This article was originally published on LinkedIn.
At times like this, it is my personality to retreat into my own thoughts to process the unfathomable that happened yesterday at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. But I forced myself to make a different choice. First and foremost, my prayers are with the families of the 11 individuals killed, the six who were wounded including four police officers, the Tree of Life congregation and the city of Pittsburgh. I vow to never forget this horrible day. And, as difficult as it is, we must find the words to discuss a way forward together when tragedy strikes based on someone’s differences – be it religion, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability or any form of diversity.
I watched the events unfold in Pittsburgh all day yesterday, keeping in constant contact with Julie Sweet, CEO of Accenture North America, to make sure our people were safe and to discuss how to best care for them. After sundown when Shabbat ended, I reached out to two of my colleagues – Dan Eckstein, co-lead of our Jewish employee resource group in the US and co-lead of our interfaith employee resource group in Metro New York, and Jack Azagury who is the executive sponsor of our Jewish employee resource group in the US. Dan texted me and as Shabbat had just ended, he was just learning about what happened. When we spoke shortly after, our top priority was how to comfort our people – and we knew we couldn’t answer that question alone.
To ensure we were being comprehensive and considerate to our people of all Faiths, we involved Sumreen Ahmad, a Muslim woman who leads our interfaith employee resource group and our Muslim employee resource group in the US. At 9pm last night, several of us gathered on a call to discuss what to say to our people and how to say it. The first question asked was “are our Accenture colleagues safe?” We then talked about what we must say and do to reaffirm our promise to our people that we value and support everything that makes them who they are, including their religious beliefs.
Sumreen also shared an email from Joyce Dubensky, CEO of Tannenbaum, an organization committed to combating religious prejudice across all faiths, and we drew not only comfort, but wisdom from Joyce’s words:
Today, it <violence>was in a Jewish synagogue. Three years ago, in 2015, it was in a church and Dylan Roof slaughtered nine church worshipers. In 2012, it was in a Gurdwara in Wisconsin where Sikhs were praying. And last year, a bomb exploded in a mosque in Bloomington, Minnesota…Today, we mourn. We condemn all who seek to terrorize us. And we prepare to stand together now and for the long-term, for justice, inclusion and a world that respects our differences – including how we believe.
This morning, I continue to reflect on a path forward. I re-read a note that Dan sent me at 10:43pm last night, when this was still very heavy on his heart. He shared his biggest concern is that Faith employees may start masking who they are out of fear – stop talking about their Faith belief at work, requesting workplace accommodations for their religious practices, or wearing their personal religious objects (cross, Hijab, Kippa, etc.) at work which they normally wear outside of work too. This really resonated with me because I too stopped wearing my Jewish Star after 9/11 when I was living outside the US.
For us at Accenture, it not just about what we say, it’s about what we do. As leaders, we cannot underestimate how important policies and religious literacy education are which support religious accommodations. While policies alone don’t create a workplace environment, they are essential visible symbols that demonstrate that you welcome people as they are, and value the richness of diversity within your organization.
I’m focusing today on coming together in love and compassion, rather than spending time denouncing hate. As a Jewish woman and Chief Leadership and Human Resources Officer, I am even more passionate about using my voice to ensure Accenture is a place where each person feels they are not only safe, but comfortable being their complete self every single day. At Accenture, we WILL continue to bring our Faith beliefs into the workplace – to welcome each other, learn from each other and celebrate how our diversity makes us stronger and better together.
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