This post draws heavily on the research of Jasmine Ali and Samiha Sharif, who created Diversio’s Black Lives Matter (BLM) toolkits.
It’s no secret that customers are increasingly looking to support ethical, anti-racist businesses. With 87% of consumers expecting businesses to address racial inequality, and 73% reporting they will stop purchasing from those that do not, taking a stance has become the standard. However, symbolic gestures are insufficient as 76% of millennials conduct follow up research to confirm whether a business is authentic in its commitments.
More importantly however, creating an anti-racist culture is the right thing to do. At Diversio, data analytics are used to help organizations measure, track and improve diversity and inclusion. The findings indicate that Black employees are 2.6X times less likely to feel like they are valued by their teams, and 2.7X times more likely than white employees to encounter harassment in the workplace. For Black women in particular, network development is a pain point, with 48% stating that they do not feel like they are receiving investment in their career growth at work. There are numerous important steps that can be taken at both the organizational and individual level to help foster a culture of allyship and reverse these trends for Black employees in the workplace.
How Organizations and Individual Employees Can Be Allies
It is a problematic misconception that creating an anti-racist culture should primarily be a job for BIPOC employees. Rather, employees of all backgrounds can commit themselves to becoming an ally. An ally is someone who is dedicated to eliminating anti-Black racism by consistently advocating on behalf of the Black community, helping to close the opportunity and pay gaps experienced by Black colleagues, and educating others in both personal and professional settings. At the organizational level, corporate allyship means clearly communicating a commitment against anti-Black racism, listening to the concerns of Black employees, and critically examining potential workplace pain points.
For employees, the steps to allyship can be broken down into three key themes: 1. learn, 2. take action and 3. acknowledge. First, it’s essential not to place the burden of educating individuals on Black employees. Allyship requires openness to learning about realities that one may not be aware of, and unlearning beliefs and practices that cause harm. Second, after educating oneself, individuals should take an action-oriented approach to address anti-Black racism and advocating for change. Not only does being action-oriented mean standing up for Black colleagues in the face of microaggressions, bullying, or harassment, but also proactively advocating for internal culture changes. Third, throughout the process of learning and taking action, acknowledging mistakes is also key. Given the existence of implicit and explicit biases, openness to feedback and taking responsibility for any previous conduct is the best way to make progress.
Beyond employees, organizations also have a responsibility to foster corporate allyship. To achieve this, organizations should first make diversity and inclusion (D&I) strategy a CEO priority and hold themselves publicly accountable. Internally, organizations should conduct regular reviews of D&I policies, and revise policies where necessary based on feedback. On public channels like social media, businesses can post annual D&I reports and investor reports to highlight progress. Taking these actions in tandem demonstrates to shareholders and customers a clear commitment to improving and iterating on their approach to D&I.
As the expression goes “what gets measured gets done”, and accordingly, organizations should also take a data-driven approach to D&I. Data is key to tracking workplace goals and identifying pain points for Black employees. For example, Diversio uses anonymous surveys and artificial intelligence to identify barriers faced by Black employees and other underrepresented groups on metrics like Culture, Bias and Harassment. Based on these barriers, it is then possible to identify and remove barriers from work allocation, managerial reviews, and promotional practices. Ultimately, using the data collected, organizations can develop specific, measurable interventions, such as adopting more equitable hiring and recruiting practices.
Finally, organizations should work to facilitate an open dialogue surrounding race and racism in the workplace. This includes both supporting existing conversations and starting new ones about race. It’s about listening to employees to understand different perspectives on improving workplace inclusivity. Simultaneously, it is imperative to encourage employees to reflect on how they can personally drive change to make the workplace anti-racist. Throughout this process executives need to establish an equitable, anti-retaliatory accountability process to ensure employees feel heard and valued.
Paving a Pathway to an Anti-Racist Future
Now more than ever, consumers expect companies to take a stand for racial equality and confront anti-Black racism and biases in their organizations. With an increasing number of organizations pledging to commit to diversity and inclusion, how companies proceed in this environment can have a substantial impact on the future of business. There is a general consensus that to be silent is to be complicit; however, merely expressing solidarity with the Black community is not enough as consumers now expect businesses to make tangible contributions. Above all, doing the right thing is the best course of action from both a moral and economic standpoint.