As Black History Month highlights the inequities that the workplace suffers from, including the C-suite status of Black women in business, with last year’s (2021) Fortune 500 List “breaking records” by citing 2 Black women CEOs among 41 females, we present ways to dismantle systemic racism- from the ground up.
1. Recognize biases
Biases have been taught and learnt through many mediums and we’re used to consuming from outside sources to obtain knowledge. Information ingrains itself within us, and it’s up to us to differentiate the validity of it through our own judgement. As we all strive to do better, it’s all about working as a team. So if a detrimental thought comes to mind because you are unconsciously attaching it to the colour of someone’s skin or ethnic background, capture this. Reflect on it and then take a more measured and logical approach as to your next steps. We have the autonomy to unlearn and discontinue narratives that are harmful.
2. Create a diverse workplace
This isn’t just down to HR and leaders, this also speaks to all other employees. Referrals are extremely effective; put your BIPoC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) friends, connections or acquaintances up for open vacancies in your workplace. Alternatively, if you see an opportunity to create a job due to a specific need, speak to your manager about it with a list of credible reasons for this position and why the person you have in mind is the perfect fit. Then help them prepare!
3. Be in allyship with peers
In many workplaces, the reality is that there are always fewer people of colour, and especially Black people, most notably in senior roles. This naturally adds an extra layer to a person’s feelings of not completely “fitting in” as there is less representation of themselves.
They may feel less inclined to speak up to share their ideas, or ask questions. It’s up to everyone to offer an open ear and help as required. Be someone who is viewed as approachable and non-judgemental. Give assistance by listening and putting heads together as to next steps in order to resolve if issues arise. Those who have been at the organization longer are of even greater help, due to a deeper understanding of the values and tapestry.
Great work is made when all minds come together in unity; resulting in hitting business goals and successful organizational and employee growth.
4. Be mindful of language
Language guidelines are crucial, and implementing the process during on boarding is the best way for employees to learn from the start. Using vocabulary that adheres to politically correct terms will not only benefit employees and clients, but the employer too, in being acknowledged as equal opportunities-driven with intent, rather than just lip service.
This relates to all types of linguistic terms: racial, pronouns-based, diversity and inclusion, disability community, age, appropriate formality and company-specific and industry jargon.
It doesn’t matter the size of the company, language guidelines are easy to construct and apply. ERGs (Employee Resource Groups), should be encouraged too for input- a simple Slack channel can be created for this in order to include any linguistic updates. Tap into your diverse and Gen Z employees who are usually at the forefront of being in the know with this!
5. Culture is built, not a given
Companies have a vision for their product, a business model that they follow; it’s not so clear cut when it comes to culture. There may be a goal in mind of a certain structure, but each employee has a different personality, works differently, thinks differently. We are not homogenous as a human race.
However, what is feasible with culture is how you build it, using tools and practises. There needs to be a direction on ways for authenticity, vulnerability and valuable work to arise. This can be initiated in many different forms, including: having a specific DEI specialist in-house, an expert in People & Culture, team attendance for DEI/ Work Culture speaker events, mentorship, formal DEI training, and even small gestures like celebrating cultural calendar dates; say a few words in the workplace channel so people feel seen and have a greater sense belonging.