Ubuntu - my thoughts on recent events | Unit4
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Ubuntu - my thoughts on recent events

from  June 16, 2020 | 5 min read

I write these thoughts today, June 16th, as my country of birth remembers “Youth Day”. “It began as a protest, largely by students, over the government’s requirement that the Afrikaans language – the language of the white minority that ruled South Africa – be used for instruction in Soweto’s high schools, which were attended by Black Africans.”[1] Over 176 people were killed, including children. This event was the springboard for both protests by South Africans and “repression by the government across the country. The Soweto Uprising brought greater exposure to the South African government and its policy of apartheid.”[2] Eighteen years later, the 1994 South African general election on April 27, 1994 marked the official end of Apartheid. “Freedom Day” is now a public holiday to celebrate the anniversary of that election.

Also this week Juneteenth is an American holiday which celebrates the day - June 19, 1865 - in which the news of the Emancipation Proclamation and the ending of slavery in the U.S was shared with the last enslaved African Americans in Galveston, Texas (then a Confederate state). This occurred over two years after the original Emancipation Proclamation was issued on January 1, 1863 by Abraham Lincoln. The name “Juneteenth” is a portmanteau or linguistic blending of words of “June” and “nineteenth”.[3]

As many of you have witnessed in the global news or have seen in person in towns and cities across the US and around the world, the painful issue of racial inequality is stirring passions and emotions, having started with the death of George Floyd and escalating to rioting and demonstrations in many cities.

The problem of racial inequality is a human rights one, a societal one, a political one and sadly, a personal one. Having grown up in apartheid South Africa, I learned at an early age the importance of equality for people of every ethnicity, religion, and gender. That’s why my philosophy and that of our company, Unit4, is founded on the principles of global diversity and inclusion.

Ubuntu is an African word meaning “humanity to others”, it also means “I am what I am because of who we all are”. No company can exist in a vacuum. We are who we are because of the societies we operate in and our success means we all have to practice “Ubuntu”.

Nelson Mandela, a leader for whom I have immense respect, said, “For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for many of our fellow citizens in many parts of the world - discrimination and racism remain a global pandemic. As a company who believes in creating the best “people experience”, we need to help facilitate change as a community that stands side-by-side with each other, with our partners and customers. A community that celebrates a culture where everyone feels they belong – where they can walk freely in their towns and cities, congregate without fear of retribution and not be denied access to opportunities due to the color of their skin, choice of religion, gender or sexual orientation.

It’s people’s differences that underscore the promise of an extraordinary people experience. To that end, I ask that we recognize the pain and anger we are now seeing in many cities and black communities around the world.

Our journey to achieving equality and diversity remains long. We know from talking to many of our Unit4 team members that these are not isolated incidents, but something we all see and feel every day. Unit4 believes that communities work best when everyone is allowed to live free of fear and discrimination wherever they are in the world. As we work together to deliver technology that supports our customers in creating a better world, and a better way to work, we should be proud of the role we play in helping those organizations create opportunities for people in small towns, cities and countries around the globe.

Diversity. It is one of our core beliefs. But that’s not enough. We must continue to do more, to do better and to proactively create an inclusive environment for our people -- an environment that offers access, growth, equality, safety and an opportunity to do their best work, each and every day. Our people continue to support one another and recognize the pain, frustration and sadness that many of our colleagues, neighbors, family members and friends are feeling.

Being kind matters. Being human matters. Our core belief that we, as an organization, have to proactively take action on diversity and ensure all of our employees have equal opportunities to develop their careers and achieve extraordinary things at Unit4. That along with continuous diversity and anti-racism learning programs help to eliminate racism, discrimination, and unconscious bias in the workplace. The ability to be ourselves, to be different, and to shape a future for our children and their children which is free from any form of discrimination is critical.

This is not a time to remain silent and passive. No company exists in a vacuum... we are what we are because of who we all are – Ubuntu!

#BeKind #Equality #Ubuntu


[1] Amy McKenna, “The Soweto Uprising”. Brittanica.com

[2] Amy McKenna, “The Soweto Uprising”. Brittanica.com

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juneteenth

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Mike Ettling - Chief Executive Office at Unit4

Mike Ettling

I’m a CEO, Investor, builder of world class teams, champion of diversity and continuous learner, and I’m passionate about people. From my first leadership role in the Boy Scouts, to exec positions in the tech industry, my career has revolved around elevating, engaging and enabling people. I joined Unit4 to get the market as excited in our unique approach to enterprise tech as I am. We’re building systems that change how people experience work, and the impact will be huge.

Outside of work I’m a family man, a Liverpool supporter, and a proud South African.