Racial Equity and Justice at Work: How to Keep the Conversation Going Beyond Juneteenth

We spoke with 2 experts on how to keep the conversation of racial justice and equity going in the workplace

Diversity and Inclusion

Juneteenth, which is celebrated June 19, is an annual holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the U.S. This year, the significance of this day was amplified and resonated across the world as it fell just a few weeks after the killing of George Floyd.

While the conversations around Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) were discussed and put to the forefront throughout Juneteenth, it is important that we keep that momentum going within our businesses in order to seek and establish real change.

We spoke with 2 experts on how to keep the conversation of racial justice and equity going in the workplace and here is what they had to say.

Editor’s Note: Download a FREE Diversity and Inclusion Workbook here.

What is racial equity and justice?

Desiree Booker
Desiree Booker

First, let’s get a better understanding of the topics at hand. When it comes to equity, Desiree Booker, CEO and Founder of ColorVizion Lab, explains that the existence of racism causes an imbalance of resources, lack of exposure to development, and the training required for Black people to advance past a certain level professionally.

“Equity is how we level the playing field,” Booker says. “It’s making sure that everyone not only has access to equal opportunities, but also ensuring that minorities have the proper resources to help them compete with white people for those same resources.”

When it comes to justice, Booker says we need to look at the people and policies put in place that reinforce equity.

“Once equity is put in place, how do you reinforce this as a rule that cannot be broken and put consequences in place for when they are?”

To learn more about these definitions, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation created a Racial Equity Resource Guide to help establish a baseline definition to avoid misinterpretations and misunderstandings.

Tactical first steps to start thinking about

It can be daunting to think about overhauling your entire organization, but here are some tactical first steps these experts recommend.

Maintain ongoing dialogue

What both these experts recommend first and foremost is to create a forum for open discussion on the topics of race, oppression, and anti-Blackness

What both these experts recommend first and foremost is to create a forum for open discussion on the topics of race, oppression, and anti-Blackness. There are many ways to achieve this, and these include, but are not limited to:

  • Town halls: Have your leadership team talk about what they are planning for DEI within the organization
  • Guided conversations or workshops: These can be run by your Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) team (if you don’t have D&I, consider tapping on HR to help). There are many resources found online which can be used to guide discussions in groups (example found here.)
  • Supporting internal Employee Resource Groups (ERG): By supporting ERGs (allowing them time and providing financial resources to run events) you can create a safe space within your organization for discussions and grass route initiatives.

Provide opportunity for learning

Adriele Parker
Adriele Parker

Adriele Parker, an independent Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Consultant and Career Coach recommends employee training and development as another way to keep the conversation around DEI going. One thing she recommends doing is inviting guest speakers to facilitate “lunch and learns” at a regular cadence.

Parker also recommends holding a 5 to 10 minute micro-learning at the beginning of team meetings or standups, where time is explicitly carved out to discuss any pressing matters relating to DEI.

Parker stresses the importance of organizations not waiting for their Black employees or their ERGs to lead or suggest this. Rather, she recommends that leadership take this initiative.

If you are looking for resources, you can leverage this list of free courses on combating bias at work from LinkedIn Learning.

Set measurable goals

When it comes to setting goals, Parker recommends a holistic strategy. A simple place that she recommends people start is to have everyone commit to one goal at the personal level, and one goal at the organizational level.

For example, you may create a personal goal of making a charitable donation, and then an organizational goal of facilitating a workshop on racial equity with your colleagues.

Efforts that have the biggest impact

Creating targeted training and development

“Right now, managers are struggling to lead Black employees,” Parker says. “For mid-level managers leading minorities, there is an opportunity to improve their cultural competencies and help them lead in a more inclusive way.”

By giving people tools to self-assess and mitigate their individual biases, as well as spot organizational biases, employees will feel more empowered to speak up when they see injustices taking place. 

Parker recommends training that targets psychological safety, best practices for fostering an inclusive workplace (for example, inclusive meetings), and bias (both implicit and explicit) in order to build trust, respect, and equality between teams.

By giving people tools to self-assess and mitigate their individual biases, as well as spot organizational biases, employees will feel more empowered to speak up when they see injustices taking place.

Booker recommends being intentional about your leadership training and creating programs that are built specifically for helping underrepresented groups. For example, creating executive training programs that offer executive coaching, mentorship, and soft skill development can help people break through the barriers they may be experiencing in the workplace.

See what the data is saying

As with all strategic initiatives, your first step in creating goals should be to look into what your data says. Parker recommends looking into how people of color are being paid and reviewing your hiring pipeline to see what percentage of new hires are minorities.

If you’re a new company, Booker recommends looking at the data from the start.

“It is important that your strategy isn’t a series of stand alone events, nor should it be led by your ERGs. The efforts need to be part of everyone’s job with leadership leading the charge and being held accountable”, Parker says.

“Examine whether or not you’re having trouble reaching diverse talent and determine if you’re positioned publicly as an organization that is welcoming to people of color.”

She also recommends examining your promotion and performance review processes to see where there may be bias.

Looking into your employee data will help you understand where the needs are and guide you in the creation of your goals.

Driving your DEI strategy

When it comes to creating your DEI strategy, Booker says “you’ll need to think through targeted initiatives in order to address each unique problem, as one initiative won’t solve your entire diversity problem.”

Parker reminds us that all DEI strategies truly need to be integrated by leadership. This thought is echoed by a Deloitte report, which states that the “behaviors of leaders can drive up to 70 percentage points of difference between the proportion of employees who feel highly included and the proportion of those who do not.”

“It is important that your strategy isn’t a series of stand alone events, nor should it be led by your ERGs. The efforts need to be part of everyone’s job with leadership leading the charge and being held accountable”, Parker says.

DEI is everyone’s job. If you’re hoping to see any real progress you’ll need to dedicate time, resources, financial support, and prioritization from leadership in order to create a more equitable workplace.

Bookmark(1)

Might also interest you