Not sure how to address Black Lives Matter? Read this.

Jun 10, 2020

Tasha Prados

I’ve seen a lot of organizations floundering in the last couple of weeks, unsure how to communicate and what to do. Folks are arguing with their executive directors, CEOs, and Boards just to put out a statement acknowledging that Black Lives Matter.

This is not a political issue. It is a human rights issue.

If you have nonwhite staff, clients, vendors, or operate in nonwhite areas, you need to not just put out a statement — you need to take concrete action. And if you don’t have nonwhite staff, clients, or vendors, that’s a huge problem — start there.

Today, there is no room for organizations that don’t have values — and live them. Consumers can see right through the lack of authenticity. If you have a diversity and inclusion policy, if you believe that all your employees should be treated equally regardless of the color of their skin — as is the law — you need to take a stand.

Here are some concrete steps you can follow and actions you can take.

1

Start from the inside out

2

Be accountable

3

Use your competitive advantage to support justice and equity

4

Look beyond your area of expertise

Step 1: Start from the inside out

Take a long hard look at your organization and ask yourself the tough questions. If you are the leader of your business or nonprofit — this is your responsibility. If you are an employee, you are not absolved. Take this to your leadership.

Is your leadership diverse? Is your Board diverse? Are women and minorities promoted at equal rates as their white counterparts? Look at your recruitment and hiring practices, wages, and employee benefits.

“Take a long hard look at your organization and ask yourself the tough questions”

Think about the population you work with and the issues you address. Do you work in/with minority communities? Are you ensuring this community is welcome and encouraged on the Board, in leadership, and in all decisions? How are you guaranteeing they have not just a voice, but a leadership role in how funds are spent and what is done in their community?

Look at the clients and vendors that you work with. Are they diverse?

Think about the events you attend and speak at. Are they racially diverse? If not, set a policy on this. If the Director of the National Institutes of Health can do it, so can you.

What can you do to support your employees, especially your employees of color, during this time? Consider offering them time off to process and protest. Ensure they have access to mental health support.

Think about how you will make your workplace a welcoming and safe space for nonwhite employees. No, the revolution will not be diversity and inclusion trainings. But — everyone starts somewhere, and the burden to educate cannot be put on your employees of color. Hire a minority facilitator to hold mandatory workshops on race and privilege within your organization. Assign required reading. Make Juneteenth a company holiday — Twitter and Square already did. Give employees the opportunity to form identity and issues-based groups — and give them time and budget to get together, talk, and organize activities within their group and for the whole company.

Do you have a formal process and guidance in place regarding racism and microaggressions in the workplace? Is it clear to all your employees that racism will not be tolerated?

Think about the products or services that you offer. What do you do to ensure they are accessible? Think about your messaging — is it inclusive? What about the images and case studies that you use — are they diverse?

“It’s important to start from the inside out — don’t be a hypocrite. But, don’t let imperfection within your organization stop you from acting externally either. Publicly acknowledge where you are and the concrete steps you are taking to address systemic racism and inequality.”

Step 2: Be accountable

Don’t just ask the questions.

Come up with an actual plan.

Follow the lead of Nathan Young and Bennett D. Bennett from the ad world.

 

  1. Make a specific, measurable, and public commitment to improve nonwhite representation at all levels of your organization, especially senior and leadership positions.
  2. Track and publicly report workforce diversity data on an annual basis to create accountability.
  3. Audit your policies and culture to ensure the environment is more equitable and inclusive to a diversity of backgrounds and perspectives.
  4. Provide extensive bias training to HR employees and all levels of management.
  5. Extend outreach to a more diverse representation of colleges and universities. Expand opportunities to candidates with transferable skills who may not have taken a traditional educational path. Especially work to recruit and support any communities you serve.
  6. Create, fund, and support Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) for Black employees.
  7. Invest in management and leadership training, as well as mentorship, sponsorship, and other career development programs for Black employees.
  8. Require all leadership to be active participants in diversity & Inclusion initiatives and tie success in those initiatives to bonus compensation.
  9. Create a diversity & inclusion committee made up of black and nonwhite employees to help shape diversity & inclusion policy and monitor its progress.
  10. Establish a diversity review panel to stem the spread of stereotypes and ensure whatever you put out is not offensive or culturally insensitive.
  11. Introduce a wage equity plan to ensure that Black women, Black men and people of color are being compensated fairly.

Step 3: Use your competitive advantage to support justice and equity

Once you’ve honestly evaluated where you are internally and made concrete commitments to action, think about how your products and services can be used to support the movement for racial justice.

Can you offer them for free, or at a discount, to folks advocating for black lives? Whatever it is that you do or sell, there’s likely a way you can use it for good.

Step 4: Look beyond your area of expertise

Beyond what you normally do or sell, what do you have to offer?

Can you make an organizational contribution to those fighting for racial justice? Can you match employee contributions?

How can you use your privilege as an American business to advocate for black lives? Write your city council, mayor, state, federal, and county elected officials.

Perhaps you can use your office space as a safe haven for protesters, and offer them food and water.

Create or purchase art from local black artists and display it on your building.

Give employees time off to take action. Organize a volunteering opportunity for all employees.

“Beyond this week, beyond this month — how are you going to work for racial equity within your organization and beyond? “

Need help?

We believe Black Lives Matter. Every month, we offer at least one free Strategy Session to a deserving business or nonprofit working to make the world a better place. Right now, we are providing free strategy sessions specifically to black-owned and run organizations and entrepreneurs, and organizations working on racial justice. You can schedule it here.

We also have a free Slack community for inspiration, accountability, and ideas, that you can join here. And we offer donation-based spots in our Brand Positioning and Integrated Marketing Accelerator programs.

If you’re a non-black business owner, nonprofit leader, or entrepreneur grappling with these issues, we want to help you, too. Schedule your Strategy Session here.

And, if you have suggestions to add to this list, shoot us an email.

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