by Deanna Parkton
The racial injustice events of 2020 and the focus on the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement brought an important call to action for many companies and organizations. At the time, this meant creating space for discussion around the traumatic events that led to the BLM movement and educating employees on racial issues. It also created a call to action for companies to commit to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace – not just in the immediate moment but moving forward. As many companies work to continue to deliver on their promise, various initiatives have taken shape related to recognizing the disparity that may face Black employees.
To learn more about how 2020 changed DEI in the workplace, read Inc.com’s article about how companies can continue to do better.
Of the many initiatives that companies may have taken, celebrating Black History Month is an important one. Each February, Black History Month honors the triumphs and the struggles of African Americans throughout U.S. history. There are different ways that teams and organizations can recognize this important holiday, whether it be honoring Black contributors to the industry/field of study or hosting professional development events around DEI. However your organization celebrates, the value of the celebration is the recognition of the Black community. For far too long, Black Americans felt that they had to keep their Black identity separate from their professional identity. With the call for companies to hold conversations not only around race, but equity and inclusion too, this celebration is an important one to acknowledge.
One way to celebrate is educating employees on Black Americans’ contribution to the company’s industry. For example, a pharmaceutical company or a scientific laboratory might recognize important black scientists who have impacted the field. This could be in the form of a companywide communication such as a newsletter or at the beginning of a monthly company meeting to recognize the holiday.
The FairyGodBoss has other great suggestions such as:
- Invite guest speakers to discuss diversity and inclusion
- Support black-owned businesses or nonprofits
- Host a Black History Month trivia event
- Promote black art, film and literature
Many companies already have initiatives that can easily be themed around Black History Month. If your company organizes a quarterly or monthly volunteer project, ensuring that the project is in alignment with a black-owned nonprofit is a way to integrate the holiday in your regularly scheduled programming. If your company holds a monthly meeting, take time during the meeting to acknowledge Black History Month and integrate a professional development session about diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). Any opportunity to educate all employees on the contributions of Black Americans to their field of study is one to consider.
The concepts of DEI have been a focus within many companies to encourage more than just a commitment to diversity. Tuskegee University’s DEI Cooperative Extension has valuable resources on integrating DEI within professional development. While diversity is integral, acknowledging and focusing on equity and inclusion brings about innovative change. Equity promotes justice and fairness within an organization. Inclusion is a concerted effort to ensure that diverse employees feel invited and welcomed to participate in decision-making processes. A company can certainly promote that they are committed to diversity, but by enhancing policies that enthusiastically invite all employees “to the table” and ensuring that fairness is a priority, true diversity can then be reached.
To learn more about what white professionals can do to support black colleagues, check out our July 2020 article about allyship. While Black History Month is one month of the year, a commitment to DEI should last all year long.
To learn more about the history of Black History Month, check out https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/black-history-month.
Deanna Parkton is a writer, career coach and educator with a passion for professional development and work wellness and happiness. With a focus on self-reflection, she works with individuals in their quest to reach their career goals as well as satisfaction in work-life balance. You can find more of her writing at workinglivingwell.com and she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.