• drlesliehughes

5 Ways To Help Create More Racial Equity in the Workplace

These tips are written through my lens as a White woman to an intended audience of fellow White women committed to learning more about what they can do to be a part of inclusive racial climates at work.

1. Pull Up a Chair & Get Uncomfortable

For White people to truly engage in racial equity work in their organizations, they must first begin inward. Engagement in both learning and unlearning is a constant. We must view ourselves as works in progress with learning mindsets committed to understanding how racism shows up, evolves, and hides in our society.

We have to be able to acknowledge we don't know what we don't know.

We must keep listening, fight through the uncomfortable feelings, and continue our learning. We do this through the educational material we seek out, and through a steadfast commitment to constantly engage in acts of self-awareness.

2. Learn About Your Culture

We must also learn about our own Whiteness! While it might sound counter intuitive, one of the functions and privileges of racism is that White people don't, as a whole, look at our race as an identity. That's because we live in a society that centers Whiteness, thus making it difficult for us to identify what Whiteness actually IS in our families, cultures, and organizations. So that's why we need to understand and name the specific ways, both subtle and overt, that our White culture promotes racism on both individual and systemic levels.

If we don't know what it looks like, how do we know if we are inadvertently playing a part in promoting it?

3. Empowerment

We can't claim to be about women's empowerment without also acknowledging that not all women experience bias and barriers the same way in our society.

To empower women means all women, especially those at the margins of privilege in our society.

It is really important to understand that women of color face obstacles to their success based on stereotypes associated with both their race and gender. And it gets further complicated for LGBTQIA+ individuals in the workplace. So yeah, if we think we are working twice as hard to have opportunities at work, we ARE sometimes. And we need to know women of color are also working twice as hard as us sometimes too. And honestly lots more than that if they are, for example, also a lesbian woman of color! So what does that mean?

4. Speak Up

When you see inequities playing out toward your women of color colleagues, acknowledge them. When you experience "harmless" jokes or banter targeting specific groups of people, don't let it go unaddressed.

When you notice a person of color not being given the same opportunities or slack their peers receive despite equal or better performance, don't do nothing.

I know it can be scary to willingly place yourself in a potential conflict at work. I get it, it can be risky. I know we can often let fear shut us up when we see things happening that should not be happening. But we cannot let the fear of messing things up keep us from speaking up. Because if we don't speak up... we are part of the problem.

5. Create Change

You cannot assume someone else will do it. You can't assume someone will speak up and take action. Why? It's called the Bystander Effect and sadly, research has shown that the more people that witness something terrible happening, the less likely they are to do something about it.

If we wish to create affirming cultures for racial equity, it requires a keen investigation into what is causing inequity.

It also requires an examination into correlated exclusionary practices such as ableism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, and classism. We do this by being intentional in the casual and formal cultures of our work, in our hiring practices, in the opportunities we give others, who we mentor and who we sponsor.


Wanna get started? Here are a few resources:

So You Want To Talk About Race

Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor