From Pain to Progress
Published: July 12, 2021
Author: Jyl Feliciano
Diversity is a topic that I hold close to my heart. And it’s no wonder, since I’ve consistently navigated my corporate career as the only one. The only woman of color (Black and Hispanic descent), the only team member with a diverse ability, the only one who is part of a military family and observes the pain and after-effects of someone who has fought in a war, the only one who has a special needs child, the only one who grew up in a non-traditional family structure, the only one who couldn’t connect to the traditional “all-American” movies, celebrities, and joke references as my team made small talk.
I remember sitting in a conference room in 2016, by myself, totally alone. I began to daydream about a magical day when my colleagues could finally remove their masks and reveal their authentic selves. I couldn’t help but think – how many of them would I have more in common with than differ if we all laid it on the table and gave each other permission to show up with full transparency? We could forge new bonds and better understand what authentic allyship should look like, and support one another with a new level of empathy during difficult times. We could challenge each other in new ways and push our creativity and innovation to new heights.
Four years ago, and even just 18 months ago, companies were not having honest and open conversations about race, gender, faith, family structure, and diversity. Some companies were working to create inclusive spaces, but they missed the point – they didn’t frankly acknowledge all dimensions of diversity and differences among employees. Companies asked employees to bring their authentic selves to work, but those companies didn’t provide an environment where employees felt safe enough to walk in the power of their diversity.
You can see this happening with employees from historically marginalized communities forcing themselves to “code switch” at work, LGBT+ employees working to hide their truth and assimilate to cis-gendered stereotypes, employees fighting through mental illness in silence, employees that are caregivers who refuse to admit that they need support for fear of them being overlooked, and employees of different faiths hiding important ceremonial and religious holidays and traditions from managers and colleagues. Company leaders tried to build a box for inclusion, but many failed to finish the project. In 2020, the 3Q Digital leadership team brought me in to oversee and direct a three-year strategic diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) roadmap to hold the company, leaders, and employees accountable for change.
3Qers were forever changed by the George Floyd murder (as we all were), and we leaned into that pain of violence to drive tangible progress. Our teams worked together to re-design a culture of inclusivity and belonging – one they could see themselves thriving in. 3Qers exercised allyship in meetings and gave themselves the right to create inclusion by sharing their own privilege and vulnerabilities. Employees who were early in their careers began teaching leaders about the importance of diversity and social justice in an organizational culture. Those with the most privilege showed up, stood up, and spoke out about learning where they could help. They leveraged their privilege to build environments where employees feel safe to share experiences and actively drive DEIB across the company.
When I joined the team, diversity and inclusion was part of 3Q Digital’s DNA and a core company value, but we had work to do – and we still do. In the last 18 months, we expanded the diversity “box” by recognizing that DEIB is a journey – and each employee is at a different stage along that journey. We began holding town halls about race and violence in America so employees could learn about systemic racism, how it came to be, and why it is so harmful to all of us. We also assembled and facilitated town halls specifically for allies and members of the AAPI, Black, Jewish, and LGBT+ communities. These sessions not only served as education for employees, but also as safe spaces for community members to share experiences, thoughts, and bring participants closer to one another. And we’ve also launched our employee resource groups (ERGs) to foster belonging and to make a difference in and for our communities.
We know we are not done – not by a long shot. We are still marching along the journey from pain to progress. However, I’m so happy to have the support of our CEO Rob Murray and the rest of our leadership team on that journey. We simply could not do this without them. I invite you to watch the video below to hear in Rob’s own words 3Q Digital’s commitment to DEIB and how it is ingrained in everything we do.
I’d like to end with a quote from the famous writer and social activist James Baldwin. He once said, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
We must have the courage every day to stand up for what is right and fair in every situation, and for every human being. That is why I am so proud of the important work we have done so far at 3Q Digital, and why I’m so excited for everything yet to come.