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News Mar 16, 2022

Looking Back on Jacobs’ Biggest Black History Month Ever

Reflecting on the past and the future, our Harambee Employee Network brought Black history to all of Jacobs.

Black History Month 2022

While we celebrate and amplify Black employees and voices all year at Jacobs, Black History Month gives us the opportunity to reflect on the amazing Black engineers, scientists, architects, inventors and artists who have come before us, and stands as a poignant reminder of the many voices lost before their contributions to history could be recorded.

This year, Jacobs had our biggest Black History Month ever. Led by Harambee, our Black Employee Network, and joined by all of our Jacobs Employee Networks, the month featured a myriad of social events, like  Black Men Who Cook, a Trivia Night and an Open Mic and Poetry Jam, and touched on more serious topics: Black Men and TherapyThe Legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, and Black Female STEAM Contributions in History. These events engaged Black employees and allies from all levels of our organization, notably our Chair and CEO Steve Demetriou, who participated in a CEO Panel discussion with Black business leaders from outside Jacobs: CEO of SYSTRA USA Kimberly Slaughter and Founder and CEO of Axxess John Olajide.

We also co-sponsored the BEYA (formerly Black Engineer of the Year) STEM Conference this month, a program aimed at bringing the best and brightest Black talent into science, technology, engineering, and math fields, and eight Jacobs employees were recognized for their contributions in the field. Seven Jacobs employees were honored with the Science Spectrum Trailblazer Award, and Water Group Leader Jaynelle Pemberton was honored with the prestigious Community Service Award, in part for her work with the Jacksonville Office Employees Bikes-n-Bytes Program, impacting more than 800 students with donations of bikes and computers. In her acceptance speech, Jaynelle’s message resonated with her personal commitment to STEAM education stating, “What we do with our time and our talent to help the next generation is so very important.”

On the back of her Community Service Award win, Jaynelle was interviewed on a local radio show and invited to be a guest of Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett (D-VI) at President Biden’s State of the Union Address. Jacobs President and COO, Bob Pragada also gave an address at the BEYA event, observing that “The continued success of our business relies on us hiring the best diverse people, harnessing the creativity and innovation that can only come from bringing different perspectives together.”

2022 Black Engineer of the Year Awards

Black History Month also provided an opportunity to reflect on the progress we are making on our Global Action Plan for Advancing Justice and Equality. Launched in the summer of 2020 in response to events surrounding the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and countless other Black people, the Action Plan outlines the specific actions we are taking to advance Black talent, both inside and outside Jacobs. To date, this includes such milestones as: donating more than $3,000,000 to social justice-related charities, sponsorships, and STEAM outreach and achieving diversity of 55% for our Board of Directors and 66% for our Executive Leadership Team.

We have also launched multiple projects as part of the Action Plan, including investment in the SEED School for Equity and Access, a boarding school in South Los Angeles; scholarships for 100 disadvantaged Black British students through the Cowrie Scholarship Foundation; and both scholarships and a new computer lab at Howard University. Internally, our company has made a sizable investment in attracting, promoting and retaining the best Black talent, including senior-level mentorship of more than 500 employees from historically disadvantaged groups and 400 diverse employees enrolled in the McKinsey Management Accelerator Program.

When we look back on Black history, we see the many great achievements in STEAM fields that have contributed to the world around us, and we see the ways our societies yet need to improve. Black thinkers have contributed to and enriched our culture immeasurably, despite the challenges they still face. But we also see the grand accomplishments yet to come and the bold heights to be scaled by our world-changing, history-making Black Jacobs employees.