After All the Statements of Commitment and Solidarity from Leaders — What’s Next? If You Are a Leader Ask Yourself These Questions.
My inbox has been flooded with statements from various businesses declaring Black Lives Matter and that they stand on the side of justice along with their commitment to change. I know you have read them too. Some of these statements declare commitments without any acknowledgement of the performance to date on equity and anti- racism in their organization. My question is after the statement what is going to be different? As you lead your organization how are you going to lead it to live up to your promise?
I have been working in leadership, Social Justice, Racial Justice, Equity, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion since I was 18 years old when my internship in the Equality Unit at the Cabinet Office in the UK taught me the difference between the spoken intentions of leaders, the policies and the day to day experiences of black and brown people. In the last 34 years I have worked with police services, governments, for profits, not for profits, large and small businesses, national and global organizations. I have seen many organizations declare a commitment to equality for all and then in the day to day running of their organizations the story is far from that. I have worked on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives championed by one Leader’s commitment and when they leave the organization their commitment walks out the door with them. Any progress being systematically dismantled and going back to square one or even further behind. We need a different end to this story. If you are leading you have the power to truly change the experiences of Black and Brown people who work for you, and who interact with your business in any way. You have the power to impact communities. Your influence is large -will you use your power for good?
So, what are the questions you may want to ask yourself as leaders at this time to truly start to do the work to dismantle the systemic racism and oppression that exists everywhere and in the places where you lead?
· Have you checked in on how your Black and Brown staff are feeling in this moment?
· Do you know the experiences of the people of color in your organization? What is it like for them to work in your organization? Do they experience being listened to?
· And if you do what would they want to see change?
· What is the make-up of your leadership team? What is the make-up of your senior leaders?
· How have you handled cases of discrimination in your organization?
· Have you provided safe spaces, like affinity groups, for staff of color?
· How are people recruited and who is on the hiring panel? What is the racial composition of the decision makers?
· How are people promoted in your organization?
· Have you and you your leadership engaged in meaningful development and dialogue on issues of race and discrimination?
· When you review your supplier contracts what is the racial composition of your suppliers?
· What is the value of their contracts?
· How do contractors become preferred suppliers? What is the process?
· If you have a Diversity and Inclusion department — how large is the budget? How big is the team? Traditionally the DEI departments are under-resourced for the job in hand. If you do not have a designated unit for DEI ask yourself why is that?
· Are you ready to have the courageous conversations in your organizations to move forward? Conversations on race are uncomfortable, and so if you are not committed to engage in them the change you seek will be limited.
This is not everything, there is more. True commitment to anti -racism and dismantling the practices that are so embedded in how organizations are run will take work. When you make the promises and put out a statement, understanding what it means is critical. People are watching, and the promises for change have been heard before. When we look back at this moment will your Black and Brown staff and consumers say you stayed true to your commitment or will they say you seized this moment as a marketing opportunity, deleted the press release and returned to business as usual.
Shirley is running a masterclass with her colleague Ray Fisher for White People who do not know where to begin called Time to Elevate — Stepping up Your behaviors and Actions on Race. Interested click here
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Shirley McAlpine is an Executive Coach, Facilitator and OD Consultant for 30 years. A specialist in leadership, individual performance, and equity, diversity/inclusion. She has worked with organizations/individuals in the UK, US, Europe and Africa. Her clients include Fortune 100 companies, small businesses and Foundations.
Follow Shirley on Instagram @shirleymcalpine_