What can (and should) a company do to combat racism?

In the last few weeks, the whole world has been impacted by a series of demonstrations whose agenda was the fight against racism. Such events were triggered after the death of George Floyd, a black man who died of suffocation by a white policeman in the United States. In social networks, hashtags with #BlackLivesMatter and #BlackOutTuesday took the top of the relevant issues and made several companies and brands stand on the subject. This raised a question: do organizations, in fact, have actions and responsibilities with racial issues that go beyond a post on the social network raising an ephemeral flag?

Data from several surveys show the obvious: there is still an abyss of racial segregation in labor relations. According to the Ethos Institute, blacks occupy only 6.3% of management positions and 4.7% of the executive board of the 500 best companies in Brazil. This number worsens when we highlight black women, who have an even less expressive number, in which only 1.6% are managers and 0.4 are executives.

Another study tries to understand what needs to be done at the state and organization level so that such inequality can decrease. Eliane Conceição and Peter Spink, authors of the article “Which foot first: diversity management and affirmative action in Brazilian business”, note that the sum between the lack of state actions and the lack of diversity management practices in organizations reinforces the disparity racial discrimination in the workplace. They also point out that the best way is for the state to position itself through affirmative actions, forcing companies to adopt practices that support racial diversity. Without policies like this, it will be quite difficult to combat this problem. In Brazil, for example, there is still a burden of social contrast by race since the time of slavery, in addition to a strong disbelief among the population that racism does not exist.

That is why just entering the wave of a movement, however important it is, is not enough. Publishing a post with a hashtag raising a cause, without your brand or you as an individual having enough ownership on the subject, necessary to debate why movements like this are important, is to raise a banner of appearances. Talking about racism is necessary and needs to be discussed within companies with employees so that racist acts cease to occur as an unfortunate common situation.

And how to start talking about? Who speaks? Where to start? Everyone with an active voice can (and should) be the leader of agendas on diversity and inclusion. Within the structure of companies, it is mainly the role of leaders, HR and partners, to be active in embracing these causes and bringing these guidelines to add value with relevant information. Lectures with guests who have ownership of the cause, conversation circles, internal research, engagement campaigns and the spread of information in breaking the cycle of structural prejudice. The paths for each one to do their part are as diverse as possible.

There is still a long way to go before we can say that there is racial equality in the labor market. It is essential, especially at this moment, for organizations to reflect on their actions, give voice and space to blacks and help to build a new reality and not just another beautiful speech.