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Fostering a more diverse and inclusive workplace

To be anti-racist, we need to consistently take actions every day and not just hold the right beliefs, but also put them into practice.

A group of employees are applauding something we cannot see. We see 4 people clapping and smiling.A group of employees are applauding something we cannot see. We see 4 people clapping and smiling.

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Insights from Ellen Raim, Founder of People MatterWe focus more on solving than preventing People problems.

To be anti-racist, we need to consistently take actions every day and not just hold the right beliefs, but also put them into practice.

Here are some actionable ideas to help create a diverse and inclusive workplace:

1. Proactively educate yourself.

People who identify as belonging to minority groups have grown tired of the expectations that they need to be the ones educating the majority. Instead, they suggest that everyone should make the effort to learn proactively.

2. Stop being passively complicit.

We’ve all been part of a family and friends conversation where non-malicious racial comments pop up. It is critical to realize that by not making our disapproval known we are being passively complicit. 

There are plenty of ways to make your opinion known in respectful and non-confrontational ways. After all, lashing out at your closest circle is rarely a good idea. A more effective way is to pull the person aside and let them know how they made you feel and more importantly how they might be contributing to a negative societal bias by propagating some seemingly innocuous comments.

3. Give yourself and your colleagues a safe space. 

Code switching at work is happening all the time. It’s OK if that separates the professional from the party-goer persona. When people have to suppress ethnic characteristics or cultural beliefs, however, the office becomes an unhealthy place for them. Being respectfully curious about your colleagues' culture and background will make it easier for them to be themselves and create a better work environment.

4. Hold a job candidate's soft skills to a higher degree of inspection. 

Especially during interviews, it’s important to get a fresh assessment of the candidate's soft skills without any assumptions. We often think that a person is hard working or collaborative because they studied at our alma mater or worked for our previous employer. While some shared cultural traits will most likely exist, we should not hire a person simply because we have a former institution as a common element in our backgrounds. Instead, we need to reexamine our assumptions and give the new evidence more weight.

5. Be intentional about the businesses you support and where you spend. 

If people only stay within their socioeconomic groups we cannot expect anything to change. Rich people will spend with the businesses of other rich people, poorly educated people will be exposed to other poorly educated people and society at the macro level will not improve. If we can make the society we live in better by helping someone else, everyone benefits from the positive externalities. For example, buying takeout from a small family-owned restaurant might tip the scale for the owners to send their children to college. Those kids will then earn higher wages, pay more taxes, and have a direct positive impact on society.

6. Stop the microaggressions. 

Saying someone's name with a Hispanic accent is an example of microaggression. People are so used to such behavior they do not register it as potentially offensive or uncomfortable. Be cognizant of your own intentional or unintentional micro-aggressions and even explain (respectfully) to others when we see them at work.

7. Be a leader. 

Within your own workplace, find a way to have these important conversations and contribute to a better society while inspiring your workforce!

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