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Tawana Bain, publisher of Today’s Woman magazine
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THE CIVIL UNREST OVER THE PAST YEAR AND A HALF HAS REVEALED THE IMMENSE INEQUITIES IN OUR STATE AND THE COUNTRY. It isn’t a new revelation. Racism, sexism, ageism and others forms of discrimination have been deeply rooted in our culture for centuries, but this is the first time I have seen significant efforts to address the problem. When I’m watching a television show, I’m deeply moved and intrigued to see all the commercials that show interracial couples, gay couples and women of different races, shapes and sizes. I think we are on the right track to creating a more equitable world. The value of diversity is being pushed forward, and this is the opportunity to get it right. But true diversity isn’t about what we say: it is about what we do, our motives to do it and how we execute it.
Are you choosing to create a more inclusive community or workforce because you want to achieve equity for the marginalized, or is it solely for your brand reputation and bottom line? Equity is not a hot trend to generate new revenue streams for those who have already benefited substantially. It should never be performative. Otherwise you run the risk of creating more trauma for the very community you believe you are assisting.
In the workplace, diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives (DEI) have been implemented into many companies, but as a Black female entrepreneur, I believe companies must re-examine what it means to have a DEI program. It is not enough for corporate America to window-dress. It is not enough to think DEI is the equivalent of hiring a DEI officer. DEI indicates that you believe diverse people have the ability to be placed in some of the highest positions within the company. DEI in the workplace is about holding everyone to the same standard. Just because a white male makes a mistake on a job, doesn’t mean it will be another 10 years before another white male is hired for another position. The same views should apply to other racial minorities or women. Establishing a DEI program is great, but providing the program with adequate staffing and budgets is better. Decision-makers must be willing to also hire Black and Brown professionals for senior and C-level roles to achieve true equity. This allows them to contribute to the organization’s strategy, finances, technology and human resource efforts. It also transforms corporate America into an entity that mirrors the population.
I challenge all employers with no racial diversity on their staff — especially in leadership — to start there before trying to solve equity issues. For individuals who are unsure where to start, begin with changing who has a seat at the three tables you occupy: social, personal and professional. I am convinced we will not get this right until we are regularly working and socializing with those who bring different perspectives and experiences to the table.
If you’re a parent, take the time to expose your children to different cultures and environments. Raise them up to see people as individuals and encourage them not to make sweeping generalizations about others based on stereotypes. Consider expanding your social circle. When we venture outside of familiarity, we open ourselves and our families up to new experiences — and opportunities to learn something different about someone else.
For the LGBTQ+ community and other marginalized groups, this is a time to come together as allies to make diversity a priority and create a safe, comfortable community for everyone. If someone says “that was racist,” are they actually calling you a racist or are they saying the act was racist? There is a difference, and immediately becoming angry or closed off doesn’t allow the moment to be a learning opportunity. When a woman says to a man, “that was a chauvinistic thing to do,” does that mean you are a chauvinist or is she saying you may have come off as such? If someone says, “that was homophobic,” are you immediately insulted and try to explain yourself by saying, “Excuse me, I adore gay people. Or, I have a gay person as a close friend or family member. I can’t be homophobic!?”
It’s important to check ourselves and reflect. It is possible to love gay people and make a homophobic statement. It is no different than having Black friends and saying something racist or believing in women empowerment and making a chauvinistic comment. Honesty, self-reflection and ensuring your motives are not for selfish gain are key to making progress with equity and inclusion. It must be authentic, and we can make it happen.
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