February is Black History Month, an annual month-long observance that started as a way to honor the history, events, and contributions by Black and African American folks throughout history.
Black History Month has a place in the office too. Not only is February an opportunity to learn and show your support, but it is also an chance to demonstrate your continued commitment to inclusion at the office. If you are a leader, it’s crucial to take a stand and find creative ways to honor this annual observance.
So, today, we will offer 5 meaningful ways that you can celebrate Black History Month in your office.
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Race in the workplace is still a touchy subject for many, especially in the tech sector, where Black developers only make up about 7% of the tech industry. Many organizations, in an attempt to treat people equally, settle by being colorblind and downplay demographic differences.
This tendency is actually part of the problem. It is shown to isolate underrepresented employees and perpetuate the idea that race is not something to discuss, let alone celebrate. This form of misguided “equality” is actually a form of bias and serves to hinder progress.
Black History Month is a great opportunity to confront this head-on. As a leader, you must actively push against the desire to be colorblind and instead make space to amplify Black voices and stories. This is a chance to cultivate a culture where employees can openly discuss and embrace their cultural and ethnic backgrounds.
A powerful way to honor Black History Month is to invite Black experts to facilitate conversation and speak to your employees. Consider hiring a panel of leaders or a Diversity and Inclusion keynote speaker. And with many offices being remote, it’s easier than ever to set up virtual panels and talks.
Employees and teams deeply benefit from an open space to engage in these dialogues. Through conversation and questions, this is also an opportunity to learn concerns that your employee make have in the office. It’s a chance to redirect company culture towards diversity and inclusion.
If you choose to set up a speaker or panel, it’s important to pay instructors equitably. Many underrepresented minorities are underpaid for their work. So, as you recruit Black speakers to speak to your teams, be sure to pay them for their time.
Another meaningful way to honor Black History Month is to amplify the voices of your Black employees and team members. Consider making space and time to highlight Black employees within your company or industry.
You could invite Black employees to share stories or experiences from their life or work. Or, you could ask them to describe what Black History Month means to them.
You could, with employee consent, of course, compile these stories and distribute them as an email or newsletter. In doing so, you are amplifying the contributions of Black employees and empowering your teams to learn about each other.
Important: Black employees should never be required to share. The goal is to invite those who are comfortable sharing and honor these stories, not to take control over their voices.
Donating to racial justice focused charities is a great way to support Black History Month and promote equality in the workplace. It’s important to donate to Black-led organizations that directly support underrepresented groups.
There are dozens of meaningful ways to contribute as a company. For example, you could offer to match employee contributions to certain causes or even partner with local initiatives to promote their charitable works.
Beyond the mission of furthering racial justice, this is also a chance to form lasting partnerships and bond with your team members.
Suggestions: Some good organizations to consider are NAACP, Black Girls Code, National Society of Black Engineers, and Color of Change, amongst many others.
Another meaningful way to honor Black History Month is to support Black influencers and business owners. Forming inclusive partnerships with Black-owned businesses is a key way to support racial equality and level the playing field.
In the world of tech, many Black-owned businesses and startups struggle to receive the support and capital they need to flourish. Investing in Black founders can help drive business and fight racial injustice.
There are dozens of ways to support and partner with Black-owned companies. Here are some suggestions:
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