PURPOSE AND USE OF “CAN WE TALK”
The purpose of the guide, entitled Can We Talk, is to provide a brief and easy road map for FSP members to use in the event you either voluntarily request or are asked by your organization’s leadership to discuss the subject of diversity, inclusion and racism.
Recent experiences by FSP members show that at any time you may be called upon by your employer to express your views about diversity, inclusion and racism because many organizations are interested in demonstrating to their partners, directors, managers, employees, clients, customers and others that the organization condemns racism and supports
diversity and inclusion.
The request for your participation in a conversation may come from the highest level of your organization including the board, CEO, chairperson or commissioner, a partner or an officer, a senior manager or even your immediate supervisor. The guide is intended to provide you with a
basis for a meaningful and in-depth conversation if the need arises. It assumes that despite the sensitive nature of conversations surrounding race, you will be engaged in a mutually informative and respectful exchange, not confrontational. When discussing diversity and inclusion, and race, it is possible that emotions will surface. The approach in the guide should help you keep your emotions in check and stay focused.
Can We Talk?
This is a time of reflection; a point in our history where we stop and think
carefully about our company’s/firm’s/association’s/agency’s overall
commitment to a diverse workforce and a culture of equity and inclusivity,
i.e., diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). Hiring, promotion, and retention
practices should all be a part of thoughtful dialogue and assessment.
I am glad that I have a role here and want to continue. I hope that you are
interested and would like to hear my observations as a Black employee.
My comments are not meant to be critical or an indictment of senior
management, but are intended to provide a helpful perspective on an
important discussion happening all over the country. Recent events, the
senseless death of George Floyd, which was too much to ignore this time,
and the Black Lives Matter movement have sparked the need for people and organizations to talk about diversity and race. The cry for change in the
streets has extended to corporate offices, executive suites and board rooms.
Carefully and clearly note any specific conditions within your organization
that you believe is a consequence of unconscious or implicit bias or outright
racism. Consider the following indicators: Number of Black employees overall; Number of Blacks in senior management and mid-level management positions; Lack of representation in leadership; Lack of promotion opportunities; Lack of high-visibility assignments/projects for Black employees; Absence of Blacks on hiring committees; micro-aggression; and other examples of bias. If and when you have a conversation with management about the lack of diversity and the psychological impact on you of racism, you should highlight the business imperative in higher levels of diversity. Numerous in-depth empirical studies conducted over different industries and organizational structures have demonstrated that higher levels of diversity improve, among other metrics, an organization’s profitability, efficiency, and overall favorable
climate for Black, as well as other employees. In other words, higher levels
of diversity makes good business sense.
The struggle with diversity, as evidenced by the absence of Black employees
at every level of the organization, is a reflection of a lack of commitment.
If/When you ask yourself, what would it mean to really commit, these are
the suggestions that I would offer.
I would first ask you to consider whether the organization is willing to invest in a more diverse and inclusive environment. If so, resources must be devoted to the equality imperative in order to fulfill the mandate, i.e., fund it. Spending money on DEI shows the organization’s commitment to
Moreover, DEI has to be at the heart of the organizational culture.
Communicate your strategies organization wide and do the work necessary
to sustain advances in diversity. Key components of a diversity plan of
action should include:
- Recruiting, hiring and retention of Black employees
- Providing an inclusive environment where all employees feel valued
- Holding bullying and discriminatory employees accountable
- Creating path to leadership roles for Black employees – promotion opportunities and a process for ensuring the equal and fair consideration of Black candidates
- Mentoring, sponsoring, coaching opportunities with senior leadership
- Ensuring high-profile projects are assigned to Black employees
- Selecting Black persons for the Board of Directors and senior executive roles
- Positioning DEI as a core competency for driving business
- Including DEI as a core competency for senior management performance reviews
- Providing opportunities to work directly with major clients
- Setting goals for legal spending to minority owned firms
- Choosing outside consulting and legal firms that are diverse
- Providing access to leadership development programs for Black employees
- Sponsoring employee resource groups
- Hiring a senior D&I officer that reports to the board
- Collaborating with Black professional organizations, such as Financial Services Professionals, National Bar Association, National Black MBA Association, National Association of Black Accountants, Washington Government Relations Group, and others