Beyond Diversity: How to Navigate Racial Equity in the Workplace

Blog | Leadership Development | Rise and Lead Women
August 10, 2020
Diversity in the workplace
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Navigating racial equity conversation at work may be daunting and hard.

The good news is that globally, many people are ready to talk about racism, which makes it easier to engage in conversations surrounding race.

Having discussions on racial inequality is a challenge and can be uncomfortable, but having thoughtful conversations around it is critical and should happen nonetheless.

Rise and Lead Women held its first online dialogue on racial equity last month. The topic was on how leaders and individuals could navigate race at work –  how to address the issue and what organizations and individuals can do to provide solutions to inequality at work.


Ebere Akadiri, Founder of Rise and Lead women, facilitated the live show. Dr. April Ripley, President and CEO of The Premier Image, Inc. and Giralda Chiverton, Sales and Account Executive at JAA Training Organisation, joined her.

How to Navigate Racism Conversations at Work

To navigate racism conversations, leaders need to understand the issue -and learn from the past. No matter how painful, they must understand the history of white supremacy, white privilege and inequality.

As Dr. April Riley pointed out, “Go back to understanding our history.” 

She also shared that top leaders ought to be present at diversity training meetings to listen and learn. “You need to be there. You need to learn about different cultures. You need to understand what’s happening with the minorities in your organization,” she said.  

Giralda Chiverton pointed out the importance for leaders to open up a dialogue that addresses racial inequality issues without mistreating other groups. “It’s important for leaders not to negate or ignore the issue, but they have to learn to address it in the right way,” she said. 

Ebere Akadiri acknowledges that many organizational leaders are presently looking for ways to attract and retain diverse teams. However, most of them are merely ticking the box — the number of people of color in the organization. Though it’s a good start, leaders need to move from conversation into real action.

Diversity initiatives alone, as valuable as they can be, won’t solve the issue of racism because it is specifically about numbers. Inclusion is better. 

“What we are looking for is inclusion. We want to belong. We want to be rewarded for our contribution and have an equal opportunity to compete fairly,” Ebere said.

Creating racial equity should be a strategic priority in every organization. And to set up any strategy, leaders should know and understand what’s already existing in the organization. 

“How do we start checking our hiring processes? What are the demographics? Why don’t we have people of color in our organization? Why don’t we have people from marginalized groups in positions of leadership? These are some hard questions that leaders should be asking themselves,” Ebere added. 

Organizations must set diversity and inclusion strategies through various activities, including building an authentic culture of inclusiveness for everyone, thus creating opportunities for development and advancement for all.

What Can Individuals Do About Racial Equity?

If you’re a person of color, here are some of the things that you can do to navigate racial equity at work:

  1. Look for allies. It’s always good to have different people that support your cause. Join or build diverse and inclusive organizations. 
  2. Tell people what you are trying to achieve. While it’s great to want or wish for changes, it’s important to speak up against injustice.
  3. Be open and courageous to share your inclusion ideas with leaders of your organization, or even with the officers in your company’s Diversity and Inclusion Department.
  4. Be comfortable with difficult conversations. Be a learner. Unlearn, learn, relearn, and evolve with whatever newfound knowledge and understanding you’ll eventually discover.

For our allies or for those who want to support racial equity, not just in the workplace, but in every community, you can do the following:

  1. Accept that anything race-related is visible. If you want to move past racial biases, do not be colour-blind. You should see and recognize skin color, but control your instinct to make decisions and judgements based on the color that you see. We all see color unless you’re blind and being able to recognize this is critical. Why? Because each of us, no matter the skin color, has preconceived ideas and biases about different racial groups. Once you recognize and acknowledge that, then you can move forward to correcting those biases and overhauling those preconceived expectations.
  2. Use your privilege to speak up and protect the marginalized people. There’s nothing wrong with having privileges, but learn how to use your power to support, empower, advocate and stand up for people who do not have the same opportunity as you do.
  3. Build an inclusive network. Anyone can advocate for social justice. To help prevent racism and ensure race equity, start in your backyard and with the people around you to champion and drive inclusion within your community and network.
  4. Learn to become an active ally and support causes against injustice
  5. It’s okay if “you don’t know what it means to be black”. Showing empathy and compassion is a good start. It’s okay to listen without trying to deny the issue.

Eliminating racial inequality requires, not just intention but, most of all, collective action. It can be uncomfortable – even painful – but holding a vision of an anti-racist future can help each one of us overcome obstacles in dismantling structural racism. We’re ready for this challenge. Are you?

This is the 1st of the 3 part series of Rise and Lead Beyond Diversity Live Series to learn how to navigate the conversation around race and equity at work.

Check out Part 2 here.
Check out Part 3 here.


Ebere Akadiri

Ebere Akadiri

Ebere Akadiri is an accomplished entrepreneur and an advocate for women in leadership. Her passion to inspire others to achieve their goals drove her to found Rise and Lead Women along with her co-founder, Poonam Barua. Their mission is to inspire women to take the lead in closing the gender gap in workplaces and in business.

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