Alumni Newsroom

Building a better workplace

For decades, the U.S. has commemorated Black History Month in February. But in the U.K., it’s celebrated in October, and in May for some countries in Southern Europe. Recognizing these types of regional differences among diverse groups is critical when it comes to helping all employees feel heard, says J.P. Morgan alumna Opeyemi Sofoluke, who now manages diversity efforts at Meta, the recently updated name of the Facebook company.

Sofoluke joined Meta in 2021, where she’s the lead International Diversity and Inclusion Program Manager based in London. She spends her days connecting with employee resource groups across Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Asia Pacific and Latin America.

Sofoluke guides diversity and inclusion strategy and helps design and deliver programming around “4C’s,”—culture, community, career, and company—all with the overarching goal of building a more inclusive workplace.

“As a U.S. based company, it’s easy to take a U.S.-centric approach,” she says. “It’s important to understand key moments in other regions and celebrate those.” Understanding nuances are also crucial. “What works well in one community may not work well in another.”

Creating community

A self-professed people person, Sofoluke relishes forging connections, uniting diverse groups and expanding people’s perspectives.

During EMEA’s Black History Month, she encouraged the formation of an intersectional working group that included Black@ representatives (Meta’s group for Black employees),  and employees from groups representing women, the LGBTQ+ community and community members that identify as disabled. The resulting panel featured Black employees from across the region sharing a variety of perspectives.

“It’s one thing for a company to have diversity goals, and it’s another to create spaces where people truly feel included,” she says. “The work we do champions that.”

Key to her role is building and maintaining community in a world where more and more employees are working remotely and will likely continue to do so.

“Belonging and inclusion isn’t just about those who are in the office,” Sofoluke says. “The way we work is changing and this requires us to be intentional and creative about the way we deliver programming. Whether someone is working in the office, or online from home, they should feel that sense of belonging.”

Leveraging her J.P. Morgan experience

Sofoluke’s work at J.P. Morgan formed the base of her current job and she has leveraged her experience from her eight years at J.P. Morgan to shape her work. She started in 2013 in the Equity Derivatives Group, then moved into a project management role in the Corporate & Investment Bank for Markets and Investors Services operations. She became active in employee resource groups, then joined the firm’s Technology for Social Good team as an EMEA program manager, driving social good and diversity programs.

When the program divided its social good and diversity initiatives, Sofoluke zeroed in on diversity and inclusion, setting the D&I agenda for over 5,000 technologists. “With tech being predominantly white and male, I had the opportunity to be a change agent.”

She’s proud of her work leading the global training roll-out for the More Than a Label initiative, which advocated for employees to bring their whole selves to work.

“My role supporting various communities in Global Technology gave me the foundation for how to think about programming, how to understand nuances and how to best support communities,” she says.

Lessons for entrepreneurs and allies

Before COVID-19, Sofoluke and her husband, Raphael—the founder of the U.K. Black Business Show and U.K. Black Business Week—began writing a book to empower and inform Black entrepreneurs and corporate professionals, while educating allies.

Twice as Hard: Navigating Black Stereotypes and Creating Space for Success, delves into branding, sponsorship, navigating white spaces, mentorship and mental health. It features the voices of more than 40 Black entrepreneurs across industries sharing lessons learned overcoming barriers, including Glenda McNeal, the first black woman on the American Express board, and India Gary-Martin, former Global Chief Operating Officer for Investment Banking Technology and Operations at J.P. Morgan. 

“The purpose of the book was two-fold,” Sofoluke says. “To provide readers with practical advice on how to develop personally and professionally, and to educate and inform allies about our experience so they can be more active and intentional allies.”

Allies may not always realize the depth and breadth of challenges for Black professionals, Sofoluke says. For example, code-switching, or putting a “socially accepted” version of yourself forward, is all too common for Black people, she says.

“Research shows that one in five Black women feel societal pressure to straighten their hair for work*,” Sofoluke says, “so it should come as no surprise that some Black women may think twice about how they show up at the office or on video calls. We shouldn’t have to worry about becoming the topic of conversation because of the way our hair is styled.”

To encourage workers to show up as their authentic selves, organizations, leaders and allies need to be supportive year round and not just during heritage months, she says. Recognize the impact of employee resource groups in empowering members of underrepresented communities and build a company culture where employees feel that they are seen, valued and respected.

“These shouldn’t be a nice-to-have,” she says. “They should be something we see as a key part of strategy when it comes to creating an inclusive workspace. It’s so important to create safe spaces to build connections. That sense of belonging is something we all need to continue to focus on.”

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