Have workplace attitudes changed following the death of George Floyd?

The death of George Floyd sparked social unrest around the globe but has anything changed for Black people in the workplace?

A year on from George Floyd’s death, we asked a group of diversity, equality and inclusion specialists if anything has changed within organisations regarding race equality. Here Kristina Bell at Bullhorn shares her views.

What initiatives have organisations put in place since the death of George Floyd?

“Companies have initiated race and equity dialogue in structured ways like panels or quarterly discussions. Employee Resource Groups, if not already established, have been started or refreshed. Companies are looking at their representation in much more detail and are placing accountability measures around recruiting, interviewing, and hiring. And then, of course, most companies have invested some level of time in bias education or training.”

Is talking about race still taboo?

“It’s not taboo, but it’s still uncomfortable – and that’s ok. The purpose of the discussions – whether it’s regarding the murder of George Floyd or a company’s representation, is always rooted in creating a safe space so that everyone can thrive. As long as we can keep that in the front of our minds, it will become less taboo and more comfortable for everyone.”

Has progress been made to level the playing field for minorities in organisations?

“I think it’s too early to tell because the real testament to progress will be in the sustainability of it. It’s only been a year since George Floyd’s murder, and within a movement, that’s a very short time. Many companies were in reaction mode and quickly created or refreshed initiatives to make clear their positions and reinforce their values.

For us to see real progress, though, the efforts must be strategic, measurable, and aligned with company culture and business priorities. I’d love to answer this question again in another five or ten years – that will be when real progress will be discernible.”

What more needs to be done?

“I think now it’s about ensuring alignment throughout your entire organization with all of the diverse representation you have. We needed to put incredible focus on the struggles, challenges and inequities of Black people over the last year – it was long overdue and necessary, and it will continue to be important.

However, true diversity, equity and inclusion does not only focus on underrepresented groups. It unites and aligns people from all backgrounds and is embedded in the ways companies operate and how leaders lead. This is where the real work is, and I think most companies have only scratched the surface here.”

Have lessons been learnt?

“Absolutely. Companies have learned about the importance of speaking up or the consequences of not. The majority has been able to see the injustices that Black people and other minorities face with their own eyes.

People have gotten uncomfortable and allowed themselves to understand and practice empathy and awareness. There was a real shift in mindsets and behaviours in 2020, and it is up to all of us to ensure the moment wasn’t just a moment, but that the movement continues.”

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