By Jawaun Brown
Skyrocketing public and political support of the Black Lives Matter movement has created an urgent effort among companies to look inwards and ask themselves what they can do to be a part of the solution.
Corporate America’s acceptance of the decades-long status quo has suddenly become unacceptable. Furthermore, all of the biases that companies buried when they accepted business as usual are now bubbling up in broad daylight as the public scrutinizes their claims of supporting diversity and equality.
This tidal wave of new support for racial justice is bigger than corporate America, but if companies are sincerely committed, they can play critical role in bridging the diversity gap in the workplace, especially as it relates to their Black employees. Here are four ways that organizations can start creating a true and sustainable culture of inclusion:
1. Acknowledge that people bring their own cultures and beliefs to the workplace
Fortunately, this can help to foster a unique office culture. Unfortunately, this also means that we bring our prejudices to work. Since our biases affect the workplace, it’s important for employees and managers to confront their biases around hiring, promoting, training and keeping Black employees.
2. Create a space for reflection, as a company and among individuals
Companies and employees have to reflect on how they have failed to develop and maintain anti-racist workplaces. It is important to use this time to be honest with ourselves and others about the status quo until now. In acknowledging the ways in which we are complicit in perpetuating racism in the workplace and beyond, we can begin to identify opportunities for change. Maintaining honesty and empathy during these conversations will help companies to address systemic racism more efficiently and effectively.
3. Stop associating Blackness with inferiority
It is really important to deconstruct the myths that surround Black employees, in order to not associate our Black coworkers and leaders with inferior quality. We must dispose ourselves of the notion that creating space for more Black leadership, Black employees, and support for Black businesses will somehow compromise quality or value; this is about finding great people in the communities we’ve always ignored. One way to start creating richer, more diverse hiring pipeline is to offer opportunities for employees to volunteer in communities of color to help create a richer, more diverse candidate pipeline down the road. Companies also can partner with local affinity groups at colleges. Recruiting from Black student unions on campuses is a great way for your organization to find and recruit talent.
4. Keep listening to and supporting your workforce and monitor progress
Reach out to employees of color with messages of support, and offer health and wellness resources that can ease their particular stresses. Consider implicit bias assessments and workshops for both managers/employees. Then keep learning and doing. Keep metrics on retention, satisfaction and hiring/promotion of employees of color. Discuss forming ERGs (Employee Resource Groups) within your organization to support employee from different communities.
Whatever we do to address these issues in our organizations, we must do it continually and consistently, because striving to make the world a better place is an ongoing effort, and because systemic racism is a deep wound in America—past and present. Such deep wounds require ongoing treatments, not only to repair the old wounds that have not yet healed, but to prevent further damage and to make sure that they don’t resurface once our attention is drawn elsewhere.
It is critical that companies use this moment in time to reflect on, reimagine and reform their organizations in way that helps to dismantle systemic racism. Taking the first steps may be a bit hard, and there will probably be a lot of bumps on the road. That being said, if companies commit to fighting racism on the inside, we will all reap the benefits of living in a world that is safer, fairer, healthier, wealthier and more just than the world we live in today.
–Jawaun Brown is a Software Engineer at CultureIQ