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Diversity and Inclusion

Designing antiracist policies & norms at work

📌 A quick disclaimer
This forms part of our ‘How to be antiracist’ pathway in our Inclusion Works programme. For this pathway, we’ve made a conscious decision to focus on racism directed at Black people, given the current climate and Black Lives Matter movement.

We appreciate that racism is a major issue for other groups in America and around the world, and we’d love to do that justice in future content.

For now, we’d welcome your views and experiences on all forms of racism — please join the conversation here.

We also appreciate that people have different experiences of racism and are at different points in their journey learning about what they can do to combat it. This learning pathway is best suited to white people and non-Black people of colour that consider themselves at a beginner or intermediate level of their antiracism education.

By now you will have realised there’s no blueprint you can follow to be antiracist. It’s a shift in your consciousness, a critical eye to the current culture, and a commitment to designing and upholding new policy, practices, and norms.

So, what can I do?
Renni Eddo-Lodge, author of Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race and podcaster, calls this The Big Question. Her answer? Join something, start something, do something — but only you can find out what that is!

As a business, we have to work out what we can do to help our employees and our society. We depend on your insight into how racial injustice is enacted and sustained on the ground and, hopefully, your expertise to suggest the solutions.

Look at what BIPOC need to perform, feel valued and as though they belong. Scrutinise (and accept scrutiny about) whether your blanket policies and norms serve some groups better than others.

Psychologists that specialise in race and identity write in Harvard Business Review that, most of the time, companies already have the data and insight about the daily experience for employees of colour. Taking the data in is the next frontier.

GIF by @yukaidu.

Take a critical eye to everyday inequalities
Now, combine your self-education with your workplace observations. While attracting, hiring and progressing talent is very important, remember to pay attention to the everyday inequalities that may include but are not limited to:

  • mental health support
  • role models
  • time to speak in meetings
  • assignments
  • informal and formal credit and pay
  • commute
  • fitting in with the dominant culture

💡 Pro tip: Set up ‘alternative complaint systems’. Empower employees to do antiracist work and share their observations and suggestions outside the realm of HR grievances. You could hold space for this at team or 1:1 levels or lobby upwards for a digital channel, tool, or working group to be set up.

Get your ideas out into the business
Obviously, it is not on you to solve racism single-handedly!

Bring a proposed solution up with your manager, your colleagues or your team. Pitch it to HR. Seek collaborative partners and share feedback with decision makers.

You certainly don’t need the solution in hand before you start talking about it. It might sound daunting to make some noise about something you consider racist when you don’t have all the answers. But it might be the beginning of something that truly makes a difference.

Here are things that can help while you’re working on the long game
✅ Give space. Offer help to create or sustain a space where BIPOC employees feel as though they belong and can discuss their experiences safely. Do the same for space where all employees can discuss racism and antiracism.

✅ Give time. You may not know what it is like to feel the pain of your community being marginalised, but you can empathise with the emotions. Remember that BIPOC feel grief, anger, sadness, confusion among other emotions after high-profile acts of racism and ongoing reminders of its prevalence. Offer time off, breaks, adjustments to pace and, above all, trust.

GIF by @equalpartsstudio.

Don’t forget your buying and endorsement power
✅ Buy from BIPOC-owned businesses and suppliers. Leave reviews and informally endorse them through word of mouth. Learn about the brand and the business owners’ mission and experiences in their career.

✅ Endorse your BIPOC colleagues. While you shouldn’t assume every person of colour has struggled, your antiracist self-education should help you appreciate when someone has grappled with particular barriers.

Make sure they get recompense for their hard work (that may be invisible to others) through performance reviews, informal kudos and suggesting them for assignments.

…and always be a persistent ally
Allyship describes using your privileges to show up and speak up for marginalised groups of which you are not a member. It is an important part of antiracism. We have made a separate pathway, How to be a Better Ally, which involves the finer, everyday actions of allyship.

🗝️ Your key takeaway
When you identify something that hinders racial equality, use your expertise, your contacts and your sphere of influence to do something about it. Get your prototype ideas out into our business, make some noise and make things change. That’s antiracist work.

Harness the power of Black Lives Matter

We've taken a close look at how the Black Lives Matter movement is leading to lasting change. How can you harness the movement's power in 2021 and beyond?

Read more here

Inclusion Works

This resource was taken from our Inclusion Works programme, which was created with a network of more than +100 diverse contributors and advisers. We learn from, amplify and cite creators of different races, ethnicities, genders and cognitive styles and continually work to represent all dimensions of diversity.