Empowering the next generation to realize their potential through the power of music, technology, and service is one of the driving tenets behind everything we do at HARMAN. Through our global cause program, HARMAN Inspired, we collaborate with leading nonprofit organizations that are focused on providing individuals from all background the opportunity to learn science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) skills as well as foster their creativity through music education. Together with our longtime partners at 1,000 Dreams Fund, HARMAN has been helping young women achieve their aspirations in STEAM industries through programs like the New Face of Tech campaign. Since launching in 2017, over $16,000 have been granted in scholarships to inspire young women across the U.S. to pursue their professional and personal dreams.
In preparation for the fourth edition of the New Face of Tech campaign, we spoke with Annette DiBenedetto, Global Lead of Corporate Affairs & Sustainability Engagement at HARMAN, and Christie Garton, Founder of 1,000 Dreams Fund, about the importance of corporate citizenship and supporting women in STEAM….
Q: Corporate citizenship is a crucial tenet at companies like HARMAN globally. But in these uncertain times, why is it important to keep our focus on this?
Annette DiBenedetto: The COVID-19 pandemic has strengthened our focus on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), and has inspired greater momentum toward achieving new goals with our diverse stakeholders. Our leadership team was primarily concerned with how to keep our employees safe while also considering how we can help support our communities through this crisis. In our global and connected world, we have an economic and ecological responsibility to address challenges related to climate change, access to water, the circular economy, labor conditions, and human rights, among others.
This pandemic brings the global causes we all care about to the forefront. While we’ve had to pause some of our voluntary community building outreach efforts, the momentum to address corporate citizenship has not slowed down, but rather pivoted. Corporate citizenship is about protecting employees, creating solutions to support underserved communities and strengthening performance across contingency planning that impacts Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) matters. Philanthropically, HARMAN’s approach was to ensure that access to Science, Education, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM) education and music education continued.
Christie Garton: Our students need support now more than ever. At 1,000 Dreams Fund, we’re witnessing a 30-50% increase in applications to our scholarship programs this year. And, we expect to see the same level of interest in our forthcoming launch of the New Face of Tech scholarship program. Funding, mentorship, and resources – the three main things 1DF provides the young women we serve – are critical during these difficult times for families and students.
Q: For readers who may be less familiar with the citizenship efforts at HARMAN, can you share some more details about our Global Purpose and Sustainability efforts?
AD: In the past, corporate citizenship at HARMAN was thought of as community volunteerism and activation. However, its meaning has evolved over time among customers, consumers, and professionals, and it was critical for HARMAN to also evolve to meet and exceed their expectations. Global Purpose and Sustainability (GPS) truly aligns to our technology business and commitment to music education and is the driving force behind HARMAN Inspired, our global cause platform. Through HARMAN Inspired, we work closely with our global nonprofit partners to help make a measureable difference. Together, we have impacted over 1 million students through scholarships, offering free music education tools, instrument donations, and more. Our global purpose is positioned to create sustainability not only through improving our environmental and governance footprint, but also through making a difference in the lives of those in need.
Q: Annette, you’re also involved in HARMAN’s sustainability efforts across areas like manufacturing. What are some of the initiatives underway that you are most excited about?
AD: I’m so excited to say that our leadership team is committed to ensuring sustainability is part of our overall governance and strategic planning. We established two work streams, led by Senior Leadership Committee members, which are focused on how we can strengthen our supply chain processes and evaluate our energy opportunities to further impact our top- and bottom-line. Sustainability is not something that will happen overnight, but HARMAN is committed for the long-haul. I look forward to hearing our leadership talk more about Harman’s commitment to driving sustainability through all facets of the organization.
Q: What are some of your proudest moments from your time working on HARMAN’s GPS program?
AD: HARMAN Inspired funds a program called Jam Zone, created by our partners at Little Kids Rock. The format is a non-tradition way of learning how to play instruments online. While this helps provide wider access to educational tools and resources, our students still need the instruments to practice on, and that’s where we come in. Earlier this year, I visited an underserved school in Harlem, New York where HARMAN and Little Kids Rock donated new musical instruments. At this school, 90% of the students live in temporary housing, government-funded housing, or are in foster care and I was greeted by armed police officers before being escorted to the music room. It was an incredibly humbling experience to be able to unveil the new instruments for the students – one of them even picked up the guitar, marveling that it “has all of its strings!” Our JBL brand and global ambassadors have also been making an incredible impact at schools across the U.S. by donating headphones to students in need to assist with virtual learning. We also recently hosted a Buy One, Give One headphone campaign, and have so much more planned for the rest of the year!
Q: Speaking of looking ahead – it’s almost time to kick of the fourth edition of HARMAN and the 1,000 Dreams Fund’s New Face of Tech campaign. What can you tell us about the program and how those interested can get involved?
CG: Over the last four years, HARMAN has been an incredible partner to 1DF in our quest to help level the playing field for women pursuing careers in STEAM fields. With HARMAN’s support through the New Face of Tech program, we are able to provide critical funding to help fuel our scholarship winners’ education and dreams along with game-changing one-on-one career coaching sessions with HARMAN professionals. Even more exciting as we get set to launch our fourth edition (with even more scholarships offered!) is the work we are doing with HARMAN to help build a pipeline of employment opportunities for all program applicants interested in tech careers – not just our winners.
HARMAN has long been dedicated to ensuring that the communities where we live and work thrive by providing access to the education and opportunities to reach their potential. By helping the next generation learn critical STEAM skills, we’re opening their eyes to potential careers and new pathways they might not have considered otherwise. Stay tuned for HARMAN’s Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn for more details about the fourth edition of the New Face of Tech campaign and to learn more about HARMAN Inspired, visit: https://www.harman.com/inspired