Workforce Solutions

3 Ways Leaders Can Make Black Lives Matter

Cogent Infotech
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Dallas, TX

The Black Lives Matter campaign has moved to be more action-oriented to drive effective change in organizations and society. Businesses are trying to do their bit in contributing to the cause, be it by establishing or trying to improve anti-racism policies, making financial contributions, or re-examining their diversity and inclusion initiatives. However, the social and structural prejudice that has been going on for centuries cannot be undone in just a few years.

For instance, even with more Black people getting undergraduate degrees, employment rates among the Black community have not improved. The number of Black adults with a college degree or higher has increased by more than double since 2000. However, there have not been significant increases in Black household incomes since 2000. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the median income for Black households was $44,000 (in 2019).

Black Americans were more severely affected during the COVID-19-induced job market crisis than White Americans. Black professionals hold only 3.3% of senior leadership roles. Even when employed, a Black worker earns 62% of the salary of a white worker.

The structures and policies are set to favor White talent, and initiatives around diversity and inclusion are considered as an add-on to the workplace and not an essential element. An organization that truly believes in the importance of diversity and inclusion for its success should be able to transform the workplace culture in six months by investing time, effort, and money.

Here are three ways in which leaders can help make Black lives truly matter in the workplace:

Build a new perspective

It helps to stand in a Black person's shoes to understand how the actions of a business can affect them. Senior leadership should make an effort to build a perspective by understanding how specific structures and activities of a business build a culture that promotes racism. By providing access to first-person accounts of Black people who face racial inequity or depictions of anti-Black discrimination, companies can reduce support and prejudice for racist stereotypes. 

The more opportunities a business can create for these interventions, the more space the team will have to take a new perspective. However, this route may create anxiety among participants and increase prejudices. Thus, companies should employ qualified trainers or group facilitators to design the exercise with their coworkers.

The facilitator or other participant should not overpower the conversation or dominate coworkers. The facilitator or trainer will act as a moderator to establish discussion norms and ensure that participants do not go out of their way to offend one another.

Note that workers should not be forced to participate in this exercise. Instead, senior leadership must take the lead to motivate workers to be part of this cycle. A pilot version should be considered before rolling out a firm-wide initiative. It will help to iron out issues and build a set of best practices in the full-fledged rollout.

2021 study on the effect of empathy on racist behavior revealed that empathy-based counter speech could reduce the instances of racist hate speech. Earlier studies have also proved the effectiveness of in-person conversations, encouraging empathy and perspective-taking in reducing hostility toward marginalized groups. Such approaches may be replicated at the workplace to receive similar results.

Build strong and thoughtful leadership.

Building solid and thoughtful leadership is vital to set the right tone about the importance of Black professionals in the workplace. While the Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer usually deal with DEI matters using press releases, financial contributions, social media posts, and planning meets, top management must drive the end-to-end strategy.

This exercise must be considered equal to building an annual sales plan, which requires the participation of the entire team and an elaborate strategy. Different team members handle aspects like budget, timelines, and targets with a chain of reporting that run to the CEO and the Board. A similar effort is required to build and execute diversity and inclusion initiatives.

A business should focus on making DEI a part of the various hiring stages and levels of employment in an organization. It should also be integrated with multiple stakeholder groups for better results.

For instance, PricewaterhouseCoopers CEO Tim Ryan took constructive steps in the aftermath of the police shooting of Black men in 2016. After discussing strategy with the top leadership team, the company took several steps to create an ecosystem for honest discussions. Rather than conducting broad talks on diversity and inclusion, the firm addressed employee-specific concerns. At the same time, employees were allowed to steer the conversation about workplace racism rather than the leadership acting as experts on the topic.

The company again opened up an open dialogue with its employees after the protests in Charlottesville in 2017. After Botham Jean, a Black PwC accountant, was murdered in his apartment by a Dallas Police officer, Ryan ensured that the company covered the cost of memorial service and also launched a scholarship fund in the name of Jean

 All these actions help PwC establish strong and thoughtful leadership in the organization on workplace racism.

Bring in structural and symbolic changes.

 Organizations that genuinely recognize and affirm the importance of Black professionals in the workplace meet four indicators:


The organization makes the procedures and roles clear. It helps increase employee coordination and handles racial inequity with a clear focus. It also keeps a check on the numbers related to diversity and inclusion.

For instance, if an employee has been subject to workplace racism, the organization is better placed to bring in structural reforms only if it has a transparent process in place with a scope to protect employees from retaliation.

The organization also builds relationships with Black organizations like churches or professional groups to create a steady pipeline of Black talent. What's important here is that organizations should handle their hiring functions internally and not outsource them to a third party.

Human Resources

The organization has HR policies under which it can achieve a steady representation of Black talent at all levels. Organizations that create space for Black talent across levels can achieve an ecosystem where thoughts and ideas are shared more freely. At the same time, it also helps achieve a better organizational culture in the long run.


The organization takes steps to signify how Black lives matter from a political standpoint. It can mean different actions to different businesses.

For instance, Walmart pledged $100 million for a racial equity center over five years after the death of George Floyd. Similarly, Target announced its commitment of $5 million to the Target Foundation, focusing on building an ecosystem for the training and employment of Black talent.

On the other hand, Whole Foods (owned by Amazon) was embroiled in a lawsuit for penalizing employees for wearing Black Lives Matter masks in the workplace.

Accordingly, it is essential to understand what actions a business needs to take from a political viewpoint.


The organization uses symbolic gestures to show its commitment to the Black Lives Matter campaign. It can be related to the display of Black leaders in the workplace throughout the year (not just during Black History Month) or by training employees on reducing workplace racism.

Several organizations have come up with innovative ways to show support for Black Lives Matter. For example, Walgreens, CVS, and Walmart have announced they would no longer keep "multicultural" hair products locked up in stores. Earlier, customers could access these products only with the help of a store employee.


Businesses must understand that injustice and police violence spread across decades cannot be erased with a single donation or exercise. It can only be achieved by bringing a cultural shift in thinking and execution. More importantly, businesses must understand and acknowledge the damage and take conscious steps to repair it. By taking these actions, organizations can say that Black lives matter in the workplace.

Read more informative blogs on improving Human Resources practices in our blog section.

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