What is Juneteenth and what does this holiday mean for diversity, equity and inclusion in the tech industry and beyond?
On Thursday, June 17, Girls in Tech NYC is hosting a virtual event that will shed some light on the importance of Juneteenth in American history, address the “why now,” discuss how major brands in tech and beyond are honoring this holiday, and how we can all help advance DEI around Juneteenth from a global perspective. We will be joined by Sarah Awan, who is currently serving as an Equity Fellow with CEO Action for Racial Equity, Kelsey Crowley, who is currently representing Strategic Education Inc. in the national CEO Action for Racial Equity Fellowship working to amplify corporate engagement with HBCUs, and Karen Koukou-Twaglee, a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Program Manager for Strategic Education, Inc. with over 15 years of experience in social justice.
Get to know more about our panelists below and read their thoughts on why Juneteenth is so important to promoting diversity and inclusion in our lives and work. You can also sign up for the event here.
“Juneteenth is a day of reflection on this country’s painful history of slavery and the systemic impact that racial injustice continues to have today. Recognising Juneteenth as an official day of commemoration is a symbol of dedication to honouring Black lives and acknowledging not just the abolition of slavery but the hundreds of years of forced labour and servitude that preceded Juneteenth.”
Sarah is currently serving as an Equity Fellow with CEO Action for Racial Equity, a business-led coalition with a mission to identify, develop and promote public policies and corporate engagement strategies that will address racial inequity, systemic racism and social injustice. Sarah also serves as a Practice Fellow with the Cambridge Centre of Social Innovation at the University of Cambridge. The Centre is a platform for research and engagement with social innovators, academia and policy for the development of creative and practical solutions to complex social problems. Sarah has been a practitioner in the technology industry for 8 years and her research background is at the intersection of gender & technology, most recently in how artificial intelligence can perpetuate gender bias.
Kelsey Crowley (she/her/hers)
“The recent spread of awareness around Juneteenth and what it’s truly about has provoked thoughtful action from corporations and communities standing in solidarity with the Black population. Understanding accurate historical events and the impacts of white supremacy and systemic oppression are critical in how and why we approach the work today. Black slaves were legally granted freedom in 1865 and 150 years later the community experiences some of the most drastic health, safety, wealth and education disparities in the country. They are not free until these equity gaps are closed so the evolution of collective action on Juneteenth, and every day, are paramount.”
Kelsey is currently representing Strategic Education Inc. in the national CEO Action for Racial Equity Fellowship working to amplify corporate engagement with HBCUs. Previously, she worked as a Project Manager in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and University Operations at Capella University. Her other Capella roles have included Academic Advising, Planning and Reporting, and Academic Affairs. She is a founding member of the CEO’s Council on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at SEI and currently serves in an advisory capacity.
Kelsey serves on the board of Bloom Early Learning, a non-profit organization working to end the cycle of poverty by providing children quality education and care and enabling their parents to pursue employment and educational opportunities. Kelsey obtained her MS in the General Studies of Human Behavior from Capella University in 2018. She is currently completing her doctorate in Education Leadership at Capella.
She and her wife, Katie, reside in Golden Valley, MN, with their two children, Wylie and Stella.
“The murder of George Floyd and subsequent discussions on race has prompted many organizations to find strategic, innovative, and holistic ways to support employees, especially employees and customers of color. Understanding the experience of Blacks in America, includes acknowledging all parts of history, especially the parts that have been left out of history books. The recognition and acknowledgment of Juneteenth has encouraged organizations to create space for reflection and engage in brave conversations on systemic racism and inequities. Recognizing Juneteenth is an inclusive way of promoting diversity, and one step in the right direction towards racial equality.”
Karen Koukou-Twaglee has over 15 years of experience in social justice. She is a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Program Manager for Strategic Education, Inc. Strategic Education Inc. is dedicated to enabling economic mobility with education through a suite of innovative programs and services through various learning pathways that include: Capella University, Strayer University, DevMountain, Hackbright Academy, Sophia Learning, Jack Welch Management Institute, New York Code + Design Academy, Degrees@Work, and Generation Code. Karen is a founding member of the CEO’s Council on diversity, equity, and inclusion and a culture shaper at Strategic Education, Inc. In her current role as a DEI Program Manager, in partnership with key stakeholders, she has developed and led Support Circles to provide safe and brave spaces to have courageous and respectful conversations, Conscious Inclusion Training, SEI Mentor Program, and a host of culture events and initiatives. In addition to Karen’s role at SEI, she is also the CEO and Founder of The Power to Do Something (PDS) non-profit organization. PDS is an international non-profit whose mission is to educate, empower, and inspire underprivileged girls, women, and orphans in Africa to reach their fullest potential, beginning with Liberia. She has been honored with many different awards for her work with her non-profit and has been interviewed on MPR, Star News, and international publications both in Paris and Liberia. Karen holds a Masters in Higher Education Leadership and Administration, with an emphasis in Higher Education Program Administration from Capella University, and Bachelor’s degree in Political Science with a minor in Psychology from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.
You can hear more from our panelists on Thursday, June 17 at 5:00 P.M. ET. Sign up here!