Five tips for promoting racial equality in the workplace

Diversity and Inclusion is no longer confined to discussions in HR meetings, in 2020 it has become part of mainstream conversation. Triggered by the murder of George Floyd in the US and the Black Lives Matter movement, the discourse has become important both in and out of the workplace. Whilst people have become more “woke” to racial inequalities in their personal lives, the impact on business itself cannot be ignored. Despite the likes of McKinsey and Harvard Business Review proving that having more diverse and representative teams enhances and increases creativity, innovation and in-turn profits, there still remains a lack of representation of minority groups within the workplace. The events of this year may have caused you to review your internal policies, issue a public statement or even post a black square on Instagram but the topic of racial equality is a complex and at times overwhelming one so you may have paused efforts or simply feel stuck with real actionable steps to take. Ana Addai and Ann Marie Clarke from Inclusive Consultancy share five tips to support businesses with championing equality in the workplace.

1. Build diversity from the inside out through self-awareness

When starting to think about Diversity and Inclusion the first thing people tend to do is think about “others” and what they can do to help people who are different to them. However, the process begins with a personal journey. You have to be committed to being open with yourself, your thought processes and identifying personal biases. Bias is something that we all have, we all discriminate yet , often without even realising that we’re doing it. How we view the world and other people has been shaped by stereotypes that already exist in the society into which we were born and all of our life experiences. We must be willing to look outside of ourselves and understand that many other people have had different experiences, simply because of the colour of their skin, their sexual orientation, or their socio-economic background, for example. Championing equality requires consistent and conscious effort and once you start to see the world through the lens of inclusion it will affect your whole life.

2. Educate yourself - Knowledge is power

The best way of understanding the experience of underrepresented groups is by learning about their culture and life experiences. The more we learn about things that differ to our own experiences, the more we are able to identify our own biases and blindspots. In our line of work, we teach people about Diversity and Inclusion principles and how to use their own bias and privilege to advocate for underrepresented groups and advance equality. We’ve seen this approach transform thinking and identify moments for people to build new habits, which when put into action, support honest and frank conversations leading to a more inclusive work environment.

As a starting point see below for suggested resources that can help to frame your education on anti-racism.

What to Read:

How to be an Anti-Racist by Ibram X Kendi
Brit(ish) by Afua Hirsch
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo

What to Watch:

From Slavery to Windrush: My Family’s Story,  a BBC documentary exploring British-Jamaican heritage and the connection to the Windrush generation.
13th, a Netflix documentary exposing racial inequality within the US criminal justice system
TED Talk: How To Deconstruct Racism, One Headline at a Time

3. Make a commitment to see long-lasting change

Making a commitment is essential to seeing lasting change. Knowing something needs to be done is great, however there is a need for your commitment to be coupled with intention and action. If this vision of change is not clearly defined and transparent then the Diversity and Inclusion initiative will be perceived as a “nice to have” effort rather than a business imperative. A solid commitment like making a pledge or setting a specific target supported by senior leadership, helps all organization stakeholders buy-in and become actively involved in building equity and Diversity and Inclusion success, shifting the narrative from lacklustre rhetoric to real steps towards equality.

4. Organised success - Lay out a realistic, measurable time-specific plan

Strategic planning is a crucial step to creating a culture of inclusion and belonging. We encourage businesses to create a well-articulated vision, identify specific goals and marry them with initiatives that support those goals. Simply prioritising the actions that will have the biggest impact will ensure an effective plan. A “first things first” approach in this case allows you to be driven by the principles valued the most but also the ones that are most impactful.
This work does not come with overnight success, however, being aware of the things you could do today that require minimal resources to execute is pivotal to using your time more effectively. The next part is laying out the process to track and measure success. This coupled with a clear road map, driven by prioritization, partnership and most importantly accountability gives a framework for creating a positive impact.

5. Be an Ally in Action

Recognising that your voice, action and support is vital to showing those in minority groups that you care is the unspoken theme, motivation and the reason many of us choose to push the agenda of Diversity and Inclusion forward. Solidarity can take many forms, checking in on a friend or colleague who may fall into marginalised groups is a great start, cultivating a compassionate culture will make the journey to inclusion that much easier. Following on from compassion is your advocacy. Advocating for a person or business that falls into an underrepresented group by promoting their skills, products or services is essential and valuable to seeing that person or business grow. A recent article by Sifted states that “Black companies face underlying vulnerabilities, including having significantly less access to capital and venture capital investment.” and a report conducted by Diversity VC and RateMyInvestor found that “less than 1% of venture capital is invested in black businesses in the US and the number for the UK is no better.”
Lastly, underrepresented groups often struggle to progress their careers due to bias. A good way to tackle this is through implementing mentorship and sponsorship programmes. You can help by introducing colleagues to influential people in your network. And if you’re in a more senior position, you can use your influence to advocate for your mentee. Sponsorship is a great way to pay it forward. A moment of mentorship can lead to a lifetime of impact.

Organisations to support:
The Black Curriculum
Black Minds Matter
Black Pound Day

Achieving lasting change, fostering diversity and inclusion and building equity will not happen overnight. However, we urge individuals and businesses to strive to affect change. Let’s not wait for another catastrophic event to awaken our dismay towards racial injustice. The time is now, and we all need to do our part.

To find out more about Inclusive Consultancy’s Diversity and Inclusion solutions, check out our services to see how we can support you and your organisation and for more practical tips on how to be a champion for equality follow @inclusiveconsultancy on Instagram, LinkedIn and Pinterest.

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