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Black History Month is an important time to recognize and celebrate the contributions that Black individuals have made to our society. It is also an opportunity for companies to show their support for Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB). It’s important for companies to create meaningful recognition and continue to celebrate DEIB.
In this article, here are five don’ts companies can avoid during our DEIB celebratory months to support their mission of an inclusive and innovative culture.
One of the most common mistakes companies make during Black History Month is engaging in superficial activism. This includes simply changing social media profile pictures or posting generic messages without taking any meaningful action. Companies should go beyond performative gestures and instead focus on implementing long-term strategies to promote diversity and inclusion within their organizations. Don’t stop your “regular” curriculum from doing a separate lesson on Rosa Parks, the Civil Rights Act, or Martin Luther King Jr. This trivializes and marginalizes anything you are teaching, making these leaders a token of their culture and ethnicity.
Solution: Companies should invest in diversity training programs, create mentorship opportunities for Black employees, and establish inclusive hiring practices. By taking concrete steps to address systemic issues, companies can demonstrate their commitment to fostering a more inclusive workplace culture.
Black History Month is not only about celebrating the achievements of Black individuals but also recognizing the intersectionality of their identities. Companies often make the mistake of oversimplifying the experiences of Black people, ignoring the unique challenges faced by Black women, LGBTQ+ individuals, or disabled individuals within the community. Don’t decontextualize heroes or holidays, separating them from the larger social movement or historical place. Great leaders don't make history all by themselves. Recognizing the complexity of the Black community is essential. Black history is diverse and encompasses various cultures, experiences, and contributions. Companies should avoid oversimplifying the narrative or focusing solely on well-known figures. It is important to highlight the achievements of Black individuals from different backgrounds, industries, and time periods to provide a more comprehensive representation.
Solution: Companies should ensure that their initiatives and conversations during Black History Month acknowledge and address intersectionality. This can be done by inviting speakers who can speak to different aspects of the Black experience, highlighting the contributions of Black individuals from various backgrounds, and fostering an inclusive environment that welcomes and supports all identities.
Lack of Education and Awareness:
Many companies make the mistake of not investing in education and awareness during Black History Month. This can lead to a lack of understanding and perpetuation of stereotypes or biases within the workplace. Be sure to allow employees an opportunity for discussion and reflection. It is imperative not to teach with little or inaccurate information. Begin by reviewing resources to ensure they don't promote a Eurocentric perspective, which may misrepresent historical figures and social movements.
Solution: Companies should provide educational resources and opportunities for employees to learn about the history, achievements, and challenges faced by Black individuals. This can include hosting workshops, book clubs, or film screenings that promote dialogue and understanding. By fostering an environment of continuous learning, companies can create a more informed and empathetic workforce.
Last Minute Planning:
Rushing and throwing something together at the last minute can undermine the significance of Black History Month. It is important for companies to plan and prepare meaningful initiatives that honor and celebrate the contributions of the Black community. Taking the time to research and curate appropriate content and activities will ensure a more authentic and respectful observance. Simply celebrating Black History Month publicly without making any sustained efforts throughout the year can come across as performative and insincere.
Solution: It is crucial for companies to demonstrate their commitment to DEIB by implementing long-term initiatives that support the Black community beyond the designated month. This can include ongoing programs, mentorship opportunities, and inclusive hiring practices.
Black History Month is not exclusively for Black people:
It serves as an opportunity for everyone to learn, appreciate, and celebrate the rich heritage and accomplishments of the Black community. Companies should encourage participation and engagement from all employees, regardless of their racial or ethnic background. Promoting inclusivity and unity will foster a stronger sense of community within the organization.
Solution: It is important for companies to approach Black History Month with intention, sensitivity, and a long-term strategy for DEIB. By avoiding these common mistakes, organizations can create a more meaningful and impactful observance of Black History Month.
Black History Month is a time for companies to reflect on their commitment to diversity, equality, and inclusion. Contact Espyr to learn more about our workplace well-being solutions and how our organizational trainings can help build DEIB initiatives and bridge the gap from initiatives to inclusion.