A number of clients have reached out and asked me if I do diversity and inclusion or unconscious bias work. This is not where I focus my current work. However, all my work is about enabling planned, structured change within organizations, teams and their leadership. And change is certainly needed right now..
I hear a lot of people using the terms, “systematic”, “structural” and “institutional” applied to racism. Though all these terms are accurate, I don’t think that most people, outside of academics or organization development folks really understand what they mean for workplaces. I won’t go into a definition of each of these for this post, but I will say that what is important about all of them is that, regardless of “intent”, they mean that systematic or institutional racism is:
Like many people I am updating my learning and reading the books that I should have read when they came out. I am in the middle of Dr. Ibram X. Kendi’s book, How to Be an Antiracist and, The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander, is up next. Still, this work is not new to me. In the past, I have created and co-facilitated several diversity and inclusion programs for my employers. I have been privileged to work with experts in the field who have dedicated their lives to creating more equitable workplaces. I have helped clients structure more equitable benefits, performance management and development systems. And still, it feels like a drop of water in an ocean of need.
Welcome to the work of transforming deeply embedded organizational systems. These are highly complex, adaptive challenges and we are still treating them like technical, closed system, challenges (see the work of Drs. Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky).
So, where to start?
Aside from the fact that Dr. Lisa Cook is an economic rock star, the findings of her research are so important. And it is just one more example of how economic opportunities have been denied to American citizens of color. An outcome of which has surely been the profound loss for the person seeking the patent but also of innovation and wealth for our nation. When any citizen is denied the opportunity to build something great, creative or innovative in our country, we all lose.
I do not think we know how badly our institutionalized racists policies have repeatedly shot us in our own foot!
Dr. Kendi writes that he used to think that racism was about fear and ignorance but now he realizes, "The history of racist ideas is the history of powerful policymakers erecting racist policies out of self-interest." If we want to fix this, we have to change the infrastructure of racism - our policies and practices. Which makes me uncomfortable with bias or D & I training. It just seems so beside the point when what we need to do is dismantle economic structures that have denied opportunity to a large section of our fellow citizens.
So much work to do and so much opportunity to do it right this time.
Moira Clarke founded Leadership Consulting Partners 20 years ago to help companies advance their leadership and people systems. If you are reading this to the end, and you find value, please say so and share with others on LinkedIn and Twitter. Thank you!
Welcome to Moira's blog. I write a (mostly) monthly post about the work of building better work places: people strategies, systems, teams and leaders.