Making it Personal: What is CIC's Responsibility for Advancing Social Equity?

St. Louis is a city with a complex history.

CIC knew some of that history when we began establishing the company’s first expansion location, but as our space opened on the heels of the unrest in Ferguson, we were forced to examine both our understanding of that history, and our place in St. Louis’ future.

Since then, our footprint in the city has grown, and we’ve realized just how important it is to center racial equity in our philosophy and operations. Through a partnership with Cortex, we’ve subsidized the membership of Forward Through Ferguson, a group that has provided a “thorough, wide-ranging and unflinching study of the social and economic conditions that impede progress, equality and safety in the St. Louis region.” We’ve also committed to send all CIC staff members through weekend-long trainings on the history of racism and how to address bias in our institutions.

We cannot serve the city of St. Louis well if we do not understand its history and our role in perpetuating systems. We cannot live up to our mission, to “fix the world through innovation,” if we are only fixing things that trouble one segment of the population. And so we strive to be more equitable every day.

 

At the end of last year,

CIC St. Louis worked with the Diversity Awareness Partnership to assess our spaces, find out how our community was feeling, and discover whether there were changes we could make to build a more inclusive and welcoming environment. It was a great exercise that gave us our first real data on the diversity and inclusivity of our internal community.

We confirmed that our clients value diversity and feel positively about working in an inclusive setting. The vast majority are comfortable working with people from other faiths, LGBTQ individuals, and those of a different culture or gender. They are also aware of the continued existence of racism in our country and pay close attention to CIC’s viewpoint and actions. We’re proud that they reported some positive things—“since CIC has begun managing... there has been a visible increase in diversity,”—and that our space is “more diverse than previous workplaces.“

Of course, there are areas for improvement. At 4240, clients would like to see us do more to meet the needs of people with disabilities. There were also signs of class disparity, with some community members being careless with facilities because it is “someone else's job” to keep them clean. And a majority agreed that while there is talk about appreciating other cultures, visible, active support is not there. We take this very seriously, and do not want to simply pay lip service to these ideals.

CET has room to grow, as well. There were notes about an age gap, with younger community members finding it hard to relate to older community members. Some clients felt that there is a general difference in the way people are treated or talked to. And others couldn’t agree that men and women are valued equally at CIC. There were actually comments about inappropriate gender dynamics within both buildings, and identifying this issue feels especially timely in light of the #MeToo movement. CIC exists to empower everyone, not just men, and especially not men who make other community members feel small or uncomfortable.

 

One of our main goals in 2018

is to respond appropriately to all the concerns that were raised. The members of our community have given us direct feedback, which is an amazing resource! It would be wrong to ignore it or respond half-heartedly.

The CIC St. Louis Equity Team has put together several initiatives in light of the survey results, including new codes of conduct and a set of tools to report and document inappropriate behavior in our spaces. We are increasing our efforts to highlight the diversity and breadth of experience that already exist in our community by publishing more of the amazing things our clients do. We will also continue to hold monthly Venture Cafe sessions that provide a space for difficult conversations related to racial equity.

If you have ideas for Venture Cafe session topics, ways to make CIC spaces more inclusive, or any other comments or questions, please write to stlequity@cic.com. We would love to hear more from our community so that we can make our space as welcoming as possible.

- The CIC St. Louis Racial Equity Team: John Land, Lauren Wiggins, and Ian Reed


Join this month’s session!

We'll be having a constructive dialogue about the responsibility innovators have to the larger community. Let’s discuss what we’re already doing well, where we can be doing more, and brainstorm ideas for actionable next steps.

"Is the St. Louis innovation community responsible for advancing racial equity?"

  • 4:00 - Thursday, March 22nd
  • 4240 Duncan Ave, St. Louis, MO 63110
  • Chuck Berry conference room