In the midst of a long-overdue national outcry about systemic racism in our country, every company, organization, and individual has rightfully been compelled to examine their prior actions and practices in an effort to determine how they can best root out racism.
UTEC is no different. In fact, this kind of self-examination is of particular importance to us – an agency which aims to serve those too often impacted by systemic racism.
Recently, a former UTEC staffer shared her story on Facebook of conduct at UTEC which she described as racist and sexist. In the following days, she shared the accounts of several others.
We have taken these accounts very seriously. While I wanted to respond quickly, I held off until now because I needed to first genuinely listen – to those accounts and to our current staff – and then to lay out our collaboratively-developed action plan.
This past week, much of our time has been spent in conversation, including in circle discussions with current staff of color. I want to express my sincere gratitude to our staff for their courage in sharing their experiences, and also to thank the originator of these posts for igniting this conversation. The latter has not been easy to acknowledge. However, I have come to appreciate the jolt – which has ensured that I fully listen to and truly hear all concerns, and that our staff hears my ownership of those concerns.
In that respect, let me be very clear. As UTEC CEO, it is my job to ensure that we have a culture where all staff are treated respectfully and fairly, where they are fully supported, and where they feel safe in sharing any concerns. That clearly has not always occurred. I assume full responsibility for any and all management mistakes that have been in any way hurtful to staff of color and/or female employees, and I personally apologize for them.
Listening and owning these mistakes is not enough, though. We must act with humility – promptly, aggressively, respectfully, and collectively.
In this effort, I will embrace transparency. If I am personally comfortable in advocating for racism to be recognized as a crisis in other areas of our society, as I am, then I must acknowledge the same within the walls of UTEC.
Below is a summary of the actions which we have taken, are taking, or will soon take:
- A month ago, we made a commitment to hire a third-party consultant to conduct an equity audit of the organization. We are currently contacting firms and will hire one within the next 4-6 weeks.
- We have formed an internal Diversity Committee, with leadership from staff of color, which has begun to develop a set of recommended actions that will be fully funded.
- A few months ago, we created a new position, Director of Talent. We are revising this role further to ensure that we have the capacity to support our work around equity, diversified recruitment, professional development, and salary scales, among other areas. We have begun the interview process to fill this position and I commit to hiring a person of color to fill this role.
- All new and existing staff will be required to participate in anti-racism training, and we will be bringing in outside trainers throughout the year to facilitate ongoing learning around issues of equity.
- We will continue to increase the diversity of our Board. While we have made progress over the past year, we can and will do better.
- Within the next two months, with assistance from a management consultant, who will be a person of color, we will be reconstituting and expanding our leadership team to ensure it is at least 50% people of color. During this process, we will continue to assess aspects of our program model and implement any changes, through a racial equity lens, to best improve outcomes.
- I have invited the Board to join us in this work, and independently and thoroughly review any and all concerns shared by current or former staff members.
Once this work is complete, we will have more to do. I am committed to it, and to advancing my own learning.
In developing and implementing our next steps, I ask for your trust, your engagement, and your passionate honesty as we navigate these changes together. We will continue to listen openly, and humbly, with the goal of learning, and incorporating your and others’ experiences into our plans for change.
In a city organizing against systemic racism of all kinds, and in a non-profit that, despite its best intentions, has work to do to ensure equity for all people… I wish to thank everyone within our organization, present and past, for their support for each other, and for their relentless commitment to our young adults.