A letter from FareHarbor CEO, Max Valverde
This is a letter I put out to the company today. While it was originally an internal message, I think it’s important that we share it publicly. I initially thought it might seem performative to publish as a blog post, but this is not about gaining praise or saying look what we are doing. This is my way of doubling down on the commitments to our employees and our clients that FareHarbor will do better. I feel that publishing it into the public domain will only be positive for the movement in helping to eradicate systemic racism. Here’s the letter:
I hope you are well. I want everyone to take a few moments today to talk about diversity and inclusion at FareHarbor. While every minority group is equally important, I am writing to you today about systemic racism against Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), why I think it’s an important topic, and what we’re doing about it at FareHarbor. The topic of racism might make you uncomfortable. You might wonder why a CEO is weighing in on something that might appear political. It’s because I don’t believe this should be considered political. It’s about the history of the world we live in, it’s about human rights, and doing what’s right.
I am an American and so will speak to you through that lens, but the message is wholly global and applies to you, no matter where you are. Today is Juneteenth, the day that the last enslaved people were freed in the USA (June 19, 1865). This was a first step in the progression of racial progress in the USA. For over 100 years, progress has crept along for Black people and People of Color; from obtaining the right to vote to the civil rights movement. Before every major event, I would guess that at every stage along the way, white society thought “enough progress had been made.”until the next major event, or major change happened and opened their eyes and changed public opinion. As they look back years later, white society can’t believe they didn’t see it all along. Sometimes a jarring event is what causes progress to leap forward. The Black Community has been talking about systemic racism for a long time, but the murder of George Floyd finally got the attention of the world. The heinous act caused the entire world to look inward.
While I am the son of a Chinese and Indiginous South American father, I identify primarily as white. FareHarbor is a majority white company. As a white CEO and in a primarily white company, we need to first understand what our BIPOC employees have lived with since birth. While the topics we’ll explore as a company in the coming year and beyond might be new to some of us, many of our colleagues who are Black or People of Color have been living this every day of their lives. I have done a lot of self-reflection in the past few weeks. I have spoken to many friends, coworkers, and neighbors about the topic of systemic racism. I used to think I was doing my part because I was vehemently against overt racism and hate speech. After doing more research, and speaking with some of our Black employees, I became even more aware of systemic racism and implicit bias. For example, without proper training, we might hire someone because they are a good “culture fit” or act like/talk like the current FareHarbor employees. In this example we could unintentionally recruit a less diverse team without being overtly discriminatory.
When you joined FareHarbor, we offered you a job at a company with a fun and safe work environment where everyone was welcome. This is good, but not enough. The current climate has helped us look deeper inward to make sure we take steps to ensure we are moving the company, and in part the world, in the right direction. Here are a few things we’ve done, or plan to do, to participate in moving in that direction:
- It is not okay to engage in behavior that is a part of the problem. First and foremost, we need to make sure everyone is educated/aware of their own unconscious bias, and are comfortable discussing these topics with colleagues and the People Team. Earlier this year, we created a mandatory unconscious bias training for all employees, which is on-track to be completed by the end of Q3. I also want to continue to foster an environment where people are welcome to speak-up on social matters of societal progress if they so choose.
- We also need to look deeper into our own diversity. We are working with our People Team on implementing methods to attract and hire a more diverse workforce. We commit to establishing more training for all our employees who participate in interviews to ensure we are not biased during interviews. As part of our work with recruiting and in addition to training, we will be exploring strategies to bolster our processes. For example, data shows that removing the name of a candidate during the candidate screening process can help to counteract name bias and lead to fairer outcomes for some candidates.
- As a majority white team, we have a responsibility to listen, learn and support our non-white colleagues and minority groups. Creating space for dialogue plays an important role in this; diversity of people and diversity of thought are how new ideas are born. I want to ensure we’re listening, learning, and creating an inclusive space. As such, we’ve reinvigorated an inclusion-focused Slack channel to encourage the discussion of topics related to diversity, inclusion, and belonging. This is one step, but conversations of inclusion and equality should be taking place outside of Slack, too.
- We can amplify more voices and highlight more diverse backgrounds within our client-base. Our clients have great stories to tell and we can do more to echo these voices. Our Marketing Team is currently exploring the best ways to support our diverse clients.
- Fairness is an equalizer, and in 2019 we implemented a fair pay strategy to eliminate any potential bias for new and existing employees. We used a third party to create a data-driven process about roles, levels, and pay for all employees.
- Racism, harassment and discrimination have no place at FareHarbor. Period. This includes harassment towards employees by a colleague, current client, potential client, vendor, or third party. To clarify this, we’ve published more detailed internal guidelines around companies we will not work with, and encourage all employees to report any incidents of harassment.
- A Diversity and Inclusion Council is being piloted in our Needham office. It was formed with the purpose of improving diversity and inclusion in that office, both in terms of hiring and ensuring that all employees feel they have a sense of belonging and inclusion at work. They started earlier this year by providing guided talks on recognizing privilege as a way to promote inclusivity. They are now focused on creating learning tools for further expanding racial awareness as well as highlighting ways in which all employees can be involved creating a more equitable world. FareHarbor’s leadership has also been working with the Council as a sounding board around topics of diversity, inclusion, and belonging. As this pilot program comes into further focus, the goal is to implement a global group of employees who work with us on diversity, inclusion, and belonging so that the work this pilot program is doing can reach our other offices around the globe.
This is a marathon, not a sprint. I am taking steps to ensure this will not be forgotten in a month. And these are not the only steps we will take as an organization. This is a commitment that we will continue to make strides for FareHarbor that ensures strong diversity, inclusion, and belonging at FareHarbor.