For Black and brown folks, Juneteenth has long been of great significance and for many is considered the true day of emancipation of enslaved African Americans. Many have celebrated this holiday and honored the real racial history for some time. For white folks, this was something many likely learned in the summer of 2020 or are just now learning about as it hits the news cycle more and more.
Much like Earth Day, Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Equal Pay Day and other similar holidays, many companies and entrepreneurs will acknowledge and celebrate Juneteenth but then forget about doing any work toward the same goals afterward. Especially as it’s a relatively new holiday celebration, many may not even plan to acknowledge it to begin with. It is critical to implement a long-term commitment to elevating Black voices as an ally beyond just June 19th every year.
If you’re one of the 9% of organizations that has Juneteenth as a paid holiday, this is the time to reflect and take real action. This is how successful organizations have implemented programs that support Black communities year-round:
- Effective mentorship programs or accelerator programs for Black employees
- Paid leadership positions for Black Employee Resource Group (ERG) leaders with a budget for the ERG outside of Black History Month and Juneteenth
- Set measurable goals to boost Black leadership representation
Related: Beyond Marketing — How Brands Can Truly Support the Black Community on Juneteenth
Effective mentorship programs or accelerator programs for Black employees
A critical systemic issue facing Black employees is a lack of representation in leadership. When leaders that are majority white men make decisions about who to promote, they often don’t have strong relationships with Black employees. This lack of exposure creates a self-fulfilling bias that Black employees don’t want to be promoted or that they are not as talented. Skin color does not dictate motivation or talent, access to resources and support does.
DoorDash’s Elevate program is a career accelerator designed specifically for high-potential women of color. As a part of Elevate, they complete a six-month cohort experience, including:
- One-on-one coaching sessions with an external executive coach
- Executive sponsor meetings with company directors and C-suite members
- Career workshops
- Attendance at leadership team meetings
The results are impressive with 38% of leaders being promoted within six months of completion. What’s interesting about this case study is that it includes coaching, mentorship, training and sponsorship. It’s a holistic approach to developing talent — and quickly. This is important because when organizations create space for meaningful interaction between senior leaders and aspiring high-potential talent, biases are negated and relationships flourish, leading to higher promotion rates of often overlooked top talent.
Paid leadership positions
McKinsey & Co. reported that 90% of Fortune 500 companies have ERGs. Most commonly for women and people of color, ERGs exist to create safe places for marginalized groups to connect, learn and grow. The challenge is that most ERG leaders also have day jobs, where they’re doing the ERG work in their “free time.” McKinsey further shows a 24% improvement in the perception of inclusion when they people are a part of an effective ERG. If ERG work is important, people should be paid for it, or at a minimum have job duties removed to make time for the extra work.
Consider compensating people for these activities:
- Planning and organizing ERG events: ERG leaders often spend time brainstorming, coordinating and executing events, workshops, panel discussions and other initiatives aimed at promoting DEI and fostering an inclusive workplace culture.
- Building partnerships and networks: ERG leaders may spend time establishing connections and partnerships with external organizations, community groups or industry networks to collaborate on DEI-related initiatives, share best practices and amplify their impact.
- Training and education: ERG leaders might engage in ongoing education themselves and support the professional development of their ERG members. They may research and share resources, organize training sessions or invite guest speakers to enhance awareness and understanding of DEI issues.
LinkedIn announced it would pay Employee Resource Group (ERG) Leaders a $10,000 monetary compensation for each year served starting in 2021. While not all businesses can afford to pay their employees for this extra work, clearing their workload to free up time for the tasks to manage an ERG or giving them additional time off or rewarding them in their performance reviews are also options. This is important because if ERG work is a priority it should be prioritized similarly to any other business imperative.
Set measurable goals to boost Black leadership representation
With representation numbers stagnant for Black leaders and organizations, it’s critical that organizations target improving this representation. Without an intentional, consistent commitment to diversity, the status quo often prevails. Leaders rely on outdated decision-making styles that tend to favor the majority group in hiring, promotion and pay decisions. Rather than focusing on hiring diverse talent, often that talent already exists in your organization. The key is unlocking that talent.
As part of Kellogg Co.’s environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategy, the company set goals for 50/50 gender parity at the management level globally, and in the U.S., 25% racially underrepresented talent at the management level — both by the end of 2025. They have since measured their representation numbers and report them publically for accountability.
Rather than simply honoring Juneteenth as a holiday, organizations that take a more comprehensive and systemic approach demonstrate real allyship. The real action is year-round with mentorship programs, paid leadership positions for ERG leaders and representation targets for Black leadership being critical to long-term success. By implementing these strategies and maintaining a long-term commitment to elevating Black voices, organizations can drive meaningful and lasting change in their workplace cultures.
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