How Business Leaders Can Actually Help Black Employees
A 90-minute training session on unconscious bias is not enough
The current state of affairs in the U.S. has brought attention to the killing, mistreatment, and mischaracterization of Black Americans in society. Normally, diversity and inclusion (D&I) advocates would consider it a win to have so many leaders of all backgrounds leaning in to a critical and overdue conversation around the issues plaguing Black people. However, many business leaders are commenting on racial issues happening in the world while failing to deal with the very real problems happening within their own companies.
Many leaders like to believe that having diversity and inclusion initiatives, teams, and goals equals progress and success in the space. But, as we’re learning with the protests and global response to the recent spate of killings of unarmed Black Americans, talk is cheap. If you really want to know how your organization works for underrepresented Black employees, explore the suggestions below without the need to defend, deflect, or reason away any evidence of injustice. Here are nine questions to ask yourself and your team to help you start identifying constructs, biases, and policies that contribute to the mistreatment and mischaracterization of Black employees in your organization.
1. How are Black employees represented in your senior leadership team and board of directors?
It’s almost comedic when organizations publicly communicate their commitment to diversity but have zero diverse representation in key places of power and influence. Valuing gender diversity is not enough or equitable. From the standpoint of Black employees, listening to well-worded rhetoric from your comms team during company celebrations or in press releases that promote the value of diversity is particularly frustrating when promotion decisions and other management actions show otherwise. Besides taking note and taking action regarding the diversity of your top leadership, do a review of the rest of your organization’s hierarchy structure to see if there are specific actions, managers, or structures in place that could be blocking a pipeline of diverse leaders.