Creating Community During Black History Month

Written by: Elizabeth Monahan

Read Time: 5 min

Black History Month is a moment in time each year to remember important people and events in the history of the African diaspora. This year, the theme was “Black Resistance,” which explores how Black folks have resisted historic and ongoing oppression that is still present today through continued violence and microaggressions.

At PTC, we are committed to growing our Black employee population and recognize the immeasurable value this will bring to our culture. As our BE ERG (our Employee Resource Group for Black employees and allies) thought about planning Black History Month programs in February, they considered what Black Resistance means within the context of PTC and the Black employees who bring their unique experiences, insights, and diverse perspectives to work every day. This year, the team focused on creating a stronger sense of community and belonging where we can all thrive through a special three-day symposium for both Black employees and allies. To learn more about the BE Symposium, I sat down with creator and BE ERG Chair, Emma Thibault:

Can you talk about how the idea for a multi-day symposium came to be?

As our BE leadership was planning for this year, we knew we wanted to focus our programming around creating community to better support Black employees across the business. This was the genesis of the symposium – creating an intentional, positive space to build meaningful community where we can advocate for and network with Black employees and allies.

What inspired you to honor Black History Month with this three-day event?

The BE Symposium really came from a place of wanting to support and honor our Black employees. BE has done smaller-scale events and programs here and there in the past, but if we really thought about it, those weren’t made for Black employees–they were more about doing the hard work to educate everyone else.

Thinking about this year’s national theme of Black Resistance, in many places, bringing Black people together is an act of resistance itself. We wanted to focus on super impactful, meaningful change for Black employees to help retain our talent and create a space where they want to be, which ultimately helps the business. We had this big idea but knew it would require all our energy, and we had to shake things up this year for folks to dedicate their time and effort.

How did you design dedicated tracks for Black employees, allies, and space for both groups to come together?

From the start, our BE leadership got really clear on what our objectives were for Black employees and allies–namely, community, conversation, and realistic action planning to ensure the symposium was more than just a moment in time. From there, we thoughtfully built agenda topics to address those ideas–from culture and identity, to defining allyship and best practices, to networking with the executive leadership team, to anti-racism and self-advocacy trainings, discussions on headwinds and action planning, and more.

Interestingly enough, I started my career in DEI and social justice training, so I was in the fortunate position of really understanding what it would take to design educational trainings, spaces, and tools for a diverse group of people.

We also brought in two external guests, including Doyin Richards for anti-racism and self-advocacy trainings as well as Rinne-Julie Fruster as our closing keynote speaker, which we opened to the whole company. We first met Rinne back in the fall as part of Color Magazine’s Empower Week Conference, in partnership with PTC, and thought their message was really important and fit into exactly what we’re trying to do, especially around the theme of taking risks to support our larger goals.


How would you describe the attendee feedback so far?

We had 51 total participants in our Symposium, including 26 Black employees, 19 allies, and six staff members, who also participated, and overall, the feedback has been really good. Many folks even shared that they wanted a fourth day and more time together! In addition, executive leadership was impressed with the organization and quality of the sessions, they learned a lot, and have created relationships that have already grown since the meetings.

For Black employees, I hope they felt a sense of community and belonging as a valued part of PTC … the feeling of actually knowing other Black employees that they can call on when needed or for mentorship. We’re still on our DEI journey and want to keep the momentum going around retaining and developing our current Black employees, while recruiting new talent.

“For me, the most valuable part of this experience was sharing stories and perspectives with allies, and building community that could grow into opportunity.”

- BE Symposium attendee

For allies, we know the folks who showed up already understand and believe in the importance of allyship, but now, they have tangible actions they can practice at work and in their personal lives. We want our allies to be more confident (notice I didn’t say comfortable because this work is often very uncomfortable), in their allyship they can do every day. We’re galvanizing allies so they can become true advocates.

“I always feel like I listen and understand... but this really helped me think differently. The experience of discussing these issues directly with those affected is so different than hearing about things and saying you are in support. This became so much more real to me. The opportunities to hear peoples' experiences and have frank conversations was the most valuable part for me.”

- BE Symposium attendee

What would you tell someone who was thinking about designing a similar initiative? Any takeaways you’d be willing to share?

Be willing to take risks, try new things, and think outside the box. It’s also important to have a strong, dedicated, and diverse team to build a program like this. Our BE leadership team keeps each other honest so we stay true to the objectives of the program and challenge each other throughout the process. It takes a lot of work, especially because being active in this ERG isn’t my “day job!” Sometimes, involvement in ERGs becomes a passion project, and that’s a good thing. This work is energizing to me, so it doesn’t feel like “work,” but at the same time, we must remember to avoid that grind culture of working your day job and having things like this fall to nights and weekends.

Do you have anything else you’d like to share?

I just want to say thank you to PTC in general for being willing to listen and learn with us. I’d especially like to thank Kameelah Benjamin-Fuller, our Chief Diversity Officer & CSR Leader, our executive team, and other senior leaders for supporting this big idea, allowing us to take this risk, and giving us the time and resources to do so, since this was something completely outside the box. While some companies may be afraid to do something like this, the support we’ve seen from PTC speaks volumes to not just making vague DEI promises but following through with meaningful action.

About Emma Thibault

Emma Thibault is the Senior Director of Field Enablement Strategy & Design at PTC, responsible for ensuring the enablement strategy and programming for all customer facing roles meets business needs effectively. She has been in training and enablement for the past 20 years, covering subjects including Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Ethics & Compliance, and Sales Enablement. Additionally, Emma serves as the Chair for the Black Employee Resource Group at PTC.


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Tags: Life at PTC Corporate News

About the Author

Elizabeth Monahan

Elizabeth Monahan (she/hers) is the Communications Principal at PTC, responsible for creating compelling storytelling and narratives in the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and Social Impact space to enhance the current employee experience as well as the employer brand for prospective talent and partners. She has more than a decade of experience in internal communications, public relations, content, social media, and consumer brand marketing.