At Jobs for the Future (JFF), our mission is economic advancement for all. And while we’ve been at it for nearly 40 years, as an organization we’re always learning in an effort to achieve the most impact for the populations we serve. With more than 200 employees across the country, we spent 2021 acknowledging key milestones as learning opportunities to strengthen our practice of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).
Steal Our Ideas!
These activities met with a warm and appreciative reception among our JFF colleagues, and we invite you to appropriate any of these ideas that speak to you if your team, department, or organization is interested in a similar DEI offering.
Follow along as we share some of the highlights of JFF’s 2021 DEI Journey.
Your tour guides, Nia and Karyl
Black History Month
How many times have you been able to watch a recently released Hollywood movie at work and then talk about it? That was one of the ways JFF celebrated Black History Month 2021: We set aside time during a workday to watch and then discuss One Night in Miami. I appreciated the fact that we had an opportunity to share our thoughts about four Black leaders in the 1960s and their approaches to civil rights. Director Regina King used a fictional narrative featuring Malcolm X, Sam Cook, Muhammad Ali, and Jim Brown to spotlight the issues of the day, many which unfortunately persist today.
What We Watched
Women’s History Month
Women’s History Month is a time to celebrate the collective ingenuity, resilience, and advocacy projected by women across racial and cultural lines that inspired communities, organizations, and institutions to reframe their economic and social justice models. Women continuously stand up and stand out, challenging antiquated narratives, daring to tell their truth without apologies, and redistributing, renaming, and reliving their power.
What We Learned
Our spotlight for Women’s History Month 2021 was on PayPal’s Lisha Bell, a tireless advocate for diversity, financial inclusion, and educational access. After the death of George Floyd, Lisha led the implementation of PayPal’s $530 million commitment to support businesses owned by Black Americans and other entrepreneurs of color. She also serves on the advisory committee for PayPal Ventures.
We read her compelling LinkedIn post “White Joy in the Midst of Black Rage.” PayPal President and CEO Dan Schulman heard her. At the JFF Impact Employer Summit, he said,
Dan Schulman, President and CEO, Paypal
I need to do a lot of learning and listening to figure out how to best respond.
Juneteenth is the oldest known holiday that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. For me, the holiday is synonymous with “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” a song written by J. Rosamond Johnson and James Weldon Johnson that was sung on stage at the beginning of my elementary school’s quarterly arts and culture programs. It signifies a moment to commemorate the footprints of the past, celebrate the current strides of the present, and cultivate the steps Black Americans have yet to take to realize the promise of equitable outcomes for all.
What We Shared
Juneteenth Unityfest is a national live-stream event that brings together people of all backgrounds in a day of unity to commemorate and celebrate Juneteenth and Black culture with musical performances, remarks, storytelling, and conversations with civic leaders and influencers. In June 2021, JFF Vice President Michael Collins spotlighted our commitment to economic advancement for Black learners and workers in his UnityFest message: “At JFF our mission is economic advancement for all. Let’s draw on the ingenuity of our ancestors, carving a path where there is none. It’s time to dig into our DNA and harness our collective power to provide services and opportunities to our communities.”
Hispanic Heritage Month
My mother is in her 90s, so I am impressed by any nonagenarian who continues to embrace life. And 91-year-old labor leader and Presidential Medal of Freedom honoree Dolores Huerta must be at the top of that list. Among her many achievements, Dolores Huerta co-founded the National Farm Workers Association with César Chávez in 1962. Today, as founder and president of the Dolores Huerta Foundation, she continues to work tirelessly developing leaders and advocating for the working poor, women, and children. We were fortunate to have her join us virtually in a live conversation.
Who We Saw
National Disability Awareness Month
Comedian Maysoon Zayid’s TED Talk “I Got 99 Problems ... Palsy Is Just One” blew me away. As the YouTube description says, her talk is “exhilarating and hilarious.” In a compelling presentation that keeps you in your seat—even when she gets out of hers—she shares how she has transformed challenges into opportunities and explains what we should understand about her journey—and those of others who live with disabilities.
What We Learned
Native American Heritage Month
Respect, Honor, Courage, and Empowerment: Those attributes are inherent in Indigenous communities across the continent, and they are traits that are celebrated during Native American Heritage Month. This November observance is a time to commemorate and advocate for the preservation of Indigenous knowledge and create a space in education to promote broader understanding, with the ultimate goal of ensuring that Indigenous learners, jobseekers, and workers are on the receiving end of strong and positive efforts to advance social and economic impact.
What We Learned
We concluded our celebration of Native American Heritage Month with a virtual panel discussion highlighting the efforts of JFF partners in Hawai’i, where state leaders are working to better support Indigenous populations. Panelist Cheryl Ka’uhane Lupenui told us that it’s possible to close educational attainment gaps by drawing on the wisdom of both Western and Indigenous education systems and elevating the value of the key role that human and natural resources play in education. Listen to her and other Hawai’i leaders share more about how they are educating the community to ensure that Native Hawaiian culture, tradition, and history are remembered and celebrated.