Honoring Black History Month with transparency
In September of 1915, Harvard-trained writer and historian Carter G. Woodson and minister Jesse E. Moorland founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), to highlight the accomplishments of people from the African and Black diaspora. In 1926 the group sponsored Negro History Week, choosing the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. The week would later evolve into Black History Month (BHM) due in part to the civil rights movements of the 1960s. Black History Month was officially recognized by President Gerald Ford in 1976 as he invited the public to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”*
This month, you will see many social media posts from corporations celebrating BHM. Unfortunately, after the month has passed, you likely won’t see any other posts related to the Black community until February 2024. The fact is, Black people are Black 365 days of the year. “Honoring” the culture and community for one month feels disrespectful and performative especially when Black employees often make up a small percentage of the working population. In addition to celebrating BHM this month, those of us at Udemy are making efforts to celebrate the Black community through the year. We acknowledge the history of this community while celebrating the present and looking forward to the future.
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Black people represent 7.4% of the tech industry. We are not exempt from the lack of representation of Black people as it correlates to the US population. We aren’t perfect as an organization and recognize that our efforts will never be enough to rectify the harm that has been and continues to be inflicted on the Black community. This fact, however, does not mean that we should be comfortable with doing nothing.
We’ve taken a few steps to understand the areas for improvement, so we can be more intentional in our efforts to support and uplift the Black community.
Recruiting with intent
This past November, we sponsored a booth at AfroTech, a technology conference for Black professionals working in — and seeking to work in — the technology industry. Additionally, we sponsored 20 members of our Black Employee Network (BEN) employee resource group to attend for professional development, connection and community. Approximately 600 candidates visited our booth and each received a free course coupon. Our senior leadership team also had the pleasure of conducting 44 onsite interviews.
With the same goal of empowering the Black community, we partnered with Blacks in Technology and Black Women Talk Tech, two non-profits with missions to increase representation in technology and business. The partnership was created in efforts to bring new voices to our platform and increase the diversity in our course collection. The partnerships resulted in two courses focused on working in tech and business continuity. You can read more about this partnership here.
Instructors give back
We know that this work can’t be done in silos and are inspired by Udemy instructors who have used our platform to uplift and create opportunities via education for different communities. One such example is Udemy instructor, Chris Haroun, and their student, Vital Nsengiyumva. After taking on our platform, Vital engaged in a mentee relationship with Chris which resulted in Vital translating Chris’ most popular Udemy course, “An Entire MBA in 1 Course,” into French and donating all proceeds to finance the construction and opening of a school in Vital’s hometown of Magoo, Rwanda. You can learn more about Vital and this endeavor in our Social Impact report.
To help us independently analyze our systems, processes, and policies, we partnered with Kanarys, a Black and woman owned DEI tech firm. In addition to this analysis, Kanarys helped us conduct an organization-wide, anonymous Belonging, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (BEDI) survey to help us understand how our employees feel about our BEDI efforts. The results of these efforts will provide the foundation for our inaugural BEDI strategic plan. This plan will align with our overarching corporate strategy to help ensure that BEDI is embedded in all we do.
We have rededicated members of our recruiting teams to specifically work on ensuring AfroTech booth applicants and those from onsite interviews are moving through our application process and nurtured so that our pool of amazing candidates is full once we are ready for the right opportunities.
We will continue to uplift the Black community and do all we can to help ensure that we are a part of the solution and honoring the work of Carter G. Woodson, Jesse E. Moorland, and so many others who’ve changed Black history. Black history is a part of American history, which is why we will continue to uplift it every day of the year.
Director of Belonging, Inclusion, Equity and Diversity at Udemy
* History.com: https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/black-history-month