“Black History Month acknowledges and celebrates the contributions of black culture in building America and makes sure these accomplishments are not lost over time,” says N. Ramone Jones, Account Executive at WEX, and a leader in WEX’s Black Growth Council employee resource group (ERG). “It also recognizes the challenges and injustices placed upon Black Americans in the hopes of being treated fairly in the present and future.”
“This month should be a reminder that the past can also be prologue if we do not take agency over our own destiny. Black History Month is a celebration of the accomplishments of a historically marginalized community to increase recognition of the rich history of our African ancestors and our ongoing achievements,” adds Gene Bell, WEX Senior Director, Client Services. “At times, we can lose sight of the connective tissue that binds our diverse society together. We should celebrate the common themes within our diversity, including the love of life, family, and the burning desire to achieve. These themes are not unique to any one ethnicity; these are American themes, even global themes, and are reflected in the values here at WEX,” he says.
“Black people and Black communities must look to the past to provide the light for our future, and with the ease of podcasts and social media we are able to connect, learn and move forward holistically for the betterment of ourselves, our minds, and our bodies,” says Courtney Pruitt, Senior Client Service Manager at WEX, and the President of the Black Growth Council.
At WEX, as in most organizations, success is achieved through collaboration, where each employee weaves their own expertise, professional experience, and life history into a rich tapestry of ideas and action. Our culture is built on celebrating every employee’s contributions every day. Taking time for thoughtful appreciation of our Black colleagues during this celebration month is a part of how we live that culture.
Reflection on career paths for Black professionals at WEX
Black History Month is a time of reflection as well as celebration. Several members of the Black Growth Council share their career reflections:
“My success as a Black professional has to do with my education, experiences, and acquired skill set, plus the fact that I’ve been given a fair opportunity considering the low number of minorities in Maine and a company that promotes inclusion,” Ramone says. “In the last couple of years, there has been a push to be more inclusive at all levels of corporate America which is a good step but it will take some time before it feels natural and not forced. WEX has supported me in ways I needed, but that's what they have done for any other employee, which is all I can ask for.”
“I have enjoyed my tenure here at WEX and I believe that creating spaces for individuals that identify as African American is a significant step in the right direction. Our Black Growth Council has grown over the past few years and we are empowered to offer suggestions, suggest ways in which we can all learn from one another, and support each other's personal careers. I feel privileged to be a part of an employee resource group that is supported and welcomed,” Courtney says. “We can all feel uncomfortable stepping outside our comfort zone, but participating in an employee resource group at work is a good way to get involved and be part of the dialogue and solution.”
Gaylon Thompson, Auth Gateway Scrum Master in IT at WEX sees progress but continues to challenge corporate leaders. “I want to see more Black American professionals in leadership roles across all organizations.”
“There are only four Black CEOs of Fortune 500 companies,” Courtney added. “It is a stunning reality that in 2022, there is considerable work to be done. To create equality in the workplace, we need representation at all levels, especially in the C-Suite where key decisions are made,” she says.
At WEX, diversity is a priority within the hiring process. Inclusive hiring practices and hiring manager training have been rolled out to ensure we attract, retain, and develop the best talent.
2022 Theme of Black Health and Wellness
This year’s Black History Month theme “Black Health and Wellness” explores the legacy of not only Black scholars and medical practitioners in Western medicine, but also other ways of knowing throughout the African Diaspora. The 2022 theme considers activities, rituals, and initiatives that Black communities have done to foster wellness.
Self-care, wellness, and the emotional and mental health of employees have been corporate priorities at WEX and many other employers during the global pandemic, particularly as other social, political, and regulatory disruptions have layered onto our lives. In that environment, this year’s theme has special resonance. “It's more important than ever to get a handle on the emotional toll it takes to stay focused on personal and professional endurance and success,” Ramone says.
Courtney adds, “The world is changing and with more people working remotely, it is important to condition ourselves and change our routines to focus on not just the physical body, but also emotional and mental health.”
“Historically in America, Blacks have faced obstacles in obtaining adequate healthcare and fresh food in our communities and were more susceptible to the impact of the pandemic,” Gene adds. “The pandemic reinforces the need for the Black community to take ownership over our health and promote healthy lifestyles for all.”
“Black Americans can do more to remove the stigma around professional counseling and seek help when needed,” says Gaylon. Studies have shown that Black Americans are more likely to experience anxiety, sadness, depression, and other symptoms of emotional distress than white Americans, yet they’re also less likely to receive treatment, particularly for mental health issues. “Staying engaged with co-workers can help us feel connected. Incorporating some laughter in your daily regime will feed positivity into your soul,” she says.
In terms of physical health, team building with exercise buddies is a common bonding activity for WEX employees. “In my group, we have front row seats to practice 'self-care' or some might say 'self-harm,'” Gene jokes. “My fave is our Fitness Challenge, where we capture everyone's weekly activity in the Strava app, add pictures, reward high performers, and generally create a safe space for everyone, no matter their fitness level… I've made lifelong exercise buddies here at WEX. My latest obsession is my new Peloton. I'm so hooked on it that several colleagues and I went over to our Portland campus gym and knocked out a 30-minute session when I was in town. Spending time together being vulnerable is how we grow stronger bonds and overcome adversity together,” he says.
“I am a proud owner of a new Peloton and I am committed to actually using it!” laughs Courtney. She emphasizes the need to not go it alone. Not only do her two sons keep her active, but she also taps into her sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha Inc., which offers wellness and health events. “I look forward to exercising with my sorority sisters!”
“I'd like to highlight Shanna Tutt, a scrum master here at WEX, and my personal example of Black health and wellness here at WEX,” Gene chimes in. “She's the epitome of a Black female professional taking agency not only over her career but just as importantly her mental and physical health. She's also a Peloton warrior, yoga practitioner, and all-around athlete, although she'd never tell you that herself. I've had the distinct pleasure of presenting Shanna her original opportunity in the fintech space and watching her bloom into the incredible performer she is today. Black excellence is certainly alive and well at WEX!”
Black History Month isn’t something to celebrate just over a 28-day span, Gaylon says. “I celebrate at every opportunity what Blacks have achieved and are continuing to achieve (famous and non-famous) along with their greatness and contributions that may have gone unrecognized.”
Black History Month is a reminder that there is more work to be done, which includes our own commitment at WEX. WEX remains committed to supporting diversity, equity and inclusion in our communities. Join WEX, not just in the month of February, but throughout the year, as we celebrate our differences and continue our journey towards an even more inclusive culture.
Learn more about the employee resource groups at WEX and use our Careers section to search for open roles and opportunities across the world.
Association for the Study of African American Life and History
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