Key takeaways from the 2020 LesbiansWhoTech Pride Summit
Dear Companies: Your BLM Posts Are Cute But We Want To See Policy Change
Dr. Janice Gassam, Author / Forbes Contributor, BWG Business Solutions
Dr. Janice Gassam’s session delved into the dangers of performative allyship and the importance of meaningful policy change among B2B businesses. She defines performative allyship as non-marginalized groups professing support to a marginalized group in a way that actively harms the group or is not helpful. It usually involves the ally getting a pat on the back or reward for this poor allyship. Here are Janice Gassam’s tips for enacting real change within your B2B business:
1) Have active conversations about race on an ongoing basis
For many B2B businesses, actively engaging in conversations regarding race and how it intersects with your business practices is new territory. However, Janice Gassam warns that shying away from these conversations perpetuates racial inequalities. Here, Gassam notes the importance of using the term “Black”. Using the terms “People of colour”, “BIPOC” and “African American” in replacement of “Black” is not all-encompassing of all Black people who were not born and raised in the same context. She stresses the importance of not lumping these groups all together with careful, intentional language.
2) Address systemic issues within your B2B business
– Create sponsorship and mentorship program to improve rate of promotion:
Gassam urges businesses to look at the rate of promotion within your business. If Black people are not being promoted at the same rate as their colleagues or there is a departure or low percentage of Black employees, this signals poor inclusion. To rectify this, Gassam stresses the importance of establishing sponsorship and mentorship programs to create opportunities for Black employees to connect with senior leadership and grow (more on this below).
– Conduct objective employee performance evaluations
Employee performance evaluations must be done through an objective system such as a rubric. Gassam states that otherwise, conversations about culture fit fall into subjective “not a good fit anymore” conversations rather than objective evaluations with evidential reasons. Anonymous surveys or helplines to report discrimination are also a great feature to implement to support Black and marginalized employees.
– Remove unconscious bias from resume review
Gassam also emphasizes that especially in tech, if a blind resume system does not exist then it can cause unconscious biases that cause harm to Black employees and other marginalized groups. A blind resume system must be present for meaningful inclusion and equity to exist within your business.
– End referral hiring practices
While seen as an easier way to hire a good worker, Gassam states that referral hiring practices can perpetuate inequalities by creating an echo chamber of the same types of employees within an organization (i.e. from the same university, social standing, background, etc), which perpetuates racial inequalities. Instead, Gassam recommends businesses implement a diverse referral hiring program that sources people from a diverse pipeline, such as looking at historically Black universities and colleges, in order to shift the starting point of hiring practices.
3) Examine opportunities for growth for Black employees
Without access to senior leadership, Gassam states that companies will encounter trouble retaining Black talent, regardless of their ability to attract them. If the only employees of color are those in lower positions and growth opportunities are not present, this negatively impacts retention of Black employees. Gassam recommends implementing internship, mentorship, and growth opportunities with specific program parameters that dictate what they look like and entail. She refers to Harvard Business Review, which has stated that for black employees and Black female employees, mentorship and sponsorship programs are instrumental tools for advancement and growth. Read more about this in Harvard Business Review articles such as Why diversity programs fail and How organizations are failing black workers — and how to do better.
Gassam concluded with an important takeaway. Internal policy improvements and personal responsibility and motivation across the leadership team is important for true equity, otherwise your B2B business will come across as not open to feedback. The resulting negative reactions, retaliations, and reprimands (which she emphasizes is illegal) will perpetuate racial inequalities because it exhibits an unwillingness to engage constructively in conversations about race and the dynamics between Black and white people. This, she states, is exactly why we are in the situation we are in.
To learn more about how your B2B business can make active change, get in touch with Janice Gassam on Instagram and Linkedin, and purchase her book Dirty Diversity, which focuses on what businesses can do to make people feel more included.
This blog post is part of Brainrider’s Key takeaways from the 2020 LesbiansWhoTech Pride Summit series. Read the rest of the series here:
- How to integrate meaningful diversity and inclusion policy change in your B2B business
- How to prevent inflicting or experiencing racial battle fatigue in the workplace
- How to balance social impact with B2B business goals
- How to build and support diverse teams in the age of COVID-19
If you would like to support the work of LesbiansWhoTech, please donate here.
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All images courtesy of LesbiansWhoTech Pride Summit.