5 Top Tips for Advancing Racial Equality in your organisation

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In June 2021, Henley Business School published The Equity Effect report, which highlighted some data that contrasted with the government’s view, it found that:

· One in three business leaders acknowledge racial inequity exists in their business.

· Two in five employees from the global majority (those with ethnically diverse backgrounds) acknowledge racial inequity exists in workplaces.

You may be striving for equality in your organisation, by that I mean: treating everyone the same because that’s what you see fairness looking like, taking a collective approach, focussing on inputs rather than equal outcomes and seeing the same people hold onto power.

To make real change happen we need to strive for equity, by considering systems that disadvantage some and seek to overcome them. To do so we need to take an Individual approach, to lead, share power and focus on outcomes.

This may sound like a utopian idea, but here are five practical things that you can do today to take you towards achieving equity and a more inclusive and creative workplace.

1. Share something that is not obvious about your background just by looking at you and see if this begins a two-way dialogue.

For example, say that you are a white man, your colleagues may think that your lived experience means that they cannot empathise with you; but you may have adopted siblings from the global majority (ethnically diverse backgrounds), or grown up in another country.

Sharing something that is not obvious about your background is a great opportunity to share your life experience, reveal insights into different ways of thinking and cultivate those around you, but most important of all, it starts a dialogue about race with less awkwardness.

2. Reflect on obstacles and challenges that your colleagues from the global majority (ethnically diverse backgrounds) may have experienced and may still be experiencing and work together to remove barriers and obstacles.

To advance racial equity in your organisation, be reflective, empathetic and action oriented. Try not to assume that you know what your colleagues experience just by looking at them, learn more about them by talking to them and getting to know them on a personal level. Your employee data will tell you whether they face obstacles advancing in your organisation, and the national news will tell you what obstacles they may face in society.

An example of removing a barrier is if a certain qualification is needed to access a particular role but is not accessible to everyone. You could support individuals to achieve that qualification, rather than excluding them because they don’t have it.

3. When re-structuring or making layoffs, ensure that those from the global majority (ethnically diverse backgrounds) are not disproportionately impacted.

If you want a more diverse and inclusive workplace, you need to ensure that any actions you take within your organisation are not disproportionately impacting those who belong to the global majority. Staff from the global majority may be located in specific roles or departments, and if you don’t take that into account when making decisions they could be negatively impacted.

Bias can also be at play, if you know your white colleagues better, you may unconsciously make biased decisions about whose job should be secure and whose shouldn’t.

4. Recognise that an intersectional approach is key

It is important to recognise that an intersectional approach is key when discussing race and ethnicity because people often have an intersection of more than one identity. For example, a black woman may experience racism and sexism.

Sometimes we end up racing in the ‘Oppression Olympics’ , thinking that one characteristic is more important than another, and find ourselves saying ‘what about people with a disability, what about those from the LGBTQ+ community etc, but this is missing the point. They key to remember is that for everyone to win, no one has to lose, and that we can examine the experience of the minorities within minorities without, without excluding anyone else.

5. Appreciate that talent doesn’t just look and behave in one way.

If you’ve ever heard someone, say “they’re not the right fit” for the role or organisation, it’s a telling sign that you must fit the mould to be successful in that organisation. If that is the case it likely that you must have the ‘right’ education, hobbies, speak in a certain way and may be even have certain outside of work pursuits.

To move beyond this approach, you must separate performance from potential, and personality from skill sets. Too often potential and skill are disregarded for track record and personality. Track record can’t be achieved if there a glass ceiling blocking you and personality mostly doesn’t stop you getting your job done.

Final tip

To advance racial equity in the workplace is to build an organisational understanding of what it means, and then identify what is already being done and what is not being done. To solve, we need to “name, frame and explain where racial equity doesn’t exist”. My book, Equality vs Equity: Tackling issues of race in the workplace, helps the reader unpack the concept of racial equity and understand its importance in moving the dial on inclusion; providing language, and practical tips for the reader to take action. It is essential reading for HR professionals, leaders and those who want to educate themselves and influence others to do the crucial complex work of achieving racial equity in the workplace.

We are evolving to the next level of understanding what Inclusivity is and the bridge to that understanding is ‘equity’. Find out how in detail what equity is, and how to strive for it, personally and professionally – Equality vs Equity: Tackling issues of race in the workplace.

About the author: Jenny Garrett OBE is a Coach & Leadership development consultant. She is an experienced facilitator of programmes for managers, Directors and CEOs from a variety of organisations, including private and public sector. Prior to this she held senior Marketing Roles for organisations such as Ashridge Business School, Hamptons International and Schroder Leasing. Jenny’s specialist areas include:

Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging – ‘no longer counting people, but making people count’, exploring and appreciating difference, culture and beliefs to provide the best organisational solutions.

Leadership coaching – providing the challenge and support that can be missing for executives at the most senior levels of an organisation to keep them on track.

Team performance – through team coaching, enabling improved lines of communication, increased self-awareness and an understanding of others perceptions.

Jenny was awarded OBE in the Queen’s New Year Honours 2021 for services to Entrepreneurship and Women in Business. She has a Masters Degree MA (Management Learning & Leadership) Lancaster University. BA Honours Business, University of Westminster and Coaching Qualifications with Ashridge Business School and Lancaster University. She has the highest honorary award of ‘ Companion’ from the Institute of Leadership and Management.

This article has been kindly repurposed.