Meet Onika Rouse, one of our IT engineers at ezCater, who is helping to make our workplace even more inclusive and diverse. Ever since Onika (whose preferred pronoun is “they”) started working at ezCater, Onika has been vocal about making diversity a priority. Onika leads ezCater’s education and action group for LGBTQIA+ employees, people of color, and their allies. Called Mosaic, our group of nearly 200 members meets monthly to celebrate different cultures and communities. The Mosaic meetings are a place for members to discuss common concerns, work through tough news stories together, grieve, and get advice. In June, our Mosaic community walked in Boston’s Pride parade, holding an ezCater banner—an especially fond milestone for Onika. We talked to Onika about why diversity in the workplace means success, and how Onika is working to propel ezCater into a more inclusive future.
ezCater: You founded ezCater’s Mosaic community, a diversity-and-inclusion group for people of color, LGBTQIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, plus other non-heterosexual, non-cisgender people) employees, and their allies. How did Mosaic start?
Onika Rouse: I identify as a nonbinary individual of color. My preferred pronouns are “they” and “them.” One of the things that I’ve struggled with in the tech industry is that I really do tend to be the only [one who identifies as a nonbinary person of color]. If someone were to look at me, they would identify me as female. There aren’t a lot of women in tech, and there are not a lot of women of color in tech. So people don’t necessarily understand that when someone like myself joins a corporation or team, specifically in technology, how much I have to code-switch to make other people feel comfortable.
So at ezCater, I created this group for inclusion and diversity, for people of color, the LGBTQIA+ community, and allies to get together, so they can learn and educate each other about different communities. We want to understand what people go through or deal with at work.
It’s important to understand and acknowledge that you work with so many different people: ethnicities, races, genders, and non-gendered individuals. And it’s important to make sure that you make everyone feel comfortable. It’s one thing to not know because no one’s taught you, but if you have a community and resources to teach you, take advantage of it because it’s only going to help you. Not only with the people that you work with, but in society outside of work.
ezCater: What aspect of your work on Mosaic are you most proud of?
Onika Rouse: People now feel like they have a voice. Our CEO has attended events, our Chief People and Culture Officer has attended meetings. You have the executive team coming to meetings and taking off that executive hat and hearing the concerns of their employees with whom they don’t interact on a day-to-day basis. It allows people to feel like what they’re saying is important.
I’ve seen ezCater’s health care benefits change. We were able to march in the Pride parade, which is huge for ezCater. People just feel safer.
I’ve had people come to me and to other members of Mosaic and open up about themselves before they come out to their families or before they come out to the rest of their peers at work. We always talk on Slack, and people come out and write heartwarming stories. People are very responsive and supportive on our Slack channel. Working with ezCater’s IT team has its perks.
I’m really grateful for Mosaic because it’s important to know how other people that you work with are feeling and what they’re going through. At the end of the day, you all need each other to be successful.
At ezCater, our hope is that our team continues to look more and more like the world we live in. As part of our commitment to creating a diverse workplace, we began sharing data on the makeup of our workforce in 2016. Every year we publish a new report to show you all the steps we’re taking to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace. Check out our “2018 Inclusion and Diversity Assessment” to see how we’re doing.
Want to work with Onika Rouse at ezCater? We’d love for you to join us.