George Floyd’s death has catalysed widespread anger and protest at the racial discrimination and injustice that remains prevalent in society today. The moral case is clear and (nearly) all of us recognise that racial injustice is wrong – millions of black squares posted on Instagram are a testament to that.
Demonstrations of support and solidarity like this are great, but posting a black square doesn’t equal change. Inequality persists through the systems and structures that promote or hold in place privileges and unconscious bias. If we do not try to address the structural inequality, these messages can easily become meaningless.
The irony of posting millions of black squares on a social media platform that is elsewhere promoting speech inciting violence should not be lost. So what actions can we take as business leaders to promote real change? Here are some ways:
- Recognise the strength that diversity brings to teams and group decision-making
- Have organisational policies in place that deal with equality, diversity and inclusion matters. This is a necessary first step that creates a structure to hold us as business leaders to account.
- Consider measuring the ‘ethnicity pay gap’ in your organisation. Race inequality can be compounded by issues of class, gender and age.
- The same efforts made to promote equality based on one protected characteristic should be applied to all.
Call it Out
- Where we see discriminatory practice or unacceptable behaviour going on, we must speak up and not stand quietly by.
- Ensure all members of your team feel supported to raise matters of concern, as those with the least power have the quietest voice.
- Ensure employees have a mechanism to be able to speak out about examples of discrimination and hold each other to account in a professional and non-personal way
Make use of our Purchasing Power
- Put in place procurement policies that ensure we only buy from suppliers that promote diversity.
- Consider how our reputation, personal and professional, connects to those we work with across the supply chain – who and what do we want to be associated with?
Reinvent our Hiring Practices
- Design recruitment processes that counteract our unconscious biases – such as removing the names from CVs and other blind hiring practices
- Advertise opportunities in places that may attract a diverse talent pool.
- Audit and benchmark the diversity of our workforce – actively seek to employ and commission people from a diverse range of backgrounds, genders and abilities.
- Share our skills, knowledge and contacts to support and mentor people from underrepresented backgrounds
- Actively partner with, share and promote the work of people from a diversity of backgrounds
Recognise our Privilege and Use our Influence
- Acknowledge that no matter how hard you have worked to get where you are, others facing structural discrimination have to work harder.
- Decline to participate in projects that are not representative – refuse to participate in one-dimensionality.
- Stand aside where a person from an underrepresented background would be better suited to work on a project.
As business leaders, we are privileged to be able to enact some of these changes through our organisations. We have a responsibility to act.
Further reading and with thanks to: