In response to the killing of, George Floyd in the US, on 25th May, protests have erupted across the world. After this came #blackoutTuesday, where black squares dominated social media platforms in an effort to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
While this has raised consciousness, it is only a tentative step toward addressing racial injustice. The next step has to make a change, actively.
Here are some ways companies can show their support dynamically beyond tokenistic social media posts and play a pivotal role in changing workplaces.
Sponsoring diversity and inclusion measures publicly, should be more than just marketing, or else, it’s just a black-washing exercise. Black-washing, is where brands issue vacuous statements about their commitment to ethnic minorities and their issues, while showing no real commitment to changing their own practices.
One positive example of many, which stand for real change was Nike’s sponsorship of Colin Kaepernick. The support Kaepernick received, demonstrated that the organisation was willing to stand for freedom of speech at a time when the NFL (National Football League in the US) and its customer base was divided on the matter of racial injustice. This action involved taking a risk and estranged some of Nike’s customer base.
Merely posting a black square on Instagram of Facebook one day and then going back to business-as-usual the next is disingenuous. Companies should undertake to be part of the solution.
These days we are all aware that as customers, we have some power to vote with our cash. This means you can choose to seek out businesses that are black-owned or have taken onboard real change in practices or those that support black communities to spend with.
Being ‘anti’ anything does not simply mean being against something, it means being actively against something.
There are three good reasons to be anti-racist. The first is business: avoiding discrimination makes good business sense. The second reason is the moral one; avoiding discrimination is the right thing to do, morally. The third is, it’s illegal and covered in the UK under the Equality Act 2010.
An anti-racist organisation takes action to oppose racial inequality by speaking out on and changing structural inequalities at the workplace and in the wider world.
Ask yourself these questions:
- How has your company responded to recent the crisis?
- Would discovering racism or other forms of discrimination in your business be an opportunity to change or improve?
- Do your staff have the freedom to speak out on discrimination?
- Does your business foster an environment in which workers feel empowered to talk about discrimination?
- If not, why not?
It is generally accepted that we are all diverse and unique, and that is to be celebrated. For some reason however, this celebration ends when we talk about, ‘colour’. These individualities are then combined to create a toxic mix of inequality.
Racial inequality may be compounded by other issues such as class, age or gender. The same efforts that are made to end inequality based on one characteristic should be applied to all.
Re-imagine your hiring practices
Discrimination is still a major feature in the employment of ethnic minorities. To change this it is being common practice to use, ‘blind,’ hiring practices, removing names from CVs for example as a first step, followed up by diversity auditing.
A question we should also be asking ourselves, is how diverse are our teams making recruiting decisions? Or are we advertising in places that may attract a more varied pool of talent?
The most radical of these changes could come through the interview process; is the traditional interview still the best way to select a candidate? Are there other methods or recruitment products that reduce inherent bias?
Support mental health in the workplace
Ethnic minorities are disproportionately affected when it comes to mental health issues. Studies show that racism damages mental health in a variety of ways such as, underemployment, unemployment, associated sexism and lower social income.
Creating a supportive environment in the workplace is where employees are empowered to have conversations about racism and is a practical way of supporting colleagues. Many people are unaware that they generate hostile work environments where staff are afraid to share experiences or implement change. Does your workspace have culturally competent resources where staff can go for support?
By introducing and managing good mental health practices, you are fostering a culture that is intentionally supportive for all.
Societal privilege, is something that benefits certain people over people, especially if they are otherwise under the same social, political, or economic conditions. It is an invisible force that people needed to recognise and filters down to even the minutiae of life, such as walking into a shop and finding that the main displays of items such as shampoo, make up or tights are catered toward your hair type or skin tone. Diversity affects everyone. Think about how your physical or online store is representative of everyone.
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