We are beyond our time to move the needle on increasing Black and brown representation in the workplace, specifically in the C-suite and corporate boards. And that’s one reason we recently attended the webinar Racial Equity in Business: How To Get Results By Being Color Brave, hosted by the Baltimore Business Journal, where business leaders led a transparent and transformative conversation on what it means to be color brave and how to uphold your business and the workplace to these standards.
Here are key takeaways from the discussion on how to create and maintain color brave organizations, how to increase and retain Black and brown representation in the workplace including in senior-level positions, and the benefits of diversity within work environments.
- What does it mean to be color brave?
Being color brave means you make a space for candid conversations about race that can help us better understand each other’s perspectives and life experiences. Color brave doesn’t mean you gloss over race issues and avoid these conversations, instead you welcome these conversations and approach them with unbiased opinions, an authentic mindset, curiosity, and interest to learn about your differences.
- Change your “narrative” and “thought process.”
To be color brave, you must first change your “narrative” and “thought process.” You can’t be an organization that’s part of the movement with same mindset and perception as before. Business leaders must assess what they do know and what they don’t know. Look deeper and address situations that will make a difference. Build healthy habits that create a two-way conversation between leadership and employees. Discuss the future of your organization, show your commitment to your employees, a diverse workplace, and the BLM movement.
- What is the DNA of a color brave organization?
Organizations that encompass a color brave work environment create goals and business plans with intentionality, sustainability, and accountability at the forefront. A color brave organization implements:
- Employee Resource Groups (ERs): are employee-led groups that are created for a mission and are meant to untie employees of common interests, backgrounds, and characteristics. ERGs can help connect employees to C-level executives and leaders, providing employees opportunities to gain more exposure within the organization.
- Diversity, Equity, & Inclusions (DEI) committees: a group of diverse professionals who provide training, and directly influence and enforce company policies, procedures, and standards. DEI team members act as a resource for inclusivity and aid each employee in their right to bring their true authentic self to work every day.
- A commitment to hire diverse employee groups: leaders in organizations need to layout a realistic hiring and development process for employees, particularly their Black and brown employees. This begins with who is recruited. Be intentional about your recruitment process, determine where your organization is pulling candidates from, and ask yourself “am I expanding in diversity and skillset?”. Prior to employees joining your organization, layout a development and mentorship plan and program that is communicated to the employee during their onboarding. Give Black and brown employees an opportunity to learn and expand from their everyday roles. Research shows that 30% of an organizations Black workforce tend to leave within three years of employment and it’s because they eventually feel stuck in their positions and don’t see room for growth and development.
- Accountability: as a leader, a good practice to implement is to analyze your company’s policies and ask yourself a big question, “is everyone I am speaking like me?” If the answer is yes, your organization is not living a color brave environment.
Organizations that embrace and incorporate a diverse workforce set themselves for success. Diversity adds character, experience, and an array of skillsets. It’s no longer okay to say you that your organization is diverse and accepts people from all walks of life. Being a company of words makes you a part of the moment, not the movement. Let’s all work together to build organizations of actions.