Brittany S Hale of BND Consulting is wearing a green dress and standing against an off-white wall, smiling into the camera with her arms folded.
Brittany Hale. Image: BND Consulting

Why employers should ‘be vocal’ about their stances on social justice issues

1 Oct 2020269 Views

Brittany S Hale, founder and CEO of BND Consulting, explains why now is the time for employers to clarify their stance on social justice.

In a recent conversation with Siliconrepublic.com, NUI Galway psychologist Dr Chris Noone posed two important questions. Firstly, why are we simply trying to reduce the extent to which people are unconsciously racist? And secondly, wouldn’t it be much better to teach people how to be consciously anti-racist?

Noone was referring to the myriad ways in which unconscious bias training, an approach commonly adopted to improve workplace equality, falls short. As recent movements such as Black Lives Matter have demonstrated, we need to do much better.

Click here to check out the top sci-tech employers hiring right now.

Setting goals for diversity and inclusion simply isn’t up for negotiation, as Hibob’s Ali Fazal puts it. He adds that many businesses want to showcase their alleged support for underrepresented groups, but fail to make actual changes.

To overcome this, Brittany S Hale has some advice. Hale is the founder and CEO of BND Consulting Group. BND stands for ‘be nobody’s darling’, a line from poet Alice Walker. BND advises its client on aligning decision-making processes to core values. Having studied law and served as an attorney, she set up the company in 2017. She is also the executive director of the Rahway Social Justice Commission.

According to Hale, companies have an obligation to be more vocal about “where they stand in the current climate”. She explains that uncomfortable political discussions at work are taking place whether employers want them to or not. So, actively stating their stance is an important step right now.

“The best thing companies can do is to reaffirm what they stand for and detail how they intend to support their employees,” she says. “Some companies, like Salesforce, have boycotted states that engage in discriminatory practices that conflict with their values.

“Others, like Patagonia, offer election day as a paid holiday to support its employees’ civic participation. Identify your core values and be vocal about how these values align with the social justice movement currently.”

Where to begin?

It may seem daunting, but there are certain business areas that need attention most. These are communications, employee engagement and hiring, says Hale. It’s a good idea to start with them.

“So often, communication begins from the top down and doesn’t do much to increase employee trust in higher-ups,” she explains. “Companies need to re-examine employee-engagement methodologies. Ping-pong tables and unlimited kombucha aren’t very useful if you are working from home.”

A common belief, she continues, is that companies can’t afford to increase the budget for employee-engagement initiatives. But ensuring employees are engaged can increase company profits. “Quite frankly, they can’t afford not to,” says Hale.

“It is incorrect and, quite frankly, lazy for companies to take the stance that there is not enough diverse talent. Companies need to re-examine the infrastructure upon which they’ve built their culture and search for ways to increase equity throughout every channel of the organisation.”

The very first step you should take is a cultural assessment, she explains. “Take a moment to understand where your company currently stands and the areas you need to improve. Evaluate your core values and how aligned your operational practices are with your core values. How are decisions currently made? How would you like them to be made?”

There will be challenges

Of course, there are going to be bumps along the way. The most obvious ones, Hale says, will be around budgets, resources and time.

“But the real question is, how dedicated are you to creating sustainable change within your organisation?” she says. “Like any investment, the returns will take time to manifest and the initial investment may seem uncomfortable.

“It can be quite vulnerable working with a consultant and facing the areas in which your company can improve. Still, the question is how dedicated you are to creating lasting change within your company.”

Hale will be discussing racist workplace policies she believes could soon become illegal at a webinar on 16 October. You can learn more about it here.

Lisa Ardill
By Lisa Ardill

Lisa joined the team as senior Careers reporter in July 2019 with previous experience in science communication and media. With a BA in neuroscience and a master’s degree in science communication, she is also a semi-published poet and a big fan of doggos.

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