Abby West, Senior Manager of Editorial, and Yvonne Durant, Customer Service Copywriter, co-founded Audible’s Black Employee Network (BEN), when they “heard from many employees around the company that there was a desire for a community for Black employees and allies,” Abby explains.
Abby and Yvonne, both of whom joined Audible in the past two years, had also spoken to each other about wanting to elevate diverse Black voices and authors on Audible. They decided to lead the charge, officially founding BEN as one of Audible’s employee-led Spectrum and Belonging impact groups in spring of 2019.
Yvonne, who says she has been “blown away by the diversity” at Audible from her first day here, points out that one third of employees who initially signed up for BEN were not Black. “We have allies who are curious, who want to ask ‘What are your issues? What can I learn from you?’”
The enthusiastic response from employees and leadership, both Yvonne and Abby say, reflects Audible’s culture. “It’s been a warm and engaging welcome” from leaders such as Audible’s Chief Financial Officer Cynthia Chu, who is BEN’s Executive Sponsor, and Chief People Officer Anne Erni, in addition to the Spectrum and Belonging team, the other impact groups and employees excited to get involved.
With goals like creating community through creative, educational and entertaining programming, such as speaker events and workshops, and influencing and elevating voices of Black writers and creators through Audible’s content, Abby says she hopes the group will positively impact not only employees and the company at-large, but our listeners. “We’re gearing up something new, and it’s exciting.”
This past February alone BEN hosted events for employees including a conversation with Dr. Christian Gregory about his father Dick Gregory’s memoir, being offered for the first time on audio, and a discussion with Robyn Crawford, author of Song for you: My Life with Whitney Houston, about the power of owning your narrative. BEN also curated a pop-up exhibit of Black writers at Audible’s Newark headquarters.
“Whether you want to create an organization or just an event for something important to you that you think would benefit the employee base, the resources are here,” Abby says.
“You can make change by being part of [the] community,” whether that’s the Audible community or serving our Newark neighborhood, says Yvonne, who learned this early in life from her mother, who was active in the Civil Rights movement.
Abby agrees: “There’s something each of us can engage in or create within Audible.”