Black history month began as a two-week commemoration in February. It was established in 1926 by Carter G. Woodson to promote the study of Black history and excellence before finally being recognized on a national level in 1976 by President Gerald Ford. When he created Black History Week, Woodson wanted the public to extend their study of black history. Woodson, like Rosa Parks and Harriet Tubman and the many other trailblazing Black leaders that came before and after him, dreamed of equality and fair treatment for all. Progress has been made, but has that dream been realized?
And likewise, has equity and inclusion in the workplace been achieved? While progress has been made in some spaces, the answer today is still no. While the Black Lives Matter movement has spurred companies into promoting black leadership and creating diversity programs, Black employees still face struggles daily because of systemic racism and inequities. For example, several recent studies show Black employees are less likely than their white peers to be promoted, hired, and supported in their careers.
While it’s great that companies are investing in programs that uplift black workers, the reality is that many of these programs have little actual effect on discrimination and inequality in workplace. If companies want to induce real change, they must ensure that DEI programs and projects lead to measurably better outcomes, not just better PR. Setting DEI goals is vital, as they hold companies accountable for progress. And this progress is not just good for Black employees, but for the company as a whole.
Research shows conclusively that diverse workplaces are more successful, and an equal amount of data and studies show that Black employees and leaders have much to offer. Companies with inclusive environments show a 59.1% increase in creativity, innovation, and openness, and organizations with more diverse management teams have 19% higher revenue, stemming from increases in innovation.
Still, the cause for equity and inclusion in the workplace must not simply be a business case. At its core, it must remain a moral one. In order to be a leader in advancing DEI and Black opportunities, companies must promote honest conversations about race and ensure that Black employees are supported at all levels. Black History Month must become a year-long and a life-long celebration and study of black excellence, and DEI initiatives in the workplace must be recommitted to each and every day.
There is still a long distance to go until equity for Black employees is achieved, and until that day, companies, employees, and customers must all push for progress and inclusion.