three Methods to Preserve Your Anti-Racist Work Practices
Several months have passed since the Black Lives Matter protests took cities by storm and corporations pledged to do the hard work of creating more diverse and equitable jobs. Many large corporations have taken clearly visible action: Apple partnered with historically black colleges, while Netflix released a full inclusion report on its efforts to fight racism in the entertainment industry.
However, it can be more difficult for small businesses to develop appropriate policies and initiatives. “We saw that there were no solutions or places to get information that smaller businesses and growing businesses could use to drive change in their organization,” said Travis Montaque, founder and CEO of Holler, a company that animated Sticker creates GIFs for messaging apps.
For this reason, Montaque Holler’s DIB network “Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging” set up to empower small businesses by providing a forum for their executives to learn sustainable DIB practices and share their ideas, successes and failures. Read on to learn more about how small businesses can get involved in creating diverse and fair jobs.
Make your diversity goals visible and fundamental.
“This summer there has been a lot of what I call frenetic activity of throwing spaghetti on the wall,” says Kate Slater, Racial Justice Advisor and Assistant Dean of Graduate Affairs at the Brandeis Graduate School of Arts and Sciences University. This approach will not lead to permanent change, she says.
Instead, you need to set the expectation that any job is related to work against racism. In higher education, Slater explains, many faculties seeking tenure are required to issue a statement describing how they have contributed to diversity and social justice. It builds anti-racism work into upward mobility and shows that you value those who advocate diversity and social justice, she says, suggesting that founders could implement a similar process for promotions.
John Berkowitz, Co-Founder and CEO of OJO Labs, a technology platform for buying and selling real estate, reads a statement at the start of the monthly meetings: “OJO Labs aims to bridge the gap so that all people, regardless of race, class or gender, can experience the physical, financial and emotional haven that home offers. “He even reads the statement at the beginning of meetings with his investors. That might be a risky move, but “it’s the only way we can legitimately bring this into the company,” he explains. “And suddenly in five years you have made lasting progress.”
OJO Labs also publishes a daily newsletter to educate employees about the inequality in their industry. The company’s Insights team conducts quality video research revealing the barriers that minority buyers face when buying their homes.
Give people the tools they need.
You may have started a group or selected a person to lead the diversity and inclusion effort, but do you support them adequately? D&I bodies are typically made up of people who experience the harm and inequality in the workplace. “You don’t want to overwhelm them because there is this so-called minority tax – the stress minorities often feel when they are repeatedly asked to get involved in this work,” says Julian A. McNeil, an organizational development consultant who works with Slater – and the first anti-racism program manager at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine. McNeil says business leaders should consider providing workplace services like mental health and leisure counseling to help lower this minority tax. He also suggests giving D&I volunteers financial compensation or time off from other duties to signal that D&I work is as important to the company as other duties.
And make sure you are giving the employees the right training they need. Interest and personal investment in D&I does not mean an employee has strong project management skills. As a result, they can “spin their wheels a little,” says McNeil. “The work is not very effective or efficient.”
Make your workplace a safe place for everyone.
Since there is no one-size-fits-all solution to problems in the workplace, Slater recommends creating affinity groups – smaller areas where employees can open up, ask questions, socialize, and learn. “Maybe you have a book group or an affinity room within the organization for cross-cultural conversations,” she says. Montaque offers another example: At Holler, he has implemented small internal partnerships such as mentoring programs as well as town halls and panel discussions.
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