Please come in here with some sense this Black History Month.
It should go without saying that February should not be the only month your company chooses to acknowledge the accomplishments and history of Black Americans. Instead of approaching the month with the intent only to increase awareness or provide visibility to Black people, challenge yourself to go a step further and use Black History Month as a time to dream up new ways, you can shift the lived experiences of Black people at your company.
While programming and other special events might be ways to engage employees and build community, you can also take steps to improve the experience Black employees have year-round, including:
Invest in Professional Development Opportunities: If you’re already offering your employees professional development stipends, take this month to put time on the books and discuss the long-term goals of your Black team members and how you can support them in getting there. Do your Black employees receive executive coaching or PD specifically catered to their needs?
There are countless professional organizations for Black professionals from all fields to join. Can you sponsor their membership to groups like NSBE, NABJ, or NABSE and support them in attending their annual conferences? Have you considered The Authentically Me Fellowship for Black women on your team? These investments are mutually beneficial for both your Black employees and your company – they’ll return with new insights and gain valuable connections and experiences that can shape the trajectory of their careers.
Address the Ways White Supremacy Culture is Showing Up: Racism shows up in both overt and covert ways in the workplace. Get curious about the experiences the Black folks at your company are having and respond with direct action. If your company culture is one that is unorganized, constantly changing priorities, and is filled with micromanagers in leadership, know that those elements are creating a uniquely racially aggressive experience for your Black employees. Remove the microscope you have on Black employees year-round and take seriously their concerns about microaggressions. Bring in DEI practitioners and other specialists to support them through any challenges.
Ensure Representation Doesn’t End in February: Representation might be over-emphasized in DEI now (especially when it doesn’t acknowledge the underlying racism that Black folks will still face even with a seat at the table), but it still matters on a macro level. In particular, if your organization’s mission is to advance social justice, you must have Black people embedded in that work.
Evaluate your company’s upcoming projects and events; do you have Black experts across all disciplines involved throughout? If not, use Black History Month as a starting point to actively seek Black consultants, researchers, writers, and more that you can work with year-round.
Black History Month can be both a time to demonstrate reverence and respect for the experience of being Black in America and to plant seeds for a future in the workplace where Black people are valued and given the space to have joy and peace. Schedule a consultation with ShiftEd Consulting today to begin your journey!