At the end of many of our Race Fluency and Allyship workshops and Delta Circle© sessions, we’re often told by business leaders of African, Asian, European, Middle Eastern, and Pacific regions that concerns about race and ethnicity are not as relevant in their jurisdictions as they are in the US and the UK. This tells us that many of our clients in multinational organisations are struggling to develop a shared understanding of race and ethnicity in their global Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) plans.
Such views are understandable; these leaders’ lived experiences and cultural lenses can seem far removed from the work on ethnic inclusion more recognisable in the UK and North America. However, these perceptions can prevent organisations from creating a cohesive strategy for equity and representation across their global offices – and they’re being publicly called-out when they fail to do so. Increasingly, we’ve been invited to facilitate discussions with senior leaders across regions to help formulate, not only a shared global perspective, but also an understanding of local considerations in diversity and inclusion.
This article is a starter toolkit to help leaders across the globe identify the universal issues and address local resistance to action on race and ethnic inclusion.
Racism is a global issue with local dimensions
In recent months, Black Lives Matter, social protests, and regulatory pressures for more equity have persuaded many organisational leaders in the US and UK to talk about race and ethnic discrimination. It’s important to understand that racism, bias, and discrimination against minoritized ethnic groups is a global issue, though it plays out distinctly in different regions.
In the US and UK, the focus might be on Black and Asian colleagues who have been minoritized in contexts where White Male colleagues have an ethnic advantage. Similarly, other (socially constructed) categories of people will be explicitly or implicitly advantaged or disadvantaged in other regions. Racism morphs into different forms of oppression around the globe – for example, colourism in Asia, classism in Africa, and xenophobia in Europe.
Leaders need to build a shared understanding, a shared purpose and a global strategy for eliminating barriers for talent from minority groups throughout their international offices. In doing this, not only can leaders ensure a bias-free work environment for all employees, they can also facilitate smooth transfers for staff across offices. Without this, employee transfers can often be hampered by problems caused by bias and cultural differences. For example, a successful Black female leader from the UK who expects her leadership team, colleagues and clients to be reasonably race fluent and aware of biases, finds herself being told that “a woman like you will never be taken seriously as a leader in this office” when she is transferred to an office in Europe. In contrast, her White male counterpart is fully accepted and acknowledged as a leader in any jurisdiction he is sent to.
Business leaders need to address these risks and recognise that race and ethnic equality are Environmental Social Governance issues. There is a global call to action and the world is looking at business leaders for change.
Excuses for inaction
To respond to the call to action and create a cohesive global strategy on race and ethnic inclusion, leaders can start by learning to spot when it appears their colleagues are avoiding and resisting action on race and ethnic equality. Working with leaders from a range of global offices, we find ourselves coming up against the same excuses for inaction by leaders time and again. The top three reasons for inaction we hear are:
From Resistance to Readiness for action
We offer 3 reflective steps to move from resistance to readiness for action:
Once you have reflected and feel ready for action, please read our article: Advancing racial equity – 15 practical actions for leaders
As consultants at Delta with expertise in inclusive culture change, we advocate an Inclusion Ecosystem© approach to address workplace racial bias and improve equity and inclusion, for wider organisational benefit. Our evidence-informed approach considers different positions, people, and practices for sustainable change that can disrupt systemic racism in your organisation. Our impact and track record with clients is based on the philosophy that everyone has a specific role to play to make sustainable and meaningful change to build inclusion across ethnic, gender, and other social categories.
Contact us at Delta to support you in applying the science of psychology to help you and your senior leaders get the best out of diversity.