FEB 23, 2021

CN Celebrates Black History Month and Launches the R.I.S.E. Employee Resource Group

This February, CN is celebrating Black History Month as well as the official launch of our new Employee Resource Group (or ERG): R.I.S.E. (Railroaders who Influence, Support and Empower Black Colleagues). CN’s employee-run and organized ERGs are aimed at embracing the diversity and individuality of CN employees, as well as providing opportunities to propel innovation by bringing together different perspectives, experiences, and ideals from CN employees at all levels.

The R.I.S.E. ERG is open to all employees looking to learn, promote, and contribute to an inclusive and supportive culture. Led by a steering committee including CN employees from diverse areas such as operations, mechanical, as well as sales and marketing, this ERG has been the driving force behind CN’s Black History Month celebration, but for R.I.S.E, that is just the beginning.

We had the opportunity to ask the R.I.S.E. steering committee some questions about the ERG, about Black History Month and about what comes next.

What does Black History Month mean to you?

For the R.I.S.E. Employee Resource Group, Black History Month is a time of celebration and recognition. It is a “time to reflect on the sacrifices that paved the way for our culture,” says Arthur Mayoll (Assistant Chief Mechanical Officer), and also to “celebrate the great achievements of the Black community [which] played a significant role in shaping our society,” adds Herman Searcy-Plunkett (Superintendent, Central Division). One of the ways that CN has been celebrating Black History Month is by having employees share icons from Black history as well as present day icons that they admire. We have also been learning about Black contributions to the railroad, including a fireside chat with author Cecil Foster who wrote about the history of Black porters in Canada. In addition to this, the R.I.S.E. ERG will also be hosting an event for CN employees to meet the steering committee and learn how to become involved.

What does the R.I.S.E. Employee Resource Group mean for CN and what are the next steps?

“The R.I.S.E. ERG is an Employee Resource Group specifically designed to provide a community for CN’s Black Employees and their allies [and] will work to improve the diversity demographics at CN by focusing on the personal and professional needs of the Black employees,” says Stacey Lyons (National Account Manager). This “intimate view into the demographic will aid in building a more diverse, innovative and sustainable organization,” adds Mayo.

Supply Chain Sales, Account Manager, Andrew de Freitas describes that the R.I.S.E. ERG (as well as the other ERGs) are important to creating a culture that celebrates differences. “In my life one of the statements I have heard is ‘I don’t see colour’,” says de Freitas. “I know that statement is coming from a good place and the speaker is trying to assure me that they are not judging me because I am Black. All the same, it is one of those things that has always left me a little frustrated. I want you to see my colour. My colour is not something to be discounted, it is something to be celebrated and valued. I see it as a part of my value proposition. It is who I am.”

Herman Searcy-Plunkett notes that “taking diversity seriously” is doing things “the CN Way” and that through ERGs like R.I.S.E., “CN recognizes that diversity is vital for growth and that all employees should have a voice and a platform.”

As for what is next, the R.I.S.E. steering committee is dedicated to building their membership and getting straight to work. Employees joining R.I.S.E. will have the opportunity to join committees, and most importantly, to be a voice at the table. Stacey Lyons hopes that R.I.S.E. will prove to be “a resource for not only the employee base, but the Leadership Teams as well when important matters are discussed related to people.”

What message would R.I.S.E. like to share today with CN employees, customers, and our communities?

Arthur Mayoll explains that “valuing diversity, fairness, respect, and inclusion,” paves the road for both corporate as well as individual success. Similarly, Andrew de Freitas explains that, “the decisions we make are incomplete and imperfect if we don’t have diversity… A diverse table that includes strong Black voices that are heard will be a key part of what makes our teams and decisions great.”

In other words, an inclusive and diverse culture that reflects the diversity of the communities that CN serves will inevitably lead to better decision-making and a stronger CN.

Stacey Lyons emphasizes that the launch of the ERGs shows that “CN values the employees and cares for their personal and professional development,” which “results in a better customer experience [and] ensures that CN has the top talent in the right places.”

How can CN employees get involved?

CN remains committed to welcoming and celebrating diversity, as well as fostering a culture of belonging where every one feels included and valued. We all have a role to play in embracing a workplace where every CN employee can be their authentic self without discrimination. As such, employees are invited to become members of any number of CN’s growing list of Employee Resource Groups by clicking on the email that they received announcing the launch. Employees are also empowered to recommend new resource groups from which CN employees could benefit.

To connect with R.I.S.E. specifically, you can email the group mailbox here.

On behalf of CN, as well as the R.I.S.E. ERG, we wish everyone a Happy Black History Month.