How Will Your Employer Advance DEI?

Photo by Lindsay Laguna

Since the George Floyd case, support for Black Lives Matter has been on the rise globally. More and more people are starting to understand that racism is a public health issue. This might be news to some people, but it is not to me.

In fact, I attended the Boston Civic Leaders Summit last year, and one of the speakers was Antoinette D. Carroll, Founder, President, and CEO of Creative Reaction Lab. In her midday plenary speech, she stated, “Racism is a major public health issue.” The photo above is from her speech at the summit. This argument was so central to her message that she dedicated one slide to have the words, “Racism is a major public health issue,” up for everyone to read as she spoke to the large crowd at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute.

If we shift to the present day, we are seeing how the worldwide movement for Black Lives Matter is impacting companies. Employers in the United States are determining how to approach diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, especially as they relate to the Black community.

As this trend is on the rise at employers across the country, The Miami Times asked in a recent story Is corporate support for Black Lives Matter genuine? I shared and quoted this article in the tweet below.

“But as the Black community continues the battle to end systemic racism and racial inequality, Black influencers are keeping an open but cautious eye on corporate brands to guard against tokenism and performative allyship, and we should too,” states the article.

After this article was published, I had a phone call with one of my mentors. She shared her insights and assessments about the current state of DEI initiatives in workplaces across the United States. We remarked on how some employers were definitely more advanced in this work than others, and now is the time that it is really showing. Then she shifted the dialogue to speak more personally about her current work environment is addressing DEI.

After our call, I tweeted about our conversation and wrote, “My mentor told me about how she is on a committee at her workplace to assess #DEI practices. Who has been interviewed, hired, and promoted? What are the structural implications for key demographics? Every workplace should be doing this. Go beyond statements and stock photos.”

After speaking to her, I realized that her employer was doing among the most in-depth work to identify, assess, and address institutional, structural, and systemic racism compared to strategies I have heard being implemented at other employers. (If you need a review of these terms, check out this blog post by The Aspen Institute 11 Terms You Should Know to Better Understand Structural Racism.)

She made it clear to me that her workplace not only was looking at race, but also gender, LGBTQ populations, and other intersections of identities.

Every employer will have a different starting point, but I hope to see more of them start shifting in the direction of my mentor’s workplace.

How is your employer currently approaching DEI? How do you hope your employer advances DEI in the future, and what role do you want to play in its advancement?

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