Employees Look to Employers to Rise Up Against Racism

Kathy Gurchiek By Kathy Gurchiek July 8, 2020
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​The killing of George Floyd in May has sparked social unrest around the country, and many employees are expecting organizations to speak up—and to speak out—against racism. Many large organizations have pledged to donate to nonprofits working to eradicate systemic racism, and some, like travel media company Afar, are taking additional steps.

"Staying silent right now would be a continued failure on our part," Afar editor-in-chief Julie Taylor told readers in a June 8 e-mail headlined "Afar Is Too White—and We Plan to Change That." The San Francisco-based company said it plans to address issues of systemic racism against Black, indigenous and other people of color (BIPOC).

Among the changes outlined in its missive is the creation of four committees that will focus on anti-racist action in education, protest, policy and fundraising. Taylor said Afar will buy from Black-owned businesses and consciously increase coverage of such businesses in its travel guides and other communications. 

Afar formed an internal panel to augment its diversity and inclusion efforts, such as finding ways to increase employee diversity and leadership opportunities for BIPOC staffers. This panel will draft a strategic plan for continuing to increase employee diversity and provide leadership opportunities to BIPOC individuals. The company also is encouraging staff members to become personally involved in activism.

There is value in the company stating publicly what it plans to do, Taylor wrote, "because it's a way to hold ourselves accountable."

The Aspen Digital Anti-Racism Pledge Tracker is another way to hold companies accountable. Created by the Aspen Institute—an education and policy studies organization in Washington, D.C.—the tracker's purpose is to "collect and maintain a list of commitments, pledges and promises from U.S. tech and media companies to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion," according to the institute's website.

The list details commitments companies are making, such as SalesForce's pledge to create a Racial Equality and Justice task force, Equality Circles that provide safe spaces for candid conversations between employees and company leaders, and creation of a chief equality and recruiting officer for inclusiveness at each step of the hiring process.

SHRM Online collected the following stories on this topic from a variety of sources: 

Viewpoint: Is Your Company Actually Fighting Racism, or Just Talking About It?
To adequately respond to the current uprisings, leaders must reckon with the Black experience inside their workplaces.

We have spent the past week listening to Black employees within several different companies. A common theme that emerged from these conversations was the disconnect between a company's statement or commitment of resources externally and the daily employee experience. This disconnect is not new, but the awareness of its depth is novel for some.
(Harvard Business Review

Adidas Tweeted Against Racism. Its Black Workers Say That Isn't Enough.
Companies from Adidas AG to Estée Lauder Cos. face pressure from employees to do more to confront racism and promote diversity, as social activism over the killing of George Floyd moves deeper into the workplace.
(Wall Street Journal

SHRM Member-Exclusive Resource Spotlight
Overcoming Workplace Bias


Companies Taking a Public Stand in the Wake of George Floyd's Death
Numerous companies have made public statements against racism and injustice and announced donations and other displays of support since the death of George Floyd unleashed protests across the United States starting May 26. 

Ben & Jerry's, for example, publicly stated its support for the Black Lives Matter movement four years ago, and it has four specific calls to action on its website. Microsoft says it's using its platform to amplify voices "from the Black and African American communities at Microsoft" and will donate $1.5 million to be split among Black Lives Matter, the Equal Justice InitiativeInnocence Project, the NAACP Legal Defense and Education FundLeadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights, and Minnesota Freedom Fund.
(Forbes

Companies Are Making Bold Promises About Greater Diversity, but There's a Long Way to Go
As protests sweep the nation, more and more companies are announcing initiatives aimed at promoting diversity and inclusion within their walls. The data that has been collected through surveys paints a picture of just how much things need to change before companies are truly representative of the makeup of society at large, and before salaries are comparable across categories like gender, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation.
(CNBC)  

Can Companies Fight for Social Justice?
American streets and social media feeds have been flooded with statements of support for those fighting police brutality against Black people. This time, businesses are no exception. Companies including Amazon, Walmart and even the NFL have declared that Black Lives Matter.

What's behind corporate America's sudden condemnation of police violence? Should consumers buy it? Or is it nothing more than good public relations?
(NPR)  

U.S. Companies Vow to Fight Racism but Face Critics on Diversity
In the past, U.S. corporations have largely remained silent as protests erupted over killings of Black Americans by police officers. That changed with the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, which set off a flurry of corporate statements of solidarity with the Black community, along with pledges of more than $1.7 billion to advance racial justice and equity.

The unprecedented outpouring of support, however, has stirred up criticism along with praise. Many social justice advocates, corporate diversity experts and investors say companies also need to focus on equity in their own ranks, especially by hiring and promoting minority workers.
(Reuters

An Employer's Guide to Demonstrating Equity and Inclusion: Six Ways to Put Words into Action
Businesses around the globe are currently trying several approaches to respond to protests; to fight injustice; and to show they care about those who are beaten, disadvantaged and destroyed. Individual companies are jumping in feet first with announcements and promises. It can be easy to pick apart their words; it is much more useful to evaluate their actions, which speak so much louder. For organizations, actions are all that matter.
(SHRM Online)

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