I wandered across a Tweet from Professor Crystal Fleming aligning the commonalities between DEI and the historical context of integration within America, and I couldn't move past the statement:
“We dont talk enough about how “integration” historically meant placing Black and Brown people in white supremacist environments. That’s still what “diversity and inclusion” means today.”
I ruminated on this statement for weeks, even pinning a screenshot of the Tweet to my desktop for easy retrieval. Professor Fleming is best known for her stance on race and white supremacy, teaching Sociology and Africana studies at Stony Brook University, and her statement has made quite an impression towards how I view DE&I practices within the Recruitment industry and ultimately how we integrate the initiative within many facets of the company I founded, HBGM&Co.
Integrate, verb; 1. combine (one thing) with another so that they become a whole. 2. bring (people or groups with particular characteristics or needs) into equal participation in or membership of a social group or institution.
Inclusion, noun; the action or state of including or of being included within a group or structure.
Post George Floyd, DE&I became less of a buzzword. DE&I became the corporate fix, setting corporate America ablaze with public commitments and big spending. In 2020 companies spent $66 billion dollars towards promoting racial equity and gender diversity and more than $200 billion in 2021 with 32% of companies making public statements, 22% making external commitments, and 18% making internal commitments. Chief Diversity Officer became the fastest growing c-suite title with the title of Director rising by 75% since 2020 and the title of Chief rising by 68% since 2020.
Simply put, DE&I is a huge deal and companies dare not progress without a proper plan or specialized team in place because Black Twitter is real and heavily armored to snatch toupes.
In April of last year, we hosted and moderated a panel discussing the implications of DE&I practices and underrepresented women. While many companies hide behind the initiative as a nice-to-do or an expense they can write off at the end of the year, policies have been enacted at the government level to enforce integration of Black and Brown people on company Boards, within leadership positions and the general work population itself. How far have we really progressed from post Jim Crow and has the word integration been repackaged to Inclusion? I mean, inclusion does sound less triggering.
I can’t foresee a moment in my lifetime when race, religion and personal identity won't be a major dividing factor amongst the masses. But while we are in the moment of advancing towards breaking this divide for the betterment of future generations, let's discuss how the Recruitment industry can focus on ensuring black and brown people land in safe spaces.
Safe Space (according to Millennials), noun; an environment where marginalized people feel seen, valued and heard.
At HBGM&Co., we abide by a few safe space qualifiers to gauge and have tough conversations with potential clients during our Opportunity calls. Feel free to take note and incorporate these qualifiers into how you show up for underrepresented people.
We dig deep to better understand the employers reputation with diverse candidates through retention rates and ERG's.
We discuss the diversity of their Board and how recently they became inclusive of underrepresented people. What was the driving factor behind their diversity hires? While we want to be 100% optimistic that diversity hires are a genuine step in the right direction, we also keep in mind that many companies abide by DE&I initiatives to save face.
Do companies create safe spaces for their candidates by leveraging diverse interviewers and having transparent conversations during the interview process?
Ensuring pay equity when candidate salaries are being negotiated is a huge factor when we consider placement. We have been known to fight tooth and nail for market rate (and beyond) compensation for our women. Underrepresented women are leading the Great Resignation and we strive to vet safe spaces for them to land, thrive, climb the corporate ladder, and secure the bag.
The onboarding process has not changed much in years, albeit the progression of technology and automation. Onboarding is the one process that needs to be more flexible in terms of understanding that people learn and receive information differently. Providing a 1:1 option and an independent learning option, especially for remote onboarding, makes a difference in retention success, for example. We break down a client’s onboarding process and provide actionable advice as this process can make or break a candidate's success.
Understanding the retention practices a company has in place is also crucial. There is an expectation that anyone you have hired can onboard and hit the ground running. There is no such thing. Integrating into one’s culture, systems and hierarchy takes time and managers need to have the intuition and training to understand where a candidate is struggling and make immediate plans to help improve their performance. Also, understand there may be room for change in the manager's leadership and communication style. Retention is a group effort and one that should be approached with compassion and flexibility.
Regardless of the term and how interchangeable they can be, integrate with community in mind. Create an inclusive workplace because you care about the world we are handing to our kids. I strongly hope that the next generation disposes of the term DE&I, not to repackage it into some new marketing catchphrase, but actually does away with the term because they got right what we did not.
Creating safer spaces,