How the Black Employee Action Network is engaging, educating, and empowering Black employees in the workplace
CMT’s commitment to diversity starts with creating a culture where people can be themselves. One way we do this is with our employee-led Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). The team chooses which issues they want to focus on, including race, religion, sexual identity, and more.
Today, we’re featuring the Black Employee Action Network ERG.
The Black Employee Action Network ERG started in 2021. It’s grown quickly and now has 22 members. The ERG focuses on creating a safe place where Black employees can discuss the issues that are important to them.
The ERG’s primary goal is to cultivate diverse employment, culture, and talent in the workplace. They also want to create a place where all Black employees feel comfortable to discuss mentorship opportunities, career advancement, and professional development.
To learn more about The Black Employee Action Network ERG, we caught up with Tahjan Henry, Senate Representative of the Black Employee Action Network ERG.
Our conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.
CMT: What is the mission of the Black Employee Action Network ERG? Why is it important?
Henry: Our mission is to create a safe space where we can talk about issues that matter for people in the company. Diversifying the environment, diversifying culture, as well as making sure there are equal opportunities for professional development and career advancement. That’s the primary focus of the ERG.
It’s very important to me that we focus on those things. As someone who is early in their career, I’m always looking at what I can do to be better. I chat with people who are more advanced in their career, or work in a field that aligns with what I am doing. It’s helpful because I can get tips and advice from people further along in their careers on what I should be doing to succeed at my job.
Since joining, I realized everyone is working towards the same goal. It’s fun to talk to people who look like you, who feel the same way you do, and it does help company culture. You’re a lot more excited to go into the office because you know you will see people that look like you there. Having a safe space in ERG makes me feel more comfortable at work.
CMT: How has your experience been in the Black Employee Action Network ERG?
Henry: It’s been great. A lot of the members are located in different areas in the US so you do see other Black employees but you might not see them as much in the office if you’re not based in Cambridge. But it’s a great way for all of us to connect.
We are in different departments as well, and we get to connect and talk about different things we are working on. When talking to other members about work, you do realize that you’re aligned on a lot of the same things you want and have similar goals.
During our meetings we discuss mentorship opportunities, we think about how we can get other people that look like us into the workplace, and focus on how diversity impacts the workplace. I know HR and Steve Graham, our Diversity and Development Director, are focused on diversifying talent and ERG members know people in their own network that we can connect HR with to continue our representation at CMT.
I am of Jamaican descent. STEM is not something that is talked about a lot in my culture and I think that is prevalent in a lot of Black communities. It’s not something that people know about.
So, when we speak about CMT and what we do, people are excited about those things and they get interested in learning more. It’s nice that we have a group that aligns with those goals. I feel excited to share what I do and about CMT. It’s nice to see other people get excited when you tell them about us.
CMT: How do you feel knowing you have the Black Employee Action Network ERG to support you?
Henry: It feels really good. I have that safe space. That’s what I really appreciate about it. It feels great to have a group you can turn to if you need support. These ERGs are the icing on the cake for making this work experience more enjoyable.
Since the ERG started, it has shown me how many other people who look like me are working at the company. We now have 22 members and it’s constantly expanding and growing. You can see it during the meetings. It’s nice to see the list of members grow for the ERG especially in the summer when our interns join as well. And it’s exciting to tell new full time employees about the ERG and offer them to join.
CMT: What are some of the things the ERG does to spread the word about CMT?
Henry: We have been working on getting more interns of color working for CMT. I was able to mentor one of our interns this past year and it was a great opportunity for me. I was guiding someone daily and I was the person they reported to. I am a junior product manager so that was my first experience leading someone. It gave me that hands-on experience being a leader.
It helped me from a professional and a personal perspective. It was great to work with another Black employee and have the opportunity to lead him to success.
If the interns are excited to know what CMT is doing, they are more likely to spread the word to other people they know and get even more diverse talent here. I was able to make someone else’s experience a positive one. For me, it was nice to know that I was a part of that and it boosted my confidence.
Steve Graham plans to speak to high school or college students about the work we do at CMT. He plans on reaching out to historically Black colleges and universities to let everyone know about the opportunities and different roles we have here.
The ERG has made me feel more important because I get asked a lot if I want to go speak at an event about CMT and as a junior role, you wouldn’t think they would want me speaking but it happens a lot. I end up speaking to a lot of people interested in the company and I find it very exciting.
CMT: How does the ERG align with CMT’s values?
Henry: Diverse talent matters. Especially while we are trying to make the roads safer. Black drivers are more likely to get stopped and even demographically, we can see some drivers have higher rates because of where they live.
I am from East Flatbush in Brooklyn, NY and maybe it was due to crime or how dense the area is, the rates were higher. So, when you have people working on the same mission and are coming from these different backgrounds, you do get to solve even more problems. You have different perspectives on what is going on and you have people who can relate.
You can solve things even better than before.
CMT: What is your favorite part about this ERG?
Henry: I personally appreciate the safe space. Black women are a minority here and we recently did these mini meetings where members of the ERG can meet up in between the monthly sessions. We recently had one of these and we had all the Black women in the company get together. I really enjoyed it.
We were able to sit and talk about what we’re doing, what we want to do, whether it was anything personal and CMT related. It was nice to see similar people who want to do similar things and ask for advice on a professional or personal level. I can say to them I am struggling with something and I know they are there to support me.
It was nice to have a Black women group outside of the Black ERG because it’s predominantly Black men. All my life working in STEM I have been surrounded by men so it feels good to have a group of women to go to.
CMT: What are the events and activities you do?
Henry: We have our monthly meetings, which are usually the first Wednesday of each month. We talk about our mentorship programs, different opportunities, events that members speak at, and brainstorm how we can get more talent into CMT.
We talk about doing meetups. We are planning on doing one during the holiday season. We live all over the country so it can be hard to get together in person but when we have time in the office we love to see each other.