Imagine Next: Generational Discussions On Social Justice And Equality

At Parsons, Diversity is embedded across our values, culture, and corporate identity, guiding our employee practices and business operations. We seek to embody diversity every day by championing all individuals in in our community with the premise that our differences bring us together and are our greatest strengths.

One of the ways we ensure the inclusion of diversity across Parsons is through our Employee Business Resource Groups (EBRGs), which are groups of employees who work together to ensure the company is modeling best behavior that advances our different communities. They serve to highlight our strengths through diversity and the intersectionality that connects us through the human experience.

BELONG (Blacks Engaging, Leading, Organizing, Nurturing, and Growing) is an EBRG focused on elevating, educating, and celebrating cultural competencies relevant to Black employees. As part of BELONG’s mission, we share information, insights, best practices, and lessons learned with our membership as well as the broader Parsons community, and even through our external networks with the goal of advancing a diverse, equitable, and inclusive work environment. Within BELONG, we provide a safe network for our Black employees and allies, while allowing for open dialogue and unique perspectives. We share our career and life experiences and commit to helping Parsons recruit talented Black professionals from the best colleges and universities, from our competitors, and from within our networks.

In 2020, we globally observed a year of challenges, activism, and movements that divided some but also brought others together from all levels of society with renewed hopes for change. As we know, the year started with the coronavirus (COVID) outbreak leading to a global pandemic in addition to social unrest related to systemic racism, racial inequality, and some of the most historic social justice movements that we have ever seen. People from all over the world banded together to advocate for change and question the brutality that many had not realized has been occurring more frequently and in various environments everywhere.

Dr. Ryan Thomas, Emerging Contaminants Principal and President of BELONG

Since 2020, as noted by Dr. Ryan Thomas, Emerging Contaminants Principal and President of BELONG: “Discussions regarding DEI were elevated in every aspect of our lives, from schools to hospitals and yes, corporate America. Employees now expected employers to not only talk the talk, but also walk the walk and actively sought employment with organizations that integrated DEI into every aspect of their businesses. Furthermore, many organizations began making commitments to diversity to have more qualified Black leaders in all roles including executive leadership posts.”

Rather than focus on the significant challenges identified in and since 2020, BELONG determined that as we face the future and “Imagine Next,” we recognize the importance of the viewpoints and inclusion of Generation Z (persons born from 1997 to 2012) in our hiring goals and development of our strategic plans. Recognizing that inclusion of Generation Z requires learning more from Generation Z, BELONG recently hosted a virtual panel presentation titled “Generation to Generation – Three Years Later…Perspectives on Social Justice and Equality” to understand the differing generational viewpoints as it relates to work experiences and social justice.

We created this panel discussion to provide our fellow Parsons’ employees and their Generation Z young adult children an opportunity to share insights based on topics that are meaningful to all of us. Specifically, the panel divided into four groups, each comprised of one Parsons employee parent and their young adult child, allowing each pair to share generational viewpoints about a particular issue addressing social justice and/ or diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. While the panel included a broad range of topics, some of note included the importance of incorporating and valuing social justice in the workplace and ensuring corporations maintain their commitments to DEI in the workplace. We are proud that Parsons leads the way in fostering this kind of conversation by spearheading such a novel and innovative approach to addressing these topics.

 Dr. Ryan Thomas

The responses to the event and to the four panel discussions were supportive and were summarized by Danialle McDuffie, Parsons’ Senior Corporate Internal Auditor and Vice President of BELONG, noting that it was great to see “the wealth of talent that we have here at Parsons among our fellow employees and their Next Generation Professionals” in addition to clearly seeing that “the social justice and DEI journey continues, and that we all have a duty to engage with others within and outside of our core networks.”

The event ended with final remarks from Peter Torrellas, President of Parsons’ Connected Communities business unit and Co-Executive Sponsor of BELONG, who reminded the audience of the importance of DEI at Parsons. Peter highlighted the “growing focus on social responsibilities and inclusive and diverse leadership” and closed his session  by quoting CEO Carey Smith’s remarks from our recently published 2023 Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) disclosure report: “Our approach to ESG stems from our core values of safety, sustainability, diversity, equality, integrity, and innovation—we apply each of these principles to everything we do, as a company inspired to deliver measurable value for our customers, shareholders, and communities.”

BELONG recently participated in a Juneteenth Career Fair in Texas and is planning a Parsons Homecoming Virtual Parade this fall.

About The Author

Dr. Ryan Thomas, PhD is an Emerging Contaminants Principal and Senior Technical Consultant providing technical solutions for public and private clients related to environmental contamination. He was recently appointed the President of BELONG and focuses on fostering a network and tools essential for the personal and professional development of current and future Black team members and allies. Ryan has previous experiences with DEI initiatives such as serving as a founding Co-Chair and Advisor to an employee resource groups at his former company and actively serves as a Project Advisory Committee member for the Water Research Foundation’s DEI Best Practices for the Water Sector Workforce project.

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