Foundation Diversity Equity & Inclusion

Citizen Philanthropy in Action: Advocating for Equity and Racial Justice

At VMware, we believe everyone has something unique to contribute to our society. Our culture of service influences the way we interact with others – inside and outside of work – fostering empathy and building connections. We are all Citizen Philanthropists, empowered to support what is most meaningful to us through VMware Foundation programs.

This month we checked in with Danielle Coleman, Director & Assistant General Counsel. Danielle is an advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives and allyship at VMware and in the community. Over the past two years, she collaborated with her VMware colleague, La Treece Butler-Morton to co-lead VMware’s Global Black@VMware Power of Difference group (Employee Resource Group), where they were instrumental in the creation of VMware’s #WeHearYou campaign which inspired people to take time to listen and learn, be empathetic and resilient, and become advocates for racial equity.

Danielle Coleman: When I joined VMware, about four years ago, I found it so easy to engage in Citizen Philanthropy. Not only does VMware make it possible for employees to give back in our communities by setting aside 40 work hours per employee annually to dedicate to Service Learning of their choice, but they encourage employees to do so by allowing each employee who reaches 40 hours of service a grant to direct to the nonprofit of our choice. Ensuring that every employee has dedicated time away from our day jobs to volunteer is a testament to VMware’s commitment to supporting our communities.

As a co-lead of our Black@VMware POD during the last two years, it has been humbling and rewarding to see people stepping up and taking action to do what they can to help others. We were able to accomplish so much, from launching our #WeHearYou campaign to having a Global Culture Club with engagement and support across our leadership and employee base, to creating a Social Justice Fund with over a thousand contributors donating over $500,000 that supports organizations such as Equal Justice Initiative, which was founded by Bryan Stevenson.

 One of the things I love about working at VMware is how the culture and people support my passion for advocating for others and lifting others up through service in the community.

One of the areas I am passionate about is working with people who are eager to reenter the workforce but are struggling to do so because they have criminal records. Despite having served time, taken ownership of and paid restitution for a crime, they often face extraordinary challenges when looking for employment.

Two programs I am involved in are a reentry court program and the record clearing project for Fire Camp volunteers.

The reentry court program is a professional mentorship initiative co-founded by my amazing VMware colleague, Michelle Bazu, and fellow supporters from other tech firms. This program connects participants with mentors who coach them on job readiness skills that prepare them to find and retain employment. I was fortunate to be one of the first mentors to participate and was paired with a Black man who had served his sentence and was working to get back on his feet and reenter society. I’m excited to share that not only did he successfully graduate the program and obtain a job, but he also began volunteering in his community.

The record clearing project supports reentry individuals interested in becoming full-time firefighters. Every year, thousands of people incarcerated in the California prison systems receive training and volunteer to help the state fight wildfires. However, upon release, many of them are unable to pursue full-time firefighting jobs in their communities. Recently I worked with a young Latino man who, through this program, is reestablishing his place in society. In addition to working towards his goal of becoming a firefighter and an EMT (emergency medical technician), he is volunteering through his church to help others. His story is absolutely inspiring to me.

Supporting efforts like these, which allow me to see first-hand the difference each of us can make, motivates me to continue advocating for greater equity and inclusion in our communities. And the knowledge that so many people have helped me, and continue to help me, along my own journey pushes me to do the same for others—to serve as a role model by practicing what I preach, being empathetic and advocating for others. But most of all, raising my two Black children motivates me to make a difference and to continue working to make the world a better place.

Inspired by what you’ve read? Learn more about VMware’s PODs here about the VMware Foundation and see Citizen Philanthropy in Action here.

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