Black History Month—Time to Review DEI Plans

February is Black History Month in Canada and the U.S.! It’s a time to honor the legacy and contributions people of African descent have made to the history, society and culture of both nations. One of the most impactful ways your organization can celebrate Black History Month is by reassessing your diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) progress and goals for the future.

Becoming a DEI-focused organization is a journey that takes an ongoing commitment to learning and transformation. DEI plans and goals typically feature many short- and long-term objectives. I’ve outlined a few best practices below, provided by several experts featured in International Foundation DEI resources. 

In the 2020 Plans & Trusts article, “Taking the Diversity and Inclusion Journey: A Path Forward for Companies,” DEI consultant Susan Hunter shared extensive insights for developing and implementing a DEI plan. Here are some ideas.

  • Establish a listening strategy. Examples of this include employee resource groups (ERGs), connecting with community groups and employee surveys.
  • Assess corporate culture with a close examination of workplace norms, values and practices.
  • Be aware that a noninclusive company culture puts an emotional tax on racialized people who feel different from their peers, which leads to higher attrition rates.
  • Be prepared to discuss and question power dynamics and influencers in the organization, with the awareness that difficult conversations are necessary for change and transformation.
  • Establish a DEI council.
  • Create opportunities for communication, engagement and mentoring for employees of different backgrounds and leadership levels.

The International Foundation webcast “Stronger Organizations:  Your Role in Diversity and Inclusion” featured three DEI professionals: author and speaker Risha Grant; Nehrwr Abdul-Wahid of Intercultural Development Group, LLC; and Dr. Leeno Karumanchery of MESH/diversity. They shared several key considerations for organizations to remember throughout their DEI journey.

  • “2-D Diversity”—Thriving organizations have inherent diversity (sex, race, age, etc.) and acquired diversity (cultural fluency, generational savvy, language skills, etc.).
  • Work to develop opportunities for employees to improve their ability to work with others with cross-cultural differences. Encourage questions and curiosity within the framework of validating, appreciating and respectfully investigating cultures and experiences different from their own.
  • Mandated bias training will not solve this complex, ingrained systemic challenge.
  • DEI work needs to be outcome-based and focused on providing employees the opportunity to develop intercultural competence.
  • Be intentional in efforts to be inclusive, accepting that there will be bumps in the road and remembering that being consciously intentional is a process that requires continuous practice.
  • Recognize that communication can be received differently than intended.
  • Work to make sure messages are clear, simple and relatable, taking other life experiences into consideration.

More insights can be found in this blog.

Celebrate Black History Month by emphasizing the importance of DEI efforts within your organization and the countless benefits they bring to businesses.

For more resources to inform your organization’s ongoing DEI journey, visit the International Foundation Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Education page.

Cara McMullin
Communications Specialist

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