What is our role as leaders within companies to ensure that our worlds are places of inclusion? First, we should understand that our organizations are microcosms of society, affording leaders control over cultural norms, procedural rules and levels of incentives and investments. Building an environment where biases and discriminatory practices are swiftly addressed, can in turn help drive racial equity on a wider scale.
Use the following roadmap to move through a process of awareness and understanding to put the right corrective policies in place.
Raise Awareness. Beliefs, not reality, will determine your team’s response to efforts taken to increase equity. To generate organization-wide buy-in, you must first explain the issues and state your intentions. Go into those discussions with humility and armed with research. Preparing ahead of time will increase your credibility, and admitting you don’t have all the answers will serve as an invitation for your employees to take ownership of the new direction.
Address Implicit Biases. Many people deny the existence of racism on the assumption that it is only racist if their actions are deliberate and motivated by hatred. Yet racism is defined simply as differential evaluation or treatment based solely on race, regardless of intent. Implicit biases are attitudes and beliefs that occur outside our conscious awareness and are just as harmful as explicit biases. Gaslighting is a common occurrence when implicit biases are challenged and is a sign that deep internal work needs to be done.
Help One Another. In a study backed by tennis legend Billie Jean King, it was found that 93% of WOC and 91% of white women thought we should better advocate and support each other, and yet only 9% of white women say they sponsor a woman of color. Intent to be of service is present, but even in this case, intention does not matter. Action is needed. As BJK said, “We have to keep fighting for each other and listening to each other and asking for what we want and need. We also need examples. If you can see it, you can be it.”
Question The Status Quo. In that same study nFormation cofounder Deepa Purushothaman gave her advice to women who would like to show up at work more authentically, “Sometimes it’s okay to question the structures around us. In all candor, I don’t know that women of color have given themselves permission to question structures. If we’re all told there’s one chair that one of us gets, then we end up in this competition. That’s not helpful to any of us. And so we have to really question those things because if we are competing for a chair, we’re not necessarily helping each other and changing the structure.”