WEF launches anti-racism workplace coalition

New World Economic Forum coalition commits to improving racial and ethnic justice in the workplace

Forty-eight organisations headquartered in three continents, representing 13 industries and with more than 5.5 million employees worldwide have committed to anti-racism and building more equitable and just workplaces.

The firms, including AlixPartners, AstraZeneca, Bank of America, BlackRock, Bloomberg, Boston Consulting Group and more, have joined the new Partnering for Racial Justice in Business initiative, announced by the World Economic Forum (WEF) at it’s annual Davos conference 2021.

The coalition has been set up to make the workplace a fairer place for professionals from underrepresented racial and ethnic backgrounds. The hope is that businesses will work together to operationalise and coordinate their commitments to eradicate racism in the workplace and set new global standards for racial equity. It also provides a platform for businesses to advocate for inclusive policy change collectively.

What anti-racism action looks like

Many employees want their organisation to do more to advance diversity and inclusion. In fact, research by McKinsey has found that employees who feel included in their organisation are three times more likely to be committed to and want to do their best for the business.

To design racially just workplaces, companies must confront racism at a systemic level — addressing everything from the structural and social mechanics of their own organisations to their role in the communities in which they operate and the economy at large.

By joining the WEF anti-racism coalition, businesses are pledging to three strategic actions to level the playing field and create a more equitable working environment:

1.Racial and ethnic equity must be placed on the board’s agenda

2.Companies must make at least one commitment towards racial and ethnic justice in their organisations

3. Companies must put a long-term strategy in place towards becoming an anti-racism organisation

Best practice

How organisations go about displaying their anti-racism stance can take many forms, ranging from allocating financial and human resources to racial justice work and setting representation goals for all seniority levels. They can also show their commitment to racial and ethnic justice by establishing mentorship programmes for racially and ethnically diverse employees.

Businesses have begun to recognise that a broad-brush approach to anti-racism in the workplace has failed to grasp its effects on different underrepresented groups. Instead, one of the coalition’s initiatives will focus on Black inclusion and addressing anti-Blackness.

Anti-Black racism is historically one of the most pervasive forms of racism. As such, a targeted and specific approach to tackle it in the workplace is required. As the initiative evolves, it will seek to increase the visibility of racially and ethnically diverse leaders throughout industries, and expand its focus to include additional racial and ethnic groups.

A holistic approach to diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice

“With just 1% of Fortune 500 companies led by Black chief executives, the need to tackle racial under-representation in business is urgent and obvious,” said Saadia Zahidi, Managing Director at the World Economic Forum.

“To design racially and ethnically just workplaces, companies must confront racism at a systemic level, addressing not just the structural and social mechanics of their own organizations, but also the role they play in their communities and the economy at large.

“The Partnering for Racial Justice in Business initiative provides an effective platform for businesses to take individual and collective action towards racially and ethnically just workplaces.”

WEF equality platforms

The anti-racism initiative originates from the World Economic Forum’s New Economy and Society Platform, which focuses on building prosperous, inclusive and just economies and societies.

In addition to its work on economic growth, revival and transformation, work, wages and job creation, and education, skills and learning, the Platform takes an integrated and holistic approach to diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice, and aims to tackle exclusion, bias and discrimination related to race, gender, ability, sexual orientation and all other forms of human diversity.

The Platform produces data, standards and insights, such as the Global Gender Gap Report and the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion 4.0 Toolkit, and drives or supports action initiatives, such as the Community of Chief Diversity and Inclusion OfficersThe Valuable 500 – Closing the Disability Inclusion GapHardwiring Gender Parity in the Future of WorkClosing the Gender Gap Country AcceleratorsPartnership for Global LGBTI Equality and the Global Future Council on Equity and Social Justice.

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