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Our world has a long history of conflict and conversation regarding humanity’s treatment of humanity. The current conversations about race, in particular, go back many, many years.
Last year, the murder of George Floyd continued the debate about race in our country. In 2020, it’s estimated that between 16 million and 26 million people participated in at least one Black Lives Matters protest following Floyd’s murder, making it the largest social movement in U.S. history.
Furthermore, a clear majority of citizens followed the news of the protests that erupted after Floyd’s murder. Nearly everyone seemed to be watching and passions were high. Though the headlines have, to an extent, shifted to other topics, “race” still is top of mind for many people and for many reasons.
In our work as a diversity, equity and inclusion consulting firm, the topic always is top of mind, and we’ve noticed a number of interrelated employer/employee-related trends emerging since the murder of Floyd and its aftermath. These tie to this unfinished conversation about race, and social justice generally, and we think they are worth noting since they impact so many people:
- Employers are increasingly seeing compliance with Equal Employment Opportunity laws as a minimal aspiration, and many organizations are beginning to take a hard look inward at their own cultures, policies and practices — as well as external branding — to ensure they are comfortable with where they stand, for their workforce and customers, in the current social justice environment. Though this trend started well before 2020 — at least as early as the early 2000s — the events of last year acted as a multiplier.
- Employees and job seekers increasingly want employers to reevaluate the employer role in society from a social justice perspective.
- Employees are beginning to hold employers accountable for what they said in 2020 about supporting diversity, equity and inclusion — they want to see action, not just words.
- Although many larger organizations — businesses, government, school districts and higher education, for example — are hiring diversity, equity and inclusion officers to help address their internal and external stances/postures on DEI, there is high turnover in these roles due to:
- Burnout caused by extremely unrealistic expectations placed on those assuming these roles.
- Hiring unqualified people to do the job. Many have passion about and personal experience with DEI topics but lack the skills and experience needed to operate effectively as subject matter experts within their organizations.
The achievement of a healthier, wealthier and more equitable and just union for all demands that we all continue to dream big, work hard together and stay the course to overcome the current and future barriers to come. Though the above trends show that many are investing human and other resources into moving social justice forward, much work remains to be done by individuals and organizations.
Here are just a few of the high-level diversity, equity and inclusion action steps we have been sharing with our clients that you might find useful, as well:
Look inward and educate yourself about the issues from multiple points of view. There are a number of thoughtful publications available on race, gender, socioeconomics and many other issues focused on the challenges we face today.
Create space for sincere and serious conversations about the future of our communities with others. Take ownership and be intentional about having these conversations. Share your thoughts and feelings in a respectful way while staying curious to learn from others. Listen and acknowledge people’s pain.
Does your organization understand the business case for diversity, equity and inclusion?
Does it need a culture shift? Where does it fit in the diversity and inclusion maturity spectrum? Where does your organization need to be in order to thrive long-term? Are you well-positioned to thrive in our fast-changing world?
Create a strategy with a clear diversity statement and robust long-term goals.
Determine the right tactics to achieve your long-term goals and begin implementing them.
Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint. Workplace culture and practices do not change overnight, especially for larger organizations. This work is not simply a quick computer-based training course or a series of celebratory events.
What will you do to move this unfinished conversation forward?
A former commissioner on the city of Des Moines’ Civil and Human Rights Commission, Claudia Schabel is founder, president and chief executive officer of Schabel Solutions.