George Floyd’s murder sparked massive protests in the US and globally. Many companies initially responded by making commitments to creating a more equitable workplace. Three years later, where are we today?
As someone who runs business development for SGO, it’s been quite the roller coaster. In 2019, many companies were asking for short workshops or webinars. They couldn’t commit to taking time away from their already busy schedules to attend a workshop on DEI. When we asked about metrics and goals, very few companies had them, and many of our contacts weren’t in a position of authority to get them. We take the approach of meeting our clients where they’re at and then bringing them along, so we do our very best to support them wherever they are in their journey, even if they can’t commit to a significant shift at the time.
In June 2020, everything changed. We were asked questions like, “How do we become an anti-racist organization?” and “How can we fight white supremacy in our organization?” for the very first time. DEI budgets increased, DEI teams were hired, ERGs and councils were spun up, and training became critical. Companies were looking for answers and were ready to jump in, but was it enough? Was it done the right way?
As we leap toward the halfway mark of 2023, we’ve seen a lot of changes since 2020– some good, some not so good. DEI teams and those with marginalized identities are disproportionately affected by layoffs. DEI budgets are shrinking. And police shootings aren’t falling. The good news is there are still companies committed to this work – we work with several of them! Other companies understand the importance of DEI work as well, and that it’s not a ‘quick fix’. While organizations may not always get it right when it comes to their DEI work and initiatives, it’s critical not to give up when it gets uncomfortable, hard or when we make a mistake.
We’re at that inflection point right now, and we’re seeing that some companies are leaning into the hard work, while others are choosing to focus on other priorities.
We can’t emphasize enough how critical it is for those in the C-Suite, in particular, to use your power and your voice to ensure that those who’ve been marginalized are seen, heard, and valued. It means that priorities will need to shift from pushing product fast and hard to really listening to everyone, not just those with access. It means that instead of having 20 pies, you share a pie, and then everyone can make more pie. It means that you remember that this work isn’t a sprint or even a marathon – it’s a journey.
So, as we reflect on the three-year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder, we wonder: what will companies choose as we move forward? What will people prioritize? There are always choices for those with power. You can choose the path of more power and maximum short-term profit or one of collective responsibility for the success of all. This work takes time and effort, but the rewards can be great. Let’s not give up. People’s lives are in the balance.