2020 brought home the realization that racial equity needs our immediate and sustained attention. The killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless other the black people shook the world and reminded us that we can never become complacent in our efforts to rectify years of institutionalized racism.
Due to the horrendous history of slavery, Jim Crow, and racial injustice in the United States, it is hard to name a system in our country that has not been afflicted by the racism. From educational systems to our housing systems, eradicating racism requires intentional and continuous efforts.
Workplaces are not immune to racial inequity. In fact, the workplace is susceptible to various forms of racial injustice. From hiring to promoting to terminating employees, it is important that employers understand how implicit and non-implicit bias can affect their decision-making processes.
With this reality, it is incumbent upon c-suite executives and people leaders to continually create safe, anti-racist spaces for all employees, with the ultimate goal of creating a workplace that is truly equitable in hiring, promoting, and retaining black talent.
During the summer of 2020, companies from a wide-range of industries affirmed that “Black Lives Matter. Countless CEOs from various sectors vowed to devote their time and resources to making the world a more equitable place for black people. As we enter into a New Year, organizations are setting their priorities and affirming their business commitments to the markets that they serve. During this period of setting new goals, it is an opportune time for companies to assess their commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and make resolutions to execute these commitments.
Here are three New Year’s resolutions that people leaders and c-suite executives can implement within their organizations as a step towards eradicating racial inequity in the workplace.
Throughout the year, facilitate conversations about racial equity at work and encourage participation from all employees.
Conversations about race in the workplace should not only occur during implicit bias trainings or Black History Month. Create spaces for productive conversations about race to occur throughout the year. Having a continuous dialogue about race, in which all employees participate, can go a long way to creating more racial understanding in the workplace.
I cannot count the number of workplace diversity conferences that I have attended that have glossed over race as an issue in the workplace. As an African American woman who has worked in several corporate settings, this was offensive. As an employment attorney who understands how unaddressed workplace racial issues turn into lawsuits, this was negligent.
There is no doubt that talking about race is uncomfortable, but corporations must tackle this discomfort head-on. People leaders are not necessarily skilled in talking about race. Accordingly, this brings me to my next suggestion; hire experts who can facilitate conversations about race in an educated, genuine, and sensitive manner.
Having conversations about race should be done in a way that is timely and informed. As an undergraduate, I majored in government and African American studies. This field of study allowed me to understand the unique history that informs race relations in America.
Carefully select expert facilitators who understand the history of race relations in the United States.
Race is a complicated subject. However, deciding to accept this reality and host sustained dialogue to tackle the subject is not complicated. I spent years studying race as a college student, law student, and now, as an attorney.
People leaders are given so many tasks to master-employment law compliance, performance management, onboarding, and the list goes on. Giving these leaders the job of managing conversations about race in the workplace is a herculean feat that they should not undertake without proper training. It does a disservice to your organization to fail to invest in skilled facilitators who can speak about these issues with the requisite knowledge and care.
Encourage fun, educational activities for employees centered on studying the diverse experiences of black people.
There’s no doubt that creating a more equitable workplace is hard work. However, this work does not have to be arduous. Making the journey into building a more racially equitable workplace can and should be exciting and inspiring.
A way to make this journey fun is to create new, educational opportunities, in which everyone in the workplace can take part. One suggestion is to host a book club that meets at lunchtime, which discusses a book from a different black author every month. An activity like this will not only introduce your team to diverse viewpoints, but it will allow employees to have the shared bond of reading a new book together. This shared experience will ultimately build genuine, organic connections, which will in turn, foster a better workplace culture.
The road to equity and inclusion is not a destination, but a journey. Setting actionable resolutions is a necessary and prudent step to making true racial equity in your organization a reality.