- Executives pledged new DEI initiatives after the killing of George Floyd.
- But about six months later, many Black employees say there hasn’t been enough change.
- Diversity and inclusion consultants share ways executives can usher in real change.
- Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.
American companies promised change â€” to take diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) seriously â€” in the wake of the killing of George Floyd.
But according to a recent LinkedIn survey of Black professionals, there hasn’t been tangible change in their workspaces â€¦ at least not yet.
While 78% of Black professionals surveyed believe their senior leaders value DEI, some 40% say this support is “more talk than action,” and think their companies have not made any material changes to policies or culture.
In other words, they see it as performative allyship, or saying you support change without having the intention of doing the hard work to achieve it.
The online survey of some 2,000 Black professionals was conducted in January.
To be sure, change doesn’t happen all at once. In a recent conversation with Insider, VernÄ Myers, Netflix’s vice president of inclusion strategy, said that DEI is a long game.
“Cultural change doesn’t happen overnight,” Myers said. “The kinds of conditions that created underrepresentation, and some of the inequities, happened a long time ago and continue. So this isn’t going to change overnight because it wasn’t created overnight.”
Still, that doesn’t mean employees should be waiting years to see policy changes. Here are steps companies can take to start ushering in real change when it comes to racial equity and diversity.
If you haven’t already, engage with your employees around DEI
Conduct an internal assessment, Myers said. Reach out to your workforce to see how they’re feeling and what needs to change. Your VP of DEI or someone in a similar position, or a DEI consultant, can help you lead this fact-finding mission.
As part of this process, executives should ask themselves “Who do we have in what roles? Who could we promote internally to leadership positions? Who are we not listening to?” Myers suggested.
This signals to your workers that you’re serious about getting to the root of the problem.
Expand where you’re looking for talent and invest in mentorship
Relying on chance, that Black and brown employees will find your job listings and apply, is not a diversity strategy.
Myers suggests intentionally expanding the pool of places you recruit and hire from. For example, this might include historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) or community colleges, which often have a more diverse student population.
Partnering with local community colleges and HBCUs signals to your workforce that you’re committed to diversity.
Invest in programs that promote inclusion
While hiring and promoting more workers of colour is a great first step, executives have to make sure they keep these employees long term. If a Black or brown employee doesn’t feel heard, respected, or valued â€” a phenomenon called “onlyness” â€” they will leave.
One great way to do this is to formalise employee advancement programs, like mentorship programs, according to DEI consultant and author Minda Harts.
Mentorship opportunities that rely on relationships that form naturally often leave employees of colour behind, considering that many people in high-powered positions are white. And people are more likely to mentor those with whom they have things in common. This is why women of colour are the least likely to have sponsors in corporate America, research shows.
By pairing workers with mentors, and by specifically targeting employee resource groups that serve workers from marginalised backgrounds, you’ll ensure Black and brown workers have the same shot to learn and grow their career in this way.
Conduct a pay equity report
One of the most tangible ways inequity surfaces in the workplace is through pay. In many instances, employees of colour, women, and LGBTQ professionals are paid less than cisgender white men for the same work.
Kerryn Agyekum, principal of diversity, equity, inclusion and justice at The Raben Group, thinks leaders should conduct pay equity reports and proactively remediate any discrepancies they find. Announcing, and conducting a pay equity report, shows your company you’re really putting your money where your mouth is.
“If you’re a person in power, it isn’t your job to leave all of the Black and brown employees to figure out this whole ‘race thing’ on their own. You actually have a responsibility to remediate toxicity and remove systemic barriers,” she said.