Leaders play an immense role in fostering – or damaging – racial inclusion efforts by virtue of their positional power and influence on the organisation’s culture, values and ethics. To ensure that change is long term and sustainable, organisations and leaders need to uncover and address racial equality barriers. Traction requires leadership and sustained action, so you’re one step closer to ensuring a more inclusive workplace if board members, governing bodies and senior leaders express a genuine appetite for change by visibly role-modelling behaviours and attitudes from the top.

Recommendations

  • Appoint a race champion within your leadership team to take responsibility for progress and to focus attention on delivering change.
  • Ensure that diversity and inclusion is a permanent item on the board’s meeting agenda.
  • Regularly review progress on your strategy, evaluate the effectiveness of activity, and make changes where needed.
  • Encourage leaders to educate themselves about race, to talk openly about race, and to encourage discussions internally and externally to support change.
  • Encourage senior leaders and managers to be visible at diversity and inclusion events (such as those organised by the employee resource group) and to listen to external speakers (whether through videos, webinars or podcasts).
  • Communicate the message that to champion race inclusion or to take a stand against racism and discrimination you don’t have to be from an ethnic minority background – but that you do need to listen to the experiences of ethnic minority employees and do not assume you know what is needed to address the problem.
  • It follows that a leader should not feel compelled to lead the change just because they have a particular personal characteristic.
  • Urge leaders and senior managers to develop their knowledge and confidence to talk about diversity and inclusion in their internal and external engagements; for example, in conference addresses, all-staff briefings and interviews.
  • Introduce a diversity-related reverse or mutual mentoring programmes so that leaders have a better understanding of lived experiences in relation to race.
  • Assess whether you have enough race inclusion expertise in the organisation to inform action and challenge thinking at the top. Consider bringing in additional expertise in the interim via consultants.