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Over a year after the world witnessed George Floyd’s murder and the resurgence of BLM, organisations are facing mounting pressure to take action on race and ethnic equality in the workplace. In the UK, the urgent need for change has been recognised by organisations such as The Bank of England and the Financial Conduct Authority, who recently shared their plans to regulate equality in financial services.
To create the real, systemic change needed to achieve ethnic equality in the workplace, leaders must actively remove the barriers to equality in their organisations in simple, visible ways. Senior leaders have the power and responsibility to do this and yet we’re often asked the question:
“What practical actions can I take to make a difference?”
To address this, we’ve developed an action-oriented, inclusive leadership programme for senior leaders. The programme looks at intersections of difference including race and ethnicity, gender, religion, class and other identities. In the table below, we discuss five barriers to race and ethnic equality (identified in research) along with 15 practical actions that can be taken to remove them.
Here are three steps to get you started on your journey to active, inclusive leadership:
Select one action that you are ready to undertake from each barrier category in the table below.
- Think about your position, power and ability to influence others to make a choice that has the greatest impact on numbers of people.
Spell out the specific activities and steps you commit to undertake.
- Include a timeline, impact measures if applicable and a list of key stakeholders and critical friends who will support you to take those actions.
Make a public commitment to your specified actions.
- Hold yourself to account by reporting back on your progress to all your key stakeholders (leadership team, staff, employees, clients, press etc.)
Facilitate Social Capital:
- Share your networks with colleagues who belong to racially and ethnically minoritised groups, make introductions to key gatekeepers who can enable career progression
- Run inclusive meetings, include people from diverse backgrounds in your regular activities
- Sponsor, mentor, coach individuals who are different from you; broaden your inner circle
We are naturally disposed to like those who are like us and avoid those who are different. We need to be intentional about making conscious decisions to overcome biases, so:
- Celebrate difference; join, support, champion, sponsor at least one diversity network, talk about and understand others’ lived experience
- Be a visible champion for change, identify yourself as one, put this in your email signature and profile name; be diversity fluent
- Be an upstander and pro-active ally, spot and call out microaggressions and discriminatory language, expand your zone of micro-affirmations
Organisational norms are ‘set’ to fit the dominant culture, forcing some people to assimilate, ‘code switch’ and not bring their authentic selves to work, so:
Review Cultural Norms:
- Promote a learning culture that values openness, creativity, and exploration, with psychological safety
- Have conversations to express the benefits of diversity, publicly reject colour blindness and the myth of meritocracy
- Establish protocols that actively beat bias, develop inclusive guidelines such as a glossary of terms, recruitment toolkit, performance appraisal guides
Career accelerating opportunities are more likely to be available to colleagues with comparable potential and talent but who happen to come from the dominant culture, so:
Devise Structural Processes:
- Review talent processes – attraction, recruitment, retention, progression, pay equity to ensure shadow processes are not undermining aspirations for meritocracy
- Review language and images in all communications to eliminate stereotyping and coded language that sends messages of exclusion
- Expose and change the shadow processes in the work environment, identify and remove the unwritten rules that discriminate silently
For majority ethnic colleagues there are shadow opportunities that create a pathway to success, while for minority ethnic individuals there is a strong focus on ‘fixing’ or ‘developing’ the group, so:
Create access to leadership:
- Practise Inclusive leadership, encourage other leaders and people managers to do the same, critically evaluate promotion processes and succession plans
- Set targets, monitor and intentionally diversify leadership ranks
- Establish training and change programmes that target the entire ecosystem including minority talent, senior leaders, HR managers, network leads, line managers, and internal Learning & Development experts/coaches
These actions are just a starting point. We’d love to work with you to establish a bespoke structure for leadership action at your company. By applying the science of psychology and our Inclusion Ecosystem© approach, we can help you and your senior leaders tackle racial bias, improve equity and inclusion, and get the very best out of diversity in your organisation. Our impact and track record are based on the philosophy that everyone has a role to play to build sustainable and meaningful change.