On June 3, 2020, Niantic tweeted out its support of the Black Lives Matter movement and the Black community. Although plenty of other companies have tweeted their support of the movement, these statements are often vague and shallow words with little if any substance to back it up. To anyone who read Niantic's statement, it was very clear that was not what Niantic was doing.
We stand with the Black community & against white supremacy, racism, & police brutality & condemn the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Nina Pop & countless others. Here's how we're committing to change #BlackLivesMatter https://t.co/jfYGinhl2e pic.twitter.com/Y0P3f1E2PQWe stand with the Black community & against white supremacy, racism, & police brutality & condemn the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Nina Pop & countless others. Here's how we're committing to change #BlackLivesMatter https://t.co/jfYGinhl2e pic.twitter.com/Y0P3f1E2PQ— Niantic, Inc. (@NianticLabs) June 3, 2020June 3, 2020
Increasing diversity within
Even before the explosive events of the past few weeks, Niantic CEO John Hanke had already committed to increasing diversity within the company. Niantic had set a goal of increasing representation of women in the company to 50% and the number of underrepresented minorities* to 30%. These goals have not been met yet, but the protests following in the wake of George Floyd's murder by Minneapolis police have renewed the resolve of Niantic's executives to keep doing the hard work of leveling the playing field for minorities.
Currently, Niantic's workforce is 33% women, including a number of senior executives, and 13% underrepresented minorities.
- Underrepresented minorities, include African Americans, American Indians/Alaska Natives, and Latinos, and make up 30% of the US population according to the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering.
While Niantic is dedicated to doing the hard work involved in increasing diversity, it goes without saying that donations help too. With that in mind, Niantic will be donating all proceeds from Pokémon Go Fest 2020 with a minimum committment of $5 million. Half of that money is going directly to Black developers who are creating AR apps on the Niantic platform, while the other half is going towards US nonprofits dedicated to rebuilding communities.
Niantic will also be donating $100,000 to the Marsha P. Johnson Institue, a nonprofit named for the Black trans woman activist who was instrumental to the Stonewall Uprising. This organization seeks to elevate, support, and nourish the voices of Black trans people. In addition, Niantic will match employee donations to the Marsha P. Johnson Institue up to $50,000.
Providing more opportunites
While Niantic has oftened lent its support to STEM education efforts, it will be increasing efforts in this area. Niantic will be increasing its partnership with Treehouse, a Portland based coding academy. According to Treehouse's website, "Our mission is to diversify the tech industry through accessible education and apprenticeship, unlocking the door to opportunity and empowering people to achieve their dreams." Currently, Niantic is hosting several interns and is committed to hiring several graduates. Niantic will now be bringing on ten more apprentices with the intent of hiring 80-100%.
Niantic is also working with Gameheads, a group in Oakland that provides mentoring and training to high school students. This year, Niantic is increasing its support of Gameheads to $60,000 total, with $25,000 in scholarships, $15,000 for the annual showcase, and another $20,000 to create a course on developing for AR.
Diversity and Inclusion Council
Niantic's own Diversity and Inclusion Council is developing training specifically to educate employees in allyship. In the internal memo shared on Niantic's Twitter account, John Hanke made it clear that it is not the responsibility of the Black community or Black employees to educate their white coworkers. Instead, Niantic will be providing its employees with the tools necessary to be allies to the Black community. This council has also been tasked with holding Niantic to its commitments and assuring accountability from the senior leadership.
Encouraging engagement companywide
In addition to all the donations and efforts on Niantic's part, CEO John Hanke has also urged everyone within the company to take part as well. Between matching donations and providing employee training on diversity and inclusion, Niantic has taken concrete steps to encourage its employees; however, there are also numerous opportunites where employees with the drive and passion can go above and beyond.
Employees previously had four days specifically for attending Niantic events. Now, employees will have five days and those days are being changed to Flex Days which can be used to volunteer. The Diversity and Inclusion Council will be providing opportunities to any employees looking to get involved in this volunteer work.
Niantic employees also have the opportunity to work with Gameheads as mentors, to help the next generation of tech innovators, developers, and leaders.
Looking to the future
As encouraging as each of these measures are, perhaps the most important message to come from Niantic on diversity is that all of these initiatives will involve years of work. The senior executives of Niantic recognize the hard work ahead and are committed to finding even more opportunites to be a force for good in the world. They intend to deepen their commitment along the way, and be held accountable, not only to each other, but to the communities that have made their company so successful. When compared to other companies who tweeted basic form letters with vague statements of support, it's clear that Niantic is setting a strong example for how a company can really support diversity.
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Casian Holly has been writing about gaming at iMore since 2019, but their real passion is Pokémon. From the games to the anime, cards and toys, they eat, sleep, and breathe all things Pokémon. You can check out their many Pokémon Go and Pokémon Sword and Shield guides and coverage here on iMore.