Many workplaces are confronting diversity and racism for the first time. This template, written by activist Nicole Edwards, will help you organize a campaign to create meaningful and measurable change.
Nicole Edwards is an audio journalist who tells stories about health, tech and equity. She holds a master's degree in journalism from Ryerson University, and is the founder of Mango Park, a podcast production company elevating the work of womxn and BIPOC creators. She can be found on Twitter.
In the wake of the recent wave of anti-Black racism, organizations across the country are making commitments to improve their workplace environments for racialized people.These conversations have made it clear that a diversity, equity and inclusion committee is now an essential group for each workplace to establish, and as [Company] does not have one, we propose immediate steps towards formation.
Institutionalized racism affects every workplace in America. Whether the organization is young or old, the people within it and the system outside of it are all shaped by the country’s racist history. This fact could manifest in any number of ways at [Company] —from how and where [Company] recruits candidates, to the types of interactions racialized staff members have with their coworkers on a day to day basis. It’s important to remember that not all racism is deliberate, which is why checks and balances must be put in place to challenge any assumptions that exist pertaining to the experiences of racialized people working at [Company] . [Company] cannot assume it is a safe space. In order to be one, it’s crucial for the company to begin examining it’s practices and policies through an equity lens.
There’s a business case for taking steps to foster a diverse company too. According to McKinsey and Company, “Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.” Plus, companies with diverse management teams “have 19% higher revenues due to innovation. This shows that diversity is not just a metric to be strived for; it is actually an integral part of a successful revenue-generating business.”
We’re calling for [Company] to take a stance of anti-racism through the development and empowerment of this committee. Anti-racist companies put forth an active effort to counter the damage racism has caused, and continues to cause. (You can learn more about what anti-racism looks like in the workplace from this article.) It is imperative that [Company] recognizes the importance of self examination in pursuit of this goal, and implements measures to identify and counteract racism, while also putting measures in place to promote diversity, equity and inclusion. This would be the work of the committee.
Here are 5 demands that the diversity, equity and inclusion committee must undertake immediately upon formation. All information should be stored in a place with company-wide access. Transparency is an essential part of building trust across staff at [Company] , and has also been linked to improved company performance.
1. Demand: In the next 30 days, form a diversity, equity and inclusion committee with a wide range of representatives.
Reason: It’s imperative that the committee formed isn’t only comprised of management—though some representation from management is essential. Representation from all seniority levels and departments should be present to ensure no proposals for progress are formed or executed in a vacuum.
2. Demand: Develop an employee survey.
Reason: Conducting a workplace survey to collect both demographic information and thoughts from staff about how our workplace is doing from an equity standpoint will give employees the opportunity to voice concerns and share experiences. These will serve as a starting point for further courses of action. Surveys can be developed by engaging an anti-oppression consultant, or your existing HR lead if they have anti-oppression training.
Outcome: A collection of randomized, anonymous information to sketch staff personas that could reveal:
These results should be shared company-wide, and in consultation with an anti-oppression consultant/a trained staff member and HR, a decision about the most pressing issues to correct can be made.
3. Demand: Enroll staff in anti-oppression and anti-bias training—especially people managers and people involved in hiring.
Reason: Every staff member should be aware of their privileges. Every manager should be aware of how the dynamics of privilege impact people’s ability to thrive at work as a first step to creating an equitable environment. Staff and managers understand how to be better allies at work—an essential first step being a team that practices anti-oppression.
Outcome: Success here looks like training staff over the next six months, and mandatory anti-oppression training for all new hires.
4. Demand: Review and update language in job description templates to reflect the company’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.
Reason: If it’s missing, include wording about our ongoing commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion signals that traditionally marginalized people are welcome at [Company] . This will encourage anyone hesitant because of their background to apply anyways. Keep in mind, this is a promise we must back with internal action.
Outcome: Immediately making language that reflects our commitment to anti-oppression in all current and future job postings.
Suggested language for job descriptions: “ [Company] is an Equal Opportunity Employer and Prohibits Discrimination and Harassment of Any Kind: [Company] is committed to the principle of equal employment opportunity for all employees and to providing employees with a work environment free of discrimination and harassment. All employment decisions at [Company] are based on business needs, job requirements and individual qualifications, without regard to race, color, religion or belief, […], family or parental status, or any other status protected by the laws or regulations in the locations where we operate. [Company] will not tolerate discrimination or harassment based on any of these characteristics. [Company] encourages applicants of all ages.”
5. Demand: Establish Employee Resource Groups.
Reason: Employee resource groups (ERGs) are groups available for people with a particular identity or lived experience to join for support and camaraderie. Their existence should be supported if not facilitated by [Company] . Encouraging these groups to communicate needs and concerns with HR staff and/or the diversity and inclusion committee is a way to promote valuable ongoing feedback. They also promote employee retention.
We recognize that the road to equity is a long one, and that establishing a committee doesn’t mean problems will be solved overnight. The diversity, equity and inclusion committee’s work will be continually iterated upon. These steps are ways to act now while strategizing plans for a long-term commitment to anti-racism. By establishing this committee, [Company] will stand apart in [INDUSTRY X] by creating an environment reflective of and responsive to the needs of marginalized communities.