Black in Payroll: history, present, & futures

March 11, 2022
Megan Elsayed

Solutions Engineer

by 
Megan Elsayed

Check had a busy and fulfilling February. Not only did we announce our Series C funding and company growth, we planned and carried out  a successful celebration of Black History Month for the second time. After all, equity in the world of software development is about more than your latest raise. Our Black employee resource group, Black at Check, wrote this blog post to document the ways we honored the history and contributions of Black Americans and to acknowledge that Black power and liberation still remain absent from many aspects of American life.

Check celebrated Black History Month for the first time in 2021. A few months after joining the company, our Head of Compliance, Tisha Winfield, MBA, CPP, SHRM-CP, pulled our CEO aside to share a few ideas for how the company could honor the month. The result of Tisha’s ideas and ownership led to our 2nd annual grassroots tradition that continues to grow.

In planning for 2022, Black at Check felt it was important to bring the same analytical spirit we use everyday to our celebration of Black History Month. We are proud payroll, fintech, and compliance nerds. We love to document everything we do so anyone at the company can understand a concept and contribute to it. We strive to bring our real selves to work and seek out opportunities to celebrate one another. We knew we wanted to celebrate by centering Black voices and perspectives without sacrificing the care shown towards everyone’s diverse experience that is fundamental to our culture here at Check. Put simply: we took a holistic approach to educating one another, collaborating with one another, and highlighting the important work that lies ahead. Below are the four ways we set out to make progress towards those goals.

1)  Mindfulness Meditation - We hosted Nkechi Njaka who led us in ‘Becoming Free: A Mindfulness Meditation’ of her own design. Njaka is a neuroscientist, choreographer and meditation guide living in San Francisco. She is the founder of NDN lifestyle studio, co-founder of Sitting Matters, a 2017 YBCA Truth Fellow and Kennedy Center Artist in Residence. Njaka let us through a powerful meditation and exercises focused on liberation.

2) Book club - Last year we read Caste by Isabel Wilkerson and experienced great participation across the organization of folks excited to share their learnings. This year we read Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. We hosted cross-functional discussions at the end of the month with representation from every department at Check.

3) Black in payroll tech roundtables - We hosted open forums for employees who wanted to share their experiences and perspectives as Black professionals in the Payroll & Tech industries. Creating a dedicated space for these conversations led to some phenomenal discussions and learnings. As a follow up to the roundtable, participants received a copy of the book Black Futures as a symbol of Check’s investment in Black history and futures. With the permission of these Black leaders at Check, below you will find highlights from the session:

“When my mother applied for a job for Johnson & Johnson, back when the original Johnsons were still there,  some of her peers told her ‘you are too dark’ but she got the job anyway because, as she said, ‘he wanted a person that worked, and I worked’ … it was important to her he would look everyone in the eye and shake their hand.”  - Vicky Petties, Compliance 
“I don’t expect people to understand all the ways I express myself, but I grew up very aware. I grew up very aware. I don’t think it’s fair that Black children have to grow up so aware.” -  Kaleb Allmon, Software Engineer 
“I remember saying to [our CEO] I’ve interviewed how many engineering candidates and only one has been Black.” - Tisha Winfield, Compliance

4) 28 Days of Black History - Every day in February, weekends included, employees across the organization volunteered to write engaging, consumable bios on Black people they admire. These bios were shared in our company-wide Slack channel on a daily basis, so we could all look forward to reading about one another’s inspirations. Each week of the month emphasized a different area of working life: Black in Tech, Business, Health, and the Arts. Not only did folks thoroughly enjoy sharing these with the company, it created a steady drumbeat of activity to remind us daily to honor the month. 

Our celebration ran the gamut from exceedingly fun and jovial, to solemn and heavy, and to bright, peaceful and hopeful. As a result, we’ve forged new and deeper connections to one another and developed knowledge in our heads, and love in our hearts. Black History Month was the perfect opportunity to connect rich and deep histories to our daily work as technologists and payroll professionals. We’re proud of how these efforts have expanded and deepened, and plan for them to be an annual trend we continue to expand and take pride in.

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