By WNYC's Karen Rouse, the station's New Jersey Reporter who is a member of the PRNDI Communications Committee
New York Public Radio has formed its first ever Black Employee Resource Group as part of an overall effort to foster a supportive and inclusive environment for employees of color, and to hold the organization accountable for its diversity and inclusion goals.
“It’s a place to get to know other employees with something in common -- a source of much-needed support for historically underrepresented employee groups and an opportunity for informal mentoring,” said Brenda Williams, vice-president of Recruitment, Diversity and Inclusion.
She said the group, which launched informally last year, will be known as the BERG. It will focus on issues relevant to black employees, but will be open to all employees. It is also voluntary. An official launch is expected later this year.
New York Public Radio has 381 regular full-time and part-time employees across all departments and brands, including WNYC News, WNYC Studios, WQXR, New Jersey Public Radio, The Greene Space, and Gothamist. The group currently has 46 members.
The idea started with Williams and Jami Floyd - the host of “All Things Considered,” and the station’s legal analyst.
Floyd said she was part of a similar effort years ago when she worked at a progressive law firm with only a handful of black employees.
“This was in the 1990s,” Floyd said. “There weren’t very many of us -- two or three black associates and partners.” Along with other blacks on staff, they formed a support group. She noted the firm also had groups for women, and gay employees. Floyd said she was concerned about the employees of color leaving the NYPR for other jobs.
It’s not enough for media organizations to recruit minorities; they also need to provide a supportive environment and that means mentoring and access.
“I said to Brenda (Williams) … we don’t have a structured way of mentoring them.”
Black employees had already been meeting informally, for holiday socials or and to celebrate the successes of colleagues. But with support from outgoing NYPR President and CEO Laura Walker, the more structured group was formed.
Public radio stations across the country have been working to diversity staffs and create inclusive environments. NYPR has been undergoing a structural changes in the wake of the #MeToo Movement, which revealed a need to improve the workplace culture for women - but also employees of color.
Among other initiatives, the station last year held a series of candid - and admittedly uncomfortable - employee forums on race, called “Courageous Conversations,” where employees were encouraged to share their personal experiences and biases. Floyd and Williams said the BERG will help create a welcoming space for new employees and opportunities to network with people in other departments.
It will serve as a resource for the organization. Managers recently reached out to members of the BERG for input on guidelines around the use of racial slurs on air.
NYPR is also working on creating similar groups for women, and LGBTQ employees.