In many ways, diversity is a numbers game. When companies cross a certain threshold of people of color and gender diversity, they are 33% more profitable than their counterparts, according to a 2018 McKinsey & Co. report.
But diversity itself tells only part of the story. What the protests around the world have demanded is a level of inclusion that reflects a real embrace of change… and an increasing awareness of some of the nuances involved in exclusion, “microaggressions,” passive racism and stereotyping.
Companies have heard the wake-up call to look inward at their policies and traditions. June saw Quaker Oats acknowledge that its Aunt Jemima brand reflected slavery tropes; the company swiftly moved to remove the brand’s main image of a black woman from its products.The Washington Redskins became The Washington Football Club, and Uncle Ben’s was retired. team’s name .
As a manager, you may be wondering whether and how you should evaluate and elevate diversity and inclusion with your company or team. There are no easy answers, but the worst thing you can do is nothing. Here’s our guide to help get you started. But it’s just the beginning. There are many, many, many additional sources to deepen your understanding and your options.
You can’t make changes in your organization without a full understanding of the issues of inequity and why they’ve been so hard to solve in the past. Talk to your employees and customers for some insights, and dive into these articles below for context before going into those conversations.
The focus: Darden School of Business’s Laura Morgan Roberts and Harvard Business School’s Tony Mayo write in the Harvard Business Review write that “African-Americans — from those laboring in factories and on shop floors to those setting C-suite strategy — still face obstacles to advancement that other minorities and white women don’t. They are less likely than their white peers to be hired, developed, and promoted. And their lived experience at work is demonstrably worse even than that of other people of color.” Packed with hard data, the authors lay out the case for major gaps in corporate diversity, despite some healthy strides.
The takeaway: They argue the solution lies in moving from a business case to a moral case; encouraging open conversations about race; revamping diversity and inclusion programs; and supporting minority employees in their career journey throughout the organization.
The focus: In his 2019 book, Ibram Kendi writes that “Going after white people instead of racist power prolongs the policies harming black life. In the end, antiwhite racist ideas, in taking some or all of the focus off racist power, become anti-black.” This powerful book follows the threads of racism through ideas and social hierarchies over time, pointing to policies and assumptions that emphasize assimilation of Black people into white culture.
The takeaway: The first step in antiracism is to recognize it in society and in themselves, then work toward racial justice and equity with “persistent self-awareness, constant self-criticism, and regular self-examination.”
The focus: This piece from the Harvard Business Review draws on recent conversations with Black employees to identify how companies are falling short, with some areas they might focus on.
The takeaway: “The same racialized violence that many are waking up to as unfair, unjust, and unacceptable, is happening within the walls of our businesses. … The former is relatively, although not exclusively, more physical. The latter is more systemic and covert.”
The focus: Corporate America has pledged millions to social justice efforts since the killing of George Floyd. But some businesses have gone further, committing to concrete changes in their practices.
The takeaway: Many companies declared Juneteenth a national holiday, donating millions of dollars to racial justice, and several made or plan to make very specific changes to their organizations, from Adidas and Pepsi’s pledges to increase minority representation among employees to at least 30 percent to Target’s donation of 10,000 hours of consulting services to black-owned small businesses.
Educate yourself first on the issues, then start taking action within your company or with your team. Here are some of the things you’ll want to explore:
Implicit Bias Training
What you need to know: Implicit bias training is aimed at unearthing stereotyping and other discriminatory behaviors that individuals may not have realized they have or do. But all such training programs are not the same. A study by sociologists Frank Dobbin and Alexandra Kalev found that diversity at many companies actually decreased after implementing bias training. So is it still worth doing? Yes — if done right. A review by the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania supported Dobbin and Kalev’s findings, but noted that companies that had positive results integrated it into training and employee performance reviews and leaned on technology to help monitor and hem in any creeping biases.
Start here: The Kirwan Institute is one of the top organizations in implicit bias education. Review their helpful guide to understanding unconscious bias, then consider any of these tools and online courses for your organization.
What you need to know: Anti-racism is acutely focused on opposing and dismantling racist and systemic oppression, specifically, in America, dismantling white supremacy. Since the protests over the death of George Floyd, a black man, began in May, several companies have taken explicit anti-racism steps, including, at Reddit, the resignation of founder Alexis Ohannian to create a spot designated for a black candidate.
Start here: Bring on experts who can lead your team through an honest look at your company’s culture and corporate structure, to identify areas of racism to reform. Use this list of anti-racism educators as a starting point.
Employee Resource Groups
What you need to know: Simply put, employee resource groups are peer groups set up to provide mutual support. When it comes to diversity efforts, employee resource groups play a role in allowing like-experienced people to come together and support one another, and to give them a collective voice. Because of their number, they are often able to more clearly raise flags around exclusionary policies and advocate for a more diverse and inclusive workplace.
Start here: Some employee resource groups are ad hoc and led by the founding member. But the most effective ones have formal structures and clear support from the organization. Read this for a guide to the kinds of structures and documentation your company should put in place.
What you need to know: On the face of it, metrics would seem to reduce the complexities of equity and representation down to the very impersonal. Indeed, many of the metrics focus on tying equity and representation to business success — how a more diverse and inclusive workforce and culture increases operating income, for example, or outperform competitors. But they’re a tool worth using to track goals, as they do at SAP (hear from the chief diversity officer at SAP and other CDOs in our story here).
Start here: SurveyMonkey is in the business of surveys, and one set they’ve pulled together focuses exclusively on capturing a baseline measurement of diversity and inclusion, then identifying goals and setting performance metrics against them.
What you need to know: Juneteenth is held on June 19th to celebrate the end of slavery in the U.S. It was declared a corporate holiday by many companies this year, including Nike, Citigroup, Twitter and Uber, among others.
Start here: A few ideas for things you can do at your company on Juneteenth include panel discussions and book clubs on racial issues; give everyone the day off, as with most national holidays; Facebook offered a list of “19 ways to start commemorating” focused on learning more about the holiday and racial issues.