5 Ways Companies Can Retain Designers that are Black, Indigenous, and People of color.

Jacquelyn Iyamah
May 4 · 3 min read

Tips from a Product Equity & Inclusion Strategist

Many companies view racism as a political issue when it is actually a human rights issue that is upheld by political, economic, and social institutions. Categorizing discussions about racism as “politics” that individuals can simply opt-out of is a colorblind approach. This approach essentially asks Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) to leave integral parts of themselves out of the workplace. This is not how we build a culture of equity and inclusion.

Diversity is not enough when you do not have practices to ensure that the BIPOC you hire wants to stay. Here are 5 ways companies can aim to decrease drop-off rates of Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and AAPI designers.

  1. Allow employees to talk about racial issues in the workplace. Racism is embedded into every facet of society — including the products, experiences, and services we design. Failing to have these conversations leaves space for designs to continue to default whiteness.
  2. Create design-focused anti-racism and unconscious bias courses for researchers, designers, data- scientists, and managers to ensure that teams play a part in designing systems of equity as opposed to designing systems of inequity.
  3. Ensure that specific DEI practices are embedded into design processes and frameworks so that designing for BIPOC becomes the norm and not an afterthought.
  4. Evaluate design team culture to understand how BIPOC designers feel in their teams. Do they feel like their voices, perspectives, expertise, and talent are respected? When analyzing these evaluations, disaggregate data to understand the nuances in how different BIPOC communities are treated differently.
  5. Compensate BIPOC designers who are asked to run DEI design councils. Not only is this valuable work, but it is work that individuals have to do in addition to their regular workload. This is how to create a culture of equity. If this is not possible, create specific inclusive design teams or, hire DEI design consultants to run these initiatives.

A note on racial wellness.

Check-in with employees after a collective racial trauma, don’t act as if nothing has happened. By ignoring these issues, companies continue to center on the experiences of white folks who do not experience racism. Additionally, do not expect BIPOC employees to show up business as usual after a racially traumatic incident. Allow individuals to take paid time off when they are experiencing collective or individual racial trauma. This shows that you acknowledge their pain and thus see their full humanity in a society that often does not see their full humanity.

Jacquelyn Iyamah is a Product Equity & Inclusion Strategist. She has a B.A. in Social Welfare from UC Berkeley, where her focus was on ensuring inclusion and equity for Black, Indigenous, and communities of color. She also has an M.S. in Interaction Design and Information Architecture from the University of Baltimore. https://www.jacquelyn.design/

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