The Future of Work & Dismantling Racism: August’s Journey Towards Becoming an Anti-Racist Organization
This is the first of a series of posts on August’s journey towards becoming an anti-racist organization. We look forward to sharing our successes, missteps and learning along the way.
We are a company committed to the future of work. While work is shifting, the United States is also shifting. Here in the U.S., where most of our team is based, more than half of all Americans will be people of color by 2044.
From the workplace horror stories to the hard data, we know that there are glaring problems with how most organizations are contending with diversity and inclusion. If we can’t catalyze progress on these issues today, how will we be ready for the even more diverse world of tomorrow?
What we know so far tells us that a lot of what we’ve tried by way of building a more diverse workplace has fallen short. Over fifty years after the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and more than forty years after the women’s liberation movement, our workplaces are still highly segregated by race and gender. Inside the leading organizations that are shaping our future, the jobs at the lowest rungs — which also happen to be where workers of color are concentrated — do not lead to mobility and/or wealth-building. Women, and women of color in particular, still get paid significantly less for the exact same work. New companies don’t seem to be learning from the mistakes of their predecessors.
August is making a commitment to do better.
August will work to dismantle racism and systemic oppression. We see this work as directly linked to how we develop our own company, how we build our core consulting business, and to how we will achieve our purpose — a capable team for every meaningful mission.
We make this statement following in the footsteps of movement building organizations who have led us to a place where we have language, tools and expertise to drive both the internal and external conversation that we are having now. We recognize that our commitment is overdue. But whether we’re motivated by hundreds of years of oppressive history or the recent actions of oppressive leaders the need for action is urgent.
As a team, we’re just getting started with this work. Here’s what we’re learning:
- For a company doing work in the U.S. and made up with a majority of team members based in the U.S., we start our diversity and inclusion conversation with race. For more context on why we start with race, we recommend checking out our growing “Resources” folder in the Equity Diversity & Inclusion section of our Public Drive, including Why Lead With Race from the City of Seattle’s Office of Civil Rights Race and Social Justice Initiative.
- Diversity and inclusion in the workplace is fundamentally different than the work of dismantling racism in the workplace.The former tend to focus on individuals and their biases, whereas the latter focuses on the systems that impact us all. We believe that the project of fixing the underlying conditioning that shape our society will take a lifetime. The scale of the challenge, however, is even more motivation for us to dig in.
- Everyone who is responsible for shaping the future of work should also be accountable for helping to dismantle racism. We do not take this responsibility lightly. The racial unrest in our country, while not new, is more visible than ever before. We name this responsibility because we believe that in order for organizations to be ready for the future of work, having an explicit point of view around our role in dismantling racism, oppression and bias at the highest levels of an organization is essential. We borrow from the Annie Casey Foundation’s Race Equity and Inclusion Action Guide. They say: Building a proactive framework for addressing issues of race begins with having a clear understanding and vision of racial equity and inclusion. It is not enough to be able to critique and react to race inequities. We also need to know how to create and proactively build racial equity. Establishing a shared language to present data, describe conditions and outcomes and identify root causes of inequities serves an important function. A common language creates a narrative that makes it easier to communicate the commitment to racial equity, both internally and externally, and it creates a platform for coordinated work toward equitable outcomes.
- We have multiple entry points to dismantle racism at our organization. The folks on our team are in different places when it comes to their analyses of racism and other forms of systemic oppression. As a result, each of us have different types of work to do. We believe in the power of doing work in ally groups. Soon, members of our team who identify as white will be convening regularly to do work as aspiring allies. Similarly, members of our team who identify as men will be convening regularly to do work together as they seek to become better allies to women and folks who are feminine-of-center. We look forward to sharing more of what this work looks like as it take shape.
- We’re in it for the long game. Many of us are experiencing a public dialogue about racism and other forms of structural oppression more visibly than we ever have in our lifetimes. We assume the conversations we are having today are precipitated by the urgency of 2017 — as well as the documentation and mass distribution of overt racism. Inevitably, the current political moment will pass. In spite of that — and because of that, August is invested in the work of dismantling racism for the long haul. Our work in this vein will evolve as our conditions do.
- We find it useful to bring a racial justice lens to the broader work of addressing other intersectional forms of oppression. Systemic oppression affects many people for many different reasons. And every individual has many identities that simultaneously shape their role in fighting oppression — often as both an oppressor and as a member of an oppressed community. Racial justice gives us a strong foundation of language and practices that help us identify, understand, and begin to address all forms of oppression.
Our next piece in this series will share more about what we’re doing along our journey. We invite you to continue to check out our Equity, Diversity & Inclusion folder in our pubic drive for resources.