Methods for Confronting Discrimination that Foster Progress

Companies are no longer able to avoid taking a stance on societal or political issues as a result of the pandemic and recent events, such as the high-profile killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, among others. This is not a checklist of diversity activities; rather, it is entirely focused on how to challenge discrimination in a way that encourages change.

This is especially important if your organization has a large number of Generation Z employees. The desire of this generation's employees to work for organizations whose values align with their own has grown in importance in recent years, but the events of 2020 accelerated this trend. According to Gartner research, more than 70% of employees expect their employer to become more actively involved in cultural, societal, and political debates.

There is obviously a need for business sensitivity alongside this, and there are some events that cannot be commented on, but CEOs will need to respond in some way moving forward to retain and attract the best talent. However, there are some things to consider:

  • If you are not educated on a subject, it is best to seek education before speaking - even if that means issuing a holding statement in which you share some vulnerability, such as "I feel like I need to educate myself on this before I share more..." can make a big difference with team members
  • Examine whether you are the best person to speak on a subject - is there someone else in a senior position in your company who would be a better fit? A female leader, for example, may have more perspective and authenticity if the topic is about female issues.
  • Remember that action does not have to be taken at the leadership level; you could simply give your team a platform for peer-level discussions, such as organizing a lunch and learn or book club on key topics.

What Do We Need to Know Before We Can Effectively Challenge Discrimination?

Discrimination exists on a subconscious level in most organizations and may not even be visible. The main difficulty with this is that we must first acknowledge that it exists before we can address it.

This is commonly referred to as unconscious bias, and it simply refers to our innate ability to view people and situations through the lens of our own experience. This could be as simple as having completed a degree and thus being unconsciously biased towards others who have the same educational background, but it can go much deeper and stem from racial or political beliefs that were instilled in us as children and were never challenged on a conscious level. as a result, we will continue in our interactions

Take an Implicit Association Test (IAT) to become more aware of your own biases. Pay close attention to biases relating to the nine protected characteristics (e.g. g age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage, pregnancy, race, religion, gender, and sexual orientation) as these are grounds for discrimination. Before you can truly challenge your own thinking, or the thinking of your team or culture, you must first understand unconscious bias on a fundamental level - we've included some useful resources below:

Resources for Unconscious Bias

What Is Keeping Us From Fighting Discrimination?

We are not affected by the problem's pain.

Just look at the #alllivesmatter or #notallmen responses to see what I mean. Responses like this demonstrate the lack of pain that certain groups feel in the face of diversity or discriminatory issues. It is extremely difficult to fully understand someone else's pain if you have never felt it yourself. If you are white, you will never fully comprehend what it is like to walk in the shoes of a black person, and if you are male, you will never comprehend what it is like to experience the world in the way that women do. It's as simple as that. But that doesn't mean you should just check out or dismiss something as "not being your issue" - you can always learn more, educate yourself on the pain, and seek to understand how you can help combat any discrimination.

We have seen similar challenges in our Women In Leadership Programmes, where each female leader brings a unique perspective influenced by their own experiences and things they have witnessed firsthand. We recognized that we needed to invest significant time in educating ourselves about the subject and seeking out information about issues that we hadn't experienced firsthand in order to develop a broader perspective and effectively drive change.

We're Afraid Of Saying The Wrong Thing

People frequently fail to speak up because they are unsure what to say or, worse, are afraid of saying something that will exacerbate the situation. Unfortunately, silence is frequently the problem. When considering how to challenge discrimination in a way that encourages change, you must speak up, but you must also be careful with your words.

The key here is to not make it about you, especially if it isn't an issue or pain that you personally experience, as described above. When you don't know what to say, here are some great places to start:

  • I'm sorry you had to experience that...
  • Please explain...
  • Where can I find out more...
  • How can I improve?
  • How can I assist?  

This is the most common reason we see leaders not saying anything, and it is often more serious than just being concerned about misphrasing something - there are often larger litigious issues to consider. Again, rather than issuing a statement that may cause additional problems, asking questions is a good place to start.

Tick Box vs. Genuine Change

To effect real change, it is critical that any efforts in your business or individually are more than just tick boxes, but rather proactive actions with a purpose designed to effect change.

"Not racist" vs. "anti-racism" is an example of this. The BBC interviewed psychologist, New York Times best-selling author, and former NBA basketball player John Amaechi about this topic:

"There is a significant distinction between not being racist and being anti-racist." I know it doesn't appear to be the case. I understand that both of these things appear to be equally good, but they are not.

Sometimes we sit and look around and wonder, "How can I possibly change all of this?" 'And there are times when you can't.' But you can make sure that wherever you go, people know where you stand. They are aware that you are an anti-racist. As a result, you become a beacon of light. You become someone who inspires others to be anti-racist. You have tools at your disposal. Learn Read And make it clear to everyone where you stand. ”

How to Address Discrimination in a Way That Promotes Change Through Education

Simply put, you can't change something you don't fully comprehend. The resources listed below can be used individually or within your business to educate you and your team about key areas of discrimination and how you can be a part of the change.


TED Talks and Podcasts

We collaborate with organizations across the spectrum on DE&I challenges, from examining how to improve diversity during recruitment processes to developing future leader programs that address diversity in leadership, as well as our Women In Leadership program. If you want to learn more about how we work with other organizations to improve their company culture and DE&I efforts, please contact us.

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