How Corporations Can Support Black Employees
Lately, we have all seen or heard major corporations publicly commit millions of dollars to aid Black Americans in the fight against discrimination and police brutality. While donations / public support of Black lives is a great start, it is hardly a solution for the impacts of systemic racism that are now being "exposed." In fact, many employees have been vocal about how incongruent these statements are with how Black people are actually treated at work. What is important right now is ensuring that these statements that are being shared are followed by well defined strategies and a commitment to sustained change.
What can companies do to bring about real change and support Black employees?
Acknowledging the Impact Black employees are mentally, emotionally, and at times physically affected by discrimination. Know that when an Black employees show signs of exhaustion or mood change after an interaction with other employees could be the result of racial microaggressions. Experiencing these microagressions multiple times a day or week can drive disengagement and amplify trauma and stress. Create safe spaces (e.g. employee resource groups, mentoring circles, training that is culturally reflective of audiences, etc) for employees to express their dissatisfaction with racial dynamics at work, and implement their suggestions on how to improve workplace dynamics. Turn Their Focus Internally As stated earlier, we have seen so much monetary support from corporations. While financial support can help some dynamics in larger societal change, companies need to look inward and address their own lack of equity for Black employees. There is still an over-representation of Black employees at entry levels and an under-representation at executive levels. There are four black CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, in 2020. There is still a substantial pay gap for Black women. Let that sink in. Thankfully there is an easy fix to this - be consciously inclusive: hire, promote and invest in your Black employees and be transparent about wages across the company to shift to a culture of pay equity. Companies like Apple have worked to address this in the United States, but are still working on this globally. As long as the pay gap internally persists, external donations are a macroagression. . Use Their Power for Good Large corporations have a long history of lobbying for laws that exclusively increase the corporation's buying and political power. Demand your companies shift that energy to championing criminal justice reform. Pretty memes about Black Lives Matter are meaningless without a commitment to changing policies and many companies are hesitant to address policy right now. Employees, particularly allies, should be demanding their companies advocate for reform and go beyond their flowery statements.