By Ashley Causey-Golden
Last week, Forbes posted the article, “How To Get White Men on Board with Diversity and Inclusion Efforts” which explored how to bring more white males into the conversation and work around diversity and inclusion efforts.The author, Janice Gassam, brought up a valid point that white males comprise nearly 75% of Fortune 500 boards. As the growing number of diversity and inclusion (D&I) officers are finding a seat at the table for prominent companies and organizations, it is necessary that we discuss this topic more often especially in relation to employees with multiple identities.
D&I work includes employee recruitment, retention and engagement which are essential for any company to stay competitive. Having a D&I officer is a valuable asset and potential ally to have when it comes to creating change within your workplace. But more often than not, diversity and culture are seen as the magical words to increase revenue through human capital. The original intention of providing better and safer work environments become lost and often distorted. This distorted mindset leaves individuals to do the heavy lifting of making work tolerable and serving as an ambassador by teaching others about their group’s identity and culture.
If you fall into that category of ‘I have a D&I officer but my colleagues and I are not seeing and feeling the changes’, I have a few tips and an useful tool to serve as a starting place.
1. Before scheduling a meeting with your D&I officer/director, first critically think about what you need to be able to fully show up at work. Do you need another individual to be a witness and affirm what you or they have been experiencing at work? Also, do you need colleagues who share the same identities as you to be present in the room? These questions are just a starting place for you to think about how to address what you need in order to start the process of creating the change you and your colleagues wish to see.
2. Allyship is one way to achieve what you need. It can be an important and inclusive piece to creating holistic change across an organization. Think about what allyship means and looks like at your organization. As support grows and more people are included in the work, a common definition of what it means to be an ally and what allyship looks like within your company is vital because colleagues might encounter a steep learning curve and several of your colleagues might need to deal with past traumas they have experienced within the workplace. Being aware of learning curves and past traumas can help you approach allyship with a deeper level of sincerity.
3. Documenting the baseline of an organization’s racial equity can help you form a strong starting place as you build support. The Coalition for Communities of Color (CCC) created a tool called, Tool for Organizational Self Assessment Related to Racial Equity. This tool can help start a structured dialogue about the issues of racial equity within your organization. Having this starting place can lead to a greater understanding and a stronger commitment to the work.
4. Having a tool or a protocol to guide this work is necessary, especially if the goal is to create shared accountability across an organization. Although speaking from lived experiences and sharing insight are important aspects when it comes to perspective taking, it is usually not enough to change mindsets and habits. Using a tool or protocol as a main touch point means that all parties will use a common language and have a return point if the conversation takes a harmful or unproductive turn.
5. Baseline data is another supportive add-on to a protocol or tool. Pinpointing the areas that need targeted work will move the conversation from being problem focused to solution driven. Baseline data can also help the conversation take an objective tone. As you may have already experienced, race is a topic that can bring intense emotions to the forefront. Allowing space for that is healthy but having objective data with a protocol can be protective guardrails that remind individuals of why we are here.
6. Time is an important piece that should not be neglected. We each have multiple roles to fulfill in our professional and personal lives, so making time is crucial for the success and sustainability of the changes you and your colleagues wish to see. When working with your D&I officer, as well as your peers, keeping time-frames in mind will help ensure that goals are realistic to achieve.
Change can be slow but it does not have to be non-existent. As more D&I positions become normalized within companies, so should the necessary infrastructure for workers to be able to bring their best selves to work. As we already know, diversity and inclusion are great for companies but, more importantly, it is necessary for employees’ own mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing.