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As we continue to breeze through 2021, one of the objectives of many businesses is to improve on their diversity and inclusion and making the workplace a more welcoming environment to all employees. February is a perfect month to revisit and improve on these measures as it plays a huge significance on the issues still faced today.
February is Black History Month, an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing their central role in U.S. history.
Over 50 years after the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s, there is a lot that still needs to be done to improve diversity and inclusion in the workplace. People of color, the Latinx community, and women are still trying to get representation in higher ranking positions and make significantly less than their white male counterparts. According to Pew Research Center, in 2015, blacks made 75% of what white men, Hispanics made 69%, and women made 83%.
Putting representation and the wage gap aside, the one thing that is important at this moment in time is tolerance and acceptance of people of different races, cultures, and genders in the workplace. In the celebration of this year’s Black History Month, here’s a look into why we must continue to make diversity and inclusion a priority in our offices.
Black History Month
The first observance of Black History Month dates back to Chicago in 1915 when Carter G. Woodson and a group of his friends traveled from Washington D.C. Illinois, the birthplace of President Abraham Lincoln, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the end of slavery in the United States.
Woodson was a graduate of the University of Chicago and proud member of Omega Psi Phi. He encouraged his fellow brothers as well as Black civic organizations to get involved, and by 1924, they created Negro History and Literature Week, which was later renamed Negro Achievement Week. There were exhibits all across the country highlighting the progress American Americans had made since slavery was abolished.
The group chose the month of February specifically for tradition and reform. According to Woodson, February is the birth month of two iconic Americans who played a major role in African American achievement, Abraham Lincoln and Fredrick Douglass, whose birthdays take place within days of each other on the 12th and the 14th respectively.
For over a century, America has designated February as a month to celebrate and reflect on how much progress we have made both as a country, and a society. February is just the beginning of some of the significant months for Diversity and Inclusion awareness throughout the year. Others include:
March – Women’s History Month
April – Autism Awareness Month
May – Asian Pacific American Heritage Month,
June – LGBTQ+ Pride Month
September – Hispanic Heritage Month
In February, take a moment and look back on the struggles members of the Black community have overcome and acknowledge that there is still a lot of work that needs to be done. One of the best places to start, is the workplace.
To read more about the history of Black History Month, click here.
How businesses can improve diversity and inclusion in the workplace
The workplace should be a welcoming environment for any individual despite their race, religion, gender, age, or sexual orientation.
A great place to start reforming is by hiring individuals who know and understand what diversity and inclusion really means. By having those from different walks of life in the room to specifically analyze how a company operates in terms of diversity and inclusion, employers get different perspectives on the issue and can precisely pinpoint the areas that need improvement.
When wanting to implement changes, it is important to keep an open mind and listen to the stories of others. Taking a look at this issue of another person’s perspective enables you to sympathize, understand, and connect with others with different backgrounds.
Another way to improve on diversity and inclusion is to hold discussions opened to all employees to attend. While there should be discussion on these issues, it should not be forced upon employees to attend. There’s a better sense of morale by employees saying, “I chose to partake in discussion involving diversity and inclusion,” rather than “my boss made me attend a discussion on diversity and inclusion.” While everyone hopes their employees choose to attend these kinds of discussions, forcing them to doesn’t send the right welcoming message that should come out of having them.
Lastly, talk to employees about their cultural and religious holiday observances and be accommodating if they need to take off for the day. There are many holidays celebrated and observed in different cultures and religions like the Jewish High Holy Days in the fall and the Muslim festival of Eid in the spring that are not recognized as widely in the business world as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other U.S. and international holidays. It is important to normalize allowing employees to take off for these observances to ensure that they feel welcomed and respected in the workplace.
One thing to remember when taking a look at D&I strategies is that we as a society are continuously learning more about tolerance and acceptance for these changes to be perfect when first implemented. The first step toward making change is realizing that diversity and inclusion is a continuous process, not an immediate occurrence.
Ways you can help promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace
Educate yourself and others
As Plato once said, “ignorance is the root and stem of all evil.” In modern times, this phrase still remains true and just as important. It is crucial that we begin with informing ourselves about the problems revolving around diversity. It starts with defining the different types of racism that can impact someone.
One of the main types of racism someone can encounter in the workplace is systemic or institutional racism, which is discrimination toward an individual within normal practice and can lead to further discrimination in areas such as employment, education, politics, criminal justice health care, and other matters in society.
With the issue of systemic racism plaguing the workplace, it is our job to use our resources to ensure that we are up to date and educated about discrimination. Read up on the news from reliable sources on the events going on involving racism, such as protests and marches going on around the world. Spend some free time watching movies, documentaries and series that explore the issues of racism. Streaming services have provided resources for viewers to catch up and learn more about these matters.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions
There is a lot that is changing in terms of racism and discrimination that it can be hard to keep up with at times. If you’re having trouble keeping up with the news and the issues regarding racism, don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t understand something.
Asking questions shows that you care about the issue and want to learn more about it. It is very important that we keep discussing racism in the workplace and continue to find ways to fight it.
How diversity and inclusion benefit the workplace
Implementing diversity and inclusion measures in the workplace not only benefits individual employees by making them feel more welcomed in the office, it also can benefit the company as a whole.
According to Indeed, expanding diversity and inclusion in a company brings more creativity and problem solving skills. When talking with a team of individuals from different backgrounds and cultures, it allows room for more perspectives on ideas, policies, and projects. Not everyone has the same opinion as each other, especially those who come from different cultures from yourself. Working with different people keeps the creativity and ideas flowing and can help reach new clients and audiences that no one would expect.
Lastly, diversity will boost your company’s reputation and overall brand image. In today’s workplace, clients are more likely to choose to partner with companies that value diversity and inclusion and those who make it a priority because it feels more open and welcoming.
ICONMA is committed to driving diversity and inclusion by celebrating each individual’s rich dimensions and authenticity within our organization. We support and encourage a diverse workplace for all employees to feel comfortable and safe. As an equal opportunity employer, we pride ourselves in creating an employment environment and workforce that supports and encourages all persons’ abilities regardless of race, color, gender, age, sexual orientation, citizenship, or disability. As an organization, we need to do our part and continue to strive to ensure that our work environments meet our employees’ needs.
February 5, 2021