The Black Employee Network (BEN) – Cultivating Awareness and Inclusion within SAP
It’s a cliché but I can fully resonate with the phrase “time flies when you’re having fun.” As I reflect back over the past 6 years of my “life at SAP,” I am amazed at the transformation that has happened within the company across a number of dimensions including strategy, innovation, and culture. As the US (39 years), the UK (28 years), and Canada (20 years), once again celebrate and remember the important people and events in the history of the African diaspora, I am inspired by SAP’s continued global commitment to diversity and inclusion. It is that commitment that inspired me and seven of my SAP colleagues (Patricia Perry, Lisa Penn, Michael Hastings, Dion Graham, Cindy Dodd, Stephanie Braime-Williams, and Danny Allen) to form the Black Employee Network (BEN) in late 2012.
The mission of BEN is “to foster a Best Run culture that cultivates awareness and inclusion for SAP employees of African descent by prioritizing recruitment, bolstering retention, providing mentorship and empowering upward mobility.”
With support from many advocates across SAP – including the SAP Silicon Valley Labs Leadership, Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer Anka Wittenberg, and the Corporate & Social Responsibility team – BEN has grown to over 150 in membership and has hosted a number of events that give many at SAP more insight into the tremendous and impactful accomplishments from those from the African diaspora. Of special note are two “signature” campus events that are still fondly spoken of today:
- “42: The Jackie Robinson Story Movie Night” – A celebration co-hosted with the Latinos@SAP group – The event featured baseball legend, Reggie Jackson, sharing his candid memories of Jackie Robinson, as well as some of his personal struggles with racism while playing professional baseball.
- “Jazz: Improvisation, Innovation and Diversity Night” – A celebration of the historical impact that jazz music has had on all cultures around the world. Clifford Brown Jr., son of legendary jazz musician Clifford Brown, was in attendance, as well as a jazz demonstration by his grandson’s band, CB3.
In addition to creating a platform for education and provocative discussion at such events, the BEN association works closely with key stakeholders within SAP to bring the message of SAP innovation to prospective early talent at prominent Historical Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs) in the United States.
In 2014, we conducted Design Thinking workshops with administration, faculty, and students at Tuskegee University and Kentucky State University. The goal of these workshops was to identify strategies for positioning universities for success with industry in general and with SAP in specific. Working closely with Ann Rosenberg and her team, the SAP University Alliance, we collaborated with administration and faculty on specific plans to better leverage SAP technology (e.g. HANA and Lumira) as part of the school’s core Computer Science, Information Systems and Business curriculums.
BEN strongly believes that in order for SAP to continue its dominance as the #1 enterprise software company in the world, it will need to continue to expand its recruiting focus to include some of the top diverse talent in the world.
Looking forward in 2015, BEN will continue to work closely with our stakeholders and supporters with the purpose of increasing our positive impact on SAP. This month, we are honored to host the Valentine’s Day Party in the Silicon Valley where we hope to have the chance to meet some of you in person. We are also in the early planning stages for a couple more “signature events,” so stay tuned and watch time fly.