What comes next: Supporting the Black community in our workplaces


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What comes next

Over the last few weeks, we here at NEW have been transfixed by the events which have drawn the eye of the entire nation. As an organization devoted to advancing all women and supporting diversity and inclusion, we cannot help but want to support the Black community during this impossibly difficult time. 

But we, like many, have hope for the future. We are committed to supporting women of color as part of our mission – and we want to do more. 

What we’ve done 

In 2018, we released the ‘Advancing All Women’ study, which analyzed the workplace experiences of women of color. We found systemic differences in the ways women of color were treated in the workplace – for example, that women of color at the managerial level were hired at higher rates than white women, but were promoted less often, and were, unsurprisingly, much more likely to leave their organizations. The women we surveyed told us that a feeling of belonging and satisfaction with their ability to achieve their long-term career goals were the two key factors that made them want to stay or go. 

That sense of belonging – of not being othered by your organization, or your community, or your nation – is now playing out in the streets all over this country. These issues are deeply embedded in our culture, and it should be no surprise that they play out in boardrooms and offices every day.  

What's next? 

After issuing ‘Advancing All Women,’ NEW committed to further research studies focusing on specific communities of color. We recently released ‘Latinas in Corporate America,’ and future research study subjects will include the experiences of Black women in the American workplace. These deep-dive studies offer opportunities to discuss the unique challenges and bias that women in different communities of color face, exposing where problems lie and offering ways to solve for them. 

We also have a plethora of webinars in our library, as well as coming up soon, that touch upon preventing discrimination and bias, as well as corporate workshops specifically focused on supporting women of color. 

This is not enough, and we recognize this. NEW will also be forming a Women of Color Advisory Board to ensure their voices are heard in the choices we make as an organization. Led by our Learning and Development Consultant Karen Jones, we will ensure that women of color are a guiding force for NEW going forward. 

What you can do 

Each and every one of us is responsible for our behavior, and as allies to the Black community and advocates for workplace equality, we can best serve our employees and co-workers by teaching ourselves how to support them better. We also support our fellow allies, many of whom are asking what they can do to help. Rather than expecting the people of color in your life to educate you in this difficult moment, seek out the resources now being shared so widely online. 

Read relevant articles written by Black women and men on how you and your business can support Black employees in this powerful, heart-wrenching moment in our history. Commit funds and resources to organizations doing the hard work of fighting racism every day, such as the NAACP (for a list of where many large companies have donated money, read here). Engage with books and documentaries created by Black Americans which dissect the nefariousness of systemic racism – but keep in mind that, as NPR has stated, this is “a start, not a panacea.” 

Most importantly, review where your organization stands right now. Do your policies support people of color? Are Black employees getting the mentorship and sponsorship support they deserve? This year the Fortune 500 included more female CEOs than ever, but just 3 were women of color. Of the entire list, just 17 CEOs were Black – and all of them were men. Does your board represent the diverse America we live in? Change starts with you, and recognizing systemic issues that may exist within your organization. 

Self-examination and soul-searching will help, but only action will begin to change workplaces – and our country – for the better. 

Blog Author Bio

Sarah Alter is President and CEO of Network of Executive Women, whose nearly 13,000 members represent 925 companies in 22 regions in North America.

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