In the spring of 2020, the murder of George Floyd brought into a tragic, sharp focus once again how at-risk the lives are for many in the Black and Brown community. Historians and laypeople continue to wonder when freedom will ring – to walk, run, drive, seek higher education, succeed professionally, and have access to voting — without fear or prejudice. Freedom rang on June 19, 1865, when word reached Texas that the Civil War was over and President Lincoln had proclaimed the end of enslavement in the United States two years earlier. The day became known as Juneteenth, and currently serves as a time around the world to reflect and celebrate in the United States.

Last year, we observed Juneteenth for the first time as a company, and we have since made it an official day of reflection at H+K in the U.S, and now it is a national holiday. The treatment of enslaved people and its impact today on our nation and how we see race is a blurred and complex reality that requires intentional and purposeful diligence. I want H+K and all our employees to do our part to commit to working and leading inclusivity wholeheartedly.

Over the past year, I’ve listened to our Black colleagues, friends, historians, and I’ve done work myself to understand the overt and nuanced microaggressions around race so that I can become a more inclusive leader. One resource that has been instrumental in my learning and growth is the H+K Distinction Steering Group, of which I am the Executive Sponsor.

In July 2020, the group presented several DEI goals for us to deliver. As we observe Juneteenth one year later, we’re reflecting on our collective results  — from hiring a U.S. Head and Global Head of DEI, to deploying an employee resource group (ERG) for BIPOC employees, and establishing clear diverse hiring and representation metrics, among a number of actions.

We still have some work to do, but I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished to date.

Richard Millar, Global President | CEO of Americas