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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- BE Symposium attendee
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.
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.
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.
At PTC, we’re transforming the way work gets done by building DEI into our company DNA.