Employers need to do more to tackle entrenched racism, diversity experts say

by Reuters
Monday, 11 January 2021 14:22 GMT

A person walks over BLM posters at Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, U.S., August 28, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

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Achieving racial equity in the workplace was a vital factor in any progress towards addressing systemic racism, diversity experts say

LONDON, Jan 11 (Reuters) - The killing of George Floyd prompted a major move among global corporations to combat racial inequity, but experts say they must recognise and tackle deep-set racism in their work cultures to effect real change.

Floyd's death and the subsequent Black Lives Matter protests marked the start of "a racial reckoning" among employers but a more rigorous approach was needed to eliminate inequality, said John Rice, founder and chief executive at Management Leadership for Tomorrow, which advises companies on diversity.

Weak police resistance to supporters of President Donald Trump who stormed the U.S. Capitol last week, compared to their heavy-handed response to peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters, demonstrated how systemic racism persists.

"That shows you how critical it is to change the narrative on race, and that narrative unfortunately is one that too many white people fear people of colour, those who they don't know, on the street," Rice said.

"That isn't going to change until white people work side by side with people of colour in diverse organisations."

Rice said achieving racial equity in the workplace was a vital factor in any progress towards addressing systemic racism in general.

Lanaya Irvin, president of the think tank Coqual, said her organisation was experiencing overwhelming demand from senior management in international firms for their research into diversity.

"They are really leaning into, with a sense of urgency, change, guidance, frameworks for total transformation that they know are absolutely critical," Irvin said. "Companies are overcoming fear and inertia that may have prevented them from making this a strategic priority in the past."

Racial inequity had become an enterprise risk for companies, and, for chief executives, a personal risk, Rice said.

But companies needed to set higher, more rigorous standards to achieve diversity, starting with a comprehensive plan for change, rather than what Rice called a "let's do better than last year" approach.

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(Writing by Raissa Kasolowsky; Editing by Nick Zieminski)

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