Making race discussions “a celebration of difference” in the workplace

1000 Black Voices founder Dr. Shaw says organisations have to get comfortable talking about race

By Cheryl Cole, Editor of DiversityQ

[DiversityQ] asked a group of diversity, equality, and inclusion specialists if anything has changed within organisations regarding race equality since 2020’s summer of racial reckoning across the globe. Here Dr Elizabeth Shaw, Founder, 1000 Black Voices, an organisation that furthers Black inclusion, shares her views.

What initiatives have organisations put in place?

For me and my company, 1000 Black Voices, diversity is about recognising difference. It’s also about acknowledging the benefit of having a range of perspectives in decision-making roles and the workforce, stakeholders and customers being a direct representation of the company’s ethos.

But how should businesses create an environment and relevant solutions where equity factors are considered? Businesses and teams must work together in new ways to create inclusive workplaces where employees feel trusted, valued, and psychologically safe. Many companies have pledged to increase the number of diverse voices within their companies, including the c-suite as well as launching other initiatives from posting black squares on their social feeds in solidarity for racial justice to statements of no tolerance for racism, to listening events where key messages are being shared and implementing new internal training programmes. However, the question remains as to whether this activity is making any impact.

To measure this, businesses need to adopt a greater focus on the transparent analysis of all processes and implement tools, including an internal dashboard that captures demographic metrics including ethnicity data, diversity ratio, gender, disability, sexual orientation, pay equity progression and hiring data. Getting a view on these insights can help ensure a level playing field and address any biases and systemic racism on a micro-level.

Is talking about race still taboo?

The conversation around race can be difficult, hurtful, and full of tension for some, but this isn’t a reason to do nothing or to shy away from conversations about race, discrimination and equity.

Companies need to get comfortable normalising conversations about race. It is only when a business seeks to understand current norms and values and how difference is viewed that conversations around race will be viewed as a celebration of difference rather than a negative and awkward conversation. However, this can be a complex and delicate process that needs to be handled in the right way with a detailed strategy and approach. 

In these instances, many businesses are turning to external consultants to ensure this is achieved in the most respectful way possible and partner with accelerators like 1000 Black Voices. 

You can find the full DiversityQ article here