In Marketing, employees are adding D&I to Oracle’s DNA

April 26, 2021 | 5 minute read
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The summer of 2020 was difficult, for many reasons. But for Americans dealing with racial injustice, it was a season of trauma.

“It was something that affected me deeply,” says Faith Humbles, reflecting on George Floyd’s murder and the massive demonstrations that followed. “After taking part in protests, I kept reaching out to friends. The whole country was having conversations about race and social inequality.”

Some of those conversations happened at Oracle, where Humbles is a corporate marketing specialist and national cochair of Oracle’s Alliance of Black Leaders for Excellence (ABLE). She shared ideas with Christina Cavanna, vice president of global marketing operations and chief of staff, and Chip Woerner, vice president of marketing operations. Out of their discussions, Oracle Marketing’s Diversity and Inclusion Taskforce was born. It joined similar D&I groups in other parts of the company, including Development and Oracle’s global business units.

The Taskforce’s mission: make Marketing a magnet for talent from underrepresented communities, an inclusive place where people from diverse backgrounds feel supported and empowered to grow their careers. Currently, the Taskforce has 10 members from across the Marketing organization, including Humbles, Cavanna, and Woerner. It meets every other week and sets ambitious goals, such as hiring 20 diverse early-career new employees this year. To date, 17 have been onboarded with 4 offers pending.

“It’s time to step up our efforts,” says Cavanna. “When we created the Taskforce, we had been trying for years to improve diversity, but hadn’t really moved the needle. We felt like we wanted to put our money where our mouths were, to make a difference here at Oracle and in people’s lives.”

Across the business world, D&I change is increasingly coming from the grassroots. A study by PWC shows that employees’ ideas on diversity “can create value throughout the company,” often in ways leadership isn’t positioned to see. Alicia Vazquez of SHIFT Communications notes that “diversity needs to be authentic.” It won’t work unless it’s ingrained throughout the organization.

Diversifying the hiring pool

DaLes Allen, D&I Taskforce member and Cochair of the Reston, VA chapter of the Alliance of Black Leaders for Excellence.
   DaLes Allen, D&I Taskforce member and Cochair of the Reston,
   VA chapter of the Alliance of Black Leaders for Excellence.

Woerner believes the D&I Taskforce represents a significant shift in efforts to diversify the pool of job applicants. “We’re being more intentional in the ways we reach out.” The Taskforce has crafted plans to focus on diversity recruiting, both among college students and seasoned professionals. For example, Marketing is leveraging Oracle’s more than 20-year relationship with the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) to provide underrepresented minorities access to the Oracle Corporate Scholars Program and career opportunities. The ultimate goal, of course, is to hire diverse top talent.

The Taskforce has also reexamined Oracle’s Marketing Class Of program, which onboards and trains new hires fresh out of college. To expand the applicant pool, Oracle marketers attend events by groups, such as the Hispanic Information Technology Council (HITEC), Out & Equal, and Fountain Blue’s When She Speaks women’s leadership series. Marketing also solicits referrals from employee resource groups, such as ABLE, Oracle Latinos Alliance (OLA), and Oracle Professional Asian Leadership (OPAL).

Cydney Walls joined the Marketing Class Of 2021 after graduating from Howard University last year. The Class Of program helped her establish the personal relationships that can help a new hire get up to speed—and keep pace with a fast-moving organization. “I was connected to a couple of mentors who I now meet with biweekly,” she says. “We have coffee catch-ups and talk about everything from my career path to favorite TV shows.” The whole class meets every Monday for a team huddle, where they discuss the week ahead and receive training assignments. On Fridays, they sometimes meet for virtual happy hours.

DaLes Allen, a North Carolina A&T graduate who joined Oracle Sales in 2016, agrees that mentoring programs make a difference. “The Marketing Class Of program is a great opportunity to land entry-level experience with a Fortune 100 company. That kind of support will ensure we’re recruiting and retaining great talent.”

New tone and tactics

Allen left Oracle to earn a master’s degree from Georgetown and rejoined the company in 2019 in Advertising and CX Marketing. She’s now a cochair of the Reston, Virginia chapter of ABLE and recently joined the D&I Taskforce. “I’ve seen great change since coming back,” she says. “We have conversations about race and equity and, to give one example, my GM openly acknowledged Juneteenth last year. I’m seeing a different side of Oracle. We’re moving down different paths.”

Cydney Walls, recent hire and member of the Oracle Marketing Class of 2021.
  Cydney Walls, recent hire and member of the Oracle Marketing
  Class of 2021.

The Taskforce blazed a path when it recommended holding recruitment fairs and advertising them on more diverse social media sites. Two virtual events took place in January, one for early-career candidates, and the other for tenured professionals. The results were impressive.

“For the first event, the one targeting early career professionals, we were hoping for at least 50 attendees,” says Chip Woerner. “We got close to 250, with about 30 really strong candidates. We’ve already hired three new employees from that one event.”

Beyond recruitment and hiring, the Taskforce works with the corporate D&I team and Human Resources on employee retention tactics, such as expanding mentoring programs. Cydney Walls is a fan. “I’d like to return the favor by mentoring someday. When you arrive at an unfamiliar place, building a network matters. I know it’s helped me.”

Listening to everyone

To make it easy to find D&I events, resources, and training, the Taskforce created an Inclusive Culture tab on the Global Marketing Hub. The tab also points the way to employees’ personal D&I stories. Looking outside the company, the Taskforce works with the Brand and Content Marketing teams to ensure the Oracle brand reflects a diverse organization.

And there’s a simpler way to keep people: “Pay attention to what they’re saying,” says Humbles. “Employees at all levels have good ideas and want to be heard.”

DaLes Allen agrees. “People are dealing with so much outside the workplace these days—systemic racism, women’s issues, you name it. When you spend 40 hours a week or more at your job, you want to be heard and valued. People are raising their hands here because they’re passionate about their beliefs and want to keep an inclusive work environment.”

Illustration: Wes Rowell

Mark Jackley

Mark Jackley is an Oracle digital content specialist.

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