There’s a palpable excitement right now in the quest for greater diversity and representation globally. At EA, the Employee Resource Group (ERG) Black EA Team (BEAT!) feels energized to harness and maintain momentum.
BEAT! made it a goal to put that energy towards celebrating Black History Month in the U.S. at EA through an array of events with a clear mission: celebrate black culture and history at EA, ultimately enriching the work environment not just for black employees, but for all.
From a discussion with former MLB National League President and current EA Board member Len Coleman, to the Executive Producer behind the Academy Award-nominated film Mudbound, BEAT! made it a goal to bring a heightened level of awareness and insight to African-American culture at the EA Redwood Shores campus.
“We wanted to put a stake in the ground,” said Michael Lee, in a confident tone. Lee is one of BEAT!’s four board members leading the way for the burgeoning ERG.
As the lead behind BEAT!’s Black History Month events, Lee expressed a desire to bring awareness to the diversity at EA’s global studios. EA’s global diversity and reach was one of the biggest reasons Lee came to EA, which he hopes he can contribute to as much as possible.
“A part of our efforts is to highlight the contributions of EA’s black employees, as well as how the African Diaspora has contributed to the world, and also allow the larger employee base to show that they in turn support the black employee base,” Lee explained, of his goals in building the event lineup for Black History Month.
To do so, the team looked at every aspect of life at EA, ultimately focusing on tracks that included cuisine, lectures, film, music, and more. “We wanted to reflect the different cultures and subcultures that ultimately originate from African culture, from the food we eat, to the music we listen to,” expressed Lee.
The influence was clear at EA, with Caribbean food served in the cafeteria, music from Cuba and Puerto Rico, and genres like Samba, Reggae, Salsa, and Tango being played. Although traditionally considered Latin music, BEAT! wanted to convey that the two are not mutually exclusive.
The team was particularly proud to bring in former President of MLB’s National League and EA Board of Directors member Len Coleman for a casual, “fireside chat” with employees. Coleman, a talented storyteller in his own right, talked growing up as an African-American in the era of the Civil Rights Movement, protesting discrimination at Princeton, and later, retiring the number of the legendary Jackie Robinson.
Lee’s face lit up with excitement when discussing getting Coleman on board, in what he called a testament to the support BEAT! and other ERGs receive from EA. “We have an excellent executive sponsor in our CFO Blake Jorgensen, who was incredibly supportive,” said Lee.
At about 100 members, BEAT! continues forward momentum. Lee says that expanding beyond Redwood Shores and Orlando and into all EA Worldwide Studios is the ultimate goal. “There are employees globally who could potentially identify as part of BEAT!’s demographic or support what we stand for, but that option hasn’t been make available yet.”
BEAT! looks to have more influence in EA’s business and products. “BEAT! has a role to drive representation not only in our employee base, partners and vendors, and HR policies but also in our games, characters, and story modes,” explained Lee.
He hopes that the work BEAT! has done with Black History Month can be an inspiration for what’s possible for all ERGs. “There is benefit in demonstrating the intersectionality between ERGs - African-Americans, women, LGBTQ, those with accessibility challenges,” said Lee. “The more authentically inclusive we can be, the more enriching the experience can be for everyone.”
Despite strides in recent years, diversity in tech continues to be an uphill battle. Speaking to the challenges in the Bay Area, the increasing cost of living continues to push African-Americans out of the area. “We’re not attracting as much talent as we’d like,” admits Lee.
He also expressed the more systemic challenges in tech. “There’s some unconscious bias playing into hiring, and perhaps some conscious bias. I can’t assume that, but coming from my background, I can’t negate it. If there was an easy answer, we would have solved it by now.”
While those larger challenges still present themselves in the quest for diversity, BEAT! hopes they can establish a strong base for the African Diaspora at EA and set a standard in the gaming industry by enriching the experience for all.
“The point is to bring us together,” expressed Lee. “Let’s come together not just as colleagues, but as human beings.”