February 1, 2022, kicked off the first day of Black History Month – a month that is meant to acknowledge and celebrate Black people’s contributions to American history. It is the 46th nationally recognized Black History Month in United States history, and though 1976 feels like a lifetime ago, and the world has evolved beyond recognition, not much has changed for Black Americans since President Ford declared Black History Month a national holiday. Black Americans still face significant discrimination based on their racial and ethnic identity, despite the perceived progress that has been made toward a more equitable future. Racial injustice, discrimination, and social attitudes continue to disadvantage Black people socially and economically.
In 2020, during the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter Movement, countless organizations pledged millions of dollars and vowed to address racial injustice through internal and external initiatives. However, finding ways to effectively combat centuries of injustice proved challenging for most organizations, due to the complexity of race and how it impacts every aspect of our society. As Black History Month comes to a close, it’s critical that businesses take a more in-depth approach to understanding the drivers of racial inequity in order to enact meaningful change well beyond February.
#1 DIVERSITY: Shift mindset beyond the business case for Black employees and leadership
Embracing diversity is the right thing for organizations to do. In recent years, however, many organizations have tried to frame diversity solely as a business case. Although there are quantifiable reasons to embrace diversity that can be invaluable to organizations’ bottom lines, a purely financial focus can lead to inauthenticity and ineffective diversity initiatives that harm the same communities that leadership hoped to attract, develop, and ultimately retain. Taking a people-first approach to all diversity initiatives is key to creating sustainable change for Black employees and their communities.
Pepsi is one such organization that has put the emphasis on their people and not just their bottom line. Pepsi’s “People” initiative, part of their larger $400M investment in tackling racial inequity, takes a people-first approach to racial equity. Their pledges include:
• Increasing their Black manager population by 30%
• Adding 100 Black associates to their executive ranks
• Expanding recruitment at HBCUs
• Implementing mandatory unconscious bias training
• Increasing partnerships with diverse organizations at core schools
• Developing inclusion training tools
• Pledging $25M to establish scholarships for students transitioning from 2-year to 4-year programs
#2 EQUITY: Reevaluate your hiring and pay practices to create transparency
Though many organizations advocate for equality and equal opportunity from an employee perspective, many organizations mistake equality for equity. At a high level, equality is a good thing. It ensures that everyone has the same resources and opportunities. However, equality only works if everyone starts on the same playing field from the beginning. Equity accounts for the different backgrounds and needs of different groups of people so that everyone can achieve success. If organizations take the time to frame their talent management processes and employee experience initiatives with equity, not just equality, at the forefront, they can begin to chip away at some of the drivers of racial inequity at work. Some of those drivers include (but are not limited to) pay disparities, health care coverage, succession planning, education and hiring requirements, blind applications, and many more.
Global healthcare company Johnson & Johnson is committed to fostering a culture of belonging. Johnson & Johnson’s mission is to “make diversity and inclusion how we work every day,” and they aim to create a culture where every employee feels seen, valued, and heard. Their global diversity and inclusion strategy has three pillars:
- Advancing a culture of inclusion and innovation
- Building a diverse workforce for the future
- Enhancing business results and reputation
Johnson & Johnson recognizes diversity and inclusion as critical components to drive growth and innovation, and the company holds its people accountable for fostering an inclusive environment and culture for all.
Continue reading by downloading the full guide on How Organizations Can Make Impactful Change for Black History Month and Beyond here.