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The importance of Black History Month in corporate culture

Teyana Backey  |  February 11, 2021

Every year on February 1st, corporations, classrooms, sports organizations, libraries, and other facets of American society flash well-intentioned quotes from popular Black historical figures across social and traditional media. While these quotes and images of notable figures such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, and others have become the face of Black history in America, it doesn’t paint a fully accurate portrayal of modern-day Black America. 

While some may view this annual, timely surfacing of Black culture as pandering and lip service, there are some organizations that put an emphasis on blackness, Black life, and the Black experience beyond the month of February. There’s no doubt that Black History Month is essential, and here at UserTesting, it’s equally important to give the voice (and space) for Black employees to express themselves and their accomplishments every day. 

In this post, we’ll take a look at what Black History Month means to some of us at UserTesting, and how we continue to strive toward an inclusive environment all year long.

What does Black History Month mean to us?

After a year of escalating social unrest, protests, and calls for racial justice, this Black History Month feels different from before. There's a sharp eye on companies who took action to add a black square on their social media profiles back in March and those who didn't. Where are these brands now? And how are they supporting Black communities internally and externally?

For Black History Month, UserTesting is taking the time to reflect, educate our team, share lived experiences, and continue the momentum from last summer by identifying opportunities to connect our company—and all of its team members—with the history, celebrations, and shared experiences of the Black community. We’re also providing space for our Black employees to unpack the trauma of last year’s triggering events by bringing in mental health professionals to discuss how we heal and continue to prioritize our mental health and well-being. Our Black@UserTesting community is focused on supporting and uplifting the internal community now, more than ever. 

Here’s what we heard from our Black@UserTesting community when asked, “What does Black History Month mean to you?”

black history month at usertesting
Left to right: Kilimanjaro Robbs, Director, Platform Partnerships, Melissa Menardy, Senior Sales Development Representative, Noelle Peterson, Director, Global Events & Field Marketing, Lija Hogan, Customer Experience Consultant
  • "It's a time to remember, honor, and connect with the history, achievements, and ongoing activities of Black people." 
  • "A time when the country is explicitly focused on the contributions of the Black community—even though our contributions should be celebrated regularly, as we are ingrained in the fabric of this country."
  • "To me, Black History Month is about reflecting and sharing with others about our collective impact in the past, present, and yet to come."

Black History Month is more than a look back at history. It’s about the now, and the future of Black culture and contributions. Black history is a conduit for transformation and change that surrounds us, daily. From the Black Lives Matter movement to the youngest and Black presidential inaugural poet, to the first Black and Asian Vice President of the United States—Black history is made every day.

The importance of blackness in the workplace

For many, being Black in the workplace is often synonymous with being a token or solo. And that’s why representation matters. When asked to “share the importance of  Black people being in roles like yours,” here’s some of what we heard:

  • "My personal identity informs my professional perspective in profound ways. I can recognize potential blind spots while working with people who have different backgrounds and perspectives, and hear what they are saying and doing—and what they are not—with a deeper awareness because I am always listening with an understanding borne of academic training as well as personal experience."
  • "There’s no question that diversity and inclusion are important across all industries and positions, but having a person of color in a Director role in a SaaS company gives others inspiration to set and reach the same goals."
  • "There are very few Black women in sales roles. Being in my role and excelling is necessary to demonstrate to those behind me that it’s possible to be a top performer in a typically white, male-dominated role."
  • "It's important for Black people to see me in my role because I am a lighthouse; showing them that they too are welcome here. I will always make room for them."

No matter the role or level of seniority, we’re forced to adjust how we navigate the world in order to optimize how we relate to it. Code-switching and being told to wear "more professional hairstyles" are prime examples of how Black people are expected to assimilate or "fit in" at work. This is especially true in industries dominated by white men. One member of our team said:

“For Black women to mother so much of the world's culture, we are so quickly erased in the history books. It's important to know that some of the best ideas that have shifted behavior in the world come from Black women.”-Lisa Lloyd, Learning Consultant, Customer Education & Onboarding

It’s through this awareness of self that Black people in the workplace are able to build an acute sense of empathy for how we’re perceived in every setting. While Black History Month may celebrate the accomplishments of Black team members across organizations, there has to be a fundamental shift in how companies hire, promote, and empower their employees. It’s through representation that companies are able to show others what’s possible, open doors, and provide blueprints for success.

How UserTesting empowers Black employees and diverse culture

Throughout the year, and especially during Black History Month, our Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Belonging team (IDEB) partners with our Black@UserTesting Employee Resource Group (ERG) to recognize the significant contributions of Black trailblazers of the past and present. This year, we’re hosting a Black History Month virtual tour and providing learning resources around Black history. We’re also hosting a professional development workshop to empower Black employees to take ownership of their careers and think strategically about career development. 

Beyond the workplace, we’re hosting a virtual community service project, and aggregating a list of Black-owned businesses to support throughout the year. 

So this Black History Month, take the time to reflect, but also take the time to realize how knowing the past informs the future. For too long, American history has been whitewashed and it’s through the omission of blackness that we’re where we are today. While this omission has narrowed the scope of the Black narrative, we are seeing progress.

If people continue to buy Black and recognize that Black Lives Matter in the present, and If people treat every month like Black History Month, history may begin to rewrite itself, and new generations will grow up with a more colorful and inclusive American history.

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About the author:

Teyana is an Associate Brand Marketing Manager at UserTesting. When she's not working to elevate the UserTesting brand, you can find her supporting the Black@UserTesting employee resource group as its Co-lead.