Here's how your company can prove it really cares about workers of color

·5 min read

It's been over a year since companies across the country made passionate pledges to stand with the Black Lives Matter movement and promote more diversity and inclusion in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and the ensuing protests.

At the time of the unrest, I was a senior director managing a team of two dozen writers and editors. While it was painfully clear my company lacked diversity broadly speaking, my team consisted of 40% BIPOC staff, the majority of whom I personally recruited.

Like millions of other Black workers last summer, I, too, received a company-wide email declaration from my CEO vowing to do better. I knew the work our C-suite was pledging to do was possible because I had done it myself, quietly and methodically over the course of the five years I was privileged to be a hiring manager there.

I plucked up the courage to send my CEO a letter of my own, outlining several specific steps he and his team could take to make good on their promises to not only recruit more workers of color but also retain them and help them advance to senior levels.

Diverse business team employees listening to male manager coach speaking at group office meeting, mentor executive leader talking during briefing, multi-ethnic workers engaged in corporate training
(Photo: Getty Creative)

At a time when talented workers are in short supply and quit rates among employees has hit record highs, we’ve got more leverage than ever if we want to hold the people in power responsible for these important commitments.

Here are six questions you should the senior leadership at your company when it comes to their diversity and inclusion efforts.

Does the company publish diversity statistics so we know where we stand?  

When companies don’t publish diversity statistics even internally with their workers, it’s hard to believe they are truly committed to improving matters. Think of it this way: If you’re a cross country coach getting your runners ready for a big race, you don’t tell them to guess where the starting and finish lines are, right? You’ve got to know where you’re starting from, so you can set a collective goal and inspire the team to reach a finish line.

Has the company set up measurable benchmarks to move the needle?

Publishing diversity statistics is just the first step. As we’ve seen among big firms that published reports on diversity in recent years, progress has been painfully slow. Workers should ask their companies to make specific, no-BS goals when it comes to recruiting and retaining more people of color. 

Quarterly and annual goals trickle from the top-down at many companies, and when executives set diversity goals, they can require their reports (and their reports’ reports) to follow suit.

How has the company created more inclusive hiring practices such as training hiring managers in unconscious bias? 

(Photo: Getty Creative)
(Photo: Getty Creative)

Who’s in the room when you recruit talent and interview candidates matters. I have seen firsthand how lack of diversity among hiring managers can proliferate a lack of diversity when it comes to recruiting teams. 

Many managers are stressed and use any shortcut when it comes to recruiting. If a friend of a friend in their personal network knows someone who’s a good fit and their resume checks out, they often choose that low-hanging fruit. I sat in a meeting once where a male hiring manager brushed off a female colleague’s question about not interviewing a senior colleague by saying they just wanted to hurry up and make the hire.

Companies need to realize that taking steps to diversify the talent pool will take more time and more resources, but that it's worth it nonetheless.

Does the company track retention and attrition rates among BIPOC employees?

It's not enough to simply hire BIPOC workers. It is equally important to ensure companies are doing everything they can to nurture their talents and develop an environment where they can contribute, thrive, and flourish. Investing in training and mentorship programs or assigning mentors to new employees can help.

Is the company committed to eliminating pay disparity for women and BIPOC employees?

Young business colleagues in board room at office
(Photo: Getty Creative)

I spent a good year pushing to achieve equal pay for a Black employee on my team who was hired at a salary 20% lower than someone at her same level who was white. 

Companies should be obsessed with pay equity and have systems and processes in place to be sure unreasonable gaps don’t creep in. I can appreciate the difficulty here, especially at companies with pay inequities that would be extremely expensive to fix at scale. But if executives can sleep at night knowing BIPOC and women workers are earning less than their peers for no good reason, then they can’t act surprised when they lose out on diverse talent to other firms.

Has the company shut down company-backed political action committees (PACs) or stopped supporting candidates who don’t support fighting racial injustice?

Search for your company’s name on OpenSecrets.org and take a look at which politicians they support. Then, compare that list to the NAACP’s most recent Civil Rights Legislative report card, which scores legislators based on their votes on issues of importance to the NAACP. If your company is supporting candidates and elected officials who score a C or worse, make some noise.

The bottom line: I implore Black and brown workers to ask their managers (and their manager’s manager’s manager) one simple question, whether it’s at your next all-hands, in a private email or on Slack:

What have you done for us lately?

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Mandi Woodruff-Santos is inclusive wealth-building advocate, career expert and co-host of the popular podcast Brown Ambition. Her work has appeared in CNBC, Business Insider, Teen Vogue and U.S. News & World Report.

Follow her for more tips on career and wealth-building: Instagram: @mandimoney and TikTok: @maaandimoney

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