My Tipping Point

Like many of you, I have been following the tragic news of the recent murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor.

June 9, 2020


Photo by Max Bender on Unsplash

The following article was written by Webcor President and CEO Jes Pedersen. Read the article in its original form on LinkedIn.

Like many of you, I have been following the tragic news of the recent murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor. I am deeply saddened and angered by the continued inequalities Black people face in our nation. During these past two weeks, I have been listening to the voices of protesters, leaders of social movements, my family, and Webcor employees.  

Some may argue this is a partisan political issue. It is not. Racism and injustice hold us all back. Yet, we know this inability to recognize the humanity of Black people is pervasive in every corner of our society.  

I’m continuing to process but have concluded a few things: This is not a time for silence, nor is it the time for absence. It is a time to take an active stand against racism and the brutality against Black lives. Webcor stands in solidarity with this movement against white supremacy, police brutality, and institutional racism.  

One of the questions I have been wrestling with is: Why now? Racial inequality is, after all, America's longest running social issue. When George Floyd died with a policeman's knee on his neck, my eyes finally opened. I began wondering: When is enough enough? When do we become bold enough, as individuals and as a company, to truly address racism? By ticking the usual diversity and inclusion check boxes and doing nothing more, we are failing to honor our values. That is not acceptable.  

This is my tipping point – silence and inaction are no longer options.  

As a leader, I am fully committed to providing the resources needed to effect meaningful change and redefine what it means to "build solutions" in the construction industry. I will listen, educate, reflect, and act in order to truly build solutions that better lives. After all, this is Webcor’s purpose. What has become evident in the wake of George Floyd's murder and the ensuing widespread protests is that simply holding these beliefs will not loosen the grip of systemic oppression in this country. Webcor must take a stand and take action. Making the systemic changes needed to dismantle centuries of institutionalized racism will require continuous hard work beyond the reach of Webcor. However, I firmly believe we can apply the lessons learned in this community to the actions we all need to take. We must learn together and act together – standing by those in our African-American community.  

I cannot understate the role of white people in this movement, especially white men like me. The undeniable reality is that white men like me hold most of the nation's positions of power. We need to confront this reality and decide how we can act to create change.

I implore all of us, in the construction industry especially, to speak up and acknowledge the travesty of racial injustice in America.  

Building greater empathy, exposing our vulnerabilities, and learning more about one another as people is the first step we will take at Webcor. On Thursday, we will begin a conversation with the goal of understanding each of our individual situations. While we focus on race, having these conversations will benefit people of color along with those who feel oppressed due to their gender, their faith, their nation of origin, or their sexual orientation. We will take what we learn from this conversation and develop a formal plan that we will announce to everyone within 90 days.  

Ultimately, this long-term roadmap for tackling racial bias within Webcor will bake a new reality into our company DNA, one in which we check our biases and take all steps necessary to ensure that any discrimination is being handled effectively.  

I will continue to educate myself through all available sources, including you. If you have stories and experiences to share that can help me learn, I urge you to share them if you are comfortable doing so.  

I don't have answers. At this point, I need to learn what the questions are so we can take firm, meaningful action as a company. I do not yet know what that action will look like. However, I am certain we will reach those answers together and put the days of inaction and silence behind us.