Quantcast

Black In A Corporate Workplace? Here's How To Drive Racial Change At Work

Four ways we create the workplace transformation we desire to see.

Workin' Girl

More than a month has passed since George Floyd's death, and perhaps it's just me, but it seems like the energy behind supporting Black businesses and standing with Black people has waned a little. The company statements have been made and filed, the black squares have disappeared from Instagram, and the protests and those who support them seem to be out of the news cycle.

Particularly for those of us who continue to work in Corporate America, the environment can be especially difficult because after a few weeks of advocacy for change, it appears that everyone in the office has moved past "Black Lives Matter" and addressing inequality and discrimination in the workplace in favor of returning to "normal". Unfortunately, there is no returning to normal for us. So, what can we do to help keep the conversation going in a positive way to create the workplace transformation we desire to see?

Here are some ideas to help your organization keep that same energy:

Create conversations where they may not yet exist.

Shutterstock.

If you have staff or all-hands meetings, consider introducing diversity and inclusion topics into the agenda to facilitate open discussions. Many of our non-Black counterparts may be unaware of the privilege they possess in the workplace and the injustices that Black people face at work. They may not fully understand that racism is displayed not only overt action, but by covert behaviors and the microaggressions we experience. Pro Tip: Consider using interactive exercises to make concepts more concrete and relevant.

Leverage leadership connections.

Do you have a mentor, sponsor, or advocate who is also passionate about changing the racial landscape in your organization? How can you leverage their platform and/or influence to help engage other members of the leadership team? Share your perspective with your connections and get their feedback on methods to create impact and revise long-standing policies. When leaders show that this issue is not only important to them, but that they are willing to take the necessary steps to change, the employees throughout the company are much more likely to take it seriously.

Utilize employee resource groups (ERGs).

Shutterstock.

Typically these internal collectives are focused on diverse segments of the employee population that face discrimination, prejudice, or exclusion in some way, i.e. women, underrepresented minorities, and the LGBTQ community. Engaging these groups can be another avenue to penetrate the organization and bring additional attention to the issues facing Black employees. ERGs usually have executive or leadership sponsors/contacts who may be able to use their voices to keep these issues at the forefront to be addressed.

Advocate for a more diverse workforce.

Hear me out. Part of the reason why the response from many companies on Black Lives Matter was not as impactful or as long-lasting as we would have hoped is because the diversity of the employee population does not support the message. It's hard for people to believe you care about the equality of Black people and that you want to see them succeed when: 1) no one in a mid-level to senior-level management position is Black, 2) no one in the C-Suite is Black, and 3) none of the top-tier management roles have succession plans that include Black people. When you have no one to look up to in your company that looks like you, it truly feels like it's impossible for you to succeed.

Outside of leveraging connections and support groups you already have, this is an opportunity for you to bring this issue head-on to those making the hiring decisions. Whether it's a direct letter to your CEO and executive leadership team, a frank conversation with your human resources department on hiring practices, organizing 1:1 or intimate meetings with the VP or Director of your department and other Black employees, let your voice be heard clearly. A good friend of mine prepared a full PowerPoint presentation for his Vice President to share the rather sobering figures of the lack of Black employees in leadership in his department, which in turn sparked a deeper dive into hiring practices and job placement of Black employees once hired. While these conversations are uncomfortable, these can prove to be the catalyst required for change.

Believe me, I get it. Being Black in corporate workspaces, many times you feel undervalued and unseen, and even more so right now. But while racism is not our problem to fix, we can help drive the solutions. We cannot wait on others to do the work. We must be the change we want to see.

Need more career talk like this in your life? Join the xoTribe members community to connect, vibe and share your wins with the tribe.

Featured image by Shutterstock.

We all know what it is to love, be loved, or be in love – or at least we think we do. But what would you say if I were to tell you that so much of the love that you thought you’d been in was actually a little thing called limerence? No, it doesn’t sound as romantic – and it’s not – unless you’re into the whole Obsessed-type of love. But one might say at least one side of that dynamic might be…thrilling.

Keep reading...Show less
The daily empowerment fix you need.
Make things inbox official.

Idris Elba and Sabrina Dhowre Elba are gearing up for the second season of their podcast Coupledom where they interview partners in business and/or romance. The stunning couple has been married for three years but they have been together for a total of six years. During that time, they have developed many partnerships but quickly learned that working together isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

Keep reading...Show less

Before she was Amira Unplugged, rapper, singer, and a Becoming a Popstar contestant on MTV, she was Amira Daughtery, a twenty-five year-old Georgian, with aspirations of becoming a lawyer. “I thought my career path was going to lead me to law because that’s the way I thought I would help people,” Amira tells xoNecole. “[But] I always came back to music.”

A music lover since childhood, Amira grew up in an artistic household where passion for music was emphasized. “My dad has always been my huge inspiration for music because he’s a musician himself and is so passionate about the history of music.” Amira’s also dealt with deafness in one ear since she was a toddler, a condition which she says only makes her more “intentional” about the music she makes, to ensure that what she hears inside her head can translate the way she wants it to for audiences.

“The loss of hearing means a person can’t experience music in the conventional way,” she says. “I’ve always responded to bigger, bolder anthemic songs because I can feel them [the vibrations] in my body, and I want to be sure my music does this for deaf/HOH people and everyone.”

A Black woman wearing a black hijab and black and gold dress stands in between two men who are both wearing black pants and colorful jackets and necklaces

Amira Unplugged and other contestants on Becoming a Popstar

Amira Unplugged / MTV

In order to lift people’s spirits at the beginning of the pandemic, Amira began posting videos on TikTok of herself singing and using sign language so her music could reach her deaf fans as well. She was surprised by how quickly she was able to amass a large audience. It was through her videos that she caught the attention of a talent scout for MTV’s new music competition show for rising TikTok singers, Becoming a Popstar. After a three-month process, Amira was one of those picked to be a contestant on the show.

Becoming a Popstar, as Amira describes, is different from other music competition shows we’ve all come to know over the years. “Well, first of all, it’s all original music. There’s not a single cover,” she says. “We have to write these songs in like a day or two and then meet with our producers, meet with our directors. Every week, we are producing a full project for people to vote on and decide if they’d listen to it on the radio.”

To make sure her deaf/HOH audiences can feel her songs, she makes sure to “add more bass, guitar, and violin in unique patterns.” She also incorporates “higher pitch sounds with like chimes, bells, and piccolo,” because, she says, they’re easier to feel. “But it’s less about the kind of instrument and more about how I arrange the pattern of the song. Everything I do is to create an atmosphere, a sensation, to make my music a multi-sensory experience.”

She says that working alongside the judges–pop stars Joe Jonas and Becky G, and choreographer Sean Bankhead – has helped expand her artistry. “Joe was really more about the vocal quality and the timber and Becky was really about the passion of [the song] and being convinced this was something you believed in,” she says. “And what was really great about [our choreographer] Sean is that obviously he’s a choreographer to the stars – Lil Nas X, Normani – but he didn’t only focus on choreo, he focused on stage presence, he focused on the overall message of the song. And I think all those critiques week to week helped us hone in on what we wanted to be saying with our next song.”

As her star rises, it’s been both her Muslim faith and her friends, whom she calls “The Glasses Gang” (“because none of us can see!”), that continue to ground her. “The Muslim and the Muslima community have really gone hard [supporting me] and all these people have come together and I truly appreciate them,” Amira says. “I have just been flooded with DMs and emails and texts from [young muslim kids] people who have just been so inspired,” she says. “People who have said they have never seen anything like this, that I embody a lot of the style that they wanted to see and that the message hit them, which is really the most important thing to me.”

A Black woman wears a long, salmon pink hijab, black outfit and pink boots, smiling down at the camera with her arm outstretched to it.

Amira Unplugged

Amira Unplugged / MTV

Throughout the show’s production, she was able to continue to uphold her faith practices with the help of the crew, such as making sure her food was halal, having time to pray, dressing modestly, and working with female choreographers. “If people can accept this, can learn, and can grow, and bring more people into the fold of this industry, then I’m making a real difference,” she says.

Though she didn’t win the competition, this is only the beginning for Amira. Whether it’s on Becoming a Popstar or her videos online, Amira has made it clear she has no plans on going anywhere but up. “I’m so excited that I’ve gotten this opportunity because this is really, truly what I think I’m meant to do.”

Today is Malcolm X’s birthday. As an icon of Black liberation movements, his words are often rallying cries and guideposts in struggle. In 2020, after the officers who executed Breonna Taylor were not charged with her murder, my timeline was flooded with people reposting Malcolm’s famous quote: “The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America is the Black woman.”

Keep reading...Show less

As her fame continues to rise, Tiffany Haddish has remained a positive light for her fans with her infectious smile and relatable story. Since Girls Trip, fans have witnessed the comedian become a modern-day Cinderella due to the many opportunities that have come her way and the recognition she began to receive.

Keep reading...Show less
Exclusive Interviews

Exclusive: Jay Ellis Shares ‘Full-Circle’ Moment With His Parents & His Self-Care Ritual

Staying grounded is one of the actor's biggest priorities.

Latest Posts