Truth & Transformation 2020 Summary

Executive Summary 

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In October 2020, the Institutional Anti-Racism & Accountability Project (IARA) convened its second annual Truth and Transformation conference. In the wake of the summer that saw George Floyd and other Black American’’s murders and the country-wide protests that followed, over 1,300 participants convened online to discuss what tangible steps toward racial equity in organizations across sectors look like. Distinguished presenters included Ruth Simmons, President of Prairie View A&M University and former President of Brown University; Pamela Newkirk, author of Diversity, Inc.; Glenn Singleton, author of Courageous Conversations About Race. 

Conference speakers and participants  shared real-time learnings about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to making companies more equitable. Across the day’s programming, panelists surfaced a number of key takeaways as critical cornerstones for organizations working toward racial equity. Critical  components for creating equitable organizations that emerged included:

Transparent Disaggregated Data

“You can tie progress on racial equity to how leaders are assessed, how they're measured, and how they're rewarded." —Tamika Curry Smith, Former VP of Global Diversity & Inclusion, Nike

Collecting and analyzing data on hiring, advancement, and retention of staff members by race is an important first step to identifying problem areas and discussion solutions. Making this data available to as many employees and external stakeholders as possible creates transparency and accountability.

Open Staff Conversations

“Absent courage, there is no transformation.”  —Glenn E. Singleton, Founder Pacific Educational Group 

Authentic progress toward racial equity requires engaging in conversations that can be uncomfortable. Staff members must be willing to engage in dialogue about why inequities exist, and grapple with difficult truths before moving toward brainstorming solutions collectively. Understanding the role that race has played in one’s own life is critical to more deeply understanding racial inequities in the workplace.

Leadership Buy-in & Accountability

"You can tie progress on racial equity to how leaders are assessed, how they're measured, and how they're rewarded." —Laura Marquez, Global Lead for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Policy, Google 

Speakers across the board highlighted that diversity and inclusion efforts must extend beyond the role of the Chief Diversity Officer. Unless C-suite level executives are personally bought in and accountable to ensuring racial equity in their organizations, any changes made will be incremental and unsustainable.

Sponsorship for Employees of Color

“We must determine where power lies in organization, and start to shift that.” —Lori Villarosa, Executive Director, Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity 

Speakers emphasized the importance of ensuring that Black employees have cover and sponsorship in the organization, to be able to share ideas and take risks. Only with the collective creativity and leadership of all employees can firms experience the full benefits of a diverse and equitable workplace. Approaching D&I as a collective responsibility, rather than leaving it to a certain subset of staff, can help to unlock this power.

The day centered art and culture, underscoring the role of the personal in the journey to healing and progress. Musical artist Jason Eskridge performed ____ and Clint Smith, staff writer at The Atlantic and author of Counting Descent, recited poems from his collection. 
 

Snapshot: Session Key Takeaways  

Pamela Newkirk, Journalist, Author of Diversity Inc: The Fight for Racial Equality in the Workplace 

  1. Ensure authentic leadership commitment to a process of change. Hold leadership accountable to this change.
  2. Collect data to understand which groups are underrepresented at your firm and why.
  3. Interrogate processes such as hiring to understand where social networks are constraining your firm’s ability to hire and retain diverse talent.

Mike Dillon, Laura Marquez, Tamika Curry Smith 

  1. Understand the system within which your firm operates, and recognize your own role as a leader in creating that system.
  2. Understand from those who have been historically marginalized what it would require for them to feel a sense of belonging.
  3. Collect disaggregated data, and examinetogether to understand trends as a leadership team. Do not shy away from conversations about the places where progress is not happening.
  4. Tie leadership performance to progress in creating diversity and inclusion.

Aria Florant, Kimberlyn Leary, Tara Spann 

  1. Build a shared vision of what the role of a Chief Diversity Officer is. Ensure that leadership is fully bought into this vision.
  2. Understand the time and resources required for a Chief Diversity Officer to achieve her goals.
  3. Creatively strategize on how the CDO and CEO can collaborate to hold their board accountable.
  4. Ensure that Black employees have cover and sponsorship in the organization, to be able to share ideas and take risks.
  5. Work toward inclusive procurement and investment.

Nia Evans, Michelle Wonsley Ford, Theo Van Der Loo, Lori Vollarosa 

  1. Frame your racial equity work in terms of the vision that is articulated by BIPOC communities living the issues every day.
  2. Understand and grapple with the history that got us here.
  3. Use racial equity as a good business standard that guides where your firm invests.

Glenn Singleton, Founder of Pacific Educational Group, Author of Courageus Conversations About Race  

  1. Create space for conversations about how race impacts each of us in the workplace.
  2. Ask those who have historically felt marginalized what it would take for them to feel belonging.
  3. Form an actionable framework to move toward a shared vision for equity.
View the Conference Video Recordings