By Candice Justice Harper | March 19, 2021
This series has been all about stretching you. I wanted to stretch you to think outside the box and push the envelope to imagine what is possible when engaging corporate culture in diversity and inclusion matters. I have also wanted to expose you. I felt that I needed to expose you to exciting, relevant, and innovative ideas of how to refresh your race equity strategies. My sophomore chemistry class wasn’t my favorite class because of the cool experiments. No ma’am. I loved my sophomore chemistry class because our teacher would take us on Magic School Bus types of class adventures. I’ve never had so much fun getting a C+, much to the dismay of my parents. However, I probably could have gotten a higher grade had I thought like Stacy Abrams at 16 years old.
The Legend of Stacy Abrams
Although the legend of Stacy Abrams has become a national story in the past few years, sista-girl has been working alongside other activists for years to bring reform and renaissance to the political process in Georgia. The results culminated in the Democratic party securing the electoral votes needed to win Georgia in the 2020 presidential election and winning the Senate runoffs this January. In an interview with The Cut, she remarked that she had this political upset planned since 2010. Abrams recalls, “When I came in, I put together a 21-page PowerPoint deck that was my diagnosis of the challenges facing Democrats and what we’d need to do to claw back power by 2020. I took it with me to our caucus meetings, and when I went to donors to say, ‘Please pay attention to Georgia. We are not the South that you remember. We’ve got some real opportunities, and we need you to pay attention.’ Most people didn’t, but a few folks did.”
The Abrams Method
Contrary to what the media might try to get you to believe, this was not an overnight success story. This transformation took patience, creativity, collaboration, and coin. She wasn’t trying to register 800Knew voters in a few months. She didn’t start Fair Fight, the New Georgia Project, and Voters Access Institute in a year. The new political infrastructure that she helped create in Georgia wasn’t a well-oiled machine five years ago. Let’s not forget that in 2018, she also ran for governor and lost.
Make a Plan
As the age-old saying goes, we often overestimate what we can do in a year and underestimate what we can do in 10. If you haven’t already, it’s time for you to create a 3–5 year plan for race equity at your company. According to a 2018 Bureau of Labor Statistics study, employees stay at their jobs for just over 4 years. Is the company that you’re working for now worth the commitment that it will take to move the needle? If not, you must evaluate if they deserve your presence long term. If so, you must realize that you may never see the fruits of your labor. However, you can make sure that the crop is ready for someone else to harvest.
To make sure that the harvest falls into capable hands, you’re going to have to collaborate with others who can and are willing to take your place when you decide to leave. When Abrams started her decade-long journey in 2010, she identified groups that were already doing the work and then connected the dots to other organizations to help them achieve their goals. Conversely, she isn’t even the CEO of two of the organizations that she’s known for, Fair Fight or Fair Count! She is making sure the movement keeps moving no matter what happens to her. Who can you collaborate with at work right now? Who cares about what you care about? What kind of system can you create that centers racial equity that also outlasts people and positions? Start with this end in mind.
While gathering your ideas and establishing a team, let data be your guide. Abrams’s plans to grow Democratic party power in Georgia were not just a strategy that she heard from some news media pundits. SHE-STUDIED-THE-NUMBERS: “I started focusing on the 800,000 unregistered Black and brown folks in Georgia. The goal was over the next ten years to get them registered. At the end of the 2014 election cycle, I also created a group called the Voter Access Institute because low-propensity voters are only 20 percent likely to turn out and vote. We needed to think about how to boost that number.”
Until you look at the hard numbers surrounding your goal, measuring progress will be like watching paint dry…you know it’s happening, but you can’t prove it from a distance. Establishing your progress is what gets you an audience with the people that you need to employ to help your vision manifest. What will you do when leadership asks you to prove that your organization needs race equity training? Get offended? Or will you pull up your spreadsheet with survey results that detail your colleague’s desire for race equity solutions?
After you gather the data, build your internal support, and make a plan, you should think about searching the market for professionals who specialize in the work that you want to be done in your organization. The truth is that they did not hire you to make your organization equitable singlehandedly. They hired you to do what others may find to be a non-related job or at the most to facilitate company growth in the area of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility (IDEA). Companies are emerging in this space that are innovative in their solutions, willing to walk with you and your organization long-term. They will address every area of opportunity concerning IDEA that affects your company. Remember, we’re talking about long-term change. Securing a relationship with reputable consultants will ensure that this work will outlast your tenure with the company.
Stay the Course!
Let’s keep it real for a second. I’m making everything sound so easy, aren’t I? I’ve laid out this process for you to use, and you think that things will fall into place just because your intentions are pure and you’ve been doing your daily meditations. Let me stop you right there, mama. This journey that you’re about to go on will not be a straight path to the equitable utopia that you dream of. You will fail along the way. You will want to quit. You will be betrayed. You might even lose everything that you’ve worked for in a moment. It will hurt. You will have some scars. But stay the course. 3-5 years is a millennium in the corporate world today, and things change in an instant, so be patient.
It takes 5 years for a Chinese bamboo tree to grow 90 feet tall. Here’s the thing, the first 4 years, IT-DOES-NOT-BREAK-GROUND. Yes, you read correctly. It actually grows 90 feet in about 6 weeks after it initially breaks ground. The Democratic party securing Georgia’s electoral votes during the 2020 presidential election was 90 feet of growth in 6 weeks. So, when this journey is handing you more losses than you know what to do with, remember that these are not setbacks but fertilizer for tremendous growth.
Well, it’s time to get to work. Racial injustice does not sleep, and time waits for no one, sis. The only thing stopping you from changing the (corporate) world is you. Beware that analysis paralysis is waiting on the other side of this series to make sure that you fall into the perfectionist’s trap, never feeling like you have information to start. Again, there is no reason to start this journey alone. Our team here at Cook Ross may be able to help you if you decide to outsource your IDEA efforts. The Consulting and Strategy team has all the tools that you will need to implement the steps that I have outlined for you today. Depending on your company size, our IDEA Current State Assessment with a Race Equity Lens could be exactly what you need.
In this dynamic and robust offering, we connect organizational realities to long-term goals, establishing a benchmark to measure change. Over the span of 12 weeks, we provide deep, data-informed insight into your organization’s performance to guide decision-making and develop a roadmap to your diversity and inclusion goals. Our unique approach applies a rigorous analysis of quantitative and qualitative inputs to pinpoint where and why barriers to diversity and inclusion exist. Our findings are assessed against maturity criteria across four indices: Leadership, Culture, Talent, and Marketplace, culminating in a Diversity & Inclusion Findings and Recommendations Report.
Do You Know the Current State of Your Organization?
Girl, basically, we’re going to apply our 30+ years of experience to your unique challenges and opportunities to identify enablers, barriers, trends, and incongruence, tying each notable finding to a recommended intervention that will inform the drivers and content of your D&I strategy. When we finish, your organization will be able to: articulate and measure culture change, pinpoint specific areas of your organization that may be underperforming in diversity, inclusion, equity, and belonging, help ensure future interventions are addressing real barriers to inclusion, maximizing the return on your D&I investments, create a foundation that allows your organization to prioritize and target interventions in concert with strategic business goals, rather than spend resources aimed at generic outcomes.
As a full-service consulting firm, we can utilize an organization’s Current State Assessment findings to create customized solutions that match the organization’s D&I strategy. By conducting an assessment first, organizations are provided a greater sense of certainty that identified interventions will target specific areas that need addressing. Current State Assessments inform on the organizational shifts required to achieve the culture change desired. Get in touch with us today if you think that we can serve you in any way. Marc Bryant on the Business Development Team will follow up with you with 1-2 business days after filling out this Contact Us form on our site.
Cue That One Boyz II Men Song…
Although we’ve come to the end of the road, still I can’t let (you) go (wink) without thanking you for your attention. For the past month, you have been locked in and synced to this series, and I hope that it has begun to transform how you think about how to advance race equity at work. Sis, as you know, this work is never-ending. We have had and will have incredible victories along the way but let me graciously remind you that none will be free until we all are free. Like the African phrase “ubuntu” informs us, I am because you are. So, even when your company is proactively pursuing inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility in every way possible, that won’t be your cue to stop. It will serve as your green light to check on your colleagues in other spaces and determine how you can help them reach their goals.
Keep showing up and doing the work. You’re making the ancestors proud.
Peace, grace, & power,
Candice Justice Harper