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Don't Think Race is an Issue at Your Company? Think Again.

Don't Think Race is an Issue at Your Company? Think Again.

In the past four weeks, Black Lives Matter demonstrations have occurred in all 50 states across the US. Sit with that for a minute.

Our communities are crying out to be seen and heard and recognized for who we are, in our full multi-dimensional identities, with everything both unique and shared about us acknowledged and valued equally. We want equitable inclusion.

Participants cross every demographic - race, age, gender, sexual orientation, military veteran…. you name it, someone from that group is marching. Not just saying they support Black Lives Matter, but getting out and marching in the midst of an epic health crisis. It is the ultimate expression of “WE HAVE HAD ENOUGH.”

[Related: How Bad is White Supremacy?]

Thanks to the video windows into everyone’s daily lives, we can all see just how intersectional our lives are. No one can pretend they are single-dimensional any longer - we can’t shed our other identities when we go to work over video, in our homes, with no child or elder care, assuming we even still have full-time employment.

And no once can pretend we are not impacted directly by what happens to others around us. We are all links in the same community chain. The impact to one of us may not be as severe as to another, but it is real and it brings us all down.

Leadership skills are being put to the ultimate test right now. Your ability to make sure your organization is able to serve the full needs of its employees and its customers is important now more than ever.

You can’t serve effectively if you don’t have the right voices to listen to around you. The only way you can really do that is to make sure you have a representative group of people working for you - with a valued voice in the conversation - that mirrors your market.

[Related: Diversity Without Power is Still Not Enough]

What do I mean? Let’s assume you are a brand or retailer serving the mass market. Here is who makes up that population, according to 2018 US Census Bureau data:

  • 49% Male, 51% Female.
  • 60% White.
  • 18% Hispanic.
  • 12% Black.
  • 6% Asian.
  • 1% American Indian, Alaskan Native, Native Hawaiian, or other Pacific Islander.
  • 3% two or more races.

Is this what your workforce looks like? Is it balanced by level, by function, by location? Across salaried and hourly workers?

Remember, not everyone participates in the census, especially in minority communities, so you need to look at these numbers as somewhat directional. Which means you should be striving to be even more balanced racially than this, and be 50/50 for gender. And gender non-conforming needs a home in your workplace, as well.

Think of this as the bare minimum you need to work from to move toward operating at your full potential. Because representation is just the beginning - the equitable inclusion comes from ensuring all the processes, systems, and ways of working value everyone equally. Once you get there, you will be a tremendous ally to your community.

[Related: No Matter What You Call Them, Allies Are Important]

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Throughout her twenty-five-year career, Michelle Bogan has mentored colleagues and clients, founded and led women's groups, and helped promote many women and men to leadership positions. In 2018, she founded Equity for Women to advance the mission of empowering women at work.


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