The Journey Continues for our Racial Justice Work — 2021 Update

Black men and women walking together with banner saying black lives matter
Image credit: Shutterstock/Maria Siubar

It’s been more than a year since George Floyd was murdered. More than a year since companies all over the nation made statements indicating their support for Black Lives Matter and a commitment to racial justice.

Since last year, we have grieved the losses of many more Black people. We watched as a police officer was convicted of a murder that was seen in broad daylight by many around the world.

Our work as a nation, as companies, and as individuals is not done. At Magoosh we will continue to do the work. We know that it’s action, not words, that count most.

Last year, we wrote about our progress and next steps, and we owe you an update.

So what have we done at Magoosh since June 2020?

#1: We’ve donated $50,000 to organizations that support movement towards justice for the Black community.

We decided to make meaningful donations to a few organizations (as opposed to smaller sums to a lot of organizations). We identified four categories to support, making a donation to one organization in each category:

  • Organizations that support longer-term police reform
  • Organizations that train young Black organizers and advocates
  • Organizations that promote racial justice through education
  • Bail or legal defense funds to support arrested protestors

We also prioritized organizations that are grassroots, are Black-led, employ community-based solutions, employ evidence-based interventions, are geographically diverse, and have strong ratings on Charity Navigator, Guidestar, or Great Nonprofits OR have a connection to a Magoosh employee who can vouch for the organization’s effectiveness.

We chose the following four organizations and donated $12,500 to each:

  • Families for Justice as Healing: FJAH is a small grassroots organization connecting formerly incarcerated women and girls working to end mass incarceration. They are led by Black women and young organizers based in Roxbury, MA.
  • Black Swan Academy: BSA’s mission is to empower Black youth in under-served communities through civic leadership and engagement, giving them a comprehensive set of tools needed to succeed in life and become active social catalysts in their communities. They are based in Washington, DC.
  • Hip Hop for Change: HHfC empowers Black youth to express and advocate for their vision of justice and change by engaging with the history and culture of hip hop. They are based in Oakland, CA.
  • National Bail Fund Network: This fund network supports over 70 local bail and legal defense funds to support protesters who have been arrested. The fund is nationwide.

#2: We put more intention and resources into our journey to make Magoosh a more equitable and inclusive organization.

  • We started Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), with the goal of creating spaces where marginalized Magooshers can be in community with others who share some of their lived experiences. Our ERGs are a strategic part of our plans to make Magoosh more inclusive and create a greater sense of belonging. We support the work by allocating time and budget for employees to engage in these communities as a part of their normal workload. I’m fortunate to serve as the Executive Sponsor for our Black Magooshers All Together (BMAT) ERG.
  • We implemented a recognition and compensation plan for our ERG and DEI Committee Leads. The work to lead an ERG is not only logistically challenging, but emotionally taxing as well. In addition to allocating time for our Leads to work on their groups, we compensate them, provide a dedicated professional development stipend, and are formalizing a sponsorship program with their Executive Sponsors to support their professional advancement. We are also working to add committee work to performance and leveling conversations this year.
  • We hired a full-time Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging. Desiree Morton has already worked with our DEIB Committee, People Ops team, and ERG leads to help us build a more cohesive approach to DEIB at Magoosh. She’s played a major role in ongoing ERG support and developing the recognition and compensation program for those doing this work. In addition, she’s challenged us to develop more inclusive management and leadership practices and helped us prioritize educating ourselves about the challenges under-represented employees and students face. I’m beyond grateful to have Desiree on the team as a fierce advocate for those who most need that advocacy and support and to help Magoosh better fulfill our mission and truly become the kind of workplace I envision.
  • We updated our approach to test prep content development by revising our style guides to promote inclusive language, and we gave content creators resources and guidance to draw on diverse histories, perspectives, and representation in our materials. We are auditing and fixing insensitive issues within our existing lessons and marketing content so that it is culturally aware, diverse, and inclusive. We also know that to make the most effective materials, our content creators must come from a wide range of backgrounds and identities, which is why we are committed to fair and unbiased hiring practices and have goals to increase the diversity of our content creators. We want our students to see themselves represented in our content and our instructors, and will continue to focus and invest in these areas moving forward.
  • We published our Diversity report, and are working on our next one. We want the diversity of our team to represent the diversity of our US student base. Several years ago, we set explicit diversity goals across 4 dimensions:
    • Gender
    • Race
    • First in family to go to college
    • Grew up in a non-English-speaking household (primary language).

Currently, over 50% of our team identify as women, 19% are from underrepresented groups (including 9% who identify as Black and/or African American), 17% are the first to go to college, and 28% grew up in a non-English-speaking household.

We plan to be transparent with our progress, and invite you to hold us accountable.

#3: We’re leveling the playing field in test prep.

  • This has always been our mission, but we’ve committed ourselves to learning more about inequitable experiences that our students face before, during, and after their studies with Magoosh, including how standardized testing upholds systems of oppression against marginalized communities. In practice, this includes setting time aside for every single Magoosh employee to learn about inequality within the education system, and also time to incorporate that learning into our work of building quality and effective test prep that’s affordable and works for every one of our students.
  • We’re committing to measuring and sharing the equity impact of our products. Specifically, if we want to level the playing field, we need to be sure that our test prep supports our most marginalized students in a meaningful way. We have begun this work with data collection and goal setting prioritized alongside our growth and innovation goals. We look forward to being transparent about the impact we’re having.
  • We continue to partner with organizations to provide free and low-cost test prep to students such as SMASH scholars, Oliver Scholars, and McNair Scholars.

Our Values Make this Work Possible

Doing this type of work requires a great deal of commitment and investment. We are fortunate that we can lean heavily on our values including Challenge > Comfort, Change > Status Quo, and Learning > Knowing to continue to do what is right for our employees, students, and communities. The work will be ongoing, and we know that, even with the steps we have taken leading up to and during this past year, we have a long way to go. We’re here for it.

Author’s note: I’d like to acknowledge that this article is the result of a massive team effort. I’d like to thank Desiree Morton for her significant contributions to the content of this post as well as our reviewers Alan Day, Hannah Baker, Jessica Wan, Naomi Tepper, Trish Do, Viva Asmelash, and all the other Magooshers who have made this post (and this work!) possible.

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