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The Siemens Foundation: Doubling down on commitments to equity

By: David Etzwiler, CEO, Siemens Foundation

We all do better when we all do better. It’s a simple phrase, and one many of us have no doubt thought about in one way or another as we further challenge ourselves to advance equity.

 

Over the past few years, our nation’s already alarming crises in healthcare, the economy, and society at-large have accelerated. Like most, a focus for the Siemens Foundation has been on how we can do better. At each turn, we’ve asked how we can join with others to be more responsive to the needs of communities across the country. Most importantly, we’ve asked our partners and ourselves what “better” might actually look like for all communities.

 

When we aligned our work to equity eight years ago, our answer to that question largely focused on workforce training. Since then, we’ve sought to improve access to economic opportunity for younger people and their families through strategic partnerships that provide technical training for jobs that require more than a high school diploma, less than a college degree, and strong technical skills. These jobs typically come with little debt, pay well, and provide access to lifelong careers and opportunity.

 

Those efforts remain core to our mission and to the more than $138 million we’ve invested in the United States. But throughout the course of the pandemic, we’ve also moved to broaden our investments and outreach in communities most impacted by COVID-19—communities of color and low-income communities in particular. Our efforts to advance economic justice are more intentionally and more explicitly tied to our efforts for health, and social and racial justice. The obvious truth is none of us can hope to advance any one of these without advancing all of them.

So, we’ve doubled down on our commitments, and, as our Mission Statement says, we do so with a more direct focus on “advancing workforce development and reducing health disparities,” and clearly articulating our commitment to “economic, social, and racial justice for all in the United States.” Because to truly build a more equitable future, we’ll need to forge new partnerships that extend our reach and leverage the Foundation’s resources and networks in the most impactful ways possible. 

 

One recent example is our work with investment firm Northern Trust to support Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs). This week, we announced another $10 million in these investments, doubling our total commitment to $20 million in the past two years. These CDFIs will deliver capital to underserved markets for housing, health care, and economic development, and create a more equitable society. 

 

We’re also broadening our workforce development initiatives to better support career success and more equitable workforce policies. We’re collaborating with Education Strategy Group on a two-year initiative in five U.S. communities to help incorporate professional networking skills into career pathways, work-based learning, and advising for underrepresented groups. Likewise, we’re working with the National League of Cities’ Youth Excel and its initiative to build pathways to quality STEM jobs for young people facing barriers to economic success.

We’re broadening our workforce development initiatives to better support career success and more equitable workforce policies. We’re collaborating with Education Strategy Group on a two-year initiative in five U.S. communities to help incorporate professional networking skills into career pathways, work-based learning, and advising for underrepresented groups. 

By leaning into our networks, inside and outside the Siemens organization, we are partnering to build ecosystems for real and meaningful action. We’ve witnessed what’s possible through our efforts with community health centers and vaccine education to promote greater health equity. That work is centered on empowering those closest to the community, who know how to drive change best, and has enabled us to partner with nonprofit organizations focused on COVID-19 vaccine outreach in Black, Latino, and Indigenous communities.

 

One of our partners is Choose Healthy Life, led by Black clergy from congregations across the country, providing vaccine education and vaccine clinics to predominantly Black communities in Chicago, Detroit, New York City, Newark, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. Another is the Urban Indian Health Institute, which provides COVID-19 educational resources, vaccines, and treatments to American Indian and Native Alaskans, while maintaining extensive data on the effects of COVID-19 on these populations.

 

The Foundation’s purpose hasn’t changed, but it has grown in important ways. We continue to partner with and attend to communities where we live and work, whether that’s donating millions of meals to food banks or partnering with states and cities to help workers succeed in a pandemic-altered economy. And we will continue to value and be responsive to community partners and community needs as they evolve, which is why we’re pushing ourselves to explore how we can help address the challenges we see coming, such as those associated with environmental sustainability.

 

We all do better when we all do better. But beyond that, we must do better. We cannot ignore the health, social, and economic gaps that exist in our society. We cannot ignore the significant role that we all can play to create a more equitable future and, more importantly, to inspire others to do the same.

Published: March 21, 2022