If you've been paying attention to the news recently, you likely have noticed a sharp rise in Anti-Asian racism. Members of the Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities have been vocal in bringing awareness to the heightened racial discrimination they have faced since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, which, in some cases, have had tragic consequences.
If you are not a member of the Asian-American community, you might feel powerless– as if you have no say in the matter. It's easy to believe that your actions aren't effective and cannot lend support to your colleagues and friends from the Asian-American community. But that is not the case– in reality, there are a number of actions you can take against Asian hate that can have real impact, in both your professional and personal life.
Acknowledge the problem
Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, you should recognize that anti-Asian discrimination is a real problem, and that its effects are on par with some of the more visible forms of racism in America. There is a long history of anti-Asian discrimination in the US, dating back more than a century, and this has recently been heightened by the irresponsible comments of some politicians.
Nevertheless, many people are still in denial. Some commentators– even in the mainstream media– continue to perpetrate the Model Minority Myth, which points to the fact that Asian-Americans are wealthier than other minorities, and use it as evidence that they do not experience racism. Further, when businesses focus on diversifying their customer base, they often make the same kind of assumption– that in order to appeal to Asian-Americans, they must target a number of dated and dangerous stereotypes. Perhaps the biggest stereotype that Asian-Americans must contend with is the idea that they are inherently foreign and not American.
The reality is that anti-Asian discrimination is very real. Stop AAPI Hate, a national coalition documenting and addressing anti-Asian discrimination during the pandemic, has recently released sobering reports on discrimination and hate in the community. The organization said it received 3,795 self reports of anti-Asian hate incidents between March 2020 and March 2021. Women are more likely to be targeted and accounted for 68% of the reports, versus 29% for men.
Recognizing and combating anti-Asian racism is a key part of spreading and practicing anti-racism.
Check in and offer support
One of the simplest, and yet most effective, ways of combating anti-Asian discrimination is checking in with colleagues and friends who might be experiencing it. Showing that you are aware of what is happening in the news and showing your support for anti-racism campaigns can help your Asian-American colleagues feel supported and empowered.
This does not mean, however, that you should identify all of the Asian-Americans in your workplace and send them an email about the latest instance of anti-Asian discrimination. Similarly, asking colleagues open-ended questions such as "how are you feeling?" or "is there anything I can do for you?" can create more stress, because the person you are asking can feel unwarranted pressure to respond.
Instead, take a look at some of the materials on how to promote inclusion in the workplace. Most guides to creating a truly open and inclusive workplace stress that it's important that staff– of all ethnic and racial backgrounds and groups– be regularly educated about the impact of discrimination in the workplace around all minorities, Asian-Americans included. Often, the best thing you can do is to spend some time reading about the subject or enroll in a course that will help you understand these complex issues.
If you are a manager, you can take this one step further, and make sure that all of your employees are aware of these issues surrounding racism and discrimination.
If you are ready to take more direct action, a good place to start is your workplace. Stop AAPI Hate, in the aforementioned report, found that, in the last year, workplaces have been the primary sites of discrimination, accounting for 35.4% of logged hate incidents; 25.3% of reported incidents took place in public streets, followed by 9.8% that occurred in public parks.
First and foremost, this highlights the importance of reporting any anti-Asian incidents through the channels available to you, and making sure they are followed up by your employer. In order to do this, it can be helpful to review the literature on the differences between "incidents of bias" and "hate crimes". Knowing the nomenclature, and how to express yourself clearly, can make all the difference when it comes to reporting racially fueled incidents.
Depending on the industry you work in, it might also be possible to look at some systemic issues. Most industries exhibit some form of bias when it comes to hiring practices, and some are particularly reticent when hiring Asian-Americans. Even where this group is over-represented, in the Fintech industry for example, diversity issues remain, such as the fact that Fintech lags behind in female representation, and this disproportionately affects Asian-American women.
If you are in a position where you are hiring staff, it is therefore possible to shepherd your industry in the right direction by putting monitoring and direct action tools in place to improve the racial and gender mix in your own organization.
Donate to the cause
Another great way to help Asian-American communities is to donate to organizations that directly support them. This is a fast and simple way to make a real difference, and there are many ways to do it– this list from New York magazine shares more than sixty ways to donate in support of Asian communities.
Many of these groups are focused on advocacy for Asian-Americans, and will help those directly impacted by discrimination. In recent years, given the trends in the types of discrimination the community faces, there has also been a focus on supporting women within the Asian-American community. If you feel the same, organizations such as the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum can be a good place to get information on further ways you can help.
It's not necessary to make a charitable donation to support the community– supporting business run or owned by Asian-Americans can also make a huge difference. Multiple research studies have shown that, nationwide, Chinatown businesses have been hit disproportionately hard during the pandemic– between decreased foot traffic and rising xenophobia, they are greatly suffering. So the next time you go grocery shopping, consider passing through your local Asian supermarket.
Look to the future
Ultimately, building racial justice in America is not going to happen overnight. Instead, it will require sustained work by many communities and individuals. The first step is to recognize the problem and to seek more information about it.
That's why civil rights activist and Rise founder Amanda Nguyen has argued that greater education about the experiences of Asians in America is crucial to bridging the gaps to end anti-Asian racism.
Nguyen has said that, often the most effective step in combating racism is to start from home. "Turn on your computer and find out more information about the AAPI community and listen to the grassroots organizers on the ground," she says, and you'll be taking this important first step.
This summer, as the extrajudicial murders of Black Americans prompted renewed focus on the Black Lives Matter movement, companies and organizations across the United States started to center the experiences of their Black employees and prioritize conversations about race in a real way.
Some companies already had robust diversity and inclusion initiatives that combated some of the systematic injustice Black workers face. Many more, though, realized they had to invest in building them. That work started with learning what it takes to be a truly anti-racist—not just non-racist—workplace. Many companies have gotten quieter about Black Lives Matter since June, so we wanted to know what companies were doing to make good on the promises they made earlier this year.
Here at PowerToFly, we're lucky enough to partner with industry-leading companies who really believe in creating equitable work environments where diverse talent can thrive. We interviewed several of our clients to learn about the ways in which they're working to build anti-racist workplaces. We hope that their answers provide some transparency to the ongoing work companies are doing to ensure that their stated commitments to DEI translate into meaningful action, and inspire other companies to follow suit.
Mindbody empowers employees to act
"It is not effective to be 'not racist.' It hinders change and slows the momentum needed to break down long standing barriers individuals experience. Mindbody believes we must be 'anti-racist' and lean into this topic and lead by example. We have focused our attention on educating our team, through formal education such as small group trainings and larger webinars teaching us about our Unconscious Bias, How to be an Inclusive Leader, How to Cope with Civil Unrest, and Raising Diversity in the Home, and through informal education such as fireside-like conversations with our team members, hearing their specific experiences with racism. One key learning we have had recently at Mindbody is around a word we commonly used to use, 'ally.' We have had to shift the meaning of being an ally, as something active vs. something passive. We have asked our employees to be active allies and stand up and share their thoughts and experiences on these topics. We have given our employees a new volunteer day off to be used July-September 2020 to volunteer for an organization of their choice and focus on a way they can actively create change. If all 1,200 employees give 8 hours, this will give almost 10,000 hours of active work to create the change we need in this world."
Learn more about MINDBODY here.
Moody's invests in community-building events
"Moody's is committed to a diverse and inclusive culture. We aspire for Moody's to be a place where everyone feels comfortable being their true selves, where we demonstrate empathy and civility – and where we celebrate the differences that make us stronger. To further our commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion at Moody's and racial justice in the communities where we live and work, we proudly share an array of events we held in June and July 2020.
Thousands of employees attended one or a mix of 43 events we've held across the world on racial justice, including our racial justice town hall, signature Juneteenth event, learning sessions from our Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), and Moody's Courageous Conversations and Moments That Matter series.
The reach and success of these events was made possible through strong employee leadership and participation – especially from our Diversity and Inclusion and Corporate Social Responsibility teams and employee-led Multicultural ERG and Black Inclusion Group."
Learn more about Moody's here.
T. Rowe Price drives awareness through conversation
"Although the pandemic continues to separate associates physically, the firm's collaborative culture and united stance on racial equity has galvanized employees to use their voices to promote equality. Bill Stromberg, President and CEO, issued a public statement on June 4 that reflects our commitment to fighting racial injustice. In addition to the T. Rowe Price Foundation committing $2 million to organizations working to fight racial injustice, the matching gift program is available to employees who are interested in financially supporting racial equity causes.
To ensure the cultural conversation continues, the firm has held dozens of Diversity Dialogues across the company. These sessions are facilitated by thought leaders and experts in diversity and inclusion and provide employees with a safe space to speak candidly about their experiences to leadership and colleagues. This comes on the heels of T. Rowe Price evolving its business resource group, MOSAIC, which helps drive multicultural awareness at the firm, into three heritage communities – Black/African American, Latinx, and Asian – to promote an even greater sense of belonging. T. Rowe Price is encouraging employees to tap into resources available on TRPConnects, an internal social media site which offers mental health and wellness information, personal accounts and stories from colleagues about their experiences with racism, and educational resources on systemic racism."
Learn more about T. Rowe Price here.
PwC supports direct action in their community
"PwC stands against racism in the workplace, in our communities and in our country and is taking six actions to combat racial justice. The firm is taking steps to support its Black professionals, to improve diversity and inclusion efforts within the organization, and to contribute to the efforts of those who are fighting for racial justice and equality on the front lines. Specifically, this includes donating time to social justice organizations, giving employees one week of utilized time each year to volunteer with nonprofits, and supporting students and teachers in underserved communities to build a more diverse, tech-skilled future workforce, among other commitments. PwC people are encouraged to support each other and speak out against bias and stigma, to join one of our inclusion networks and to participate in blindspots training. The firm is also offering free racial trauma counseling for PwCers and their families."
Learn more about PwC here.
Invesco prioritizes listening and accountability
"After the senseless killing of George Floyd ignited protests against police brutality and racial inequity, Invesco was quick to speak out and take action. In an open letter to clients and employees from President & CEO Marty Flanagan we said forcefully that Black lives matter. Our zero-tolerance approach to racism of any kind is embedded in our existing programs, such as unconscious bias training for all managers. We implemented a series of listening sessions with clients, the Invesco Black Professionals Network, and other internal Business Resource Groups. Communications kits for managers encouraged dialogue within teams and Juneteenth was established as a paid holiday for US employees. We continue to build anti-racism programs and will hold ourselves accountable by measuring our ability to increase hiring, promotion and retention of diverse colleagues. Our CEO joined over 500 business leaders to urge Georgia lawmakers to sign the Hate Crimes legislation into law."
Learn more about Invesco here.
Snap strengthens allyship
"At Snap, creating a fairer, more inclusive, and truly anti-racist culture is everyone's job. Above all, this problem is not for underrepresented groups — or a DEI team — to solve. And so, to create a truly inclusive and anti-racist culture at Snap, we need our team members to become skilled allies.
We launched our Allyship Program in February 2020, with the objective to support Snap team members and turn goodwill into good action. The Allyship Program combines bold personal storytelling and frank conversations to inspire empathy and build awareness with formal workshops to equip team members with the knowledge, resources, skills and inspiration to be good allies in the workplace."
Learn more about Snap here.
S&P Global makes D&I a core part of business
S&P Global has most recently committed to accelerating progress through the following actions: leading courageous conversations with employees across teams to develop greater understanding around issues of racial justice; expanding our full-time staff devoted to advancing Diversity & Inclusion; doubling our financial investments in D&I initiatives and Employee Resource Groups (ERGs); expanding existing inclusion training globally to address bias and microaggressions; and contributing USD $1M via the S&P Global Foundation to non-profit organizations that support equity and racial justice. In 2018, the Company added a D&I metric to its strategic goals to track performance, and the global D&I Council leads and governs all such efforts across the enterprise.
Learn more about S&P Global here.
VideoAmp prioritizes education for their entire team
"The inflection point for us began the week of George Floyd's murder.
As a young and rapidly growing ad tech company, we paused and looked at where we could improve and grow from the Black Lives Matter movement. The VideoAmp executive leadership team spoke openly about the events during an All-Hands and from that meeting, the People Team took some immediate actions like the observation of Black Out Tuesday and making Juneteenth an annual company holiday. We felt these actions provided time and space for reflection and increased awareness of racial injustice in our country. And instead of having a purely top-down approach, we quickly launched our Employee-led Advisory Group (EAG) to create actionable, sustainable and meaningful ways to grow as an organization, ensuring all employees could be seen and heard. Over 100 employees quickly rallied together - the EAG now meets twice a week and has already formed actionable initiatives in three categories: 1.) Learn through self-education 2.) Participate in community outreach and 3.) Give Back through time and financial contributions. The group not only brings plans to life but also measures what success will look like with KPIs around specific initiatives to drive accountability for VideoAmp.
We continue to explore ways to educate our organization on the specific needs of the Black community and how to combat racism through proactive and ongoing learning and resource-sharing. We recognize that we still have a lot to learn. We formed a thought-leader speaker series with Dionna Smith from the PowertoFly team as our inaugural presenter. She spoke on power, privilege and how to be an ally for change. This first presentation drew an audience of over 100 employees which was 61% of the VideoAmp employee base. We've also launched a book club, featuring Black authors with physical books purchased from Black-owned bookstores, and have scheduled film and TV viewing events to further increase our knowledge and awareness of Black history and racial injustices in America. In addition, we share timely content related to the Black Lives Matter movement through a weekly company-wide newsletter and we have offered the opportunity to be part of Allyship Healing Circles through our partnership with Modern Health, among other mental health support at no cost to our employees and their dependents.
Lastly, through our partnership with PowerToFly, we're continuing to implement more assertive diversity hiring and recruitment practices, making VideoAmp a place where anyone can feel valued and inspired to thrive. We're on a mission to further diversify our workforce and drive a culture where all people feel they belong and are educated on how to be an ally for change in our organization and our communities."
Learn more about VideoAmp here.
Lattice partners with employees and customers to drive change
"To ensure an anti-racist work environment and help combat racism, Lattice took to company-wide crowdsourcing for different ways to help. Once we gathered a substantial list, ERG groups worked with our Leadership team to prioritize and assign items to individuals and teams. Examples include donation & support opportunities, company-wide allyship/anti-racist training, and we're finding/building ways to support our customers' DE&I efforts through our people management platform."
Learn more about Lattice here.
Kensho keeps the conversation going via continuous education
"Kensho is committed to educating our employees and fostering an anti-racist culture. Kensho employees recently attended The Adaway Group's Whiteness at Work virtual summer series. This was a four- part series addressing: Whiteness at Work, White Dominant Culture, Building Anti-Racist Skills and Operationalizing Racial Equity. After each session our Head of DEI, Shea Kerr, lead a debrief discussion to give employees the opportunity to discuss what they learned, as well as share their own experiences. This was a great way to bring these issues to the forefront and keep the conversation going with our employees. Kensho's DEI Committee is also working on bringing in additional DEI focused training that will take place throughout the year."
Learn more about Kensho here.
CarGurus creates a welcoming work environment
"At CarGurus, we strive to build and nurture a global culture where inclusiveness is a reflex, not an initiative. We are all responsible for fostering an anti-racist workplace by proactively centering diverse perspectives, amplifying underrepresented voices and deeply engaging in learning, dialogue, and action to drive forward systematic change. For us, that means investing in targeted and accessible programming and learning opportunities that enhance cultural humility, encourage growth, and promote inclusive leadership at every level. We are also striving to create more equity in our practices and policies so that everyone feels they can bring the ultimate expression of themselves to work every day despite their race, gender, or background."
Learn more about CarGurus here.
MongoDB shares resources in their team and in their community
"At MongoDB, we are committed to learning about and combating racism in the workplace. Here are some of the educational programming we have that promotes anti-racism: On August 13th, 2020, we had an internal event 'Decoding Inclusion Conversation on Race: Driving Impact with Power and Privilege' featuring Netta Jenkins (Forbes Top 7 Anti-Racism Educator), and sponsored by our CEO, Dev Ittycheria. During this session, Netta discussed the murder of George Floyd and the impact on Black people and the global community. She also discussed racial trauma and symptoms of race-based injustices
in the workplace. Members of our employee affinity group, The Underrepresented People of Color Network, shared resources for people looking to learn how to be anti-racist to support the current racial justice movement, and during our annual event, MongoDB World, we launched the MongoDB for Justice fund, in order to raise funds to enable organizations advancing anti-racism work."
Learn more about MongoDB here.
Quip centers anti-racism training across their work
"Quip believes that we have a moral responsibility to help lead the fight for a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive tech industry. We acknowledge that this is a challenging and ever-changing area, and takes ongoing work. We believe that diverse and inclusive teams are essential to build the best product, to meet our business goals, and to create a work environment where people from all backgrounds can feel like they belong, which will ultimately make our entire team more successful. Quip has been actively teaching and educating team members on how to build a more anti-racist workplace through various methods:
- Hosting a book club on the book How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
- Creating a central repository to encourage folks to support organizations fighting racism and police brutality
- Developing a dos and don'ts messaging guide centered around racial equality
- Doing a virtual volunteering event by reading Anti-Racism Children's Book for the kids at UCSF"
Learn more about Quip here.
Relativity explores diversity within its community
"We are committed to ongoing efforts to foster a culture of inclusion and belonging at Relativity. We are proud of our new internal learning series, 'Culture Collective,' where we explore the rich diversity of identities and cultures that make up our company and the communities we serve. This is a monthly series sponsored by one of our Community Resource Groups (CRGs) called Faces of Relativity in partnership with our entire CRG community. These sessions allow us to explore cultural mindfulness and establish actionable steps for how we can make an impact as allies. In addition to the 'Culture Collective,' we host monthly deep dive conversations and learning sessions with our CRG leadership, an anti-racism toolkit curated in partnership with the CRG community, and have built out a robust internal learning curriculum for 2021 that will aim to educate Relativians on culture, unconscious bias, power/privilege, and more."
Learn more about Relativity here.
Smartsheet builds anti-racist environments, including coding ones
"A group of Smartsheet employees has been actively working to remove offensive terminology from our engineering coding language. Just like many everyday terms and figures of speech have racist roots, so too do many of the standard terms used in coding. Although this is anti-racist work that is far less visible than more common organizational initiatives (like unconscious bias and inclusion trainings, both of which Smartsheet is launching this year), it is no less important and only further highlights how ingrained racism is in our world."
Learn more about Smartsheet here.
Interested in discussing what it takes to build anti-racist workplaces in real time? We're hosting Allyship to Impact, a two-day free virtual conference focused on providing resources and practical guidance to combat racism at work, this September 10-11. We hope you can join us.
I sat in front of my CEO to discuss several complaints of racism. I was new to my role as a Culture Director. I was nervous about his reaction to the complaints. But I also knew he strongly supported developing this new department; I knew that he would take the right steps. So I was shocked when I heard him say sheepishly, "I don't know, Noelle...all of this stuff about racism. I just don't see it. I don't even see color. I'm pretty much color blind."
As a Black woman, I could feel the eye rolls and groans from my ancestors.
Lately, regardless of their role, Black professionals are having very uncomfortable conversations about race. Some of these conversations spark organically or out of necessity, but regardless, it can evoke a lot of emotions. So how do you handle these tough conversations with your non-Black coworkers?
Know that you don't have to say anything
You may feel inclined to say something to a coworker who is asking you questions about race or when she has said something out of line. However, if the emotional labor is just too much, know that you do not owe it to anyone, even well-intentioned people, to share your perspectives about race.
This sensitive topic should only be touched on by you to those you feel truly deserve and welcome your insight. Not everyone is there yet, but if you feel pressured to say anything when you don't want to, know that it is not your job to educate everyone on Black issues. To conserve your energy and keep your space safe, setting boundaries may help.
Here is how that conversation can play out at work:
Coworker: I have so many family members that are really struggling with the "all lives matter" versus "Black lives matter" philosophies. Do you have any resources I can share that I can send to them?
You: This is not something I'm comfortable speaking about. I know there is a lot of information online that you may feel is useful. I hope that you can respect this boundary for me.
Addressing coworkers who are "woke" when convenient
Right now, for wonderful intentions and opportunistic ones, fighting for Black lives is popular. Many companies are making conscious shifts to become more anti-racist and everyone from activists to celebrities to influencers have been sharing their stance on the Black Lives Matter movement.
Because being a part of the movement has been so monumental, people are getting swept in without first checking their own internalized racism. They intend on doing their part to be anti-racist, but are misguided on those actions or have taken actions that contradict them.
For example, I once had a White coworker who fought for diversity for the attendees at an exclusive retreat, and consistently challenged any inklings of White supremacy wherever she saw it...but once touched the hair of a Black coworker with natural hair without asking.
If you think there is a serious issue, definitely bring the matter to HR's attention, but if you think the person is under-educated about their unconscious bias, and know them well enough to call them out, talking to them directly may be the right option for you, but only if you have the emotional bandwidth.
Here is an example statement you can share with this coworker if you deem them open enough to share:
"Hi, Kimberly. It was great seeing photos of you at the rally. It seems like you are looking for ways to support the Black community and that's a good thing. With that, I wanted to point out something that I've noticed that you do, which makes me uncomfortable. This is something that you may not know that is causing me discomfort, but with seeing you out there trying to make a difference, I'm hopeful that you can be receptive to what you could be doing right here at work to make an impact. Last week when…"
Be honest about how you are feeling
While you don't owe it to anyone to share your feelings, it can really mean a lot when a non-Black coworker checks in with how you are holding up. Black women tend to feel pressured both externally and internally to be as positive as possible at work. This pressure can be too much to take at times, and being able to release with a coworker who has earned your trust may give you a small release on the relentlessness of always seeming strong and happy.
While you can't hand off all of the emotions you may be feeling now, you can start being honest when a trusted coworker asks, "how are you doing... really?"
Here is an example of how to do that:
Coworker: I just wanted to check in with how you are doing? I know it can not be easy to be working with everything going on like things are normal.
You: Honestly, not great. I'm doing the best that I can, but it's not easy.
This is a gateway to a good conversation. They can choose to stop the conversation there, and move on to something else. Or, they may decide to listen, to be supportive, and to be an advocate at work and beyond. But it all starts with being honest even when it's hard, to coworkers who are not afraid to show up authentically.
A five-step framework for addressing systematic racism at work
The world has changed in the past few weeks.
We're watching corporations and organizations across the world come out in support of Black lives in droves. Many of those organizations are doing so for the first time in their history.
But supporting Black people goes beyond sharing a mission statement or putting out a press release. It requires dedicated, ongoing work and resources.
As leaders in the Diversity and Inclusion space, PowerToFly has been getting questions from business leaders on what else they can do. How can they make Black employees feel supported at work? What kind of analysis should they be doing on their own processes and policies to root out systematic racism they may be perpetuating? And how can they keep these conversations about race and racism going even after the media coverage has died down?
A few weeks ago, in my role as PowerToFly's Director of Global Diversity and Inclusion, I held a chat-and-learn two weeks ago focused on how individuals could be better allies to their Black colleagues and friends. (You can watch a recording of our conversation here and read my summary of takeaways here.) Two weeks ago, I held another webinar, this time focused specifically on what leaders—whether CEOs, executives, HR managers, or frontline team leads—can do to support their Black employees. You can watch a replay or read on for my summary of key points and advice on the subject.
A reminder: none of what's going on right now is a Black problem. This is an American problem and even a global problem. Black people cannot end systematic racism or white supremacy, and we need white Americans and other allies to work together to end it. We need everyone in the boat with us, rowing together, if we're to see any real change. I know that fighting for that change isn't always comfortable or easy, but it's vital that we do it. It's especially important that all of you leaders, who have seats at the table to change policy and be actively anti-racist in your organizations, do it.
Thank you for joining the fight.
A five-step framework for addressing systematic racism at work
Most of us were taught not to discuss race, politics, or religion at work. But times are different now, and ignoring how race and racism impact work is the wrong thing to do. It's vital to address racism in the workplace not just for your employees, but also for the general public, who are noticing which companies are speaking up for what's right and which companies aren't. It'll be increasingly important in the future for leaders to commit to this change as workers and consumers alike seek to align themselves with organizations that share their values.
To aid you as you start doing that work, here are five steps you can take to start addressing racism at the workplace.
1. Get comfortable with having candid conversations about race.
There's no such thing as being colorblind. Saying so is problematic. We can't address the things that need to be fixed if we don't see color. Start by acknowledging that there are certain groups of people who are treated differently or haven't had the same opportunities. Start by accepting that you don't have all (or even any) of the answers, but that you're committed to working towards them.
2. Do regular, mandatory training on inclusivity, sensitivity, and other race-related topics.
Most workplaces have certain courses that are required, at least for managers and leaders, like sexual harassment courses or compliance training. If you want to make it clear that race is important and that racism won't be tolerated at your workplace, you need to invest in mandatory inclusivity training.
It has to be more than just a check-the-box activity. Your approach can't be, "Oh, everybody took unconscious bias training, we're good to go."
Just like anything else in your business that you really care about, you'll need to devote money and time to actively dismantling systematic oppression. That looks like monthly or quarterly workshops, having a speaker series where you invite SMEs to take on diversity topics, and investing in a D&I leader or in a resource group and partnering with them to regularly train and educate your workforce.
3. Address systemic issues in how you hire, pay, and promote employees.
A Black Lives Matter press statement is necessary but not sufficient when it comes to addressing racism at your company. It's a great first step, but if you don't start addressing and making changes beyond the company values section of your website, it's all for naught.
Start by looking at your salaries. Is there equity in what you're paying Black employees compared to white employees? Don't assume that there is without taking the time to analyze the situation.
Do the same for employee promotion rates. Who is moving up into bigger management jobs—and who isn't?
Look at project allocation, too. Are the same people getting the same chances to appear and present in front of executives? Are your Black employees getting opportunities to work on stretch projects?
Once you understand where the inequities are in your business, address them. These issues have deep-rooted causes and won't go away overnight. You'll need to come up with an action plan and start working against it.
4. Review your employee referral program.
While employee referral programs can be great, they are often not the best way to attract diverse candidates. If you have a mostly male white workforce, then your employee referrals are going to reflect that. The majority of companies don't have diverse workforces, which warrants a closer look at how these programs are implemented.
Consider running specialized referral programs through employee resource groups for underrepresented minorities. If you have a Black or Latinx group, for instance, work with your HR or Recruiting teams to source referrals from those pools.
5. Create executive sponsorship opportunities for Black employees.
Sponsors can make or break a career path. They can fast-track someone to a leadership role, create opportunities, and give an employee cover to try something new. But if Black employees haven't had a chance to get in front of executives—if they aren't playing golf with them, going out to dinners and lunches with them, or working with them on high-priority projects—they won't get those benefits. Add an explicit diversity focus to current sponsorship initiatives, and if none exist, create them in partnership with ERGs.
Tips and guidance to inform your approach
In implementing the above five steps, you may find yourself feeling unsure or uncomfortable. That's natural, especially if discussing race is something you haven't done before. Remember that to do this work well, you need to be willing to listen and to learn. Below, I've provided answers to some community-sourced questions on how exactly to do that.
How can I navigate a conversation with Black employees in a way that makes them feel supported?
As business and HR leaders, you might be wired to be very solution-oriented and to want to fix things for your employees. But you can't immediately fix racism or fix an employee's experience with it at work.
When talking about race with employees, do not make it about you. If an employee is talking to you about what they're feeling or going through, you can say things like, "I'm so sorry you're going through that" or "I hate that you're feeling that way" or "I care about you." Do not say "I know what you're going through" if you don't. Do not apologize on behalf of the white race or in any other way make it about what you're feeling, whether that's guilt or frustration or anything else. Just listen.
How can I—or should I—check on Black employees without disrupting their privacy?
Keep in mind that Black people have been taught to assimilate and blend in as much as possible, especially at work. Being called out at work specifically for being Black is not going to be a comfortable thing for many people. Do not zero in on the one Black person on your team in a meeting, for instance, and ask them how they're doing with everything that's going on.
If you are going to do a check-in, do it in a one-on-one setting. Give your employee an opportunity to give you cues. Are they bringing up what's happening in the news? Are they sharing that they went to a protest? If not, maybe they don't want to talk about it.
If you decide to check in anyway, don't direct the conversation. Tell them that you're there to help if they want to talk and that you want to know how they're feeling. But if they don't want to engage, let it go. Remember, this is not about you and what you think you need to do to be a good or inclusive leader. This is about your Black employees and what they are feeling.
How can I address colleagues who have implied or explicitly stated that they are not allies?
Be conscious of your energy. There are policies to create at work. There are protests to attend in your neighborhood. There are kids to raise and jobs to do. Investing time in someone who does not care or opposes who you are or what you believe in is not good for you, so minimize those debates and focus on what you can change.
That being said, don't change your message to make people comfortable. Now is a time to take a stance. If your colleagues aren't willing to do that, it might be time to leave them behind.
How can a primarily white team or organization support the Black community right now, especially if financial levers like expanding hiring aren't available?
It's important to move towards creating a more equitable workplace and culture even if you don't have a Black employee on your team. It's the right thing to do. Remember that allyship is essential, and that white allies can have huge influence within organizations and communities. So start with the five steps above. If you have a budget beyond that, invest it in additional D&I training. Provide resources for doing anti-racist work in-house. Dedicate time every week in your team meeting to talk on topics relevant to the Black Lives Matter movement, whether that's defining what being an ally is, learning about systemic oppression, or brainstorming ways to get involved in your local community.
How can I use levers to make sure my internal and external recruiting is as diverse as possible without being discriminatory?
First of all, there's nothing discriminatory about asking for a diverse slate of candidates, whether you're asking an external recruiter or an internal team. You're not promising anyone a job based on their identity; you just want to make an effort to see a range of candidates. Hiring diversely doesn't happen by chance. You don't post a job and then just see a flood of resumes that perfectly represent all races and identities. That's called the "post and pray" approach and it's destined to fail.
If you're hiring internally, start by going to employee groups and encouraging group members to apply. Ask if they have anyone they'd recommend for the position. Make an effort to ensure that people know about open opportunities and what you're looking for.
If you have a recruiter or sourcer working with you, tell them that you want to look at a diverse pool of candidates.
These are tough subjects to tackle and doing so will require sustained focus and resources. Thank you for doing this work. If there's anything we at PowerToFly can do to help as you continue down the path towards becoming an actively anti-racist organization, please feel free to reach out to me and my team at email@example.com!