This interview took place as part of our Inclusion Works pulse report series, looking at how organisations can harness the momentum created by the Black Lives Matter movement to create lasting change at work. As part of the series, we’re interviewing leading lights in DEI to understand their approaches and key learnings that anyone can apply in their organisation. Because after all, we’re stronger together.
Learn more about our latest pulse report here.
30 minutes with Vernā Myers
Entertainment, ~7,000 employees
Netflix’s Vernā Myers calls for a brave cultural shift where strategies to address systemic racism must be complemented by behavior change to make things stick
Like us, Myers remains unconvinced about the short-term, easily publicized moves that some organizations are taking in response to BLM.
Instead, she wants to address that many people are finding this time a little scary. It’s uncomfortable to accept you might lack the skills to confront bias, norms and structures that lead to disparate outcomes.
But she reminds us to take heart because skills for inclusion and equity at work can be learned — just as long as we’re willing to shake up the status quo.
Myers told us that employees at Netflix are at a turning point. They want to contribute to racial justice and they want to grow. But they aren’t necessarily equipped to have, “the conversations that move us forward in this work.”
Netflix has been on a journey to raise awareness and skills of its employees for the last few years and recently deployed a speaker series on allyship and understanding institutionalized racism and provided learning resources such as guides for leaders about having difficult conversations within their teams. The goal is to open and nurture dialogue across our different lived experiences. Paying mind to the impact of the current climate on employee well-being. During this time, Netflix had been surfacing and signposting mental health support as well.
Myers explained to us that allies need to be doubling down on their own internal work right now. They need to be introspective and understand how racism and white supremacy has impacted them. They shouldn’t place a burden on their Black colleagues to describe racism, educate them or come up with the solutions. As they do their own work, they will be better equipped to be effective allies – helping to remove the barriers that prevent Black employees from thriving, interrupting bias when they see it and creating a more inclusive and equitable culture at work in the world.
Netflix’s newly established long-term impact group will design and test proposals for sustainable, positive outcomes. Myers shared that the group will take a broad lens and consider external issues that make it harder for the business to be inclusive and equitable. Challenges for exploration might include how to strengthen a far-reaching, robust network of talent in the entertainment, tech and other industries in which it operates. The company is also looking at how directly impacts the Black community. Its first step was to move $100 million of its money in Black banks.
Looking internally, Netflix will examine the unique barriers faced by Black colleagues.
But Myers warns that organizations taking this route will have to find balance. On one hand, initiatives should be tailored to the Black employee experience. But you must ensure changes ultimately improve inclusion for all employees. In fact, exploring and addressing issues experienced most intensely by Black employees, often leads to changes that benefit other under-represented groups and the organization as a whole.
And what about changing behaviors internally? Myers delights that many people are now able to say out loud that the status quo is racism and that, if you’re not actively antiracist, you are complicit with that status quo. She quips that now things have clicked, people are wondering, “what was I thinking!?” So, we need to use this fresh interest and resist the inertia that threatens to return. Give your people practical things they can do now.
Above all, Myers points out that some organizations are still trying to keep things steady. They’re only willing to tinker with the prevailing culture. But meaningful systemic change will be, firstly, real cultural change and, secondly, a long game.
That’s why Myers wants to give people the tools and the prompts to take a critical eye to where institutional power is located. She wants to instill the idea that change has to happen on the personal, interpersonal, organizational and culture level and this type of comprehensive change is good for any business that wants to be relevant, just and prosperous in the future; this understanding, she laments, is something many organizations and many people are yet to grasp.
✅ Help budding allies in your organization do their ‘internal work’ by sharing resources they can use to explore their own role in systems of inequality and creating spaces to listen and learn such as a speaker series and facilitated team meetings.
✅ Identify where power is unevenly distributed and where culture and systems may be perpetuating the status quo. Be intentional about changing them in a way that benefits Black employees specifically, other historically marginalized groups and the business as a whole.
✅ Signpost mental health support alongside your BLM resources.
Hive Learning Pulse Reports are a series of bite-sized action-oriented pulse checks reporting on the most pressing challenges inclusion leaders face.
Our goal is to uncover the root cause and playback powerful tactics the world’s most innovative leaders use to put inclusion into action on the ground, every day. Because when we learn together and from each other, we can all make progress faster.
If you have a particular challenge that you’d like to see addressed in our next round of reporting, or you’d like to participate in our latest report, get in touch here.
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