Tackle systemic racism in the workplace with practical strategies
In The Anti-Racist Organization: Dismantling Systemic Racism in the Workplace, HR strategist Shereen Daniels delivers an incisive and honest discussion of how business leaders can change workplace practices to create a more anti-racist and equitable environment. The author draws on her personal and client-facing experience, historical fact, legal proceedings, HR insights, and quantitative analysis to equip readers with the knowledge and tools they need to transform their companies.
Daniels also looks at:
The role of executive leaders and how to push past discomfort to credibly and authentically lead change
Strategies for recognising the problem of systemic racism and implementing impactful solutions
Why it's important to empower colleagues to be pioneers of change and how to do that
Explanations of why diversity and inclusion initiatives haven't yet solved the problem
Ways language can either be a weapon to perpetuate systemic racism or a tool to dismantle
An indispensable exploration of how systemic racism is engrained into business structures, policies, and procedures, The Anti-Racist Organization: Dismantling Systemic Racism in the Workplace belongs in the libraries of all business leaders seeking to make their workplace more inclusive and equitable.
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The company was not as far ahead as we should have been.
I wasn't as far ahead as I should be.
I felt exposed as a leader, and as an organization because we didn't have our shit together, and the issues of systemic racism affect our colleagues. Therefore it affected me. And I felt it should affect us all.
Can you remember a time in your career where you thought there would be so many conversations happening about race? And did you ever, for a second, foresee that you would have to spearhead some of these conversations and lead those actions?
Times have truly changed, yet not everyone has bought into the evolved expectation of what it takes to be a responsible and sustainable company.
When the murder of George Floyd occurred, the resulting global protests were on a scale we'd never seen before. George Floyd wasn't the first and we have a way to go before we can confidently say he is the last, but in that moment of time, everything in society changed, and organizations were not exempt.
What are we doing to address this? Are we doing enough? I don't even know where to begin with this.
Chief Executive Officer, 2020
‘Stakeholder capitalism' has increasingly become a common way to describe the expectation that companies provide long‐term value creation. Going beyond a binary focus on shareholder returns, it's now encompassing customers, suppliers, colleagues, investors, communities and others who have a stake in the business, generating value for all stakeholders, not just for shareholders.
Where does your organization sit?
It is not as simple as the assumption that you are either for or against stakeholder capitalism, that you are either a capitalist or an anti‐capitalist. It's more nuanced than that. Instead, think of it as a spectrum. At one end of the scale, customers, employees and communities are merely tools to maximise profits for the benefit of shareholders. At the opposite end, companies exist for the benefit of the public good: purpose beyond profit, and ensuring the needs of as many stakeholders as possible are met.
You have a choice in deciding where you fit on that spectrum and much of that will be driven by your values, your mission and how you want to be perceived in your industry and by the world at large.
Stakeholder capitalism is not a new term – in fact, it goes back to the Great Depression – but it has a new relevance. Dozens of the world's largest companies, representing trillions of pounds in market capitalization, have pledged to use a uniform set of “Stakeholder Capitalism Metrics” as part of the mainstream disclosures. This was announced 26 January 2021 by the World Economic Forum and its International Business Council when leaders from governments and corporates convened for a virtual version of the annual Davos conference. These commitments were seen as an opportunity to address the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs; also known as Global Goals), adopted by the United Nations in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that by 2030 all people would enjoy peace and prosperity.
Regardless of whether you are a fan or a critic of environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards and to what extent you believe they are a legitimate tool to drive more sustainable and responsible business practices, it isn't possible to operate in today's and tomorrow's environment without an awareness of how your company operates against these standards.
The leadership teams with an edge on adjusting their approach to delivering against new expectations in tackling racism are those who are using this movement to redefine their values and purpose to ensure there is an alignment between their words and actions. On the flip side, stakeholders are continually looking for indicators that reinforce commitments.
Stakeholder capitalism isn't without its critics, of course. It's easy to claim you are a people‐centered company and give the illusion of caring about your stakeholders, even if your day‐to‐day culture and practices tell a different story.
The reality is that in the minds of some leaders, maximising profit means avoiding anything controversial that may damage public perception, which in turn hits the bottom line.
What is controversial?
Whether we care to admit it – irrespective of how much quantitative and qualitative data exists to show that modern society still has an issue with racism, that everyday human rights are being violated and often recorded on mobile phones and talked about in real time on social media – for some, genuinely addressing the issue is too risky.
Silence on issues relating to racism was the smart and safe play. Until silence itself become controversial.
We saw a plethora of companies change their social media feeds to black, and incorporate the latest trending Black Lives Matter hashtag to ensure they were seen to be acting in solidarity with the Black community. Whilst the world was distracted, there wasn't an initial focus on the substance of these commitments. The hype was real, and well‐known brands swiftly committed to doubling or tripling the number of Black hires in senior positions (conveniently using percentage language, which doesn't sound nearly as great when you realise that doubling the percentage of Black managers by 50% actually means hiring one more Black person if there's only currently one Black person on the board), and propelled ever‐increasing budgets to social justice funds like auctioneers at Homes Under the Hammer. Anecdotal stories abound of companies committing millions in social justice funding, only to have it revealed that a year later barely a penny had been spent. It quickly became apparent that a lot of organizations opted for style over substance.
This sudden pressure to act caught many unawares. In their bid to do something, many took knee‐jerk and fragmented actions, sometimes simply rehashing old approaches to diversity and inclusion and relabelling them as anti‐racism.
Because who were you if you weren't anti‐racist?
Racial equity as a term came later. When there was a concern the word racism was too divisive.
However, the general public and colleagues wised up and began to scrutinise who was doing what and what was their quantifying impact.
Statements, hashtags, clever social media posts were no longer cutting it. Companies had to do something, so where did the majority start?
We are revamping our policies and reaching out to our Black colleagues. They are in so much pain and it breaks my heart.
HR manager, 2020
The most typical response to addressing racism is found in the belief that policies, procedures and HR technology (bizarrely) are the holy grail of where racism lives and dies. It's the default action when it becomes apparent that there is an issue with how certain groups are treated, and it becomes the go‐to item on the job description for new diversity, equity and inclusion hires.
Not enough Black candidates? Buy a tech solution that promises to eliminate bias. Lack of representation at board level? Brief the executive search company to ‘get more, and fast’. Complaints about racial discrimination and harassment? Update your policy and emphasise that you take a zero‐tolerance approach to racism. Even better, run a survey and ask colleagues how many times they’ve witnessed racism.
These are the default actions when it becomes apparent there are issues with how certain groups are treated, and they become the go‐to items on the job description for new diversity, equity and inclusion hires.
That is absolutely part of what you may need to look at it, but it isn't the whole picture. These approaches lack context, depth and nuance, and offer little to no evaluation of root causes.
There is likely a recognition that your processes, policies, systems – the informal and formal ways of doing things – may not be as inclusive as they should be. But there may also be a recognition that your company perpetuates racism. Not because you hire bad people or because you've deliberately set out to oppress certain groups. But if you don't confront the roots of what excludes people due to their ethnicity, if you fail to challenge your own preconceptions of what racism is and what it isn't, and if you use your discomfort as a convenient barrier to block change, this is exactly how we've gotten here today. In what's meant to be the most technologically advanced period known to humankind, our apathy, discomfort and fear allow the system called racism – because that's what it is, a system – to continue doing its best work. It is a system that perpetuates consistent favourable outcomes for some and consiste...
Table of contents
Citation styles for The Anti-Racist Organization
APA 6 Citation
Daniels, S. (2022). The Anti-Racist Organization (1st ed.). Wiley. Retrieved from https://www.perlego.com/book/3509323/the-antiracist-organization-dismantling-systemic-racism-in-the-workplace-pdf (Original work published 2022)
Daniels, S. (2022) The Anti-Racist Organization. 1st edn. Wiley. Available at: https://www.perlego.com/book/3509323/the-antiracist-organization-dismantling-systemic-racism-in-the-workplace-pdf (Accessed: 15 October 2022).