Make Black History Month a Catalyst for Year-Long Inclusive Action

Ten Thousand Coffees Team -
March 7, 2022

“Allyship goes beyond this month — it's something that we all have to find ways to commit to year-round.” That’s Dave Wilkin, CEO and Co-Founder of Ten Thousand Coffees and the moderator for a recent webinar about our new report “Make Black History Month a Catalyst for Year-Long Inclusive Action,” attended by professionals from across North America. 

In a wide-ranging conversation to cap off the end of Black History Month, Wilkin spoke to Anissa Thompson, Managing Director, Software and Platforms at Accenture, and Diavin Miller, Head of Partner Success at Black Professionals in Tech Network (BPTN) about how to elevate Black and underrepresented talent groups, bridge the networking and mentoring gap inside organizations, and how to create and support a culture of allyship in the workplace. 

Mind the gap

Wilkin shared a recent statistic from Boston Consulting Group after introducing the panelists.

“70 to 85% of open job positions are filled through networking and relationships. Because of this, Black Canadians are 30% less likely to be in the candidate pool.”

How do organizations, he asked, remove the barriers that Black professionals working in tech face by helping them solve this network and relationship gap?

“The problem is often framed as a lack of supply,” Miller said. “[As in], we want to hire Black talent, but we can't find them. There is more than enough supply. Fundamentally, Miller said, it's a networking gap. “Most of the hiring and recruiting that we do are through trusted networks — we don't necessarily even recognize when we're doing it but that's how we operate as humans,” Miller explained, saying we naturally try to reduce friction and reduce risk by relying on these established networks. “Closing that gap between existing talent and the people who have access to those opportunities is essential to the work we do at BPTN.” Solutions, he suggested, include early career mentoring and networking programs for Black talent and partnering with corporate partners.

“This isn't about supply, it's about who has access and who is allowed into the room.” Miller said.

Thompson concurred. “At Accenture, we not only have employee resource groups (ERGs), but we make sure they have the support they need to be able to thrive, and the right access to leadership.” One of the things she’s most proud of is a project they launched several years ago to help Black founders raise capital in the tech space. “When you think about all the capital that exists in the VC space, less than 1% of it goes to Black founders,” Thompson told the audience. Without mentorship programs or guidance from leadership, birds of a feather will flock together, Wilkin said. “We need different people to access those important networks.” 

AUDIENCE POLL: 80% of those polled said they joined their company through networking. 

The more you teach, the more you learn

Wilkin invited the audience to share questions in the chat and engage with the online polls before asking both panelists about their personal experiences with networking and mentoring. Miller shared a story about the power of leaning into your mentors and sponsors. “I've only ever applied for one job in my career,” he said, something that often surprises his colleagues. “It was my co-op job in university. ‘What do you mean [you’ve only had one job?], they ask. You must be really lucky.’ What I say is, ‘No, I've had a really great network of mentors who have helped me move and navigate through my career.’” Miller said he’s always had mentors in his orbit. “They haven't necessarily formally identified as mentors, but there has always been someone who said, ‘I see what you're doing here, and I think that you could do this at a different level in the organization.’”

In his current role, the Founder of BPTN reached out to Miller on LinkedIn. Historically, he said, Black professionals were told they needed to work twice as hard for half as much. “That's been ingrained in us, this expectation that you need to expect less and settle for less. That's not true anymore. Leveraging social capital, networking, and strong mentors, will help level the playing field. It's something that we really need to be tapping into,” Miller said. 

“We often say, the more you teach, the more you learn,” Wilkin offered before shifting gears to discuss another important topic: fostering and implementing change. “In a recent study from Data Hub,” he shared, “it was reported that 20% of white employees have sponsors, yet only 5% of Black employees do. How can organizations foster mentoring, networking and sponsorship so that their Black employees can actually bridge that gap?” he asked both panelists. 

“One of the things that we hear from partners,” Miller said, “is we have this leadership development program and it's not generating any Black leaders."

"My question is always: why isn't your leadership program generating Black leaders and why aren't you looking at solving that? Mentorship is not democratized within organizations. It's usually information and access that is held by very few people. It's almost a secret in terms of who gets tapped on the shoulder.” - Diavin Miller

Miller added that his experience navigating into a leadership role is not going to be the same as a Black woman or someone with a disability. “I need to train my sponsors to develop these emerging leaders, to have them step outside of themselves, to think of their experiences and make sure they have a really good understanding of the challenges they need to overcome.” A poll by Data Hub bolstered that thought: a Black Manager is 65% more likely to progress to the next rung in the ladder if they have a sponsor. 

The word “democratized” resonated with Wilkin. “When we built Ten Thousand Coffees, our vision was to democratize opportunity. When you create open access to these experiences, whether it's networking or mentoring, sponsorship, or onboarding programs, that's when you democratize opportunity.” 

Thompson echoed these sentiments, especially as a Black leader in a big organization.

“In a lot of large companies, you are not going to see the same level of representation. When I think of the seminal people in my journey, very few of them look like me — that's just the reality. I love the term ‘democratization,’ but it's about making sure we're encouraging people to look everywhere and to leave no stone unturned in your quest for mentors,” Thompson said.

“The bulk of people in senior leadership positions don't look like me in my company,” she added, and that’s something that needs to change.

AUDIENCE POLL: 88% responded yes when asked, “Is your organization intentional when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI)?

Invest in people

The conversation then shifted to action points. How do leaders practically invest in mentoring activities within their companies, and what advice do you have for them? Wilkin asked the panel. 

Miller suggested metrics play a huge role in how businesses view the issue. Leaders risk becoming “performative” if they don’t include diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) goals as part of a company’s strategic objectives. When KPIs and compensation are tied to diversity initiatives, results follow. “Gender and ethnic racial diversity in leadership teams are 35% more likely to outperform their competitors in their sector,” he said, citing a McKinsey study. “Whether it be from profitability, entering new markets, or innovation, there is a huge benefit that comes from having a diverse set of voices. That's what you want your executives to be fostering within your company — that bottom line benefit.” When people feel valued and heard, he said, that drives innovation, and in turn drives profit margins higher. Understanding the link to profitability, Miller says, and how companies are moving forward in the future to really make impactful changes is critical.

Thompson took it one step further, focusing on the employee. “We ask our people what they need and how they are feeling. That, for me, is the Holy Grail.” Some people may still not feel included, she said, or have that sense of belonging, so inclusion and empathy are top of mind for Thompson and her team. “It's about understanding that not everyone has the secret decoder ring. Not everyone went to the same university or has the same background. When you're signing up for a DEI-related goal as part of your personal accountability for the year, make sure it's not a checkbox activity, that you are going into it with your whole heart.” For leaders, reach out to the person you sponsored to follow up on shared principles, goals, and outcomes, she says, and be mindful of the pitfalls and gaps that someone from a different background may encounter. 

A network is like a chain, she continued. “When you have [diverse] employees in your organization, how do you make sure that they want to reach out and bring in people from their network. That's how this chain grows and becomes perpetuated,” Thompson said.
“Networks have to be a vitamin and not an antibiotic,” Wilkin added. 

One network BPTN is building is CULTIVATE, a program with the goal of matching 350 Black professionals under the age of 29, which will be powered by 10KC. “We see the need for mentoring. People ask: how can I learn? How can I grow my career? How can I connect to other professionals? The feedback from the participants, in terms of the ease with which they can connect (on 10KC), the fact that it's based on their schedule, that's made a world of difference from an experiential perspective.” Miller noted that not only have people built strong relationships with their mentors, but they are also finding jobs through those relationships. “40% of the mentors in the program kept meeting with their mentees after the end of the program,” Miller said.

AUDIENCE POLL: 79% responded that their company offers informal development experiences to support diverse talent.

Allyship requires active participation

As the conversation wrapped up, the panelists discussed Dictionary.com’s 2021 word of the year: allyship. “I know for me, allyship is something I work on all the time. I'm trying to learn how to be a better ally to the diverse people in my life and as a leader at 10KC,” Wilkin said, before turning to the panel for their thoughts. 

“George Floyd was a giant jolt to the collective,” Thompson said. “I think everyone's wanted to jump in and go, ‘How can I be better?’ Understanding that you have a position of privilege and are using that privilege for good.” It’s the small moments that matter, she continued. Standing up for a woman being spoken over in a meeting or calling out someone for using terrible language. “Taking those steps to show [a colleague] I've got your back, that I'm doing everything I can to make sure you feel safe, connected, and courageous in your journey,” she said. Thompson’s words resonated with Miller, who added,

“Allyship is a verb, not a noun. Being allies. It’s not a destination. It’s something you’re working through. It requires real vulnerability and active participation.”

AUDIENCE POLL: 79% said their organization promotes allyship. 


Tune in to the “Make Black History Month a Catalyst for Year-Long Inclusive Action” webinar to hear more about how the panelists celebrated Black History Month, how they’re looking ahead to Women’s History Month, how being an introvert can work to your advantage when networking, and how 10KC is playing a role in helping organizations such as Accenture and BPTN reach their employee development and DEI goals.

Webinar

Make Black History Month a Catalyst for Year-Long Inclusive Action

“Allyship goes beyond this month — it's something that we all have to find ways to commit to year-round.” That’s Dave Wilkin, CEO and Co-Founder of Ten Thousand Coffees and the moderator for a recent webinar about our new report “Make Black History Month a Catalyst for Year-Long Inclusive Action,” attended by professionals from across North America. 

In a wide-ranging conversation to cap off the end of Black History Month, Wilkin spoke to Anissa Thompson, Managing Director, Software and Platforms at Accenture, and Diavin Miller, Head of Partner Success at Black Professionals in Tech Network (BPTN) about how to elevate Black and underrepresented talent groups, bridge the networking and mentoring gap inside organizations, and how to create and support a culture of allyship in the workplace. 

Mind the gap

Wilkin shared a recent statistic from Boston Consulting Group after introducing the panelists.

“70 to 85% of open job positions are filled through networking and relationships. Because of this, Black Canadians are 30% less likely to be in the candidate pool.”

How do organizations, he asked, remove the barriers that Black professionals working in tech face by helping them solve this network and relationship gap?

“The problem is often framed as a lack of supply,” Miller said. “[As in], we want to hire Black talent, but we can't find them. There is more than enough supply. Fundamentally, Miller said, it's a networking gap. “Most of the hiring and recruiting that we do are through trusted networks — we don't necessarily even recognize when we're doing it but that's how we operate as humans,” Miller explained, saying we naturally try to reduce friction and reduce risk by relying on these established networks. “Closing that gap between existing talent and the people who have access to those opportunities is essential to the work we do at BPTN.” Solutions, he suggested, include early career mentoring and networking programs for Black talent and partnering with corporate partners.

“This isn't about supply, it's about who has access and who is allowed into the room.” Miller said.

Thompson concurred. “At Accenture, we not only have employee resource groups (ERGs), but we make sure they have the support they need to be able to thrive, and the right access to leadership.” One of the things she’s most proud of is a project they launched several years ago to help Black founders raise capital in the tech space. “When you think about all the capital that exists in the VC space, less than 1% of it goes to Black founders,” Thompson told the audience. Without mentorship programs or guidance from leadership, birds of a feather will flock together, Wilkin said. “We need different people to access those important networks.” 

AUDIENCE POLL: 80% of those polled said they joined their company through networking. 

The more you teach, the more you learn

Wilkin invited the audience to share questions in the chat and engage with the online polls before asking both panelists about their personal experiences with networking and mentoring. Miller shared a story about the power of leaning into your mentors and sponsors. “I've only ever applied for one job in my career,” he said, something that often surprises his colleagues. “It was my co-op job in university. ‘What do you mean [you’ve only had one job?], they ask. You must be really lucky.’ What I say is, ‘No, I've had a really great network of mentors who have helped me move and navigate through my career.’” Miller said he’s always had mentors in his orbit. “They haven't necessarily formally identified as mentors, but there has always been someone who said, ‘I see what you're doing here, and I think that you could do this at a different level in the organization.’”

In his current role, the Founder of BPTN reached out to Miller on LinkedIn. Historically, he said, Black professionals were told they needed to work twice as hard for half as much. “That's been ingrained in us, this expectation that you need to expect less and settle for less. That's not true anymore. Leveraging social capital, networking, and strong mentors, will help level the playing field. It's something that we really need to be tapping into,” Miller said. 

“We often say, the more you teach, the more you learn,” Wilkin offered before shifting gears to discuss another important topic: fostering and implementing change. “In a recent study from Data Hub,” he shared, “it was reported that 20% of white employees have sponsors, yet only 5% of Black employees do. How can organizations foster mentoring, networking and sponsorship so that their Black employees can actually bridge that gap?” he asked both panelists. 

“One of the things that we hear from partners,” Miller said, “is we have this leadership development program and it's not generating any Black leaders."

"My question is always: why isn't your leadership program generating Black leaders and why aren't you looking at solving that? Mentorship is not democratized within organizations. It's usually information and access that is held by very few people. It's almost a secret in terms of who gets tapped on the shoulder.” - Diavin Miller

Miller added that his experience navigating into a leadership role is not going to be the same as a Black woman or someone with a disability. “I need to train my sponsors to develop these emerging leaders, to have them step outside of themselves, to think of their experiences and make sure they have a really good understanding of the challenges they need to overcome.” A poll by Data Hub bolstered that thought: a Black Manager is 65% more likely to progress to the next rung in the ladder if they have a sponsor. 

The word “democratized” resonated with Wilkin. “When we built Ten Thousand Coffees, our vision was to democratize opportunity. When you create open access to these experiences, whether it's networking or mentoring, sponsorship, or onboarding programs, that's when you democratize opportunity.” 

Thompson echoed these sentiments, especially as a Black leader in a big organization.

“In a lot of large companies, you are not going to see the same level of representation. When I think of the seminal people in my journey, very few of them look like me — that's just the reality. I love the term ‘democratization,’ but it's about making sure we're encouraging people to look everywhere and to leave no stone unturned in your quest for mentors,” Thompson said.

“The bulk of people in senior leadership positions don't look like me in my company,” she added, and that’s something that needs to change.

AUDIENCE POLL: 88% responded yes when asked, “Is your organization intentional when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI)?

Invest in people

The conversation then shifted to action points. How do leaders practically invest in mentoring activities within their companies, and what advice do you have for them? Wilkin asked the panel. 

Miller suggested metrics play a huge role in how businesses view the issue. Leaders risk becoming “performative” if they don’t include diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) goals as part of a company’s strategic objectives. When KPIs and compensation are tied to diversity initiatives, results follow. “Gender and ethnic racial diversity in leadership teams are 35% more likely to outperform their competitors in their sector,” he said, citing a McKinsey study. “Whether it be from profitability, entering new markets, or innovation, there is a huge benefit that comes from having a diverse set of voices. That's what you want your executives to be fostering within your company — that bottom line benefit.” When people feel valued and heard, he said, that drives innovation, and in turn drives profit margins higher. Understanding the link to profitability, Miller says, and how companies are moving forward in the future to really make impactful changes is critical.

Thompson took it one step further, focusing on the employee. “We ask our people what they need and how they are feeling. That, for me, is the Holy Grail.” Some people may still not feel included, she said, or have that sense of belonging, so inclusion and empathy are top of mind for Thompson and her team. “It's about understanding that not everyone has the secret decoder ring. Not everyone went to the same university or has the same background. When you're signing up for a DEI-related goal as part of your personal accountability for the year, make sure it's not a checkbox activity, that you are going into it with your whole heart.” For leaders, reach out to the person you sponsored to follow up on shared principles, goals, and outcomes, she says, and be mindful of the pitfalls and gaps that someone from a different background may encounter. 

A network is like a chain, she continued. “When you have [diverse] employees in your organization, how do you make sure that they want to reach out and bring in people from their network. That's how this chain grows and becomes perpetuated,” Thompson said.
“Networks have to be a vitamin and not an antibiotic,” Wilkin added. 

One network BPTN is building is CULTIVATE, a program with the goal of matching 350 Black professionals under the age of 29, which will be powered by 10KC. “We see the need for mentoring. People ask: how can I learn? How can I grow my career? How can I connect to other professionals? The feedback from the participants, in terms of the ease with which they can connect (on 10KC), the fact that it's based on their schedule, that's made a world of difference from an experiential perspective.” Miller noted that not only have people built strong relationships with their mentors, but they are also finding jobs through those relationships. “40% of the mentors in the program kept meeting with their mentees after the end of the program,” Miller said.

AUDIENCE POLL: 79% responded that their company offers informal development experiences to support diverse talent.

Allyship requires active participation

As the conversation wrapped up, the panelists discussed Dictionary.com’s 2021 word of the year: allyship. “I know for me, allyship is something I work on all the time. I'm trying to learn how to be a better ally to the diverse people in my life and as a leader at 10KC,” Wilkin said, before turning to the panel for their thoughts. 

“George Floyd was a giant jolt to the collective,” Thompson said. “I think everyone's wanted to jump in and go, ‘How can I be better?’ Understanding that you have a position of privilege and are using that privilege for good.” It’s the small moments that matter, she continued. Standing up for a woman being spoken over in a meeting or calling out someone for using terrible language. “Taking those steps to show [a colleague] I've got your back, that I'm doing everything I can to make sure you feel safe, connected, and courageous in your journey,” she said. Thompson’s words resonated with Miller, who added,

“Allyship is a verb, not a noun. Being allies. It’s not a destination. It’s something you’re working through. It requires real vulnerability and active participation.”

AUDIENCE POLL: 79% said their organization promotes allyship. 


Tune in to the “Make Black History Month a Catalyst for Year-Long Inclusive Action” webinar to hear more about how the panelists celebrated Black History Month, how they’re looking ahead to Women’s History Month, how being an introvert can work to your advantage when networking, and how 10KC is playing a role in helping organizations such as Accenture and BPTN reach their employee development and DEI goals.

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