Mamadou Diallo is a refugee who left his home in Guinea over political strife for his membership in an opposing political party, “I had to leave the country not to be killed by security forces,” he says. Now Diallo can be found stocking up coffee or cleaning meeting rooms at WeWork’s office in New York City’s Time Square. He represents one of many refugees that WeWork has worked to take on over the previous year and they intend to hire many more as time goes on.
The company, which has locations in 73 cities, began working with refugees in a grassroots pilot project in early 2017, when employees in New York reached out to a local office of the International Rescue Committee to invite the nonprofit’s refugee clients to start applying for jobs. “Six months later, we had hired over 50 employees, and the pilot was so successful it actually started organically growing to Chicago and Boston,” says Mo Al-Shawaf, WeWork’s director of partnerships and special projects. By November, the company had decided to set a larger goal: Over the next five years, it will hire a total of 1,500 refugees.
WeWork has 5,500 employees now but is quickly growing, and has a similar commitment to hire 1,500 veterans. The numbers are targets that the company was confident it could meet. At the time it made the commitment to hire refugees, WeWork CEO Adam Neumann said that it wasn’t a political statement. WeWork had just seen that the pilot worked well, and saw the program as a way to help address a global problem.
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