On May 25, 2020, George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, was murdered by police on the street in Minneapolis. Worldwide, as people saw video of the killing, a new, more powerful call for racial justice rang out, galvanizing a movement.
What happened to George was not an isolated event, but one too often experienced by the Black community. And it was a powerful moment in our history when people came together to call for change—to finally say, enough. Not just to end racial discrimination and police brutality, but to heal wounds that have been open for far too long, and to refocus on building a society that’s truly equal.
So, last summer, Siemens joined the call for real, enduring change, affirming that Black Lives Matter too. We then promised to model that change ourselves by working together to advance racial justice and equality as a core part of our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion—one that recognizes how all types of differences and similarities make us stronger as a company.
At Siemens, we saw how the functions of our business—our talent recruitment, our work with suppliers, our support for community organizations—are mechanisms for ensuring that people and communities that have too often been excluded get a seat at the table. We reviewed our own practices, and we started new ones, creating the space to listen and learn from one another.
A key component of our efforts is creating a corporate culture that fosters equity by encouraging employees to speak up, and leaders to hold themselves accountable for meaningful commitments. Last year, Siemens USA launched our Courageous Conversations program as a way to engage, as teams, on topics of race and diversity. The response to that initiative was strong. In just four short months, Siemens managers led more than 99 Courageous Conversations with more than 1,200 Siemens employees at all levels of the organization.
Last summer, Siemens joined the call for real, enduring change, affirming that Black Lives Matter too. We then promised to model that change ourselves by working together to advance racial justice and equality as a core part of our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion—one that recognizes how all types of differences and similarities make us stronger as a company.
On MLK Day, we expanded our longtime partnership with the National Center for Civil and Human Rights (NCCHR) in Atlanta (below). The NCCHR had to close its doors in the early months of the pandemic, but Siemens was able to introduce technology supporting its reopening.
Siemens also announced new grants for business development and entrepreneurship for Black-owned businesses in seven metropolitan areas across the United States, awarding $140,000 in grants to businesses in Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, New York, Orlando, and Pasadena. The Atlanta Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) is leading the initiative by engaging MBDA Centers in each city to nominate businesses to apply for the grant. These grants are intended to help Black-owned companies develop their businesses so they can compete for our contracts and become part of our supplier base.
The Siemens Foundation also is working to promote greater equity in our communities. Earlier this year, the Foundation partnered with Northern Trust to invest $10 million in two Community Development Financial Institutions Funds (CDFI): the Enterprise Community Loan Fund (ECLF) and Primary Care Development Corporation (PCDC). CDFIs provide low-income, low-wealth, and other disadvantaged people with the capital they need for meaningful economic opportunity and development, including monies for the health care and real-estate sectors within their communities.
And in response to the pandemic, the Siemens Foundation donated $2 million to 20 community health centers across the country, enabling these centers to continue providing care for millions of Americans in underserved and uninsured communities. The Foundation then provided $1.4 million in COVID-19 vaccination grants to five nonprofit organizations across the country that provide direct outreach to promote vaccine adoption in Black, Hispanic, Latinx, and Indigenous communities. Other Foundation donations are supporting Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in their plans to safely reopen campuses.
We’re seeing other important outreach being done by our legal teams, which have identified pro-bono opportunities to advocate for social justice, and the Siemens Financial Services team, which formed an employee advisory council with a focus on environmental, social, and corporate governance to promote responsible investment.
Siemens USA has also signed three key pledges that align with our commitment to social justice and racial equity. In September 2020, we signed the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) Pledge for Action, which has a stated purpose of creating thousands of pathways to job opportunities for Black people and all people of color. In February of this year, we signed the ATL Action for Racial Equity Pledge, aimed at workforce development and inclusive economic development across metro Atlanta. And just this past March, we joined the HBCU Partnership Challenge to help develop and promote relationships between HBCUs and private businesses.
We acknowledge that any form of racism is unacceptable, and that the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community has faced a new wave of racism over this past year. These tragedies are a stark reminder that we cannot ignore the systemic racism targeting the AAPI community. We are united against all acts of oppression, all acts of racism, and all acts of injustice. A courageous panel of leaders from across the Siemens businesses were instrumental in sharing personal stories and providing historical facts and insights to help us be stronger allies for the AAPI community.
Our work is not finished, and Siemens USA will continue to be an ally in the fight for racial justice. The ways in which we champion racial justice and change speak directly to our company values of responsibility, excellence, and innovation. And they matter to the important role we play in building a more resilient America, one that’s more equitable and inclusive.
Published: May 24, 2021