What Pluma is Doing to Understand, Acknowledge and Take Action against Racism

There are a lot of excellent thought pieces regarding police violence, protests, and the United States’ legacy of racism.  Rather than adding to that already deep pool, we wanted to share the specific effort that we at Pluma are making to do our part.  Below is an email regarding an all-hands discussion we’ll be hosting internally at Pluma.  We’ve found that doing this kind of session, and coming together to reflect and share as a team, is what works for us.  If any piece of this is helpful to you and the work you do, please feel free to utilize.

To: All Pluma employees

Event: Pluma Team Discussion on Racism in America

Purpose: To acknowledge atrocities and racial inequality in America, educate ourselves on history and background of racism in America, hear and see each other fully to do our best to support and understand one another and our partners, attempt to understand perspectives from outside of the United States, and discuss ways that we as team members and creators of the Pluma vision can do better and drive change.

Note: Participation in this session is completely optional and there will be no impact if you opt not to join the session, or are simply unable to participate.  We’re looking to create a safe space for dialogue, but no one should feel compelled to join or participate.

Hi Folks,

Many of you might remember a previous sit-down we did as a team a few months back to discuss how we might evaluate different corporate partners and how we might factor in (or not) their business agendas and other initiatives as we think about the type of organization we want to become.  If you were not here for that discussion, the team listened to this podcast on IBM in Nazi Germany and read this book review from the Guardian on morality in the age of tech giants.  We had a significant discussion about capitalism and ethics and the competing concerns of a slippery slope into a moral abyss, and an arbitrary boundary that varies based on personal beliefs.  We didn’t arrive at any jaw-dropping conclusions, it turns out the issue is complicated and we had a diversity of opinions, but we set up a framework for evaluation and a safe space for asking each other difficult questions and speaking our well-considered truths.

In a similar vein, Sam and I would like to have another discussion as a team to talk about what’s going on in America right now when it comes to the U.S.’s legacy of racism particularly against African Americans.  This is important because it is our duty to bear witness and act as contributing members of society and even more so because the work we do tirelessly each day is related to this very issue.  We partner with some of the largest organizations in the world to answer:

How can people be more included at work?  How can corporate cultures be more supportive and welcoming?  How can underrepresented groups rise through the ranks so that the C-Suite looks like our population demographics?  How can business initiatives and priorities not suffocate our humanity?  How can we demonstrate that being mindful and inclusive is GOOD for business?  How can we create change?

We owe it to our stakeholders – clients, coaches and organizational partners -- to ask ourselves hard questions, and educate ourselves on uncomfortable truths.

To that end, I’d like to ask each of you to read the following short pieces, and come prepared to the session with an answer to the question posed in one of the readings – “How has your life been shaped by your race?”  To kick off the conversation we’ll ask a few people to share their answers, participation is not mandatory, and silent participation is fine too.  While the conversation in the U.S. media has largely focused on relations between ‘Blacks’ and ‘Whites’ in the United States, we recognize that the Pluma team comes from incredibly diverse backgrounds both within and outside of the United States.  We’ll look to broaden the discussion to consider what might be unique about the African American experience in the United States, as well as perspectives of other underrepresented groups and non-U.S.-based team members.

The history of slavery remains with us today – a bit of historical background and context.

Confronting racism is not about the needs and feelings of white people – a perspective from a person of color on corporate D&I.

White people assume niceness is the answer to racial inequality. It's not – a perspective from a Caucasian person on corporate D&I.

U.S. Businesses Must Take Meaningful Action Against Racism – a broader business perspective with suggested actions.

African American Inequality in the United States -- a Harvard Business School case study with a comprehensive historical overview of racism in the United States.

Additional reading.  Some of us are reading HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST by Ibram X. Kendi.  If you’d like to read it as well, Pluma will purchase a copy for you.  Simply ping me with your preferred mailing address and we’ll have it shipped to your home.

Written by

Alexandra Connell

Alexandra Connell is CEO and Co-Founder of Pluma. Prior to starting Pluma, Alexandra held corporate roles across several industries including technology, biotech, and investment management in New York and London. During her role as Chief of Staff at biotech company Solazyme, Alexandra found inspiration for what would ultimately become Pluma. Shortly after IPO, the company was challenged with transition and change. Senior leaders were hired from outside firms. Emerging leaders, who had brought the company to IPO, felt alienated. To preserve a culture of innovation and flexibility, Solazyme needed to upskill and season its newer leaders - and fast. Engagement with content subscriptions was limited. There was significant pushback around the inefficacy and inconvenience of workshops and seminars. The one resource requested repeatedly was executive coaching, but this was simply too expensive and administratively cumbersome to provide across the board to those in need. Alexandra and her cofounder, Samuel Cabral, set out on a path to disrupt traditional leadership development. By leveraging technology, countless interviews with L&D professionals, and a network of thought leaders at Harvard, they developed a cost-effective and turnkey solution for developing leaders. By making executive quality coaching and professional development accessible more broadly within organizations, Alexandra leads Pluma`s mission to build the next generation of happy, inspired, and highly effective leaders. Alexandra holds an undergraduate degree in International Relations and Public Policy from Princeton University, and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

San Francisco, CA

Critical ThinkingDiversity and inclusion