Note: This guide is the second in a series of antiracism toolkits for scholarly publishing. The first, the Antiracism Toolkit for Allies, was published in August 2020 and includes an introduction that provides the foundation for this project. The third, the Antiracism Toolkit for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, is forthcoming as of the publication of this guide.
Building equity and promoting antiracism at organizations are not the jobs of specific individuals but are collective responsibilities. This toolkit, written by a multiracial group of industry professionals, is intended for the folks who work at all levels within scholarly publishing organizations — from senior leadership and human resources teams to managers and staff in all departments — to embed necessary equity work into their culture through inclusive policies, procedures, and norms.
Many characteristics of white supremacy culture — the ideology that white people and the ideas, thoughts, beliefs, and actions of white people are superior to those of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) and their ideas, thoughts, beliefs, and actions — show up in our organizations. These damaging yet pervasive characteristics include: perfectionism, paternalism, individualism, and a sense of urgency . Some people may assume that these attributes are simply professional standards, with no connection to whiteness, and organizations may be unaware of their perpetuation of these characteristics; their racism may not be intentional. However, structural racism is built into our society, and it takes concentrated effort to recognize and address how and where racism and white supremacy show up in our organizations. Through this toolkit, we hope to provide tools for organizations to understand institutionalized racism and better support BIPOC staff and better serve BIPOC authors, readers, and reviewers. After working through this resource:
Leaders and managers will learn to recognize institutionalized racism, create a structure for racial equity work, and learn ways to include historically marginalized perspectives in decision making.
Human resources departments will gain ideas for broadening hiring and recruiting, developing retention plans and a more inclusive pipeline, and creating affinity groups and mentorship programs.
Staff in all departments and at all levels will learn how to recognize and address biases, and be ready to take part in or lead affinity groups and mentorship programs.
“I’ve seen these knee-jerk reactions… the knee eventually falls back into place.”
—Charles Blow, columnist and lecturer, speaking at Springer Nature’s Black Employment Network launch event
In the aftermath of high-profile events, such as the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police in 2020, organizations feel compelled to respond. Businesses are suddenly filled with statements on DEI commitments, talks from notable Black commentators, reading lists for allies, and general affirmations of antiracism. Are these words motivated by a genuine recognition of white supremacy in society? Or is the organization merely responding to the event itself, including the threat that protest and civil unrest poses to corporate interests?
Even well-publicized examples of lethal racism only temporarily affect the attitudes of the majority . The occurrence of these critical moments can give the impression that racism is an episodic affair, a momentary deviation from an otherwise benign state of normality. But as J. Kēhaulani Kauanui observes regarding settler colonialism, racism also is “a structure, not an event.” Racism, according to Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, refers to the social systems that distribute economic, political, social, and psychological rewards differently along racial lines, and where these historic and institutional differences have become normalized, an everyday feature of contemporary life. Most racism exists below the waterline, invisible to the majority of white people and organizations operating in dominantly white spaces, while BIPOC colleagues confront and live with these problems every day. Unless these trigger points compel organizations to enact change and make a genuine commitment to DEI, they are just responding to the events themselves. Words must lead to action.
Tokenistic initiatives based on words alone inhibit the endeavor to address racism in the working world. For example, organizations may make some effort to discuss DEI and organize gatherings for BIPOC employees, but as Charles Blow outlines: “On some level it is meant to make us happy and more docile and more quiet, ‘Go in that room and talk it out. We’ll send some donuts.. and when you come out I hope you’re happy and go back to work.’” White people, meanwhile, may not move beyond the initial step of self-awareness and education to actually create a safer and more just work environment. As Ijeoma Oluo warns, “if your anti-racism work prioritizes the ‘growth’ and ‘enlightenment’ of white America over the safety, dignity and humanity of people of color – it’s not anti-racism work. It’s white supremacy” .
Absence of a commitment to action, disempowered BIPOC employees are confronted with extra work and only token efforts at inclusion, while white employees may think they are antiracist without having to back this up in a meaningful way. An organization’s commitment to act can be seen through its commitment to change, and there is precedent for this in scholarly publishing.
One success story has been improving gender diversity . If organizations want to take the fight against racism seriously, they will need to make similar commitments to race in DEI. The starting point is obviously different: women make up more than half of the workforce in publishing , while Black people, for example, make up 5% or less   . Despite the differences between gender and race, organizations can apply similar methods, such as the use of transparent metrics and maturity models . Equivalent models are available for developing antiracism in an organization (see Continuum on Becoming an Anti-Racist Multicultural Organization ). This puts the development of an organization’s DEI on similar terms to individual development in becoming an antiracist. Once it is acknowledged that tokenism is not good enough, the business must take responsibility for how to meet mature antiracist goals, accepting these are not merely a wider societal problem with more diffuse responsibility.
Case study after case study has shown the value that diversity brings to the work environment: diverse teams are more innovative , they help organizations gain understanding into more diverse markets , and they have a positive impact on the bottom line . Foregrounding racial equity positions our organizations to better serve our authors and readers, retain and attract a diverse staff, identify racial and ethnic disparities in research studies , and avoid offensive missteps  . Yet, at many organizations, DEI leaders struggle for resources that would allow them to move past token inclusion toward true antiracist practices.
Organizations must look beyond the business case for diversity and inclusion and instead pursue practices and policies that foreground racial equity because it is the ethical thing to do. In the Harvard Business Review, researchers Laura Morgan Roberts and Anthony J. Mayo argue that:
[A racially just workplace] involves shifting from an exclusive focus on the business case for racial diversity to embracing the moral one, promoting real conversations about race, revamping diversity and inclusion programs, and better managing career development at every stage…the reward will be great: maximizing the human potential of everyone in the workplace. 
Organizations that view racial equity work as foundational to their mission will develop the staying power that the work requires. The deep-rooted inequities that exist through the scholarly communications ecosystem cannot be excised by a task force, a one-time budget allocation, or even the hiring of a DEI officer. Racial equity work must be at the heart of everything we do as publishers to fully reach, serve, and represent the research community. Organizations that fully embrace antiracism, that embed it not just in their hiring practices but in their everyday work processes and strategies, will develop the muscles and skills needed for the long journey ahead.
To combat the systemic legal, social, and institutional constraints that have created barriers to racial equality in the Global North, we must move beyond a “diversity, equity, and inclusion” (DEI) mindset to an actively antiracist mindset. What is the difference between “DEI” and “antiracism” in the workplace? Ibram X. Kendi defines an antiracist as:
One who is supporting an antiracist policy through their actions or expressing an antiracist idea…One who is expressing the idea that racial groups are equals and none needs developing, and is supporting policy that reduces racial inequity. 
An organization that is actively antiracist has policies and practices in place that address systemic inequities. Diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts can be a means to an antiracist end but often do not go far enough. In the scholarly publishing workplace, DEI efforts may include optional trainings for staff, book discussions, and a presence at career fairs at HBCUs. In contrast, an antiracist workplace may eliminate unpaid internships (which preclude individuals from economically insecure backgrounds), mandate anti-bias training for hiring managers, and embed discussion around paths to advancement and promotion in the performance review process.
Scholar and educator Beverly Daniel Tatum uses the metaphor of a moving walkway at the airport to help people understand the ongoing cycle of racism:
Active racist behavior is equivalent to walking fast on the conveyor belt. The person engaged in active racist behavior has identified with the ideology of White supremacy and is moving with it. Passive racist behavior is equivalent to standing still on the walkway. No overt effort is being made, but the conveyor belt moves the bystanders along to the same destination as those who are actively walking. Some of the bystanders may feel the motion of the conveyor belt, see the active racist ahead of them, and choose to turn around, unwilling to go to the same destination as the White supremacists. But unless they are walking actively in the opposite direction at a speed faster than the conveyor belt — unless they are actively antiracist — they will find themselves carried along with the others. 
In order to disrupt the cycle of white supremacy in our workplaces, antiracist publishers must decenter whiteness and normalize the perspectives and experiences of BIPOC staff. This work will need to happen at the individual/interpersonal, organizational, and societal levels.
First coined by Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989, intersectionality was added to the Oxford Dictionary in 2015 and is defined as “the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.” It is the acknowledgment that everyone has their own unique experiences of discrimination and oppression, and we must consider everything and anything that can marginalize people: gender, gender identity, race and/or ethnicity, language, national origin, sexual orientation, physical ability and/or disability status, occupation, religious beliefs, age, immigrant status, social class, and socioeconomic status, and other identity markers or variables. These identity markers or variables do not exist independently of each other, and each informs the others, often creating a complex convergence of oppression.
By understanding intersectionality, we can see all the different ways people in the workplace experience racism with respect to their identities. All other forms of oppression intertwine and complicate racial oppression, so it is equally important to acknowledge other aspects of identity when discussing antiracism.
Intersectionality encourages us to look more holistically at how racism operates. By examining the overlapping identities and experiences, we can begin to understand the complexity of these prejudices.
Link to a talk by Kimberlé Crenshaw at the 2020 MAKERS Conference:
In order to become better allies to one another and build an intersectional, inclusive workplace, base your approach on:
Listening and learning
Being mindful and precise with your language
Reflecting on privilege and advantage
Being mindful not to place people in categories based on a single story/narrative
Understanding intersectionality is essential to combatting the interwoven prejudices colleagues face daily in both their communities and the workplace. Investing equally in each other’s issues and goals can bring forth a transformative change. It is through the lens of intersectionality that we can actually solve problems, not replace one with another or just work on issues closest to our own experience.
Our antiracism framework is grounded in work by Allies for Change and the Racial Equity Institute, training organizations that are both based in the United States. The toolkit is intended primarily for organizations based in the Global North, particularly in countries with a history of colonialism and settler colonialism, and with legacies of white supremacy, slavery, and indigenous erasure. While we hope that some of its content will be useful to readers around the globe (and our CC-BY-NC-SA license allows it to be adapted by anyone), this project was designed to provide publishers in the Global North with tools and best practices to create organizational change. In doing so, these organizations will be equipped to become better partners to readers, authors, reviewers, and the worldwide community of scholars.
This toolkit is focused on helping organizations transform their workplaces through antiracism. While this transformation will have ripple effects into how we do the work of publishing, we believe that the practical steps needed to transform our publishing practices and address the many inequities created by systemic racism and bias for our readers and researchers necessitate their own toolkit. In short, this guide will be useful for publishers implementing (or preparing to implement) organizational change but only contributes to the groundwork that is needed to more fully transform the scholarly communications ecosystem.
Beginning your journey toward building an antiracist organization can feel daunting, even for companies that have engaged more actively in DEI efforts in the past. Antiracism work is multifaceted and holistic and involves all departments, processes, and systems, widening out as you get deeper into it. And, indeed, the work is never finished and the journey consistently changes. To help break down the journey into individual and achievable components, we’ve provided a basic journey map and assessment quiz to help you understand where you are and where you’re going.
Assess > Assemble > Listen / Learn / Measure > Plan > Implement > Repeat
Getting started depends first on knowing your starting point. There are many ways to perform such an assessment, from online tools (see the “Resources” section below) to external audits. Here, we provide a simple quiz to help you gauge where your organization is on its antiracist journey. This can serve as a useful tool for helping leadership/governing boards to contextualize your company’s efforts and see why it’s important that you prioritize this work. Note that taking this quiz may feel uncomfortable at times, but integrity in the answers is not a shaming indicator but rather a learning tool.
What actions have you taken so far? (select all that apply — 1 point for each)
Made a statement on social media
Hired an external consultant/firm
Assigned a role in our org dedicated to DEI
Hosted trainings/programs/resources around antiracism
Performed a systematic review of company policies and processes with an eye to antiracism
Incorporated DEI work into our organizational goals
Looking at your staff, how would you categorize the level of racial diversity overall?
We have no BIPOC employees (1)
We have some BIPOC on our staff, but fewer than average in our industry (2)
We have an average representation of BIPOC among our staff for our industry (3)
Our leadership team, Board, and employees all have strong representation of BIPOC (4)
What efforts does your organization make to ensure a diverse candidate pool?
We include a standard non-discrimination disclosure in job descriptions (2)
We actively recruit diverse candidates (3)
Other / a combination (may include such things as removing the applicants’ name, posting on HBCU job boards, or requiring a certain number of BIPOC candidates in the pool before starting interviews) (4)
How are reports of racial bias handled in your organization?
We handle them quietly with the individuals involved (1)
We review them carefully with a dedicated group and discuss them with our leadership team (2)
We assess the factors and systems that contribute to the bias and involve a diverse group in addressing the issue (3)
Who is involved in your DEI efforts internally?
No one formally participates in DEI efforts at our organization (1)
HR and self-selected individuals throughout the organization (2)
Our entire leadership team (3)
The whole company participates actively in these efforts (4)
What DEI training do you offer?
We offer some as part of onboarding, but nothing after that (2)
We’ve had a few ad hoc training/educational sessions (3)
We have regular initiatives, events, and trainings around DEI (4)
What types of formal support structures are in place for individuals interested in antiracist efforts?
None — employees do it on their own time (1)
We have employee resources groups/affinity groups for those interested (2)
We actively provide space, time, and resources for employees to engage in DEI efforts, including formal groups (3)
What do you perceive as your DEI goals as an organization?
We don’t have any (1)
To avoid public missteps (2)
To ensure a welcoming and diverse workforce (3)
To actively pursue an antiracist culture (4)
How do you measure your DEI efforts? (select all that apply — 1 point for each)
Via racial representation statistics
Via culture/climate surveys
Via metrics on things like applicant pools, policies/practices, and industry benchmarking
Via external assessments
By tying them to key strategic organizational goals and metrics
How often do we discuss DEI topics as a leadership team?
Only when a complaint arises or when national/social events bring them to the foreground (2)
We proactively discuss DEI issues as part of our regular leadership plan (3)
What is your organization’s level of transparency around DEI efforts?
We share it internally and externally (2)
We openly and actively involve employees in planning activities (3)
We actively share information and data internally and externally but do not include stats that may not reflect well on us (4)
We actively share information and data internally and externally, including stats that may not reflect well on us (5)
What level of investment does your organization make in antiracist efforts?
We invest only our time (2)
We invest our time and occasional funds for specific trainings (3)
We commit a dedicated budget to DEI efforts (4)
We commit funds to staff focused on DEI work, to addressing salary disparities, to ongoing training and programs, and to active recruitment of diverse candidate pools (5)
Observer (10–22) — You’re starting from the beginning of your antiracist journey. You stay mostly on the outskirts of antiracist efforts, performing what is required by law and what will keep you “out of trouble.”
ACTION: Assess your biggest areas of need and assemble the right people to get started. (This toolkit is a great place to start.)
Ally (23–36) — You’re ready to grow. You make some efforts to promote DEI and are looking at ways to be better and do more. It may not be ingrained in your culture, but there are individuals in your org who are active in promoting resources and programs.
ACTION: Look at how your current efforts are or aren’t working, identify the gaps, and find where you can be more actively engaged in these efforts. (This toolkit offers in-depth examinations of different areas of antiracist efforts: which ones are areas of growth for your organization?)
Accomplice (37–50) — You actively promote DEI and antiracist practices. It is a central part of who your organization is and all employees have a clear understanding of the ongoing resources and programs you offer.
ACTION: You’re doing the work and you put your money where your mouth is — now sustain it. You’ve got a good foundation and actively engaged team. But to sustain the work means constantly learning and reassessing. Continue learning and listening and make sure your structures are sustainable and inclusive for those involved. (Check out the resources section of this toolkit for further reading.)
Making sure you have the right people at the table for antiracist work is critical to its success. Isolating these topics to an HR department or Employee Resource Group ignores the systematic changes needed to achieve an antiracist organization. Including senior leaders, BIPOC, and others throughout the organization who are committed to this work will help to ensure full organizational support, the inclusion of diverse experiences, and the perspectives from efforts occurring outside of your organization. Laura Martin, Senior Project & Change Manager at Wiley, affirms, “taking an inclusive approach to change gives your organization the best chance of success.” 
It could be that your “team” also calls for external resources, whether that’s hiring an outside firm, working with a consultant, or hiring a DEI officer.
Many organizations may be tempted to charge into action as a way to show their commitment to the cause, but as we’ve seen over and over this often leads to missteps, missed marks, and missed opportunities. One of the most important parts of any antiracist journey is committing to listening and learning from BIPOC voices inside and outside of your organization, to researching the work of organizations that are ahead of you on this journey. Finally, measure where you are. Survey your employees and community, benchmark your systems, processes, and representation. This will help you to set goals and measure your progress.
Having done your research will help immensely with the next stage: making a plan. Mirroring examples of other organizations and following recommendations from experts will help you lay the foundation for your work. Next you’ll need to tailor it to address the specific needs of your industry, your company, and your people. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, and what has worked for you in the past may no longer serve you. Intentionally building flexibility into your plan will help you adapt and pivot as you go.
Put your plan into action! As you roll out your plan, be sure to involve a wide variety of stakeholders to improve adoption, and check in frequently with your team about feedback, milestones, and measurements.
Equity work is not a linear path. It is a constant cycle of iterative learning and adjusting. Before, during, and after you implement your plan, continue to listen: what’s working? What’s not? Whose voices aren’t being heard? Learn more: research, participate in trainings, go deeper. Measure your progress to see where the gaps still are. Antiracism is about active, engaged, sustained efforts to effect systematic change and therefore needs to be an ongoing part of your organizational plan.
Ready to get started? In the sections below, we go into depth on each of these stages, from a variety of angles and addressing a variety of needs.
“Stumbling forward” is the process of starting a project, or an initiative, even if you’re not quite sure how to do it. It means taking a chance and growing. According to Dan Rockwell, “stumbling forward only works if you know which direction is forward. Don’t think of stumbling as unfocused wandering. Stumbling forward means you have an idea of where you’re going, but you’re not sure how to get there… Confidence might begin with ‘I think I can.’ But success calls you to boldly stumble forward.” 
The journey to becoming antiracist will be different for everyone and every organization. Racism and inherently racist practices are deeply entrenched in our systems and their undoing will be personal, emotionally draining, and unfathomably long-term. Mistakes will be made along the way.
So what should we do when we make a mistake? First things first, talk to those you have wronged as quickly as possible once you are aware of your mistake. When holding conversations and owning up to error, Deborah Grayson Riegel suggests three key steps to take. In her words :
Take responsibility. Say, “I was wrong.” (Don’t say “mistakes were made” or “it didn’t turn out the way I had anticipated” or any other version that deflects or minimizes your personal contribution.) Offer a brief explanation, but do not make excuses. Acknowledge that your error had a negative impact on others, and be willing to really listen, without defensiveness, to others’ recounting of that impact. Do not interrupt. Apologize.
Address what you need to do right now. Taking responsibility is critical, as is taking action. This is core to crisis communication, even if your mistake doesn’t constitute a major crisis. Tell others what you are doing right now to remedy the mistake, and distinguish between the parts that can be fixed, and those that can’t. Include what you are doing to address the substantive impact (money, time, processes, etc.) as well as the relational impact (feelings, reputation, trust, etc.) of having been wrong. Be open to feedback about what you’re doing. Overcommunicate your plans.
Share what you will do differently next time. Being wrong is messy. Being wrong without self-reflection is irresponsible, even if you hate self-reflection. Take some time to think about what your contribution was to this situation, and identify how others contributed as well. (Try to stay away from using words like “fault” or “blame” — which tend to put people on the defensive.) Then tell those impacted by your error what you’ve learned about yourself, and what you’re going to do differently in the future. For example, you might recognize that you tend to dismiss the input of someone you don’t see eye-to-eye with, and that in the future, you’re going to actively engage her, and consider her perspective. Ask for help where you need it. And ask others to give you frequent feedback down the road on the commitments you’re making.
Where necessary, apply these steps to a public statement and make sure it is shared to the appropriate channels, such as your website, LinkedIn, or wherever relevant.
Franchesca Ramsey shares her advice on how to apologize in this YouTube video (Error):
To truly grow, we need to be more comfortable with making mistakes. Receiving constructive feedback is the best way to improve your work and we should not only accept it but encourage it. (Check out ‘Create an environment that supports your Black, Asian and Ethnically Diverse colleagues’ for more detailed information here.) Read the blog by Sade Jones How to Get More Comfortable Being Wrong for more ideas on how to build the resilience and critical thinking necessary to learn from errors .
Once you have assessed where your organization stands in its journey toward antiracism, you should identify specific, measurable, and tangible steps your organization can take to move itself forward in support of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
As a first step, your organization should make a declarative commitment to supporting DEI work, both internally and externally. Many organizations choose to craft a public-facing statement announcing the organization’s commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion, and/or to advancing antiracism. Some examples of these statements are below:
Your diversity statement should be unique and specific to the field and communities served by your organization. Though statements are useful in declaring your organization’s intention, they should be considered only a first step. Any diversity statements should be coupled with concrete, measurable steps that your organization plans to take to promote DEI.
In an article in Academic Medicine, Carnes et al.  outline these recommendations for how to craft a diversity statement:
Create aspirational statements rather than declarative ones implying that the organization is already equitable and diverse.
Emphasize personal autonomy to promote diversity rather than promoting controlling messages (e.g., “we encourage” vs. “we require”).
Use multicultural approaches in diversity statements rather than colorblind statements, and augment them with an inclusive definition of what constitutes diversity.
Some organizations may opt to couple their diversity statements with a framework or outline for achieving their DEI goals. See APA Publishing’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Framework as an example:
It can be easy for DEI work to become performative unless your organization couples its statements with long-term plans to address disparities. Your diversity statement should be followed by key metrics, goals, and priorities for your organization. Below is a list of dos and don’ts to keep in mind as you begin this work.
Remember that DEI work is unending. Your work should never feel finished, and there is always room to do better.
Blame or shame. DEI work is about learning and doing better; it should not be punitive.
Build diversity, equity, and inclusion into your organization’s values and mission. One statement is not enough — you should also imbue your organization’s culture and climate with DEI-centered values.
Use quotas. Representation does not equal inclusion, and quota systems can sometimes lead to tokenism.
Use metrics. Measure and track your organization’s DEI efforts for better accountability.
Task only one or two people with “handling” DEI efforts; the work should belong to everyone.
Set SMART goals. DEI goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based will be more likely to succeed.
Settle for one-off training. While diversity trainings can be helpful, studies have shown that the positive effects of single diversity trainings are not long-lasting .
Be comfortable with mistakes, and learn from them. DEI work is an iterative process, and it requires both humility and a willingness to learn from our errors.
Neglect the importance of leadership buy-in. Your DEI work won’t be sustainable unless it has sufficient resources, support, and prioritization from your organization’s leaders.
A crucial step in creating a DEI plan for your organization is to develop a budget for the work. The budget should account for finances, staff time, and other resources necessary to achieve the work. Your budget will vary depending on the specific goals and priorities for your organization’s DEI work, but it may include such items as:
Funds for a staff diversity training program
Salary and benefits for a Chief Diversity Officer, DEI consultant, or other program leader
Funds to support mentorship and networking programs
Funds to support internship programs
Funds to address gender or racial pay gap disparities
Dedicating certain staff hours to advancing your organization’s DEI goals
A DEI staff advisory committee
DEI training for hiring managers
Flexible work hours for parents and caregivers
Paid leave benefits
Remote work equipment
No DEI plan can be successful unless an organization is willing to dedicate money, time, and resources to supporting DEI work at every level . However, there are some steps you can take that require little or no cost to implement. This 2020 article by Jennifer Kim offers many low-cost ideas for cultivating DEI in your organization; below we’ve highlighted several from this list, as well as others not included.
Use preferred pronouns. Encourage staff to add preferred pronouns to their email signatures, Zoom names, and when introducing themselves. This is an easy way to promote an inclusive environment for team members who are trans, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming, or who have gender-neutral or non-English names.
Update job descriptions with inclusive language. Audit your organization’s job descriptions for exclusionary language. Be sure to use gender-neutral language whenever possible. Use tools such as the Gender Decoder to identify subtle gender bias in your job descriptions or this 2019 article by Alaina Leary, which offers guidance for writing inclusive job descriptions for people with disabilities. Some style guides may also offer recommendations for using inclusive language — for example, APA Style includes a comprehensive guide for using bias-free language. Meanwhile, Microsoft Office includes a tool for checking inclusive language in the program’s grammar checker function.
De-identify resumes when hiring. Removing identifying information from candidates’ resumes during the hiring process could help reduce bias in recruiting and hiring .
Make note of multicultural holidays on staff calendars. Promote awareness and inclusion by integrating an Inclusion Calendar into your organization’s email client. Inclusive calendars can help staff plan meetings and events around important cultural events beyond only the (typically western and Christian) holidays acknowledged in many workplaces. Microsoft Outlook allows you to add holidays for specific countries to your Outlook calendar, while programs such as those offered by Diversiton can seamlessly integrate key religious dates, festivals, holidays, and important diversity dates in your organization’s main calendar for a relatively low cost.
You can also celebrate holidays and events for marginalized groups, such as Juneteenth and Pride, in your organization.
Conduct a workplace climate survey. Measuring the current climate and culture of your organization is an important step in understanding what needs to be done to improve DEI. A workplace climate survey is easy to create and often free (or low cost) to disseminate. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has created a sample survey you could adapt for your organization.
Share a clear agenda ahead of meetings. Sharing agendas in advance of a meeting can enable team members who may otherwise feel excluded — or who need time to process their thoughts — the chance to participate in meetings more fully.
Look for free training courses. There are many free resources your organization can use to further team members’ antiracist education and training. Indeed’s Career Guide offers a list of 10 free virtual DEI courses; programs like Coursera and TED have many options to choose from too.
For many organizations, an important question in their journey to becoming antiracist is if it is necessary to add a new position to the staff that focuses exclusively on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Often called a “Chief Diversity Officer” (CDO) or simply “Diversity Officer,” this individual’s job, broadly speaking, is to maximize organizational culture and ensure that the organization’s DEI goals align with business outcomes. Additionally, a CDO will scan the external environment for changes that could affect the organization’s employees or its culture. The job of a CDO can comprise dozens of discrete responsibilities, depending on the nature of your organization, but here are some of the most common ones  :
Research, create, recommend, and implement strategies to support the diversity goals of the organization.
Design a recruitment strategy to attract and retain a diverse workforce.
Review current practices and policies, assessing and analyzing them through a diversity lens to see if they support the organization’s diversity goals.
Oversee the process for employee complaints related to discrimination or harassment, among others.
Research different types of DEI training and either develop modules or acquire them.
Organizations typically add a CDO to their staff for one of two reasons: either they are coming out of a crisis around DEI (or trying to prevent one) and need help navigating a path forward or DEI has become a priority for the leadership team . In other words, for either reason, addressing issues around DEI has risen to the level of hiring a dedicated person to oversee the organization’s efforts in this area — it has been decided that such efforts cannot be managed by existing staff because of a lack of expertise or capacity (or both) — and, additionally, the organization is looking to signal, both externally and internally, their commitment to DEI.
If your organization decides to hire a CDO or comparable position, what factors will help this individual be successful ?
Access to the CEO. Having a direct line to the CEO (or comparable position) is critical as the CDO needs to have the support of the top-level executive in order to carry out new initiatives and programs that will support the work around DEI.
Buy-in from the Senior Leadership. Likewise, the senior leadership of an organization needs to believe in and commit to the work of the CDO, helping to implement change across the organization.
Access to the Boardroom. If your organization has a board of directors, the CDO needs a line of communication to that body, as it is often the case that it decides the direction of the organization and where to allocate resources.
Close Partnership with HR. In order to implement new policies, practices, and procedures, the CDO will need to work closely with the human resources staff.
Take this short quiz to see if your organization needs a CDO.
Attempting to ensure your organization is operating under an antiracist ethos and incorporating a comprehensive DEI program can be daunting — where exactly do you start? The internet abounds with advice and tips, books line the shelves, and experts everywhere tout advice on what’s most important. But how can you make sense of it all? A DEI consultant can help answer that question. What other advantages can a consultant bring to the table besides helping you get started? They include:
Credibility and objectivity. It is often the case that, with staff-led efforts (often by human resources departments), there is lack of trust, the thought being that human resources is there to protect the company, not the employees. A consultant can mitigate this lack of trust and lend a sense of objectivity to the process.
Expertise. Existing staff don’t usually have the expertise around DEI to effectively lead efforts toward creating an antiracist organization. A well-vetted consultant will bring experience, training, and education that help achieve that goal.
Capacity and speed. Most staff are already at capacity — adding DEI programming to their plate is something they just don’t have time to do. Hiring a consultant will address this issue — they will have the time to do all of the necessary work toward creating an antiracist culture at a faster pace than could be done alone.
Being able to hire a DEI consultant depends on the funds you have available for such an initiative. The cost of consultants varies widely, depending on the scope of the work you intend to do, the length of the engagement, and the rates of the specific individual or firm you hire. You can hire a consultant for anything from a simple half-day workshop to developing large-scale and long-term initiatives. Other tasks or initiatives DEI consultants commonly undertake include :
Benchmarking and research into your current culture and efforts around DEI, using surveys, focus groups, and one-on-one interviews.
Identifying and implementing DEI programs based on the benchmarking data.
Reviewing existing documentation on policies through the lens of DEI and making recommendations for what needs to change.
Developing training opportunities around topics such as microaggressions, unconscious bias, and privilege and identity.
Crafting goals your organization wants to achieve around DEI.
Conducting a wholesale intervention — this is where the consultant undertakes an enterprise-wide assessment, followed by organization-wide education and training, with the intention of changing its systems, practices, policies, and procedures.
If your organization decides that hiring a consultant is necessary, what types of competencies should you look for? First and foremost, the consultant must understand the type of business your organization is engaged in. Also, the consultant should be able to tie diversity into your work processes. Other important competencies include understanding systemic issues of discrimination and the differences between equal employment opportunity and affirmative action and diversity and inclusion. Perhaps most importantly, a consultant must be willing to confront difficult issues within your organization.
Research conducted by the Workplace Equity Project  reveals that a race and ethnicity pay gap exists in the scholarly communications industry. This independent, non-profit organization (now part of the Coalition for Diversity and Inclusion in Scholarly Communications, the host for this toolkit) surveyed more than 1,000 scholarly communications professionals in 2018 and discovered that the workforce profile in the industry is more white (83% vs. 17%) than the whole and that the chances of attaining a senior position in scholarly publishing are higher for white males with no advance degrees than for Black females with postgraduate degrees.
These findings reflect the broader workforce. Research on the state of the racial wage gap in 2021 by PayScale shows that, when controlling for experience, education, and occupation, most men and women of color continue to earn less than white men in the US workforce. An analysis of lifetime earnings shows that this difference can amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars less for people of color over the course of their careers .
Why should we care about paying people equally for commensurate work, beyond the fact that it is the just and fair thing to do? A chief reason is that decades of pay differences have led to occupational inequality, which has resulted in generations of racial wealth gaps. Additionally, there is a business case for eliminating the wage gap — achieving pay equity can help drive performance, efficiency, and productivity. Also, it will help attract and retain the best talent.
What can your organization do to close the racial pay gap? First and foremost, you should conduct a pay equity analysis to see if you are paying people of color statistically less than whites. Sometimes this is also called a Pay Equity Audit (PEA) . With smaller organizations, the human resources staff can lead this effort; for larger organizations, you can consider hiring a consultant to complete the audit. Ensuring that you use accurate data (which may require some clean-up first), the audit will compare the pay of employees doing “like for like” work. Then, accounting for pay differentials based on legitimate factors such as experience, education, and training, you can identify pay gaps based on race. The next step is remediation, which, depending on your organization’s budget and financial resources, might have to occur incrementally over time. The final step in this process is to identify how these salary gaps arose in the first place — are the job classifications incorrect? Is hiring decentralized? Once you discover the source of the gaps, you’ll need to introduce measures to correct it.
There are other things you can do in addition to a PEA to address pay inequality in your organization. For example, hiring managers can stop requesting pay history. Because past salaries can be due to many variables such as poor negotiation skills or past pay inequities, they don’t necessarily reflect the value someone brings to a job. Also, to ensure parity as employees grow in the job, your organization should consider if it provides equal access to special projects, opportunities to have hands-on learning, and visibility to the leadership. Finally, you will go a long way in building trust with your employees if you are transparent in your pay equity analysis findings.
To successfully create structure around the DEI work in an organization, the leadership must identify who should lead the efforts. As discussed earlier, one option is to add a chief diversity officer, or comparable position, to the staff. But what if your organization chooses not to go that route or doesn’t have the resources or buy-in to make that happen? According to a 2014 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), only 15% of organizations have dedicated staff members for diversity and inclusion (this percentage is now likely higher) . There are many other options your organization can consider.
Almost all organizations have a human resources department or staff, which means that, in many cases, DEI efforts are led by this area. For many human resources programs, attracting and retaining a diverse workforce are already part of their job description. It makes sense, therefore, to add other DEI efforts to their role. Additionally, human resources staff occupy the unique position of being able to cultivate diversity leaders throughout an organization, providing them with the lens necessary to establish an antiracist culture.
According to a 2017 report by Deloitte, 38% of executives report that the primary sponsor of the company’s diversity and inclusion efforts is the CEO . Research has shown that having a top-level executive such as the CEO lead DEI efforts can ensure that diversity isn’t considered as a barrier to progression. It’s important to know, however, that for a chief executive to lead an organization’s diversity efforts, she or he must have ample time and be fully engaged .
What if your organization doesn’t have the resources to support a full-time diversity role, your human resources staff is already overburdened, and your chief executive doesn’t have the time or inclination to lead the DEI work? Another very viable, cost-effective, and inclusive option is to form a committee or taskforce to develop a DEI program. Responsibilities of such a body could include:
Identifying organizational priorities related to DEI.
Establishing short- and long-term goals around integrating DEI principles and practices throughout the organization.
Creating a DEI strategy with clear metrics.
Reviewing existing policies, practices, processes, and communications and recommending changes.
Identifying opportunities for increasing engagement of diverse groups that are under-represented in the organization.
The Importance of Embedding DEI Efforts
For your organization to be truly effective in moving toward an antiracist culture, any structure you employ around DEI work must be embedded throughout every aspect of your organizational ecosystem — having the work siloed in a single area or department simply won’t work. This approach will help ensure that you are creating a sustainable movement . How can you embed DEI into your structure? There are many ways to do so, but perhaps most importantly, you need to take a diversity lens to everything you do, from talent management, to program development, to systems and processes. Additionally, diversity and inclusion must be practiced by everyone, at all levels, in the organization. You must view DEI efforts as a business responsibility — not just a human resources responsibility .
DEI Advisory Board
No matter what form your DEI efforts take, it is important to ensure accountability to those most impacted by your organization’s DEI work. A DEI advisory board can help keep your organization’s leaders on track and accountable to their DEI goals. Unlike a DEI committee or task force, an advisory board may be comprised of individuals from outside your organization’s staff and serves as a monitor on the organization’s efforts. The advisory board might consist of community members, association governance leaders, colleagues from partner organizations, specialists in DEI work, or a combination thereof. Purposes and duties of the board might include:
Reviewing and approving a DEI vision statement, mission statement, and strategy for your organization, created by your organization’s DEI leaders.
Setting priorities, goals, and timelines for DEI work in consultation with your organization’s leadership.
Advising your organization’s leadership on outreach strategies to recruit, retain, and engage with marginalized communities.
Making recommendations on current or new plans for promoting DEI.
Ensuring the perspectives and needs of marginalized community members are heard and addressed.
Regardless of how you structure the DEI leadership for your organization, the commitment to DEI cannot stop with the Chief Diversity Officer or the DEI committee. As Denise Hamilton, CEO and founder of WatchHerWork, writes, “one person cannot push this boulder up the hill alone,” and diversity leadership roles can quickly lead to burnout . To ensure DEI work is truly sustainable, your organization should build DEI into every team member’s job — and be sure to evaluate and compensate them appropriately for that work. For example, your organization could:
Include supporting the organization’s diversity and inclusion priorities in each employee’s job description; build time into each teams’ schedules for DEI work on a regular (e.g., weekly) basis.
Ask project managers to include whether a specific project furthers a DEI goal as a metric for identifying project priorities.
Offer continued training courses on reducing implicit bias and promoting inclusion and cultural competency on a regular basis.
Address disparities in office housework: a 2018 survey found that women of color were 20% more likely to report doing more administrative tasks than their colleagues over white men . Analyze the main office housework tasks on your team and whether anyone is doing more than their fair share of the work — then redistribute (or eliminate) the work as necessary. If you notice that someone has taken on more than their fare share, thank them — and let them know you see this disparity and that you plan to address it.
Encourage or require everyone to set at least one goal around the organization’s DEI priorities for that year. Recognize and compensate team members who exceed their DEI goals.
Build competencies that center on equity and inclusion into performance evaluations, such as:
Collaboration: demonstrates ability to work across teams and address disparate viewpoints
Willingness to learn: demonstrates ability to learn from mistakes, ask for help, and accept new ideas or ways of thinking
Valuing diversity: treats individuals fairly and respectfully; proactively minimizes barriers and ensures opportunities are available to all
Empowering others: gives credit to others for their contributions to a project or task
To create an inclusive culture across the employee life cycle, organizations must consider the following four areas of focus:
Attraction. Get the right people applying to your organization and effectively moving internally.
Selection. Make sure your processes for selecting candidates is equitable and well wrought.
Progression. Ensure talent is rewarded equitably at all levels.
Retention. By looking after your employees, they are more likely to stay and to thrive within your organization.
The first step to having a workforce that is diverse, inclusive, and equitable is to ensure that you are attracting a diverse group of people! This is often seen as a first step, but we recommend that you ensure to have a strategy in place for all four stages before you bring employees into an environment that is not actively antiracist. For full guidance, see our ‘Hiring’ guide in ‘Considerations & Consequences’ [jump link].
First steps for improving your attraction methods:
Recognize that requirements in job ads affect the gender and ethnicity of applicants for a role . See the BBC Worklife’s guide for more information on bias in the staff selection process . Tools available such as the Gender Bias Decoder (https://www.totaljobs.com/insidejob/gender-bias-decoder/) and Textio (https://textio.com/) use AI to scan job adverts for bias.
Understand that pay transparency closes the gaps. Social media company Buffer, which uses a formula that factors in job title, experience, and cost of living to determine staff salaries, doesn’t have a pay gap among men and women in the same roles (although it does across the company)  .
Examine where you advertise. Check the sites on which you advertise and broaden in areas where you may be missing candidates. Make use of organizations that are formed to advertise opportunities to under-represented groups, such as Creative Access (https://creativeaccess.org.uk/) and the SYP (https://thesyp.org.uk/).
Countering bias in the selection process is key to ensuring your hard work in the Attraction phase pays off! It is important to rely on a formalized structure to ensure an equitable treatment of all candidates.
Beyond the steps outlined in ‘Hiring’, we recommend the following steps:
Always involve more than one person in the selection process: hold panel interviews rather than one-to-one conversations
Hold initial interviews over the phone, to allow a greater variety of candidates to attend
Have a clear selection criteria and ensure you stick to them (and that these are transparent)
Focus on skills, not experience/background
Ensure your onboarding processes are clear to applicants and that they extend beyond a new employee’s first week 
Everybody has biases. We need to be aware of them but also recognise that this in itself is not enough. We must interrogate our processes to reduce the biases that lead to racist and discriminatory practices.
When first considering how to improve progression (and retention) in your organization, ask yourself the following questions. Consider where you can create a more structured approach to the ideas at hand to ensure an equitable treatment for all employees.
What is the shape of your talent pipeline?
Where do people “drop out?”
How are selections for promotions, leadership programmes, etc. carried out?
How are projects assigned?
Glamour work positions employees for promotions. Crucially, middle-level managers are typically the people who control who gets these high-profile assignments . Opposite the recognition and development of new skills that we see in glamour work, office housework is the necessary and often unappreciated work that we see most often undertaken by women, particularly women of colour .
Williams and Multhaup, writing for the Harvard Business Review, underline how we can assign work better, which is summarised under the below three headings .
How managers can distribute glamour work fairly:
Consider all eligible employees.
Formalize a pool of employees with requisite skills and establish a rotation of the best assignments.
Rotation systems for this work should be strategic and aligned to employee skills.
If employees do not have the requisite skills to take on the best assignments, invest! Junior employees can shadow senior workers, or human resources can use their funds to pay toward professional development. A further tactic would be to re-frame the assignment so it can be worked on by more people.
How managers can address the problem of office housework:
Identify the office housework and survey your team (see example survey).
Determine what the main tasks are and whether they are distributed equitably.
Don’t rely on volunteers for office housework — establish a system, however arbitrary.
Hold the team accountable.
How senior leaders can help:
Understand that having more employees who are capable of glamour work is better for the company!
Leaders should ensure that a third party is analyzing data, looking for company-wide and individual patterns to determine the wider picture of your organizations glamour work, as well as pin pointing any supervisors who may be approaching the assignment of work with some bias.
Make sure that work like mentorship and DEI committee participation counts as glamour work — make sure that time spent in these spaces is considered in promotions and raises.
Set goals for the allocation of assignments and hold managers to this standard.
Performance reviews are naturally a very subjective process that can introduce inherent biases. Guidelines are necessary so that colleagues and managers are aware of how to ensure that conversations on performance are inclusive.
Set clear goals based on specific objectives and clearly articulated behaviours. Focus on what is being contributed, based on facts rather than opinion.
Use multiple feedback sources to limit bias. When reviewing a colleague’s performance, ask for a 360-degree review (from managers, colleagues, and reports), as well as the comments of the colleague who is being reviewed. This reduces the likelihood of bias and instils an environment of ongoing feedback — win-win!
Be explicit about use of inclusive languages. Ask staff to check their language; a snippet such as the following could have a huge effect on feedback forms:
“Language is one of your most powerful tools for creating an environment where everyone feels welcome, respected, and included. Be mindful about your language and consider the possible reactions of the person you’re giving feedback to. Avoid words, phrases, and tones that may offend or stereotype the person based on attributes like ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and age. If in doubt about how to phrase something, HR will be happy to help.” 
Reinforce inclusive behaviours. Encourage this to be a part of the review and reward behaviours where staff have shown positive work in this way. For example, someone who actively seeks input from people who don’t usually contribute much in meetings should be reinforced in that behaviour.
Use these reviews to ask employees how they feel. Engagement surveys are one way to report feelings of inclusion, but this is another chance to ask key questions such as:
Can you be your authentic self at work?
Do you feel like people make assumptions about your strengths and weaknesses based on stereotypes?
Do you ever feel like you need to conform to be successful at work?
For more information, see section ‘Making Performance Evaluations Equitable’ below.
We recommend that you create guidelines for colleagues to write their own professional development plans, and ensure managers are trained in how to support their teams in achieving these. We suggest using the next three stages of thought to create a development plan that works across the company but also for the individual. It’s vital to ensure that these plans lead to action, so managerial follow-up is key. See the guide from Bamboo HR for a more detailed approach to defining your employees’ development plans (Peterson, 2019) .
Now that you have your framework for development plans, be sure to track the results and refine over time.
Ongoing surveys carried out by PayScale reveal the harsh truth of referrals. Female and minority applicants are much less likely to receive referrals than their white male counterparts: white women are 12% less likely; men of colour are 26% less likely, and women of colour are 35% less likely to receive a referral  .
Now that you have ensured your practices for progressing employees is equitable, we want to make sure they stay! Making employees feel seen and heard is key to this. Pay attention to the following areas and ideas to really leverage your organization and its members.
As noted above, equal pay is not a reality for many people of colour. According to Akini, who quotes Pew Research Center, “college-educated Black men earn roughly 80% the hourly wages of white college-educated men while Black women with a college degree earn only about 70% the hourly wages of similarly educated white men. Meanwhile, college-educated Black women earn 8% less than college-educated white women”  . Organizations need to do better to ensure a more level approach to wages. Finding the data for your organization is key to improvement. To be sure of independent measuring, we recommend using an external business for this review, such as Pay Scale or Umbrella Analytics.
What is your organization doing about it? What is the industry doing about it? (See the Bookseller or the SYP for inspiration.) Make sure you get to grips with your current set up to know what your next steps are. Be inspired and aim to inspire others in the industry to do better.
There are 7.4 million disabled people of working age in the UK today. 52.3% of disabled people were in employment in 2020 compared with the 81.1% employment rate for non-disabled people (Powell, 2020) . Statistca research tells us that, in the US, disabled people are twice as likely to be unemployed as non-disabled people .
The duty to make reasonable adjustments as defined by the Equality and Human Rights Commission is “to make sure that, as far as is reasonable, a disabled worker has the same access to everything that is involved in doing and keeping a job as a non-disabled person” . Employers must make reasonable adjustments to ensure disabled people are not disadvantaged in the workplace. They should also make sure policies and practices do not put disabled people at a disadvantage.
Our recommended steps include:
Assigning budget for workplace accommodations.
Ask, don’t assume practices.
According to Women in Tech, a returnship is a high-level internship that is professionally paid and can last anywhere between 10 weeks and 6 months (Attwood, 2021) . The programmes are designed to help experienced professionals who have taken a career break get back into their senior roles. These programmes focus on building existing skills and experience, and may be supplemented with relevant training courses. By partaking, the returner can gain confidence and recent CV experience, while practically testing whether they want to return to the demands of a corporate job. The employers see benefits of being able to access the skills of an experienced professional and a low-risk way of assessing the returner as a potential longer-term employee.
By cementing inclusive leadership, organizations are better placed to be inclusive at all levels. According to Bourke and Titus, inclusive leaders share six signature traits :
Visible commitment. They articulate authentic commitment to diversity, challenge the status quo, hold others accountable, and make diversity and inclusion a personal priority.
Humility. They are modest about capabilities, admit mistakes, and create the space for others to contribute.
Awareness of bias. They show awareness of personal blind spots, as well as flaws in the system, and work hard to ensure a meritocracy.
Curiosity about others. They demonstrate an open mindset and deep curiosity about others, listen without judgment, and seek with empathy to understand those around them.
Cultural intelligence. They are attentive to others’ cultures and adapt as required.
Effective collaboration. They empower others, pay attention to diversity of thinking and psychological safety, and focus on team cohesion.
To get the most from your workforce, you must ensure that their basic needs are met, so they can shift from a survival mindset to a growth mindset (re:Work (n.d.) and Edmondson, 1999)  . Organize for evaluations to be held annually, or quarterly.
In the cases where employees do leave, be sure to hold exit interviews to understand the qualitative reasoning for people leaving your organization. These interviews are an opportunity for ex-employees to lay their opinions bare and can provide some of the most important data for your organization. Use their feedback to your advantage to fix any common, underlying issues; you can use your ex-employees’ words to implement quick fixes, as well as longer-term change. Starting from scratch? See Workable’s guide here for some tips on how to manage your exit interview strategy.
Get buy in from the top.
Model inclusive language in job postings and internal communications.
Create safe spaces (Employee Resource Groups/affinity groups).
Recognise and celebrate differences.
Ensure frequent check-ins are held for all employees.
Show your commitment to inclusion in your org and your local community.
We strongly recommend that you write a retention plan for your organization to follow. Making this transparent to colleagues as part of your journey in DEI is an excellent way to mark your dedication to becoming an antiracist organization.
Retaining BIPOC Staff
Starting a new job is exciting; and it is even more exciting for an individual during the early stages of their career. For some individuals, this is their first job out of college, while for others it is a career change. No matter the stage of the individual, it is important for organizations to provide tools and resources to ensure the individual’s success in their new role. While the initial onboarding process can be administrative (i.e., completing new hire paperwork), a critical and essential component of the onboarding process is learning about the organization. Reviewing and understanding the policies and procedures, learning about the organization’s vision, mission and values, and understanding organizational culture will assist BIPOC staff with understanding the various ways that people come together to work, how they function as a team, and the behaviors that they exhibit to meet deliverables and/or business outcomes. Regardless of the stage that the BIPOC staff member is at, there are several questions that are at the forefront of their mind when they start their new role:
Is the culture at my organization inclusive and supportive?
Can I be my true authentic self?
Are my opinions and perspectives valued and respected?
Can I effectively share ideas, propose recommendations and solutions, and address concerns without fear of backlash or retaliation?
Are there opportunities to grow and are these opportunities consistent and equitable across the organization?
Are there opportunities for information sharing?
Are performance expectations the same for BIPOC staff as for the staff who are not BIPOC?
Is the organization aware of bias, stereotypes, microaggressions, and the impact that these behaviors have on BIPOC staff?
Are there individuals in leadership positions that look like me?
During the onboarding process, it is essential for leaders and colleagues to answer these questions; the organization’s position on these questions will ultimately shape the BIPOC employee’s overall experience in the organization. When BIPOC staff truly feel that they are treated fairly, that their uniqueness is appreciated and valued, that they have a sense of belonging, and have a voice in the decision-making process, they will also feel included. Through inclusive leadership, people leaders can tap into their staff’s potential and can maximize the performance of their BIPOC staff by understanding their uniqueness and creating a space for them to be true to who they are by bringing their whole selves to work, cultivating an environment where their ideas and perspectives are respected and valued, thus driving curiosity and creativity and creating a space where BIPOC staff can do their best work.
What can organizations do to drive inclusive leadership and retain BIPOC staff?
Strategy for Inclusion
Inclusive Leadership should be a component of the organization’s strategy for inclusion, as it is fundamental to maximizing the retention of BIPOC staff. Employees need to feel that they are respected and valued for the talents and contributions that they bring to the organization and that their uniqueness is seen as an asset. Creating a culture of inclusion and belonging is essential to retaining BIPOC staff. Additionally, discussing the importance of inclusion and inclusive leadership and tying them to business outcomes make for a compelling story. “Research has consistently shown that diverse teams produce better results, provided that they are led well. The ability to bring people from different backgrounds, disciplines, cultures and leverage all that they have to offer, therefore is a must have for leaders.”
Diversity, equity, and inclusion should be an intrinsic organizational value and all members of staff, including leadership, should be held accountable by modeling and reinforcing behaviors that are aligned to organizational values.
When filling leadership roles in the organization, whether externally or internally, review job postings and descriptions to ensure that they include competencies that speak to the six traits of inclusive leadership: commitment, courage, cognizance of bias, curiosity, cultural intelligence, and collaboration. Additionally, include questions on inclusion during the interview process, such as: Tell us about a time when you failed to actively prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion? What was the situation and the outcome? What did you learn and how did you share those learnings? Share one or two ways that you are actively working on building an inclusive, equitable, and diverse culture. Where have you been successful and where have you fallen short? Also, please review the recruitment section of the toolkit; there are key learnings and strategies to ensure that your hiring practices are aligned to your diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy.
Key Performance Indicators
Create metrics to hold leaders accountable for creating a culture of inclusion. For example, create performance goals where all leaders are responsible for modeling behaviors and demonstrating skills that foster inclusion. Include questions on pulse or employee satisfaction surveys that measure inclusion. Lastly, implement 360-degree reviews where the leader’s staff can provide feedback on how their leader has fostered a culture of inclusion. Then take the data and measure progress over time by reviewing the retention and success of BIPOC staff. What is the retention rate for BIPOC staff? Are BIPOC staff offered opportunities to advance in the organization? These are questions that can be used to measure retention and success of BIPOC staff.
Equipping leaders with the skills that they need to foster an inclusive culture and lead diverse teams is critical to their success. Providing opportunities for professional development through trainings, sharing best practices with peers internally and externally, and participating in mentor programs and webinars are all effective ways to build leadership skills and capabilities.
Employee Resource Groups, or ERGs, are inclusive communities formed by employees and endorsed by the company. These groups are formed from the bottom up, generally by colleagues that share a common characteristic, often from a traditionally under-represented group:
Age (i.e. Millenials/Gen Z)
Any others that your employees may feel connects them (e.g., remote workers)
ERGs have been around since the 1960s and have a long history of lobbying for change within their companies. Bastian notes that “the first group to be launched was the National Black Employees Caucus, developed to address the issue of workplace discrimination” . From this first successful example, to the hundred that we see across companies today, it’s clear that ERGs hold power in changing policy and making voices heard. Lattelle Reeves, Manager of the DE&I Program at Wiley, writes in her blog about the power of being seen and heard at work, and shares her advice on how to navigate the building and continuation of support for ERGs .
Make sure your colleagues are aware that they are encouraged to start an ERG. Raise them at your next company briefing. Include instruction in your next big comms e-mail. Create a form that colleagues can send to a designated group in leadership or human resources. Do whatever suits your organization to encourage people to sign up! We recommend ERG leads follow a guide, such as that provided by Janice Gassam Asare, or Lyssa Test, as accessible below, to start their groups successfully .
Once your ERGs are formed, you should encourage them to follow the 4C ERG Model, created by Robert Rodriguez . As the diagram explains, any action of an ERG can be assigned to one of the following four areas :
Culture. Efforts that raise cultural competency of the company by promoting inclusion, raising awareness, and dispelling myths.
Career. Initiatives designed to help the career advancement, professional development, and education of ERG members.
Community. Actions that connect an ERG to community outreach and volunteer efforts.
Commerce. Activities that link ERGs to business goals, corporate initiatives, and strategies.
Allyship — working with those outside of the affinity group (we still encourage ERGs to hold safe spaces just for those within the group)
Intersectionality — working with other ERGs
Business Impact — working to improve the organization’s mechanisms
Operating Rhythm — an annual calendar and a cadence to meetings
Professional Development — providing opportunities to colleagues
Metrics that Matter — proof that their work has brought valuable change
Rodriguez recommends measuring your ERGs across eight categories that fit into the 4C model. Rate your ERGs on a three-point scale in order to understand your strengths and weaknesses and then strategise accordingly.
A final note: ERGs represent a community that increases value to employees through career development and/or community outreach. It’s possible to extend this focus and integrate business goals to form Business Resource Groups, where the ERG’s presence adds value directly to the business. This value can be in increasing the inclusivity of the business group or lobbying for better working conditions for the representative group.
Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)/Affinity Groups
Historically, the BIPOC population in the US have been under-represented, marginalized, and have been victims of systemic racism and discrimination throughout their entire lives. Systematic racism, white supremacy, and discrimination have shaped and continue to shape American society and are prevalent in the workplace. As a result, it is important to ensure the success of BIPOC staff in the workplace through the implementation of programs that will support them throughout their career. Affinity and Employee Resource Groups provide this support and it is an organization’s vision to foster inclusion and enhance the employment experience to one where teammates feel supported, empowered, and that they can bring their whole selves to the workplace.
What are affinity groups?
Monster’s Daniel Bortz defines affinity groups as groups of employees with similar backgrounds, interests, or demographic factors, such as gender or ethnicity. (Businessinsider.com, ‘5 Reasons Why Every Workplace Should Have Employee Affinity Groups, and How to Start One’.) Common affinity groups include those for members of traditionally marginalized identities, parents, LGBTQAI+, women, etc.
Bortz shares a few areas where affinity groups can be effective in supporting your organizational DEI goals:
They create synergy.
They improve employee retention.
They make new employees feel welcome.
They help employees address discrimination concerns.
They promote friendships. (Error)
What you might take away from the list above is that they promote belonging: the by-product of a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace.
Best Practices in Setting up Affinity Groups
Ensure that employees that are interested in setting up affinity groups connect with your human resources team. Your human resources team can guide affinity groups to establish their mission, develop strategies to recruit team members, as well as to share best practices to make sure that affinity groups are successful.
When affinity groups are operating at their best, they can truly support employee engagement by providing valuable context and can identify an organization’s next generation of people and operational leaders.
What Are ERGs?
The technical definition of ERGs is similar to what has been shared for affinity groups in that they are a place where employees of similar backgrounds, interests, or demographic factors can come together. A distinction between ERGs and affinity groups is that ERGs’ missions and purposes are explicitly tied to supporting business goals and objectives. This means that they can go beyond creating safe places for BIPOC and other members of traditionally marginalized groups to connect and support your organization's DEI goals and instead be transformative because their efforts will be closely linked to ROI.
ERGs provide multiple benefits to both employees and the organization, subsequently serving as a fundamental support to critical business and talent objectives. Some of these objectives include increasing employee retention, developing new leaders, and helping to recruit high-quality diverse talent, in addition to providing helpful insights and innovative thinking to enhance the organization’s products and expand into new markets.
Five to Nine highlights ERGs as “think tanks that can guide business strategy in concrete ways”. They share that typical outcomes of ERGs include:
• Ensuring employees have an opportunity to be heard, valued, and engaged.
• Gaining a better understanding of who their customers are.
• Getting insight on business performance.
• Providing employees with the opportunity to problem-solve, innovate, and develop, regardless of seniority or status.
(Five to Nine, Leveraging ERGs for an Inclusive Employee Experience)
Many organizations start with affinity groups and later implement ERGs when they understand how ERGs can support their business objectives. ERGs are high leverage because each ERG has a leader, typically a senior level leader, that sponsors the group to make sure that it meets its mission and has the organizational support necessary to thrive. Additionally, sponsors can serve to remove barriers/obstacles that ERGs might experience and/or help them secure resources such as funding for professional development while not interfering with the ERGs’ autonomy.
ERGs are most effective when equity of practice and how DEI initiatives connect to an organization’s business priorities are fundamental pillars in your organization. If these elements aren’t in place, ERGs can lose their impact.
Best Practices in Setting up ERGs
Five to Nine provides excellent guidance on establishing ERGs:
Identify the purpose of the ERG to set it up for success.
Select an executive sponsor and identify success metrics for the ERG.
Equip the ERG with a budget.
Align ERG objectives with business goals.
Discover initiatives that support the ERG’s goals.
Establish Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
Create visibility for the ERG.
(Five to Nine, Leveraging ERGs for an Inclusive Employee Experience)
Organizations, especially those committed to diversifying their company leadership, pay particular attention to individuals who lead ERGs. Individuals who are volunteering their time to support both business and cultural objectives, via ERGs, should be identified for potential mentorship and/or sponsorship.
Professor Katherine W. Phillips of Columbia University recommends that organizations consider “creating a buddy system of informal mentorship, in which more-experienced employees help facilitate social relationships for new hires, particularly minorities who may feel marginalized in the organization” . Mentorship should be organized to cross gender, race, and ethnicity lines. This means that employees are not siloed, and that the responsibility for ensuring mentorship is seen as a priority across employees.
Ruchika Tulshyan, a writer for the Association for Talent Development, underlines the ways in which mentorship should be intentional . She writes:
State your intention. Do you want to increase representation of Black employees in managerial roles? Advance Latinas in technology roles? Recruit more employees of colour by 2022? Outline your vision and your staff will respond.
Recruit intentionally. Invite those you wish to join and be clear about the benefits.
Train intentionally. Equip participants with a structure that establishes expectations on meeting frequency, goal setting, and communications. Prepare mentors in advance for cases when personal topics may arise.
Measure impact with intention. Make sure you know who is participating, the level of support that participants feel has been provided, and the perceived effectiveness of the programme. You can compare life cycle data, regarding retention, advancement and engagement of those participating vs those who are not. This will not only guide your structure but encourage others to join.
Host in-house mentoring, but encourage employees to find their own mentors, both within and beyond the company
Having more than one mentor will only improve an employees chances of success; where one mentor can be limiting, a diversity of thought, perspectives, skills, and social connections will improve the richness of the feedback available through mentoring. Encourage your employees to be diverse in their approach to curating a mentorship team and to use that team to develop a plan.
To support this mentorship team, outside of those formed naturally, we recommend highlighting opportunities available through associations and societies such as those provided by:
Just as it’s helpful to have a range of people to make up your mentorship teams, it is worth considering having different positions that make up these groups.
Dr. Ruth Gotian explains how these four roles are most effective for ensuring career success :
A role model is somebody who embodies traits you admire and wish to emulate. You may know them, or just know of them; either can function.
A mentor is a figure in your professional life who talks with you about you career, goals, plans, and aspirations.
A coach talks with you to work on improving a specific detail of your professional work, i.e. executive presence, or finding your passion.
A sponsor is a colleague, often higher up in leadership, who will promote you and your work when you are not in the room. They are your advocates when you are not in the room. Studies by Payscale, as communicated by J. Lewis of The Balance Careers, show that the difference in earnings for sponsored workers with a bachelor's degree versus not sponsored workers is significant:
"Hispanic women with a sponsor earn 6.1 percent more than Hispanic women without one. Black women with a sponsor earn 5.1 percent more than Black women without one. 
It’s important for colleagues to know the difference and for your teams to be informed in how these structures of colleague support can be incorporated into the company working style. When you survey colleagues, be sure to investigate how many would consider themselves to have a role model, mentor, coach, or sponsor, and try to determine where there may be gaps.
To set up a mentoring program from scratch, we recommend following the Chronus Mentoring for a Diverse and Inclusive Workplace. Download it here.
In the first instance, we recommend reading Time’s Up Guide to building an Anti-Racist Workplace (please continue to TIME’S UP Foundation).
To follow on from this excellent guide, we recommend the following overarching values be embedded into all facets of your organization.
Ensure your team studies and shares the ways in which white supremacy, racial violence, and racism have shaped our current world. Continue this learning into the present day — how does the burden of code-switching at work affect your employees ? Why do you think this happens? What can you do to immediately lessen this burden?
This is known as cultural taxation. Too often the burden of this work falls on the shoulders of those who are already feeling the weight of racism. You must take the lead but be sure to involve a range of voices in these movements, not only to encourage intersectionality but to avoid burnout .
Use your workforce wisely — involve them in these conversations by requesting honest and candid feedback through surveys, round tables, and interviews where necessary. Listen and act appropriately.
Support ERG movements. This can be financially, through sponsorship and coaching, or by sharing their events/training more widely within the company.
Set up clear guidelines for colleagues to report these behaviours in a way that is sensitive, yet transparent and accountable. Your staff should feel comfortable raising instances that may be anything from systemic to another employee using microaggressions.
Protect those who speak out and re-evaluate your whisleblower policy regularly.
Consider all cases no matter how small. Think of this feedback as an opportunity to improve. Ensure that there is a methodology in place to learn, grow, and correct your processes or culture once these grievances are made known.
Performance reviews can often serve as a major barrier to equity and inclusion in the workplace, where people of color and women are more likely to fair worse in a performance review compared with their white men colleagues. For instance, studies have shown that performance evaluations tend to be more positive for men than for women  . A 2001 study likewise found that 41% of Black female managers claimed they had to outperform their male colleagues to overcome bias in the performance appraisal process . To address these disparities in performance reviews, the Center for WorkLife Law has developed the Bias Interrupters Model, an evidence-based framework for reducing performance review bias in small but meaningful ways. They highlight four tendencies for bias that you should watch out for :
Prove-It-Again! (PIA). Groups stereotyped as less competent often have to prove themselves over and over again before their competencies are believed.
Tightrope (TR). A narrower range of workplace behavior is considered acceptable from women and people of color.
The Parental Wall. Assumptions about family status can affect people differently, including employees without children or other caregiver roles.
Tug of War. Bias can create conflict within marginalized groups, unfairly pitting members against one another.
Below, we offer some additional solutions to mitigate bias in your organization’s performance evaluations:
Implement a Bias Interrupter. Have someone (or several people) on your team review performance evaluations for potential bias, and work with managers to revisit any potentially problematic ratings before sharing them with employees.
Expand (or revisit) what is being evaluated. Rather than focusing on technical skills alone, incorporate additional values such as emotional intelligence or other ‘soft’ skills into the performance evaluation structure. (See Building DEI into the Job, above.)
Give evidence. Back your evaluations up with examples to explain your ratings.
Monitor language for bias. Are your male employees receiving more work-related feedback, while female or non-binary employees are receiving more personality-based feedback? Check your own assumptions against the bias tendencies listed above.
Collect more feedback. Managers tend to identify more errors in the work of people from marginalized groups. Collecting more feedback, more often, on employee performance may help mitigate some of these biases.
Be clear. Set clearly defined goals and create a rubric for meeting performance expectations.
Get more than one option. Build multi-rater feedback into your evaluation process.
Talk often. Encourage open communication about performance and give employees the chance to improve — nothing in a formal performance evaluation should be a surprise to the employee.
Keep a written record. Managers should keep a catalog of written feedback they receive for their employees (both positive and negative); employees should track any positive feedback they receive to supplement their self-evaluations.
Pattern or one-off? When you receive negative feedback for an employee, reflect on whether this is signaling a pattern of behavior or whether it’s a one-off issue that can be addressed in the moment.
Don’t insist on likability (or other gendered qualities) from some team members but not others.
Don’t make assumptions about what caregivers — or those who are not caregivers — can do.
Perhaps one of the most obvious ways you can move your organization toward an antiracist culture is to launch a training program that spans all levels and all departments. The type of training you choose can take many forms and can range from one-time engagements to ongoing efforts that are offered in periodical intervals. The cost of training can also vary widely, depending on what you’re aiming to achieve as well as if you use an off-the-shelf product or engage with a consulting firm to conduct the training. Regardless, there are many types of training to choose from that will match the financial resources your organization has available.
Although research on the effectiveness of diversity training has yielded mixed results, a study by Lindsey et al. shows that there are two types of training that really work: Perspective-Taking and Goal-Setting .
In Perspective-Taking training, you are asked to mentally walk in someone else’s shoes — in other words, you are tasked with imagining what a marginalized group might face. This type of training can yield long-term positive effects.
With Goal-Setting, you are asked to specify goals related to diversity in the workplace. The goals must be measurable and attainable (yet challenging). For example, you might set a goal for yourself to speak up when you hear disparaging remarks about a marginalized group. Researchers showed that this type of training led to more pro-diversity behaviors and attitudes up to months after training.
In addition to Perspective-Taking and Goal-Setting, there are other types of training your organization can consider, ranging from the fundamental to the advanced. Some examples include :
Common Ground. This type of training allows you to define terms, values, and priorities and gets everyone in the organization on the same page.
Town Halls. Town halls provide a safe and non-threatening environment to address issues and pain points around diversity that people observe within the organization.
Cultural Sensitivity Training. This type of training helps staff become aware of other cultures and lifestyles, and this helps to increase empathy.
Unconscious Bias. This type of training sensitizes staff to the types of unconscious bias that exists in the workplace and how to mitigate them.
Microaggressions. Training that focuses on microaggressions teaches employees how to communicate and collaborate in a way that avoids harmful stereotypes that can often create a hostile work environment.
Inclusive Management. With this type of training, supervisors are taught how to identify and address discrimination.
Leading Diverse Teams. Managers of teams are given the skills they need to effectively lead a diverse workforce.
Senior Management Coaching. Change comes from the top. With this type of training, senior leaders are counseled on how to encourage diverse viewpoints and guide safe discussions around DEI.
Regardless of the type of diversity training your organization chooses to pursue, there are several factors to consider to maximize your success . Perhaps most importantly, the aim of your training program should be to provide practical ways for the staff to engage in respectful and positive behavior while reducing discriminations and prejudice. Moreover, training should be targeted at all staff of all levels. Additionally, it’s important that you tie your diversity training to your organization’s overall vision, mission, values, and goals. Training should be an ongoing initiative, over time, and should be customized for the needs of your organization — a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work. Finally, use an integrated approach with your training — in other words, use a variety of formats and methods, as different people learn in different ways.
Members of the BIPOC community face more hurdles to get a good job than whites. They get fewer callbacks from job interviews, if they get interviews at all. Many will send out hundreds of resumes only to get a few responses, if any. Once they get a job, they face more hurdles still due to the systemic barriers in place within the organization. Lower pay, few job growth opportunities, no access to mentors, and there is still overt racism within the organization itself. Many organizations are embracing reverse mentorship to address some of the barriers to professional development that BIPOC staff members are facing.
The concept of reverse mentoring is not new. In 1999, Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, was credited as the creator of reverse mentoring programs. Usually, older staff are paired with younger employees to teach them about social media and the like.
In the 21st century, reverse mentoring has grown to embrace the BIPOC community as the mentors. The belief that the workplace can become more equitable is to look at reverse mentoring in a different way. Traditional thinking is that experienced staff will mentor less experienced staff. The more modern and helpful way to develop your staff is to embrace those who have experienced racial interactions and biases within your organization.
According to Stanford Social Innovation Review, “upending the power dynamic of the traditional mentoring model promotes a sense of belonging and nurtures stronger connections between colleagues. It is this human connection that will lead to a more equitable future.”
Reverse mentoring can break down stereotypes of what talent looks like, what the background of that talent can be, and the ‘not listed in your job description’ experiences that can be successful in staff positions.
Mentoring programs raised minority representation in management by 9% to 24%, according to Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations. The study also found that mentoring programs also dramatically improved promotion and retention rates for BIPOC and women by 15% to 35% as compared with non-mentored employees.
There is also value in members of BIPOC communities mentoring each other. There are experiences that can be shared of how to navigate the workplace. Tammy Allen, author of Designing Workplace Mentor Programs, wrote that the trickiest part of mentoring is the pairing, and the one we know the least about. Some organizations use algorithms like those used by dating apps. Some just make random matches, but the most effective way is to allow participants to choose who they want to have as a mentor or who they want to mentor.
Create a format for all mentors/mentees and let the pairs figure out their schedule and how much they want to share. Trust takes time and not all matches will work out. Be flexible and realize that changes may need to be made in the pairings and that this is fine. At the end of the mentor/mentee cycle, evaluate your program to see how you can make improvements to your program.
Diversity Best Practices, Reverse Mentoring Tips and Best Practices
What’s better for BIPOC team members’ career advancement: mentorship or sponsorship?
This is actually a really difficult question to answer. If you scour the web, you’ll see tons of examples where fans of mentorship or sponsorship will cite really compelling arguments for their position. The more nuanced version of the answer is that it depends on the situation and in many cases you might need both.
First, let’s define what sponsorship is and how it differs from mentorship.
At its most basic level, sponsorship typically involves someone with privilege/authority who can advocate for someone in their organization to be promoted. This can be significant especially for members of under-represented communities/identities because many of the conversations that provide opportunities to elevate an individual’s work/performance, champion someone to lead a project/cross-functional initiative, etc. happen behind the scenes. Being someone’s sponsor means you lift up their name, you make their contributions/abilities known, you use your privilege to make sure that the person is acknowledged in conversations that will lead to them being promoted.
Many of the advocates for sponsorship warn that mentorship programs can inadvertently imply that members of traditionally marginalized identities/BIPOC team members are deficient in the skills that are necessary to advance up the corporate ladder. On the other hand, proponents of sponsorship highlight that many BIPOC team members have the experience and skillset to be promoted; what they are missing is visibility. That is where having an effective sponsor changes the dynamic. The sponsor can make sure the person isn’t being overlooked.
Mentorship slightly differs from sponsorship in a couple of ways:
Mentors can be internal or external to the organization. Mentors can share expertise, help provide advice to help mentees overcome challenges within their organization, coach, provide career advice, and so on. Mentors are often good sounding boards/thought partners that are active in developing the perspectives of their mentees. When it comes to career development guidance, mentors that are internal or external to the organization often open up their network to help their mentees advance in their careers. There aren’t consequences to the mentor in such a scenario.
Sponsors are internal to the organization. Sponsors typically understand the politics/power dynamic of the organization, so they can either share advice or help the person that they are sponsoring to navigate the visible and invisible structures that exist within the organization. The sponsor’s reputation can either benefit or be adversely impacted by the performance of the person they are sponsoring.
The perfect scenario for many BIPOC individuals is to have both a sponsor and a mentor. An external mentor and an internal sponsor gives the best of both worlds. The team member benefits from the power/privilege of the internal sponsor to open up doors that pave the way for promotion as well as the expertise/network of the external mentor who is removed enough from the situation to provide guidance/advice that is not biased by the person’s proximity to the situation as a result of being external to the organization.
According to Psychology Today, code switching “involves adapting the presentation of oneself in ways that disconnect them from the cultural or racial stereotypes of their group.”
For many of us who are BIPOC, we have often followed the adage ‘go along to get along.’ In 1954, American linguist, author, and professor, Einar Haugen used the term ‘code switching’ to describe how multilingual people could easily switch languages when needed. This term has since expanded past linguistics into interpersonal behavior. What has often been a way of survival for BIPOC has a new name.
Code switching is something that we all do to fit into a particular situation. When people code switch it adds another layer of pressure to their daily activities. They cannot be their authentic selves and are trying to fit into a space that has been created by others. For some it affects the way they dress, how they speak, the way they wear their hair, how expressive they are and what language they use when around the majority. Working in spaces that are created by the majority can affect your staff in many ways. Those belonging to the majority are likely to be totally unaware of what code switching is and who is doing it. For BIPOC, code switching adds an additional layer of stress to the process of advancing one’s career and being accepted by one’s colleagues.
In the mostly white spaces of publishing organizations in the Global North, the dominant group has long determined the norms and behaviors that are acceptable. For those not in the dominant group, being one’s authentic self might be seen as not fitting the professional standard and can stand in the way of a deserved promotion or raise. According to Refinery29, white applicants received significantly more callbacks than equally qualified Black and Latino applicants, 36% and 24% more, respectively. And, that’s on paper. Imagine what the scenario could be if a BIPOC did get the job.
Of course, not all BIPOC code switch: people of color are as diverse as anyone else. But this phenomenon is real and ever-present for many BIPOC. White staff should be aware of the additional work that conscious and unconscious bias creates for their BIPOC colleagues.
An African-American man named Jackson R. shares this experience: “I was having a conversation with an African-American colleague and for some reason my voice changed” he said. She responded with “Oh, you slipped into your other voice.” “My other voice I said. The voice I apparently use when I am on the phone with colleagues of a different race. It's not something that I consciously do, it's just that we know that we have to be aware of our tone and the words we use as African Americans because one word out of place or mispronounced could cost us a job or a promotion.”
Humans make judgement calls based on what we see and what we hear. We are most comfortable with the familiar therefore familiarity can benefit those that are of the majority.
For many of the US-based BIPOC authors of this toolkit, the policing of tone and demeanor was taught early in their families. Not code switching for BIPOC can be life threatening. Interactions with police or anyone in authority can be dangerous. Even with code switching, those interactions can be dangerous. We have seen such situations in the news more often than we would want to.
Code switching is exhausting and yet it works. It works because it makes the majority ‘comfortable’ which helps those that want to advance. Sidenote: It is not the job of the marginalized to make the others comfortable. It works because we have all seen it work. The article ‘The Costs of Code-Switching” in Harvard Business Review, states explicitly that ‘the behavior is necessary for advancement — but it takes a great psychological toll.’
Stress, anxiety, frustration and even inferiority occurs when people must show different versions of themselves in different environments according to Talkspace. These feelings can and do affect an individual’s general and mental health.
How do you know if you are being authentic?
You know you are being your authentic self when:
Your job gives you a sense of purpose or fulfillment, rather than feeling drained and lacking energy.
You believe your relationships are based on honesty and genuine respect for who you are.
When in social situations, you feel as though you are presenting the real you, rather than someone you’re not.
You’re unsure of how others will respond to you, but regardless you are proud of who are and who you are being.
from Talkspace, Online Therapy Company
During the pandemic and switch to remote working, many have changed the way they code-switch because their personal space is on display. According to Courtney McCluney, assistant professor of organizational behavior at the ILR School at Cornell University, working from home has meant that code-switching has evolved to changing physical spaces to become ‘whiter,’ too. “There are new ways of code-switching in remote work environments, like using virtual backgrounds or turning your camera off,” she says. McCluney herself feared that her display of African cultural artwork featuring bare-chested figures would be misunderstood by her colleagues, who might question its appropriateness.
We increasingly hear that employees need to be able to be their authentic selves in the workplace. Many employees, particularly BIPOC, are tired of feeling like they need to conform to what others have deemed the ‘ideal’ behaviors, clothing, hair styles, and way of speaking. Being your authentic self allows you to bring your full self to the job. Yes, it can very risky. People may judge, you will find out who you can trust, and you may regret it. Or, you may find that the opposite occurs. It is up to you to view the landscape and how you wish to navigate it. As DEI conversations continue, and as awareness grows about the burden of code-switching and other energy-sapping taxes placed on non-dominant groups, we hope to finally see things start to change.
American grassroots organizer-scholars Tema Okun and Keith Jones write that the standards of professionalism are ‘heavily defined by white supremacy culture—or the systemic, institutionalized centering of whiteness.' Organizations can change that landscape and make it easier for BIPOC to navigate so-called norms that are in place by removing those barriers and making other changes.
An equitable and fair workplace begins by accepting and appreciating the diversity of employees’ cultures, experiences, and knowledge. Four questions can help decenter whiteness in your workplace's standard of professionalism:
What is your personal relationship with the standards of professionalism listed in this section?
Have you seen these standards of professionalism play out in your organization? How have you contributed?
What are some ways you have seen others challenge professionalism standards at an organizational or individual level?
Who might be an ally in changing your workplace culture? Is there additional funding that can support creating a committee in your organization to undertake this emotional and difficult work?
from Standard Social Innovation Review
We are all aware that there are organizations that value staff that bring their authentic selves to the office. We know that organizations thrive with creativity and innovation due to diverse staff and ideas. If an organization values the strength that lies in that diversity then they will thrive. The staff know that they are appreciated for their differences and it will become part of the corporate culture.
Organizations can do more and many are looking for ways to improve. There are resources available. Aysa Gray writes that ‘Professionalism has become coded language for white favoritism in workplace practices that more often than not privilege the values of white and Western employees and leave behind people of color.’ She also believes that you can begin to try to transform those standards by doing the following:
Do seek out renowned process facilitators to foster awareness of implicit bias and white supremacy culture in professional, managerial, and workplace cultures.
Don’t expect a one-time implicit bias workshop or panel to undo years of inequity. Do ongoing work with consultants who specialize in white supremacy culture to create human resources policies and procedures that at a minimum: embrace cultural differences in dress, speech, and work style; evaluate traditionally accepted professional tenets of workplace success, such as timeliness, schedules, leadership style, and work style; center traditionally marginalized voices in assessments; and examine hiring, firing, promotion practices, and work culture in real time. Don’t expect this work to be cheap or quick.
From the Center for Ethnic, Racial, and Religious Understanding at Queens College (CERRU)
As mentioned above, code switching is stressful and tiring for many. Krystle Dorsey, M.Ed., career services professional, writer, and social justice advocate, has a few tips:
Be around those where you can be your true self
Create a network of people where you can be yourself. If you don’t have one get involved with volunteer groups, etc. that align with your beliefs and values. Find your people.
Look for role modes to show you how to manage both sides
Those who have overcome struggles that are similar to yours are needed in your life. There are leaders out there that have learned to navigate the workplace landscape. Look out for them and see how they interact with others. Pay attention and get to know them and maybe they could be your mentor.
Pay attention to how you are feeling
Code switching takes a lot of energy. The more you have to do it, the more it wears you out mentally and physically. Listen to your body and allow yourself some self care.
Practice in a safe space
Similar to finding a role model, you might want to consider ways to learn or teach yourself how to take on more professional tasks and acquire more professional skills. Attending workshops on professional dress, dining etiquette, networking, business writing, and other skills will help you feel more in control of learning these tasks, and being able to apply them when necessary.
Build trust and publicize your cultural differences
Some won’t understand your cultural background. Others will try to understand and that might make for some uncomfortable interactions. If you think someone is making an effort to get to know you you may want to let them. You should be open to getting to know them also.
Prepare to educate but know that it is not something you have to do
Remember, it isn’t the job of BIPOC to educate others. If others are reaching out to get to know you then you determine what you wish to share while realizing you might be annoyed with them many times. There’s a skill to great communication. Work on it, if you wish to continue the relationships. Even the most well meaning people will say something that could be deemed offensive. If they don’t own the mistake, fail to apologize, or continue to offend you, let them go. It’s not worth the energy or the headache.
Know when it is not working for you
If you have tried these tips and you still are unhappy, it’s time to move on. If you find yourself emotionally drained, psychological distressed, or mentally burned out after trying these tips, it’s time to go. If you are being discriminated against, harassed, or attacked, and you still do not feel safe after taking the proper measures to alleviate your grievances, then it may be time to go.
An organization that has been run the same way for years can still improve how it treats staff and members. For those that need to continue code switching, consider it as speaking the language of a secondary environment while feeling empowered to maintain your own identity.
As publishers look to improve racial equity in their organizations, it may be helpful to assess the status quo and identify areas of strength to build on as well as barriers to achieving more inclusive work environments.
Where to Start
This section of the guide will outline some initial steps when entering into an organizational assessment project. A common mistake departments make when starting such a project is failing to create a shared understanding of the purpose of the assessment. Taking time on the front end to do so will help ensure outcomes match the initial goals. For instance:
Why now? What is the impetus for undertaking the assessment at this time?
Where does the assessment fit among other priorities of the organization?
Who is leading the work? Who is expected to contribute?
What resources and stakeholders are important to involve?
When do we want to complete the project?
How will safety and authenticity be fostered?
Answering these five W’s will help leaders decide whether to manage the project internally or hire a consultant. It might also lend insight into the organizational readiness and professional competence in the area of racial justice. Finally, it will address the scope of the assessment. Perhaps the project is aimed narrowly at reviewing policies with a race lens or it could be more broadly looking to determine the pervasiveness of white supremacy culture throughout the organization. Regardless of the scope, climate assessments are intended to provide an inward look at an organization and should not be conflated with equity audits which are intended to measure progress toward building an internal race equity strategy and agenda, if not to gauge the impact of mission on a defined set of stakeholders.
Whether to engage an external consultant or group to manage the assessment is dependent on a number of factors. Budgetary considerations will certainly determine what is accessible and possible for an organization, as will the size of the organization or unit conducting the assessment. Some of the pros and cons to each approach are as follows:
Employing an external consultant:
Can add or ensure objectivity in the process and result in bias reduction
Participants may feel empowered to provide input/data reflective of authentic perceptions
May bring expertise (i.e. data analysis, survey design) that the organization does not have or does not have the bandwidth to facilitate
Can free the organization of the added workload for and responsibilities of conducting the audit (organizational capacity)
Assessment [The consultant?] may have data for benchmarking with similar organizations or institutions
Provides the ability to anonymize data, intercepting the possibility of attribution of quantitative or qualitative data
Benefits of conducting the assessment using internal resources may include:
Process may be more cost-effective or reduce the need for capital outlay
Organization owns and curates collected data, with the possibility of administering the audit on a regular schedule (systematically) without additional costs
Internal administrators and employees may have inside information/context to help interpret the data and results
May open the possibility of allocating resources for incentives for participation
Can leverage local (internal) expertise to determine and customize the methodologies and technologies that will maximize participation
Instruments can be customized to reflect the unique organizational structures, mission, and scope
Planning an Assessment
Careful planning and preparation are necessary to ensure success in the process of conducting any assessment, but this is particularly true in the context of racial equity. Some recommended steps to ensure organizational readiness include:
Gaining commitments from leadership regarding the process and clarity on its value for the organization and its key stakeholders
Determine if the process will be administered by an external consultant or using internal human and material resources
Weigh the value of using an existing assessment tool(s) with appropriate adaptation or one that is homegrown and customized for the organization
Ensure the development of a common vocabulary related to racial equity issues and terms related to the implementation of the process
Develop a timeline for implementation and provision of final reports and recommendations
Develop a communication plan that will guide the organization through the logistics of the process, establish consistency of messaging and align the process with institutional values and mission
Include telegraphing of the project initiation, and scheduling of announcements concerning the launch of the assessment period(s), and notifications about key milestones
Establish a working group (or identify an existing one) that will help shepherd the process, encourage or incentivize broad participation, and ensure that results are communicated to relevant stakeholders
The oversight group should be populated (when possible) with representatives from a range of employee classifications, as well as leadership/managerial ranks
The group should reflect broad representational identity (across gender, race/ethnicity, age, and other characteristics)
Determine how the data collected will be used and the frequency with which the climate will be reassessed, providing time and space for interventions (improvement strategies) to be designed, implemented, and reassessed.
In addition to these steps, both organizational leadership as well as the implementation working group will want to consider, create a narrative around, and be prepared to face and respond to possible resistance and common misconceptions about the assessment. These may include:
inexperience and fear about the process;
conflict avoidance patterns and the white cultural norm of the right to comfort;
for people of minoritized populations, the fear of tokenism, othering, and exoticism;
capacity issues within the organization.
Finally, decisions with respect to the disaggregation of data will have to be addressed, particularly in organizations that have very small populations of employees from minoritized or otherwise marginalized populations. Often fear of retribution prevents people who identify as Black, Indigenous, and People of Color from sharing, candidly, about their experience in the organization. Guarantees of anonymity must be a consistent part of the messaging, as well as assurances to those populations from leadership groups, managers, or others with titular or other types of power that no negative consequences will result from complete honesty and authenticity in the process. Data disaggregation is a necessary part of the process as analyzing climate data only in the aggregate will not provide a realistic view as to the experiences of minoritized or marginalized populations within the organization. Great care must be taken to socialize leadership groups before they are presented with any data (results). Leaders must be prepared for the possibility of receiving uncomfortable truths and encouraged to making commitments to using that information to create meaningful improvement strategies that will have a positive impact on the organization.
Right to comfort/conflict avoidance
Completing an Assessment
Many assessment tools are proprietary; however, this section highlights some options available in types of assessment projects and common themes.
Humans make racist value judgments all the time, and these patterns are difficult to unlearn. The first step in doing so is to become aware of how behaviors may be linked to culture and privilege. When making decisions about hiring, promotion, and on-the-job worth, often we engage in unwritten assumptions and perpetuating beliefs about “fit,” “professionalism,” “hard-working,” “innovation,” and more.
Diversity educator Dr. Kathy Obear uses a training exercise to begin unpacking these “rules” based on Kenneth Jones and Tema Okun’s seminal work on white supremacy culture.
1. Individually, circle the words/phrases below that describe your experience of the current organizational culture.
2. Review your answers as you consider these questions:
Which already help create work environments and effective teams that advance organizational goals?
Which, if any, hinder or undermine stated organizational goals? What impact do these have?
Which, if any, may have a negative differential impact across race? How is this gap widened or narrowed when considering intersectional identities?
3. Which others might help create work environments and effective teams that advance organizational goals?
Accountability & Decision Making
Maggie Potapchuk of MP Associates suggests a “concentric circles” framework of interrogating how decisions are made within organizations. To surface and dismantle the racial, power, and privilege inequities at play, Potapchuk suggests the importance of assessing gatekeeping*.
What are the formal and visible decision-making processes within the organization? Within the formal decision-making process, who is included and excluded from the process? What are their roles within the organization and what are their racial/ethnic identities?
What are the consequences if the decision-making process is not followed? Are there different consequences based on roles within the organization and/or racial/ethnic identities?
What may need to change internally and/or externally, to increase the organization’s credibility with constituents regarding their commitment to equity?
To what extent are resources aligned with the stated priorities or attention to racially equitable outcomes?
What are the patterns of responses when an individual or a group raises a difficult issue, especially one involving inequities, power and/or privilege? Are there different patterns of response by various staff groups? By race/ethnic identity groups?
Who does staff “protect” in terms of risk or embarrassment, or severity of consequences if something doesn’t go well for example? Is there a racially equitable process on how these kinds of tensions are resolved?
How is the organization currently perceived by constituents? Are there different perceptions based on racial/ethnic identity groups? What is the process for determining resources and services for constituents?
What is the level of involvement of constituents in the decision-making process to determine resources and services? Are constituents encouraged to provide input, insight, and/or direction? Are their opinions reflected in organization’s decisions? Are there different levels of involvement based on racial/ethnic identity?
How do different groups (board, senior staff, and administrative staff) respond to concerns or ideas from constituents? Are there different responses based on racial/ethnic identity groups?
The old expression “knowledge is power” can make clear the racial disparities that may occur across decision making authority, proximity to information, and influence. These questions can be used as a whole or in part to improve transparency, accountability, and inclusion.
*Gatekeeping definition: “Gatekeepers act as the buffers between institutions and communities. This is not necessarily negative, as communities often need gatekeepers. However, we need gatekeepers who are accountable to the communities and not the institutions they represent. Gatekeepers can keep people and resources in, or they can keep people and resources out. This does not mean that we are stupid or bad people. The socialization process that sometimes happens to us when we are immersed in White Institutional Culture ensures that we become so invested in the institution that our vision and values become one with the institution. Again, the challenge is to shift the incentives, values, status and rewards toward doing well on community terms...” From Barbara Major, Chapter 7, “How Does White Privilege Show Up In Foundation and Community Initiatives?” p. 76 – Flipping the Script: White Privilege and Community Building – Potapchuk, Leiderman, Bivens, and Major.
Professional Competency & Organizational Readiness
Efforts to advance organizational goals of racial equity may be undermined by a lack of professional competency in its workforce. The Western States Center has developed a basic assessment calling attention to some of the considerations in this area. Using its framework of Red Light (our organization has not gone there), Yellow Light (our organization has started conversations about this or taken some steps), or Green Light (our organization is fully on board) could be a conversation-starter for managers beginning an assessment project. Some criteria on the tool include:
Are benchmarks around racial justice incorporated into the annual evaluation for all employees?
Are white people supported and evaluated in deepening knowledge and building skills around issues of white privilege and anti-racist organizing either within or outside the organization?
Are the staff and board trained in interrupting racism within the organization?
The Center also shares a continuum of organizational development from:
All White Club
The Affirmative Action or ‘Token’ Organization
The Multicultural Organization
The Anti-Racist or Liberation Organization
These stages each have characteristics that highlight barriers and demonstrate opportunities for progress. It is a tool that could call attention to racial disparities and white supremacy culture within policies, funding, representation, and more.
Similarly, ProInspire’s Equity in the Center documents “levers” that address the personal beliefs and behaviors, policies and processes, and data needed at various levels of the organization to advance racial equity. For instance, for the policies to be most equitable, senior leaders must ensure a vetting process exists “to identify vendors and partners that share their commitment to race equity.” In terms of the learning environment lever, organizations must use data to “Formulate development and learning plans for race equity knowledge; track employee learnings and any resistance to growth.”
In addition to the above resources, the following table provides information about other tools and resources that would be helpful in assessing organizational readiness for engaging in anti-racist action, evaluating the potential impact of policy decisions on communities of color, and other instruments to assess race equity culture and build strategies for organization development.
The Education Trust – West: Diploma Matters Audit & Blueprint for Action
Pre-K through post-secondary education
Works for the high academic achievement of all students at all levels, pre-k through college. They expose opportunity and achievement gaps that separate students of color and low-income students from other youth, and they identify and advocate for the strategies that will forever close those gaps.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation; Race Matters Institute
Impact assessment tool that proposes several possible questions for assessing the potential impact of a policy (or other decision) on racialized communities.
MP Associates (Maggie Potapchuk) Transforming Organizational Culture Assessment Tool (TOCA)
Not a diagnostic tool, but rather a tool for reflection on white dominant culture and its impact on the organization’s stakeholders. The TOCA helps the organization develop a “Racial Equity Change Process.”
Western States Center (WSC)
General organizational audience
The Organizational Assessment is an excerpt of a longer self-evaluation tool used by the Dismantling Racism Project offers a starting place for strategy building. The tool offers a sampling of questions designed to assist organizations examine and change the ways the organization replicates larger racist patterns.
Center for Urban Education CUE (now part of the University of Southern California’s Race and Equity Center)
Offers numerous tools to assess and develop an organization’s action towards greater equity. Includes a “Scorecard” as well as self-assessments (organizational) and other organization development tools.
Coalition of Communities of Color
School Districts, nonprofits, corporations, foundations, others
Provides a robust assessment tool to help organizations gather baseline data in order to inform the development of improvement strategies that will lead to more equitable outcomes for children of color. Can be adapted for other sectors/populations.
Getting To We (Deborah L. Plummer, Principal)
Individual assessment tool, the Antiracist Style Indicator (ASI) measures a person’s orientation toward anti-racist behavior (dismantling racist structures). Based on family systems theory, Gestalt theory
University of Southern California Race and Equity Center
Colleges and university undergraduate populations
Quantitative survey administered annually at colleges and universities across the US Survey collects data about undergraduate students’ perceptions of institutional commitment to equity and inclusion, the extent to which they interact meaningfully with diverse others, where and what they learn about race and their feelings of readiness for citizenship in a racially diverse democracy, and other important topics. Report provides practical recommendations for organizational improvement.
Santa Clara County Office of Education. “Ways 2 Equity Playbook” p. 77. August 2020. Ways2Equity_Playbook_FINAL_August-2020-1.pdf (ccee-ca.org)
Ongoing Measurement & Sustainability
There is a journey of change for organizations to develop a race equity culture, through which the organization becomes more knowledgeable and more skilled in analyzing race, racism and race equity, and placing these issues at the forefront of organizational and operational strategy.
The changes in transforming from a white dominant culture to a race equity culture include:
Increased representation of people of color in the organization
A stronger culture of inclusion
An application of a race equity lens on all aspects on the organization
Measuring changes is key to holding the organization accountable and measuring the effectiveness and impact of race equity practices. Disaggregate data is essential—organizations need to collect, disaggregate and report relevant data to get a picture of inequalities and track changes over time. This is not only to measure the positive changes, but also to understand if there are unintended consequences to organizational policies or practices.
Ongoing feedback on the organizational culture, disaggregated to make visible the feedback from minoritized groups, is important to understand the experiences of minoritized groups. Feedback and stories from minoritized groups need to be treated as authentic, respected and acted upon.
It is important to understand and be mindful of levers for change, outlined in Proinspire Equity in the Center resources: senior leaders, board of directors, managers, communities, data, organizational culture and a learning environment. So, data is one of the levers of change. The role of ongoing measurement is to track the impact of race equity measures on change, identify disparities and trigger deeper work to align implementation and outcomes of policies and strategies.
The aim of ongoing measurement is to gather longitudinal data that shows how efforts are impacting race disparities. Both quantitative and qualitative data are strong tools for holding the organization accountable to improve its impact.
The measures to track over time include:
race representation statistics within the organization
race representation statistics among third parties that your organization works with—authors, editors, reviewers, and vendors
retention and promotion rates by race and gender, showing change over time
track and adjust any salary disparities by race or gender
ensure race equity performance measures are in employees’ objectives, and part of their annual assessment reviews
review disaggregated data on performance management
track the number of employees who participate in DEI trainings
collect data on the effectiveness of DEI trainings getting feedback from participants
monitor the level of employee engagement and satisfaction from working in an inclusive culture through employee engagement surveys
review exit interviews from minoritized groups as a source of feedback
The data collected can be a tool to change culture and processes, to develop a learning culture in your organization, and to make changes based on needs that are surfaced through the data.
Company culture serves to achieve a strong identification from employees with a set of widely shared believes that are embedded and feeding back into the overall strategy and structure of an organization. However, the narrative for many companies follows a logic, where corporate culture is something that needs to be managed in ways that create “’excellent’ cultures and ‘change’ cultures that stand in the way of strategic direction.”  The focus on excellency and productivity as core operating principles of company culture neglect the inherent structural biases and inequalities – originating from the (capitalist) thinking that an individual’s performance alone will be able to secure them equal rights to participation, as everyone would have the same prospects if only they work hard enough.  Research show that, despite the progressive shift away from racist goals, corporations continue to function as racialised social systems that affect Black and people of colour employees' careers to flourish the same as their White counterparts (Ray, 2019; Bell, 2020). Indeed, in predominantly White firms, employees are segregated into racial hierarchies where dominant White groups get better jobs than Black people (Wooten, 2019).
Organizational culture is a pattern of basic assumptions, invented, discovered or developed by a given group, as it learns to cope with its problems of external adaptation and internal integration, that has worked well enough to be considered valid and, therefore is to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think and feel in relation to those problems. When subconsciously these patterns become linked in our behaviour (automatic assumptions), they provide meaning to daily tasks. Any overt behaviour that builds onto these assumptions (I.e. certain codes, principles etc.) are artefacts, and does not equal the underlying culture. Therefore, it is important to understand the underlying assumptions, or otherwise the meaning and management of certain indicators can be misinterpreted, leading to collusion and false promises. This requires more qualitative research especially if companies want to get to the underlying assumptions. Managerial thinking about strategies and structures, definitions of products and markets, finances, production, distribution and the information and control systems used, all reflect cultural assumptions. 
Levels of culture
Dress code, manners, building layouts, emotional intensity. Company records, products, statements. Palpable but hard to decipher.
Best practice: Halo Code
Why observed phenomena happen the way they do. Can be accessed through interviews, value statements.
Basic underlying assumptions
Determining perceptions, thought processes, feelings and behaviours. Often start out as values but they come to be taken for granted with time (unconscious).
Organizational culture is not the same as ‘climate’ or management style, nor do all organization have a company culture. Culture is an in-depth phenomenon that goes deeper, presenting a narrative about how the organization came to be: “Only if a fairly stable collection of people has had significant history (sharing emotionally involving problems) can one imagine the social learning process that would produce the possibility of culture”. 
Climate is the shared perceptions and meanings attached to policies, practices, and procedures employees experience, i.e. “subjective perception of objective characteristics”. Climate can be observed by looking at how employees talk to each other and measured through interviews or surveys. It can differ among departments, it is “focused”, and can help us understand how different contexts react to different policies. In contrast to culture, it is not taught and outcome-oriented, i.e. “how will employees react to policy x?”. Climate is more useful when managers want to generate behaviours they require for effectiveness. Integration of the two can lead to improvement in organizational performance and insights (Schneider, Ehrhart & Macey. 2013).
Moreover, in the context of climate two angles have to be considered: Psychological climate (= at individual level, one’s own one’s own perceptions of the organizational environment) and organizational climate (= aggregate of individual perceptions, i.e. agreed perception of their work environment by all members of an organization).
“Our work is anchored by a single theory of change: in order for meaningful, sustainable change to occur in any environment, a transformative process is necessary. This process must support all people (personal work) in developing a common language, consciousness and value in relationship to equity, diversity and inclusion (culture work). It must also develop clear, usable tools with an equity plan that institutionalizes equity, diversity and inclusion into an organization’s identity, policies and procedures (institutional work).”
- Center for Equity and Inclusion
When translating company culture into a DEI strategy, companies have to be mindful of taking a too superficial and incorrect definition of their culture as the basis of any subsequent initiatives.  In an anti-Black society, it is surface level diversity—Blackness—that prevents Black people from getting jobs (bell, 2020). Organizations must double-check if their corporate culture will only generate a form of surface-level DEI, or allows for an in-depth change process where inclusivity and diversity will become inherent elements of their culture. Understanding culture as a human learning process requires to considers the two aspects of learning: “positive reinforcement (repeating what works) and avoidance, or anticipation of pain (anxiety).”  The change of culture will at first create potential for more anxiety, which illustrates why people usually refrain or meet such proposals with rejection. A common language, conceptual systems and set of rules relating to the work environment and the people within this environment, need to be developed to reduce the anxiety of uncertainty and stimulus overload (by learning assumptions that solve their in- and external problems) and build stability, writes Schein. Herein, the role of leadership is crucial: When their vision is that cultural change is needed and unavoidable (as it threatens the existence of the company), they must take responsibility to start, accompany and be held accountable for the results of this learning process. 
As society changes, people and socio-organizational norms will change with it. When issues arise, a dissonance arises in the perceived basic assumptions of an organizations.
In trying to change your organizational culture, imagine it as a process analogous to an individual's therapy journey. By this, we mean for you to enhance the cultural elements critical in maintaining identity while promoting the unlearning of increasingly dysfunctional cultural elements (i.e. racist and discriminatory language, believes and behaviours).
In the context of creating or furthering an anti-racist culture:
Start by identifying your company’s cultural traits (= artifacts, i.e. core business activities, processes, theories, etc.) and assess their importance regarding current business objectives – along the lines of:
Social culture: referring to group members' roles and responsibilities. It is the study of class distinctions and the distribution of power that exists in any group.  Questions you could ask: How does the current company culture maintain racial and ethnic distinctions among employee groups? How deeply engrained are these in our company structure? Are these distinctions more overt or do they function subsconciusly?
Material culture: involves examining what people in a group make or achieve and the ways people work with and support one another in exchanging required goods and services. 
Questions you could ask:
Are team hierarchies, consciously or subconsciously, influenced by racism and ethnic discrimination?
How is collaboration within departments affected my structural racism within our company?
What effects do these underlying mechanism have on the well-being of BIPOC employees?
Ideological culture: tied to a group's values, beliefs and ideals—the things people view as fundamental. It includes the emotional and intellectual guidelines that govern people's daily existence and interactions. 
Questions you could ask:
Identify common artifacts or traits, including those from the standpoint of an organization's social, material and ideological culture. 
Translate your cultural traits into managerial action points (after you’ve identified them):
Convene groups of employees—representatives from all levels, functions and locations of the organization—to assess the validity, significance and currency of key artifacts. 
Create a task force or high-level working group with BIPoC and ethnic minority representation to inform leadership actions
Create intelligence from Employee Resource Groups who closely work and listen in to the different communities in your company etc.
Subject those traits to a rigorous assessment of their underlying shared assumptions, values and beliefs.
Summarize findings and share them with all participants to solicit additional insights.
Corporate communication updates by senior leadership
Transparency on and participation in process through regular information via company’s intranet
Creating a space for exchange and information flow dedicated to antiracist culture change via company’s intranet and internal messenger tools
Create a culture management action plan. The plan should enhance traits that support corporate growth or organizational effectiveness and correct traits that might hinder a company's advancement. 
Have an EDI plan in place for overall company
Have EDI plans for departmental change, and/ or location-based
3. Assess your values: and identify which of those should be emphasised, thereby focusing on those values that can create immediate and have the greatest potential to initiate more in-depth changes towards an anti-racist culture:
People orientation: Insisting on fairness, tolerance and respect for the individual.  This process begins with recruitment, where usually the selection process in the organization is structured to produce the candidates with the most fitting sets of assumptions, beliefs, etc. Therefore, changed hiring practices have to reflect the EDI strategy, or otherwise, running the risk of further reproducing the assumptions (and underlying institutionalised discrimination) a company wishes to change.
Support diversity hires by enabling BIPOC intership programmes, targets for BIPOC recruitment (I.e. quotas) and onboarding/ mentoring processes for and by BIPOC
Enable employee interest organization in resource groups
Dedicate time for all employees to engage in such groups
Team orientation: Emphasizing and rewarding collaboration. 
Example: Promote employee engagement in interest groups via incentives (reflected for instance, in yearly performance reviews etc.)
Stability: Providing security and following a predictable course. 
Example: Providing employees with a clear plan (as mentioned above) about EDI development
Innovation: Encouraging experimentation and risk-taking. 
Outcome orientation: Emphasizing achievements and results.
Example: Reflecting effective EDI strategies and initiatives by making the outcomes measurable (EDI based assements)
In doing the above, always keep in mind that culture is created through:
Critical incidents, where group reactions lead to the creation of norms.
Leaders, usually providing a model where the organization is first structured on how the group should function. The group learns from the founder’s system which dynamics function and which don’t. The latter are then discarded.
Primary embedding mechanisms: what leaders control and measure, deliberate coaching, criteria for recruitment, selection, etc.
Secondary articulation: buildings, stories, statements of organizational philosophy, etc. Culture is reproduced through the socialisation of new members entering the group.
“I wonder how much unconscious bias prevails, when people of colour, especially black people… no matter how brilliant, no matter how talented, no matter how experienced and suitable, are finding it extremely hard to be seen as ‘the right fit’ when applying for jobs.”  Bernardine Evaristo
When an organization commits itself to an anti-racist framework of words and actions, there are a wealth of opportunities they can consider and follow through on to help build an equitable workplace. A workplace with these commitments would not be hindered by a homogenous culture of ideas or oppressive practices which stunt innovation and negatively affect employees who are BIPOC. Such a workplace would reflect the society it publishes scholarship about and would contribute to meaningful change within scholarly communications by not allowing white supremacy culture and appropriation to thrive at the level of internal decision-making.
One fundamental way in which an equitable workplace can be realized is through robust human resources policies which systematize anti-racism into hiring practices and retention work. Without this work, organizations that have never fully engaged with networks and structures of exclusion will continue to incubate racial inequality and negatively affect the long-term wellbeing of employees who are BIPOC.
Do your job adverts explicitly invite BIPOC to apply?
How significant is your pool of applications from BIPOC?
Are entry-level job adverts suggesting that experience and knowledge based on privileged routes of access will be advantageous?
Have hiring managers received adequate anti-bias training to select, interview and hire BIPOC?
Will candidates who are BIPOC receive fair consideration in the selection process and not be tokenized?
Are hiring managers accountable to human resources or executive leadership for their sifting, interview, and job offer decisions?
Is there a defined schedule as well as the necessary resource for human resources to roll out new hiring practices and processes?
If hiring managers are reliant on recruitment practices which have not been reformed in any meaningful way, your organization will continue to produce the same pool of candidates that you always have. Equally, without significant challenges to the active biases that manifest themselves via hiring managers in the recruitment of candidates from that pool, candidates who are BIPOC will remain excluded. Importantly, widening the net of applications should not be approached as ‘extra work’ but as a vital and supported effort to address historical exclusion which will positively impact the longevity of your organization, as well as improving workplace culture for existing and new employees who are BIPOC.
Use application data to determine whether you are receiving a significant pool of applications from BIPOC candidates. If you are not, research relevant charities, organizations, and universities to advertise your jobs through, and consider long-term partnerships with them (see ‘Partnerships’). Replacing existing advertising channels through exclusive jobs sites and informal networks of influence is equally important and may be a crucial tool in limiting the over-representation of white candidates.
Equally, making sure your organization is known to a wide range of people outside of job postings is key to building wide candidate pools. Up-to-date careers pages, and insight days which provide opportunities for excluded groups of people to speak to existing employees, gain knowledge of internal processes, and learn more about the industry and where your organization sits within it may encourage more applications from BIPOC and help to build trust and inclusion.
Job adverts in scholarly publishing often communicate an underlying tone of elitism and excellence that is generally reflective of the prestige and perfectionism the organization wants to associate itself with. This tone is successful in suggesting that a higher level of qualification, competency and experience is preferable than specified in ‘Essential Criteria’, which in turn contributes to the over-representation of white people in entry-level positions who possess the highest-level qualifications, such as an MA, PhD, and or exclusive work experience.
Such a ‘tone’ may distil the hallmarks of ‘white supremacy culture’ as defined by Tema Okun. Such factors include perfectionism, a sense of urgency, quantity over quality, individualism, power hoarding, and worship of the written word .
• Invite BIPOC to apply. Your job advertisements should explicitly invite candidates who are BIPOC to apply, by not doing so, you are privileging and centering white candidates by default.
• Language. Descriptors that contribute to the above-defined exclusivity include extensive use of words like ‘excellent’, ‘exceptional’, ‘impeccable’, ‘highly’, ‘meticulous’, ‘strong’, and ‘quickly’. Taken together these words code the above-defined culture of elitism and prestige, suggesting that the preferred candidate should be easily assimilable to the existing culture.
Employee Investment. The ‘Role’ description should communicate inclusivity and strong employee investment over the above-defined ‘tone’, and in addition to the more common exhaustive task lists which refer to processes, systems, knowledge and responsibilities. For entry-level candidates who would not need to have a full understanding of or exposure to internal processes and systems, avoid jargon and consider explaining properly what the role involves to someone who has never worked in publishing. If onboarding and training are thorough, as they should be (see ‘Onboarding’), consider how the tone can and should differ according to the level of recruitment, and remember that an entry-level position is about investment as well as competency.
• Requisites and Experience. Vagueness and contradictoriness within ‘Knowledge/Skills/Experiences’ sections creates inequities in applications and selection. Prioritizing the minimum non-exclusive requirements for a role i.e. not referring to advantageous experiences and knowledge is preferable for equitable job adverts and wide candidate pools. A two-tier system of criteria creates a two-tier system of candidates that will always preference those with more experience and privilege, so avoid additional headings in this kind of section such as ‘preferable’, and ‘advantageous’, to make sure you are giving qualified and talented applicants who are currently excluded fair consideration.
Large organizations should review their recruitment platforms to make sure they are capable of supporting anti-racist hiring practices. For example, if you are not able to capture who is applying, and being sifted, or selected for interview, how can you assess what needs to change? CVs are statements of privilege, or lack thereof, and they are often read for the prestige and experience which matches the hiring manager’s own background (aspirational or otherwise). One option is to anonymize CVs, another is to remove them altogether and embrace a more inclusive application form of questions that enable candidates to contextualize their experiences, convey competence, talent, and passion through a wide range of skills and non-exclusive experiences which do not encourage confirmation bias on the part of the hiring manager.
Hiring managers need to be accountable for their decisions, but they also need to have a clear understanding of the organization’s commitment to anti-racism in recruitment and retention, as well as human resources’ enforcement of it. Making grand pronouncements at company meetings about diversity and embracing change is important but not enough, consider formalizing your organization’s commitment to anti-racism through outlining new hiring policies and practices which support positive change. Explaining why it is necessary to attract, and select a wide range of candidates who are BIPOC involves challenging and reforming the existing organizational culture, and needs to be done actively through consistent and unambiguous communication. Once created, such a document can be worked into the hiring process as essential reading prior to the recruitment of any new position.
Though your organization may have rolled out unconscious bias training, as is increasingly common, and/or systematized some changes to their hiring practices, it is worth re-addressing the unique biases which play out at interview stage prior to them being carried out. Educating hiring managers on interview-specific biases via a qualified human resources advisor or DEI expert as a constituent part of the recruitment process can get hiring managers to consider their past and forthcoming hiring decisions critically and may help to improve the possibility of fair assessment for interviews with BIPOC. This type of work, be it one-to-one or open discussion, should enable a hiring manager to engage with the organization’s historical exclusion of BIPOC and should get hiring managers thinking about why and how the organization has privileged white candidates in the past and continues to presently.
Rolling out a series of checks and balances helps to create accountability across the organization, between hiring managers, human resources, and executive leadership. Without such systematization, the discretion, bias, effort (or lack thereof) of individual employees will lead to an uneven engagement with anti-racist recruitment and hiring practices. One key way to create accountability at interview stage is to require an accurate record of the interview, i.e. by having someone (ideally not the interviewer/s) record as verbatim as possible; questions asked, and answers given. A post-interview form or scorecard issued by human resources which requires the hiring manager to map answers against the minimum level competencies (form or scorecard should be agreed prior to interview process) for the advertised role, and to provide an explanation as to why a particular candidate is being offered the role over the other candidates selected should ensure greater transparency and potential for racial equity.
One of the most common ways in which larger organizations commit to diversifying majority white workplaces is through entry-level recruitment. Directing attention to entry-level roles, i.e. through internships and apprenticeships, can be a good way to create a pipeline of talented people who will be able to benefit from longer-term changes being put into place in an organization. This is dependent however, on said employees being supported to progress and grow within the company. It is also worth considering how long the pipeline is for BIPOC starting out in entry-level positions, along with the quality of their inclusion at the most junior level (see ‘Internships’, as well as ‘Progression’ and ‘Retention’ in the ‘Employee Lifecycle’).
Entry-level roles are the lowest paid in a company, with internship and apprentice wages often meeting or coming under minimum wage (depending on country and city location). Consider the kind of investment through training and development that your organization is able to put into place beyond building someone’s efficiency and capacity for routine administrative tasks which will be taken from more senior colleague’s workloads.
To mitigate the inequities of solely focusing on entry-level recruitment, it is essential to evaluate the exclusion of employees in mid and senior-level roles also. Actively supporting the recruitment of qualified candidates who bring expertise and experience in mid and senior-level roles can bolster inclusion, dismantle psychologically damaging hierarchies, and create innovation in new growth areas for the organization. For departments and roles where the exclusion of staff who are BIPOC remains acute, consider targeted programs which complicate the entry-level pipeline, such as mid and senior-level shadowing opportunities, internal departmental exchanges, and investing in new positions which undermine existing hierarchies, and concentrations of power (see ‘Power Mapping’).
It should be a necessity for all organizations and employers to realise that existing, structural inequalities can be intensified when treating applicants ‘equally’, i.e. by grades, school or university performance. When companies make human resources decisions, feeling they are evaluating candidates ‘fairly and objectively’ on the premise of ‘equal’ measures, it neglects that white, non-migrant applicants benefit from privileges. In contrast, BIPOC and applicants from other ethnic minority and marginalised groups have already been disadvantaged in the form of institutionalised racism, inherent discriminatory structures, and implicit biases at play. Therefore, it is important to understand an applicant’s performance in context of these structural realities.
“Leveling the playing field is not about me and whether I am considered exceptional, it’s about how many others like me would be competing for that scholarship or job opportunity. Whether exceptional or not, only one of me on this playing field is not enough. There need to be more at all levels of merit. Having more applicants of color increases the likelihood that someone of merit and of color gets the job.” - Ernesto Andrianantoandro, Scientific Editor, Cell Systems
Two applicants, Amina and Marie, apply for a 6 months internship, helping your company with social media outreach. Both applicants are enrolled at a prestigious Business School, taking courses relevant to the role, and need to complete a mandatory internship as part of their Master programmes. Marie finished her Bachelor’s with honours, her grades are on average slightly better than Amina’s.
Who will you choose?
About the applicants:
Marie comes from a white, academic family. Her parents are both doctors, running a private practice for dentistry. She is the only child and spends her free time studying or on extra curricular activities.
Amina is the oldest of three sisters. Her grandparents had migrated from Algeria following a call for foreign guest-workers. Amina’s mother attended nursing school and is working night shifts at the hospital; her father runs a small supply store. Amina received a tiny scholarship from a Muslim community organization in her neighbourhood to support her tuition fees and is working at a coffee shop when she is not studying or in class.
Credit: The idea for this example was taken from Mohamed Amjahid’s book: “Der weiße Fleck”.
When both applicants were to be evaluated on the premise of their university performance alone, hence, awarding the internship position to Marie and thinking this selection method was objective and fair, it would neglect the realities and power structures at play in their collective context. In the underlying example, the applicant from an already privileged background, would benefit from further economic and intellectual capital. Whereas talented students like Amina, who most certainly has been placed at a disadvantage in the educational institutions and encountered various forms of discrimination up to the application process, will be even further adversely affected by those power asymmetries – because her achievements are not considered in the context of her reality, where her opportunities were not equal to Marie’s, resulting in an already pre-existing head-start for the privileged applicant.
“You don’t have to single-handedly correct for centuries of racism and sexism in all systems, but you do need to help restore balance in the ones you control. … Transformational leaders confront the bias in the systems around them and start holding people accountable to aspirational behaviors and practices.” —Tiffany Jana
An antiracist organization must be accountable through management to the individual worker. Those in leadership must engage and empower staff to challenge how the business is meeting its commitments, but also to ensure its DEI work can’t simply be ignored. Change requires top-to-bottom accountability to the work of antiracism.
Employees will rightly ask what those in power are doing about racism in their company and wider industry. This accountability is not just for management but also for the white, power-holding majority of workers. Focusing only on power structures can lead to the belief that racism is somebody else’s problem, especially if abstract strategies don’t filter down into day-to-day business.
DEI commitments should be measurable in order to facilitate transparency about where the organization currently stands and where it is going. Unfortunately, most organizations involved in scholarly communications lack these metrics. In late 2020, during widespread DEI initiatives after the killing of George Floyd, the New York Times reported that major publishers do not typically collect data on the race of their authors, undermining publicly-stated commitments to racial diversity. “What does it mean to say ‘I’m in favor of diversity’ when you haven’t even reckoned with what the state of diversity is in your own institution?” asks Dr Joël Babdor, an immunologist at the University of California, San Francisco, who had been invited to write about his experiences.
The collected data are often not granular enough to be helpful, with authors of ethnic minorities often bundled together in a single data category such as BIPOC. This theme extends to research funding, prompting The Inclusion Group for Equity in Research in STEMM (TIGERS) to call for better quality data from UK Research and Innovation. The subsequent release of more detailed data made evident the massive barriers facing Black researchers in particular. Transparency won’t solve the problem but does give a basis for comparison and improvement.
Using data the right way
Getting the right data is an important starting point, but it is crucial to use them in a meaningful way. “One of the failures of diversity work is nebulous goals,” according to Tiffany Jana, founder and CEO of TMI Consulting. “You need concrete objectives tied to data”. There is also a challenge in making company-wide data meaningful for an individual decision maker. In their Harvard Business Review article, “How to Best Use Data to Meet Your DE&I Goals”, Siri Chilazi and Iris Bohnet use the example of the London Organizing Committee of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) rapidly taking on 200,000 new staff and exceeding their diversity targets. LOCOG achieved this by making diversity data meaningful and relevant through regular, tailored reporting across the business, benchmarking, and providing a basis for action if targets were not met.
Does your organization actually allow for change? Common pitfalls and how to do better.
Another way to look at transparency is honesty. When an organization is prompted to release statements following events such as the killing of George Floyd or Breonna Taylor, these often imply the organization is already working towards racial justice and equity. Clearly, companies are not doing all they can to fight racism and white supremacy, so for an organization to be truly accountable, the commitment to change must be the key message.
Most organizations have a centralized structure, with a top-down decision-making process. It is tempting for management to leverage this in an attempt to get tough on racism, but a wealth of data suggests such approaches can have the opposite effect, embedding biases and leading to less diversity in the workplace. In “Why Diversity Programs Fail,” Frank Dobbin and Alexandra Kalev highlight three common tools that suffer from this prescriptive approach: mandatory diversity training, hiring tests, and performance ratings. Rather than enabling managers and their staff to proactively work towards antiracist goals, these tools have limited long-term impact and are seen as box-checking exercises.
In contrast, the approaches that develop accountability are typically built on lasting behavior change. Increasing managers’ active engagement in DEI is a prime example. While an individual may need a critical incident to wake them to their role in white supremacy (see the first step in Harro’s model of liberation), they truly change behavior when convinced they can be part of the solution. College recruitment and mentoring programs are much more correlated with successful DEI strategies, while the concept of social accountability can be used to apply pressure in a non prescriptive way, highlighting inequity and encouraging hiring staff to take responsibility based on their own understanding.
Behavior change often takes root at the edges and spreads through networks. For example, Twitter usage, the US Civil Rights movement, and engagement with Black Lives Matter all grew through a network model of local influence . This model relies on the reinforcing behavior of a small number of peers with whom an individual interacts regularly. It particularly contrasts to very wide-reaching, impersonal or top-down policies that seek to effect behaviour change but with shallower roots. Given the need for organizations to embed antiracism across its workforce, are those in management allowing employees to challenge business operations and power structures at play?
“In order to change the system of oppression you’re going to have to get uncomfortable.”
Antiracism in the workplace faces ingrained challenges, not the least of which is getting white employees to see the problem. White supremacy is not part of the day-to-day consciousness of a majority white workforce, even though it runs through our workplaces, organizational cultures, and social interactions. White privilege is the ability to lead a “normal” life without having to confront racism. The burden on BIPOC people is being unable to escape it.
Denial can take many forms. Total ignorance may be increasingly rare, but the view that racism is something in the past—fixed by laws on equality and freedom—still persists. A more common mutation of this idea claims that things have improved so much that BIPOC people are engaging in deliberate “victimhood” when speaking out. Even for those white colleagues who don’t fully endorse this view, the suggestion may be a convenient path to inaction.
A more nuanced form of denial is to ignore BIPOC voices in favor of rationalization—treating the issue of racism as something to assess alongside (or after) class or wealth privilege before it is taken seriously. In reality this denial tends to stem from the outright disbelief or defensiveness of white colleagues who do not see themselves as privileged.
To complicate matters further, many people down-weight information that is more distant from their own beliefs, a process known as egocentric discounting, and are subsequently more likely to believe information that affirms their initial opinions. If such an individual’s network is restricted to others who also share their belief/disbelief, the weighting on their own opinion is given further validity in their minds. This is one of the many reasons why a diverse and inclusive workforce is so important for ensuring that everyone is exposed to multiple viewpoints and experiences.
Even for those who acknowledge that racism is an issue, nonexposure leads to inaction. As outlined in the C4DISC Antiracist Toolkit for Allies, passive racism is more common in more educated circles that see themselves above racial slurs, but are not actively opposing racism. When motivated enough to take action, white people frequently have clunky, unsympathetic responses to BIPOC voices, centering their own feelings. In her book Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race, Reni Eddo-Lodge gives an example of a white student at one of her discussions asking when there would be an end point for racism. The student’s Black counterparts later identify that those “who want to skip to an end point are the ones not really affected by the issues.”
So what approach can an organization take when resistance comes in so many forms?
In How to Be an Antiracist  Ibram X. Kendi defines how racist and antiracist “aren’t fixed identities. We can be a racist one minute and an anti-racist the next.” For those who don’t suffer it, the word racist may seem like a slur, useful only to take someone down in an argument. The commonly held belief of the good-bad binary posits racism on a side that few want to find themselves and subsequently closes off attempts to engage in a dialogue that is perceived to be damaging to one’s own sense of moral worth: “you could not be a good person and participate in racism; only bad people were racist”. This is unlikely to inspire a change in behavior. Meanwhile those white employees calling out racism may be all too readily overlooking their own part in the problem, comfortable in their self-view as “not racist” but not practically engaging the issue. An honest conversation on racism begins with understanding and accepting what role we play. A challenge in scholarly communications and science in general is that this field sees itself above racism through its intellect, ignoring huge racial disparities and everyday racism through willful ignorance.
The cycle of liberation outlined by Bobbie Harro provides a useful model for organizations to think differently about antiracism: there is no set end point and people will begin at different points, with different knowledge, self-awareness, and maturity. In this cycle you must wake up to racism and challenge your own beliefs before taking action, but education isn’t the end point. If we acknowledge the ongoing nature of the challenge, we won’t skip to the end. Organizations need to account for these differences in their activities and not expect any one action to fix racism, or to make activities inaccessible to those who need to be involved the most.
Organizations can also take up the path of honest introspection and assessment required of an individual to become antiracist. The Crossroads Ministry Continuum on Becoming an Anti-Racist Multicultural Organization) outlines such steps. An organization needs to be honest about whether it is effecting merely symbolic change (i.e., tokenism) and actions only within its comfort zone, or whether it is growing into a force that challenges racist structures, even if they are part of its business.
Building capacity for DEI work for your organization to do DEI WORK, enables your board, leadership and staff to effectively become DEI leaders and, thus pushes your organization closer to becoming thoroughly anti-racist. Here are some of the ways in which your organization can build capacity for DEI work:
1. Organizational benchmarking
First and foremost, in building capacity for DEI work, an organization needs to undergo a process of measuring key business metrics and practices and compare them against competitors, industry peers, or the broader marketplace to assess its position in itself in DEI spectrum (whether it be for race/ethnicity, gender, disabilities, etc). Beyond helping an organization know how they score regarding DEI, organizational benchmarking helps put these scores into context.
Things to consider when you are benchmarking (https://www.qlearsite.com/blog/di-donts-benchmarking):
- Homogenous, non-diverse companies tend to score high for inclusion, “as people will feel included if everybody looks and acts the same”. This can affect the scores of inclusion where diversity is low and also justifies the measure of both diversity and inclusion, and not just one or the other.
- Benchmarking inclusion scores is meaningless, as it doesn’t consider diversity levels.
- Organizations should consider what level of inclusion is acceptable - is 75% good, if 25% don’t feel included?
- Measure inclusion (and diversity and equity) across teams, as well as the organization to avoid collecting misleading information.
To benchmark your organization, you can (where legally possible):
- Conduct surveys ran by internal or external bodies (i.e. Glint, Business in the Community, etc.)
- Collect and/or use human resources data (i.e through tools like Workday)
Finally, it is important to communicate the results of such benchmarking to your organization and ensure this information is accessible to all your employees in order to effectively build support for DEI work. By understanding the gaps holding your organizations back from its goals, you will foster more supporters internally.
Employee experiences assessments
In order to capture the inclusivity of an organization and its culture, it’s important to go beyond human resources statistics and delve into the lived experience of people of colour. What is it like to be an employee of colour in this organization? What exclusive experiences have these employees had? What barriers do they face on a day-to-day basis? What can the organization do to address these issues? These are the kinds of questions not generally found on a multiple choice ‘Diversity and inclusion survey’, but nonetheless essential employee feedback. How can such information be obtained? Perhaps through an additional survey supporting free text, as well as listening circles and other ‘safe spaces’. Key considerations (both for fairness and psychological safety) are the expertise of those reading and assessing the surveys and whether feedback should be encouraged from all employees or just employees of colour.
Senior leadership can lead the way for this feedback by sharing their own direct or witnessed experiences of racism in the workplace, and their views on the importance of antiracism. It is also important that they actively participate in and support DEI initiatives. As well as a top-down approach to change, a bottom-up approach (such as through reverse mentoring) can also be effective, by educating and informing senior leadership on the BIPOC experience. However, it is not enough to send out the occasional survey or arrange one-off events. DEI is a journey, and so it is important that this remains an ongoing conversation within the organization, and that feedback is thoroughly assessed, acted upon, and progress transparently reported. Sustainable support through senior leadership, and thus the composition of a company’s culture, must be build into the core DNA of a business – which includes both top down (senior leadership leading by example) and bottom-up approaches (actively involving staff in DEI efforts).
For maximum efficacy, it is vital that initiatives around DEI are specific so as not to dilute the learning objectives; for instance, training on recognising and addressing race-motivated microaggressions as opposed to (the more broad) antibullying behaviour. Likewise, there are a number of (relatively) ‘quick wins’ organizations can make by taking such a targeted approach.
For example, The Cell Press journal group has implemented an “Inclusion and Diversity Statement” to improve representation and visibility for marginalised groups by providing authors with the possibility to disclose information on inclusion and diversity related to their publication. In an editorial the Cell Editorial Team further commits to four concrete actions on increasing the representation of Black scientists:
Representing – we will feature and amplify Black and other underrepresented minority authors of Cell papers on social media. If you are a person of color and you wish to be highlighted in this way, please tell us. Email the editor of your paper with the subject line “Faces of Cell” at any point in the publication process, and we will be honored to post about your paper with your photo and/or your Twitter handle and to re-tweet and amplify your own posts and stories.
Educating – we are committed to featuring issues of importance to the scientific community in our pages. We pledge to purposefully highlight Black authors and perspectives in the review and commentary content that we commission and publish and to share these with the greater scientific community. Has your department or institute already made changes or launched successful initiatives? Tell us, and we will try to find ways to share those stories. Have new ideas? Let us know.
Diversifying – we pledge to improve the diversity of our advisory board and our reviewer pool, using our experience with gender equity initiatives to increase representation of non-white scientists, which is far too low. We are actively investigating ways to improve diversity through our outreach, recruiting, and hiring efforts, at Cell and across Cell Press. If you are a Black scientist with an interest in editorial careers, get in touch. We’re eager to talk.
Listening – we are editors because we want to learn. If there are ways that we can use our voice and our platform to help the Black scientist community, we want to hear them. Please email us if you have concrete ideas for perspectives you want to see or creative ways that you think we can help. We promise to hear them.
(“Science Has a Racism Problem,” 2020)
Such changes provide a tangible opportunity to affect all stakeholders throughout the chain of the publishing industry – from authors, to editors, through to readers. In turn, such initiatives can also help to conduct relevant data to support an organization’s DEI efforts with concrete numbers for assessing the status quo and monitoring progress - when it comes to the communities served by publishers. They can further improve the visibility for BIPOC authors and bring transparency to issues that need to be addressed, as well as core requirements necessary for the change process.
While the above mentioned are more external facing measures, it is vital for any organization to also evaluate and report on internal DEI development. This begins with human resources efforts, i.e. a company’s ability to assess how diverse and inclusive their organization is by gathering anonymized data on the multi-facetted identity backgrounds of their body of staff. Certain countries might have legal restrictions in place to do so; however, human resources should be encouraged to navigate within the legal frameworks of their country and investigate possibilities to collect insights that will help inform the company’s overall talent acquisition and DEI development strategy.
Feedback surveys for employees (using tools as Office Vibe and others) are a common tool to assess staff sentiments about how well the company is doing with their DEI efforts. While such surveys are constructed in a bi-directional way, so that employees may also return extensive feedback to specific questions, they must be handled with caution as they bare potential for mis- or underrepresenting racism and discriminatory behaviour when the surveyed group consists largely of persons who are not affected by these. It is therefore crucial to take the composition of the surveyed group into account, and give urgent attention to any written feedback received from individuals who explicitly address problems within the organization - even if compared to the overall data, it might present a small percentage. Otherwise, companies run the risk to misinterpret their survey data if those evaluating the results are not skilled enough (I.e. sensitised towards inherent biases of the survey set-up and interpreting cross-cultural data adequately) - which will result in inaction, instead of making improvements and addressing individually mentioned feedback.
Moreover, when and where psychologically safe spaces can be established within a secure environment for employees to report their concerns (I.e. in the setting of an Employee Resource Group; an anonymous help line etc.) regarding racism and discrimination, a mechanism must be put in place to forward this feedback into the overall DEI strategy and decision-making. For this to work, individual employees are needed who take the role of listening in to staff concerns (following a psychologically safe space policy), while being integrated in a company’s hierarchy structure that enables them to pass the insights collected from those employee interactions on to senior leadership.
It's not so much about BIPOC not raising awareness/doing the work/calling it out, but rather about a collective effort to addressing the status quo, overall racial inequalities and current events for the burden to be collective shared until it isn't one anymore.
Whose responsibility is it to raise awareness around a lack of DEI within an organization and to develop and implement solutions to address this? Some may feel that, given who it is directly impacting, it is up to BIPOC members of staff to lead (and maintain) the charge. This might not always be appropriate. Firstly, it is placing the burden on BIPOC staff to fix a problem they have not created when in fact everyone has a responsibility to speak up and be drivers for change; BIPOC staff members and associated groups (e.g. Employee Resource Groups) can provide value and perspective to discussions and help prioritise actions but are not in themselves the solution. Secondly, it does not factor in the emotional toll this may have, given that BIPOC staff may already be carrying the weight of racist experiences from within the workplace and beyond; adding to this could lead to burnout. Thus, BIPOC staff and DEI Employee Resource Groups should not be viewed as ‘the elixir to racial inclusion", but rather this must be a collective effort. This is why allyship is so crucial.
In line with this, if an organization took a proactive step in voicing the need and value for DEI – rather than waiting for BIPOC employees or allies to ask them to take action – the burden would be further lowered. But it is not enough to show solidarity when it seems timely (and PR positive) to do so; it must be a long term, ongoing commitment.
In organizations, change management fails 70% of the time and is mostly due an ineffective execution of change(Error) - (https://www.forbes.com/sites/jarretjackson/2020/06/07/ending-racism-will-require-change-management-for-300-million-americans/?sh=7b63146c713b ). Change typically involves people, so when we speak of change management we also speak of people’s management. People are complex and can be inconsistent (https://www.thebalancecareers.com/what-is-resistance-to-change-1918240P. Research shows that organizational change can foster intensive cognitive disorder, spurring confusion, anxiety and paralysing decision making which translates into acts of resisting change (Luscher & Lewis, 2008).
Change resistance is one of the most recalcitrant issues business executives deal with and have to manage (https://hbr.org/1969/01/how-to-deal-with-resistance-to-change). Resistance to change is the act of opposing or struggling with modifications or transformations that alter the status quo. This resistance can manifest itself in one employee, or in the workplace as a whole. (https://www.thebalancecareers.com/what-is-resistance-to-change-1918240P).
Change can either be agent-centric or recipient-centric is often met with resistance. In their research change resistance Ford, Ford & D’Amelio (2008), define change as decision-making or events whose consequences (i.e new policies or practices, new tool adoption, changes in team structures, etc) interrupts normal organizational patterns for new, often ambiguous patterns. Change agents (those who drive change) & recipients (those on which the change is imposed on) engage in sense making looking at current events, giving them meaning and treating them as a seamless reality.
To manage change resistance effectively, it is important for employers to be make sense of employees’ reactions to change. The problem that arises is that there’s a certain reification of representation, as if it is objective and existing outside sense making agent (Ford, Ford & d’Amelio, 2008). Change agents are trying to determine how to accomplish change. Change agents often assume that their change will be met with resistance and behave as if the event is inevitable. They enact a world that appears as an insightful awareness of reality rather than a product of their doing. The aforementioned authors also argue that from thise sense-making arises a self-fulfilling prophecy: if change agents go into change expecting resistance, they are more likely to find it (Ford, Ford & d’Amelio, 2008).
Locating resistance outside of themselves rather than the product of interactions, change agents shift responsibility from things under their control to characteristics and attributes of recipients (Ford, Ford & d’Amelio, 2008).
1. Broken agreements and violation of trust.
Agreements are broken when agents knowingly/unknowingly renege on a promise or an understood or expected pattern of cooperation. People experiencing injustice are likely to develop resentment, & desire for retribution/retaliation. Change agents repairing damaged relationship & restoring trust are less likely to encounter resistance. Past broken agreements count as well. Failure to bring closure → resistance → cynicism, disparaging and critical behaviour.
2. Communication breakdowns: work on legitimacy, credibility, and produce action.
A. Failed to legitimise change
Agents must provide discursive justifications on appropriateness & rationality of change to create readiness for change and increase likelihood of acceptance & participation of change. Recipient acceptance based on instrumentality assessment. Need for strong justifications, questioning. Other issue: ambivalence. Rhetoric of the new/engaging in old, or advocating new/praising the old - inconsistency, what’s wrong with the old then?
Used to increase participation, to save face, to look good. Conscious or unintentional. Enthusiastic change agents might oversell the positives and undersell the negative. Agents must be truthful, realistic and accurate in their depiction of change, including revealing what they don’t know. i.e., merger: explanation of positive & negative, reduces uncertainty & increases the ability to cope.
No call for action
Change is about mobilising action. When change agents think that only understanding something is enough to produce action - they are likely to see little action. Conversation for performance is needed.
3. Resisting resistance
It is possible that change agents will be resistant to the ideas, proposals and counteroffers submitted by change recipients. Likely when the outlook of communication is that more work will be needed to accomplish the change planned, or there will be an undesirable budget. This leads to more resistance. Should agents acknowledge resistance?
Here’s some advice on how you can use change resistance to your advantage as a change agent:
1. Existence value of resistance
It is hard to introduce new ideas in organizational discourses and have them heard. Resistance helps keep conversations alive! Gives agents the opportunity to clarify and legitimise change.
2. Engagement value of resistance
Some resistance is thoughtful and can be more important than passive acceptance. Not necessarily irrational. Thoughtful attitudes generate consideration, counterarguments, and are not susceptible to persuasion compared to non-thoughtful attitudes - to “convert” those agents is a far more significant win. Often stems from trying to understand a change that threatens important things. Those who resist are more committed. They resist because they care.
3. Strengthening value of resistance
Resistance is a form of conflict. Conflict can strengthen and improve the quality of decisions and participant commitments.
1. Understanding resistance through sense-making makes it a product of interaction, instead of an irrational thing of just change recipients. Easier to establish a dialogue for closure, resolution, etc.
2. Overcoming resistance is then an issue of agents effectively managing agent-recipient relationships. Helps put to the foreground conversations for change. This way agents can engage people in creating new realities together. But how?
A. Agent responsibility. Being willing to see resistance as a product of their own actions. Allowing different, more empowering interpretations of recipient reactions. i.e. a recipient making counteroffers is not flat out rejecting but proposing new things. This is not a refusal to cooperate, but an opportunity to update and refine the change measures to be more successful!
B. High-quality agent-recipient relationships are likely to result in less resistance labelling
C. Change agent must be responsible for the relationship with recipients & tactics for change implementation. Taking charge of the dialogues, putting both agent and recipient conversations to the foreground and engaging in actions to maintain relationships with recipients.
How to get middle managers involved for a more effective change management
“Middle managers have the challenge of grasping a change they did not design and negotiating the details with others equally removed from the strategic decision making” (Luscher & Lewis, 2008)”
Organizational change is essential but poses challenges to managers. Unsuccessful change can be traced back to middle management’s inability to cope with shifting organizational expectations. Middle managers are critical change agents, operationalising the change initiatives designed by top management (Luscher & Lewis, 2008). They essentially do their best to make sense of the changes coming from top-down levels. Managers must understand the change & then provide subordinates with a workable certainty (Luscher & Lewis, 2008)
Managing change resistance in the context of anti-racism – a reflection
Until recently talking about race at work was still taboo (and in some cases, it still is). In the summer of 2020, anti-racist protests denounced the pervasive nature and impact of racism on BIPOC people. Through social media, protests, but also by calling out systemic racism to their employers, many BIPOC employees around me, in and outside of my organization, denounced the institutional, interpersonal and internalised racism they faced as a result of working in predominantly White spaces. Through leading an anti-racist ERG as a minoritised ethnicity, I have been able to positively influence Elsevier’s anti-racist strategy, whilst learning to arm myself with a lot of patience upon realising that change is a lengthy and curvilinear process.
Here are some the things that I have learned by being involved in the inclusion & diversity transformational process at Elsevier:
Leadership is not about titles or the corner office. It’s about the willingness to step up, put yourself out there, and lean into courage. The world is desperate for braver leaders. It’s time for all of us to step up.—Brene Brown
Multitudes of studies have shown that the highest-performing leaders are those who are brave and resilient and who empower staff to action in the organizations they are entrusted to lead. In committing to anti-racist organizations, leaders have opportunities to be courageous and to be inclusive, as well as to exercise humility, which has been shown to be an essential element of empathic leadership. No matter the organizational structure—hierarchical or horizontal—leaders are responsible for ensuring alignment of resources relative to priorities, including how staff are investing their time and expertise (the most vital resources). In order for diversity, equity, and inclusion to become part of organizational DNA, leadership advocacy is essential. Teams look to leaders for guidance in every area of the business, including team collaborations, and DEI is no exception.
Few leaders, however, have long-term experience or expertise in DEI, and the learning and humility required can be challenging. But this work provides a tremendous opportunity to be able to learn with and listen to staff, which can have a positive impact on creating an inclusive culture. As challenging as DEI work can be, it is also an opportunity for leadership growth and generative for team collaborations.
Separately in this section we provide some recommendations of learning and training resources. There are also programs specific to leadership in equity and inclusion. But even without specific knowledge or expertise, there are general approaches that a leader can embrace to clarify positive intentions and support for DEI.
How can a leader let employees know that she believes in and is authentically committed to anti-racism, equity, and inclusion?
Seek learning opportunities and share them. Acknowledge and understand the history of bias and discrimination. Be humble about what you don’t know and reach out for advice from experts. Do the work by studying the impact of white supremacy, racial violence, and systemic racism on society and on the organization you lead. These issues are complex and pervasive; do not underestimate the time and attention it takes to learn about them.
Communicate often and transparently. Name existing racism and bias and make it clear how it is impacting the organization. Include a listening component as a part of any communicative strategy. Remember that silence or passivity can be experienced as a lack of empathy or disinterest. Consider the messages, both implicit and explicit, that leadership styles shaped by dominant culture send to staff, communities, and stakeholders. Create a common language around race equity work.
Be vulnerable. Don’t let fear of saying the wrong thing lead to silence or disengagement. If you make a mistake, own it. Apologize quickly and use the occasion to reiterate your commitment to combating discrimination.
Empower colleagues to speak up about instances of racism or lack of inclusion, even if only implied, including your own as a leader. You can only grow if others are willing to teach you, and you need to create a safe and confident space to encourage others to do so.
Encourage and empower everyone to speak out against racist workplace practices and create a code of collaborative conduct that makes clear that your company has a zero-tolerance policy for discriminatory behavior.
Cultivate opportunities for colleagues to learn about and discuss race and race equity.
Examine the effects of implicit bias on hiring and promotion, professional development and opportunity, and all organizational decisions.
Create space, capacity, and comfort for challenging conversations and ensure that it exists throughout the leadership team and the staff as a whole.
Invest in resources and expertise, including consultants, training programs, and one-on-one coaching, to increase staff expertise and capacity.
Commit to supporting words with actions; be accountable to those words and actions.
Advocate for resources and collaboration wherever needed and with all partners (board, authors, vendors); this may entail advocacy discussions with boards, authors, or external partners. Clearly acknowledge that this work needs to be ongoing.
Add anti-racism to your core values and operationalize those values by evaluating all of your policies and decision-making processes through an anti-racist lens.
Learn, document, and share the positive impact of an anti-racist organization, which this toolkit helps to create.
Lead by example, be present, be engaged. Be courageous.
Six Traits of Inclusive Leadership
In “The six signature traits of inclusive leadership” Juliet Bourke states that inclusive leadership involves:
Treating people and groups fairly—based on their unique characteristics rather than our stereotypes
Personalizing individuals—understanding and valuing the uniqueness of diverse individuals while also accepting them as members of the group
Leveraging the thinking of diverse groups for smarter ideation and decision making that reduces the risk of being blind-sided
Bourke further states that, to be inclusive, leaders must demonstrate six signature traits: Commitment, Courage, Curiosity, Cognizance of Bias, Cultural Intelligence, and Collaboration
Commitment: A leader demonstrates a true commitment to diversity and inclusion by aligning them with their own personal values. Such leaders are invested in the success of their staff, team members, and colleagues. During the onboarding process and at every stage of a BIPOC staff member’s career, leaders must ensure that the member has the resources to effectively perform the essential functions of her position, communicate performance expectations, and create opportunities for other BIPOC staff to engage and connect with members of the team and other colleagues who work in different business units.
Courage: A courageous leader speaks up, challenges the status quo, and is humble about her strengths and weaknesses. The ability to challenge the status quo is one key characteristic. By challenging the status quo leaders challenge others (their behaviors, attitudes, and values) and hold them accountable. They will also challenge system processes and procedures at their organization to ensure that they are fair and equitable. Leaders who have courage are also modest about their capabilities; they are vulnerable, admit mistakes, accept and learn from criticism and different points of view, and seek contributions from others in order to overcome limitations (Catalyst, Inclusion Matters, March 2015).
Cognizance of Bias: An inclusive leader is mindful of personal and organizational blind spots and is willing to self-regulate to help ensure “fair play.” Inclusive leaders are aware of their personal and organizational biases and the impact that these biases can have on BIPOC staff. Biases against individuals such as stereotyping and microaggressions or biases in organizational systems and processes such as inequities in promotions or opportunities for advancement can negatively impact BIPOC staff and counter efforts to build a culture of inclusion. Implement policies and practices to build awareness of and mitigate microaggressions and stereotyping at the team and organizational level.
Curiosity: A curious leader has an open mindset, a deep desire to learn and understand others’ viewpoints, perspectives, and opinions without judgment, and empathy with the individuals in the group. When leaders are open-minded, they are inquisitive, ask questions, and listen to the diverse experiences of their BIPOC staff, furthering their learning and growth. You shold cultivate empathy toward your staff’s experiences, beliefs, concerns, and challenges.
Cultural Intelligence: Leaders are culturally intelligent when they are attentive to others’ cultures and recognize how their perceptions and expectations of others (biases, stereotypes, and generalizations) impact their interactions and relationships. Such leaders are confident and effective in cross-cultural interactions.
Other attributes of culturally intelligent leaders include:
Drive: A leader’s deep desire to learn and understand cultural differences, demonstrated in her interactions with individuals from other cultures.
Knowledge: The leader understands how culture fundamentally shapes the organization and recognizes cultural differences within each team and department in the organization.
Strategy: Strategy is the leader’s ability to plan and prepare for cross-cultural interactions. A high level of cultural awareness will make the leader very effective in their encounters inside and outside the organization.
Actions : Culturally intelligent leaders recognize the importance of their verbal (tone, speech, delivery) and nonverbal (body language) actions when interacting with others and act appropriately.
Cultural intelligence is a critical skill for leaders. The ability to be attentive to and value cultural differences will foster an environment of high trust and enable leaders to build successful relationships with their staff
Collaboration: The ability to empower others, encourage and leverage diverse thinking, create a space of psychological safety, and foster team cohesion is a fundamental skill for an inclusive leader. Collaboration is the process of bringing a group of people together to work toward a common goal or purpose or to solve a challenging business problem. Usually when people collaborate “they choose to collaborate with people whom they know well, who share the same backgrounds and experiences, and look like them.” The downside of this approach is homogeneity, which stifles creativity. An inclusive leader relinquishes control and recognizes the opportunities afforded by creating a safe space where diverse employees can openly share their perspectives, ideas, and experiences and challenge the perspectives of others through healthy debate. This approach empowers team members, builds trust, drives innovation, and maximizes the overall performance of the team.
Six traits to inclusive leadership; Juliet Bourke, April 15, 2016 https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/insights/topics/talent/six-signature-traits-of-inclusive-leadership.html
Inclusion Matters https://www.catalyst.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/inclusion_matter.pdf , Catalyst, Inclusion Matters (March 2, 2015)
Emotional and Cultural Intelligence in Leaders-Western Governors University) October 2018, www.wgu.edu
Are you a collaborative leader, Harvard Business Review: Herminia Ibarra and Morten T. Hansen (July-August 2010)
How to Integrate Diversity, Equity and Inclusion into Everyday operations. Maria Hernandez, PHD, March 25, 2019: www.bridgespan.org
After the murder of George Floyd in 2020, many organizations made statements in support of social and racial justice and against racism. Some were performative. This calls to mind a line from Star Wars: “You either do or do not…there is no try.” Organizations must move beyond conversation toward immediate action.
Others decided to do more and to look within to assess the culture of their organizations. They were determined to evaluate internal and external systems to identify barriers that hinder the advancement of BIPOC. Is your team diverse? No? Why is that? If you have never noticed the lack of diversity, why is that? Innovation and creativity increase when you have diverse teams, and your business or organization grows. We all want our organizations to do well, which is why leaders must look at themselves first. You, and your team, must emulate the behaviors that you want to be ingrained in the organizational culture.
This section is for all leaders (team leaders, department heads, committee liaisons, board chairs) in your organization, not just top executives. What are the traits of an anti‐racist leader?
Why do I want to be an anti‐racist leader as opposed to just being a good leader?
How do I embody the behavior I want to see in others?
Are there organizational systems in place that should be revised or removed? Are there staff members who exacerbate racist words and actions?
As the author, historian, and founding director of the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research, Ibram X. Kendi, writes, “You’re either racist or anti‐racist” and “One either allows racial inequities to persevere, as a racist, or confronts racial inequities, as an anti-racist.” According to Professor Kendi, the behavior of an anti‐racist leader includes:
Believe people when they say that they are troubled about something they overheard or that a racist comment was directed at them. Do not minimize it by responding “Oh, maybe they didn’t mean it that way...maybe they were having a bad day.”
Believe people when they say that you will never understand what they are going through. That is true. They are giving you information based on their lived experience.
Believe people when they say that there are barriers in place that impede their professional growth. Listen to them and investigate what you are told. Remember that barriers can also be people, not just internal or external systems.
Are there recruitment, hiring, onboarding, and retention procedures and policies in place to give individuals what they need to be successful? Have they been reviewed through the lens of diversity, equity, and inclusion?
There is truth to the saying that people leave bad supervisors, not bad jobs.
If you are a member organization, what does your demographic data look like? Who are you reaching out to as a potential membership base? You most likely need to expand that network.
What does your board look like? Is diversity represented at all levels of your organization? Where are you looking for future board members? Who is being mentored to take on this role?
Allyship. Use your influence to acknowledge and support members of BIPOC communities.
Onboarding and retention. How can you ensure BIPOC are receiving the support that is needed for them to succeed in your organization? Equity and equality are not the same.
Create a committee or hire a consultant to review your organization’s policies and procedures. Make sure that your committee has a diverse membership (gender, age, ethnicity, ableism, LGBTQIA+, etc.).
Beware of tokenism. Marla Baskerville Watkins of Northeastern University, Aneika Simmons of Sam Houston State University, and Elizabeth Umphress of the University of Washington write that anyone can be a token. If an organization has fewer than 15% BIPOC on a team or in a department, these people are likely to suffer from harassment or discrimination. They also recommend having several members of underrepresented groups because it makes for a more balanced team. Having one or two diverse folks here and there is not helpful to anyone, especially BIPOC.
Listen in order to understand. Ask questions to ensure that you are clear about what someone is telling you. Do not assume that you get it. It’s okay if you don’t as long as you ask questions.
Anti‐racism is a way of life. Like starting any new activity, you must practice. Do not strive for perfection because you will fail. Strive for your daily actions to be anti‐racist. There are many free educational resources available to you. to educate yourself such as free anti-racist 30‐day challenge from Literacy Minnesota.
Be courageous. Have those difficult conversations within your network. Remember that becoming anti‐racist is a journey. You will certainly make missteps along the way. Recognize it and keep it moving.
Do not confuse empathy with sympathy. No one wants you to feel sorry for them. That is sympathy. Practice empathy. Build relationships with people, see issues from their point of view, and try to find solutions.
What is the difference between a mentor and an ally?
A mentor is a relationship that an individual seeks out. A BIPOC may wish to meet with an experienced member of the team for career guidance, example. That can be the extent of the relationship. An ally uses her sphere of influence to amplify the voices of those who do not have theauthority or support to make themselves seen or heard. These individuals may never know that they have an ally because allies know that it is not about them. It is about bringing others into your circle who would normally not have access. There are many resources available on how you can be a better ally. such as betterallies.com.
According to Harvard Business Review, an anti-racist business strategy anyone can use can be expressed in the “four Ps”:
Purchasing Power. Look at your vendors. Is there diverse representation in your supply chain? If not, that is an area that needs to be investigated and discussed with the appropriate team members.
Philanthropy. Commit to supporting local communities or charitable organizations long‐term by way of staff volunteers and financial assistance.
Policy. Review internal and external systems to ensure equity. If you have an advocacy group, find out if there are policies that promote equity in your field that you can legally support.
Place. Are you investing in areas with majority minority populations or organizations that support marginalized individuals? Consider those in your own local community. Many organizations made donations to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Equal Justice Initiative, and many others. If you are an engineering organization, for example, you can support the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering (NACME).
What an Anti‐Racist Business Strategy Looks Like (hbr.org)
“Solidarity requires sustained, ongoing commitment.” —bell hooks
There are innumerable challenges and obstacles to anti-racist work within organizations, many of which are due to systemic white-supremacist culture. Here are some ideas that you might consider adopting in your organization to overcome obstacles such as lack of clarity, lack of a sense of urgency, defensiveness, conflict avoidance, perfectionism, quantity over quality, insensitive written communications, lack of professional expertise, hierarchical structures, and failure to measure and keep track of BIPOC participation.
Create shared definitions of key terms; embed equity, justice, and inclusion (EJI) in mission, vision, and value statements; generate baseline data using employee surveys, equity audits, exit interviews, etc., to make the necessary work transparent; identify and name gaps between existing experience and perceptions and EJI goals and track them in an ongoing public manner for accountability.
Ensure that mission, vision, and value statements prioritize quality, and are inclusive; highlight and recognize quality as part of a culture of affirmation; avoid a checklist approach to EJI strategy and implementation
Set goals and schedules for EJI work that involve all stakeholders, not just leadership; determine which responsibilities or workflows can be paused or reduced to make time for EJI work; continuously examine and discuss experiences as part of initiatives to revise schedules and expectations in order to counter action bias; acknowledge that centuries of systemic racism entail considerable time and unwavering commitment within societies as a whole to eliminate.
Name and discuss the root causes of defensiveness, which can range from power hoarding to fear of losing privilege to inexperience, in challenging conversations; cultures of affirmation can help reduce defensiveness and create spaces for safe conversation; facilitate shared learning opportunities
Create a listening strategy to determine how people in the organization prefer to communicate in order to obtain best likelihood of access; embrace multimedia tools and audio and video resources as often as written documents; consider alternate ways of documenting and communicating at all stages of the employee lifecycle from recruiting to performance reviews to ensure that as yet unidentified strengths are valued and integrated into the culture.
Decouple positions from status, creating an organizational structure that is more like a taxonomy, a system of organization, rather than a hierarchy of power; ensure that decision making is inclusive and transparent and invites the experiences of those impacted by the decisions into the processes of change and assessment; consider MOCHA management teams (with clearly defined cross-organizational roles of Manager, Owner, Consulted, Helper, Approver) and other ways to empower individuals across the organization in new initiatives.
Understand that discomfort is essential to growth; cultures of affirmation do not rely on consensus but rather on learning from disagreement and debate; acknowledge that meaningful work entails challenge and embed greater conversational skills and the LARA (Listen, Affirm, Respond, Ask Questions) method (see training section); create multiple ways for staff to practice engaging in challenging topics.
Privileging professional experience over lived experience reinforces racism and other inequities; consider ways to empower the sharing of all employee stories (My Story training, for example); add mentoring infrastructure and resources that empower lived experience.
Measure and assess EJI goals just as other initiatives are measured and do so consistently and transparently; embed and align accountability for EJI with other organizational goals; put in place a process for monitoring and evaluating leadership activities as part of the review process; consider an external equity audit (inclusive of specifics like salaries and promotions) to ensure that progress is being made.
One way to examine the needs of an organization is to take a realistic and educated look at the external factors that affect all those involved b conducting an internal audit. Learn how the people in your organization are affected by external factors in their lives both personally and professionally. These factors can be social policies, racialized hierarchies, gender norms, religious privilege, etc. An inescapable part of humanity is that we are all subject to systems that assign us roles, which then put us in classes and hierarchies.
It’s imperative to know what the members of your organization are dealing with and what pressures and expectations are associated with the boxes into which they’ve been placed. These boxes come with stereotypes and restrictions. If we want to improve an organization and make it equitable, we need to first look inward, examine what expectations people’s identities bring to their lives, and express outwardly what we would like to see from others once we have begun work on ourselves.
Part of this internal audit involves looking at the type of community your organization creates. The goal is to move toward what Silvia Cristina Bettez (2011, 10)1 called “critical community,” in which people acknowledge that identities are intersectional. Bettez defines critical community as:
Interconnected, porously bordered, shifting webs of people who through dialogue, active listening, and critical question posing assist each other in critically thinking through issues of power, oppression, and privilege. Critical communities are not necessarily fixed in location or even in present time; they are dynamic, fluid, and shifting.
For scholarly communications in particular, it is crucial to have these conversations about external factors and their effects on both your staff and your peers in the community, recognizing that the strongest foundations for change come from first looking inward.
Changes and improvements recommended as a result of this internal audit should focus on building a sustainable, equitable organization rather than on achieving perfection. Consistency and adaptability are crucial. This doesn’t mean, however, that you need to let quality slip. As Martha Muñoz said, “There is this false narrative that to achieve diversity, we have to compromise on excellence” (Wu, 2020)2. Plans will need to change; statements will need to be revised and revisited on a regular basis. The pursuit of perfectionism only leads to burnout and frustration, wasting energy that could otherwise be put to better use.
As you take on the large task of looking inward and deciding what changes need to be made, “think small, humble, and doable rather than large, heroic, and impossible. Don’t paralyze yourself with impossible expectations” (Gambles, Lewis, Rapoport, 153)3.
Some ways to avoid getting bogged down in perfectionism are to:
“White savior” concerns in predominantly white industries
While examining and building the critical community of your organization, be sure to focus on the interpersonal stages of this liberation process. This stage is marked by changes in how we see and value others and interact with them on a normal basis.
When we build community, we interact with people who are similar to us for support and then go to people who are different from us to gain understanding and build coalitions. We need to differentiate between white allies helping to build a critical community and white people swooping in to be the saviors who will fix the issue. The “white savior” mentality stems from an ingrained assumption on the part of those accustomed to power and privilege that they are the agents of change; they fail to understand that building a sustainable, equitable organization means centering the voices and experiences of those historically excluded from having a seat at the table. To be allies in this process, white members of the organization must not elevate their voices above the rest. White centering occurs when the feelings and needs of white people are prioritized, and this can happen whenever those in power are white and fail to engage in the necessary self-auditing of the habits and practices of those socialized into whiteness. Without this internal audit, the “white savior” complex can easily overtake otherwise good intentions.
The flip side of the white-savior complex is placing too much of the actual achievement of systemic change on BIPOC persons in the organization. It’s essential to move the emotional labor away from BIPOC individuals, who are already shouldering a disproportionate amount of the work and often dealing with multiple layers of stress and trauma. Individuals should first monitor their own thoughts and words and self-analyze their conscious and unconscious biases. Coming to the table from a place of empathy, comfortable with being uncomfortable, will enable huge strides in building a strong and sustained community. Finally, active listening followed by active (not passive or performative) activism will transform the organization.
Time as a limited resource
Making organizational changes means that time becomes an even more precious resource. Accepting this and acknowledging that time must be used as efficiently as possible from the beginning can only be a benefit. The Harvard Business Review (Mankins, Brahm, Caimi, 2017)5 lists the following as helpful practices to conserve time and put it to use most effectively:
Make the agenda clear and selective
Create a zero-based time budget (reallocating current time to more efficient use instead of “withdrawing” more time from the budget)
Simplify the organization
Establish organization-wide time discipline (i.e., require meetings to have agendas and send materials out beforehand)
Provide feedback to manage organizational load
1Bettez, Silvia Cristina. Critical Community Building: Beyond Belonging, ERIC Institute of Education Science, 2011, files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ954978.pdf.
2Wu, Katherine J. “Scientific Journals Commit to Diversity but Lack the Data.” The New York Times, 30 Oct. 2020, www.nytimes.com/2020/10/30/science/diversity-science-journals.html.
3Gambles, R., Lewis, S. and Rapoport, R. (2006). Visions and Strategies for Change. In The Myth of Work‒Life Balance (eds R. Gambles, S. Lewis and Rapoport). https://doi.org/10.1002/9780470713266.ch7
4Us vs. them: The process of othering. (n.d.). Retrieved April 14, 2021, from https://humanrights.ca/story/us-vs-them-the-process-of-othering
5Mankins, M. C., Brahm, C., & Caimi, G. (2017, February 22). Your scarcest resource. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2014/05/your-scarcest-resource
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, more organizations have been offering remote-work options. Remote work is expected to continue expanding even after the pandemic. Fostering DEI in this “new normal” environment can be challenging, but it is not impossible. This section helps guide organizations in ensuring that DEI is front of mind for current and future employees no matter where they are located.
Roadmap for building a culture of DEI remotely
Fully remote and remote-first work environments are not all that different from brick-and-mortar workplaces apart from the fact that there is little to no direct face-to-face contact. But there are other forms of human contact: through video conferencing, direct-messaging systems like Slack, and of course the phone. These means of communication can be leveraged to develop an organizational culture that reinforces diversity, equity, and inclusion. This culture should be visible internally to employees and externally to other audiences, especially prospective employees.
For starters, make sure that your employer “brand” and culture include elements that support diversity, equity, and inclusion. The DEI elements don’t have to take center stage, but they should be stated and notably of a piece with other important aspects of your company. When a culture of DEI is truly embedded in a workplace, prospective employees will see how your brand represents itself consistently at every point of contact. If your organization has not yet built a culture of DEI, here are some steps for moving forward:
Get your leadership on board. In nearly all workplaces—remote workplaces included—leaders are in the best position to influence an organization’s culture. If top leaders of an organization want to bring diversity, equity, and inclusion into the workplace culture, chances are good that the organization will have a consistent and thriving DEI-focused culture. Ask them to promote and endorse their position on DEI as much as possible, not just through dry announcements but through everyday activities such as sharing DEI-related resources through communication channels both internally and externally.
Form a DEI committee. Develop an employee-based committee that will develop a plan of action for incorporating DEI programs and a culture of DEI into your organization. This committee should represent employees from throughout your organization, such as directors, editors, customer-service staff, marketers, and assistants. Try to have at least one individual from each department. Actively invite underrepresented employees to join the committee. In short, bring in as many diverse perspectives as you can. As a remote organization, use your various internal communication channels to invite involvement.
Define goals and successes. Once a committee is developed, it should define the goals it wants to achieve. Maybe it’s bringing more underrepresented employees into the organization. Maybe it’s developing DEI training programs. Maybe it’s improving a range of DEI-related metrics across your organization. Whatever the case, successes should be clearly defined quantitatively. For example, if a goal is developing DEI training programs, then a measure for success could be “at least 50% of our employees voluntarily go through DEI training.” At the beginning, you should measure where you currently stand through benchmarking. Using that same example, maybe five out of 100 employees have already gone through DEI training. In this case, your benchmark is 5%, and you will be successful if at least 45 more employees (an additional 45%) go through training.
Develop a strategic plan around DEI. Use your committee to develop a strategic plan that maps out how you will achieve your goals. Aside from goals, the plan can include a statement of commitment by the leadership and committee members. It can outline why DEI is important and how it helps the organization. It can tie specific core values with diversity, equity, and inclusion. And it can include strategies and initiatives for reaching goals.
Encourage desired behaviors. Telling or reminding employees directly that they should follow the organization’s culture or values is not persuasive or effective. Instead, consider incentivizing employees to become shining examples of the organization’s culture through fun and creative forms of recognition.
Story illustration: During their all-staff meetings, Research Square Company employees use the power of video in creative ways to recognize colleagues for staying true to their employee culture, writing and recording songs, producing short skits, and even developing animations. It’s a fun and entertaining way to keep employees connected to the organization’s culture.
Document and promote successes as you go. Produce periodic reports that show the progress your committee has made toward its goals. In remote organizations, users can celebrate these successes via video conference during all-staff and departmental meetings. On messaging systems like Slack, committee members can send staff celebratory messages colored with animated GIFs, images, and emojis that really show enthusiasm for the organization’s DEI efforts. The more you do this, the more DEI becomes ingrained in your work culture.
Make DEI a two-way conversation. Invite employees from across the organization to be a part of the conversation on building your culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Consider developing messaging channels around DEI. Invite employees to share personal stories and challenges, issues of importance, and general comments. The more you make DEI an ongoing conversation in the organization, the more it moves to the forefront of employees’ minds.
(Kocsis and Langley, 2021)
Soliciting the right applicants by bringing DEI into your external-facing employer brand
Before prospective employees consider applying for a position at your organization, you have the power to show them that diversity, equity, and inclusion are part of your employer brand. It can attract like-minded prospective employees and will send a clear message to underrepresented individuals that they are welcome.
You need to ensure that your organization’s commitment to inclusivity is well-communicated across your external-facing channels. You can leverage communications in ways that will help you be more successful at accumulating a pool of candidates who are more diverse, inclusive-minded, and qualified before interviews begin.
Do you already have a set of core values that at least in part promote diversity, equity, and inclusion? If so, make sure that those values—and their connections to DEI—are advertised on your website and employer-brand social-media channels.
Make sure that your organization’s website visually communicates diversity, equity, and inclusion through imagery that features underrepresented groups.
“Color” your commitment to DEI with videos and stories of employees or leaders who have unique and interesting experiences to share in relation to diversity, equity, and inclusion, experiences that tie in with the organization.
Story illustration: The following is a story about why one organization’s founder started his company: to ensure that researchers who did not speak English as a first language would have less difficulty in getting their work accepted in English-language journals. View story
Invite your employees to share thoughts, experiences, or stories on your company’s social-media channel(s). Writing, imagery, sound, or video can be shared. Such posts are loaded with human elements and can be a very powerful tool to communicate your organization’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Story Illustration: The following are videos produced by employees for a remote all-staff meeting during the COVID-19 pandemic. All employees were encouraged to express their feelings and thoughts—and their creativity—through video. The approaches ranged from serious and heartfelt to humorous and entertaining and celebrated the diversity and uniqueness of employees at all levels while promoting inclusion.
Actively recruit in places where you can build a diverse pool of interns and job candidates. Many universities work with and can accommodate diversity recruitment programs. Consider reaching out to universities that have programs in the areas of expertise you need.
Add a statement about your commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in your job advertisements, then go further by stating why DEI is important to your organization.
When candidates are ready to fill out your online application, add a pre-screening question that allows them to share their thoughts and/or commitment to diversity. It clearly signals to the candidate that DEI is important.
(Kocsis and Langley, 2021)
Interviewing candidates remotely
From a recruitment perspective, the interview process in a remote-first work environment is predominantly—and sometimes 100%—virtual.
Without in-person, face-to-face communication, it can be difficult to gauge a prospective employee’s fit with your work culture in addition to their fit with the job itself. If that isn’t hard enough, you and your team must also gauge how diversity, equity, and inclusion will fit into your interview and what expectations your new hire should meet in these areas. At the same time, your own organization’s employees must be aware of potential hidden bias during the selection process. How do you balance all of these considerations while interviewing candidates remotely? The following suggestions can help you along.
Organizations with an existing culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion will be much more effective at incorporating DEI principles into their hiring practices. If DEI is not part of your organization’s culture and employer brand, consider integrating it as soon as possible.
Introduce candidates to your organization virtually through a package of information that supports your employer brand and tells a story about your organization’s human side (Ravisankar 2020). Items can include:
A list of employer awards or other forms of recognition.
News articles or videos that highlight your organization’s involvement in do-good programs.
Employee profiles, written by the employee, about the organization and its culture.
Videos, photos, or quotes from employees.
Distribute a “bias awareness” checklist to all hiring decision makers before they meet with candidates. (Kocsis and Langley, 2021) The checklist should help these people stay conscious of bias throughout the interview in relation to:
Phrases or questions spoken to the candidate (and vice versa)
Vocal inflections and accents
Facial or verbal expressions
Perceptions versus facts
Use a talent scorecard and share evidence in a formal debriefing session to ensure that those involved in the hiring decision keep the main focus of discussion on the job requirements and the candidate’s ability to meet them. (Ravisankar 2020)
Encourage blind interviews. Conduct a phone screen first. The phone minimizes the visual part of the first-impression bias.
Bring culture into the interview. Gauge candidates on enthusiasm for your organization’s mission, its stated culture, and their interest in supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion in your work environment through their position.
Invite underrepresented employees to be a part of your interview panels to get their perspectives as you go through the hiring process.
Consider bringing outside training into your workforce through DEI certificate programs to ensure that their knowledge and processes are up-to-date. (Kocsis and Langley, 2021)
Via Zoom, DEI and Research Square Company’s human resources perspectives (O. Kocsis and J. Langley, personal communication, March 25, 2021).
Ravisankar, V. (2020, April 30). Conducting remote interviews: 6 best practices. The Enterprisers Project.
From the top down and the bottom up, organizational change requires an understanding of how your organization works. As an organizational leader, how can you tap into your staff’s energies and desires for a more equitable workplace and a better working environment and organizational culture for all? As a staff person, how can you strategically navigate the structures of your institution to produce the same results?
For employee groups trying to shift organizational culture, power mapping can be a crucial tool in developing an effective strategy for creating a more equitable, inclusive, and justice-seeking work environment. From an institutional perspective, as managers and directors, it can be important to understand the lines of input and influence in your organization as well, particularly if you are part of a larger organization like a library department or a university (or both). Power mapping is one tool to address these needs, whether you engage in a formal mapping process, creating visual outcomes, or whether you do this more informally.
Effective power mapping involves identifying a goal and then identifying the structures and relationships—institutional and interpersonal—that will be important in helping or hindering your achievement of that goal. Sections in the rest of this toolkit provide ideas about important areas in which to make changes that will increase DEI in your institution, and your group may have its own sense of what’s necessary at your workplace.
Particularly if your organization lacks transparency in decision-making, power mapping can be a useful tool for bringing clarity to how decisions are made and by whom. Many of the questions asked in earlier parts of this section in relation to hiring and recruitment, as well as anti-racist leadership, may be usefully applied to other areas of organizational leadership and decision-making through these processes as well.
Power mapping is also a useful way to discuss questions about organizational priorities, including but not limited to:
Is REI in the strategic plan? This is often the roadmap for organizational leaders and a reflection of goals and priorities over the long term. How can you get REI into the strategic plan?
Does your organization have a strategic plan?
How is it developed?
Is it taken into account in yearly planning and individual performance-evaluation processes?
Like strategic plans, budgets are documents that reflect values. If your organization truly values REI, you will dedicate funding to it. How can you get REI into the budget?
When are budgets due?
How long in advance are managers planning their budgets?
Where does REI fit in the budget? Individual departments? Overall budgeting?
Who is responsible for REI?
Does this happen at the director or top level?
Is there a separate department or task force? (if not, should there be?)
Is there a particular department with thefinancial resources and the commitment to support this work?
In order to begin a power-mapping exercise, you’ll pick one or two (or a small group of) questions or goals and then ask your group the following questions:
Who can actually approve the changes we’re requesting? Our individual supervisors? Human resources? The director of our press? The person the director reports to?
What is the broader social, political, and business environment surrounding our goal? (You might refer to other parts of this guide for the moral and business cases for DEI work, alongside current events in the world and in your organization at the time of your discussion.)
Who are our allies—individuals or groups likely to support our goal—and who might help convince others? (This might include defining who “we” are if you are a small group of employees just starting out.)
Who might oppose our plans?
Who is in the middle, and how might we convince them of the importance of our goals?
What are effective ways to communicate with our supporters and with those who are skeptical? If we have support at a higher level, how can we help these people convince the people above them?
Several power-mapping tools are available for free online. The Greater Boston Foundation has a robust facilitator’s guide for a group power-mapping activity, taking newcomers through the exercise step-by-step here. You will need to supply some granular detail about your organization and the people in it, so make sure that your group that has some level of trust built up already. Here’s an example of the type of grid often used in power mapping:
<a title="amynav, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons" href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Power_mapping_visual.png"><img width="512" alt="Power mapping visual" src="https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/9/9d/Power_mapping_visual.png/512px-Power_mapping_visual.png"></a>
There are lots of options, and some might work better for your group. The Union of Concerned Scientists offers a number of different options for how the map itself might look in this PDF.
Regardless of how your map looks, it’s helpful to pool collective knowledge to make a visual representation of influence and connection. Lots of members of your team may have informal knowledge or differing impressions, so this exercise can be useful in deepening trust through sharing information in addition to its specific outcome. This is also why power mapping can be useful regardless of the size of the organization (though large organizations may have more complex maps).
As you consider the best steps to make change in your organization, you’ll need to keep your context in mind, specifically how to involve new coworkers in the work of equity and inclusion and how to keep those who have been most involved from burning out. An awareness of how people tend to move through your organization and ways to develop antiracist leadership, will be crucial to your ability to achieve the goals you’ve mapped out.
The normalized and legitimized range of policies, practices, and attitudes that routinely produce cumulative and chronic adverse outcomes for minority populations is known as structural bias:
• It is the main driver of social inequality in America today.
• It targets specific easily stereotyped and generalizable attributes of individuals, such as race and gender.
Power and legitimacy both play an important role in the identification of structural bias and who is affected by it.
When discussing structural bias, its important to understand the individual biases that are also at play.
When people derive such confidence from past moral behavior that they are more likely to engage in immoral or unethical ways later is called moral licensing.
In a 2010 study, researchers argued that moral self-licensing occurs “because good deeds make people feel secure in their moral self-regard,” and future problematic behavior does not evoke the same feelings of negative self-judgment that it otherwise would.
Participants who had voiced support for US President Barack Obama just before the 2008 election were less likely, when presented with a hypothetical slate of candidates for a police force job, to select a Black candidate for the role.
As the study authors hypothesize, “presumably, the act of expressing support for a Black presidential candidate made them feel that they no longer needed to prove their lack of prejudice.” Other research shows that implicit and explicit attitudes toward African Americans did not substantively change during the period of the Obama presidency.
Affinity bias refers to our tendency to get along with others who are like us and to evaluate them more positively than those who are different. Our personal beliefs, assumptions, preferences, and lack of understanding about people who are not like us may lead to repeatedly favoring “similar-to-me” individuals.
In organizations this bias often affects who gets hired, who gets promoted, and who gets picked for opportunities to manage people or projects.
Employees who look like those already in leadership positions are given opportunities to develop their careers due to affinity bias, resulting in a lack of representation in senior leadership roles for BIPOC.
Affinity bias is particularly insidious in recruitment processes, where it presents as a lack of "culture fit," an ambiguous evaluation that should be avoided as an explanation for declining to hire a candidate.
Many hiring managers have a hard time articulating their organization’s specific culture or explaining what exactly they mean when they say “culture fit,” leading to the hiring of employees that managers feel they will personally relate to.
This type of bias is the tendency to seek out, favor, and use information that confirms what you already believe. People also tend to ignore new information that goes against their preconceived notions, leading to poor decision-making.
Many people’s perceptions of others with different identities and with whom they have limited interaction is strongly influenced by media depictions and longstanding cultural stereotypes.
For example, a 2017 study published in the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that people tended to perceive young Black men as taller, heavier, and more muscular than similarly sized white men and hence more physically threatening.
Confirmation bias also helps to explain why Asian Americans are underrepresented in leadership positions despite outperforming other minorities and white people on education, employment and income criteria. Due to long-held stereotypes Asian Americans are seen as modest, deferential, and low in social skills, while those who adopt more dominant behaviors are penalized.
What’s needed to influence change?
Ultimately, most organizations are looking to change their culture. Culture change is driven by the values of the organization. Several questions need to be explored in that regard:
How does the organization define its values in the context of diversity, equity, and inclusion?
How do those values show up in the organization on a day-to-day basis?
Do they value an asset- or deficit-based philosophy?
Do the policies and procedures of the organization align and support their values?
Historically, human-resources professionals have used the lens of employment-law compliance to address discriminatory actions during the recruitment process. Can they now provide a broader context for organizations looking to change their culture? If they make the connection explicit that these policies are intended to address specifically affinity bias, will it immediately matter? Will there be an “aha” moment? It’s important to keep in mind that the equity journey is long, and many are at various stages in their journey. Offering opportunities to demonstrate how structural systems or policies can support or inhibit greater diversity in staff is part of that education. Can human-resource professionals take this opportunity to move from a mindset of compliance to one of culture change in their organizations?
For nonprofit organizations, a similar recruitment analogy can be made for volunteer leadership opportunities. How do these organizations recruit reviewers, speakers, officers of the board? Is it based on recommendations from those traveling in similar circles? Is affinity bias at play here too?
Ironically, nonprofit organizations that have a science focus often start with experimentation and data. Have organizations looked at their data? Are organizations collecting the data needed in order to understand the extent of the problem they are trying to improve? Are individuals being asked for this data comfortable to share it with the organization? Is there a concern about trust as to how this data will be used? Once the organization has the data, what are they benchmarking against? Their unique discipline or broader US census data?
Lastly, create transparency and accountability by sharing goals and reporting on progress. Begin to create incremental change that the organization can build upon for the transformation our society desperately needs.
People drive business, organizations, and organizational change. As it turns out, the people poised to shape the future are more diverse than ever. According to research from Pew Research Center, the “post-millennial” generations entering the workforce will be the most diverse in history. McKinsey & Company estimates that, through 2030, 160 million women may need to change jobs thanks to automation.
These are large groups of people behind large and powerful workforce trends who cannot be ignored. According to the same McKinsey & Company report, there is an additional $12 trillion in GDP on the table if we can find a way to close the gender gap by 2025. And there is $2 billion in potential revenue if we can expand “financial inclusion efforts” to extend more services to Black Americans. https://ideal.com/why-is-diversity-equity-and-inclusion-important/
Two areas will be key to an organization’s ability to innovate and attract top talent. The benefits of a commitment to DEI tend to compound over time. Many organizations develop a reputation that helps them attract and retain top talent. This isn’t particularly surprising when you consider that 67% of job seekers cite diversity as an important factor when considering companies and job offers. Simply put, people want to work in diverse, equitable, and inclusive organizations.
Research has shown that companies that create diverse and inclusive work environments are more adaptable and creative. Gartner predicts that 75% of organizations “with frontline decision-making teams reflecting a diverse and inclusive culture” will outstrip their financial goals. Research from Weber Shandwick indicates that 66% of executives agree that DEI is a key driver of financial performance. According to a report from BCG, companies with more diverse leadership teams have 45% higher innovation revenue versus those that don’t. https://ideal.com/why-is-diversity-equity-and-inclusion-important/
When each employee brings their own brand of thought to the table, it creates a more innovative, positive environment and a broader global perspective. According to a McKinsey & Company report, “Companies in the top quartile for ethnic/cultural diversity on executive teams were 33% more likely to have industry-leading profitability. That this relationship continues to be strong suggests that inclusion of highly diverse individuals—and the myriad ways in which diversity exists beyond gender (e.g., LGBTQ+, age/generation, international experience)—can be a key differentiator among companies.”
The report goes on to say, “The penalty for bottom-quartile performance on diversity persists. Overall, companies in the bottom quartile for both gender and ethnic/cultural diversity were 29% less likely to achieve above-average profitability than were all other companies in the data set. In short, not only were they not leading, they were lagging.”
The benefits of publicly celebrating differences are twofold. When employees feel like they have a voice and are empowered and respected, it creates trust and a feeling of belonging within your organization. From a business perspective, the more people feel this trust and belonging, the more innovative they are, the more they use their imagination, and the more productive they’ll be.
A Workhuman report expanded on the many benefits that result when employees feel they are included, accepted, and belong at work. Among them:
Higher employee engagement: Social support from co-workers has been shown to significantly impact engagement.
Higher productivity: Employees who feel they are part of a group—working toward shared goals—report increased motivation, positivity, and overall productivity.
Reduced conflict and improved relationships: Social exchange reduces conflict, improves performance, facilitates information sharing, and deepens empathy—while promoting more pleasant and efficient patterns of exchanges, boosting trust and increasing “tolerance of imbalance in exchange relationships.”
Higher levels of learning and performance: A culture of psychological safety and inclusion leads to better learning and performance outcomes.
Reduced stress: When co-workers provide social support, it can ameliorate the impact of a large workload and thereby buffer the impact of burnout.
Increased resilience and trust: A consistent flow of relational exchanges raises levels of commitment, concern for the reputation of oneself and others, and levels of trust and resilience.
Better health: When belonging has been established, it contributes to improvements of the physical body system. Likewise, those who feel they don’t belong may experience both psychological and biological illness effects and even a weakened immune system.
Happier, more productive employees: According to one study, “participants stated that organizational celebrations made them happier in their job, improved diversity and workplace knowledge, reduced isolation, and cultivated relationships, which all contributed to their desire to be more productive in their job.”
Greater affective commitment: Reward and perceived social support are direct contributors to affective commitment—thereby increasing an employee’s intent to stay.
Organizations that fail to embrace DEI will be left behind their competitors and face a certain fate of irrelevance by not being able to attract and retain top talent in order to meet the uncertainty and challenges that tomorrow will bring. The innovative, creative, and collaborative thinking that is a result of diversity is required.
A mission statement is intended to define the organization's business, its objectives, and its approach to reach those objectives. A vision statement describes the desired future position of the organization.
Much research indicates that organizations that focus on DEI are more successful in meeting their missions. With that said, does the focus need to be “called out” specifically in the mission or vision statement? Do DEI efforts need to be visible in order to have impact?
If organizational leadership finds greater accountability in themselves, organizations should consider embedding. The documentation is not how the organization will ultimately measure effectiveness; its how the organization communicates its intent. Sharing commitments and progress on those commitments to stakeholders will demonstrate accountability. The actions of the organization will speak louder than words for the stakeholders.
The tenets and values that support an environment of DEI, in and of themselves, create what is needed for organizational success:
A diverse group, community, or organization is one in which a variety of social and cultural characteristics exist.
Equity aims to identify and eliminate barriers that prevent the full participation of some groups.
Inclusion focuses on how people with different identities feel as part of the larger group.
These values must be seen by organizational leadership as fundamental values.
Organizations with strong diversity cultures are more likely to have more engaged employees with increased job satisfaction and higher levels of trust. But it’s not just morale that lifts when DEI programs are made a priority; there are benefits that can be seen at every level of the business.
Teams are 158% more likely to understand target customers when they have at least one member who represents their target’s gender, race, age, sexual orientation, or culture.
Companies with higher diversity in management earned, on average, 38% more revenue than companies with lower diversity. Diversity of gender, country of origin, career path, and industry background are highly correlated to innovation.
Organizations in the top 25% of gender diversity among executive leadership teams are 21% more likely to be profitable and 27% better at creating value.
Without the underlying values supporting DEI, organizations will not be able to realize their missions.
Thank you to the Triangle Scholarly Communications Institute (funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation) for early support of this project.
Insights from Germany: Academic and educational institutions and the workplace
A lesson from history:
May Ayim’s story is a prominent example of how institutionalized racism manifests in German academia and higher education. In her assessment of Black life in Germany, author, artist, and activist Noah Sow writes that ignoring and trivializing Black knowledge creation as an isolated and singular opinion legitimizes inaction on societal issues or changes in responses to publications by Black academics. Many scholars in the fields of philosophy, theory, the sciences, and empirical research were white male Germans. While from a global perspective, other schools of thought have existed for far longer, the works of Kant, Hegel, and others are still regarded as the foundations of knowledge, neglecting contributions from outside Europe. These assunptions and the works themselves display racist biases and open doors for discrimination, othering, and even violence by exerting discursive superiority. This reality does not entirely disqualify the writings of these scholars, but it should lead to critical reflection on the part of white academia, writes journalist and author Mohamed. When their contributions are deemed “personal experiences” and “subjective positions,” they can no longer claim any “universal validity.” These judgments are an important instrument of power for the white university, Sow notes.
In Germany, the educational sector (and in consequence also the work environment) presents a constant struggle for BIPOC and other ethnic minority groups. In a 2020 study, the University of Witten/ Herdecke analyzed leadership culture in German companies and institutions. According to this study, 33% of German senior leaders suffer from a crisis of identity. Moreover, half of the respondents mentioned not being qualified for their role; 80% of the respondents were middle-aged men. While the study didn’t retrieve ethnic information, it is quite likely that the majority of respondents were white. This lack of diversity creates complex problems for leaders in German companies, who have to take responsibility for diverse teams, difficulties navigating international markets and multiple languages-– and might help explain the overwhelm the respondents felt when asked about their qualifications. According to the newest study from 2018/19 by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (German foundation associated with the Social Democratic Party of Germany) analyzing group-related misanthropy in the “middle” of German society, more than half of the respondents devalued asylum seekers, 26% devalued Sinti and Roma, and about 19% shared xenophobic and Islamophobic views. While the great majority of Germans clearly denounce extreme right-wing views, the study also shows how group-related misanthropy is reflected in political perspectives and right-wing orientation.  In many contexts, racism has become acceptable: if racist comments are denounced, the reaction of many Germans is that they feel they have to hold their tongue; hate speech and violent racist agitation is prominent on social media and the internet; some places in Germany are perceived as “no go” areas for BIPOC.  This stems from Germany’s political history and its aftermath, where racism has been banned from all politics except the extreme right, which results in the denial of most Germans to be anything even remotely close to racism. There is little awareness that racism takes many forms such as privileges, access, or ignorance. 
To understand the situation of many BlPOC and other ethnic minorities and marginalized groups in Germany, it is worthwhile to begin looking for its root causes in early education: nonwhite children are systematically discriminated against by the German education system, writes Amjahid. This paves the way for a career path in lower-income sectors and jobs.  According to an evaluation of the Informations- und Dokumentationszentrum für Antirassismus Nordrhein-Westfalen (Information and Documentation Center for Anti-Racism North Rhine-Westphalia) the curricula of German schools are still oriented to an ethnic, national, and cultural majority of white German society.  In no other European Union member country is educational success so dependent on social background as in Germany, as German and OECD studies show. Germany is ranked last in inclusion of migrant children from the second generation onward: children who were born in Germany are not considered to belong to the dominant culture. While the same studies also show that those children have a higher motivation for studying and a positive mindset, they receive fewer recommendations for academic high schools than white children. 
Furthermore, German curricula almost entirely neglect the study of German colonial history.1 The learning materials and teaching methods replicate (colonial) racist ideas about countries with major BIPOC populations, which are presented as fundamental truth. These materials invoke further ignorance and amplify feelings of estrangement and foreignness. Internalized and institutionalized racism is passed on from teachers to BIPOC and other ethnic-minority students in the form of microaggressions (e.g., diminishing a child’s career aspirations, trivializing racist language etc.).