I've worked with places like H&M, Nordstrom, and Yale University to spark dialogue about workplace equity and diversity — here are 5 actions I advise every business leader to take right now

Dr. Janice Gassam AsareDr. Janice Gassam Asare.
  • Dr. Janice Gassam Asare is the author of “Dirty Diversity: A Practical Guide to Foster an Equitable and Inclusive Workplace for All,” and founder of BWG Business Solutions, LLC, a consultancy designed to help organisations be more inclusive.
  • She says it’s great that many corporations have voiced support for Black Lives Matter in the weeks after the killing of George Floyd, but that if they truly want to embrace diversity, it will take more than a few social media posts and vague PR statements.
  • Instead, it’s important to take actionable steps to evaluate how your business is doing right now, and to see exactly where it needs to improve.
  • Conduct a pay audit to see if you equally pay employees of all races, make leadership pay contingent upon D&I efforts and successes, and create a diverse referral pipeline for considering new hires.
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In the last few weeks, everyone has been talking about racial justice following the killing of George Floyd in police custody. Race relations have led the global conversation. Books on racism have flown off the shelves and currently the New York Times bestseller list is dominated by anti-racism books.

But truly unlearning racism begins with acknowledgment and awareness of our own blind spots. Educating ourselves on the ways that racial inequities show up in everyday life can help improve our understanding. The next part of the equation is recognising disparities in our systems and creating solutions to address these issues.

Over the last few weeks, many corporations have been called out by their employees and customers for failing to back up their words with real actions. Posting about how you believe Black Lives Matter is great, but if you’re a business leader or in a position of influence, it’s more important that you take action. In today’s day and age, people want receipts – a few social media posts are not going to cut it.

Here are five actionable ways to ensure you are creating an anti-racist workplace.

1. Conduct a pay audit

Evidence suggests that despite decades of effort to overcome the racial wealth gap, it continues to persist. Implementing a pay audit system where the organisation analyses employee pay to assess equity can be an effective strategy to ensure pay parity. Some companies have introduced a transparent salary system where employee salaries are shared online for the public. Frequently review employee salaries to make sure that employees of all races are being fairly compensated for their labour.

2. Assess tenure for different racial groups

Since 2015, major tech giants have been sharing diversity reports that indicate the number of diverse employees in their organisations. One area of focus that deserves attention is the number of diverse employees that stay in the organisation over the years. Representation only tells one side of the story. Look at job tenure rates by race to gain a better understanding of the culture of inclusion (or exclusion) within the organisation. If you find that Black employees are leaving the organisation at higher rates than their counterparts, implementing mentorship and sponsorship programs to support these employees can prove advantageous.

3. Tie leadership pay to diversity

It was recently announced that Wells Fargo is going to tie executive pay to organizational diversity efforts. According to the new policy, if leaders are able to increase representation for diverse employees, they will receive pay packages at the end of each year. Organisations hoping to impact change should consider implementing a similar program into their workplace. In 2014, Intel implemented a similar model where executive pay was tied to the attainment of diversity goals. Intel saw growth in the number of underrepresented groups that were hired into the organisation. Linking pay to diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts is an effective strategy to make racial equity a priority.

4. Create a diverse referral program

70-85% of jobs are estimated to be filled through networking, one report found. Many industries point to a pipeline problem to explain why there is an inability to attract diverse talent. Corporations hoping to foster an anti-racist organisation must ditch the traditional referral systems, which often lead to an echo chamber of the same types of employees. Implementing a diverse referral program into the workplace may resolve this issue. Assess company demographics and determine which groups are underrepresented. Once this information is attained, communicate with employees the desire to increase representation and encourage employees to recommend their friends to the diverse pipeline. When hiring for open positions, be sure to use this diverse pipeline to source qualified candidates.

5. Curate open discussions on race

Race is like the hot pink elephant that enters a room and you try to ignore it. Think about how difficult it is to pretend you don’t see the pink elephant in the room; this is like the organisation that shies away from conversations about race. In order to foster an anti-racist organisation, there should be frequent and open discussions about race, racial equity and inclusion. What systems and structures are in place to educate employees on racial microaggressions? Implement bystander training into the workplace so employees understand and are equipped with the tools to intervene when they witness discrimination taking place. One diversity training session is not going to move the needle. Change comes with consistent and ongoing discussions around race.

Janice Gassam, PhD

is the founder of BWG Business Solutions, LLC, a consultancy designed to help organisations create more inclusive environments. She facilitates workshops, and delivers keynote speeches and “Awareness Talks” to spark important dialogue about workplace equity. She
is a professor of business management at Sacred Heart University and author of the new book, “Dirty Diversity: A Practical Guide to Foster an Equitable and Inclusive Workplace for All.” She is also a TEDx speaker and host of the Dirty Diversity podcast where she discusses all things diversity, equity, inclusion. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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