A Candid Discussion About Race for Business Leaders: Webinar Recap

Business leaders struggle with what to say and when to say it to ensure they are fostering a healthy and diverse culture. In a recent webinar hosted by Cara Silletto,  Demetria Miles McDonald, founder of Decide Diversity shared what companies can do to create a work environment where all employees feel safe, respected, and heard. Demetria and Cara address common fears of white leaders and ways to better support their black employees and the black community.

Watch the entire conversation here: A Candid Discussion About Race for Business Leaders: A Safe Space Q&A in a Difficult Time

Here are the 5 key takeaways from their conversation:

1. Create a safe place to talk through hard issues.

To have a productive conversation about race, a company must first create a safe place for people to enter these tough conversations. Start off by setting some ground rules or “Agreements for Engagement” where each person commits to engaging with respect and grace. This allows participants to share openly and honestly knowing that there will be grace if someone says the wrong thing or uses the wrong words. Participants will be willing to remain in a state of discomfort and also remain open to learning knowing that this group respects their efforts.

2. Businesses should take a stand: It’s not political, it’s human.

Acknowledgment is the first step. Acknowledge what’s happening to the black community and how it’s impacting people’s ability to show up. Next, say something. When making a public statement: Be bold, be clear, and be explicit. Say what you mean and mean what you say. If you can, include ways that your company has already been a part of meaningful diversity initiatives as a reminder internally and externally of how you’ve already been doing the work. If your company done anything yet, then the leaders need to go to the drawing board to figure out how they can be supportive right now and then determine long term goals.

Things to do right now: provide a safe place for black employees, allow time off for black employees, allow volunteer time for all employees to support social justice causes.

3. Say “Black Lives Matter” AND support other minorities: We can multitask.

Saying black lives matter is not saying that no one else’s life matters. A common fear is that other minorities will feel excluded. Leaders need to listen to the needs of their employees. Companies can do this by surveying or organizing focus groups of employees to uncover the top three issues and the top three demographics that need the most assistance. But right now, based on what’s taking place in our communities and what the data already shows, companies need to put a laser light focus on the experiences of black employees and black community members to better understand how to turn their situation around.

4. Accept that not everyone is on the same learning journey as you.

Each person must remember that they are not in the same place in their journey as the next person. If someone is willing to learn, provide resources for them to read or think of ways to bring cultural immersion into the workplace. Help people along the journey to see different viewpoints. Help them see what some of the problems are and how they can be a part of the solution. We have to meet people where they are. That is when a safe place becomes extremely important. However, if someone is flat out unwilling to learn, especially if they are in senior leadership, then an employee must step back and ask, “Is this an organization that I can continue to work for?”.

5. Know where you are now and what your next step needs to be.

Some leaders may still be unsure about advocating for anti-racism causes, but it’s important to make efforts to get there. If a person is still unsure, education needs to happen. The “Intercultural Development Inventory” tool can help. It’s a psychoanalytic assessment that looks at where a person is at in the five-phase journey in building cultural competency. It then comes up with an individualized plan to guide people from where they are at today to where they want to be in the future. This tool uses actual data to help better understand the facts. For leadership teams, this tool offers organizational assessments that show what leaders need to do to move the organization to the next level. Remember, there is no wrong place in the journey, as long as people are actively taking steps to get to the next level.

Resources mentioned:

Target’s Statement

The New Jim Crow – Great for a book club!

White Fragility

I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race

13th – Documentary

When They See Us Now – Documentary Mini-Series on Netflix about the Exonerated 5

Just Mercy

Contact information for Demetria:

Demetria Miles-McDonald, [email protected]

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