Obligation, Opportunity and Optimism: WWT Celebrates Black History Month
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Diversity has been a critical enabler of World Wide Technology's success since the company was founded 30 years ago. Not just diversity of thought and ideas, but in gender, race, sexuality and background.
WWT early on embraced the idea of inclusivity and this approach has helped propel the company to heights not thought possible three decades ago. And, we should state up front, there is no amount of gratitude or promotion that could do justice to the debt we owe our diverse workforce for making WWT what it is today.
WWT takes seriously our role in developing and fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace, which we feel extends beyond our own four walls and into the suppliers and partners we do business with. Black History Month — celebrated annually each February since the 1970s — is a great time to take inventory of these efforts.
But a quick synopsis of where we stand today can be summed up as follows: Obligation, opportunity and optimism.
We possess a great sense of obligation to highlight the immeasurable impact African Americans have played in the prosperity of our company. We feel recognizing the contributions of African American leaders both past and present will create opportunity for a future generation of leaders. And, while there is always progress to be made, we are optimistic for what the future holds.
Highlighting historical African American figures is nothing new — schools, non-profits and businesses have been doing it for years. This doesn't make it any less important. Any Black History Month activity should always root itself in the recognition of those before us.
This year, WWT is hosting a Black History Month Exhibit in the lobby of each of our global headquarters facilities. These exhibits will include posters of influential African Americans — from both a historical and current perspective.
- Lewis Latimer, born in 1848 and co-inventor of a light bulb with carbon filament, an improvement to Edison's paper filament.
- Dr. Charles Drew, born in 1904 and considered the "father of blood banks" for his discovery that blood plasma could be dried and banked.
- Valerie Thomas, born in 1943 and inventor of the illusion transmitter, which enables the transmission of images from space to Earth.
- Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson, born in 1946, who served as the chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission under the Clinton administration and has been named as one of the 50 most important women in science.
- Guy Primus, a businessman born in 1969 who has been recognized as one of the most influential Blacks in technology.
Even WWT's own, founder Dave Steward, is being recognized amongst this group.
While we have the privilege of highlighting these men and women, we fully understand they represent the tip of the iceberg when recognizing the impact African Americans have made to the world we know today.
We also feel obliged to help those around us. That's why in 2011 we launched our Supplier Diversity Program, which has come to be considered a business imperative at WWT. The program seeks to help develop and sustain diverse and socially responsible business relationships, one contract at a time.
WWT is in the business of producing business outcomes, so it would make sense our work in building a more inclusive workforce and workplace be outcome-driven, too.
To that end, we're always looking to use our programs — be it a Black History Month Exhibit, a Supplier Diversity Program or any number of additional initiatives we support throughout the year — to spark opportunity.
The power of a young boy or young girl finding inspiration in someone that walks, talks or looks like them being in a position of influence cannot be understated. And the effects of empowering other minority-owned businesses looking to grow is demonstrably beneficial to WWT and the community at large.
Consider, too, our work as the official technology and analytics partner of Richard Petty Motorsports, which allows us to bring differentiating technology solutions to the exciting world of racing.
But as with many things in sport, this collaboration extends well beyond the racetrack. Our support of RPM, and all-star driver Darrell "Bubba" Wallace, Jr., allows us to support a diverse group of young people who deserve every opportunity to reach their fullest potential. By supporting and enabling Bubba, we're doing our part to help him achieve his dreams and serve as a prime example of what young people can do when they dedicate themselves to their passions.
We recently asked Bubba about Black History Month, the benefits of a diverse workplace and his status as a role model. Watch this video to see what he had to say.
Still, there are additional ways we look to advance opportunity for minority groups.
WWT remains involved with several organizations aimed at increasing diversity and inclusion, such as:
- BEYA STEM Conference, which provides training and education for students in the STEM fields.
- NPower, which creates pathways to economic prosperity by launching digital careers for military veterans and young adults from underserved communities.
- The National Academy Foundation (NAF) to promote interest in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) related fields.
- The Global Leadership Forum, which seeks to increase the number of diverse technologists in the talent pipeline.
- The Hawthorn Leadership School for Girls to help enable diverse women leaders.
We've also leveraged our own success to create opportunity for others.
When WWT moved into our new 208,000-square-foot headquarters in 2017, it was one of our largest diverse suppliers, TW Constructors, that helped build it. It was the largest project to be awarded by a minority-owned company to a minority-owned company in the St. Louis market.
In a recent interview for wwt.com, WWT board member Priscilla Hill-Ardoin, considered to be a pioneer and visionary during her illustrious career with AT&T, said most companies have transitioned from viewing diversity as the right thing to do to being critical to their bottom line.
"A well-developed and nurtured environment that respects diversity and inclusiveness is now a business imperative and as important to the bottom line as net income," she said. "Many of us would argue it's critically related to net income, and there has been research that shows companies that value diversity perform better on the bottom line."
This is cause for optimism. As organizations continue to see diversity as a differentiator and enabler, such as WWT has, the more opportunity will arise for underrepresented groups like African Americans and other minority groups.
And that is our most critical outcome from all of this — enhancing opportunity for a better tomorrow.