Leadership Tips to Get Started with Racial Equality

The recent protests that have sparked the global debates around diversity and inclusion, and with institutional racism being a key focus of conversations, how can leaders develop and develop truly equitable workplace environments, whilst putting a better focus on increasing racial equity?

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The shifting focus on diversity and inclusion has meant that racial inequality and systemic racism, has been brought to the forefront of the world’s consciousness. How to get started with promoting and embedding racial equity however, may not be as easy as it first appears.

With the eyes of employees firmly fixed on leaders to lead the agenda for their organisations, leadership must deliver strongly against the agenda.

The recent protests that have sparked the global debates around diversity and inclusion, and with institutional racism being a key focus of conversations, how can leaders develop and develop truly equitable workplace environments, whilst putting a better focus on increasing racial equity?

Is Increasing Tolerance Enough?

Increasing tolerance around race is a start but Black employees don’t merely want to be tolerated within the workplace or, within society! The constant, often subtle remarks and ridicule suffered by Black and Brown employees, have a negative impact on job satisfaction, personal development, mental health and personal life that perpetrators cannot begin to understand.

Since the death of George Floyd, the focus on race and racial inequality has been underlined as a key concern in the workplace, but how can the workplace been changed to develop an environment, where microaggressions are marginalised, systemic racism removed, and black employees are enabled to operate on an equal footing as their white counterparts?

Leadership Responsibility

There has been a resurgence of the issue of race and race inequalities, and concerns have been raised around the reticence of organisation to consider race equality within workplace diversity and inclusion agenda.

Whilst many organisations have made statements around diversity and inclusion over recent months, statements and rhetoric around race inequality and systemic racism, this is not enough to promote equality, and is certainly not going to rid organisations of it.

As leadership moves forward to address these concerns, it should be noted that many are using their Black employees in ways that make many feel uncomfortable with. We should be clear that this is not your Black employees issue to fix… it is yours!

Systemic racism rests at the heart of organisational process and functions and whilst it is perfectly proper to engage with Black employees to assist in developing inclusive processes, it is not their place to fix systemic racism.

The concerns and issues surrounding racial inequality are systemic and must be driven by leadership action. Compelling Black employees to drive the diversity and inclusion agenda, has long since been a tact for organisations to tick a box, and give the appear that progress is being made. It is leadership responsibility to drive workplace inclusion, and support equity within the workplace.

This includes ridding the workplace environment of microaggressions and other behaviours, both personal and systematic, that reinforce inequality.

Where to start

Starting your leadership journey on race equality and diversity and inclusion more generally, is going to take a strategic approach. Here are 5 tips that leadership can use to begin creating a racially inclusive, and supportive workplace environment.

1. Call On The Experts

Racial inequality didn’t start overnight and it certainly did not begin with the death of George Floyd. Racism is systematic and pernicious and requires expert knowledge and help to build a strategy to combat it.

If you are going to take action on diversity and inclusion and racial equality, consider the merits of getting professional advice and support.

2. Advance your Own Learning

Leadership will require up to date and effective training on diversity and inclusion. If you are going to drive the agenda, it makes sense that you gain knowledge around what it is all about. Make sure that training includes instruction on leadership responsibilities around legislations as well as corporate governance. It’s an important aspect of leadership roles!

3. Become More Inclusive

Inclusive leadership is a plus when it comes to getting it right. Organisations that are more inclusive at leadership level, benefit by having a more inclusive approach to decision making. It’s not just about having people of colour on the leadership team, it’s about enabling these leaders to have a voice. Inclusive leadership adds immense value, and helps to develop, and increase cultural competence.

4. Develop a Long-Term Strategy

This is not a tick box exercise. Your strategy needs to be long term and feature development for leadership, recruitment, human resources and talent management, amongst others. Your strategy must be about removing barriers where they are found, as well as developing organisational culture and behaviours. A quick fix approach to getting this right will not work.

5. Measure Monitor and Evaluate Progress

Just like other projects across the business, progress should be monitored and reviewed on a regular basis. Consider who is leading the agenda across the various functions of your organisation and schedule in time for them to updates regularly.

You may also consider making diversity and inclusion a standard part of your performance review structure so that you can measure how all employees are progressing.

These 5 tips can help leadership teams to begin to think about starting to build a more racially inclusive and equitable organisation. Failure to develop a racially inclusive workplace will, over the longer term, expose an organisation to challenges with brand image, recruitment and harm potential sales and market share.

Getting it right is more important than tick boxing a way out of it.

Carmen Morris is a diversity and inclusion consultant and Managing director of Kenroi Consulting. She is also a speaker on inclusion and a contributor on leadership and diversity and inclusion on Forbes.com

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