Ohana - An Impact an ERG Can Make
Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) play a critical role in creating more inclusive, successful organizations. Akamai's Ohana ERG launched in 2015, along with a number of other ERGs, with the mission to broaden and facilitate the inclusion and contributions of employees of African American, Black, Hispanic, and Latin American descent and association. Everyone is All employees are welcome to join, and today Ohana's membership stands at over 300 across the globe.
The word "ohana" means "family" in Hawaiian, and for many, the group has provided support and guidance to navigate the challenges of working in a large, fast-moving tech company. Ohana's activities have focused on building community--through celebrations of Black History month and Hispanic Heritage month--and on professional development, in member-run workshops and through invited internal and external speakers.
Then came 2020. The combination of Covid-19, the Black Lives Matter movement, and civil unrest in the United States forced urgent, distressing topics into the workplace. Discussions that members would have previously compartmentalized as "not work" became unavoidable. Ohana's leadership recognized that to truly rise to the moment, the group needed to expand its objectives to address these emotionally-charged issues.
We began to make that change with a virtual event called the Ohana Relay--created by Simone Stewart, a founding member of Ohana--honoring Ahmaud Arbery, the unarmed 25-year-old black man, who was pursued and fatally shot on February 23 while jogging in Glynn County, Georgia. To participate, employees signed up and ran 2.23 miles and then virtually handed the relay baton to three more runners. The global Akamai community came together and 268 employees ran 855 miles in 12 countries. Such a public outpouring of support from all parts of Akamai brought an incredible measure of consolation to participants (blog and video)!
Co-written by: Colleen Kozak
Employees posted stats and photos from their runs.
We continued in the spirit of the relay by creating "Third Thursdays", a virtual forum that provides a psychological safe space for employees to confront difficult topics together and to ensure everyone's voice is heard. While many members of Ohana go through life bearing the weight of systemic racism, the frank discussions provided a way to lighten the impact of that burden as well as an awakening to allies who might not otherwise have understood what their colleagues were going through. As co-executive sponsors, we've both learned enormously and been humbled by the breadth of experiences members have shared.
Being a part of Ohana is about learning, growing, sharing, and working together on solutions to hard problems that will make Akamai an even better place to work. We enter 2021 with a renewed sense of mission and greater confidence than ever in our ability to make change happen!