In the United States, Canada, and Germany, February is observed as Black History Month. The observance originated in the US in 1976 to recognize and honor the role Black Americans have and continue to play in our country’s history. It’s also a time to recognize and review the progress that still needs to occur to allow for racial equality.
According to a 2020 survey conducted by Fortune’s research group at the Center for Talent Innovation, 58% of black professionals have experienced racial prejudice at work—a higher percentage than any other racial or ethnic group surveyed, and 65% of black professionals say that black employees must work harder to advance in their careers, only 16% of white professionals agree with that statement.
To create an equitable workplace culture, here are some things companies can do during Black History Month as a great time to discuss race.
- Bring in an influential speaker – an author, a historian, or an activist to speak to your employees about race relations, civil rights, and more.
- Organize a book club – Sharing books by Black authors can be a great way to open up discussions during Black history month.
- Volunteer – Set up a volunteer day at a Black-led organization. Check within your local community, but if you’re looking for help, here are some national-led organizations to check out: Black Girls CODE, National Society of Black Engineers, and My Brother’s Keeper Alliance.
- Schedule a Field Trip – It can be during the work week or on the weekend, but schedule a company trip to a local landmark that reflects Black history, or visit a museum or exhibit with Black art and culture.
- Recognition – It is important to recognize all employees, including black and ethnic employees for their hard work and accomplishments all year round.
It is important when doing any of these things, however, not to assume everyone wants to be involved especially due to ethnic background. For best results for diversity and inclusion within your organization, make efforts to support Black diversity and inclusion all-year round.
Actively engaging with Black History Month at your organization will bring this critical social issue to the attention of all staff, line managers, and leaders. Acknowledging that Black History Month is a theme important enough to celebrate will reshape the workplace culture into one that celebrates multiculturalism and diversity. Celebrating this month can even construct an organizational narrative around ethnicity and racism that represents this cause as something that your organization regards as essential.