When Errol Thomas sat down for a town hall meeting to talk about a recent company acquisition, he didn’t know that by the end of it he would join the initial conversations of The Black Alliance employee resource group.
During the town hall, a group of employees shared the unique challenges that Black men face in the tech industry.
“It is no secret that Black men and women are a minority of the tech industry,” said Thomas, a DevOps engineer at Eviden. “Eviden’s ERGs are taking steps to improve the DEI of the company and The Black Alliance will undoubtedly have a positive impact in the industry.”
ERGs that help open up conversations about racism and bias in the tech industry are desperately needed. According to Industry Dive, the number of Black professionals in technical roles only accounts for 3.7 percent of the employees at large tech companies; and the growth rate has been a meager 1 percent increase between 2014 and 2021.
“On a majority of my client calls I am the only Black male, but with The Black Alliance I have been able to meet and network with other people who look just like me,” added Thomas.
The Black Alliance is building its community, along with several other ERGs at Eviden, since the company was just created in early 2023 as an Atos Group business leading in digital, cloud, big data and security.
WHAT IS EVIDEN?
Eviden is a next-gen technology company providing data-driven, trusted and sustainable digital transformation with a portfolio of patented technologies. Eviden is a global company, operating in more than 47 countries.
“The key to any successful technology company is innovation, and innovation can’t happen without diversity,” said Thomas.
As Eviden increased its talent base globally and in the Americas over recent years, the organization needed to revamp its approach to ERGs. Considering that Eviden has more than 57,000 employees, this was no small task.
“I have spearheaded the rebirth and strategic initiatives of our Women and Allies ERG before, and this time it was harder to gain momentum and structure post-pandemic,” said the Women's ERG Lead and Engagement Lead Victoria Ronn. “We overcame this by revitalizing our mission and vision, developing a scalable ERG leadership model and offering regular community events.”
The Women’s ERG was among the first at Eviden. The resource group is made of smaller ones from across the company’s acquisitions.
“We are all coming together as we form a new company,” said Ronn.
The Women’s ERG launched a mentorship program in the spring of 2023 that aims to empower women to thrive in their careers and inspire future generations of female leaders to be confident in their work.
“With Eviden being a newly formed company, we wanted to address any potential silos associated with acquisitions as they continue to integrate,” added Ronn. “The mentorship program does just that by promoting and strengthening the network of women and allies throughout the organization, while raising awareness about the unique challenges that women face in the workplace.”
Talking Through the Tough Stuff
Facing unique challenges head on is a common theme amongst Eviden ERGs. In early 2023, The Black Alliance hosted a webinar on mental health issues within the Black community.
“This has been my favorite event hosted by an ERG since I have been with Eviden,” said Thomas.
One of the examples that stood out to Thomas in the webinar was the saying, ‘never let them see you sweat.’ On the surface, it might seem like an innocuous saying, but the subtext is to not show any signs of weakness. When someone is fed this message over and over, it has a damaging effect.
“There were so many great points to take away from the webinar on mental health,” said Thomas. “I have always felt that there was a negative stigma surrounding mental health, especially in the Black community, so it was great to have a welcoming environment with an open and non-judgemental discourse on this topic. What most resonated with me was how some common sayings can really have a bad effect on your mental health.”
“I have always felt that there was a negative stigma surrounding mental health, especially in the Black community, so it was great to have a welcoming environment with an open and non-judgemental discourse on this topic.”
Thomas added, “This is something I have personally struggled with in the past and have come to realize that asking for help is rather a sign of strength,” said Thomas. “It is okay to reach out to others when you need help.”
The webinar was one of several events that The Black Alliance ERG hosted since its beginning earlier this year, including a back-to-school drive, a financial planning webinar and an online Juneteenth celebration.
Willingness to Learn
The Pride ERG was originally founded in June 2019 by a small group of LGBTQ+ employees.
“Originally coming from a smaller acquisition of Eviden, we didn’t have many out LGBTQ+ employees,” said Luca Schmitt, software engineer. “However, we were lucky to have a supportive network of allies willing to get involved and learn.”
Schmitt notes that it took some time to generate momentum when the ERG first started.
“The collective willingness to learn about and support our community is the cornerstone for fostering a true sense of belonging,” they added. “We feel the visibility of the community.”
One of the early challenges for the LGBTQ+ ERG was supporters being a bit nervous about misstepping.
“By creating conversational, low-stress and personal forums to openly discuss topics together, it lowers that barrier and leads to greater engagement as folks start to feel more comfortable asking questions in a safe space,” said Schmitt.
“By creating conversational, low-stress and personal forums to openly discuss topics together, it lowers that barrier and leads to greater engagement.”
They went on to share how the first social event was a happy hour along the Chicago river on a beautiful summer day. Since then, the group has run events like charity 5K runs, drag bingo, gala benefits, trans 101 sessions, history of Pride lectures and a guest speaker who shared how housing discrimination affects queer people.
Schmitt also noted that as a nonbinary person, it can be difficult in a workplace where people are not used to using they/them pronouns, but at Eviden they haven’t experienced any negativity.
“In fact, people share with me that as the first nonbinary person they have met, I made them think differently,” said Schmitt. “They even went on to educate other people in their lives about nonbinary people.”
Schmitt added that the tech industry is not known for being diverse, but a strong DEI presence in the company makes them hopeful.
“I am proud of our current momentum, participation and partnership with leadership,” added Ronn, commenting on the actions of the Women’s ERG. “We expect to continue growing and our impact within the organization to be invaluable in shaping the culture at Eviden.”
As the Eviden continues to grow globally, the ERGs are a keystone part of the company’s commitment to inclusion and equity.
“The work of DEI brings together different perspectives with different solutions,” concluded Thomas. “Diversity goes beyond just one’s background, there is also diversity in how we think. These differences in our thinking can lead to better innovations and technological solutions, as well as making our organization a more accepting place for those from marginalized communities.”