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  • Writer's pictureFletcher Consulting

Are you openly anti-racist?

Would people know that you are committed to racial justice? 

Have you shared where you are in your journey toward understanding—especially if you are white—and invited conversations about it?

Andrew Bopp, Ph.D. has. 

I caught his LinkedIn post last week, about a tactic he uses when white colleagues or family members say something biased. 

It’s an excellent piece, both because of the advice he gives about interrupting bias, and because of the vulnerable way he names the path he has been on himself. In the first sentence, he describes his “transition from an all-lives-matter-I-am-not-racist white man to a woke, pro-DEI antiracist,” and credits inspirations from his therapist to scholar Ibram Kendi. 

It’s clear that this white man is unlearning the racist and sexist “programming by society” that he grew up with, and I give him kudos for that fundamental work. And I like the approach he describes: using first-person anecdotes to provide alternative perspectives to bias, rather than directly challenging someone and risking a defensive response.

I’m also really struck by the act of posting itself. 

I don’t know Dr. Bopp, but I now know he’s a “pro-DEI antiracist.” 

Based on the active and supportive comments, other people are drawing on his example. In his responses, he continues to model curiosity, humility, and passion about building a fairer world. He’s not apologizing, hesitating, or tiptoeing. 

How often do you hear that from white voices? Especially ones with corporate job titles not explicitly related to DEI, as Dr. Bopp appears to have?

So there are three lessons here:

  • the tactic for responding to a biased comment,

  • the example of one person’s self-reflection and education,

  • and the power of going public with all of it.

Wherever you are on your journey, let the world know about it. Invite reactions. Even if some people criticize you for it. 

Especially if you have a privileged position in your racial identity, gender identity, or job status, where criticisms aren’t likely to have a material impact on your life.

DEI’s attackers are not shy on social media and TV. Its defenders can’t afford to be either.

It’s a little bravery that makes a big difference.

  • Writer's pictureFletcher Consulting
Still thinking about Claudine Gay

I’m still thinking about Claudine Gay.

I’m imagining a white man in the situation she was in: a Congressional hearing, giving legally informed answers to hours of loaded questions.

I don’t have to imagine, actually. We’ve seen countless white male corporate CEOs testify, on the hook for spreading misinformation or pollution or AI. 

All of them return to their jobs and their nine-digit salaries, even after lackluster or embarrassing performances.

But the Ivy League leaders at this House Committee hearing were women. Their treatment was quite different, both in Congress and the media.

Harvard’s first Black woman president was especially hounded, first about the wording of one of her answers, then about alleged plagiarism from decades-old papers. 

The difference would be shocking, but to Black women it’s actually familiar. 

Dr. Kecia M. Thomas, Juanita Johnson-Bailey, and Rosemary Phelps (with a hat tip to Dr. Shelomi Gomes) call it the “Pet to Threat” phenomenon. Black women may experience a honeymoon when chosen to take on leadership roles. But often the workplace culture “scrutinizes their every move” and “leaves them unsupported in critical times,” as author Brittany Cole puts it. 

That’s Claudine Gay’s story. And the story of far too many Black women professionals. 

A study from Black Women Thriving quantifies the disparities. Of Black women:

  • 66% report not feeling emotionally safe at work. 

  • Only 33% believe that job performance is evaluated fairly. 

  • Only 22% have participated in a mentoring program sponsored by their organization. 

  • Only 41% trust that their coworkers will stand up for what is just.

It’s the lack of peer support that really strikes me. 

A Harvard Kennedy School study found that Black women are the only group whose retention goes down the more white colleagues they have. In other words, the more white people work alongside a Black woman, the more likely she is to leave the organization. 

Read that again.

I’m sure this isn’t due to deliberate malice, at least most of the time. After all, LeanIn found that “77% of white employees consider themselves allies to women of color.” 

But they also found that “only 39% of white employees confront discrimination when they see it, and only 21% advocate for new opportunities for women of color.”

That’s a disparity each of us can tackle. Ask yourself: what can I do to support my Black women colleagues? What can I do to remove barriers to their success? 

I’d start with Harvard Business Review’s article “Creating Psychological Safety for Black Women at Your Company” 

Then check in with the Black women you work with. You may not fully understand what they are facing. 

Make sure they know you stand by them. Strategize about what they need.

They’re probably still thinking about Claudine Gay too.

  • Writer's pictureFletcher Consulting
When people tell you who they are, believe them.

Get ready to get brave. 

Clearly folks are coming for DEI. 

As Maya Angelou taught Oprah Winfrey, "When people tell you who they are, believe them the first time." 

Conservatives like Christopher Rufo and Bill Ackman aren’t even trying to hide their intentions. To quote Rufo, “My primary objective is to eliminate the DEI bureaucracy in every institution in America.”

Last week, Rufo, Ackman, and others met their goal of ousting Harvard’s first Black president when she resigned under pressure over plagiarism accusations. They and other critics implied that she was unqualified for the position—in over her head. That somehow her “failure” proved that using “diversity” as a hiring criteria would result in disaster.

The connection to anti-DEI arguments wasn’t coincidental. Taking down Professor Gay was part of the same campaign that Rufo organized against “CRT” last year. 

So those of us who are dedicated to what DEI actually means—a level playing field, so that everyone has an opportunity to fulfill their potential—should be ready for that battle.

If you’ve started your DEI efforts, don’t stop. 

As intimidating as the efforts of the anti-DEI crusaders can be, this is not the time to be timid or hold back. 

If you are a leader in an organization, you want the best that every employee has to give. DEI is a set of strategies to make that possible.

Here are a few things to remember as you get ready to face challenges to DEI in 2024:

  • Ground yourself in your values. You believe that everyone has something to offer, and everyone deserves respect and dignity. You believe in fairness and honesty. These are the foundations of DEI, and they needn’t be controversial. Speak from the heart about why these matter to you.

  • Data is on your side. Critics cherry-pick research about mandatory diversity training and try to discredit the field. But there is much more evidence of the value of diversity in organizations, the importance of engaged employees who feel like they belong, and the damaging impact of unconscious biases on opportunities and culture in organizations. Pursuing DEI is pursuing organizational success.

  • It’s popular. Employees want to work for organizations with purpose. They want to bring their full selves and know that their ideas and backgrounds will be valued. And they’re prepared to leave organizations that don’t walk the walk. 

So set your DEI goals for 2024, create a plan—and be ready to lead in the face of opposition. 

Because your leadership is crucial. The public narrative around DEI may have changed since 2020, but the need remains. And your role as a leader is more important now than ever. 

The bottom line: People are the greatest asset to any organization, and DEI is all about people. 

Stand up for your people. Stand up for DEI.

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