Every February in the US and Canada, we celebrate Black History Month and recognize the contribution that Black Americans have made and continue to make to society.
It’s also the perfect opportunity for us all to reflect, as people and as organizations. We should take a look at the role we play in creating a diverse, inclusive and equal society.
Let’s step back and look at how we can create an environment where the voices of people of color are heard – 365 days a year. Black History Month is not a marketing opportunity. It’s a behavior opportunity.
Action should come before words when it comes to inclusion. And businesses need a healthy dose of self-awareness about where they are on their diversity and inclusion journey. For me, one of the great things that’s happened over the last two years is the beginning of our employee resource groups – or our Elemental Resource Groups (ERG) as we call them – to drive forward the agency by committing to diversity and inclusion standards.
Our People of Color ERG was set up last year as a space where employees can share ideas and experiences in a safe space, and tackle specific business goals, like improving our recruitment practices, contributing to professional development, and enhancing cultural accuracy and competency.
Ultimately, we want to attract more diverse candidates to our business. Diversity isn’t just important to business, it’s essential.
Diverse teams are more creative, more successful, and better reflect the makeup of society. We can’t do our jobs effectively without diverse teams who understand different experiences, cultural references, and trends.
Part of that is visibility, part of it is information. We have plans for events, speakers, discussions and networking (all suggestions from the ERG) to promote learning and awareness, and encourage diverse voices to be heard. We included a focus on Black history in our regular newsletter, celebrating Black innovators, artists and leaders – from computer scientist Lisa Gelobter (whose contribution to the creation of Shockwave in the 1990s led to the development web animation and gifs), to Madam CJ Walker, entrepreneur and the first African American woman to become a self-made millionaire (and now the subject of a Netflix series, Self Made).
We know that we have a long way to go. Change doesn’t happen organically; it needs structure, process and an action plan. Our ERGs aren’t the whole answer, but they’re a great start. They’re a place to come up with ideas, where group champions can encourage people to think differently, and drive the business to make small changes that together make a big difference.