize the contributions of Black Americans and raise awareness of past and present struggles facing the Black community.
What was once a week-long celebration during the second week of February (coinciding with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln) Black History Month is today celebrated with a wide variety of observances in the U.S., Canada, the UK, and Ireland (among other countries).
At WP Engine, our Employee Resource Group, Rise (WP Engine’s employee resource group dedicated to providing a safe, open environment for BIPOC and allies) commemorated Black History Month by organizing programming to highlight important figures in Black history and speak to issues facing the Black community today.
Why We Celebrate Black History Month
WP Engine is committed to building a workplace culture that encourages employees to bring their full selves to work. To us, bringing your full self to work means that each aspect of your identity, including your struggles, your strengths, your passions, and every other part of yourself, is both welcome and celebrated here.
One of the most important ways we celebrate the diversity of our employees is through our Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). Our ERGs are opt-in groups available to all employees that plan events and provide education to the greater WP Engine community. Right now, WP Engine has eight ERGs available to our employees:
- Branch: connects caregivers within WP Engine and serves as a network of support to help navigate the intersection of professional and personal responsibility related to being a caregiver.
- Embrace: provides advocacy and support for visible, invisible, and chronic disabilities and illnesses.
- Flourish: aims to build an open and welcoming community for employees to seek and provide support; educate and learn; and advocate for one another on the topics of mental health, neurodiversity, and individual wellness.
- Hue: provides a safe, open environment to promote, educate, and advocate for LGBTQ+ people and their allies.
- Open Hearts: through charitable action, fundraising, and volunteer work, this group is working at the intersection of passion and community need, focusing primarily on health, hunger, and education initiatives.
- Refresh: aims to create a global community of people who want to make a positive impact on the environment by affecting change at the individual, regional, and global levels.
- Rise: provides a safe, open environment to promote, educate, and advocate for BIPOC and their allies.
- Roar: provides a safe, open environment to promote, educate, and advocate for women in positions or industries where being a woman has historically been viewed as unfavorable or “less than.”
Understanding Unconscious Bias
On February 23, WP Engine welcomed certified executive coach and DEI consultant James C. Jones to our weekly Town Hall where he discussed the topic of unconscious bias.
Understanding the nature of unconscious bias and addressing it, especially in a workplace setting, is vital to the success of any team.
Employees in attendance discussed the ways in which our personal experiences shape the way we view the world, including our workplace. Jones spoke specifically about the ways unconscious biases hinder our collective progress.
“If you’ve got a brain, you’ve got biases,” Jones said. “So you have to think, what might they be getting in the way? It takes a lot of courage to be open to thinking about these things, and being intentional about recognizing new ideas and new perspectives makes you more likely to reach the robust creativity you’re looking for as an organization.”
He ended his talk by reminding attendees that by being open to new perspectives and willing to check in with themselves and their assumptions, they’ll be able to build closer, more honest relationships with the people around them.
Recognizing Black Leaders
Throughout February, Rise leadership also posed daily trivia questions in the group’s Slack channel to educate group members about important leaders in Black history.
Here are a couple of the questions; see if you know the answers! (Scroll down to find the answers to these trivia questions at the end of this article).
Question 1: Who am I?…
- I formed an acapella group with Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh, and others that would comprise the core of the famous band, The Wailers.
- In 1976, I was shot at two days before performing at a concert aimed at reducing tensions between warring political factions. Despite this, I went on to perform for a crowd of 80,000 people as planned.
- I received the United Nations Peace Medal of the Third World in 1978.
Question 2: Who am I?…
- I invented the induction telegraph in 1887, which allowed people to communicate by voiceover telegraph wires.
- My induction telegraph increased the speed of communication, which was used to prevent train accidents. Alexander Graham Bell bought the patent.
- I improved air-brake systems and electric street cars and have been referred to as the “Black Edison.”
Causes to Support for Black History Month
There are hundreds if not thousands of worthy causes to support this Black History Month. That said, WP Engine holds one organization close to our hearts.
As a company, we are committed to facilitating unorthodox career pathways for individuals who wouldn’t otherwise have as many opportunities to enter the tech industry—and specifically individuals without college degrees.
Code2College shares our goal of reducing the barrier of entry to the tech industry for minorities and low-income students. We’ve partnered with them in the past and appreciate the work they do to identify new talent and create unique professional development opportunities for traditionally underrepresented students.
Whether you can donate your dollars or simply spread awareness about a cause close to your heart, consider supporting an organization like Code2College this year.
Bring Your Whole Self to Work
Thank you to all our employees who participated in this year’s Black History Month activities, and especially to the members of Rise leadership that organized these great events.
If you’re looking for a work environment that encourages you to bring your whole self to work, check out our open roles and apply to join the team at WP Engine!
Now, go ahead and check your answers from the trivia questions posed above:
- Question 1 answer: Bob Marley
- Question 2 answer: Granville T Woods
Did you know the answers? Let us know in the comments!