Storytelling Our Way to a Stronger, More Equal Society — Introducing Our Work with CODE2040

How do you make an impact on the world around you? It’s a question my generation is famous for asking, and it’s one top companies have begun asking as well in an effort to build workplaces that attract top talent and are rooted in values. This phenomenon is one that gives me hope. There are a lot of smart people in the Bay Area. What could happen if they all put just two percent of their time and energy into giving back to the society that has helped them get to where they are?

Part of why I’m at Bateman Group — part of why we’re all at Bateman Group — is because the agency as a whole is concerned with this question. How do we take the fortune we’ve had and give back? This question gave rise to our E3THOS program, which is a multiple-faceted approach to giving back by donating two percent of our time, money and service.

In practice, this means every Bateman Group employee has the opportunity to donate a $100 impassioned individual grant to an organization they care about. It means last month we donated our monthly local impact grant to $2,000 to support Equality Florida Action organization and show our support for the LGBTQ community in Orlando. And it means we decided to take on a pro bono account to give back our services as communication professionals.

Like with all things, Bateman Group approached this thoughtfully. Our expertise is in tech, so for us to truly be able to deliver value to a pro bono partner, the company would need to have a strong technology component. We reached out to a few different organizations, and met with them to evaluate fit of the partnership. All of the organizations we met with are doing incredible, important work, but ultimately we decided to work with CODE2040, a nonprofit dedicated to creating racial equality in tech.

At the core of CODE2040’s work are two realities — by 2040, ethnic minorities will make up the majority of the U.S. population, and all companies, regardless of industry, are becoming tech companies. For our society to be productive, competitive, just and healthy, we have a lot of work to do to ensure opportunity is distributed equally. When you consider that San Francisco is considered one of the biggest tech hubs in the country, and yet less than five percent of our tech workforce is black, it becomes painfully obvious how much we need this organization.

Diversity in tech is something that has been getting a lot of attention as of late. The top companies are trying to adjust their policies to be more inclusive. And yet, they struggle. It turns out that culture, like all things, tends to reproduce in predictable ways that churns out more of what created it. Evolution is a mechanism nature created to prevent this tendency from wiping us out, but it sometimes happens too slowly.

Companies with more diverse workforces perform better and inherently think about problems in more holistic ways. As the French CEO from one of my other clients wrote in a Fortune byline recently, “Diversity allows you to account for factors and issues that you might overlook with a more homogenous team” — like laying the foundation for a product in multiple languages early, before it will become a million dollar retrofit when the company is ready to expand internationally.

Yes, creating more diverse cultures in tech feels hard. Quite frankly, it’s something we’re working on at Bateman Group. But embedded in that challenge is also a reason for hope. It won’t always be an uphill battle. Diversity also reproduces itself and makes space for more diversity. This is part of what CODE2040 looks for in its rigorous selection of Fellows. Who are the young people that are going to go into their organizations and create space for others who also don’t fit the white male in a hoodie archetype to enter and thrive? Who are the leaders that will catalyze the evolution that we need, both for our young people, and for the companies that will need to adapt to survive in the emerging landscape?

For companies grappling with building more diversity into their company culture, you don’t have to do it alone. There are organizations like CODE2040 that can help. There are companies like Google, which is a major CODE2040 supporter, that have lessons to share through their own successes and struggles in this area. For young people of color that don’t think the tech industry is for you, I hope you challenge yourself to test that assumption. We need what you bring to the table if Silicon Valley is to get serious and start building something other than messaging apps that share cat videos.

Given everything that has gone on in this country over the past week — everything that’s been going on for years, perhaps — it is so clear that we as a country must evolve. A major step on the path to doing so will be elevating the stories of strong, successful, inspiring black and latino/a techies. Lifting them up, so we can see them, celebrate them, and other young people know there is space for them in the tech world, too. We could not be more honored to partner with CODE2040 to help do just that.