Recently, we had the chance to talk to Charlene Brown, a lawyer, empowerment coach, business strategist, and diversity and inclusion expert and Co-Founder of Howlett Brown, about cultural equality in the workplace. In fact, she led us through a beautiful and informative training on racism. And let’s just say it was INCREDIBLE!
Along with our community, the entire BossBabe team learned SO much about how to be better allies, how to deal with the current climate of racism, how to look internally & externally surrounding racism, and overall, what we can do (both big and small) to handle biases inside and outside of the workplace.
As your business starts to grow and you continue to build your audience and customer base, we think it’s important to be able to have conversations about racism, understand why people have the views that they do, and how you can work together to create a culture of inclusion, diversity, and respect for everyone.
Howlett Brown’s anti-racism training covers 3 core elements: context, helping people become more aware of what it means to be anti-racist, and the power of social conditioning. It’s not meant to make anyone feel uncomfortable, but rather to invite self-reflection, evolve one’s awareness, and help people better spot subtle acts of racism, bias, and discrimination – including microaggressions.
Because we found the training to be so informative and helpful, and we don’t feel like it’s discussed enough, we wanted to share our biggest takeaways from the training with our community.
Even though the statement, “I don’t see color,” is well-intended, people do see color. By saying they don’t, they’re becoming a part of the problem because they’re not recognizing certain inequalities, prejudices, and biases happening in society today. This is a perfect opportunity to get curious and ask yourself how this shows up for you in your daily life.
Microaggressions can seem like compliments or jokes, but often have hidden insults based on someone’s identity. You can think of this as false assumptions based on color. For example, if someone were to tell a POC, “Your English is great!” that’s a microaggression. We must be aware and question what we say and hear in our workspaces and personal lives to become better allies. In situations where microaggression takes place, an ally’s responsibility is to be able to identify how to be anti-racist and take action. First, seek to understand the meaning of racism and what it can look like, then recognize different perspectives to avoid inappropriately identifying someone’s differences, or step in when you witness it.
Bias is a form of racism. Bias is rooted in prejudice against one group or in favor of another in a way that disadvantages a particular group. Systematic and institutional racism comes from bias, as certain practices and processes that have been built into our everyday lives often come from racist ideologies. For example, think of the court systems, laws, education, and even at your own company’s hiring practices. It’s important that as an ally, you’re ensuring that hiring practices and processes aren’t influenced by your bias. Have a look at your processes around bringing in new employees and ask yourself, “How can I improve this process so it’s even more inclusive and fair?” or “What can I do to ensure this process is inclusive for everyone?” Also, have a look at your company culture and think of ways you can move the needle towards being even more communicative, inclusive, and aware. Perhaps you schedule a monthly check-in call, a team feedback process, or more company gatherings (in person or virtually) to connect on a deeper level, have more meaningful discussions, or be led in a certain process to increase team communication, connection, and collaboration. There are lots of ways to approach this, so find something that works well for you!
It’s important to question your environment. We’re all influenced by the media, whether it’s online, press, through TV and film, our phones, or people in our lives. Unfortunately, black people are underrepresented or disproportionately represented in the media – and it’s in ways that are either harmful, limited, or exaggerated. Black, Indigenous, and POC are more likely to be in a support role and often portray the same type of character. Let this be a great reminder to question and be more aware of what you see and hear in the media, as this is a place that has a long way to evolve moving forward.
Be sensitive. You might find yourself in challenging environments or situations with customers that don’t reflect your values, so businesses have to know how to have sensitive and accurate discussions (especially without being perceived as insincere by customers, clients, and staff). This is exactly why we wanted to have this training and to open the discussion as a company.
Participate! To combat racism, participate in discussions and learning opportunities outside of your business and workplace, be self-aware and critical, reflect on your own bias (whether it’s conscious or unconscious), use your trusted network as a sounding board (“Did I handle that situation well?” “Is that fair?” “How can we improve our company culture?” “What do you think?” “How did this land for you?”)
It’s important to know how to communicate. Being a better ally is about knowing how to respond to microaggressions, whether it’s in your workplace, with your customers, or at home. And even when it might feel totally uncomfortable! There are lots of resources that you can dive into to continue your education on these topics. It’s about growing, evolving, and doing our best… not being perfect or silent. So give yourself the gift of learning and continue to educate yourself on how to become an amazing ally now and in the future.
To learn more about how you and your business can be better allies, keep up with Charlene on her website, Twitter, and LinkedIn! We also highly suggest taking a look into Howlett Brown, a people intelligence company that specializes in internal investigations, culture, people solutions and diversity and inclusion training.