Why We Need Black Voices All Year Round
By Tiffani Riley
Reflections on the Importance of Seeing People Like You
This Black History Month, our company is reflecting on the importance of Black history in the making and the fortitude of the Black community in the corporate world, including our own efforts here at Axiom. Recently, we've made enhancements to our company's diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) policies and employee resource groups (ERGs) that have earned us a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s 2023-2024 Corporate Equality Index for the third year in a row.
In June 2020, the Black community around the world felt a collective heaviness in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, and Axiom’s Black employees were no exception to that feeling. Our Black team members shared a feeling of grief, being misunderstood in predominantly white spaces, and an overall hit to their mental well-beings from the media; they felt the need for a safe space in their work environment. On March 31, 2021, with the support of our executive leadership, our ERG Blaxiom was launched to support and uplift the voices of our Black employees both at headquarters and across our legal talent.
Before I joined the company in 2022, I had been the only Black woman in both of my previous work environments. So, it meant a lot to me when I learned about Blaxiom’s existence, to know that my current company truly cared about diversity. At Axiom, there’s a welcoming space where I can share my experiences, collaborate with others who look like me, and learn from their advice and accomplishments. Being in corporate America and seeing people who look like you makes me emotional just thinking about how integral it is to success in your career. With Blaxiom, our team is better supported to achieve that success.
I fully believe that when you have an environment where you can see yourself and others like you progress professionally, that’s where you want to be. It’s that opportunity that makes me grateful to be here at Axiom and ultimately the reason that I wanted to become a lead for this ERG.
When I became the Blaxiom lead in January 2024, I knew I wanted to build upon the principles that I saw within this incredible community: knowledge, empowerment, community, mentorship, and so much more. I felt called to further the connection within the Black community. We celebrate each other’s wins, knowing the endurance it takes to accomplish any achievement when our peers have different starting points. Seeing that representation in the workplace and having a community that champions the success of that representation matters. But I also felt called to spark conversations about biases and privileges in the workplace that some might be afraid to have, acknowledge or even be completely unaware of. By acknowledging those privileges and biases, members of all diverse communities will have places at the table.
I’m eager to amplify so many Black voices within - and outside - our community, and there are so many who are already making an impact on our organization.
Amplifying (and Appreciating) Blaxiom Voices
While each of Blaxiom’s members makes this community vibrant and supportive, four in particular have made large impacts on their fellow members and the work we do.
Meet Joe: As one of our newest members (started back in September 2023), Joe hit the ground running. He enthusiastically poses ideas and opportunities for events and education within our community, which I love about him. His excitement to learn and expand our network is infectious, and it encourages me to keep my foot on the gas and keep pushing our opportunities further.
Meet Oriel: Like Joe, Oriel is an incredible champion and motivator for the group. She is a vibrant collaborator and a genuinely caring individual. Her voice speaks volumes, whether it’s providing honest feedback or just encouraging the group with fresh new ideas. She makes herself available to any member of the team when they’re in need, but she also has a desire to uplift Black joy just as much as professional growth and opportunities.
Meet Teri: Teri is an inspiration to all in Blaxiom. Like Oriel, she makes herself available to the team, whether it’s through networking or mentorship. She is also a champion for personal well-being. She encourages all members of the team to make sure that they are not expensing their health at the cost of the tasks at hand. Teri reminds her fellow team members to acknowledge that they are more than just their position, but a person with their own needs. Her ability to balance work and life in such a professional manner makes her someone you want to look up to.
Meet AJ: AJ’s impact on the team stems from his positive and charismatic energy. You know when he walks into a room. Always open to conversations, AJ challenges your perspective for the better and encourages you to run your own race. Like Teri, he values extending yourself grace while on your own journey, but that doesn’t mean he won’t encourage you to roll up your sleeves and put in the work. He shows the rest of the team that good work prevails and is a true example of that determination.
Reflections on the Past & Hopes for the Future: The Journey Continues
With the help of these four influential members and the larger Blaxiom community, I’m looking forward to making waves here at Axiom this year. I’d like to develop and implement cultural and diversity training throughout the company, including but not limited to training on what diction looks like and how to interact with team members of ethnic backgrounds with respect and professionalism, increasing awareness within the company and educating the larger employee network of what they are not aware.
These past two years, our previous leader Kyle Ireland invited Odessa Jenkins and Gordon Bellamy to speak on Juneteenth to the larger company about equity in the workplace and what that equity looks like when implemented. I was inspired when Gordon shared his role in ensuring the John Madden NFL ’95 video game reflected the majority of African American players in the National Football League itself, and I hope to continue my colleague’s work by inviting more notable Black speakers to share and encourage our teams to make impactful change like this.
A final initiative on my radar, but still in the early stages, would be to implement a mentorship program pairing peers in the same fields with one another or pairing our Black legal talent with our headquarters staff. This program would provide Blaxiom members the chance to actively work towards getting the most out of their career path, but for now, we are working towards shaping it to meet the needs of the team.
With each of these initiatives, I’m proud and excited to lead the charge on making equitable improvements to our company with the support of our executive leadership.
💡 Learn more about Axiom's DEI initiatives and programs in our 2024 DEI Snapshot and recent press release.
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