Moving the needle forward on a difficult issue to tackle.
I have firsthand experience with the racism that exists in our country as I have dealt with it throughout my life. I have also engaged in many conversations that may have started as uncomfortable, but over the course of the dialogue, changed attitudes and promoted understanding between individuals and groups.
Here are some telling statistics from Kennedy Ihezie, previously the Vice President at New York-based global think tank Coqual (formerly Center for Talent Innovation)—83% of Black and African Americans do not regularly associate with different ethnic groups outside of work. For Hispanics, the figure is 64%. For Caucasians, it is 91%.
Imagine how people’s opinions of one another would be different if we truly knew each other better. When you don’t take time to get to know people outside of your culture, it can be nearly impossible for some to develop insight and compassion for them. Additionally, without that level of empathy, it’s difficult to understand the realities that other people live with every day.
About 15 years ago, a work colleague from Afghanistan, whom I had just recently met, invited my wife and I to dinner. What I previously knew about that country was what most of us gathered from seeing images of war in the media. I did not know much about the people or their culture. In the hours-long conversation with my colleague and his wife, I became enlightened in ways I could have never imagined.
For the first time, I gained insight on the challenges, the history and the nuances of the country and its citizens—and I gained a real appreciation for the people that we had dinner with. That evening was extremely impactful in that it helped me comprehend what was occurring in Afghanistan from a perspective I might have never received without spending time at their home for dinner.
David Miree is the Northeast and Texas Branch Banking Lead Region President for Wells Fargo.»
Similarly, in the workplace, we need corporate leaders who embrace and understand the impact of courageous conversations on race and the positive outcomes of building diverse relationships inside and outside of work.
As a leader, when you take the initiative to understand someone who does not look like you, worship like you or dress like you, or whatever the difference might be, you open yourself up to an entirely new level of growth and understanding. And when you establish those kinds of relationships, inside and outside the workplace, your personal growth will inherently help to advance the diversity and inclusion goals of your company. People in power have a responsibility to make this happen.
Corporate leaders have a unique opportunity to model what inclusiveness should truly look like. By being intentional about growing relationships with diverse individuals in both their personal and professional lives, they will not only expand their own understanding of diversity, but they will also inspire other leaders to broaden their own relationships. An output of this will be an increase in the hiring of diverse candidates, creating a more diversified workforce.
While racism is a deeply complex and difficult issue to tackle, I personally do not want to continue having the same conversations about race relations three years from now because that would mean we have not made enough progress. Our goal should be to move the needle forward. Leaders across all companies should hold themselves and their teams accountable for creating a more inclusive and diverse organization.
And what does accountability look like? Employees should have meaningful “get-to-know-you” conversations with people of different backgrounds and perspectives. That way we can all better relate to one another, personally and professionally. Companies need to have tangible metrics and accountability around those metrics in their hiring and promoting practices. If six months or one year passes by and our companies do not witness meaningful progress toward hiring and creating a more diverse workforce, then you would know that this call to action was not taken seriously.
We have to hold each other accountable, otherwise this moment and movement will be lost. We cannot let this opportunity pass us by. Nor can we dwell on why things are the way they are. We must start making progress today and that momentum cannot dissipate in the coming months and years.
Diversity and inclusion must be at the core of a company’s mission. It has to be foundational to the corporate philosophy. Getting to know people who are from different ethnic and racial backgrounds creates an appreciation for their differences and their similarities. This, in turn, can be an important component toward building and creating more successful, diverse and inclusive companies.