Inclusivity and Black Employees
Today’s quick topic: Inclusivity and Black Employees, and, Building Inclusive Workplaces for Black Employees.
Research suggests that the majority of diversity initiatives fail.
You can read some suggestions as to why they fail, by clicking here and here. Across the board, one of the main reasons cited for failed diversity initiatives, is that organizations continue to rely on outdated ideas as to how to improve diversity within their organization.
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” The origin of that quote is disputed, but its common sense wisdom is clear.
We simply cannot continue to implement old methodology and expect different results.
A More Focused Approach
The time has come for a more focused approach to diversity. And, especially as it relates to race, cultural and ethnic diversity, the time has come for focus on the population with the most pressing needs.
Drawing on a recently popularized analogy, when your neighbor’s house is on fire, it is appropriate to allow the fire department to put out that fire, uninhibited. Yes, perhaps your own house has pressing issues as well. Perhaps your own house has a pest problem. Maybe it has a leaky roof. Or, perhaps the lock on the front door isn’t working properly. All these things are problematic, yet, they pale in comparison to the house that is on fire. So, the prudent thing to do is to address the house that is on fire first. Not to mention, failing to address the burning house could lead to the fire spreading to your own home.
It is not alarmist to say that the state of Blackness in the workplace, and in society at large is the house that is on fire. Racial equity of Black people is at a critical juncture, and needs immediate, specialized attention.
Think Mosaic Not Melting Pot
Author and motivational speaker, Glenn Llopis notes, “The days of taking a one-size-fits-all approach are over, never to exist again. Our goal as leaders is to convert the melting pot of differences into a mosaic that fuels strategies for growth, innovation, and opportunity to maximize the full potential of people, brands, and businesses. Diversity and inclusion must be about understanding your identity and the identities of all people. Only then can we be courageous enough to steer away from like-mindedness through assimilating people’s differences (melting pot) and towards like-mindedness through honoring those differences (mosaic).”
At Black Belonging Matters, we honor our differences and contribute the mosaic by centering Black talent, Black belonging, and Black authenticity in the workplace. We are guided by the research that shows that addressing Blackness in the workplace is a necessary component of successful diversity initiatives.
This certainly does not mean that we neglect other races, cultures, or ethnicities. Our work centers Black talent, but is of course inclusive of all talent, and encompasses diversity as it relates to all minority groups, including religiously diverse groups, differently abled groups, those that belong to the LGBTQI+ etc.
That being said, we bring the conversation back to the extensive research that shows that as it relates to addressing racial, cultural, and ethic diversity, addressing diversity by focusing on Black talent is tantamount.
Take for example, on September 30, 2019, Harvard Business School Working Knowledge, published an article by their Senior Writer, Dina Gerdeman. The article, titled “6 Steps To Building a Better Workplace For Black Employees,” summarizes key points of the book, Race, Work, and Leadership: New Perspectives on the Black Experience, which was co-edited by Harvard Business School senior lecturer Anthony J. Mayo, University of Virginia Professor Laura Morgan Roberts, and the president of Morehouse College, David A. Thomas. Like Mayo, both Morgan and Thomas have also taught at Harvard Business School.
The article is a quick but powerful read, and perfectly encapsulates much of the work that we do at Black Belonging Matters. You can read the entire article by clicking here. If you’re charged with improving diversity in your workplace, or even if you’re not, we also recommend reading the book.
We summarize here, some of the takeaways from Gerdeman’s article. She notes that if organizations intend to improve diversity, they must do the following:
1. Encourage employees to talk about race
Black employees who feel they are unable to discuss race, Gerdeman says, “feel as if companies are not willing to address their concerns that their talent is being undervalued or squandered, which can leave them feeling less engaged with colleagues, less satisfied with their work, and less loyal to their companies, according to the book.”
2. Help white colleagues contribute to the race conversation
By creating spaces for white employees to discuss race, Black employees are provided with a psychologically safe environment whereby they are able to “let their guard down and connect.”
3. Tackle systemic inequality, starting with the corporate culture
Gerdeman notes that diversity and inclusion programs generally fail because they “tend to focus on helping Black employees fit into the status-quo culture, rather than eliminating systemic inequality within their organizations.”
4. Keep confronting racial bias in hiring
According to the article, although recognizing various forms of diversity is commendable, we must ensure that race remains a part of the conversation.
At Black Belonging matters, we believe that race is a critical component to any conversation surrounding diversity.
“Anti-Blackness is the root of most oppression and racism in the United States.” It follows that homogeneity finds its roots in anti-Blackness. To address anti-Blackness is to address homogeneity. Any sincere diversity initiative must address anti-Blackness. At Black Belonging Matters, we provide organizations with the tools necessary to attain their diversity goals by addressing anti-Blackness.
5. Support employees so that they can be themselves
If there is an overarching theme to our work at Black Belonging Matters, it would be our insistence that Black authenticity be centered.
Gerdeman notes that “research shows that minorities at work feel pressure to create “facades of conformity,” suppressing some of their personal values, feeling unable to bring their whole selves to work, and believing they should nod in agreement with company values, according to the book.”
It should come as no surprise that, “creating opportunities for people to bring their authentic selves to work boosts engagement and helps employees contribute more to the organization.”
6. Be mindful of the “mini me” phenomenon
Managers must be aware that promotions of people who remind managers of themselves themselves, are likely to hinder Black advancement given that corporate culture is largely white.
Significant research in the diversity and inclusion arena suggests that the old way is quite simply, ineffective.
At Black Belonging Matters, we rely on present day research and current methodology to ensure that we deliver effective services that improve belonging in the workplace, improve bottom lines, and, improve our communities.
We know that the work that we do inside of the workplace is meaningful, and has far reaching implications outside of it. We trust that we will help to bring about change, equity and equality for all.
If our goals align with yours, we’d love to hear from you. Click here to contact us.