A Commitment to Equity-Centered Community Involvement
by Siobhan Kenney
At Applied Materials, our community involvement is driven by the belief that equity-centered engagement will contribute to a more just, fair and humane world. We are committed to working collaboratively to address historical inequities and to learn from leaders who deeply understand issues we hope to help solve.
We believe that communities hold the knowledge to create solutions that build and support resilient, thriving neighborhoods and families. Our commitment is to be responsive to these voices; supporting efforts that address societal imbalances and provide access to resources and opportunities for local residents.
Our Company and its Foundation have a long history of philanthropic engagement based on Applied’s core value of Responsibility & Integrity with an emphasis on making a positive social contribution in communities where our employees work and live.
We are proud of this tradition and in the wake of the renewed racial justice movement in 2020, the Applied Materials Community Affairs team embarked on a year-long journey to evaluate our U.S.-based work in communities of color—communities that have too often been marginalized, systemically oppressed and silenced. We teamed with Frontline Solutions, a Black-owned consulting firm dedicated to making the world more just for all, to conduct an Equity Audit examining our personal beliefs as well as our work’s programs and practices. The goal was to identify and proactively address unintentional barriers arising from bias, norms or systemic structures.
As a group of primarily white-presenting women, we dedicated time to listening, learning and reflecting on issues of equity, prejudice, power and privilege. We worked individually and as a team to expand our world view to recognize and combat bias and support equity. We are fortunate to represent Applied Materials in our communities and understand the responsibility that comes with the role.
One component of our Equity Audit was a survey of recent grantees (thanks to all who participated!) to gather information about their organization and recommendations on how we might improve our programs and practices. Surfacing from the report was the need to center community-informed voices in our work and the concern that the majority of our grantee organizations interacting with communities of color are led by white executives. We fought through our discomfort with the discovery to more deeply understand the findings and their implications.
Based on the audit results and feedback provided by grantees and community leaders, we have taken initial steps to evolve our work including:
Grantmaking: We will assess how organizations include the voice of the community in the issue they seek to address. To better understand the profile of leaders and clients of organizations and to evaluate our commitment to equity, we will request disaggregated demographic data as part of our grant request process. We will also invite nonprofits to share how they incorporate lived experience into their own work. We will use this information to ensure we are funding organizations with the deep community trust required to achieve their goals. To increase transparency of our work, we will post grant recipients on our website beginning in early 2022.
Employee Engagement: We have historically prioritized employee volunteerism experiences with grantee organizations but will strive to expand opportunities to engage employees with high-impact nonprofits outside our network. We will work with community leaders and our Employee Resource Groups to identify organizations led by and serving people of color to promote a greater variety of volunteer and other community engagement opportunities.
Personal and Professional Development: We understand the work of centering equity in our community engagement is ongoing and we are committed to continuing to learn and grow—personally and professionally—as we align what matters to our employees and the community with who we are and what we stand for as a company. We will maintain internal team learning activities to address biases and norms that negatively impact communities and organizations of color so that decision-making structures and operations of the team are centered in equity.
Recognizing nonprofits are on their own Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging journeys, we will continue to award strategic grants to enhance professional development and help build the capacity of the nonprofits as they address DEIB within their organization.
At Applied Materials, we are committed to helping create and sustain vibrant, equitable communities in areas where the company is located and our employees work and live. We look forward to keeping you posted on our progress toward this important commitment in future blogs.