Article

Values with action: how Zendesk will continue to do better

Silence is complicity. Speech is not enough. We’re committed to being an ongoing catalyst for change. Here are the latest steps we’re taking.

By InaMarie Johnson, Chief People & Diversity Officer

Published June 3, 2020
Last updated November 9, 2020

As we write, citizens of the United States are facing a choice between two terrors: coronavirus and police brutality.

The pandemic was already taking a disproportionate toll on the lives of Black Americans. In New York City, for instance, preliminary data shows that Black and Latino people are dying at twice the rate of white Americans. Then on May 25, a man named George Floyd died when a police officer—who now faces multiple murder and manslaughter charges—pressed his knee to Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds while other officers held Floyd down.

In the final minutes of his life, George Floyd called out for his mother—what one writer called a sacred invocation.

The knee that stole the life-breath from George Floyd symbolizes the hundreds of years of institutionalized racism that has held Black Americans down and back in countless ways. For over a week, Black people have been in the streets, with fellow citizens from every walk of life, to say enough—as a deadly virus that is more likely to kill them than anyone else continues to rage.

Our values and our shortcomings

Opposing police brutality and blatant bias and racism—and supporting true social equity—have been core to Zendesk’s values since day one. It remains in our values to speak up. We say the names of Breonna Taylor, Philando Castile, Michael Brown, Alton Sterling, Sandra Bland, David McAtee, Tamir Rice, Tony McDade—and too many others.

We also know that speech falls short. It’s not enough for us to oppose; it’s not enough for us to make statements. In the past we have worked hard to be a positive force in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood and beyond, and we know there is a mandate from our customers, our employees, and from the world at large to do more and do better, both short term and long term.

We clearly have an ongoing part to play in the examining, dismantling, and reimagining of centuries-old inequities. We intend to be a catalyst. And while one company, however well intentioned, cannot right colossal generational wrongs, we humbly dedicate ourselves to continue the embodiment of the role we can play, the change we can make, the lives we can affect on a daily basis. We know that seemingly small contributions can add up to shifts in generational wealth, in corporate demographics, and in the balance of power across industries and society as a whole.

We can’t be silent: 5 core actions

Silence is complicity—and actions are the loudest words. Zendesk remains committed to playing an active role in establishing a more equitable society, starting with necessary improvements to how we address these challenges. And we want to be an active catalyst for change in the SaaS space, broader tech sector, and the global community.

  1. Supporting our employees

    We commit to host open, inclusive and global empathy circles for employees to come together, share their unique experiences and challenges, learn, grieve and heal together. This means that 100% of our executive leadership commits to joining these empathy circles to listen, learn and be an ally.

  2. Empowering managers

    Our people managers have to be able to engage in meaningful and at times uncomfortable conversations with the people who rely on them for leadership and support. We commit to equip them with the skills to have allyship conversations and provide the time and space needed for employees, particularly BIPOC, to grieve and heal.

  3. Formalizing a policy

    We commit to publishing our Global Equity policy: highlighting our commitment to racial and socioeconomic diversity, talent hiring and representation, and a 100% non-negotiable stand against acts of racism and discrimination.

  4. Investing in global diversity, equity and inclusion

    We commit to investing—both financially and with our time—in our global DEI efforts, specifically in education on racism, privilege and allyship for all our leaders and employees globally. Such education will be mandatory for all Zendesk managers, from our executive team down.

  5. Cash

    Moving money matters. We have already made donations to the Southern Poverty Law Center and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). We are researching other organizations and working on an employee-match plan, among other steps for the future.

I want to end by acknowledging that it is not lost on Zendesk that we need to do better. These actions are a first step, but they are not enough. There is a long way to go, and we can’t overcome centuries of systemic issues alone. We will evolve as we progress in this journey with all our employees, with our customers, and with our partners. Thank you for being on this path with us.