How Relativity Space and GumGum Put the ‘EI’ in DEI

Companies can use Black History Month to focus on DEI initiatives that apply year-round.

Written by Avery Komlofske
Published on Feb. 03, 2022
How Relativity Space and GumGum Put the ‘EI’ in DEI
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DEI is a three-letter acronym for a reason — without equity and inclusion, diversity is toothless.

It’s no secret that the Black community is underrepresented in tech. Built In’s 2021 State of DEI in Tech report found that 75 percent of the companies surveyed reported that less than 10 percent of their employees are Black. And while those numbers are starting to rise, the problem cannot be solved through diverse hiring initiatives alone. Businesses also need to change the way they care for their Black employees. 

Discrimination, lack of promotion and an absence of belonging remain major challenges for the Black community in tech. Some companies are taking strong steps forward — including hiring dedicated DEI staff and supporting employee resource groups (ERGs) — but succeeding in these measures takes consistent, thoughtful effort.

Black History Month is a great time to renew the tech industry’s focus on equity and inclusion for Black employees, and one company that is seizing that opportunity is Relativity Space. Through both education and celebration, the aerospace manufacturing company is focusing their “Factory of the Future” not only on their innovative product, but on the next steps for equity and inclusion. Another company walking the walk? GumGum. The global tech and media company dedicates all of its existing programming and resources throughout the month of February to bring about diversity-focused educational opportunities for its employees.

To learn more, Built In LA sat down with Relativity Space Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Shai Poulard and GumGum DE&I People and Culture Business Partner Vanessa Rivero for an extended conversation.

 

Relativity Space Office
Relativity Space

 

Shai Poulard
Head of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion • Relativity Space

 

In honor of Black History Month, what is Relativity doing this year to celebrate Black history?

Relativity has several impactful activations planned that we are super excited to share with our employees. For example, we are kicking off the month first with a “Taste of the Diaspora” and trivia event. With food being a huge part of the Black community and culture — as it relates to a desire to nourish others, spend time together and maintain traditions — we are inviting our employees to sample foods from the Black diaspora, followed by a game of trivia to learn about Black contributions and achievements in aerospace and beyond.

 

What other activities or charitable initiatives do you have planned for Black History Month?

We will be hosting a fireside chat with a distinguished Black speaker in aerospace to discuss the importance of building Black futures and amplifying Black talent in aerospace. This fireside chat will be followed by a panel discussion with young, bright and upcoming Black space leaders and influencers to share their passion for space and how they are breaking down barriers for young Black students interested in pursuing a career in aerospace.

Last, but certainly not least, Relativity plans to donate to The Brown STEM Girl — an organization dedicated to creating a world for girls of color in STEM.

We are inviting our employees to sample foods from the Black diaspora, followed by a game of trivia to learn about Black contributions and achievements in aerospace and beyond.”

 

What are some ongoing programs, initiatives or benefits your company offers to support and empower Black employees throughout the year?

As an ongoing program at Relativity, we will host an “Inclusion 30” conversation about normalizing inclusion in the workplace during an age of erasure. Our ongoing Inclusion 30 conversations offer a safe space for all employees to have difficult conversations about the challenges Black employees face in the workplace and beyond.

 

 

Vanessa Rivero
DE&I People and Culture Business Partner • GumGum

In honor of Black History Month, what is your company doing this year to celebrate Black history? 

At GumGum, we’re excited and honored to celebrate Black History Month throughout the month of February with creative and thoughtful events and internal initiatives! We’ll be dedicating all of our existing programming and resources to bring about educational and meaningful opportunities for our GumGummers to connect with one another, listen and learn and celebrate the inspiring achievements of Black Americans in all aspects of our history!

Our employee-led DEIB committee — the VOICE Coalition — brought their voices together to support many of the internal events and programming we have planned, from our dedicated Black History Month microsite, with educational resources on what to read, watch and listen to, organizations to donate to, and Black-owned businesses to support, to our daily Slack spotlight posts highlighting pioneers, leaders, inventors and change-makers from the Black community on our #voice Slack channel.

 

What other activities or charitable initiatives do you have planned for Black History Month?

One of our most successful people-focused programs at GumGum is our Leadership Bites series in which a senior leader hosts a small group of team members who come together for an evening of fun, good food and meaningful conversation! Our VP of Business Integration & Assurance, TJ Albert, will be hosting a special series of our virtual Bites in partnership with Rockoly, to cook up a delicious Jamaican meal with other GumGummers.

Our Women of GumGum ERG will also lead an ‘Inspiration Session’ designed to bring us together to watch an inspiring TedTalk or listen to a podcast, followed by an open-group discussion. For this month’s Inspiration Session, we’ll be watching a TedTalk by educator and activist Brittany Packnett on ‘How to build your confidence — and spark it in others.’ 

It’s also important for us to be authentic and tuned into the current landscape beyond traditional celebrations and to seize this opportunity to hold safe spaces for difficult conversations. We’ll be kicking off our BHM programming on February 1, also known as National Freedom Day with a film screening of 13th, a documentary by Ava DuVernay that explores the intersection of race, justice and mass incarceration in the United States, followed by a roundtable discussion on the film.

These internal events allow us to have candid and meaningful conversations to deepen community-building, shared understanding and help advance our work in diversity, inclusion and belonging.

 

What are some ongoing programs, initiatives or benefits your company offers to support and empower Black employees throughout the year?

GumGum is always looking for ways to give back, whether that be locally with in-person volunteer opportunities or globally, with our quarterly cause initiative to make impactful change across causes ranging from climate change and activism to supporting homelessness and underserved communities.

For our first Quarterly Cause of 2022, we’ll be focused on spotlighting charities and organizations that support the Black community: inclusive of mental health (BEAM, Loveland Foundation), physical health, and the empowerment of Black women and girls (Black Girls Who Code). We’ll be curating a list of local (and global) organizations and charities that GumGummers can support and donate to while doubling our impact with a company match.  

We also understand the importance of carving out space for our Black team members to find healing and rejuvenation throughout the year. We host monthly meditation sessions open to all GumGummers, along with monthly sponsored fitness classes to support physical and mental wellbeing, and are excited to bring on a new vendor that is a Black, woman-owned business to host bi-weekly meditation sessions and provide more dedicated support and specialized sessions for our BIPOC community throughout the year.

Beyond spotlighting local, Black-owned businesses this month, we’ll continue sourcing gifts from non-majority owned businesses for all of our gifting and swag needs throughout the year (our favorite swag gift that new hires receive is coffee from Blk & Bold!). It’s important to us to support Black and non-majority owned businesses beyond Black History Month and other spotlight months and we strive to partner with diverse suppliers and vendors throughout the year, building long-term partnerships that support our people-team initiatives and our mission to build an equitable and inclusive workplace.

 

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images via Relativity Space and Shutterstock.

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