Diversity and inclusion programs have become part of the standard corporate lexicon. While each company might be in a different spot in its process, now is a great time to kick these efforts into high gear. The U.S. just wrapped up Pride month and shedding a spotlight on the LGBTQ+ community, and national protests and public discussion on police brutality have mega-amplified the longtime needs to improve conditions for Black Americans.
Corporate leaders can’t solve systemic racism overnight, and no one has all the answers, but it’s important to lead with empathy and genuinely engage audiences (internal and external) to start building a more diverse and inclusive future.
1. Understand the challenges faced by certain groups
Employment is one way enormously impactful way to combat social injustice, which is why it’s crucial for companies to have these conversations.
Each month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases employment data, including unemployment numbers by demographic. The coronavirus pandemic – and gradual recovery happening in some states – did not impact everyone equally, especially when they didn’t start off on equal footing.
March 2020 unemployment by demographic:
- Adult men: 4%
- Adult women: 4%
- Whites: 4%
- Blacks: 6.7%
- Asians: 4.1%
- Hispanic or Latino: 6%
April 2020 unemployment by demographic:
- Adult men: 13%
- Adult women: 15.5%
- Whites: 14.2%
- Blacks: 16.7%
- Asians: 14.5%
- Hispanic or Latino: 18.9%
May 2020 unemployment by demographic:
- Adult men: 11.6%
- Adult women: 13.9%
- Whites: 12.4%
- Blacks: 16.8%
- Asians: 15%
- Hispanic or Latino: 17.6%
2. Examine your team for gaps in perspectives
Everyone will be at different levels of decision making and influence, but the first step is to look at your team, at your leadership and notice – who is making decisions? Do you have a variety of perspectives on your own team? Who is being placed in positions of power? Maybe you have the ability to recruit for a position, or place a role, that significantly influences an organization, or you have a strong relationship with your boss and can suggest hiring new team members or working with new vendors, or you oversee the hiring for your company and can make systemic changes. Take stock of how you can work to improve diversity on your own team, across race, gender identity and experiences.
3. Be intentional in finding and hiring diverse candidates
There are millions of qualified workers who represent many cultural and social identities, as well as professional organizations and resources to connect to these candidates. If your company is hiring, or a promotion is opening up, actively consider how you can widen the scope of applicants and make sure you’re trying new strategies to increase diversity in your organization.
4. Establish employee resource groups
Involve your team. Don’t just invite them to the table – take measures to intentionally hear their voices and take their feedback to heart. Send a call to action companywide, and invite employees to self-select to come together and continuously make recommendations for improving your workplace culture. No leader is going to have all the answers, and if your team is leading the effort to make improvements, policies and changes will be authentic and – potentially – more effective.
5. Acknowledge and celebrate recognition days and months
Use these moments to spotlight important history and accomplishments. For example, you should uplift members of the LGBTQ+ community year-round, but Pride is the time to build on commitments, recognize historical significance and celebrate progress. Think about Black History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, International Women’s Day, and Asian-American and Pacific Islander Month, among others. How can you unite your team around learning about and supporting experiences that are often underrepresented or underprioritized? Your company should think about donations, volunteer time, books and movies to consume, educational opportunities, and public presence, like the company blog and social media.
6. Organize and host panels and trainings
External professionals who specialize in diversity and inclusion in the workplace can help your teams have complicated, tough conversations focused on improving the overall office environment. These can include sensitivity trainings, understanding and managing biases, or interactive exercises. Consider conducting these on a regular basis and routinely soliciting feedback each time.
7. Support causes and organizations
Encourage your staff to volunteer, donate to nonprofits and other community improvement groups, hold fun team challenges to raise awareness – get creative! Ask for input from your team, as well as HR, and explore the resources you have to invest in and give back to the communities where your employees live and work.
8. Balance diversity in your external outreach
Who represents your company during interviews and in the media? Who is profiled on your blog or social media accounts? We know that, sometimes, it’s whoever is available and willing to take on extra tasks or be publicly visible. But take the extra time to make sure your external voice is balanced and includes diverse backgrounds and viewpoints. And if your team is strapped for time, resources and willingness, partner with other teams and organizations to ensure a balance of representation.