At COTA, we take pride in being a safe, inclusive company where CO10s can openly share their ideas and opinions. In an effort to ensure we are successful in our mission, we established our Diversity and Inclusion Committee. Within the Diversity and Inclusion Committee is the Programming and Employee Life Group, which works to provide activities and enhance employee life. This group was first formed in 2017 as a result of an employee-led, company-wide survey that indicated employees wanted more conversation and action around supporting diversity at COTA.
In April, COTA’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee recognized National Celebrate Diversity Month. In addition to encouraging conversation, the Committee organized four in-office voluntary activities, including a film screening, diversity trivia, highlighted snacks from around the world, and hosted a mix it up lunch, in an effort to get to know each team member better. On the heels of this celebratory month, COTA celebrated Pride Month in June with the same enthusiasm.
One person in particular - Stephen Jakubowicz, a Manager at COTA, Inc. - is the heart and soul behind the Diversity and Inclusion Committee. Stephen has been the point person for this group, helping to advance the Committee's important agenda and initiatives.
“Our mission for Diversity & Inclusion initiatives at COTA is to cultivate a culture in which every employee feels safe, comfortable, represented and valued. Beyond diversity and inclusion, we seek out justice and equality; this manifests in a multitude of different ways. We have focused on community sponsorship and engagement, developing employee events and programming that promote education and dialogue, as well as focusing on actively seeking out, not just welcoming, a diverse workforce. We strive to promote awareness, education, and change. We've been so thrilled to see so much interest, engagement, and appreciation of this work at COTA, and Diversity & Inclusion really has become a core part of our DNA.”
- Stephen Jakubowicz
Each June, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ+) Pride Month is celebrated to honor the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan, NY. Today, celebrations include pride parades, parties, workshops, symposia and concerts – and these events attract millions of participants from around the world. During Pride Month, COTA held a daily standup every morning, led by the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, to share a pride fact or a story of someone who had an influence on the LGBTQ+ community. All CO10s, from C-suite executives to interns, participated in this daily event.
These facts fueled discussion and conversation among CO10s, some of whom were educated on these topics for the first time, and others who were able to bring their own perspective as a member of the LGBTQ+ community to the conversation For instance, did you know that...
Have you ever had a rainbow bagel from The Bagel Store in Brooklyn, NY? Supporting a local business, COTA kicked off pride month with three dozen bagels for the office. These bagels are only available in June to draw attention to Pride and show solidarity with members of the LGBTQ+ community.
In June, members of the COTA team also participated in the NYC Pride Run through Central Park. Not only did the COTA team and other participants dress up, but the race also broke a Guinness world record for Largest Pride Charity Run. All proceeds raised for this run were donated to the The Trevor Project, which is a national organization that provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ+ youth.
As you may have seen, COTA unveiled a new brand this spring. The first piece of swag to feature COTA’s new logo was tied to Pride Month, designed by the Diversity and Inclusion Committee.
Once the design was created and ordered, CO10s were asked to donate to The Trevor Project to show solidarity to the LGBTQ+ youth. Once the donations were collected, COTA matched the amount, resulting in nearly $2,000 in donations.
“I love working at COTA and one of the reasons I find it exciting is because we are given the opportunity, through the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, to have the freedom to determine the fabric of our employee engagement and to work across different teams to enrich programming for all employees.” - Emily Di Capua, Vice President of Strategic Initiatives and a founding member of COTA’s diversity and inclusion program.
Beyond our activities to support Pride, COTA is committed to supporting diversity of all kinds in the workplace and is actively working to reduce discrimination. Most recently we were one of 206 major corporations to sign a “friend of the court” brief filed in a trio of landmark SCOTUS cases that could determine whether LGBTQ people are protected from discrimination in contexts ranging from employment to housing, healthcare, and education.
Organized by a coalition of LGBTQ+ civil rights organizations, including the Human Rights Campaign, Lambda Legal, Out Leadership, Out and Equal, and Freedom for All Americans, the brief sends a message to the U.S. Supreme Court stating that corporate America believes LGBTQ people should be protected from discrimination. This landmark brief has more corporate signers than any previous business brief in an LGBTQ non-discrimination case, proving that the signers are interested in preserving protections for their LGBTQ employees, family members of employees, and customers.
“Ending discrimination in the workplace is good for business, employees and the US economy as a whole. No one should be passed over for a job, paid less, fired or subject to harassment or any other form of discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. COTA is committed to creating a workplace that affords LGBTQ+ employees the opportunity to earn a living, excel in their profession and provide for their families without fear of unequal treatment. When a workplace is free from discrimination against LBGT employees, everyone can do their best work which is a substantial benefit for both COTA and its employees!” - Elizabeth Rushforth, Chief Legal Officer at COTA.
Although Pride Month is over, the need for acceptance and inclusion continues today and every day. To ensure we are doing everything possible at COTA, our Diversity & Inclusion Committee will stay vigilant in promoting a safe and inclusive workspace, stay tuned for more highlights on future initiatives on our blog. You can also follow us on Instagram for live updates of company events and activities.