What are your Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Resolutions for 2021?
2020 was a year unlike any other for most of us. A year of pause, a year of grief/ loss, a year of pain, a year of milestones, a year of personal achievements, a year of awakening, a year of reflections, a year that tested boundaries that some may have never imagined, simply a year best defined by you. Personally, this was a year of learning moments. Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) was a topic I embraced fully to change narratives that I had experienced in my career as a Leader. I recently sat down with a colleague of mine, Dr. Shungu where we reflected on 2020. Here are some of our most memorable and defining moments in 2020 and looking to 2021 and beyond.
Reflections on 2020
1. Kevin: As we reflect back on 2020, what are some of your most memorable moments that got us to where we are today as it pertains to Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI)?
Dr Shungu: Unfortunately, the tragic murder of George Floyd and the subsequent protests around the world. That video of him gasping for breath on the ground still haunts me. The death of Congressman John Lewis and his final message: “A call to act as higher angels with courage, conviction and truth. We need to be able to show empathy and compassion to each other regardless of political party, race, gender, or sexuality. We are all complicit when we tolerate injustice. It is not enough to say we will get better by and by”. More importantly we need to show empathy and compassion even when others have failed to show us that in return.
2. Dr Shungu: What was your most memorable and defining moments in 2020 in terms of EDI?
Kevin: My most memorable moment was the video (How can we win) by Kimberley Jones. Kimberley puts the protests in context of how the oppressed view the world around them and how we all got here. Her words come from a place of pain that many can relate to. This video resonated with me by touching on injustices holistically as it relates to Blacks. To simply summarize this clip which I would encourage everyone to watch, focusing on the ‘what’ will not answer the ‘why’. This video simply signaled to me a new era/ awakening that required an urgent need of attention to the daily injustices that marginalized communities and especially Blacks have endured for generations and that was truly a defining moment for me.
3. Kevin: What are some of your thoughts on the statements that were put out by multiple Organizations following the killing of George Floyd and the protests? What would you consider intentional vs performative/ unintentional/ damage control?
Dr Shungu: I was not surprised by companies wanting to be seen as taking a public stand against racial injustice/ racism. For some it seemed to be a case of immediate damage control responses issuing statements like ‘Racism has no place in our society” leading some professional groups to ask, “What about within our profession of Psychology?” Organisations which had hitherto refused to address racial inequalities were now quick to be seen to be making the right noises.
Whereas other organisations like Nike and Ben and Jerrys offered financial support to fight racial injustice. Survey Monkey went further stating “If an organisation we do business with isn’t making the values we believe are a priority, we will do business elsewhere.”
4. Dr Shungu: What did you make of the statement by Uber and Aunt Jemimah campaign?
Kevin: The statement from the Uber CEO was the first I read following the racial unrest. I had held multiple conversations on what organizations ought to do especially considering the inequities at organizations. I found the Uber statement to be well intentioned and powerful as it in fact called out any racist sympathisers and urged them to delete their apps.
I found the Aunt Jemimah statement to be performative. With its origins based on racial stereotypes just like Uncle Ben’s Rice, Aunt Jemimah has been around since 1889. I find it hard to believe that it took the racial unrest in 2020 (that’s 131 years since it’s inception) for them to notice the racial origins of its branding. Quaker Oats owns Aunt Jemimah whereas Pepsi Co has owned Quaker Oats since 2001. Pepsi Co has had almost 20 years to consider the origins of the branding, but we would be naive not to imagine the performance of Aunt Jemimah and perhaps hesitation to alternative suggestions. A lack of representation thwarted some of those efforts at Pepsi Co. Nevertheless, we are still yet to hear or see the new name or branding.
5. Kevin: COVID presented some serious challenges for marginalized communities. In retrospect however, COVID revealed some critical data that supported the realities of disproportionate impact/ inequities faced by marginalized communities particularly Blacks. What are your thoughts on the disparities that the pandemic revealed?
Dr Shungu: The extent to which the link between deprivation and social economic factors and race has resulted in large numbers of Black and ethnic minority groups being more adversely affected by this pandemic is becoming clearer. Structural and systemic inequalities are stacked up against these groups. Unfortunately, the response by the U.K Government has been poor.
“Many reviews and reports have put forward recommendations to tackle health inequalities. Now is the time for action and the Government should finally act on these recommendations. The Government should prioritise implementing the entirety of the recommendations in the ‘Marmot Review 10 years on’, so that health inequalities are not further entrenched by the pandemic.”
Impact on Organizations
6. Kevin: Do you feel Organizations were ready to confront their journeys into EDI and why?
Dr Shungu: I truly believe that some organisations are ready to make real changes in this area. However, for some they are posturing and keen to be seen to be making the right sounds in order to preserve their businesses. They see work in this area as a checkbox exercise. Others are being forced to make the changes by their stakeholders and partners.
However, I do believe that this time there is the potential for real change in many organisations. The energy and emotion generated has led to Diversity Wheels Worldwide to start turning. Young people are less tolerant of social and racial injustice and this adds more Energy.
7. Dr Shungu: One of my favourite hashtags is ‘beyond unconscious bias’. What does this mean to you?
Kevin: Moving beyond unconscious bias means a few things to me. First, it recognises a bias created by treating EDI as a checkbox exercise. Research has shown that training done without a needs analysis is largely ineffective and unconscious bias is no different. Second, EDI is simply not a topic that is served on a plate cold. I consider EDI to be a culture that has to be adopted no different than safety and goes beyond unconscious bias. Lastly, it is also recognizing that we need to move beyond performative statements & rather take action intentionally & consistently.
8. Kevin: Most organizations were facing two crises, the pandemic and racial awakening. Some in fact struggled to balance this as they tried to maintain some sense of normalcy with the shrinking of their businesses. As a result, some decided to undertake EDI work in house. What are some of the successes or failures you witnessed this year as a result of these steps taken in-house?
Dr Shungu: Some local authorities engaged their schools in programs of support and challenge. Successful organisations had clear lines of accountability with senior leaders overseeing and assuming responsibility for working this area.
Some organisations thought that by putting on some unconscious bias training they would address the issue.
We also saw Black and ethnic minority staff appointed as EDI leads with little support and training with no strategy. They reported feeling overwhelmed. In some organisations they continued to have EDI resource groups with no involvement of senior leaders leading to no real change.
Someone recently said to me, we have done some training and now what? Nothing seems to have changed. Others reported staff members feeling upset and worse after the internal training. Organisations need to be aware of the risks, in particular being mindful of mental health needs of staff, in particular black and ethnic minorities.
9. Dr Shungu: How can we better measure outcomes and successes in this area?
Kevin: We can measure outcomes by defining & setting EDI policy and developing strategic frameworks to ensure a functioning EDI policy which should have a clear mission and values. Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) should be embedded to drive behaviors towards the values. As they say in business, what gets measured gets done, and as such, the KPI’s should be tied to everyone’s performance evaluation in fair measure with the most significance held by Leadership.
10. Kevin: 2020 without a doubt brought a level of racial awakening to many out there including both marginalized and non-marginalized communities in a way they had never before imagined. What are your thoughts on those still sitting on the fence on this or those who choose to respond and not necessarily understand the issue at hand?
Dr Shungu: Initiatives which encourage businesses and organisations to network and share some of their work are crucial in galvanising those organisations who do not recognise the issues at hand.
I often think the “E” in Energy is there as an indicator of Emotion. The “E” in Emotion for me signifies Empathy. In EDI work we need to be aware of Emotional Intelligence and how the conversations we have with our teams enhance or decrease the energy within our organisation. We need to support organisations (particularly those sitting on the fences) in Building Bridges of Empathy in their work with their employees and in promoting belonging, mental health and better outcomes.
11. Dr Shungu: I will be conducting some training on diversity and inclusion in the boardroom for chairs and boardmembers. What are some of the key messages you think Boards need to hear?
Kevin: (Answer) I consider learning to be just one of many aspects of the EDI journey. Any training conducted in EDI should be part of a larger learning strategy that is within the EDI strategic framework. It is essential to consider learning principles & their effectiveness in context. As it pertains to Leaders and through my past & current Learning Delivery experience, EDI learning is not necessarily a topic that is effectively done in group settings. I would encourage a tailored approach for Leaders in order for them to learn by unlearning & confronting a ‘healthy distrust’ of themselves however the above course seems like a great opportunity for creating awareness.
12. Kevin: Some Organizations with some good intentions decided to take EDI head-on which resulted in some very poor outcomes internally. Some consider that it did more harm than good. What would you say to those who tried but failed?
Dr Shungu: Many found themselves overwhelmed by the challenges and reported staff being upset and left feeling worse after inhouse training. If not careful, some of these efforts can indeed cause more harm than good.
Organisations need to be acknowledged for their efforts; however, they also need support in recognising that this work is complex and can be highly emotionally charged.
Sharing and reflecting on personal and professional journeys around differences requires careful facilitation and my advice for organizations is to seek skilled expertise to help teams reflect and manage some of the issues and tensions which will inevitably arise.
13. Kevin: As we approach the new year, what do you believe is currently lacking in EDI that would be beneficial to informing concrete action for Organizations?
Dr Shungu: Greater scientific rigour is needed along with best practice guidelines. EDI consultants need training to agreed standards. Discussion and work in this area needs to be supported with clear evidence-based tools such as EDI frameworks. More work needs to be done in understanding and assessing behaviours and responses to racism using tools such as the Six Stages Framework.
Awareness raising and reflecting on experiences is only a first step. The next is taking action and setting tangible goals; measuring the energy and motion within your company’s Diversity wheels. Some wheels may be truly stuck, others are just churning into action and for those committed to real change they are spinning freely!
14. Dr Shungu: We are embarking on a number of projects together such as the 6 stages conceptual framework and EDI research in organisations. Six stages conceptual framework is important for supporting individuals and organisations in identifying their understanding and ability to deal with racism. What excites you about this work and what do you see as the possibilities?
Kevin: I have always been passionate about research and best practices which allow us to review what works best while allowing us to review what does not necessarily work in certain settings. The EDI research that we are undertaking will allow us to evaluate EDI strategies by defining what an effective EDI strategy looks like today and evaluate the impact within the organizations. This research will also reveal areas of improvement which will help refine some of the EDI strategic frameworks currently in use at many organizations and the 6 stages conceptual framework which can be a tool that many would find beneficial. Understanding human behaviours including cultural & emotional intelligence are key to contributing to EDI strategies.
15. Kevin: What would be some tips you would offer for any Organization or individuals with EDI as part of their new year resolution initiative?
Dr Shungu: There are no shortcuts or quick fixes, and you cannot stick a plaster on EDI issues.
- Assess your starting point as an organisation.
- Formulate a plan for what you want to achieve and by when.
- Assess you employees’ understanding of issues and their ability to deal with racism.
- Minorities should not be ‘voluntold’ to take on the EDI work as it can be overwhelming and have real negative impact on their mental health.
- Use of Strategic frameworks such as the Six stages Conceptual framework designed to support individuals and organisations.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help, you may need our support to help you get started and to identify which cogs are stuck and how to lubricate them!
For more information about this blog please contact us:
Dr Shungu Hilda M’gadzah
Psychologist, Diversity and Inclusion Consultant
Inclusion Psychologists Limited
Joint collaborators on Six Stages Conceptual Framework
This article was first published on 31/12/2020 on https://www.kamauconsultinggroup.ca/