We hear the voices of those marching, shouting and demanding change to the systemic racism that exists in education, in their community and in the workplace. As a Latina, I have seen harassment, discrimination and bias (unconscious and conscious), which is just a cog in the wheel of this societal bias that we are all bearing witness to. I have felt that pain at the micro and macro level, but not to the extent of those in the African American community. However, our experiences at both the micro and macro unite us all, especially during this time of demanded change.
I am one-third of our leadership team at Cheer Partners. This is an achievement that if you had asked me in the beginning of my career, could I picture myself in this kind of role, my answer would have been no. I had borne witness to my mother’s career and while she worked tirelessly for her agency, and as much as her knowledge transfer was used to promote those around her and give way to their career path, she stood stagnant. Stagnant, in the background without a voice to make change. Forging forward in my career, I made the conscious decision to be a voice of change, to allow myself to grow and to take the opportunities that bypassed me on my own. Was it exhausting? Yes. Was it worth it? Absolutely.
Companies have the opportunity now to be an agent of change. Leadership Teams along with their HR Department should be planning out how to have these courageous conversations about racial inequality and bias in the workforce. We can easily be swept up in the moment, but this is a continued conversation and plan of action. This is not a time to be reactive in the moment but to be intentional by making sustainable changes. This must go beyond delivering social content. This must go beyond aligning in the moment. This must become part of the very fabric of your company to show that we all must do better. Every one of us.
Open and honest dialogue. This first step in the conversations will be the hardest for any leadership team. Acknowledging bias and racism in the workforce is difficult. Employees want authenticity, not a carefully crafted statement that touches on a subject that runs deeper. It is critical that employees, people of color have a place where they can safely express what they are feeling, going through, or struggling with, without the fear of being judged. While there is need for empathy and understanding, the conversations should not be overwhelmed with a backlash of sympathy or co-victimization.
Make the impact that you intend to make.
Diversity + Inclusion must be intentionally designed and supported. While diversity in its traditional form ensures that employees see themselves represented in the workplace, diversity can fail if inclusivity is not its equal partner. You must be part of the solution. Encourage and embrace each employee’s identity or how they choose to identify. Commit to providing your employee’s a safe space to bring their true, authentic selves to work every single day.
Be mindful of microaggressions.
Do not compliment a Latino employee for speaking English well or asking if Spanish is their first language. Do not assume all Black employees are from a major urban city or Caribbean island and then ask about citizenship. This can easily reveal stereotypical assumptions, which add to racial discrimination in the workforce.
Bring in diverse + inclusive talent. Change the process. Show up and show your commitment. Be intentional about your outreach. Encourage membership to organizations to help continue those courageous conversations and implement the changes and ideas. A diverse and inclusive workforce at all levels is more effective than a workforce that is not.
I encourage you to step back, look at your leadership team. Is the playing field level? Are you promoting a diverse and inclusive workforce? Be part of the systematic change that is needed to show you are committed to growing diverse talent. Create an environment and legacy better than it is today. The changes you make today will impact the next generation who are looking for a position of value and respect and most importantly, equality.