February marks the start of Black History Month, a period for celebration on the huge contributions, of Black Americans throughout history. This month also signals a time for us all to reflect and re-energize our commitment to driving Black inclusion. As the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement made abundantly clear in 2020, there is still an urgent need for significant change in the US.
Many organizations made statements of support and voiced their solidarity with the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020. However, very few shifted from statements to effecting much-needed change. With the movement being a call to action, passivity is no longer an option and organizations must prioritize implementing strategies and workplace policies to ensure that they are actively, driving change.
With this in mind, what can organizations do to develop workplace equity?
Tackle the hiring bias
Workplace equity needs to begin with recruitment. Start by addressing your own biases and encourage your employees to do the same. By taking a conscious inclusion approach, you are moving away from merely acknowledging biases and taking practical action to tackle and mitigate the effects of bias from the outset. In corporate America, Black professionals hold just 3.2 per cent of all executive or senior leadership positions and less than 1 per cent of all Fortune 500 CEO positions.
To maximize diversity in hiring, organizations must consider where they are sourcing talent from. Over 30 per cent of positions in the US are filled through employee referrals. So, if your leadership is predominately White, the likelihood is that employees hired through social networking and employee referrals will be White too. Rethinking your hiring process and actively encouraging Black talent is the first step to developing workplace equity.
Create the conversation
Start conversations about race equity with everyone, not just Black employees. Many White employees may find conversations about race uncomfortable, fearing to appear offensive, but these conversations are necessary to understand Black employees’ experiences, culture and community.
As a leader, there are a number of ways you can help create conversation so that all employees feel comfortable. For example, creating safe spaces, introducing educational resources and training, as well as regularly facilitating open conversations about race.
36 per cent of Black employees say they can’t bring their whole selves to work. Opening up the conversation creates a safe space, showing Black employees that an organization is willing to address their concern and take action. Creating an inclusive workplace will allow Black employees will bring their full identity to work as well as feel more valued, engaged and satisfied with their work.
Address the lack of visible leaders
Since 1995, there have been only 15 Black CEOs of Fortune 500 companies and today there are only three. More has to be done to ensure that access and opportunities are available for Black professionals to break through middle management positions and take a seat on the board. Increasing diversity at the executive level creates a positive trickle-down effect. Diverse leadership teams ensure the interests of all employees and groups are considered when decisions are made.
Diverse and representative leadership teams show Black employees that it is possible to succeed in your organization. This will in turn encourage Black professionals to apply for roles in your organization, helping create a workplace of racial equity. Through addressing these broader structural factors of workplace racism, organizations can create substantial and long-lasting changes.
Tackling workplace race equity should not just be a tick box exercise for Black History Month. It is more important than ever that organizations begin to address these issues and create genuine, meaningful change.
Felicity Hassan, Managing Director of Audeliss, delivered an insightful session on inclusive recruitment. Watch the webinar below.