In response to systemic racism, police brutality and the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and many other Black people, APS leadership began an open dialogue with employees. APS sought to further support employees and provide actionable ways to address racism and influence change.
On June 10, 2020, APS closed for business to stand in solidarity with the Black community. #ShutDownSTEM and other similar campaigns called for individuals to act to eradicate systemic racism and oppression, especially in science and academia. Employees were asked to use the day off to reflect, to use their voice, to take action, to grieve for all those who have been treated unfairly and unjustly, and to commit to bringing about long-lasting, transformational change. To foster ideas and create open dialogue internally, employees were encouraged to share stories of how they planned to spend the day through our communication platforms.
In 2020, also in response to systemic racism, police brutality, and in support of Black Lives Matter protests, APS created a volunteer leave program to encourage employees to give back to our communities. Employees are encouraged to use volunteer leave to participate in anti-racism events, to volunteer for community action programs, or to learn how to become better allies in our communities.
Employee feedback has been extremely positive for both of these leave initiatives. Employees shared stories of how they spent their day supporting #ShutDownSTEM on internal communication platforms, amplifying the ways employees took action or educated themselves on becoming better allies. 39% of staff took volunteer leave in 2020, and this benefit is being offered again in 2021. APS will continue to encourage employees to utilize this leave to support racial justice issues or other volunteerism close to their hearts.
Diversity, inclusion and respect are core values of the American Physical Society. They are critical for social justice and essential to advance science itself. With the world facing so many challenges, we need all hands on deck, irrespective of their race or ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, religion or national origin, or physical or intellectual ability. I believe, as does the American Physical Society, that the great diversity of the United States represents one of the nation's greatest strengths, and that by seriously listening to and respecting each other, we will build a better world.