It’s hard enough to talk about the prickly and sensitive topic of racism in our everyday lives, let alone at the office.
These past few months have further exposed us to the systemic racism in our societies, and its disheartening consequences.
As we’re all still navigating the process of unlearning, learning, and relearning, we had the privilege to be joined by three guests Jahmaal Marshall, Global Lead at International Justice Mission,Shawna Stewart, Head of People & Operations at PostBeyond Inc., and Vanessa Shaw, Founder of Human side of Tech, in our second Conversations at Work session.
Together, we held space to freely talk about the fear of making mistakes, what it means to be a true ally, and why it’s not enough to be a “non-racist”.
Our guests shared their personal experiences facing race-based microaggressions growing up and in the workplace setting. In our discussion, they guided us through how to look out for these behaviours in the workplace. We then explored what it means to step out of our bubble to understand the experiences of others and how our actions impact those specific people.
Individual responsibility starts with self-awareness
Change starts with the internal work that we’re each responsible for.
Consider this prompt: If I look inward, how are my actions making others feel safe or unsafe when I’m around them?
Everyone has different preferences. Check-in with your peers, specifically Black, Indigenous, People of Colour (BIPOC) but don’t make assumptions about the help someone needs, as intervention can quickly turn into oppressive behaviour.
Be emotionally prepared to face your own fear and stigmas. Remember, it’s okay to make mistakes in the pursuit of improvement.
Leaders need to hold space for conversation
On a leadership level however, the focus is really creating a space where all sorts of people can thrive. The onus is on the leader to dismantle their own racial stereotypes, and create a workplace environment that’s welcoming and non-discriminatory.
But leaders should guard against filling a quota in the name of diversity and inclusion.
Key for leaders is to avoid lip service and creating toxic environments—instead, focus on reaching out authentically and making sure teammates know that you’re available, and that you’re working to be better informed, too.
An open conversation makes people feel seen and acknowledged, and maintains a sustainable dialogue so people can voice out their concerns.
A lifelong learning process
Not everyone understands the lived experience of a specific group of people. But we can educate ourselves via tons of resources at our own fingertips.
It’s not up to BIPOC to teach us how to change and expand our understanding. We need to be accountable for the ongoing work ahead of us, and be prepared to do the heavy lifting of educating ourselves.
It’s one thing to talk, but we must get to action
Many of us still don't know how to broach the subject or stand up against racial injustice. If you’re looking for a meaningful discussion on how to approach this topic with action steps to follow, tune into the recording below!
To our BIPOC teammates, partners, clients, friends, and the wider BIPOC community, we support and stand by you.
More about Conversations at Work
Whether you’re fully dispersed, remote-first, in the office or somewhere in between, conversation is what ties everyone together in your business. This bi-weekly virtual series opens space for dialog that leads to action in the pursuit of better workplaces. We’ll explore how conversation shapes culture, creates connection, and helps leaders lead. We all have a voice—let’s come together and then get to work.
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