Achieving Racial Equity in Your Workplace: A Guide for Leaders addresses white leaders who truly want to create racial equity in their organizations
This book answers three questions: (1) Why we see so few people of color in the upper ranks of organizations, (2) Why this matters, and (3) What it will take to change it.
Achieving Racial Equity describes the dynamics that so often drive the unequal rates of advancement between whites and people of color. It then lays out strategies which have proven successful in redressing the imbalance.
Leaders can use this book to guide them in overseeing a series of organizational changes that will create equity for workers of all races. The strategies described are not theoretical, but are well-tested actions. They have been successfully employed by corporate, non-profit, and government leaders who did, in fact, equalize how workers of all races fared in their career advancement.
Making change within organizations is almost always a top-down affair. In the case of racial equity, once decision-makers establish a vision for equity, they can proceed to:
- Demonstrate new ways to embrace racial differences in day-to-day business interactions;
- Calibrate how well the organization currently matches its racial equity vision; and
- Review and revise management practices to ensure equity across all racial groups.
The last item is especially critical. Leaders must review the practices that govern how employees advance upward in the organization. Any practices that allow managers to act with bias must be identified and revised. New structures must be put in place that will capture any pattern of bias, whether intended or not, that impacts the career of any employee. In order to do this, leaders will also have to institute a comprehensive system of accountability that makes transparent how managers at every level of the organization manage:
- Recruiting, hiring and terminating
- Evaluating job performance
- Mentoring and promoting
- Managing resistance to change
In order to accomplish this organization-wide change, leaders need a coherent way to sequence the changes and implement them at each level of the organization. This book provides a plan for doing just that.
Some might ask why is it worthwhile for leaders to undertake such a task as achieving racial equity. My response is that organizations do not exist alone. They have clients, customers, suppliers or funders as well as regulators. Organizations that operate without racial equity are not invisible. Communities of color know the status quo.
I remember one case where a Fortune 100 lost a large (multi-million dollars) contract because those making the sales presentation were all white and male. The potential customer was located in California and had a very racially diverse team negotiating the contract. The team decided to forgo the contract because they were concerned that a company that was so white would not be able to serve the racially diverse customer base of this organization.
Michael Burkart received a Doctorate in Education for organizational development in 1983. He has been consulting with government agencies, non-profits and Fortune 500 companies on achieving racial equity in the workplace for over thirty-five years, including eighteen years with the premier diversity firm, Elsie Y. Cross Associates in Philadelphia, PA.
I had the opportunity to engage in life-changing work with Michael Burkart while leading a large, complex team at Wachovia Corp in the early 2000’s. As a company, we focused on issues of race, gender, and sexual orientation based on the very same principles he espouses in this book.
The work was hard because it required people with innate privilege, starting with me, to become extremely vulnerable and accept that the playing field isn’t level for every person. I have led the same work at two additional companies (eBay and AvidXchange) and can say without hesitation that while the cultural change work takes time, it leaves a legacy. What better outcome could any transformational leader hope for than that?
Michael Burkart and I are lifelong colleagues and friends…Michael has shown astonishing understanding of power dynamics, white privilege and the dynamics of difference…He is spot on that committed and consistent leadership is required over time to achieve equality and equity in workplaces. I agree with him and appreciate him and his commitment to equality and inclusion more as the days go on. He is courageous and unflinching on this topic, even when the majority group, of which he is a member, resists his message.
Nelson Hewitt, Consultant
former City of Columbus, Ohio Equal Opportunity Officers