Yesterday, I published an Op-Ed in Fortune about the importance of civic engagement and what we are doing to foster it at Convercent. Here on our own blog, I wanted to shed more light on why this subject is so important.
Elections matter. They have consequences and impact. Today’s outcome will have an impact for decades. And as the CEO of a company whose mission is to drive ethics to the center of business, I have felt a heightened sense of responsibility to do all I can to engage our team in this election. Gone are the days when a company’s success is evaluated solely on financial performance. We are increasingly expected to make a positive impact as well. Whether you call it “CEO activism” or simply a basic social conscience, in recent years we’ve seen a strong push for CEOs to engage with and speak out on important social issues. Leaders of major companies are doing just that – even at the risk of major profit loss (Ed Bastian, Chip Bergh).
I came face to face with this challenge last June when I sat down for an interview with Fortune Senior Special Correspondent Susie Gharib to talk about the core mission of Convercent. Near the end of the interview, she referenced changing expectations for corporate leaders, and asked what societal issues I personally take a stand on. I wasn’t prepared for the question, and completely failed at the answer. On the plane home, I replayed it over in my head – why did I sound like an overly rehearsed executive instead of the passionate, issue-driven leader that I am? Until that interview, I didn’t fully realize that the work that I was doing to promote civic engagement was taking a stand, and an incredibly important one at that.
The value of civic engagement was instilled in me at an early age by my parents. My mother grew up in post-World War II Germany, and her extended family was separated on either side of the Berlin Wall. Passing through “Checkpoint Charlie” while visiting East Berlin as a child, I witnessed the stark differences between the two sides of the Iron Curtain: freedom on one side, fear on the other. Being activated in support of Desert Storm as a young adult took this perspective a step further. Watching the real-world consequences of policies being debated at home and on TV play out in front of me, I knew democracy didn’t really work unless we actively participated in it.
Although midterm elections are often overlooked, I knew this election season could not be. It’s why I decided to implement a civic engagement program at Convercent, designed to bring candidates running for statewide office to our office and facilitate important conversations on the issues that matter to our employees. Not just feel-good slogans, but action. We were the only company in Colorado to host all four major candidates for Governor and Attorney General in individual 45 min Q&A that respectfully, but directly touched on most of the key issues in today’s election. Our company also joined over 300 American companies in signing the Time to Vote pledge, guaranteeing paid time off for employees to vote.
This Op-Ed and the visits from candidates at Convercent HQ this year are not a one-time thing. Moving forward, I’m committed to seeking out opportunities for us to get involved and continuing to engage with the people and issues at stake in each election. Hope you are as excited as I am.